Monthly Archives: July 2011

Japan Snaps Back With Less Power

Japan Snaps Back With Less Power

Economy Survives Reactor Shutdowns, and Tokyo Rethinks Nuclear Policy


[0728jpower1] Bloomberg News

man walks down the stairs of a subway station in a darkened Tokyo.
Japan has been slashing power use since a March 11 earthquake and
tsunami knocked out nuclear power plants.

the March 11 tsunami knocked out more than half of the nuclear power
plants serving the Tokyo area, it set off one of the biggest unplanned
experiments in a modern society: Could a metropolis of 30 million people
get by after losing about a fifth of its power supply?

a steaming July in Japan filled with 90-degree-plus days, the
preliminary answer is in, and it is yes. Not only has Tokyo Electric
Power Co. kept the lights on all summer, it has so much extra capacity
on most days that it could power New York City, too.


economic hit from power shortages that many feared has failed to
materialize. Japanese stock prices have risen almost to their prequake
levels, the economy is growing again and some companies have actually
been invigorated by the demand for electricity-saving goods.

electricity has become a sort of national religion. With many air
conditioners set at 82 degrees, businessmen have shed their usual suits
in favor of “super cool biz” short-sleeve shirts. Car makers have been
forced to operate on weekends to avoid sucking up electricity during
peak weekday hours.

Peak electricity usage for the Tokyo area so far this summer was nearly 23% below the peak last summer.


drop in electrical consumption is shaking Japan’s decades-old
commitment to nuclear power, which until this year supplied nearly 30%
of its electricity. If the country successfully navigates the remaining
weeks of the summer with a reduced power supply, the Fukushima Daiichi
accident is likely to transform Japan’s energy policy. That will have
global implications as nations review nuclear power in light of the
worst radiation release since Chernobyl.

a growing sense that Japan will rely less and less on nuclear plants
and may phase them out entirely some day, politicians and many business
executives say. Germany and Switzerland have announced their own
phase-out plans, while leaders of the U.S. and France, the two biggest
nuclear-power users, say they plan to keep their reactors running.

the mid- to long-term, it is desirable to move toward shrinking
nuclear power by phasing out aging reactors and promoting renewable
energy,” said a statement by the Japan Association of Corporate
Executives after its summer meeting in July.

Others go even further. “I think it’s better without nuclear energy” in principle, said Hiroshi Mikitani,
the 46-year-old billionaire head of Internet shopping company Rakuten
Inc., and one of the most prominent leaders of a rising generation of
Japanese business executives. Mr. Mikitani cautioned that he doesn’t
favor shutting down all nuclear plants at once. But he said the summer
has shattered the trust that Japanese once held in the nuclear

Japan’s success in
avoiding a power crunch owes both to greater supply and less demand.
Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco, raced to revive older gas- and
coal-fired plants, putting a quick stop to rolling blackouts that Tokyo
suffered a few days after the earthquake. Meanwhile, the conservation
drive has reduced peak demand in the Tokyo area by 10,000 megawatts or
more on many days.

These steps
have drawbacks. The traditional power plants emit more greenhouse
gases, and Japan must import the fuel. That increases energy costs,
although the strong yen eases the burden.

some elderly people are taking the conservation effort too far, risking
heat stroke. At the Imperial Palace, the emperor and empress, both in
their late 70s, at one point were getting by with candles and
flashlights at night, according to a palace spokesman. Emergency
responders have brought 22,418 people with heat stroke to medical
facilities this summer through July 24, according to Japan’s Fire and
Disaster Management Agency. Nearly half were elderly, and 43 people
died. The number of people with heat stroke is running more than 50%
ahead of last year, but the number of deaths is one-third lower.

company officials and some business leaders say the conservation
efforts, which are mandatory for larger companies in the Tokyo region,
disrupt production and add to uncertainty. “It’s an overly hasty
conclusion to say that we don’t need nuclear plants because we have
enough power,” said Zengo Aizawa, Tepco’s executive vice president and
top nuclear official, in a brief interview. “Japan is a country that
lives on making things, and production is suffering a pretty big

Still, for such a tremendous cut in energy usage—the savings are roughly equal to the entire power demand of Consolidated Edison Inc.’s unit serving New York City and Westchester County—the economic damage seems relatively small.

vice governor of the Bank of Japan, Hirohide Yamaguchi, said July 20
that power issues are “not likely to constrain economic activity to the
extent expected earlier,” and the central bank is predicting a
moderate recovery this fall and 2.9% growth next year. The capital is
mostly humming as usual, with lines at electronics stores and packed
trains to resort areas.

themselves, the earthquake and tsunami brought significant damage only
to Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which has six reactors. The
company also shut down the nearby Fukushima Daini plant with four

The vast majority of
Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors suffered no damage in the quake. But to the
surprise of power companies, communities started balking at restarting
reactors that were idled for routine inspections. Then Prime Minister
Naoto Kan announced a series of stress tests to check reactors’
vulnerability to accidents, further delaying the restarts.

Bloomberg News

Pedestrians stand in the dark as they wait to cross a Tokyo intersection — part of a power-saving drive.

only 16 reactors are still running, and all of them are scheduled to be
idled for routine inspections by next spring. If it fails to restart
halted reactors, Japan will be without nuclear power in less than nine

That would create another
power crunch when demand rises again in the summer of 2012, and Japanese
are debating whether going cold-turkey on nuclear power is possible.
If people continue their conservation and power companies crank up
their aging fossil fuel-fired plants for another summer, Japan could
probably make it without power outages. But backers of nuclear power
say it would be foolhardy to try.

quickly dwindling supply of nuclear power has forced other regions to
conserve. Only four of 11 reactors serving Japan’s second-biggest
economic center, the Kansai region around Osaka, remain online. At a
restroom in Kansai Electric Power Co.’s headquarters, the electric hand
dryer is turned off and a sign asks people to dry their hands with a
towel purchased from a 100-yen ($1.25) store.

results so far are similar to Tokyo’s: Thanks to conservation, power
supply easily exceeds demand. “I’m not buying this claim that we have
to have nuclear power because there isn’t enough electricity,” Osaka
Gov. Toru Hashimoto told reporters outside his office in late July.
“There’s generally more than enough. That’s the reality.”

Power companies and some business leaders argue that this summer’s success is an anomaly that can’t or shouldn’t be repeated.

Yoshihito Iwama, who heads environmental policy at the
big-business lobby Keidanren, said companies are paying extra to
generate power at in-house facilities and hesitant to invest because of

“How long can
companies hold on with the all-out efforts they’re making now? I think
it’s going to be tough,” Mr. Iwama said in an interview. The strong yen
is already causing the “hollowing out” of Japan as companies move
production overseas, he said, “and I worry it will accelerate.”

views have led business figures to call for an urgent restoration of
the shut-down nuclear plants. Sumitomo Chemical Co. Chairman Hiromasa
Yonekura, who heads Keidanren, said at a news conference that the
government must affirm the safety of the plants and reassure the
public, which he said is getting too “emotional.”

skepticism has grown about the alliance of power companies, the
industry ministry and big businesses promoting nuclear power.

opinion is running 2-to-1 in favor of reducing or eliminating nuclear
power plants, according to a July poll by public broadcaster NHK. Even
the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, a stalwart supporter of
nuclear power during the decades it ran Japan, is reassessing its view
to ensure its candidates don’t get attacked over the issue.

lapses have weakened the pro-nuclear power camp. A power company in
southern Japan asked employees to impersonate average citizens and send
in emails supporting nuclear power to a televised debate. The
company’s president has said he will resign to take responsibility for
the ploy. The industry ministry’s chief nuclear spokesman was replaced
suddenly after it was revealed he was having an affair amid the crisis
with another ministry official.

Mikitani, the Internet-shopping tycoon, pulled his company out of
Keidanren in July. “They are protecting the interests of specific
industries, which is not good for…the Japanese economy,” he said.

said it reduced its power usage by 35% with steps such as turning off
office lights and controlling the heat emitted by computer servers. It
was “not that difficult,” Mr. Mikitani said. Tepco’s dire forecasts of
power shortages, followed by the news that power was actually in
plentiful supply, increased his suspicions.

“We don’t know if Tepco is telling the truth or not,” he said. “We don’t even really know if there’s an electricity shortage.”

says its figures are accurate and it is trying its utmost to raise
supply, but it believes power could fall short if people don’t conserve.
“We’re still not in a situation where we can be optimistic,” a
spokeswoman said.

Discussion has
begun in Japan over what is termed “datsu-genpatsu” or “shedding
nuclear power.” The nation’s most influential newspaper, the Asahi
Shimbun, published an editorial of some 5,000 words laying out its
datsu-genpatsu plan.

The Asahi
said Japan should rely more heavily in the short term on liquefied
natural gas, including imports from the U.S., while developing
renewable sources such as solar and geothermal power for the longer
term. A law pending in parliament, pushed by Prime Minister Kan, would
guarantee producers of renewable power that they could sell their
electricity at a profitable price.

companies are already acting as if the summer of 2011’s experiment
with dropping reliance on nuclear power will continue in future
summers. In July, companies such as Panasonic
Corp. and Sharp Corp. said they will team up to develop standards for
solar-powered homes that store their own energy and don’t need help from
the grid.

A Japanese alliance led by trading company Mitsubishi
Corp. is investing billions to develop infrastructure in Canada that
could deliver liquefied natural gas across the Pacific later this
decade. And three-quarters of Japan’s governors have joined
telecommunications billionaire Masayoshi Son, chief executive of Softbank Corp., in a plan for giant solar-power plants on unused farms and industrial land.

moves toward shedding nuclear power will carry significant costs.
Japan’s electricity bills are sure to rise in the short term if nuclear
power is replaced by imported fuels and more-expensive renewable
sources. Rural areas that play host to nuclear plants would lose their
main source of jobs and tax revenue, and power companies would have to
write off the billions of dollars invested in the plants.

as the Asahi acknowledged, the shift will place demands on consumers.
“We will have to overhaul the long-established attitude that we can use
as much electricity as we like and view the supply as someone else’s
problem,” the newspaper said.


Write to Peter Landers at

Gunmen kill 11 Pakistan Shiites in suspected sectarian attack.

Gunmen kill 11 Pakistan Shiites in suspected sectarian attack.

By Sara Ghasemilee

A man with his face covered walks past vehicles set ablaze by protestors in reaction to a shootout by unidentified gunmen in Quetta. (File Photos)

A man with his face covered walks past vehicles set ablaze by protestors in reaction to a shootout by unidentified gunmen in Quetta. (File Photos)

Gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province on Saturday, killing 11 Shiite Muslims and wounding three in a suspected sectarian attack, police said.

The shooting took place on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of oil and gas-rich Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.

“The vehicle was passing by a bus stand when gunmen riding in another car opened fire, killing at least 11 people and wounding three,” the city’s police chief Hamid Shakeel told Reuters.

Another police official said it appeared to be a sectarian attack as all those killed were Shiites.

The gunmen succeeded in fleeing the scene after the shootings.

Local intelligence and administrative officials confirmed the incident and casualties but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The majority of Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims, with Shiites accounting for around 15 percent of a population of more than 170 million.

Both communities largely live in peace with each other but militants from the two sides have killed thousands of people in tit-for-tat attacks since the beginning of Islamist militancy in the country in the 1980s.

Saturday’s attack came a day after eight people were killed and about 25 wounded in two separate bomb and gun attacks in two districts of Baluchistan.

Baluch nationalists have waged a low-scale insurgency for decades but Taliban militants with links to Al Qaeda have also been active in Baluchistan, the largest but poorest of Pakistan’s four provinces, and home to the country’s largest gas and oil reserves.

Pakistan has seen a surge in violence since Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden was killed by US special forces in a secret raid in Pakistan in May.

Militants have vowed revenge for Bin Laden’s death.

(Sara Ghasemilee, Day Editor of Al Arabiya English, can be reached at:


Pakistani Army officer beats helpless music director

Umar Cheema
Friday, July 29, 2011


ISLAMABAD: A serving Army officer allegedly beat black and blue an award-winning music director, Sohail Javed, on Wednesday night in Lahore Cantt after a row which started after the officer’s son hit the car driven by Sohail’s wife with his bike.

While Colonel Nadeem thrashed Sohail, the officer’s wife allegedly beat Sohail’s wife. Sohail has recently shifted from Karachi to Lahore and resides in Askari 10, a garrison housing society that affluent people generally prefer to live in considering it a better place on security grounds.

Incidentally, while he was brutalised by an Army officer, he was also denied justice from the housing society administrator and then the police. “I am a serving officer and I will not spare you now or in the days to come and when ever and where ever I will see your family I will beat the hell out of you guys if need to be I will make sure you don’t live in Askari 10 in peace”, Col Nadeem roared as he beat Sohail in the office of Askari 10’s administrator. The administration officer, Major (retd) Ameer Bahadar didn’t intervene as Sohail and family was being beaten in the office. Instead he later told the family to report FIR and he couldn’t be any help as there is a serving officer involved. Askari 10’s administer, Maj (R) Ameer Bahadar, refused to talk with The News when contacted for his version. “It was dispute between the two parties. You go and talk with them, not me,” he said.

The North Cantt Police Station didn’t register the FIR either, telling the family that the police can’t afford creating mess with the army officer. Sohail who spoke to The News on this issue, has mentioned all these details in an application now sent to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and the copies have also been sent to the chief of the army staff, Punjab chief minister and DG Housing GHQ.

Sohail, who survived cancer and have already gone through two major chest surgeries, said that Colonel Nadeem didn’t listen to them and instead kept saying “how dare you touch my son. I am serving officer and I will not spare you now or in the days to come and when ever and where ever I will see your family I will beat the hell out of you guys if need to be I will make sure you don’t live in Askari 10 in peace”. This clearly shows that “the colonel knows that he is above the law.”

The first thrashing incident occurred around 9pm Wednesday when Sohail’s wife, Asma, and son were heading to the Askari Market for buying grocery. “Three boys improperly riding a motorcycle came and intentionally hit the car from behind and broke the back light of our car causing minor dents,” said the application. As Asma reprimanded the hitters for being careless, they hurled abuses at her, provoking her 15-year son to come for the mother’s rescue.

The boy driving the bike threatened with serious consequences as, according to Sohail, the guy said: “his dad is a colonel and he will fix my wife and her family.” “Once the things started getting out of hand my wife called me to the scene,” Sohail explains. “On reaching there I saw my wife and son surrounded by a mob and I could see them in trouble, I pushed a few boys away and secured my family, in that process I slapped a boy,” Sohail explains.

“Colonel Nadeem’s wife showed up at the scene later on and yet again the scene got wild as the lady did not try to diffuse the situation,” he further notes in the complaint sent to the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

All this while, Sohail narrates, I kept requesting that I need to just speak to Colonel Nadeem whose son was riding the bike and no one else but nobody gave his information.

As Sohail and family returned home, the colonel’s son allegedly came to Sohail’s house along with friends delivering threats of dire consequences. “A few hours later another party came to our house in three cars with people appearing to be gundas and gave threats and abused along with army officers and the families of the boys who were riding the bike.” “I was slapped repeatedly in front of my house,” Sohail explains, adding that “this also amounts as infringement or our liberty, me and my family could not move or get out of the house”.

“Once the complaint was sent to the Askari admin office we were asked to meet the security admin at the Askari 10’s administration officer Mr Major Ameer’s office at 9am, July 28, 2011 to resolve the matter and come to a peaceful conclusion.”

“On July 28, 2011 at 9 am when we went to the Askari admin office the above mentioned major was not present at the scene and the above mentioned colonel with a group of 20 people including his wife was present at the scene and assaulted me and my wife as soon as they saw us and started kicking and beating us and dragged us on the road and kept abusing us in most foul words.”

Major Ameer after the incident came over to my house, Sohail goes on, and asked me to come with him to the spot where the car accident happened and see if there was any security camera footage available, as no camera were mounted in that direction no footage or evidence could be found.

“I am a survivor of cancer and have gone through two major chest surgeries hence any kind of pushing around or rough handling is a serious danger to my health. My wife and I tried to explain this to the colonel and that we only want to talk it out so this is over. But he did not listen to us and kept saying how dare you touch the son of Colonel Nadeem I am serving officer and I will not spare you now or in the days to come.”

“In order to save myself and my wife I had to run to the other office of Major Ameer and requested him to help us. In return we were told Askari admin cannot do any thing about this incident and we should report our issue to the police and take it up with them.”

“Before we could report a complaint, strangely a complaint was filed against us, alleging the injuries those boys got were because of us, which is completely untrue,” he writes in the application sent to the chief justice.

After an entire day of waiting and going through the proper channel of reporting a complaint and medical check up “we were told that our FIR cannot be reported, no action will be taken on our complaint as “they cannot mess with an army colonel and I am not hurt enough and no blood or broken bone to take this case any further.”

“Dear Sir we here by request that this matter should be taken up most urgently with a proper investigation further. How can honourable army officials who are also known as the defenders or our nation can beat and humiliate civilians and their families.”

“It is therefore respectfully prayed that for grievances of the applicant and appropriate action may kindly be ordered and the culprit may kindly be penalized with in accordance with law that is under the Pakistan penal courts and relevant law there too, it is further prayed that the security to the life and liberty of our family may kindly be insured by the local police,” said the application.


Anthony Permal on being a Pakistani Christian

Comment By Anthony Permal

Anthony Permal on being a Pakistani Christian


No, Pakistan


A great deal has been written about minorities by many people both within and outside Pakistan. It is unfortunate that we are now a buzzword in the news and in ‘chai-shop’ conversations for infamy and not grace.

Better writers, journalists and bloggers have highlighted the martyrdom of those courageous souls Salmaan Taseer & Shahbaz Bhatti, and my words are poor compared to the greatness of their own, so I will refrain from continuing on this thread, save saying God bless you, Mr. Taseer and Mr. Bhatti. We are poorer as a country without you.

Instead, I want to focus today on a lesser known aspect of Christian minorities in Pakistan: the non-stereotypes.

In 1994, I read an article in Dawn newspaper about the murder of a Christian Pakistani. The accompanying photograph had the following caption, which I quote verbatim, as I have never been able to get these words out of my mind: ‘the victim was a sweeper (Christian)’. Complete with parenthesis.

Today, similar to that morning 17 years ago, I still find it insulting that the only recognizable stereotype of the Christian minority being propagated by media both in and out of Pakistan is of the Punjabi-speaking, downtrodden, poor sweeper or ‘jamaadar’. In a BBC report yesterday, a reporter from the UK did a voiceover in the accompanying vodcast speaking about how Christians usually take up jobs cleaning Pakistan’s streets. The vodcast itself showed barefooted, trash-filled wheel-barrow pushing old women and slum-dwelling men.

Don’t get me wrong, these people ARE included in the many Christian communities of Pakistan. But aren’t we insulting the many other Christians out there who suffer discrimination and violence in other circles of life? PR professionals, engineers, bankers, trades-men, doctors, teachers, scientists, even those of us in the armed forces ought to be counted among the ‘minority’ which has suffered daily since the time of Zia’s reign.

In asking our opinions on the discrimination we face, how many reporters have spoken to the English, Sindhi and Konkani speaking Christians of Pakistan? Where in the media has the discrimination faced in the corridors of industry by Christians been documented? Remember, my friends, there is a world out there that is not downtrodden but no less violated. This discrimination is not one practiced by the so-called jaahil awaam, but by the self-proclaimed liberals and religious elite who should know better. What kind of discrimination, you ask?

I have seen Christian doctors in hospitals being refused by patients because of the doctor’s faith. I have seen a passport officer throw Christians’ and even Ahmadis’ passports across the floor. I have witnessed teachers being overlooked for promotions and told it was due to performance, and later discovering the preference of the principal for another propagator of ‘the true faith’. I have witnessed employees in one of Pakistan’s leading establishments in the 90s (it is thankfully defunct today) who – despite being MBA, BBA, M.Com and MSc holders – refused to share a table with a fellow Christian during lunch. I was that Christian employee. In fact, I have seen discrimination of the highest degree in our very own bastion of hospitality to foreigners: Jinnah Terminal. I was returning from Dubai to be with my father for Christmas, and a fellow passenger who is also a Christian was carrying a bottle of Chivas Regal for his father, whose 70th birthday was that weekend. The customs official who happened to stop the passenger did not take the bottle away because it was illegal to bring into Pakistan. Instead, his words were: ‘le ja bottle ja kar andar rakh de, yeh Issai log Pakistan mai bas yehi kaam karte hain, sharab pee kar tamasha kharra karna in ki aadat hai.’ In translation: ‘take this bottle away and keep it in the cupboard, this is the only thing Christians in Pakistan know to do, drinking alcohol and making a scene everywhere is their habit.’

If we are to recognize and own this discrimination in order to wipe it out, we have to start being honest with ourselves. Step one: please let’s not console with ourselves with the idea that we have only to improve to the lot of the ‘poor Christian jamadaar’.

No, Pakistan. The discrimination affects you. And it affects me, a Christian Pakistani whose identity ends there.



Stealth marketing to the elderly

Retail in Japan

Turning silver into gold

Stealth marketing to the elderly

After a lifetime of saving, it’s time to party

THE Ueshima coffee shops that dot Tokyo seem like any other chain. But look more closely: the aisles are wider, the chairs sturdier and the tables lower. The food is mostly mushy rather than crunchy: sandwiches, salads, bananas—nothing too hard to chew. Helpful staff carry items to customers’ tables. The name and menu are written in Japanese kanji rather than Western letters, in a large, easy-to-read font. It is no coincidence that Ueshima’s stores are filled with old people.

Ueshima never explicitly describes itself as a coffee shop for the elderly. But it targets them relentlessly—and stealthily. Stealthily, because the last thing septuagenarians want to hear is that their favourite coffee shop is a nursing home in disguise.

Japan is greying fast: already a fifth of its people are over 65. And the “silver generation” has gold to spare. The incomes of middle-class working folk have declined in the past decade, but seniors are sitting on a vast pile of savings. Almost a third of the nation’s household wealth, some ¥450 trillion ($5.8 trillion), is in the hands of those aged 70 and older (see chart). In the West, the elderly pinch pennies, but Japan’s seniors pay extra. At Ueshima a medium-sized coffee is ¥380, about 10% more than at Starbucks.

Many firms tailor their services to silver shoppers without letting on, explains a marketing specialist. Consider the Keio department store. On the outside, nothing warns you that it is a mecca for the mature. But inside there are chairs for weary shoppers. Signs are in large fonts. Many salespeople are in their 50s and 60s, since elderly customers trust such people more than whippersnappers. The food hall promotes good old-fashioned Japanese noodles more than newfangled foreign muck.

The shelves are lower, so older people can reach them. (Because of wartime food shortages, the elderly are much shorter than their juniors in Japan.) Loyalty cards at Keio award points not according to what you buy, but according to how often you visit. “Seniors have a lot of time on their hands,” the marketer explains.

Marketing to the elderly is tricky. The direct approach—say, calling your product “the soap for the over-70s”—does not work. And traditional advertising fails. “You can’t use TV adverts: they forget them,” groans the 30-something executive. “We show it again and again and again—and they still can’t recall it,” he sighs. Word-of-mouth is the only way.

Decades ago it was rarely profitable to market products to seniors, since by the time anyone had reached the age of 70 they probably had only a few years left to live. But Japanese people now live so long—life expectancy for women is 86; for men it is 80—that wooing them is lucrative.

Some firms try to hook them in their 60s, to build brand loyalty early. Others approach them via their children. One cosmetics firm pitches its wrinkle-removal cream to middle-aged women, in the hope that they will recommend it to their mothers. Filial piety comes in many forms.