North Carolina’s Chinese-Owned Industrial Pig Factories

Soyalism

Directed by Stefano Liberti and Enrico Parenti (2018)

Film Review

The title of this documentary is somewhat misleading: it actually concerns the industrial production of pork for the growing Chinese middle class. Under our present globalized system of industrial agriculture, pigs raised on factory farms (both in China and the US) are fed industrially produced corn and soybeans. Most of this (genetically engineered) soy comes from recently deforested areas of the Brazilian Amazon.

Given the current US trade war with China, I was astonished to learn that a Chinese company (having acquired Smithfields in 2013) is operating gigantic factory pig farms in North Carolina. Most are located in the state’s poor rural (and black) communities that struggle with the toxic aerosols from the (illegal) open pits adjacent to buildings warehousing tends of thousands of hogs.

In addition to visiting North Carolina hog factories and their distressed neighbors,* the filmmakers travel to Brazil to film the massive soybean plantations, as well as local small farmers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by industrial soy production. Together with local environmentalists and indigenous activists, these farmers are fighting the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest by expanding soy plantations.

Predictably only a handful of farmers and international agrobusinesses are becoming fabulously wealthy, while more and more Brazilians struggle to feed themselves.

The filmmakers also visit Mozambique, where local grassroots organizers are successfully fighting the Pro-Savannah initiative. This is a (currently suspended) government initiative involving Japan, Brazil, and Mozambique. It seeks to drive local subsistence farmers off their land to create factory farms producing soy, cotton, and corn for export to China.

Most activists blame these trends on the continued drive, both in the industrial North and China, for cheap meat – irrespective of its quality. Sadly most Chinese consumers are totally unaware of the true cost of their cheap meat. Brazil’s GM soybeans are sprayed with massive amounts of Roundup and other carcinogenic pesticides. This results in serious potential health consequences for human beings who eat pigs that are fed on them.


*North Carolina has its own grassroots organization, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network fighting their exposure to health-damaging pollution and industry harassment. See https://www.facingsouth.org/2017/02/step-toward-environmental-justice-north-carolinas-hog-country

 

Despite Continuous Recession Japan’s Homeless Rate 1/7 of US Figure

Meeting and Helping Japan’s Homeless Part 4

LWIF (2017)

Film Review

In part 4, filmmakers interview homeless men living in one the Emergency Centers run by various NGOs. They also look at a street feeding and outreach program run by a non-profit organization called Sanyukai.

Part 5 looks at figures documenting the improvement in Japanese homelessness. In 2017, the official Japanese government homeless count was 5,534 – a private research group with did actual nighttime counts came up with a figure closer to 15,000.

This makes Japan’s level of homelessness roughly the same as Canada’s (8 per 100,000 population)

The US has 55 homeless people per 100,000 population.

The new Japanese number contrasts with close to 60,000 homeless (estimated by private researchers) in 2003.

Filmmakers attribute most of this improvement to the governments expansion of their Livelihood Protection Program. In 1995 only 880,000 citizens received Livelihood Protection. At present that figure is 2.2 million. At this point, nearly any Japanese resident with a home address can qualify.

 

How Japan Solved Homelessness

Who Are Japan’s Homeless? Part 2

LWIF (2017)

Film Review

Part 2 of this series looks at the history and demographics of Japanese homelessness. The country’s homeless problem began during the economic crisis of the mid-nineties, when companies either went bankrupt or laid off most of their workers.

Twenty to thirty percent of Japan’s homeless residents have criminal records that make it difficult to find jobs. Others have become homeless fleeing aggressive loan sharks. Most are reluctant to apply for Livelihood Protection (Japan’s welfare program) because it makes it easier for creditors to locate them.

Japan’s urban residents have little or no contact with Japan’s homeless. The latter are nearly all men. The presence of homeless women and children on the street would be a great source of shame to government and society.

Japan’s homeless tend to bed down under tents, tarps, or cardboard boxes in urban parks, on river banks, or in train stations and other public buildings.

Part 3 concerns the Homeless Self-Reliance Law the Japanese government enacted in 2002. The new law created a number of Independent Support Centers to provide beds and meals on demand. This centers, which allow a maximum stay of four to six months, also provide, training, support and loans to help their residents find.

This government program is complemented by “poverty businesses,” non-profit organizations which have converted the dormitories of shuttered factories into emergency centers. Most allow a maximum two month stay, while they assist residents in applying for Livelihood Protection (ie welfare benefits).

 

Homelessness: Contrasting Japan and the US

Why Japan’s Homeless Are Different from North America’s – Part 1

LWIF (2017)

Film Review

This intriguing five-part documentary series contrasts Japan’s aggressive effort to reduce homelessness with the apparent indifference of the US government. In my view, the stark contrast makes an important statement about the shameful greed and corruption underlying the US political system.

Part 1: The series begins by examining why Japan has always had a much lower endemic rate of homelessness than the US:

  • Japan has much lower levels of drug abuse than the US,* although alcoholism and compulsive gambling are common problems contributing to Japanese homelessness.
  • Japan, which retained its mental hospitals when the US and other English-speaking countries closed theirs down (as a cost cutting measure) in the seventies and eighties.** The majority of America’s mentally ill either end up in prison or on the streets.
  • Japan has few, if any traumatized war veterans. The latter represent a sizeable proportion of the US homeless population.

*Japan has no paramilitary organization comparable to the CIA, which openly engages in narcotics trafficking as part of its strategy to destabilize regimes unfriendly to Wall Street interests.

**In the US, the community mental health movement Kennedy started never received full funding following his assassination. Instead the mental health centers he created to replace mental hospitals have experienced continuous budget cuts dating back to the Reagan administration.

The Role of the Industrial Revolution and Modern Warfare in Third World Colonization

History of the World Part 7 – The Age of Industry

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This second-to-last focuses on the role of the Western industrial revolution in facilitating wholesale colonization of the Third World: British opium wars launched against China to make the world safe for western industrial capitalism, the US Civil War, Japan’s war against their traditional Samurai class, and World War I.

In the middle of the episode, the filmmakers take a break from war to depict the brutal enslavement of the Congo (as his personal fiefdom) by Belgian King Leopold II and to re-enact the invention of the steam engine and railroad, as well as Leo Tolstoy’s efforts to educate and free his serfs.

Part 7 begins with the brutal opium wars the UK used to force China to open up to western trade. At the beginning of the 19th century, a massive British demand for tea was draining their treasury of the silver European countries had expropriated from South America. However because China refused to import western goods, the British had no legal way to get  this silver back.

They eventually fell back illegal opium smuggling to pry open the Chinese import market. The result was an estimated 17 million Chinese opium addicts by 1839. The emperor’s clampdown on smuggling led to a British declaration of war. China’s primitive wooden warships were no match for the gunships born of Britain’s industrial revolution. After two wars, the peace treaty the UK imposed ceded Hong Kong to British control and forced China to open all their markets to western trade.

Modern weaponry would also give the industrialized North a clear advantage over the agricultural South in a Civil War resulting that killed over 650,000.

When Japan refused to open their country to international trade, it was US warships that fired on their capitol in 1853. When Japan modernized their military with Western weapons and tens of thousands of new recruits, their elite Samurai class, solely responsible for centuries for the emperor’s protection, rebelled. In 1877 an army of 40,000 Samurai faced certain defeat against a modern military force with at least twice as many men and Western military hardware.

The segment about Leopold II’s personal conquest of the Congo (and its rich mineral and human resources) under the cover of a “humanitarian charity” is well worth watching. Likewise the one about German foreign minister Arthur Zimmermann’s efforts to form a military alliance with Mexico during World War I – to help them reclaim territory the US stole during the US-Mexican War (1846-1848).

Otherwise the openly anti-German propaganda in the final segment totally obscures the real origins of World War I, as revealed by recently declassified British and US documents. This is covered really well in James Corbett’s 2018 documentary The World War I Conspiracy:. The World War I Conspiracy

 

 

The Healing Benefits of Forest Therapy

The Healing Forests of India

Directed by Nitin Das (2019)

Film Review

An exquisitely beautiful documentary about the field of forest therapy – a form of healing is most practiced in India and Japan (which has 50 healing forests).

There are numerous studies demonstrating the calming effect of forests on children. Research from both India and Finland show that holding classes there makes children calmer, helps them focus better and reduces misbehavior and violence. It’s especially effective for kids diagnosed with ADHD.

Research in adults reveals that the forest environment can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol* levels, inflammation, depression, stress and anxiety. At the same time, it also improves serotonin** levels and immunity. Forest therapy has proved helpful in treating diabetes, hyperthyroidism and addictions. In young people, it helps alleviate depression and anxiety stemming from excessive social media exposure.

It makes perfect sense that people would find forests more inducive to health than overcrowded hyper-polluted cities. As one researcher reminds us, human beings co-evolved over hundreds of thousands of years with forest plants and animals. This means our bodies are programmed to thrive in the presence of other living beings.

The recommended dose of forest therapy is five hours a month.


*Cortisol is a steroid stress hormone.

**Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain and elsewhere that is believed to mediate mood.

 

Churchill’s War Crimes: The Bengal Famine

The World Today with Tariq Ali – Bengal Shadows

Telasur (2018)

Film Review

This documentary traces the war crime British prime minister Winston Churchill committed in 1943. In it, British historian and activist Tariq Ali introduces and narrates the 2017 documentary Bengal Shadows. His commentary includes priceless quotes from Churchill

. . . on learning of the Bengal famine:

I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine is their own fault for breeding like rabbits.

. . .on learning the famine had killed millions:

Then why isn’t Gandhi dead?

The Bengal famine was clearly man made. By early 1942, the Japanese military occupied all of China to the East Bengal border. Fearing they would invade India, British authorities seized and burned all of Bengal’s surplus rice stocks and all their boats, bicycles and bullock carts. They were following a typical scorched earth policy – aimed at preventing the invasion of India.

This meant there was no way to transport grains from inland Bengal, where harvests were good, when a tsunami destroyed the 1942 coastal harvest.

Churchill adamantly refused to provide starving Bengali with food relief. When Australia dispatched ships loaded with food grains, British authorities in Bengal turned them away. Ironically US ships loaded with Australian grain refueled in Bengal en route to troops in the Middle East.

Three million people died in the man made famine. Many of the farmers who planted the bumper 1943 rice crop weren’t alive to harvest it.

Many in India (and modern day Bangladesh) believe the British owe them reparations for the 1943 famine.

 

Ending Monopoly Control of the Electronics Industry

Rebel Geeks: Meet Your Maker

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the Maker Movement, Massino Banzi and the Arduino. Banzi created the Arduino in 2003. The latter is an Open Source one chip computer control device that allows ordinary people to create their own electronic devices without training in electronics or engineering. People have used them to create their own Open Source 3D printers, drones, smartphones, robots and other electronic devices.

The Arduino has played a pivotal role in the Maker Movement, a campaign to end monopoly control over the electronics industry. If you allow corporations to control all the electronic devices and services you use, you allow them to control your choices.

Safecast, the international Citizen Science movement that installed tiny Geiger counters across Japan in 2011 used Arduinos to build them.

See The Citizen Science Movement

 

The Intelligence Career of Lee Harvey Oswald

Agent Oswald

Dark Journalist (2013)

Film Review

This documentary, filmed for the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, starts with a brief summary of the physical evidence indicating that Lee Harvey Oswald played no role whatsoever in Kennedy’s murder.

It then reviews the major evidence that Oswald was a long time CIA operative at the time of his arrest. This includes archival interviews of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (who investigated and prosecuted one of the actual co-conspirators), Oswald’s New Orleans paramour Judyth Vary Baker, the late L. Fletcher Prouty (who served with Oswald in Japan at a top secret U2 spy base), late CIA asset George DeMohrenschildt (Oswald’s CIA babysitter in Dallas), and Cuban exile Antonio Veciano (a CIA operative in the Alpha 66 paramilitary group) and the recorded deathbed confessions of David Atlee Phillips (who ran all CIA western hemisphere operations in 1963) and E Howard Hunt (who was chief of CIA covert operations in 1963).

How to Be Homeless in Japan

How to Be Homeless in Japan

Our Human Planet (2018)

Film Review

This two-part documentary focuses on homelessness in the Japanese city of Osaka. When the Japanese economy collapsed in the 1990s, many older workers lost their jobs. Last year Osaka (pop 19 million)  had 18,000 homeless, mostly men. It’s easier for women who lose their jobs to return to live with family.

Part One (How to be Homeless in Japan) focuses on an 63-year-old man who makes a living collecting aluminum cans to sell at a recycling center. His work day starts before dawn, and he makes roughly $8 a day. In Osaka, one of the most expensive cities in the world, this earns him two meals of day old rice and fish, a cup of tea and a cup of sake. His spends his afternoons in the library reading.

Part Two (Japanese Homeless Fight Back) focuses on organizing efforts by Osaka’s homeless to protect themselves and better meet their needs. In addition to setting up an immaculate tent city on the grounds of a national monument, a number of them run a charity that uses expired supermarket food to provide two hot meals a week for all Osaka’s street people.

It also features a march Osaka’s homeless organized to protest the death of a homeless man kicked to death by unemployed youth.