Wednesday October 23, 2019

Debate on morality regarding Barack Obama’s Historic Visit to Hiroshima

About 71 years ago, a mushroom shaped cloud lit up the sky over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki. Some 140,000 people in the two cities died within the year, and survivors and their children faced untold suffering due to radiation poisoning.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center left, puts his arm around Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, center right, after they and fellow G7 foreign ministers laid wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan. Image source: VOA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTVH4JevrdI

During what may be his last tour of Asia, President Barack Obama will make history as the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, the site where the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb in wartime.

Even before the president sets foot on what many consider hallowed ground, the announcement has sparked new debate on the decision to drop the bomb, and whether the United States should apologize or if a U.S. president should even visit.  Obama is expected to make a statement from Hiroshima, and will likely have to navigate a symbolic minefield.

Nearly 71 years ago

It was a moment that literally changed the world nearly 71 years ago when a mushroom shaped cloud lit up the sky over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki.  Some 140,000 people in the two cities died within the year, and survivors and their children have faced untold suffering due to radiation poisoning.  The U.S. rationale for the decision was to bring years of Japanese aggression to a quick end, potentially saving many more lives than would have been lost in a U.S. invasion.  But many Japanese see it differently, saying innocent men, women and children were unnecessarily incinerated and poisoned.

Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima last month.  He said he was deeply moved and that “every human being” should visit the site.  Some experts think that should include the U.S. president, among them Chris Appy of the University of Massachusetts.  He told VOA: “I was very pleased that he decided to go.  I think just showing up is important symbolic act that many Japanese have wanted for a long time.”

But Appy says he thinks the United States should also apologize for the atomic bomb attacks, “I am disappointed that the president appears not willing to apologize.  After all I think in our personal lives, we consider it the height of maturity when an adult is willing to take responsibility and accountability for actions.  Particularly actions that lead to the suffering of the innocent victims.”

Others strongly disagree, including Brian Harding of the Center for American Progress, who told VOA, “The president will not be issuing an apology and the Japanese government is not asking for one either.”

Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims nuclear bombing. Image source: Wikipedia
Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims nuclear bombing. Image source: Wikipedia

‘Special Responsibility’ for atomic bomb use

White House officials have made clear that the president will not apologize.  White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “What I think the president does appreciate is that President [Harry] Truman made this decision for the right reason.”

But Earnest said the United States does have a “special responsibility” as the only country to have ever used an atomic bomb to work tirelessly for nuclear non-proliferation.

McCain opposes visit

Others, including many older Americans and war veterans oppose Obama’s visit.

Republican Senator John McCain is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who ran against Obama in 2008 for the presidency.  He told VOA he simply does not see the point of the trip, “I’m not in the business of telling the President of the United States where to go.  But where, what is the purpose of it?  In some ways, you dredge up very unpleasant memories, but if the President wants to go somewhere he can.”

It is not yet clear whether the president will meet with any of the few remaining survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The president will be accompanied in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  They will lay a wreath, and Obama will make a statement.

The White House says the leaders will highlight the horrors of war and the need to work towards a world without nuclear weapons. (VOA)

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US Endorses Smokeless Tobacco as Less Harmful than Cigarettes

FDA regulators stressed that their decision does not mean the pouches are safe, just less harmful, and that all tobacco products pose risks

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FILE - Moist powder tobacco snus cans are seen on shelves at a Swedish Match store in Stockholm, Sweden, Oct. 24, 2018. VOA

For the first time, U.S. health regulators have judged a type of smokeless tobacco to be less harmful than cigarettes, a decision that could open the door to other less risky options for smokers.

The milestone announcement on Tuesday makes Swedish Match tobacco pouches the first so-called reduced-risk tobacco product ever sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA regulators stressed that their decision does not mean the pouches are safe, just less harmful, and that all tobacco products pose risks. The pouches will still bear mandatory government warnings that they can cause mouth cancer, gum disease and tooth loss.

But the company will be able to advertise its tobacco pouches as posing a lower risk of lung cancer, bronchitis, heart disease and other diseases than cigarettes.

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FILE – A woman shows portions of snus, a moist powder tobacco product that is consumed by placing it under the lip, in Stockholm, Aug. 6, 2009. VOA

The pouches of ground tobacco, called snus — Swedish for snuff and pronounced “snoose” — have been popular in Scandinavian countries for decades but are a tiny part of the U.S. tobacco market.

Users stick the teabag-like pouches between their cheek and gum to absorb nicotine. Unlike regular chewing tobacco, the liquid from snus is generally swallowed, rather than spit out. Chewing tobacco is fermented; snus goes through a steamed pasteurization process.

Long-term data

FDA acting commissioner Ned Sharpless said the agency based its decision on long-term, population-level data showing lower levels of lung cancer, emphysema and other smoking-related disease with the use of snus.

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Sharpless added that the agency will closely monitor Swedish Match’s marketing efforts to ensure they target adult tobacco users.

“Anyone who does not currently use tobacco products, especially youth, should refrain from doing so,” he said in a statement.

Stockholm-based Swedish Match sells its snus under the brand name General in mint, wintergreen and other flavors. They compete against pouches from rivals Altria and R.J. Reynolds. But pouches account for just 5% of the $9.1 billion U.S. market for chew and other smokeless tobacco products, according to Euromonitor market research firm.

And public health experts questioned whether U.S. smokers would be willing to switch to the niche product.

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The milestone announcement on Tuesday makes Swedish Match tobacco pouches the first so-called reduced-risk tobacco product ever sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration. Pixabay

“Snus products have a bit of a challenge” among smokers who are used to inhaling their nicotine, said Vaugh Rees, director of Harvard University’s Center for Global Tobacco Control.

U.S. smoking rate

The U.S. smoking rate has fallen to an all-time low of 14% of adults, or roughly 34 million Americans. But smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., responsible for some 480,000 deaths annually.

The FDA’s decision has been closely watched by both public health experts and tobacco companies.

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Public health experts have long hoped that alternatives like the pouches could benefit Americans who are unable or unwilling to quit cigarettes and other traditional tobacco products. Tobacco companies are looking for new products to sell as they face declining cigarette demand due to tax increases, health concerns, smoking bans and social stigma.

The FDA itself also has much at stake in the review of snus and similar tobacco alternatives.

Congress gave the FDA the power to regulate key aspects of the tobacco industry in 2009, including designating new tobacco products as “modified risk,” compared with traditional cigarettes, chew and other products.

But until Tuesday, the FDA had never granted permission for any product to make such claims.

The FDA is reviewing several other products vying for “reduced risk” status, including a heat-not-burn cigarette alternative made by Philip Morris International. While electronic cigarettes are generally considered less harmful than the tobacco-and-paper variety, they have not been scientifically reviewed as posing a lower risk. (VOA)