June 17th, 2016


1)   An election to pick the successor to Tokyo Gov Yoichi Masuzoe, who is resigning over a political funds scandal, will be held July 31, the local election commission said Friday.

The official campaigning period is set to begin on July 14, just days after the July 10 House of Councillors election.

Among the high-profile names floated as possible candidates are two women: Yuriko Koike, a well-known lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party; and Renho, a lawmaker and acting president of the main opposition Democratic Party. Both have previously served in Cabinet posts.

Kenji Utsunomiya, a lawyer and former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, is also said to be considering running in the election.

2)   A Japanese man who stabbed his father to death with a chopstick was arrested on Thursday, police said.

Michikazu Ikeuchi, 51, admitted that he stabbed his 80-year-old father in the throat with a 30-centimeter-long wooden, cooking chopstick on Wednesday night after a quarrel at their home in Osaka, according to police.

3)   Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso on Friday fired off a warning shot against a recent rise in the yen, saying he was deeply concerned about “one-sided, rapid and speculative” currency moves and would respond urgently if necessary – a hint at possible yen-selling market intervention.

The latest jawboning – official comment intended to influence markets – comes as the yen surged across the board after the Bank of Japan (BOJ) left monetary policy unchanged on Thursday, despite market fears of global turmoil if Britain votes to exit the European Union in the June 23 referendum.

4)   Nearly four decades later, another Japanese star has surpassed a lofty mark set by one of baseball’s most famous players — with the help of stats accumulated overseas. On Wednesday night , Ichiro Suzuki reached 4,257 hits in the Japanese and North American major leagues, passing Pete Rose’s total from Major League Baseball. Although the accomplishment was met with admiration around the sport, it’s not easy to put Suzuki’s feat in context.

Rose remains the MLB hit leader with 4,256. Suzuki had 1,278 hits for Orix in Japan’s Pacific League (1992-00), and on Wednesday he increased his total to 2,979 with the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Miami Marlins. Rose was quoted recently by USA Today as saying: “I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, he’s had a Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high-school hits.”

5)   A pro-EU British lawmaker was killed in a shock daylight street attack, halting campaigning for the referendum on Britain’s membership in the bloc just a week before the crucial vote.

Jo Cox, a 41-year-old mother-of-two from the opposition Labour Party, was shot in the face while lying on the ground by a lone attacker in the village of Birstall in northern England, according to witnesses quoted by local media.

6)   The death sentence given to a man convicted of murdering two women and seriously injuring another man in 2010 when he was 18 is set to be finalized after the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld lower court rulings.

The case of Yutaro Chiba, now 24, marks the first time capital punishment has been given to a minor under Japan’s lay judge trial system that began in 2009.

In handing down the ruling, the top court’s first petty bench said the defendant committed the crime based on a “very selfish motive” as he was determined to kill anyone who sabotaged his plan to run away with his former girlfriend.

7)   The Japanese government on Wednesday launched a special patrol unit in Okinawa to enhance security in response to the rape and murder in April of a young woman allegedly by a former U.S. Marine.

Around 20 vehicles began patrolling downtown areas and school roads in Okinawa which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, with officials from the Okinawa bureaus of the Defense Ministry and the Cabinet Office participating in the patrols for the time being.

8)   Nissan says it is developing fuel-cell technology that can power cars using plant-based ethanol, a first for the auto industry, and hopes to launch the system in time for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

Japan’s number-two automaker said its experimental technology would let vehicles drive more than 600 kilometers on a single fill, similar to gasoline-powered cars.

Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical reaction, which produces electricity.

9)   Social media has emerged as a leading source of news among online users who increasingly access it on their smartphones, a think tank said on Wednesday, warning that the embrace of free news was becoming a challenge for publishers of quality news.

More than half of online users get their news from Facebook and other social media platforms, refusing to pay for news and using ad-blocking, which hurts publishers’ revenue, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) said.

10)   Embracing grieving Orlando families and appealing anew for national action, President Barack Obama claimed a threat to all Americans’ security Thursday as a strong reason to tighten U.S. gun laws. Counterterror campaigns overseas, he declared, can never prevent all “lone wolf” attacks like the one that killed 49 people in Orlando.

11)  It’s an unwritten rule for Florida residents: Keep your kids away from ponds and lakes because alligators are everywhere.

But after a gator killed a 2-year-old Nebraska boy at a Walt Disney World resort, attention soon turned to tourists. In a state with an estimated 1 million alligators, how should theme parks and other attractions warn visitors, and did Disney do enough?

12)   Further investigations will be conducted to learn why the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant did not use the term “meltdown” soon after the March 2011 accident.

It took more than 2 months for Tokyo Electric Power Company to admit that the cores of 3 of the reactors had melted down.

A panel set up by TEPCO reported on Thursday that the utility’s former president, Masataka Shimizu, had instructed employees not to use the term “meltdown.”
The panel said this came after what the president said were instructions from the prime minister’s office.

But the panel did not carry the investigation to the prime minister’s office. It is not known who in the office issued the instructions.

13)   Officials in Tottori Prefecture, western Japan, say a large metal object found washed ashore there could be from a North Korean missile.

The officials told the central government on Friday that a prefectural employee patrolling a coast in Yurihama Town found the object on the previous day.

They say the piece is shaped like a cylinder sliced vertically. They say it’s 1.8 meters long and 1.2 meters wide, with something like cables inside.

The officials say the object resembles what South Korean media reported in February as suspected debris from a North Korean missile.

14)   The Japanese government has decided to extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia by another year.

The current mission will expire on July 23rd.

Japan has deployed escort ships and patrol aircraft to guard commercial ships in the area since 2009.

The cabinet approved the extension on Friday because piracy remains a threat, although there have been no incidents during the past year.

Japanese government officials say poverty in Somalia is the root cause of the problem and pirates will return to the area if the international community lowers its guard.

15)   Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a close aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed that they will prepare for a still-unscheduled visit by Putin to Japan.

Abe and Russian Lower House Speaker Sergei Naryshkin met in Tokyo on Thursday, reaffirming the importance of bilateral cooperative ties in a wide range of areas.
16)   The number of confirmed or suspected dementia sufferers who went missing in Japan has surpassed 10,000 for the third straight year.

The National Police Agency says 12,208 elderly people were reported missing in 2015 — up more than 1,400 from the previous year. 98 percent of them were found before the year-end, but 150 remain unaccounted for.
17)   Mitsubishi Motors says fuel economy data on14 models marketed over the past 10 years was manipulated.

Mitsubishi held a news conference at the Transport Ministry on Friday to announce the results of an in-house probe into the series of fuel-data scandals.

The auto firm said the fuel data on the 14 models came from calculations rather than from actual measurements. In all, the company marketed 20 models during that time.

Mitsubishi officials say they manipulated data on 5 of the 14 models to make their fuel economy look better even though they failed tests.

They add that tests on 17 models did not follow standards, and the company falsified data on such factors as weather, date, and time at test runs of all 20 models.
18)   NHK has learned that the sender of the email that caused the leak of personal data of travel agency customers pretended to be an airline company employee.

JTB officials have admitted that data for nearly 8 million customers may have been leaked due to a computer virus.

A JTB group company received an email in March that appeared to have been sent by All Nippon Airways. The sender’s email address included the letters “ana” and the title of the message suggested that air ticket data was attached to the email.

19)   Tokyo stocks fell across the board on Thursday, with the benchmark index dropping more than 400 points after the Bank of Japan decided to maintain its current monetary policy.

Shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange were sold almost across the board, as the yen surged against the dollar following the central bank’s decision.

The Nikkei index closed 485 points down from Wednesday’s finish, at 15,434, marking its lowest point in about 4 months. The broader TOPIX index ended at 1241, down 35 points.

Market analysts say the fall of the dollar was triggered by the US Federal Reserve’s decision on Wednesday not to raise interest rates, and was accelerated by the Bank of Japan’s decision.


20)   France has ratified the Paris Agreement on curbing global warming.

President Francois Hollande signed a document to ratify the agreement on Wednesday. Both houses of parliament had previously approved the result of UN climate talks in December.

Hollande said the ratification process realizes the hope to stop global warming, which emerged at the COP 21 conference.

The agreement is a new international framework to fight global warming beyond 2020, replacing the Kyoto Protocol.

The Paris deal takes effect when it is ratified by at least 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Only 17 nations, mainly island countries like the Maldives and Tuvalu, have ratified it. They represent 0.04 percent of the emissions.

21)   One of 5 Hong Kong booksellers who disappeared last year has lambasted mainland Chinese authorities for his detention. The 5 are linked to a bookstore that sells titles critical of the Communist Party.

Lam Wing-kee held a news conference in Hong Kong on Thursday, 2 days after returning from mainland China.

Lam explained he was held by Chinese authorities after he arrived in Guangdong Province for a visit last October. He said he was confined for 5 months in a room about 30 square meters.
22)   Shanghai Disneyland, the first one in mainland China, has celebrated its official opening.

The gates opened before noon on Thursday, slightly earlier than scheduled. Long lines of visitors had formed in front of the gates since early in the morning. Pre-order tickets for the opening day were sold out.

Visitors were seen taking pictures of themselves with Disney characters, and enjoying rides and other attractions.

Construction of the 390-hectare Shanghai Disney Resort with hotels and shopping areas cost about 5.5 billion US dollars.

23)   A robot escaped from a science lab and caused a traffic jam in one Russian city, it’s reported.

Scientists at the Promobot laboratories in Perm had been teaching the machine how to move around independently, but it broke free after an engineer forgot to shut a gate, says the local edition of the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper. The robot found its way to a nearby street, covering a distance of about 50m (164ft), before its battery ran out, the daily says.

An eyewitness video posted online shows a vaguely humanoid machine standing in the middle of a busy road, guarded by a traffic policeman. It is then wheeled off by a human, presumably an engineer from the company that developed the robot.

24)   Germany’s military is facing criticism after photos emerged of young children handling firearms during an open day.

Images shared by the German Peace Society show youngsters holding a range of weapons, including an assault rifle and a sub-machine gun, Spiegel Online reports. While the guns weren’t loaded and the children appear to have been supervised, the military’s own rules say under-18s must not be allowed to handle weapons, after a similar scandal occurred in 2011, the website notes.

25)   A horde of giant spider crabs has amassed in waters near the Australian city of Melbourne.

Hundreds of thousands of the crabs migrate to Australia’s southern shores each year as ocean waters cool.

Australian aquatic scientist Sheree Marris filmed an enormous gathering of the crustaceans in Port Phillip Bay.

Ms Marris said she hoped to raise awareness of the diversity of sea life in Australia’s southern waters.

“Who would have thought something like this, that is so spectacular, could be happening in Australia on the southern shore,” she said.