1) The number of households on welfare in Japan marked a record high for the second straight month in September, as more elderly people need support.
Welfare ministry officials say the number of households receiving public welfare benefits rose by 266 from August to more than 1.63 million in September.
2) A black swan at a zoo in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, has tested positive in preliminary screening for the bird flu virus.
Officials at Higashiyama Zoo in the city of Nagoya say they tested the male swan on Tuesday after it appeared to grow weak. The bird later died. The swan was living in a pond on the zoo grounds until it was moved indoors last week.
3) Communist party chairperson Kazuo Shii took up the issue of new duties assigned to a Self-Defense Forces unit dispatched to South Sudan for UN peacekeeping operations. The new tasks would call on the SDF members to rescue foreign peacekeepers and others under attack using weapons.
4) Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power Co (KEPCO) on Thursday night restarted the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. KEPCO said the reactor is expected to achieve criticality by Friday morning and commence power generation on Sunday.
5) Organ transplantation is not only a medical issue that involves patients and doctors. It naturally also involves fundamental ethical questions. The slow progress of organ transplantation in Japan is thought to be connected with the spirituality of Japanese people such as their view of life and death.
6) The United States on Thursday approved a series of deals worth more than $7 billion to supply military helicopters, planes and missiles to four of its Arab allies. The green light, announced by the State Department, will mark another windfall for plane maker Boeing and other large U.S. defense manufacturers.
7) Japan’s Foreign Ministry has officially announced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country next week. The ministry said on Thursday that Putin will pay an official working visit from December 15th to 16th and hold meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.