March 11th, 2017


1)   “Radiation! Bang bang!”

Gesturing as if with guns, two boys in Tokyo repeatedly taunted a girl whose family fled to Japan’s capital to escape radioactivity unleashed by the Fukushima nuclear crisis of 2011.

The girl began to skip classes, and switched schools to escape the bullies, her mother told Reuters. But the very radiation that uprooted the family brought more pain in her new home.

“For her to be called ‘radioactive’ was heartbreaking,” said the mother.

Six years after an earthquake and tsunami sparked the Fukushima meltdown, several cases of “nuclear bullying,” as the Japanese media calls them, have prompted discrimination similar to that suffered by survivors of the World War Two atom bombs.

2)   Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has plunged after questions were raised in parliament about a murky land deal involving an elementary school to which his wife had ties, according to an online poll published this week.

Abe has said neither he nor his wife, Akie, was involved in the deal for state-owned land purchased by Moritomo Gakuen, an educational body in the western city of Osaka.

3)   In a historic, unanimous ruling Friday, South Korea’s Constitutional Court formally removed impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into political turmoil and worsened an already-serious national divide.

4)   Six years after a huge tsunami ravaged Rikuzentakata, the coastal city in northeastern Japan is moving on to rebuild tourism with a unique home stay program.

The “minpaku” private lodging program organized by the city’s tourism promoting organization Marugoto Rikuzentakata enables visitors to get a taste of the daily lives of local fishermen, farmers, and other residents while learning about the disaster.

5)   Computers of Japanese companies and individuals are becoming the prime target of an attack using “ransomware”—programs that bar victims from accessing their business files or family photos unless they pay money to do so.

A computer gets infected with ransomware typically when its user opens a file attached to a spam email from a sender pretending to be a company, often a parcel delivery company, according to the government-affiliated Information-Technology Promotion Agency.

6)   A 36-year-old truck driver who was playing Pokemon Go when he hit and killed a 9-year-old boy last year, was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday by the Ichinomiya branch of the Nagoya District Court.

7)   Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he plans to visit Germany, France and Italy from March 19 for talks with the countries’ leaders on ways to address security and other challenges facing them.

8)   Rattled by North Korean military advances, influential Japanese lawmakers are pushing harder for Japan to develop the ability to strike preemptively at the missile facilities of its nuclear-armed neighbor.

9)   China is violating its free-trade pledges by pressing foreign makers of electric cars and other goods to give technology under an industry development plan that is likely to shrink access to its markets, a business group said Tuesday.

The report by the European Union Chamber of Commerce adds to  complaints Beijing improperly shields its new developers of robotics, software and other technology from competition.

10)   The top U.S. commander in the Middle East signaled Thursday that there will be a larger and longer American military presence in Syria to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State group and quell friction within the complicated mix of warring factions there.

11)   Japan’s Prime Minister says his administration will end its main UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. The government will not send another team to replace the current unit. Japan’s top government spokesperson says the country’s withdrawal from a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan is not due to worsening security there.

12)   The Osaka prefectural government may decide not to approve a plan to open an elementary school in Toyonaka City in April. It is concerned that the school’s operator has failed to give convincing answers to the questions raised over a controversial land deal.

Moritomo Gakuen wants to open the school on a plot it bought from the Japanese government. But the operator has been mired in controversy since it came to light that the site was purchased for a fraction of its market value.

13)   25 Filipino women have arrived in Japan to engage in housekeeping work under the government’s strategic special zone program. They will start working in April in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo. At present, foreigners can perform this type of work in Tokyo, Kanagawa, and the city of Osaka.

The women are allowed to work for up to 3 years. Live-in jobs are prohibited in order to protect the workers from possible abuse.

14)   A record 54,000 children in Japan were referred to child welfare centers in suspected abuse cases in 2016. The National Police Agency said on Thursday that reports on 54,227 children were filed last year. The figure was up 46 percent from 2015 and is the highest since comparable data became available in 2004.