Friday, April 25, 2014

April 19-25, 2014

13 Year Old Peruvian Girl Raped in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka School
A 13 year old Peruvian girl has reported to police and her mother that she has been repeatedly raped by five Japanese female class mates.

The girl who was a member of a music club in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka says as one girl penetrated her with a "device" other girls would hold her down as two others would film and take photographs of the rape on their phones.

The girl's mother, who is a single mother, says, "My daughter has been very troubled for some time and I wanted to know why. Last Friday she let me know the reason. I was horrified." After the mother received little help from police and the school or school board, she decided to involve Peruvian Consul General, Julio Cardenas.

Consul General Cardenas has been seen at the Shizuoka Central Police building and also at the school in Fujinomiya. When I contacted the Consul I was told by an employee who wished to remain anonymous, “Today we had a telephone discussion with the mother and we found her to be in a very emotional state. We offered all our support and full cooperation as diplomats in Japan for Peru. It is totally heart breaking that could happen to any child. We must assure our citizens we will not allow any abuse or bullying of our citizens."

School officials refused to comment, as did police in Shizuoka.

By Daniel Rea, Japan Times Herald
US and Japan Unable to Settle TPP Problems
As negotiators struggle, President Barack Obama is rejecting suggestions that an Asia-Pacific trade deal is in danger and says the U.S. and Japan must take bold steps to overcome differences that are threatening completion of the cornerstone of his strategic rebalance to the region.
Illustrating those difficulties, the top Japanese negotiator said Thursday that talks had come to a stop only to have a U.S. official later say that discussions would continue.
Standing alongside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama also affirmed that the U.S. will defend its Asian ally in a potential confrontation with China over a set of disputed islands. At the same time, he called on both parties to peacefully resolve the long-running dispute that has heightened tensions between the two countries.
Obama called for the U.S. and Japan to resolve disagreements promptly over access to agriculture and automobile markets, issues that are hindering completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The deal, involving 12 nations overall, is a key component of Obama’s efforts to assert U.S. influence in Asia in the face of China’s ascendancy in the region.
“Now is the time for bold steps that are needed to reach a comprehensive agreement, and I continue to believe we can get this done,” Obama said at a joint news conference with Abe at the Akasaka Palace. “All of us have to move out of our comfort zones and not just expect that we’re going to get access to somebody else’s market without providing access to our own. And it means that we have to sometimes push our constituencies beyond their current comfort levels because ultimately it’s going to deliver a greater good for all people.”
That was also a nod to the strong opposition Obama faces at home to the TPP, including from organized labor groups who fear such a deal with leave U.S. workers vulnerable to competition from counterparts in other countries who earn substantially less. Obama’s fellow Democrats in Congress also oppose granting him authority that would make it harder for lawmakers to change the trade pact. Business groups strongly back the deal, saying it would create jobs and open new markets to U.S. goods.
Akira Amari, the top Japanese negotiator for the TPP talks, said Thursday evening that the talks with chief U.S. trade negotiator Michael Froman “have stopped for now” and were not expected to resume “straight away.”
“The old issues still remain,” said a grim-looking Amari.
Abe Promises 2020 Olympics Will Be Safe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the scrapping of two Fukushima nuclear reactors that survived the 2011 tsunami, a write-off that threatens to complicate a turnaround plan the operator has presented to creditors.

He also said he stood by his commitments to the International Olympic Committee of insuring a safe 2020 Summer Games.

"I will work hard to counter rumours questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant," he said.

Abe, speaking to reporters after a tour of the plant on Monday, said he told Tokyo Electric Power Co to set a time frame for dealing with leaking contaminated water.

"In order for them to concentrate on this, I have directed them to decommission the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors that are now halted," Abe said.

A tsunami crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi plant on March 11, 2011, causing fuel-rod meltdowns, radioactive contamination of air, sea and food and triggering the evacuation of 160,000 people in the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

More recently, authorities have been struggling to contain leaks of radioactive groundwater.

Tokyo Electric president Naomi Hirose promised that the company will make a decision on the decommissioning of the two reactors within the year, Abe said.

Abe's visit to the plant, 240 km (140 miles) north of Tokyo, came after he pledged that the government would take a more central role in the clean-up as part of Tokyo's successful bid for the Olympics.

Four reactors were destroyed by meltdowns and hydrogen explosions. The No. 5 and No. 6 reactors escaped serious damage and Tokyo Electric has been allowed to carry the facilities as an asset on its balance sheet.

Tokyo Electric, which has posted more than $27 billion in net losses since the disaster, is negotiating with a syndicate of Japanese banks for a refinancing of 80 billion yen ($816 million) due next month.

As of April, the company listed 745.5 billion yen ($7.5 billion) in nuclear power generation assets. Those included the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors as well as the utility's Fukushima Daini nuclear plant and Kashiwazaki Kariwa - the world's largest nuclear plant - in northernJapan.

Both of those other two plants are now halted and it is uncertain whether they can be restarted in the face of local opposition.

Abe said Hirose promised to finish treating contaminated water at Fukushima by March 2015.

Centers for Disabled Close Due to Fukushima Plant
Thirteen out of 28 support centers for the disabled in 10 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture's Soso district -- within 30 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant -- have either suspended service or closed down, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
The decrease in the number of these welfare service providers has imposed a burden on people with disabilities and their families, who have found themselves suddenly without local support systems.
The Mainichi Shimbun recently asked 19 disability employment service providers and nine daycare service providers for children with disabilities in the district about their operations. Of those, seven employment service centers said they have continued operating in the same place, five have moved elsewhere and seven have either suspended their operations or closed down. Meanwhile, two of the daycare facilities for children remain in the same place, one has moved and six have either suspended their operations or closed down.
A 56-year-old woman with a psychiatric disorder in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Namie, who used to frequent the local "Coffee Time" employment support service center before the disaster, suffered from auditory hallucinations for the entire month she lived as an evacuee in a school gym following the March 2011 disaster. She was able to recover after talking to some Coffee Time staff she had known well. Coffee Time reopened in October 2011 in the city of Nihonmatsu, some 65 kilometers west of Namie. The woman, after moving seven times, has settled in an apartment in the city and now works at a cafe operated by the center.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 12-18, 2014

Japan Will Reject ICJ Ruling To Continue Whaling

The Japanese government said Friday it will aim to resume its whaling in the Antarctic from next fiscal year despite a U.N. court ordering Tokyo last month to halt its program there, igniting criticism from the international community.
Tokyo has announced it will not conduct whaling in the Antarctic this fiscal year, which started April 1, under the current program, abiding by the March 31 International Court of Justice ruling. But the government said it will submit a new whaling program to the International Whaling Commission by this fall.
"We have come to the conclusion (to continue whaling) after carefully examining the ruling," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.
Japan's decision "reflects what the (ICJ's) judgment pointed out, and we would like to sincerely explain that to each country," he added.
Japan's eventual goal is to resume commercial whaling. What Tokyo calls "research whaling" is aimed at collecting scientific data to prove that catching whales commercially would not dent sustainable use of the whale stocks.
The government also decided to continue its whaling in the Pacific Ocean this fiscal year, with whalers set to depart later this month.
In the Pacific Ocean, the government plans to reduce the number of whales caught in an attempt to win support from the international community.
In fiscal 2014, Tokyo will slash the figure to 210 whales from 380 caught last year, based on "recent statistical data," a farm ministry official said.
The official also said that purposes of so-called research whaling have been narrowed down.
Tokyo's decision to review the program comes as the ICJ ruling pointed out that sample sizes of whales taken by Japan were "not driven by strictly scientific considerations," saying the country's whaling violated a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Although the ICJ ruling only applies to the Antarctic Sea, Tokyo was considering whether it should also stop whaling in the Pacific, given strong criticism from antiwhaling countries such as Australia and the United States.
Japanese whalers are expected to leave a port in northeastern Japan on April 26 to conduct whaling in the Pacific Ocean off the Japanese coast. The departure had been initially planned for Tuesday next week but was put off due to prolonged discussion in the government over the matter.
In May 2010, Australia, one of the most vocal countries against whaling, lodged a case with the ICJ aimed at halting Japan's whaling in the Antarctic.
Kyodo News
Contaminated Water Leaks at Fukushima Plant
Just over one ton of water contaminated with radioactive particulates leaked from one of the containment vessels at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said.
According to TEPCO officials, the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, which is being used to remove radioactive substances from contaminated water, experiencing trouble, TBS reported Wednesday.
TEPCO officials told a news conference that workers discovered the water leak from a containment vessel being used to clean out tanks filled with water already processed by the ALPS system. However, radioactive substances were still present in the water in the tanks, which started to overflow, TBS reported.
According to officials, the leaked water showed readings of 3.8 million becquerels per liter. Also, dangerous levels of radioactive cesium reading 9,300 becquerels were detected in the contaminated water.
TEPCO said none of the contaminated water was leaked outside of the building housing the storage tanks. 
Japan-USA Deadlocked On TPP
Talks between the United States and Japan seen as vital to a broader regional trade pact had narrowed to a few critical areas and will resume again on Monday, officials of both countries said on Friday, as negotiators struggle to bridge gaps ahead of a summit between the countries’ leaders.
A U.S.-Japan agreement is critical to the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation grouping that would stretch from Asia to Latin America. The TPP is central to U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy of expanding America’s presence in Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for his part, has touted the TPP as a main element of his strategy to reform the world’s third largest economy and generate sustainable growth.
The two leaders are keen to show progress, if not clinch a deal, in time for their April 24 summit in Tokyo, but on Friday, after a 20-hour negotiating session, a deal remained elusive, a senior U.S. administration official said.
Negotiators are down to a relatively limited set of outstanding issues, but considerable differences separate the two sides, the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sticking points from the U.S. perspective revolve in equal measure around access to Japan’s markets for agricultural products as well as Japanese regulations that serve to block automotive imports, the official said.
Discussions will continue in the days and weeks ahead, but there is no particular deadline for concluding the talks, the official added. Momentum behind the talks need not stall because negotiators have not struck a deal ahead of Obama’s visit to Japan, the official said.
Japan’s Economy Minister Akira Amari echoed the U.S. official’s assessment.
“We still have big differences,” he told reporters in Washington after another round of talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, according to Kyodo news agency.
But “the gaps are getting smaller,” Amari was reported as saying before he left for Japan. Late on Thursday, he had said talks were at a “stalemate”.
USTR confirmed talks would resume between U.S. Acting Deputy United States Trade Representative Wendy Cutler and Japanese Deputy Chief Negotiator Hiroshi Oe in Tokyo on Monday.
The United States wants Japan to open its rice, beef and pork, dairy, and sugar markets - politically powerful sectors that Abe has vowed to defend. Japan wants a timetable on U.S. promises to drop tariffs of 2.5% on imports of passenger cars and 25% on light trucks.
Japanese media have reported that the United States, which has been pushing Japan to scrap its tariffs, is willing to let Japan keep import levies on rice, wheat and sugar while it will create a mechanism to boost its imports of U.S. rice.
Gaps remain over the size of cuts in tariffs on beef and over pork as well, the media said.
Japanese officials have been hoping that a two-way trade deal with Australia clinched this month, which allowed it to keep reduced tariffs on beef, would pressure the United States to make similar concessions.
Some experts say U.S. negotiators are at a disadvantage because the White House does not have authority to fast track agreements through Congress, given opposition by senior Democrats to a bill laying the groundwork for a yes-or-no vote by lawmakers.
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014.