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Police say tougher penalties leading to fewer accidents caused by drunk drivers

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 11:04 PM
The number of traffic accidents caused by drunken driving has largely decreased thanks to tougher penalties against driving under the influence of alcohol, the National Police Agency (NPA) said on Thursday.

According to the NPA, the number of traffic accidents caused by drunken driving decreased by 27.6 percent to 1,402 between Sept. 19 and Dec. 18, following the enforcement of the revised Road Traffic Law, compared to the same period last year.

"The number of drunken-driving accidents is on the decline thanks to the public's recognition of the toughening of penalties (against drunken drivers) under the Road Traffic Law," the NPA said.

However, the number of fatal accidents caused by driving under the influence increased by three to 94 compared to the same period last year.

The legal revision also toughened penalties against hit-and-run accidents, apparently contributing to the drop in the number of such accidents by 21.4 percent to 3,370 compared to the corresponding period last year.

The number of deadly hit-and-run accidents, however, stood at 60, the same figure as reported during the same period last year, the NPA said.

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Heartthrob actor Joe Odagiri to wed actress Yuu Kashii

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 11:03 PM
Heartthrob actor Joe Odagiri is set to marry 20-year-old actress Yuu Kashii, it was learned Thursday.

The couple plan to choose a day in the near future to register their marriage. They were set to hold a news conference later in the day.

The talent agencies to which the pair belong said that Kashii was not pregnant and that they were not living together.

The celebrities reportedly met in 2005 during filming for the movie "Pavilion Salamander," and decided this autumn to get married.

Odagiri, 31, gained widespread attention after starring in the drama "Kamen Rider Kuuga." He won a rookie award at the Japan Academy Prize ceremony for his role in the 2003 film "Azumi."

Kashii made her debut as a model in 2001, when she was a third-year junior high school student. She entered the public spotlight after appearing in the 2003 drama "Water Boys." Her films include the 2005 piece "Linda, Linda, Linda."

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Police want ban on using mobile phones while riding bicycles

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 11:02 PM
Talking on a mobile phone while riding on a bicycle should be banned, an advisory panel for the National Police Agency (NPA) proposed in a report on Thursday.

The report, compiled by an advisory panel of experts for the NPA, also suggested outlawing parents from riding with more than one child on their bicycle at a time.

The advisory panel has been discussing safety for cyclists, and their report will be incorporated into the NPA's first drastic revision to its traffic safety manual in 29 years. The manual has been used across the nation in traffic safety classes conducted by police for local residents.

The report filed on Thursday suggested banning cyclists from pedaling while: using a mobile phone; listening to music with headphones on; and randomly ringing the bell to avoid trouble with others.

According to the NPA, there were 4,020 crashes involving bicycles last year, about 6.8 times more than the figure reported in 1996. The number of bicycle accidents involving pedestrians also increased 4.8 times last year from a decade ago, to stand at 2,767

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Tokyo Can’t Buy Beijing’s Love

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 10:55 PM
In 1979, Japan started to provide China with low-interest loans to build ports, railways and power stations. It was a form of compensation for World War II abuses and a way to help its poor, backward neighbor and encourage it to forget a vicious imperial past.

On December 21, Japan signed its final yen-loan agreement with China, for 46.3 billion yen (US$406.2 million) for six environment projects. This brings the total over the last 28 years to 3.316 trillion yen, at interest rates between 0.75 percent and 3.5 percent, with repayment periods of up to 40 years. It is by far the largest amount of cheap credit China has received from any country.

The loans have paid for magnificent improvements to China’s infrastructure, but for Japan they must rank as one of the most unsuccessful investments in history, at least in terms of goodwill. The largesse has done little to earn the friendship intended by the donor, while it has helped to create a formidable economic rival.

The hostility of the Chinese government and people to Japan remains as fierce today as it was when the loans began. Earlier this month, the government arranged emotional public events, broadcast widely on state television, to mark the 70th anniversary of the infamous Nanjing massacre, in which as many as 200,000 Chinese were murdered by Japanese troops during six weeks in 1938.

Each week television channels run war dramas featuring Japanese with Hitlerian mustaches torturing heroic resistance fighters and seducing beautiful Chinese women. Newspapers delight in new items of Japanese perfidy, such as how, in the aftermath of World War II, Tokyo rushed to recruit 70,000 “comfort women” for the occupying American army in order to reduce the incidence of rape among the population.

Nonetheless, the loans have made an important contribution towards the infrastructure that amazes visitors to China, such as the airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Xian, the Beijing subway and the light rail system of Chongqing. The credits paid for 34.5 percent of the electrification of China’s 13,000-km railway system and 12.2 percent of China’s large 470 port berths.

Changing fortunes

“In the early years of reform, when we were extremely short of capital and technology, this money played a very important role,” said Zhang Jifeng, a scholar in the Japan Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “It went for major projects, which required a long investment period and a high level of technology, to develop energy, transport, telecommunications, environmental protection and irrigation.”

Immediately after World War II, under pressure from the US, which feared a Communist takeover of Japan, China’s President Chiang Kai-shek said he would not seek war reparations. When Beijing normalized relations with Tokyo in 1972, China also said that it would not seek reparations.

However, during a December 1979 visit to China, Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira said that Japan would provide the low-interest loans to support reforms and modernization. It was the aftermath of that decade’s oil crisis, and Japan needed Chinese oil and coal. It also wanted a stable neighbor and a growing market for exports to reduce its dependence on the United States.

Since then, how the world has changed. China’s economy has developed at a rate no one could have imagined, while Japan has stagnated. China has foreign exchange reserves exceeding US$1.4 trillion, double those of Japan, leading many Japanese to wonder why the country is still providing such loans to China and not other more needy and more grateful countries.

So why don’t they like us?

In economic terms, the loans generated a return for Japan. In the early years, they were tied to purchases of Japanese goods and services. In 2006, China overtook the US to become Japan’s biggest trading partner for the first time, with Japan’s reliance on China higher than the other way around.

China also became a major investment destination for Japan. The golden years were 2002-2006, when the investment totaled more than in the previous 15 years combined; there are more than 30,000 Japanese projects in China now.

Investment started to fall this year, with the volume in the first half of 2007 down 11.2 per cent year-on-year, thanks to rising wage and land costs in China. A worker in Vietnam costs US$90-110 a month, compared to US$160-190 for one in Dongguan, Guangdong.

In political and social terms, however, the return has been negligible. Few Chinese are aware of the contribution that Japan has made to their economy, mainly because the media tells them so little about it. It concentrates instead on wartime atrocities and the failure of some Japanese leaders to acknowledge them.

When he went to attend the opening of terminal two of the Beijing International Airport in November 1999, Japan’s ambassador noticed that the plaque to be unveiled made no mention of his country’s substantial loan. He stormed off in protest and a new one was cast, to include it. The airport’s website makes no mention of the Japanese contribution.

“The Chinese public wants the government of Japan to show a correct attitude toward history and a deep reflection of history,” said Qiao Linsheng, a professor at Nankai University. “Those Chinese who understand history believe that, since China gave up war reparations, this overseas aid by Japan is to be expected.”

It would be more accurate to say that Beijing has chosen to spin it this way. The leaders of France and Germany, along with other European nations, chose to close the dark pages of their war-torn past in order to bring the nations together. The leadership in Beijing – and to a certain extent in neighboring South Korea have done the opposite.

When the Japanese emperor or political leaders do apologize for various past atrocities, Beijing ridicules their words as insincere and self-serving. When Japan truly acts like a good neighbor, the deeds go unacknowledged. Beijing has chosen to keep alive the image of Japan as a mean and aggressive nation, jealous of China’s economic and military success and eager to contain it. In this script, three trillion yen buys almost nothing.

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Murdered Briton's killer Tatsuya Ichihashi still confounding cops nine months later

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 01:03 AM
Fugitive Tatsuya Ichihashi, the prime suspect in the savage murder of a young British teacher in March this year, may have gone under covers in the sleazy netherworld of Tokyo's red light districts, according to Sunday Mainichi (12/30).

Ichihashi, 28, has been on the run since giving pursuing police the slip shortly after Lindsay Ann Hawker's naked body was found covered in sand in the bath of his apartment in Chiba Prefecture's Gyotoku district.

Ichihashi, son of wealthy medical practitioner parents, vanished with barely a trace, and remains unaccounted for in the nine months that have passed since Hawker's tragic death half a world away from home.

Even now, Ichihashi's apartment bears an address label, leaving residents of the condominium feeling nervous.

"Nothing about the apartment has changed at all. And people living here don't talk about him much. But because nobody knows where he is, everybody's scared," a resident of the same condo tells Sunday Mainichi. "We wish the cops would hurry up and solve the case."

Police actually had Ichihashi within their grasp on the same day Hawker's body was discovered. As they went to his apartment, the door burst open, he flew out through a cordon of officers going to visit him and hasn't been seen since.

Ichihashi is the scion of a top surgeon at a hospital in Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, and a mother who was once a dentist. Ichihashi intended to follow in their footsteps, but failed to get grades good enough to study medicine and instead took a landscape gardening course at Chiba University. After graduating from university, he never took up a job, instead living on hefty handouts from mommy and daddy.

Police tell the weekly they've ruled out the possibility Ichihashi went overseas -- at least legitimately -- as they found his passport in a raid on his apartment following Hawker's death. They also point out he couldn't have gone too far as he had no money and wasn't wearing shoes when the cops came to talk to him.

"Based on tip-offs we've received, we're concentrating our search for him in red-light districts and entertainment areas like (Tokyo's) Shinjuku, Shibuya, Yokohama, (Saitama Prefecture's) Kawaguchi, Omiya and the like," a police investigation insider tells Sunday Mainichi. "We're examining security camera footage to see if he's working in these sex businesses or going there as a customer. We're also asking sex business employees to keep an eye out for him and plastering those places with his wanted poster."

Many of Hawker's foreign friends, some apparently fearing Ichihashi, have returned to their homelands in the wake of her killing and the collapse in October of NOVA, the English conversation school where the young Briton worked and where she met many of her associates in Japan. Her boss at the time, however, has remained in Japan at the behest of Hawker's parents looking for someone to coordinate the campaign to track down Ichihashi. One of Hawker's friends speaks of the frustration being felt that the rich doctor's son is still on the loose.

"It's so frustrating that we can't do anything and Christmas is approaching," the friend says. "We don't want people to forget what happened, and we're going to keep trying until they catch the killer."

Police, meanwhile, remain baffled by the case. As of mid-December, they had received about 2,600 tips about the case from the general public. There remains 141 officers posted to a task force dedicated to solving the case -- the same number that started the investigation immediately after Hawker's death -- and 31,170 police have been involved in the search for Ichihashi in some way. Yet he still remains unaccounted for.

"I think you could say," the investigation insider tells Sunday Mainichi, "that we have absolutely no idea where he has gone."

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'Sleeping Buddha' cleaned in annual ceremony in Fukuoka

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 12:47 AM
A ceremony to clean a huge sleeping Buddha statue was carried out at Nanzoin Temple here on Wednesday, with about 200 people taking part.

During the annual ceremony, a group of people, including the temple's deputy chief priest, stood on a special platform and used bamboo leaves fixed to the end of 5-meter-long poles to clean the face of the Shaka Nehan (nirvana) statue, which lies horizontal on the ground. Afterwards, temple followers dressed in happi coats wiped down the body and legs of the statue.

After the ceremony, visitors clasped their hands together in prayer in front of the cleaned statue, praying for good health in the new year.

The Shaka Nehan statue, which is familiarly known as "Nebotoke-san" (sleeping Buddha) was built in 1995. It is 11 meters tall and 41 meters long, and weighs about 300 tons. It is said to be one of the largest bronze Shaka Nehan statues in the world.

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JR Tokai to foot 5 tril. yen bill for maglev train line between Tokyo and Nagoya

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 12:45 AM
Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) will pay 5 trillion yen out of its own pocket to build a new Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Nagoya for the 500-kph magnetically-levitated (maglev) trains scheduled to go into service in 2025, company officials said.

The company made the decision after deeming that it can start operating super-superexpress trains earlier if it chooses not to wait for an injection of taxpayers' money.

The fastest maglev train is expected to complete the 290-kilometer journey between Tokyo and Nagoya in 40 minutes as compared with an hour and 40 minutes that the fastest bullet train on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line currently takes to travel between these cities.

JR Tokai estimates that it will cost 10 trillion yen to build the Chuo Shinkansen Line between Tokyo and Osaka for maglev trains.

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Gov't buys screening rights for U.S. documentary on abduction of Megumi Yokota

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 12:44 AM
The Japanese government has purchased screening rights for the American documentary "Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story," which depicts the abduction of Megumi Yokota by North Korean agents, it has been learned.

The government's headquarters for countermeasures on the abduction issue reportedly paid 50,000 dollars (about 5.7 million yen) for the rights to screen the film. The documentary is being lent to junior high schools and high schools free of charge to have students understand the abductions of Japanese citizens as a human rights problem. It is rare for the government to purchase the screening rights for a privately produced film.

"We want children to learn about the wretchedness of the abduction issue and hope the film increases momentum toward a solution to the issue," a representative of the abduction issue headquarters said.

The documentary focuses on Shigeru Yokota, 75, and his 71-year-old wife Sakie following the abduction of their daughter Megumi, while depicting efforts made by relatives of abduction victims to rescue them. Released in 2006, the film has received several awards including an audience award at the Slamdance Film Festival in the United States.

Before purchasing the screening rights, the government had paid 600 dollars (about 69,000 yen) to the film's U.S. production company each time the film was shown at events such as gatherings calling for a solution to the abduction issue. However, following numerous calls for screenings of the film, the government decided to purchase screening rights and formed a contract with the production company in October.

Contract conditions included not using the film on a commercial basis and having the government sponsor or co-sponsor events where the film was screened.

Due to issues involving the distributor of the film in Japan, screenings are currently limited to school-related events.

The government's abduction issue headquarters has made calls at the National Association of Upper Secondary School Principals and the Japan association of junior high school principals for screenings of the film.

The first screening event was held at a public junior high school in the Hokuriku region on Dec. 7, and about 900 students and their parents saw the film.

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Japan trade surplus shrinks 12.2 percent in November on surging imports

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 09:48 PM
Japan's trade surplus shrank in November for the first time in four months as a jump in imports, particularly cude oil, narrowed the trade gap, the government said Thursday.

The surplus contracted 12.2 percent in November from a year ago to 797.4 billion yen (US$7.04 billion), according to the Finance Ministry.

The main reason for the drop was a 13.2-percent rise in imports amid rising crude oil prices, which hit a 25-year high during the month in yen-value terms.

Exports rose 9.7 percent from a year earlier, but those to the U.S. -- Japan's biggest export market -- fell 6.0 percent, down for the third straight month.

Thursday's result suggested higher oil prices could erode corporate sentiment and profits at home while uncertainties over the global economy and financial markets could start to weigh on Japanese exporters, which have long underpinned the economy.

"While a rapid downturn in Japan's overall exports is unlikely, the downside risks are clearly increasing," Lehman Brothers economist Hiroshi Shiraishi said in a report published Thursday.

Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. contracted 14.7 percent from a year earlier to 724.3 billion yen (US$6.40 billion) in November, its third monthly decline.

It posted a deficit with China of 197.9 billion yen (US$1.75 billion), down 33 percent.

The trade surplus with Asian nations jumped 53.5 percent to 768.4 billion yen (US$6.79 billion) in November.

The trade surplus rose 64.3 percent on year in October.

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Compensation negotiations break down in settlement with hepatitis C patients

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 09:43 PM
The government on Thursday announced a revised compensation proposal for plaintiffs who were infected with hepatitis C through tainted blood products, raising the amount of compensation to 3 billion yen for people not covered under Tokyo District Court standards, but the plaintiffs rejected the offer.

The rejection signifies a breakdown in negotiations between the government and the plaintiffs over damages.

Settlement negotiations over compensation are being promoted by the Osaka High Court. The revised proposal announced by Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe raised the amount of compensation to victims not covered by the standards of a Tokyo District Court ruling that decided on the scope of responsibility of the government and a pharmaceutical company.

However, the plaintiffs rejected the latest proposal, saying that it failed to hold to the principle of providing relief for all victims. The plaintiffs had hoped for a political decision to provide relief to all victims.

Speaking in a news conference at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Thursday, Michiko Yamaguchi, 51, the representative of a nationwide group of plaintiffs, criticized Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

"Just as we were trying to climb the final mountain to reach a complete solution, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda pushed us off. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe also released the hand that we were holding," she said.

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Nine teens arrested for assaulting two boys over slanderous Web posts

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 09:40 PM
Nine teenagers have been arrested and another referred to a child guidance center for assaulting two boys in Tokyo in retaliation for posting messages on a Web site slandering one of the group, police said Thursday.

The 10 teenagers -- six junior high school girls, a girl who has graduated from the school and three boys -- stand accused of inflicting bodily injury.

The suspects admitted to the allegations and expressed regret during questioning. "Our attack went too far," one of them was quoted as telling investigators.

In June, the suspects forced the victims, second-year junior high school boys, to take off their clothes at a park in Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, then proceeded to hit and kick them, investigators said. The victims suffered injuries that took one to two weeks to heal.

The two boys had posted slanderous messages on a Web profile of one of the arrested girls, according to Tokyo police. "Don't come to school," one of the messages read.

The girl asked the nine others to join her in assaulting the boys in retaliation for the messages.

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Japan completes missile intercept test from ship

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 01:23 AM
The Japanese military became the first U.S. ally to shoot down a mid-range ballistic missile from a ship at sea in a test Monday.

The U.S. military has conducted similar successful tests in the past, but this time the interceptor was fired from a Japanese ship, the JS Kongo, said the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, which carried out the test. The target warhead was knocked out about 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

Tokyo has invested heavily in missile defense since North Korea test-fired a long-range missile over northern Japan in 1998. It has installed missile tracking technology on several navy ships and has plans to equip three additional vessels with interceptors.

Japan's top government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura hailed the test result.

"This is very significant for Japanese national security," Machimura said at a regular press briefing in Tokyo. "The Defense Ministry and the government have been putting efforts into the development of ballistic missile defense, and we will continue to install the needed equipment and conduct exercises."

The Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, run by the U.S. Navy, fired the target missile into the sky at 12:05 p.m. Hawaii time. The Kongo tracked the missile, then fired its interceptor three minutes later.

The target was destroyed at 12:11 p.m., the Missile Defense Agency said in a news release.

The USS Lake Erie, a Pearl Harbor-based guided missile cruiser, tracked the missile target and fed information on it to a command center.

Experts say the test will likely strengthen the U.S.-Japan defense alliance. The Missile Defense Agency called the test "a major milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S."

But it may also deepen concerns in Beijing that Tokyo could use the technology to help the U.S. defend Taiwan if conflict erupted with China.

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Australia plans to track Japanese whale harvest

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 01:21 AM
ustralia will send planes and a ship to conduct surveillance of Japanese whaling ships off Antarctica, the government announced Wednesday.

Any photographic and video evidence collected will be used to decide whether Australia will take legal action to try to stop Japan's whaling program, said Stephen Smith, the foreign minister.

Smith also said Australia would lead a group of anti-whaling nations in lodging a formal protest with the Japanese government within the next few days against Japan's plans to harvest more than 1,000 whales, including 50 humpbacks, in its largest-ever scientific whale hunt.

"We are dealing here with the slaughter of whales, not scientific research," Smith said at a news conference. "That is our start point and our end point."

An Airbus A319 used by the Australian government's scientific division in Antarctica will conduct surveillance flights over the Japanese fleet, which is due in its target area soon.

In addition, Australia will send a ship operated by Australia's customs service to the area to collect potential evidence that could be used in international legal action against Japan.

Smith said Canberra was taking advice on whether it could initiate legal action against Japanese whaling in a range of international forums, including the International Court of Justice, the International Whaling Commission and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

Each year, Japan defies a ban on killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary - a massive feeding ground in the Antarctic Ocean that the International Whaling Commission has declared off-limits for commercial whaling - saying its program is exempt because it is for scientific purposes.

Critics call the Japanese program a sham, noting the meat turns up for sale for human consumption.

Smith said the customs ship, the Oceanic Viking, would probably depart Australia within days.

He said he did not expect the tough new stance on whaling to create diplomatic problems between the Japanese government and the new government of Kevin Rudd, who was elected as prime minister of Australia in November.

Japan and Australia would continue to have good relations despite "strong feelings on both sides" on the whaling issue, he said.

Smith declined to identify the other nations involved in the official protest, saying it was up to them to identify themselves.

An official at the Japanese Embassy in Canberra said there was no immediate public statement.

An independent panel of Australia's leading international law experts concluded in May that the Australian government could take legal action to stop the Japanese whaling.

The so-called Sydney Legal Panel concluded that Japan's rapidly expanding scientific whaling program breached the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Antarctic Treaty System, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling.

Australia's announcement came as anti-whaling protesters, who are pledging to put themselves between Japanese harpoon guns and their whale prey, left from New Zealand.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza left Auckland determined to find the Japanese whaling fleet and "protect the whales, not attack the whalers," said Karli Thomas of Greenpeace.

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Welfare worker in hot water for accepting 3 million yen 'inheritance'

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 01:16 AM
A social welfare counselor in western Tokyo faces punishment for accepting over 3 million yen in assets left to her by a deceased woman she had worked for as a guardian, officials said.

The Japanese Association of Certified Social Workers (JACSW) is set to reprimand the 46-year-old counselor for violating its ethics guidelines, which ban members from accepting anything other than fees from those they work for.

The worker has countered by saying that the deceased woman agreed to donate the assets to her. "She donated the assets to me of her own free will," she was quoted as telling association officials.

A will was compiled in September 2006 on behalf of the woman on the recommendation of the welfare counselor, stating that the woman would donate 20 percent of her savings and all her other assets to the welfare worker.

The worker received a total of 3.47 million yen in assets from the woman who died in April this year at the age of 86.

However, the woman's relatives, who became suspicious of the process through which the will was compiled, complained to the JACSW.

The nonprofit organization the welfare counselor belonged to dismissed her in May this year after she rejected recommendations that she refuse to accept the woman's assets.

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Medical school refuses entry to high school students mistakenly 'accepted'

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 01:15 AM
Eight applicants for Oita University's medical department mistakenly listed as successful candidates on the university's Web site have now been told they cannot enter the school, university officials have admitted.

"We have caused a lot of trouble to the applicants, their parents and the officials of their schools. We apologize for that," said Katsuhiko Yoshime, deputy head of the university. "We had placed too much trust in the information that is exchanged on the system and were not careful enough," he added.

The error occurred when the school published the identification numbers of this year's successful applicants on its Web site and campus bulletin board.

The list mistakenly included 10 successful candidates from the previous year whose ID numbers were the same as those of this year's examinees. Two of the 10 ID numbers, however, matched those of candidates who were successful anyway. The university could only offer the other eight examinees an apology for the error.

According to school officials, 39 high school students who applied to major in nursing at the university's medical department sat for the admission exam on Dec. 5.

The result of the exam was announced at 10 a.m. Tuesday on a bulletin board on campus as well as on the school's Web site. At around 11:30 a.m., however, a school official noticed the error in the announcement while checking the Web site.

The university notified the high schools of all the applicants of the error and apologized, among whom eight applicants had just been notified that they had passed the exam. Some of the high schools lodged strong complaints with the university over the mistake.

The school revealed that a medical department official failed to bring to the school's admission office the documents containing the ID numbers of this year's successful candidates on Monday and subsequently sent the erroneous data to the admission office via the school's admission management system. An official at the admission office also failed to examine the data that was sent by the medical department official.

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Cop dies after shooting self in head in police box

Posted by: Timmy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 01:13 AM
A Tokyo police officer died Wednesday after shooting himself in the head in an apparent suicide, police said.

At around 9 a.m., the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) received an emergency call from a passer-by reporting that a police officer was lying on the floor of a police box in front of JR Tokyo Station in Chiyoda-ku, bleeding from the head.

The unconscious officer was rushed to a hospital where he later died.

He has been identified as Yasumasa Onishi, 32, a sergeant with Marunouchi Police Station who was transferred to the police box on Thursday last week.

Onishi was holding a gun when he was found collapsed, leading MPD investigators to suspect that he shot himself in the head in a bid to commit suicide.

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TEPCO sells low-temperature paving blocks to battle urban heat island effect

Posted by: Timmy on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 - 12:16 AM
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has announced that it has begun selling paving blocks designed specifically to battle the "heat island" effect, which causes high temperatures in urban areas.

The blocks, on sale through a subsidiary, use coal ash from coal-fired power stations to boost their water retention.

Experiments showed that the surface temperature of the blocks during the peak of summer heat was about 5 degrees Celsius lower than normal paving. After rain, the temperature difference was as much as 9 degrees, and officials claim that the blocks have a recognized influence in curbing the heat island effect.

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Bank executive avoids jail despite sex attack conviction

Posted by: Timmy on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 - 12:13 AM
A former bank branch assistant manager has been convicted of a brutal sex attack by a court here, but will avoid jail time after his sentence was suspended.

The Gifu District Court found that Shigetoshi Sawada, 45, the former Ogaki Shinkin Bank Imao Branch Assistant Manager from Godo, Gifu Prefecture, was guilty of indecent assault resulting in injury and sentenced him to three years imprisonment.

Though Presiding Judge Mihoko Tanabe blasted Sawada, she also suspended his sentence for five years.

"It was a planned attack and showed signs of being a habitual crime of meanness and maliciousness," Tanabe said as she handed down the verdict.

On Nov. 9, Sawada lay in wait for a 24-year-old woman as she returned to her Gifu home. He pounced on her as she tried to get into her car, smashed her head and back with his fists, forced her to the ground and performed sex acts on her.

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Cyclist killed after brake lever pierces brain through eye

Posted by: Timmy on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 - 12:07 AM
A Tokyo man has died in a cycling accident after the brake lever of another bicycle speared his eye and entered his brain, police said.

The 40-year-old company employee was hospitalized for 10 hours after the freak accident in Edogawa-ku before he was declared dead on Monday.

Police said the man was cycling home one-handed while using the other hand to pull along another bicycle he had left at a nearby restaurant and gone to pick up on Sunday night.

But the man fell off his bicycle and his head slammed into the handlebars on the other bike he was pulling, with the brake lever piercing his right eye and probably driving into his brain.

A female pedestrian found the man lying in a pool of blood beside the two bicycles on a roadside at about 8 p.m. Sunday and called for an ambulance.

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Galaxy Blasts Neighbor with Deadly Jet

Posted by: Timmy on Monday, December 17, 2007 - 11:38 PM
For the first time astronomers have witnessed a supermassive black hole blasting its galactic neighbor with a deadly beam of energy.

The "death star galaxy," as NASA astronomers called it, could obliterate the atmospheres of planets but also trigger the birth of stars in the wake of its destructive beam. Fortunately, the cosmic violence is a safe distance from our own neck of the cosmos.

"We've seen many jets produced by black holes, but this is the first time we've seen one punch into another galaxy like we're seeing here," said Dan Evans, astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "This jet could be causing all sorts of problems for the smaller galaxy it is pummeling."

Evans and his colleagues detail their findings in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

Cosmic death

The deadly galaxy — the largest of two in a system known as 3C321 — is aiming the high-energy jet from its center at a smaller galaxy 20,000 light-years away from it, or roughly the distance from Earth to the Milky Way's core. Both galaxies are situated about 1.4 billion light-years away from Earth.

A bright spot in a NASA composite image reveals that the beam is striking the edge of the smaller galaxy, deflecting the spindle of energy into intergalactic space. While not a direct hit, astronomers said the consequences are frightening.

"This is a fascinating result, and we can be glad that we're seeing it from a safe distance," said Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York who did not contribute to the study. "Knowing how lethal the radiation from the jet could be, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near its line of fire."

Jets from supermassive black holes produce tremendous radiation in the form of X-rays, gamma rays and electrons traveling close to the speed of light. Evans said, however, that the X-ray and gamma-ray photons would ultimately do the most damage to planets.

"The photons can have a really dramatic, profound effect on a planetary atmosphere," he said. "It's likely the ozone layer on an Earth-like planet would be destroyed within months."

Without an ozone layer to protect a planet from deadly space radiation, Tyson said creatures on a planet's surface would perish quickly.

"You would basically render extinct all surface forms of life," Tyson said. "But it may be that subterranean life is ... immune to this kind of violence in the universe."

Recent attack

The offending galaxy probably began assaulting its companion about 1 million years ago, which is relatively recent on a cosmic time scale. Evans said the unusual event makes 3C321 an important object for learning more about the universe.

"We've seen jets do pretty weird things to their environments, but a head-on collision is really rare and generates a [large] amount of information about physics that we can understand and use," Evans said. "For that galaxy to be looking right down ... the barrel of the gun of that jet is incredibly rare, so this makes it a really exciting discovery."

Turns out that the "death ray" may not be all bad news for the victimized galaxy, at least theoretically, as such a massive influx of energy and radiation could help form new stars and solar systems by compressing gases.

"In the end [3C321] may be the source of new life in that distant galaxy," said Martin Hardcastle, an astronomer at the University of Hertfordshire, in the United Kingdom. Hardcastle explained that the jet will continue to pour out of its parent supermassive black hole for about 10 to 100 million longer — plenty of time to squeeze otherwise inert gas together into new star systems.

"Jets can be highly disruptive ... but [create] stellar nurseries," Tyson said. "It's a fascinating sort of duality about how these high-energy phenomena influence the environments in which they're embedded."

To fully view the galactic violence and rebirth, astronomers used NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory, Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, and the Very Large Array and MERLIN radio telescopes on Earth.

Video of galaxy

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