Monday, September 24, 2007

Sexual experience among girls on the rise, but abortions decline

Amid a flood of biased information about sex, an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and increases in sex crimes, the Japan Society of Adolescentology is tackling the problem of teenage sex and how to protect their health.

In a survey about the sexual behavior of young people conducted by the Japanese Association for Sex Education since 1974, Kazuo Katase, a professor at Tohoku Gakuin University, said, "Since the 1990s, girls have been more sexually active, narrowing the gap between men and women."

"This is chiefly because of social influences such as the popularization of the Internet and mobile phones," he said at a recent meeting of the society at Jikei University in Tokyo.

The association has been conducting surveys of 5,000 junior and senior high school and university students across the country every six years, and the most recent survey was conducted in 2005.

The rate of sexual experiences among senior high school and university students has increased from 1974 to 1999, with the rate among boys higher than among girls. But the rate among male university students, which stood at 63% in 1999, declined to 61% in 2005, and the rate among male senior high school students was 27% in both years.

On the other hand, the rate among female university students went up from 51% in 1999 to 61 percent in 2005, and among female senior high school students from 24% to 30%.

The 2005 survey also found that the increased use of cell phone emails has led to more sexual activity.

Yukihiro Murase, a lecturer at Hitotsubashi University, said, "The pattern that boys are active and girls are passive in sexual behavior remains unchanged. The importance is the changes in the consciousness of boys, who are likely to get biased information about sex from adult videos and other sources."

Shoichi Onodera, a professor at Jikei University, reported on the conditions of sexually transmitted diseases and said, "There are many asymptomatic people who do not visit medical institutions."

In a survey of about 5,000 senior high school students, 13% of girls and 7% of boys were infected with asymptomatic Chlamydia.

According to a survey by a research team at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were requests such as "I want to check at home," "I don't want my parents to know" and "I want a consultation by mobile phone."

Onodera said, "It is necessary to have medical institutions in each area that young people can easily visit for checkups, and a contact point, where they can consult about checkup methods, including consultations by email."

Meanwhile, the abortion rate among teenagers appears to be decreasing. Since the peak year of 1955, when there were about 1.17 million cases of abortion domestically, abortion has been decreasing.

But abortion among teenagers began to increase sharply in the mid-1990s. In 1995, the rate of abortion among girls aged 15 to 19 was 6.2 per 1,000, but it more than doubled to 13.0 in 2001. However, since 2002 the rate has been decreasing and was 9.6 in 2005.

Kunio Kitamura, director of the Japan Family Planning Association Clinic, and others carried out a survey of about 800 obstetrics and gynecological facilities across the country in January this year, and 72% of them replied that the rate of abortion has decreased among women under 20 years old.

The decrease was attributed to the popularization of emergency contraception, popularly known as the morning-after pill which can be taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse to avoid pregnancy, and the "effects of sex education."

Kitamura said, "To decrease the rate of overall abortion not limited to teenagers, the popularization of low-dose birth control pills, or oral contraceptives, and emergency contraception is necessary." (Kyodo News)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Man sprays tear gas on train from Tokyo after fight; several injured

A man became involved in a fight with another passenger on a Japan Railway train to a Tokyo suburb Wednesday evening and used what is thought to be a tear gas spray before fleeing when the train stopped, leaving several passengers in need of hospital treatment for sore eyes and throats, police said.

The incident took place at around 9:15 p.m. when the JR Tokaido Line train from Tokyo was traveling on a section between Kawasaki and Yokohama stations, both in Kanagawa Prefecture, police said. (Kyodo News)

All opposition parties to vote for Ozawa in PM election

Japan's four opposition parties agreed Thursday to vote for Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa to become the country's next prime minister, when a runoff election is held next Tuesday in the House of Councillors.

But the opposition move is not expected to threaten the chances of the new Liberal Democratic Party president succeeding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and forming a new cabinet on Tuesday, as the LDP holds a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. In the event that the choice of the two houses differs, a joint committee of will be held — for the first time since 1998 — and if no agreement is reached, the choice of the lower house will prevail under Japan's Constitution. (Kyodo News)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fukuda, Aso campaign in Osaka, with emphasis on resolving abduction issue

Two candidates seeking to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to the streets in Osaka Monday to kick start their campaign in local cities for the Sept 23 Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, with both Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso stressing their will to resolve the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda, known for his dovish stance on diplomacy, reiterated his call for a flexible approach in resolving the issue, while the more hawkish LDP Secretary General Aso defended the pressure-oriented approach as the correct way and that it has achieved results.

Referring to the 2002 landmark summit between Japan and North Korea that resulted in the return of five abductees to Japan, Fukuda said the issue has been deadlocked ever since and he is willing to make further progress in negotiating with North Korea.

"Five of the abducted people have returned, but, unfortunately, we have seen no progress since then," he said.

"I am willing to resolve the issue with my full determination. We will be able to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea when all of the abducted people have returned and North Korea's nuclear and missile issues have been resolved," he said.

Meanwhile, Aso said the past and current pressure-oriented approach has worked, referring to the U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution after North Korea conducted its nuclear test in October 2006 and the subsequent resumption of the six-party nuclear talks and the launch of a Japan-North Korea working group on normalizing ties.

"The abducted people still remain in North Korea but the situation is not seeing any setbacks," he said.

"We hear the need for a "dialogue" all the time, but we've never arrived at negotiations without a certain amount of pressure. We have to learn from the experience."

In the wake of North Korea's missile firings and nuclear experiment last year, Japan has issued economic sanctions banning the entry of North Korean ships into Japan. (Kyodo News)

Fukuda, Aso give campaign speeches; public reaction varies

Two candidates seeking to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to the streets Sunday for the first time ahead of the Sept 23 Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, with Yasuo Fukuda stressing the need to regain public trust in politics and Taro Aso calling for the importance of helping ailing regional economies.

More than 10,000 people gathered in front of JR Shibuya Station in Tokyo to catch a glimpse of the two, with some preferring former Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda due to his "mature" image amid hopes for more "stable" politics, and others supporting LDP Secretary General Aso because he has presented "more realistic policies."

Earlier in the day, the two candidates presented their platforms to fellow LDP lawmakers and local chapter representatives, whose votes will decide the winner.

Fukuda, known for his dovish stance on diplomacy, reiterated his call for amiable relations with other countries, while the more hawkish Aso emphasized the need to continue a tough stance on North Korea and that he is "determined in not giving up" on pressing the North to come clean with its past abductions of Japanese nationals.

Fukuda, the front-runner who has gained support from most of the LDP factions, also said, "If I'm given the opportunity to be party president, I'll devise and implement firm policies" from the people's viewpoint, stressing that reforms cannot be implemented without public confidence.

During a TV program in the morning, the 71-year-old Fukuda also indicated that if elected, he will not make major changes to the cabinet lineup that Abe reshuffled just last month.

The 66-year-old Aso, while emphasizing priority on drawing forth the potentials of local economies, also called for support by saying, "Never before has Japan been in such a crisis and in need of a strong leader. What we need is a strong and dependable leader, not simply a stable leader."

The cutting remark was apparently aimed at his opponent, who has admitted he decided to run in the election only because others asked him to.

But hearing the two candidates present their future visions in a stump speech in Shibuya, many said they were expecting "stability" in politics after seeing Abe's administration crumble in less than a year mired with scandals and gaffes of his key cabinet ministers.

Tsuneharu Teramachi, a 60-year-old LDP supporter who came from Tokyo's Shinagawa to listen to the street campaign with his wife, said, "Mr Aso sounded more convincing with his speech, but I think after all Mr Fukuda is better because he will offer more stability."

"What we need is someone who can stay in office for a longer term," he said.

A 65-year-old housewife who came shopping to Shibuya said she supports Fukuda because she no longer expects a populist politician but a leader who is "low-key and can do work steadily."

She also said she felt Aso has damaged his own image because he was working closely with Abe and failed to stop Abe from abruptly announcing his resignation on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, some expressed support for Aso. Naohiro Sawa, a 26-year-old company employee living in Tokyo, said, "I think Mr Aso has been showing his policies more in detail, compared with Mr Fukuda."

A 57-year-old woman also said Aso showed more "realistic" views in pension and other issues, and added she was attracted to Aso's "passion" in seeking the prime minister's post.

She also said she felt the "old-LDP characteristic of backroom dealing" emerging, when most of the factions flocked to give their backing to Fukuda while Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, who initially expressed his intention to run in the election, eventually decided not to do so.

Meanwhile, others said they still hope Abe's predecessor Junichiro Koizumi will become prime minister again.

"Mr Koizumi had the image to keep going on even when he was cornered. He was not the type of prime minister seen in the past," said Yuji Hirano, a 20-year-old university student.

Voting will begin at 2 p.m. Sept 23, with the 387 eligible LDP lawmakers each given one ballot and the 47 prefectural chapters given three each to reflect the choices of rank-and-file members.

The winner of the LDP presidential election is assured the post of premiership given the party's control of the House of Representatives, which has the final say in choosing the prime minister. (Kyodo News)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

LDP vote set for Sept 23 as Aso, Fukuda, Nukaga vie for PM's job

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party decided Thursday to choose a successor on Sept 23 to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who abruptly announced his resignation the previous day, while party members scrambled to field candidates.

While LDP Secretary General Taro Aso, 66, has already been deemed by many as a major contender in the run-up to the party's official acceptance of candidates Saturday, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, 71, decided Thursday afternoon to run in the party presidential election and asked his colleagues to support his bid, party sources said.

Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, 63, has also expressed his intention to run in the race, while former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, 62, who ran in last year's LDP presidential race along with Abe and Aso, is also said to be considering joining the battle.

Among those figures, Fukuda and Tanigaki have stressed the importance of promoting amicable relations with Asian neighbors.

Aso, a former foreign minister known as a manga enthusiast, is expected to announce his candidacy Friday.

Executives of 13 of the LDP's 47 prefectural chapters prefer Aso as the successor to Abe, a Kyodo News poll showed Thursday.

Executives of 32 chapters, however, did not offer any specific name as an appropriate successor, saying a lineup of candidates has not yet been officially set.

LDP Diet members and the local chapters will be allocated votes in the Sept 23 party election.

Despite the trend, some LDP members are willing to support a candidate who would counter Aso.

Former LDP Secretary General Makoto Koga said he would support Fukuda, citing that Aso should "inevitably hold responsibility for the Abe administration." Aso was until recently foreign minister under Abe.

The LDP will announce Friday the formalities of the leadership election, according to a decision made Thursday afternoon by its General Council.

Other names being floated as potential candidates include former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, but Koizumi has ruled out seeking the premiership again.

Key issues in the LDP presidential election are likely to include ways to ensure refueling support by Japanese defense vessels for U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan and measures to shore up the party base after the devastating setback in the July 29 House of Councillors election, in which the ruling coalition lost its majority in the upper house.

Fielding a candidate for the LDP presidential election requires endorsement by at least 20 LDP members in the Diet. The LDP president will effectively be prime minister as the party controls the House of Representatives, which can override upper house decisions.

While a vote to choose the party's next leader was initially envisaged for Wednesday, the schedule was revised as some members called for more time.

Senior members of three LDP party factions urged Fukuda by phone earlier in the day to run in the election and Fukuda had confirmed his intention to do so, the party sources said.

A group of junior party lawmakers decided Thursday morning to hand a petition to Koizumi requesting that he assume the leadership again, but he was quoted as telling a young lawmaker, "I will not run. Look for another person."

Koizumi was also quoted as telling former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori that his not running in the election is "100%" certain, a party lawmaker said.

Mori, who is a senior member of the LDP's largest faction led by Machimura, indicated during the faction's meeting Thursday that Machimura should not file his candidacy.

"I think we should not field a candidate from the outset, but only when we have a request from other factions," he said.

Nukaga said in a meeting of his own faction that he wants to "fight to make a new Japan" and informed Mikio Aoki, a party heavyweight and former chairman of the LDP caucus in the House of Councillors, by telephone earlier in the day about his intention to run.

But Aoki did not give him a clear response, saying he needs to assess the situation in the party, party sources said. (Kyodo News)

LDP to hold presidential election Sept 19 to choose Abe's successor

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is arranging for a presidential election on Sept 19 to choose the successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced his resignation Wednesday, a senior LDP member said.

Abe said he was resigning to take responsibility for causing political uncertainty, saying it would be difficult for him to regain public trust and secure an extension of Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

"I determined today to step down," a visibly weary Abe said at a hastily arranged press conference. "I reshuffled the cabinet in order to push forward with reforms but under the current situation it has become difficult for me to secure the people's support and trust to vigorously implement policies."

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano said at a news conference later that Abe's health was also a reason behind his resignation, saying the premier has been distressed trying to balance his duties and his physical condition.

LDP Secretary General Taro Aso told party executives that the new leader must be chosen "urgently to avoid creating a political vacuum."

Wednesday's announcement, made after Abe abruptly canceled a question-and-answer session in parliament with opposition lawmakers, came as a surprise as Abe had just reiterated his determination to pursue his duties and political goals in a policy address Monday when the extraordinary Diet session convened.

The timing of his decision also puzzled many in both the ruling and opposition camps, given the fact that Abe had until now refused to resign on various other occasions despite strong pressure, such as the ruling coalition's heavy defeat in the House of Councillors election in July, a spate of resignations of Cabinet ministers, and endless money scandals involving key members of his administration.

Abe, who took office only a year ago, said it is better if he steps down and a new prime minister pursues a new law for the extension as well as other policy matters, adding he hopes that with his resignation the ruling LDP can generate new energy to deal with the political gridlock with the opposition.

"I think that having a new prime minister attend the upcoming U.N. General Assembly will perhaps bring about change," he said, referring to the gathering of world leaders in New York later this month.

Abe also cited a rejection by opposition Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa to hold a meeting on the extension issue. Ozawa has repeatedly said he is against an extension and the opposition plans to block the bill in the upper house where it holds a majority.

"I made up my mind that I must bring change to the current situation by stepping down, because unfortunately today a meeting with the opposition leader could not be realized," the premier said, pausing three times along the way as he spoke.

"With this, I decided that I cannot fulfill my promises and that perhaps my being prime minister has become an obstacle" to winning an extension in parliament, he said.

Meanwhile, Ozawa stressed at a separate news conference that the DPJ's opposition to the extension remains unchanged, saying, "There is no way that our thinking will change because of a change in the Liberal Democratic Party."

Abe's decision to resign comes after he indicated over the weekend that he was ready to step down if he failed to get the Diet to extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission to support U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and near Afghanistan beyond the Nov 1 deadline.

Meanwhile, Yosano, the top government spokesman, declined to discuss the specifics of Abe's health problem but said the premier's condition had deteriorated, especially after his three-nation Asia visit in late August. But Yosano noted that it was not a psychological issue.

"I have spoken with the premier many times since Monday and I felt that he wanted to convey something to me. But as we always focused on how to get the antiterrorism special measures law passed, I wasn't able to catch the subtle signals," Yosano said. "I remember all the scenes and now that I think about it, those were indeed the signals."

Asked to elaborate, Yosano cited one episode when he proposed to Abe how to proceed with extending the antiterrorism support mission, and the premier replied, "But even so, the circumstances are extremely difficult."

The LDP's Aso said that Abe told him Monday of his intention to step down but that he encouraged him then to stay on.

Since the July election defeat when the ruling bloc lost its majority in the upper house, Abe had refused to step down and clung to power. He eventually reshuffled his scandal-tainted cabinet and LDP leadership on Aug. 27 and vowed to "start anew."

But he continued to face difficulties with more scandals surfacing immediately after the reshuffle, notably one involving the misuse of farm subsidies that led to the resignation of the newly named agriculture minister.

Other scandals involving ministers' political funds also came to light, providing fuel for the opposition camp to pursue Abe's responsibility and to plan a censure motion against Abe at the just-convened parliament session.

Abe took office on Sept 26 last year with his major political goals being to revise the pacifist Constitution and revamp the education system to instill more patriotism into children under his slogan of freeing Japan from its "postwar regime."

Within weeks of becoming prime minister, Abe succeeded in mending fences with China and South Korea by visiting both countries, warming ties that had chilled for years under his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi.

However, money scandals and various gaffes soon plagued his administration, with the first minister resigning in December. Another committed suicide in May, and three others have resigned since then.

Abe faced strong criticism for his handling of the government's massive record-keeping blunder with public pension accounts and the lack of concrete policies to revitalize local economies and improve social disparities.

His administration's failure to attend to the public's concerns over daily livelihoods instead of political ideals was seen as a major factor in the July election, in which the LDP suffered a historic defeat. (Kyodo News)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Imperial Household Agency reprimands staffer for altering Wikipedia entry

The Imperial Household Agency has reprimanded an employee for deleting a line in an entry in the Wikipedia online encyclopedia critical of the agency, a senior agency official said Monday. Noriyuki Kazaoka, vice grand steward of the government agency overseeing official duties and other matters of the imperial family, said the employee, whose name was withheld, has been warned verbally. Kazaoka said the deletion concerned the Japanese-language entry on imperial tombs that referred to restrictions on access to, and excavating, them by researchers. The employee accessed the website using a computer of the agency and struck out a line that said, "There is a view that the Imperial Household Agency may be afraid that historical facts may be discovered that could shake the foundation of the imperial system," according to Kazaoka. He said: "The use of personal computers for purposes other than administrative clerical work is banned."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

2 doctors perform surgery on wrong side of woman's head

Two doctors at a hospital in Shimane Prefecture mistakenly performed surgery on the wrong side of the head of a female patient who was suffering from an acute subdural hematoma, leading to a 40-minute delay in the removal of a blood tumor, the hospital said Sunday in a report on the incident.

The woman in her 80s, who was taken to the Matsue Red Cross Hospital in an unconscious state in May, had a blood tumor on the left side of her head, but the two doctors mainly involved in the surgery mistakenly thought they had to operate on the right side, the report said.

The neurosurgeon in charge of the craniotrypesis surgery noticed the mistake only after he failed to find the tumor on the right side of the patient's head.

The woman has been making good progress since the operation, but in its investigative report, the hospital's council, consisting of outside experts, did not rule out the possibility that a delay in removing a blood tumor could affect the human body.

The hospital has apologized both to the woman, who is still hospitalized, and her family.

Kohei Hata, the director of the hospital, told Kyodo News, "We deeply apologize. We will make sure confirmation is received and try to prevent a recurrence."

The hospital said in its incident report that the woman fell as she was getting out of a car at around 4 p.m. on May 23. She was taken to the hospital and diagnosed as suffering from a brain contusion and acute subdural hematoma on the left side of her head following a scan using computerized tomography.

But the doctor at the emergency department mistakenly shaved the right side of the woman's head and the doctor in charge of the surgery did not notice the mistake and started to operate without confirming the results of the CT scan.

Once the mistake was discovered, the doctor explained what had happened to the patient's family and reattached the mistakenly removed skull fragment from the right side of the head. The doctor then conducted the operation on the left side of the woman's head.

The operation ended shortly after 10 p.m. the same day.

Following the incident, the hospital has produced a new set of guidelines to prevent doctors from repeating such mistakes which include requiring doctors to announce the location of surgery before the commencement of an operation.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

2 ministers admit errors in financial reports; Abe downplays them

Two ministers, who took office in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet reshuffle last week, acknowledged Wednesday errors in their asset disclosure reports, but Abe downplayed the incident, in an attempt to ward off more resignations.

Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita admitted that he had failed to report outstanding loans to his own political fund management organization, followed by similar errors reported the same day by Yoko Kamikawa, minister in charge of declining population.

Kamoshita also said his fund management body reported erroneous sums about the loans and apologized, saying he would correct all the reports.

Following Monday's resignations by Takehiko Endo as farm minister and Yukiko Sakamoto as parliamentary foreign secretary over "money and politics" scandals, coupled with Tuesday's resignation by Abe's party colleague Yutaka Kobayashi as parliamentarian over an alleged election violation, a sense of crisis on the fate of the administration is spreading within the ruling coalition.

The string of problems prompted main opposition Democratic Party of Japan policy chief Masayuki Naoshima to call for Abe's resignation and his cabinet to resign en masse.

But when asked by reporters if Kamoshita should leave the cabinet over the issue, Abe said, "That would not be the case if it is an error in recording."

Admitting that his political funds administration was sloppy in the past, Kamoshita, 58, said, "I apologize for the mistakes and will immediately correct them," but he did not show any intention of stepping down. "I would like to continue working as environment minister," he added.

According to Kamoshita, he extended a 2 million yen loan to his fund management organization in 1996, 10 million yen in 1997 and 3 million yen in 1998, but he failed to report them in his asset disclosure reports.

As none of the loans has been repaid, the organization should also have reported for these loans an outstanding debt of 12 million yen in 1997 and 15 million yen in 1998. However, its annual political funds reports said the amount of borrowed money stood at 2 million yen in 1996, 10 million yen in 1997 and has totaled 23 million yen since 1998.

The errors came to light as the organization's 2003-2005 political funds reports submitted to the authorities showed it borrowed 10 million yen from Kamoshita on Aug 10, 1996, while its 1996 report says it borrowed only 2 million yen from him.

Asked if the 8 million yen in difference was not a murky expenditure that he wants to remain unaccounted for, Kamoshita denied the possibility, saying he is confident the sum he extended in 1996 was 2 million yen based on consistency with cash flows described in the report.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 1993, he said he was at the time using his own money earned as a medical doctor to make up for political fund shortages due to a lack of political donations.

"I should have separated the accounting more strictly, and I regret that," he told reporters.

Also attributing the faults to changes in his accountant each year, Kamoshita said in a statement, "I myself will check the reports from now on and be careful not to repeat such mistakes."

Later on Wednesday, Kamikawa filed corrections for three of her asset disclosure reports, saying she had failed to report 9.68 million yen in loans to her funds management organization in the December 2000 report, 11.18 million yen in April 2004 and 7.98 million yen in February 2006.

Her office attributed the faults to internal miscommunications.

Commenting on Kamoshita's case, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano said in his press conference, "It is absolutely not the fact that he made mistakes intentionally or presented erroneous figures in order to intentionally cover up something," while urging lawmakers to "strive to reduce" such errors.

Kamoshita, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party serving his fifth term in the lower chamber, was appointed environment minister in the Aug 27 cabinet reshuffle, by which Abe attempted to reinvigorate his embattled administration.

Abe made it clear at the inauguration of the new cabinet that any minister who is unable to explain himself fully in the case of a scandal will have to resign.

Endo resigned Monday as agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister only a week after taking office, after a farmers' mutual aid organization he was heading was found to have improperly received state subsidies by padding the number of members.

Sakamoto stepped down from her post Monday after reports from a campaign office in Shizuoka that showed she had inflated political expenditures, and former farm minister Tokuichiro Tamazawa left the LDP the same day, also over accounting irregularities concerning political funds reports.

On Tuesday, Kobayashi resigned as a House of Councillors member to take responsibility for the indictment of his staff over an alleged election violation in the campaigning for the July 29 upper house election.

Concerns that Abe may be forced to call a snap House of Representatives election later this year have begun to spread in the LDP with Kobayashi's resignation, but Wednesday's development prompted worries that are being voiced open even within the cabinet.

"If problems continue to surface one after another, the handling of the government will become extremely difficult," Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Japan stresses abduction issue at APEC

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura on Tuesday stressed the importance of resolving the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals when he met his counterparts and senior officials from 11 Asia-Pacific nations over dinner in Sydney, Japanese officials said.
Representatives from many of the countries, in response, expressed high hopes that Japan-North Korea relations will move forward, including the pending abduction issue, toward normalizing diplomatic ties, the officials said.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

5 cases of hospitals refusing pregnant women reported in Sapporo

Sapporo hospitals refused four pregnant women last year, though the women were taken to them in emergency condition, the city government said Tuesday. None of the women suffered miscarriages, but one in her teens was rejected 11 times and it took her 90 minutes to reach a hospital after calling an ambulance.

A fifth woman, who was pregnant, was also rejected in the reporting year, the local authority said. The announcement came after a pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage last week after nine hospitals refused to admit her and an ambulance carrying her collided with a minivan in Osaka while on its way to yet another hospital. It took her three hours to finally reach the 10th hospital.