Thursday, November 27, 2008

Aso apologizes for remarks about people with illnesses

Prime Minister Taro Aso on Thursday apologized for remarks in which he appeared to be criticizing people suffering from illnesses and the use of taxpayers’ money to cover their medical costs. ‘‘I’m sorry if the remarks offended people who are suffering illnesses,’’ Aso told reporters.

According to the minutes of a Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy meeting last Thursday, the prime minister said, ‘‘Why should I pay for the medical costs of people who become sick because they just keep on drinking and eating and doing nothing.’’ The minutes also showed that Aso, recalling a class reunion, said some of his classmates who used to be fit and healthy are now ‘‘worn out and go to see the doctor all the time’’ and that his medical costs are much lower than theirs. ‘‘It’s because I take a walk every morning and do other things. I pay more tax than them.’’

Aso told reporters that he wanted to emphasize the importance of disease prevention as medical costs can be restrained by health management.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rie Miyazawa practices how to eat eggs in sexy way

Actress Rie Miyazawa, 35, was given an unusual request for her new film: Eat eggs in a sexy manner. In the film, “Zeratine Silver Love,” co-starring Masatoshi Nagase, 42, Miyazawa plays a female assassin who is put under surveillance by a cameraman (Nagase).

Miyazaki said, “She’s a sexy character and everything she does is erotic. The director even requested me to eat eggs in a sexy way, so I practiced it at home. I’m not sure if it turned out sexy, but I’ve had enough eggs for the time being.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Otsuka recalls 47 million bottles of Crystal Geyser mineral water

Otsuka Beverage Co said Monday it will voluntarily recall 47.17 million of its Crystal Geyser 500-milliliter bottles of mineral water due to consumer complaints that the bottled water gave out a strange smell. Of the total, about eight million bottles are on shelves or in stock at stores.

The company imported the mineral water from the United States and marketed it in Japan. Eligible for the recall are bottles with the consume-by dates of June 1, 2010 through Aug 19 of the same year printed on them. The unnatural smell might have rubbed off on the bottles while in warehouse storage in summer for a long period of time, the company said.

International Golf Federation launches bid for inclusion in 2016 Olympic Games

The two, who were speaking on behalf of the International Golf Federation, were embarking on what will be a year-long process in which golf will vie with six other sports – rugby 7s, squash, karate, roller sports, softball and baseball – for inclusion in the 2016 Games.

Dawson and Votaw came away from their presentation feeling upbeat. The Commission appeared impressed that golf’s amateur and professional bodies were speaking with one voice – and they seemed similarly taken with the news that the game boasts 60 million participants worldwide.

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Again, a bit of name-dropping on Dawson’s and Votaw’s part did not go amiss. The Commission liked the sound of golf’s Olympic drive having the full support of such as Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa.

Golf’s charitable input would have been viewed as another plus. The R&A, for instance, dig deeply into their Open championship profits to send balls, clubs and other equipment to developing golfing lands. Votaw, on behalf of the PGA Tour, referred this morning to the many millions raised for charities via the American circuit. In 2007 it amounted to 123 million dollars, with that figure upped for ‘08.

In answer to whether the members of the IOC Programme Commission as a body had looked as if they leant more towards, say, golf or roller-sports, Dawson said a wry, “Golf, I hope.”

His overall impression had been that the Olympic personnel represented a pretty good cross-section.

Both men were quick to add that while they were confident their first presentation had been a good one, they had no doubt that the other sports would be equally well prepared. Of their rivals, softball and baseball are on a slightly different footing in that they drop out of the Olympic programme in 2012 but are bidding to return in 2016.

The support which Dawson and Votaw have had from the players apparently reached a new level during the Beijing Olympics.

Raphael Nadal’s reaction to winning a gold medal had made a significant impression on the golfers, as did the words of LeBron James. The latter had said that for him the Olympic stage was the biggest of them all.

Golf’s IGF Olympic Committee representatives have a very good idea of the building anticipation which could apply if they succeed in their mission.

“The players would have 32 opportunities to win a major before they have this chance to win one gold medal,” noted Dawson. “Majors are majors but who knows where a gold medal will stand in a player’s lexicon of achievements?”

Did they think that Tiger Woods, who will be 40 in 2016, might want to crown his haul of majors with a gold medal?

“It would be terrific if that were the case,” said Dawson.

Votaw, who has been “lent” to the Olympic campaign by Tim Finchem, the CEO of the PGA, denied that the US Tour had enough on its hands without getting so heavily involved in a scheme which will make the most difference at grass-roots level.

“We can multitask,” he insisted. Though the US Tour is said to be suffering more than its European equivalent at the hands of the credit crunch, notably because of its wider association with struggling banks, Votaw explained that they had a sound, “fully-sponsored” schedule lined up for 2009.

He also made it plain that the US Tour was by no means up in arms at the number of their players who had signed on for the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. On the one hand, many of the relevant tournaments would be taking place at the conclusion of the US season. On the other, he suggested that it was in their interests for the European Tour to be successful: “It’s good for us and it’s good for golf overall.”

No less, he said, was this combined Olympic drive good for the game. Regardless of whether or not golf gets the nod, both he and Dawson think that this coming together of all the different organisations has been a masterstroke.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama city residents delighted over presidential victory

Residents of the Japanese city of Obama in Fukui Prefecture expressed delight Wednesday over Illinois Sen Barack Obama winning the U.S. presidential election Tuesday. About 200 citizens, U.S. students and Obama supporters gathered at a rally at a culture center in the city on the Sea of Japan coast chanting Obama’s name and his slogan, ‘‘Yes, we can.’’

‘‘We’re pleased our cheerleading has paid off,’’ said 47-year-old Yasunori Maeno, a member of a 1,300-person group rooting for Obama to become the next U.S. president. ‘‘We’d really like Mr Obama to visit the city of Obama,’’ he said.

Hula dance teams, dubbed the ‘‘Obama Girls’’ and ‘‘Obama Boys,’’ received loud applause from the audience as they performed.

The Obama Girls were halfway through their routine when the results came in on overhead TVs. Dozens of supporters swarmed the stage and joined hands, jumping up and down as they chanted “Obama! Obama! Obama!”

The Obama campaign brought an air of excitement to this normally sleepy seaside town. Local leaders, trying to revive the economy, latched onto the connection as a way to promote tourism. An “Obama for Obama” supporters group attracted 1,500 members.

“This is great. I followed the election closely on TV. I’m hoping Obama can make the world more peaceful,” said Akino Nakaoji, 34, still wearing a bright blue skirt and flowered lei necklace from her hula performance earlier in the day.

It was lunchtime Wednesday in Japan when the U.S. election results came in.

“It was over so fast, I’m glad I got a chance to dance,” said Satoru Wada, a 38-year-old male member of the hula squad, before heading back to work at a hotel.

Obama has a population of 32,000, smaller than the crowds the candidate drew at many of his U.S. campaign stops.

While few along its quiet streets could name his policy proposals, his optimism and upbeat message of change resonates well here.

Obama, which means “little beach” in Japanese, is a former fishing town that now relies almost entirely on tourism. More than 500 years old, it boasts several ancient temples and a distinctive hand-painted lacquerware.

But the rustic town, wrapped around a stretch of sandy beach and surrounded by wooded hills, is not well-known, even among Japanese tourists.

So Obama’s success has been a welcome boon.

The town has been featured repeatedly in the domestic and international media, and the number of visitors has increased 20% since it linked itself to the Obama campaign, said Shigeyoshi Takeda, who heads the city tourism bureau.

“We’ve had a lot more customers since the campaign, especially foreigners. We rarely had foreigners here before,” said Atsuko Ikeda, 38, the cheery owner of a watering hole on the main shopping street.

Obama’s mayor, Kouji Matsuzaki, himself won election with a campaign based on the English word “change.” He said he plans to invite Obama to visit Obama, and dispatched a congratulatory telegram to the president-elect.

“We are looking into making him a special honorary citizen,” Matsuzaki said.

The mastermind behind the “Obama for Obama” campaign, Seiji Fujiwara, is executive director of one of the town’s largest hotels. He said the town has several business leaders with marketing experience that jumped on the opportunity.

“There are other towns named Obama in Japan, but we were the first to react,” he said.

Town officials sent gifts and received an official letter from the campaign, signed “Your friend” in Japanese.

Fujiwara said the support group is already planning its future moves. Among them: Go to Washington for the inauguration in January and perform a hula dance.

Meanwhile, in the city of Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, some 200 residents and tourists at the Obama hot-spring area waved the U.S. flag and expressed congratulations to Obama on clinching the U.S. presidency.

‘‘Once Mr Obama assumes the presidency, our area will be known in the world,’’ said 39-year-old Tetsuyuki Hayashida, a member of Unzen’s chamber of commerce and industry.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Canadian pollster says Obama appears destined for win in U.S. election

Barring the unforeseen, Sen. Barack Obama will be elected as the 44th president of the United States, says the president of Canadian polling firm Harris Decima.

Bruce Anderson said with Obama pulling away in most national polls, there’s little evidence to suggest that the Democratic party candidate’s campaign will be undermined by anything, including a reluctance by some voters to elect an African-American president.

“”You can’t look at all of the polls and still find much to substantiate this idea that this race is closing, that (Republican Sen. John) McCain really has an opportunity to vault past Obama,” Anderson said.

“It could happen. But at some point, somebody needs to put some evidence on the table to substantiate that point of view rather than simply say, well it feels like people won’t vote for an African-American.”

Anderson says of the last seven national polls he’s seen, only one had McCain with more than 44 per cent support, while only one had Obama with less than 51 per cent.

He says Obama appears poised for victory in many so-called battleground states that are crucial for any presidential hopeful’s chances.

“Four of the last four Florida polls show Obama leading. Ohio, we all see that as a critical swing issue. Four of the last four Ohio polls show Obama leading. Pennsylvania, five of the last five Pennsylvania polls show Obama leading,” Anderson said.

So those results mean, if that is what happens, that McCain cannot win.

Anderson says the unbridled enthusiasm of Obama’s supporters should be enough to put the Illinois senator over the top.

“Sixty eight per cent of Obama voters say I’m very enthusiastic. That’s a massive, massive number. Forty one per cent of McCain’s voters say that about their man,” said Anderson.

Anderson said polls show Canadians support Obama over McCain by a 6-to-1 ratio.

He said Canadians generally tend to align themselves with the Democratic candidate in U.S. presidential elections, but that Obama’s call for an end to partisan politics has resonated north of the border.


PM Taro Aso tells defense minister to tighten control over SDF after war essay

Prime Minister Taro Aso told Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada on Tuesday to ensure there is no repeat of problems similar to the controversy caused by the recent release of an essay on Japan’s role in World War II by dismissed air force chief Gen Toshio Tamogami, Hamada said.

The premier also told Hamada to punish relevant personnel in the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces as well as to tighten civilian control over the SDF, especially with regard to public expressions of political opinions by ranking officers, Hamada told a press conference. Meanwhile, the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, stepping up its attacks on Aso’s government, decided Tuesday to seek the summoning of Tamogami to the opposition-dominated House of Councillors Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense to give unsworn testimony on the controversy, DPJ lawmakers said.