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The Heat Is On

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported recently by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Top Headline

—Having just come through rainstorms dropping record amounts of precipitation, Japan falls into the grips of a heat wave reaching the all-time highest temperature ever recorded in the country—Kumagaya City in Saitama Prefecture hits 41.1 degrees celsius. Dozens die of heat stroke and more than 10,000 taken to the hospital. In one case, in a complete failure of common sense, a high school in Tokyo Nerima Ward marched its 700 students into a gymnasium without air conditioning for a long, mandatory lecture on crime prevention. It ended with about 25 students suffering mild heat stroke and ambulances called. Also, part of the Kyoto Gion Festival was cancelled because of the health risk to the participants.

Politics

—The ruling coalition passes its House of Councillors “reform” bill, which will add seats to the chamber for the first time since 1970. The main point is to protect the seats of several Liberal Democratic Party incumbents.

—Democratic Party For the People will end its co-leader system and elect a single party leader on September 4. Since its establishment it has yet to appear in any national poll with more than around 1% of the public behind them.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to hold its first regular party convention on September 29 and 30 somewhere in Tokyo. It will be dubbed the “Constitutionalism Festival” and will include preparations for next year’s local and House of Councillors elections.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announces that the Abe government opposes the idea of Shigeru Ishiba and others to create a new government ministry dedicated to the handling of natural and other kinds of disasters.

—Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Keiichi Ishii, who has faced two “no confidence” motions recently by opposition parties incensed by his role in casino legalization, has become the longest-serving MLIT Minister since the position was created in 2001.

—Farce! Finance Ministry rewrites official documents, likely at the direction of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, and the great “reform” for document management is to give the Cabinet Office greater oversight power over the ministries. It’s a scandal where the root problem is the over-concentration of power at the Cabinet Office, turning ambitious bureaucrats into servants of the prime minister’s personal agenda. And their solution? Let’s concentrate MORE power at the Cabinet Office to fix the problem! Genius!

—Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Mio Sugita, a far right hate-monger, proposes that all LGBT couples should have no tax money spent upon them because they produce no children and therefore have no “productivity” for society. Japan Communist Party executive Akira Koike responds to Mio Sugita: “Those are ignorant, misconceived statements full of malicious prejudice. If she doesn’t withdraw those statements and apologize, then she should resign as a lawmaker.”

Kyodo News Poll: 62.2% of the public feels that the Abe government’s handling of the western Japan floods was inappropriate; only 27.5% feel that the administration did a good job on disaster response.

—Japan Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii is hospitalized in Tokyo, apparently due to symptoms associated with Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (spinal cord compression). Shii will have to spend about a week in the hospital, undergoing surgery on Wednesday. His main symptom is numbness in his right arm.

Asahi Shinbun Editorial: “We cannot keep our heads buried in the sand and avoid confronting the grim reality of politics anymore when the evils of Abe’s long tenure… are threatening the foundation of the democratic system of government.”

International

—US President Donald Trump says that there is “no time limit” for North Korea to carry out its denuclearization.

—Okinawa Prefectural Government to revoke official permission for the dumping of sand and gravel into Oura Bay for the construction of the new US Marine airbase at Henoko. This sets up a new confrontation with the Abe administration and the US Pentagon.

—Naha Mayoral Elections: Liberal Democratic Party to run prefectural Assemblyman Masatoshi Onaga as their challenger to Governor Takeshi Onaga’s ally Mikiko Shiroma. The election is scheduled for October 21, less than a month before the Okinawa gubernatorial election.

—Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera meets Saga Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi in an attempt to get agreement to deploy Osprey aircraft at Saga Airport. Onodera waited five months after the fatal Ground Self-Defense Forces, helicopter accident.

—North Korea continues to single out Japan for special criticism, even as it has mellowed on South Korea and the United States: “Japan is a burglar that historically inflicted wars and misfortune and pain of colonial rule on Korea.”

—Japan lodges official protest with Russia after a delegation including Cabinet Office bureaucrats and journalists have all of their sat phones seized in a heavy-handed fashion as they were on a tour of Kunashir-Kunashiri Island.

Economy

—TEPCO to return to the airwaves with television advertisements for the first time since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011.

—Now that the Japan-European Union trade agreement has been signed, attention turns to ratification processes. The negotiators hope the effectuation can begin in March 2019. Consumers in Japan may have better and cheaper access to cheese at supermarkets, among other things.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga clarifies that Japan has no intention of agreeing to the Trump administration’s demand for a bilateral trade agreement.

—Prosecutors indict Kobe Steel over its long-standing practice of falsifying test data regarding the quality of its aluminum, copper, and other products. Prosecutors decide not to indict any company executives.

—IR Implementation Bill is enacted. Three casino resorts will open in Japan sometime in the mid-2020s in locations yet to be determined.

—Japan Coast Guard to deploy two large vessels off the coast of Fukui Prefecture with mission to ensure the security of the nuclear power plants in the area.

—Western Japan Floods: Government dramatically raises its estimate of the floods’ damage to the agriculture and fisheries sectors to 119.8 billion yen (about US$1.07 billion).

Society

—Residents of Joso, Ibaraki, to sue the national government over alleged negligence in managing the Kinugawa River, which overflowed its banks in September 2015, killing 14 people and causing destruction or damage to about 5,000 buildings.

—The national anti-smoking bill is now law. Under its terms, smoking will be banned in about half of the nation’s restaurants by the spring of 2020. The recently-passed Tokyo anti-smoking ordinance is considerably tougher, which will ban smoking in about 80% of restaurants.

—Western Japan Floods: Confirmed death toll is now at 225 people, with 14 people still listed as missing. About half the deaths occurred in Hiroshima Prefecture. More than 4,500 people are still living in evacuation shelters.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between July 17 and July 22.

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