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    Japan odds and ends

    You may recall that even of the federal ministries have been instructed to cut their budgets for subsidies; the odds are that they won’t reach their targets:

    The deadline passed at noon today for responses from seven federal ministries to a proposal to cut a collective ¥630 billion from their budgets, as apportioned by the Prime Minister. By noon, the number of submissions was stalled at two: from the Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry and from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The other five, such as the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, are set to submit their proposals this afternoon, but [their proposed cuts] are not expected to meet the ¥630 billion objective. The Prime Minister’s office indicates that it expects things to be settled up by the end of the month, but the journey promises to be rough.

    I haven’t seen an update since that story was posted at 13:00, and if there was one on NHK, it was delivered while I was out of the room.

    *******

    So this whole bird flu thing? Gives me deep thoughts. Like, you know, what if we all totally get sick and die? We’ve certainly been hearing about it, though there was nothing that seemed interested enough to post. Today, the Ministry of Health, Labor…oops! Labour–the u is very important…the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare announced that it’s going to take a six-phase approach to preparation:

    On 14 November, the MHLW unveiled a “plan of action” that stipulated a phase-six policy to contend with new forms of influenza; the risk that such forms will appear has increased. [The policy provides for] coordination if certain measures become necessary: the stockpiling of antiviral drugs will be increased on a large scale; in the event of a global outbreak, schools will be closed and large assemblies banned, commuting to workplaces will be restricted, and citizens will be instructed to restrict their movements by international air and maritime transport. Taking the MLHW’s directive into account, prefectural governments will begin generating independent proposals [for their own local policies] in earnest.

    The worst-case scenario, as projected at the moment, is one fourth of the Japanese population infected.

    *******

    Among other threats to health, there’ve been a lot of interesting homicides in the news here lately. One of the more chilling is one that, fortunately for the intended victim, didn’t come off. The chilling part is that the plan could be put into motion in the first place:

    The arrest of a 16-year-old girl who allegedly tried to poison her mother to death with thallium raises the question of how the student was able to obtain the poison so easily even under tightened controls following similar crimes.

    The investigation by the Shizuoka prefectural police has so far found that the high school student in Izunokuni possessed various kinds of chemicals. About 30 substances, including thallium, were seized during the police search of her room at her home.

    The girl told the police she had bought the thallium at a nearby drugstore.

    However, the Poisonous and Deleterious Substances Control Law bans drugstores from selling such poisonous substances to those aged under 18.

    It also requires buyers to submit a form listing their name, address, occupation, the amount of chemical they have bought and other items when they purchase such substances.

    The Health, Labor [!] and Welfare Ministry instructs drugstores to check buyers’ identity and ask them why they want to buy toxic substances.

    Someone apparently read Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse.

    In another archetypal case–this time with a more tragic ending–a high school girl in one of the outer municipalities in Tokyo Metro was killed by a classmate with a crush that spiraled out of control:

    A schoolboy accused of killing 15-year-old Yua Koyama last week because she had gone cold on him had been seen gazing longingly at her suburban Tokyo apartment for hours some weeks ago, a witness told the police.

    The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also told investigators that he burst into the Koyama home without prior notice as soon as Yua’s mother, Kimiko, left for work on Thursday, the day he is alleged to have killed the fellow student from his high school.

    Police have transferred the boy to the Hachioji Branch of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, where he awaits his fate.

    NHK reported the day after the killing that a neighbor had heard noises coming from the apartment, including the girl’s screams for help, but assumed that she and her mother were having a fight.

    2 Responses to “Japan odds and ends”

    1. Toren says:

      I am at a loss as to why in the hell a drugstore is selling thallium in the first place. If you don’t have an MRI scanner at home, you certainly have no medical reason for needing it.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Maybe it’s legal to slow-poison small rodents? Or, given the aging society, maybe home MRI scanners (can’t you see them with Doraemon decals? “Let’s resonance!”) are catching on.

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