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    The day in headlines (short version)

    Possibly my favorite recent economy-related headline: 7月のビール・発泡酒販売、猛暑効果で前年比1割増 (Beer, Other Effervescent Alcoholic Beverages Effective for Dealing with Severe Heat; Sales Rise 10%). Asahi seems to have seen the highest increase when beer alone is considered; teetotalers may be reassured to know that people are also snapping up iced green tea.

    On the other hand, this headline is from the tell-us-something-we-don’t-know department: Ministry: Staff Took Kickbacks. Well, okay, we didn’t know the specific ministry, agency, or amount:

    Probe shows 180 million yen was pocketed from payments for checking official documents.

    Thirty health ministry employees socked away 180 million yen in public money for department parties, late night cabs and personal use, say sources close to an in-house investigation.

    The federal bureaucracy here doesn’t attract fundamentally amoral people. But there is, built right into the system, an expectation that top graduates of the elite schools will take lower salaries than they would in the private sector in exchange for perks and, after retirement, the revolving door to a cushy job at one of the semi-public companies that oversee a lot of industries here. The deeply ingrained culture of patronage makes the line between being good to the people you deal with and outright corruption very difficult to draw. I’m pretty sure you can draw it somewhere before 180 million yen (US $1.6 million), though.

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