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More money scandals for Hatoyama

Obama's visit is thought to be a success, including his bow to the Emperor. The relocation the US Marine base on Okinawa is set to go ahead as planned. Hatoyama's administration endures its second donations scandal this year. Crime is down despite rising poverty levels. Japan Airlines suffers more financial problems. Gift vouchers are offered to those who buy "green" home appliances. Twelve people are bitten by deadly Australian spiders that arrived via freight ships. And Tokyo beats London, Paris and New York in the Michelin guide.

 Top News: President Obama’s visit was widely viewed as a success, despite some tensions over the state of the security alliance and U.S. forces in Japan. Obama’s bow to the Emperor received good press and there was some bewilderment as to the negative reactions from some quarters in the US.


The contentious relocation of a U.S. Marine base on Okinawa looks set to go ahead within the prefecture. Money for the relocation, and for the transfer of several thousand Marines to Guam, has been earmarked for next year’s budget. The relocation within Okinawa will face protests from locals while the financial provisions for both will appease Washington, where there was concern about the new administration reneging on existing agreements.


An aide to Prime Minister Hatoyama falsified records relating to political donations totaling 300 million yen ($3.4 million), the second funding scandal in a year for a leader elected on a ticket that included promises to end shady dealings. Although Hatoyama, famously wealthy, isn’t accused of personally benefiting or accepting the money in return for favors, it will further tarnish the image of his new administration as a break from the past. There are also suggestions that some of the donations came from his mother, an heiress to the Bridgestone tire fortune.  


An article translated from the Sentaku political magazine questions whether Ichiro Ozawa is actually running the new administration, while Hatoyama is effectively just bankrolling it.


Despite rising poverty levels, crime dropped for the sixth consecutive year, falling by 4.8 percent in 2008, according to the National Police Agency’s annual report.


Money: While the economy grew 4.8 percent in the last quarter, there are still concerns about a sustainable recovery.


The financial woes of Japan Airlines — which has received numerous public bailouts — again attracted much media attention as it announced a record 131 billion yen ($1.5 billion) half-year loss, gave up even making a full-year forecast, and then asked former employees to take a 30 percent cut in pension payments.  


The “hollowing out” of Japan’s manufacturing base continues as Toyota announces an engine and transmission plant in India, while Suzuki Motors is building an eco-car factory in Thailand and Hitachi is to build train carriages in Britain. Hitachi, a sprawling conglomerate that has been hit hard by the global slowdown, is to raise $4.5 billion from capital markets.


The return of deflation, a scourge of the nation’s “lost decade” has been officially confirmed by government figures, something the Bank of Japan must get serious about, according to an editorial in the Yomiuri.


Another Yomiuri editorial claims Japan is cutting overseas aid even while PM Hatoyama is claiming increases. It says aid to developing nations has fallen 40 percent since its peak in 2001.


The “eco-point” government program, which has offered gift vouchers to customers buying energy-efficient TVs, fridges and air-conditioners, looks set to be extended beyond March following the huge success of the pump-priming measure. A similar system for “green” cars is also to be continued.


Elsewhere: Potentially deadly Australian redback spiders have begun to appear around western Japan’s industrial heartlands, in Osaka and Nagoya, and are believed to have come in on cargo ships and survived the winters by nesting near heating systems. In Osaka prefecture alone this year, 12 people have been bitten. Anti-venom medicines have prevented fatalities, though the antidote is not yet officially approved for use in Japan.


Tokyo once again took more Michelin stars than New York, London or Paris, winning a total of 261 stars in the 2010 edition of the guide.


Four officers were injured when two police cars answering a call to a robbery incident crashed into each other at an intersection. And an employee at a Japan Agriculture Cooperative is believed to have committed suicide after the disappearance of prized bulls’ semen stocks.