Japan suspends hunt for humpback whales
By ERIC TALMADGE in TOKYO - ANTARCTICA is safe for humpback whales – for now.
Following worldwide criticism, Japan's government announced yesterday that a whaling fleet currently in the Southern Ocean for its annual hunt will not kill the rare species as originally planned.
The fleet will, however, kill some 935 minke whales, a smaller, more plentiful species, and 50 fin whales.
Japan dispatched the fleet last month to the southern Pacific off Antarctica in the first major hunt of humpback whales since the 1960s.
Commercial hunts of humpbacks have been banned worldwide since 1966 and commercial whaling overall since 1986.
The fleet was to kill 50 humpbacks. However, the plan drew criticism from environmental groups, which had opposed the hunt in general but were outraged by the inclusion of humpbacks due to their rarity.
Nobutaka Machimura, the Japanese government's chief spokesman, said: "We hope that the discussion (on hunting] will (now] be carried out calmly on the basis of scientific evidence."
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Japan PM says wants to help all hepatitis patients
TOKYO, Dec 23 - Japan's prime minister said on Sunday his party will draft legislation aimed at helping thousands of hepatitis patients, the latest development in a high-profile scandal that has drawn voter anger.
At least 10,000 people are believed to have contracted hepatitis C from tainted products, most notably fibrinogen, a coagulant used to stop haemorrhaging during surgery or childbirth. The drug was used in Japan even after it was withdrawn from the United States in 1977.
The emotive scandal has been instrumental in further eroding Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's approval ratings, already suffering from the government's mishandling of a public pensions crisis and a defence procurement scandal.
"Steps will be taken to provide aid to all the hepatitis sufferers," Fukuda told reporters.
On Thursday, hepatitis patients rejected a government compensation proposal.
The prime minister said he hoped to be able to present the bill during the current session of parliament...
The government has backed down before when faced with looming public relations disasters--but giving up on two principled stands in a single weekend? Holy moly.
It seems that some folks in the Kantei finally started thinking about something other than the Indian Ocean dispatch.
I wonder what else they will find once they start doing their end-of-the-year cleaning off of their desks? Enough money in the budget for a temporarily expanded team at the Social Insurance Agency, maybe?