Military upgrade touted
The Defense Agency should be upgraded to a full ministry as soon as possible to meet the country's growing international military obligations, the defense chief told parliament yesterday. Fukushiro Nukaga said that the upgrade is necessary as Japan's troops are becoming more engaged in overseas dispatches. Tokyo has military personnel currently in Iraq, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. "There are growing global expectations and demands regarding overseas activities," Nukaga told lawmakers. "We think it is necessary to upgrade the agency to meet such expectations." Japan's current constitution, drafted by US occupation forces and unchanged since 1947, bars the use of military force in settling international disputes and prohibits maintaining a military for warfare.
Mystical harem investigated
Police are investigating a 57-year-old fortune teller who has effectively started a harem and is living with 10 women, media reports said yesterday. The man has repeatedly married and divorced the women, all in their 20s or 30s, but they all live together in a house in Tokyo along with at least one child, the reports said. "I had a dream in which I heard a voice. It said that as soon as I saw a magic word, I will attract women even if I'm not attractive now," the man told Nippon Television, which blurred his identity. "I stay at home and my women work for me," he said. He met the women through fortune-telling. Police are reportedly probing whether the man coerced the women or broke laws against polygamy, as some of the women keep his surname and nine of them jointly own the land of his house.
This marriage has legs
The "Scorpion Queen" and "Centipede King" will tie the knot on Valentine's Day and then consummate their nuptials in a coffin, organizers of the wedding said yesterday. Kanjana Kaetkeow, 36, who entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2002 for spending 32 days in a glass cube with 3,400 scorpions, has agreed to marry Montri Siangwong, 29, a 2003 Guinness record holder for spending 28 days with 1,000 centipedes, said Somporn Naksuetrong, general manager of Ripley's World of Entertainment in Pattaya. "The couple met and fell in love when they were touring together after winning their Guinness records," Somporn said.
Fishermen appeal sentence
Two Thai fishermen have appealed their death sentences for murdering a British backpacker, arguing their punishment was too harsh and their conviction secured without eyewitnesses, a lawyer for the men said yesterday. At the end of a speedy trial, a Thai provincial court last week sentenced Boiloy Kothisit, 23, and Wichai Sonkhaoyai, 24, to death for raping and murdering Katherine Horton, 21, on New Year's Day on the resort island of Samui. "Both of them had little education; they didn't even know what the maximum sentence they could face," lawyer Amarin Nuimai told reporters. The British government has also said it opposes the execution of the fishermen.
Find worth a fortune
A couple could reap a fragrant fortune after what they thought was an odd-looking tree stump turned out to be a rare lump of ambergris, a whale excretion used in perfumes and known as "floating gold." Loralee and Leon Wright were walking along a remote beach near Streaky Bay on a fishing trip three weeks ago when they saw the strange object. Leon, thinking it could have been some kind of cyst from a large marine animal, suggested they take the 14.75kg lump home. The couple returned two weeks later and retrieved the lump. Jury said the Wrights' find is worth at least US$295,000.