No ‘comfort women’ change
The government says it will not change its 1993 apology over a system of forced prostitution for its military during World War II, but will continue to re-examine a 20-year-old study on which it was based. The country has come under fire from its neighbors for setting up a team to review history and verify the accuracy of interviews with women who said they worked as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers before and during the war. Historians say tens of thousands of women served as sex slaves, called “comfort women.” Nationalists in the country have long insisted that women in wartime brothels were voluntary prostitutes, not sex slaves.
Wakata leads space station
Astronaut Koichi Wakata assumed command of the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, the first Japanese national to oversee a manned space mission. Wakata, 50, had been a space station flight engineer since he and two crewmates arrived on Nov. 7 last year. “I am humbled to assume the command of the space station,” Wakata said during a change-of-command ceremony broadcast on NASA Television. Outgoing station commander Oleg Kotov, flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, both from Russia, and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins were due to depart the orbital outpost yesterday. Their replacements are expected to arrive on March 26. Wakata’s command marks just the third time the station is being overseen by a crewmember who is not from NASA or the Russian Space Agency, the two primary partners in the project. Canadian Chris Hadfield served as commander from March to May last year and European Space Agency astronaut Frank deWinne led a station crew in 2009.
Bird flu deaths at 72 this year
A total of 72 people have died from the H7N9 bird flu strain in the country in the first two months of this year, government figures showed, far more than in the whole of last year. The country reported 41 deaths and 99 cases of H7N9 avian influenza last month alone, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in monthly figures for infectious disease, bringing the total cases this year to 226. The country recorded 46 deaths and 144 cases last year in an outbreak that started early in the year and returned in the autumn. Officials and the WHO say there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, but that there have been “family clusters” — involving relatives in close contact apparently infecting each other — since the new strain appeared in humans last year. Experts have pointed to a seasonal rise in cases so far this year, thought to be linked to cold weather.
Drug-drone hovers near jail
Police yesterday said they had arrested a man after a drone allegedly carrying drugs was seen “hovering in the vicinity of a prison.” Victoria State police said the unmanned aerial vehicle, reportedly carrying a small quantity of drugs, was found near the Metropolitan Remand Center in Melbourne’s west on Sunday. “A man and a woman were located in a car ... with what was believed to be a drone with four engines and a small quantity of drugs,” Victoria Police said in a statement. The 28-year-old man was charged with possessing a drug of dependence and attempting to commit an indictable offense, and was bailed to appear in court later this month. Police refused to give any details on the size of the drone, a technology deployed by the military, but also used in aerial photography and law enforcement.