Alfacalcidol Does Not Lower CV Risk in Dialysis, Trial Suggests

Alfacalcidol does not reduce the risk for cardiovascular events in patients without secondary hyperparathyroidism undergoing maintenance hemodialysis compared with usual care, the Japan Dialysis Active Vitamin D (J-DAVID) trial has found. But experts question the generalizability of the findings.

During a median of 4 years, the composite outcome of select cardiovascular events was 21.1% in those who took oral alfacalcidol, a vitamin D receptor agonist (VDRA), compared with 17.9% in the usual-care group, a difference that was not statistically different.

“[O]ral alfacalcidol compared with usual care did not reduce the risk of a composite measure of select cardiovascular events. These findings do not support the use of vitamin D receptor activators for patients such as these,” the researchers write.

The study, by Tetsuo Shoji, MD, PhD, from the Department of Vascular Medicine, Osaka City University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, and colleagues, was published online December 10 in JAMA.

The study was conducted in Japan, and the results are not generalizable to other countries, Rasheeda K. Hall, MD, MBA, MHS, and Julia J. Scialla, MD, MHS, from the Department of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, write in an accompanying editorial.

“Although the use of phosphate binders, VDRAs, and cinacalcet in Japan are comparable to the use in the United States, dialysate calcium and selection of calcium-based vs non–calcium-based phosphate binders tends to be higher in Japan. These patterns were observed in the J-DAVID trial, with approximately 70% of participants using dialysate calcium of 3.0 mEq/L and approximately 80% using calcium-based phosphate binders,” Hall and Scialla explain.

“These practices may be so different from those in the United States and internationally that generalization is not feasible,” they continue.

No Difference in Cardiovascular Outcomes

Vitamin D activation is impaired and cardiovascular risk is elevated in patients with chronic kidney disease. Observational studies have suggested that VDRAs reduce this risk, but the approach had not been tested in randomized trials.

Therefore, Shoji and colleagues conducted a randomized, open-label, blinded endpoint trial that compared the effect of the oral VDRA alfacalcidol with usual care (no VDRAs) on cardiovascular events in patients without secondary hyperparathyroidism receiving maintenance hemodialysis at 108 dialysis centers. For the patients in the study, serum intact parathyroid hormone levels were ≤180 pg/mL.

The investigators randomly assigned 976 patients to receive either alfacalcidol, beginning at a dose of 0.5 μg per day (n = 495) or usual care (n = 481). The intention-to-treat analysis included 964 patients, of whom 944 (97.9%) completed the trial. The median age of the participants was 65 years, and 386 were women (40.0%).

“All participants were eligible to receive any medications other than VDRAs, including phosphate binders and cinacalcet, for standard medical care as recommended by the JSDT [Japanese Society for Dialysis Therapy] Clinical Practice Guidelines,” the researchers explain.

Cardiovascular events, the primary composite outcome, occurred in 103 of 488 patients (21.1%) in the alfacalcidol group, compared with 85 of 476 patients (17.9%) in the usual-care group (absolute difference, 3.25%; 95% confidence interval [CI], −1.75% to 8.24%; hazard ratio [HR], 1.25; 95% CI, 0.94 – 1.67; P = .13). This difference was not statistically significant.

The secondary outcome of all-cause mortality did not differ significantly between the groups (18.2% vs 16.8%, respectively; HR, 1.12; 95% CI, 0.83 – 1.52; P = .46).

Among those in the alfacalcidol group, 76.0% experienced serious adverse events (SAEs), including cardiovascular-related (40.8%), infection-related (13.1%), and malignancy-related SAEs (4.5%).

Among those in the usual-care group, 79.2% experienced SAEs, including events that were cardiovascular- (40.1%), infection- (13.2%), and malignancy-related (4.4%).

“The number of cardiovascular SAEs was higher than the number of occurrences of the primary outcome because some participants had more than 2 cardiovascular SAEs,” the researchers explain.

Predefined laboratory abnormalities differed between the two groups. Corrected serum calcium levels >10.0 mg/dL and phosphate levels >6.0 mg/dL occurred more frequently in the group that received alfacalcidol compared with the control group. Intact parathyroid hormone levels >240 pg/mL occurred less commonly, especially during the first year of follow-up.

Generalizability May Be Limited

“[T]he results cannot be generalized to patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism or to non-Japanese populations, particularly not to US patients undergoing hemodialysis, who have much higher levels of intact PTH [parathyroid hormone] than the participants of this trial,” the researchers note.

Hall and Scialla reiterate that point. “As the J-DAVID investigators acknowledge, VDRAs may plausibly yield different results when accompanied by less calcium loading in the form of dialysate and exogenous calcium,” they write.

The editorialists say that although the researchers excluded patients “with clear indications or contraindications for VDRAs,” approximately one third of participants crossed over during the study; 35% of patients in the usual-care group and 32% of those in the alfacalcidol group dropped out of their assigned treatment. The study did not account for this in power calculations, they explain.

“In addition, the composite cardiovascular end point in the J-DAVID trial was broad. Although this broad end point may improve power for the study, the pathophysiology of many of the end point components, such as sudden cardiac death, peripheral amputation, and stroke, including hemorrhagic stroke, may be heterogeneous and not clearly modified by 1,25[OH]2D-responsive pathways,” Hall and Scialla observe.

“Future studies are needed, both observational and randomized, to understand who should be treated with VDRAs, to what biochemical target levels patients should be treated, and what therapeutic combinations of VDRAs and mineral metabolism cointerventions should be used to prevent CVD in patients with ESKD [end-stage kidney disease] undergoing hemodialysis,” they conclude.

Japan Set to Allow Gene Editing in Human Embryos

Draft guidelines permit gene-editing tools for research into early human development, but would discourage manipulation of embryos for reproduction.
Japan Set to Allow Gene Editing in Human Embryos

Japan has issued draft guidelines that allow the use of gene-editing tools in human embryos. The proposal was released by an expert panel representing the country’s health and science ministries on 28 September.

Although the country regulates the use of human embryos for research, there have been no specific guidelines on using tools such as CRISPR–Cas9 to make precise modifications in their DNA until now.

Tetsuya Ishii, a bioethicist at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, says that before the draft guidelines were issued, Japan’s position on gene editing in human embryos was neutral. The proposal now encourages this kind of research, he says.

But if adopted, the guidelines would restrict the manipulation of human embryos for reproduction, although this would not be legally binding.

Manipulating DNA in embryos could reveal insights into early human development. Researchers also hope that in the long term, these tools could be used to fix genetic mutations that cause diseases, before they are passed on.

But the editing of genes in human embryos, even for research, has been controversial. Ethicists and many researchers worry that the technique could be used to alter DNA in embryos for non-medical reasons. Many countries ban the practice, allowing gene-editing tools to be used only in non-reproductive adult cells.

Researchers around the world have published at least eight studies on gene editing in human embryos. Some of the work was done in Chinaand the United States, where using the technique does not break any laws if done with private funding; some was done in the United Kingdom, where permission must be granted by a national regulatory body.

Japan’s draft guidelines will be open for public comment from next month and are likely to be implemented in the first half of next year.

How Soon Will You Be Working From Home?

Work today is increasingly tied to routine rather than a physical space. Unsurprisingly, more and more, companies in the United States allow their employees to work beyond a specifically designated space.

The number of telecommuters in 2015 had more than doubled from a decade earlier, a growth rate about 10 times greater than what the traditional workforce registered during the same period, according to a 2017 report by, a job search site specializing in remote, part-time, freelance and flexible-hour job positions.

Telecommuting might not just be a company perk in the next decade.

Experts, however, quickly point out that telecommuting’s growth faces numerous challenges. Cultural barriers in traditional companies, reliable technology, labor laws, tax policies and the public’s own perception about telecommuting will need adjusting to a more mobile workforce, say labor analysts.

Remote Work Still Considered a Perk

The report said the industries offering the greatest possibilities to work remotely included technology and mathematics, the military, art and design, entertainment, sports, media, personal care and financial services. Experts cite a couple of reasons why telecommuting is becoming more common in some industries: a more reliable internet connectivity and new management practices dictated by millennials and how they work.

Among the advantages that companies cite for remote work are cost savings in the absence of a work space, more focused and productive employees, and better work retention. Additionally, in 2015, figures showed that U.S. employers had saved up to $44 billion with the existing almost 4 million telecommuters (working half time or more), the report said.

“I’ve been able to see firsthand the increase in productivity by incorporating telecommuting into several companies,” says Leonardo Zizzamia, entrepreneur in San Francisco and co-founder of a productivity and collaboration tool called Plan. “With housing costs in Silicon Valley continuing to rise, telecommuting is the financially savvy way to work for your favorite company.”

Yet remote work is still considered a perk in the majority of workplaces. The greatest proportion of telecommuting positions fall under management, according to the report. Managers, however, struggled with overseeing remote workers.

“It used to be that everybody was in (an) office at set hours and if you were a manager you could look up and see your employees working or not,” says Susan Lund, partner at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm. “Now it’s different. More companies are moving toward a more flexible work space environment and for managers it’s much more challenging because you need to know what each person is working on and whether they are reaching their goals.”

Workers in the beginning and early stages of their careers will be key to transforming today’s workplace to be more friendly to telecommuting, analysts say.

“Millennials have been working over computers and the internet since they were in early junior high and even younger,” says Brie Reynolds, a senior career specialist at “For them it’s natural and when they come into the workforce they are really pushing it into the mainstream. They are letting employers know that remote work is something that they value, that it’s a way that they would want to work and that they don’t see it as a perk, but as another option for working.”

Working From Home as the Cross-Border Threat

According to a 2017 LinkedIn report, the number of positions filled in the United States in October was more than 24 percent higher compared to the previous year. The oil and energy sector, manufacturing and industrial, aerospace, automotive and transportation sectors reported the biggest growth in jobs, the report said.

“If you look at the data you will find that there are significant talent gaps in many industries,” says Tolu Olubunmi, entrepreneur and co-chairperson of Mobile Minds, an initiative advancing cross-border remote working as an alternative to physical migration. “Those jobs are going unfilled for a number of reasons, and one of them is not actually having available the skills that are needed to the organizations.”

Telecommuting options may help fill empty positions in the U.S., job analysts say.

“When you are hiring remotely it opens you up to a much wider pool of talent than if you are stuck in one geographic area and you are only hiring people who can physically get to your office on a daily basis,” says Reynolds, the career specialist.

Technology also can help recruit workers, potentially attracting qualified workers from other parts of the world, as telecommuting seems to be popular at a global scale as well. A 2012 Reuters/Ipsos report showed that about one in five workers telecommute, especially in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East.

“Cross-border work allow companies to tap into a greater number of talent and diversity of talent that can help them meet their needs,” Olubunmi says. “It reduces brain drain in certain communities that are seeing their best and brightest leaving and that actually benefits those communities. They have the skill and the talent working elsewhere, but money and services are still being distributed within the community.”

Experts have mixed opinions over the continued increase in telecommuting positions. Some are convinced that technological advancement will allow people to better simulate face-to-face interaction, thus encouraging working remotely. Others say future technology could play a counter-intuitive role of bringing people together in an actual office space.


“One of the big advantages of telecommuting was avoiding congestion,” says Adam Millsap, senior affiliated scholar at the Mercatus Center, a research center at George Mason University focusing on economics. “But autonomous vehicles catch on so that itself could eliminate congestion and encourage people to go into the office again even more. They will cut down commuting time, there will be less accidents which tend to hold up traffic, and the cars will be able to drive much closer together at higher speed, because they will all be communicating with one another, so you could fit more on the road.”

Regardless, opening up a world to U.S. companies should not scare American workers, experts say. “Telecommuting isn’t about taking jobs away from native-born citizens,” Olubunmi says. “This is about improving the economy by letting businesses have a broader pool of talent to pick from, in order to be able to achieve their goals and have better economic growth in general for all.”

At the same time, one shouldn’t assume that foreign workers will be willing to take on American jobs just because they become more accessible.

“If an American firm comes to India and says they will give relatively higher wages for people to work in a call center, those workers might be willing to stay awake through the night,” Millsap says. “But if I am Apple and I want to hire a new software engineer, there is a good chance that a software engineer in Japan, for instance, has already a pretty a good salary and is not going to be willing to take on a job that requires him to have meetings at midnight in his own country.”

Experts agree that people in the labor market need to be more agile at acquiring new skills later in life, including learning how to work remotely. Remote work, they say, should not necessarily be considered a perk, but rather a way of helping employees better manage work-life balance.

“When people are given the flexibility to live and work where they please, it really does increase productivity and allow a diversity of people to engage in the workforce,” Olubunmi says. “Because if in the 19th century, work was about where you went, now work is about what you do, not from where you do it.”

Japan Has Created Black Mirror-Inspired Bee Drones

  • Researchers in Japan have created insect-sized drones capable of artificial pollination, thanks to the help of horse hair and an ionic sticky gel.
  • As bees enter the endangered species list in the United States, these natural pollinators will need all the help they can get.


Be careful what you tweet. 

In the final episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror, the government claims to be using Autonomous Drone Insects to counteract the collapse of the bee population. Spoiler alert: they’re lying.

It’s soon discovered that these bee drones are actually being used for mass public surveillance. Worse, the drones are programmed to kill. The deaths are linked to a website promoting a ‘Game of Consequence’ where Twitter users can vote to kill one hated public figure using the hashtag ‘#DeathTo.’

Now, similar drones are coming to Japan, without all the government secrets and Twitter deaths (we assume). Japan’s insect-sized drones were turned into artificial pollinators with the help of a coating of horse hair and an ionic sticky gel. The drones work like bees and use their hairs to pick up pollen from one flower and deposit it into another.

Researchers from Japan actually discovered this ionic gel accidentally, and then published their work in the journal Chem. Back in 2007, one of the researchers, chemist Eijiro Miyako, was working on possible liquid electrical conductors. One attempt to do so produced a wax-like sticky gel. The gel was shelved after Miyako considered it a failure. It was rediscovered after a decade during a lab cleanup and, to Miyako’s surprise, the gel remained unchanged.

“This project is the result of serendipity,” Miyako said. “We were surprised that after 8 years, the ionic gel didn’t degrade and was still so viscous. Conventional gels are mainly made of water and can’t be used for a long time, so we decided to use this material for research.”

Miyako tested the pollen-grasping abilities of the gel by coating ants with it, which he then left to roam free in a box of tulips. Researchers observed that ants coated with the gel were able to collect more pollen than those that weren’t. In addition, a separate test applying the gel to houseflies revealed that it changes color when exposed to different sources of light — potentially giving it a camouflage effect that can help artificial pollinators avoid predators.

Image credits: Eijiro Miyako

With the gel tested and proven to be sticky enough, the next thing to do was to look for the artificial pollinator. Miyako found a $100-four propeller drone and gave it a fuzzy, bee-like exterior. It was the team’s AIST colleagues Masayoshi Tange and Yue Yu who decided to use horse hair on the drone’s surface. These bristles gave more surface area for pollen to attach to, and at the same time, provided electric charge that kept the pollens in place.

The drones were tested on Japanese lilies, with the team flying them by remote control. The drones would pick up pollen from one flower, and then flew to another flower to deposit the pollen.

“The findings, which will have applications for agriculture and robotics, among others, could lead to the development of artificial pollinators and help counter the problems caused by declining honeybee populations,” Miyako said. “We believe that robotic pollinators could be trained to learn pollination paths using global positioning systems and artificial intelligence.”

As bees enter the endangered species list in the United States, these natural pollinators will need all the help they can get. Artificial pollinators can lessen the burden of modern agricultural demand, giving the bees breathing space to recover their numbers. Hopefully, these drones won’t turn out to the way their Black Mirror counterparts did, but we can worry about that later. For now, getting these drones out there to see just how much they could help will keep the world pollinated.

7 signs Japan has become a ‘demographic time bomb’.


Japan is dealing with what economists call a “demographic time bomb.”Through a vicious cycle of low fertility and low consumer spending, the country’s economy has gradually shrunk over the last 25 years.

People are living longer, and they’re heaping greater social-security costs onto younger generations who aren’t having kids to replace them – thereby furthering the cycle.

Here are some of the most visible signs in daily life that the time bomb is ticking.

Read more:


14 Things From Japan That Must Be On Every Part Of The Earth.

An extraordinary country with a decent natural environment having tons of inventive people who are keen to be contented with technology for an easy lifestyle. There are numerous things which exist in the country that is too awesome that we think should exist everywhere. Let’s have a look.

1. Special Vending Machines

Time is money! The Japanese have special vending machines that give you not only with snacks but also boiled foods, fried potato, pasta, and pet food.


2. Tissues given out for free on the streets

Tissues are given out for free in Japan.


3. Taxis with automated doors

Japanese love automation! They invented taxis with automated doors so that you’re never told off for shutting them hard.




4. Trains with foot spas

You can get tickets for foot spas and you can relieve stress while traveling.


5. The chance to sleep at work

“inemuri”, which means present while working in Japan. You can simply sit next to your boss and sleep.


6. Stress reducing Unlimited Poppers

I need this! Many are under a lot of stress and the Japanese find this way of poppers to be the best for relieving stress.


7. Compact Parking

In a population of 127.3 million, it’s not easy to deal with space. The Japanese have achieved this by unique 2 Level parking systems.

8. Musical roads

These roads let you be entertained on a long trip by playing a melody as you travel.


9. The heated table: Kotatsu

It’s a table with a blanket which was developed in the 14th century but is seen on the rarest occasions.


10. Unique gas stations

The pipe to deliver gas to the stations in Japan hangs down which helps to avoid not reaching the gas tank on cars.


11. Drinking cans for the blind

There isn’t a single can in the country which doesn’t have the name written in braille on the top to help the blind.


12. Cat cafes

To have coziness and warmth, the Japanese have opened numerous cat cafes which are full with cats.


13. Chairs to hold your bags

Japan has solved the problem of bag handling bags by just providing a notch over the chair.


14. Rooms for those who want to get enough sleep

Capsule hotels in Japan provide a great rest for those who dream of finding small cozy rooms.

capsule hotel

Do share with your friends and let us know your views about the article by writing in the comments section below.

Japan to raise nuke safety check competency per IAEA review.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority announced the plans Monday in response to an IAEA evaluation of Japan’s nuclear safety regulations since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Japan Fukushima, Japan nuclear safety check, Japan IAEA, Japan Nuke safety, Fukushima nuclear plantFILE – In this June 27, 2013 file photo, a freighter, left in foreground, carrying MOX, a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxide, arrives at the Takahama nuclear power station in Takahama town in Fukui prefecture, northwestern Japan, when the power plant received the first shipment of reprocessed nuclear reactor fuel from France since the 2011 Fukushima disaster that forced it to shut down reactors, hoping to use the fuel once they get the go-ahead to restart their reactors. (AP Photo)

Japanese nuclear regulators said they will revise laws, nearly double inspection staff and send some inspectors to the U.S. for training to address deficiencies cited by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority announced the plans Monday in response to an IAEA evaluation of Japan’s nuclear safety regulations since the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The report was submitted to the government last week.

 The IAEA review, its first since the Japanese nuclear authority’s establishment in 2012, was conducted in January to determine whether the country’s new regulatory system meets international standards. The IAEA report said even though Japan has adopted stricter safety requirements for plant operators, inspections are reactive, inflexible and lack free access. The report noted that the nuclear authority has made efforts to increase its transparency and independence.
The authority’s commissioners met Monday and decided to give inspectors greater discretion and free access to data, equipment and facilities. Current on-site checks have largely become a choreographed routine. Inspectors’ requests for access to data and equipment outside of regular quarterly inspections are not mandatory, and there is no penalty for plant operators that fail to meet safety requirements. Inspections also tend to be limited to a checklist of minimum requirements. The IAEA report came as nuclear safety concerns increased among the Japanese public following two powerful deadly earthquakes in southern Japan. Three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant suffered meltdowns in March 2011 following a massive earthquake and tsunami. A series of investigations have blamed safety complacency, inadequate crisis management skills, a failure to keep up with international safety standards, and collusion between regulators and the nuclear industry as the main contributing causes of the disaster. The authority plans to revise laws next year and enact them in 2020 to implement the IAEA’s recommendations, officials said Monday.
The authority also said it would increase the size and competency of its staff. The IAEA urged Japan to develop training programs and step up safety research and cooperation with organizations inside and outside the country. Japan plans to send five inspectors to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission later this year for training in nuclear safety inspections. The trainees will be sent to NRC regional offices and its technical training center in Tennessee, according to Shuichi Kaneko, an authority official. “We look to the U.S. as a model,” he said. “We are finally beginning to catch up, though a framework is not there yet.” While the 1,000 U.S. inspectors are given two years of training, Japan has only 150 staffers who receive just a two-week basic course, Kaneko said. He said on-site inspections at each plant in the U.S. average 2,000 hours a year, and only 168 hours in Japan.
The authority plans to start hiring more staff next spring and eventually increase its staff by at least 100 to adapt to increased inspection needs, Kaneko said. Theoretically, to match U.S. safety inspection levels, Japan would need at least 250 inspectors. Japan largely ignored an IAEA review in 2007 that concluded that its inspection system was inadequate.

Death by overwork on rise among Japan’s vulnerable workers.

Japan is witnessing a record number of compensation claims related to death from overwork, or ‘karoshi’, a phenomenon previously associated with the long-suffering “salary man” that is increasingly afflicting young and female employees.

Labour demand, with 1.28 jobs per applicant, is the highest since 1991, which should help Prime Minister Shinzo Abe draw more people into the workforce to counter the effect of a shrinking population, but lax enforcement of labour laws means some businesses are simply squeezing more out of employees, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Claims for compensation for ‘karoshi’ rose to a record high of 1,456 in the year to end-March 2015, according to labour ministry data, with cases concentrated in healthcare, social services, shipping and construction, which are all facing chronic worker shortages.

Hiroshi Kawahito, secretary general of the National Defense Counsel for Victims of ‘karoshi’, said the real number was probably 10 times higher, as the government is reluctant to recognise such incidents.

“The government hosts a lot of symposiums and makes posters about the problem, but this is propaganda,” he said.

“The real problem is reducing working hours, and the government is not doing enough.”

The labour ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Kawahito, a lawyer who has been dealing with ‘karoshi’ since the 1980s, said 95 per cent of his cases used to be middle-aged men in white-collar jobs, but now about 20 per cent are women.

Japan has no legal limits on working hours, but the labour ministry recognises two types of ‘karoshi’: death from cardiovascular illness linked to overwork, and suicide following work-related mental stress.

A cardiovascular death is likely to be considered ‘karoshi’ if an employee worked 100 hours of overtime in the month beforehand, or 80 hours of overtime in two or more consecutive months in the previous six.

A suicide could qualify if it follows an individual’s working 160 hours or more of overtime in one month or more than 100 hours of overtime for three consecutive months.

Work-related suicides are up 45 per cent in the past four years among those 29 and younger, and up 39 per cent among women, labour ministry data show.

Two-tier workforce

The problem has become more acute as Japan’s workforce has divided into two distinct categories – regular employees, and those on temporary or non-standard contracts, frequently women and younger people.

In 2015 non-regular employees made up 38 per cent of the workforce, up from 20 per cent in 1990, and 68 per cent of them were women.

Lawyers and academic say unscrupulous employees operate a “bait-and-switch” policy, advertising a full-time position with reasonable working hours, but later offering the successful applicant a non-regular contract with longer hours, sometimes overnight or weekends, with no overtime pay.

Refusing overtime pay and break time are illegal, and the applicant could refuse the job, but activists say companies tell them they will be given regular contracts after six months or so.

They say young applicants often accept due to lack of experience, while women trying to re-enter the workforce after childbirth often feel it would be difficult to get a foothold elsewhere.

Emiko Teranishi, head of the Families Dealing with Karoshi support group, said she hears lots of complaints about hiring tactics, with some companies telling new hires that their salary includes 80 hours of overtime, and they must reimburse the company if they work less.

“Some people don’t even make minimum wage under this system,” said Ms. Teranishi, whose own husband committed suicide after working long hours.

Such abuses have become so common in the past 10 years that such companies have been dubbed “black” companies in the media.

Hirokazu Ouchi, a professor at Chukyo University, wrote a book last year about such companies when he realised some of his students were being treated illegally at their part-time jobs.

Mr. Ouchi said their hiring practices typically follow a similar pattern.

“Companies will hire someone for two to three years, but they have no intention of investing the time or the money to nurture that employee,” said Mr. Ouchi.

He added that the labour ministry lacked the manpower to follow up on complaints.

A ministry official working in corporate surveillance acknowledged that his department was somewhat short-staffed but the government was taking steps to recruit more every year. He declined to give his name as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Japan’s working-age population has been falling since the mid-1990s, which would normally lead companies to improve working conditions to attract workers, but Mr. Ouchi said it was not happening because they can get away with bending the rules.

“This is a way for companies to keep labour costs down, but it is also a path that leads to death by overwork,” he said.

Japanese kills 333 whales for ‘research’

A fleet of Japanese ships returned from Antarctic waters on Thursday, March 24, after more than three months at sea.

The sailors’ bounty: hundreds of dead Minke whales, more than 200 of which were females pregnant with calves, according to Reuters.

japan whaling AP_070419016590Associated Press

The four vessels, subsidized in part by Japan’s government, are considered by many a violation of both a global ban on whale hunting and arecent ruling by an international court of law.

Japan claims these expeditions are scientific in nature. However, many researchers outside the nation strongly disagree.

Here’s why Japan keeps sponsoring whale hunts in spite of intense global outcry working against the practice.

Watch the slideshow. URL:

Radioactive water leaked from Fukushima storage tank

A minor leakage of radioactive water has been detected at Japan’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co said. Radioactive liquid was detected under a storage tank with radiation-contaminated water.

An aerial view shows the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and its contaminated water storage tanks (top) in Fukushima. (Reuters/Kyodo)

A total of 40 milliliters of water was discovered, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant’s operator, said on May 1.

The company believes that the liquid leaked from the storage tank, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun paper reported Saturday.

TEPCO stated that it placed bags of sand around the tank to prevent water from contaminating other areas.

The wet patch measuring 20 square centimeters was discovered by one workers at around 9:30am local time on May 1, it added.

According to TEPCO, seventy millisieverts per hour of beta ray-emitting radioactivity were detected on the surface where the water had leaked.

The leak was detected on the same day as tests began in preparation for the construction of a 1.5-kilometer-long frozen soil wall around the reactor buildings.

A project is aimed at preventing further leaks of radioactive water into the sea from the Fukishima plant.

Three of the Fukushima plant’s reactors suffered a nuclear meltdown due to an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, causing the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The water used to keep the reactors cool is tainted with radioactive material and has since been leaking and mixing with groundwater that has been seeping through the facility.

In late April, the water transfer pumps at the Fukushima plant were shut down due to a power outage, leading to the leaking of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

It was preceded by a series of toxic leaks in February, which saw around 100 tons of highly radioactive water leaked from one the plant’s tanks.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant tragedy with nuclear meltdown of three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors was caused by an earthquake-triggered tsunami in March 2011.

TEPCO’s efforts to manage the release of radioactive material have been slammed by the global community due to its suppression policy. This year the company was revealed to have been concealing reports of dangerously high radiation levels at the plant since September.


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