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Japan to ban re-entry of foreign residents who visit India, Nepal and Pakistan

Japan to ban re-entry of foreign residents who visit India, Nepal and Pakistan

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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The government will ban foreign nationals, including those who are Japan residents, from re-entering the country starting Friday if they have recently spent time in India, Nepal or Pakistan where a new variant of the coronavirus is rampant although some foreign nationals who left prior to the ban will be able to return.

Japanese nationals returning from those countries will still be allowed to re-enter Japan, the government announced Wednesday night.

The entry ban will apply to foreign nationals who have spent time in any of the three countries in the 14 days prior to their intended arrival. Permanent residents, long-term resident status holders, and spouses and children of Japanese nationals or permanent residents who left Japan before the travel restrictions take effect will be allowed in even after Friday.

“We will tighten and ease entry restrictions depending on the situation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said during a news conference Thursday.

Kato said that in making the decision, the government had taken into consideration that there are still many unknown factors about the new variant, the rising numbers of cases in those countries and the fact that many new variant cases have been detected at airports.

“On May 10, the WHO (World Health Organization) classified the mutation as a ‘variant of global concern,’” which requires heightened tracking and analysis, Kato said. “Based on that decision we have also defined it as a variant of concern,” he said.

With the move, Japan joined other territories that have already placed travel restrictions on people arriving from India and neighbouring countries.

Taiwan on Monday barred arrivals from India. The UK, Germany and the United States have already introduced similar restrictions, but unlike Japan they have exempted citizens and permanent residents. Australia, meanwhile, has drawn criticism for barring even its own citizens who have traveled to those countries from returning home.

At present, only foreign residents with a valid residency status and Japanese nationals are allowed to enter Japan, while new entries from all countries are banned, with some exceptions for travellers seeking entry in emergencies. Starting Friday, exceptions will only be made for people returning from the three countries under special circumstances, including family and medical emergencies.

While the travel ban will apply only to foreign nationals, Japanese citizens may also face the risk of being denied entry if they fail to comply with the recently revised Quarantine Act.

Japan currently requires all arrivals into the country to provide negative COVID-19 results from tests taken within 72 hours of their departure and to be again tested upon entry. All people entering the country are also required to self-quarantine for 14 days at their homes, hotels or other facilities.

Japan’s blanket travel bans on new arrivals have remained in place throughout most of the pandemic.

Until last fall, the bans had also applied to foreign residents with a valid resident status in Japan making it the only Group of Seven country to have COVID-19 entry restrictions that discriminated between citizens and permanent and long-term foreign residents, and sparking outrage among the international community.

The latest decision to ban re-entry by residents comes after Japan added India on May 1 to a list of regions covered by stringent quarantine measures, after a so-called double mutation in a strain known as B.1.617 that emerged in the South Asian country was detected in Japan.

As of Monday, Japan had confirmed 70 cases of the more virulent B.1.617 variant in Japan, of which 66 were found in airport quarantine and four cases were confirmed among domestic infections, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Under the stricter measures beginning May 1, travellers arriving from India and neighbouring Nepal and Pakistan have been obliged to stay at designated facilities for six days upon arrival as part of a 14-day self-quarantine. The government tightened measures for the self-isolation period for the three countries out of fear that the new variant could trigger another wave of infections similar to the one seen after it failed to shut out a British variant of the virus which was first detected in December.

Travellers from other countries covered by stricter quarantine rules are required to spend the first three days in designated facilities and are tested for COVID-19 on the third day. Only those who test negative can relocate to facilities of their choice or return home for the remainder of the 14-day period. Since Monday, travellers from India and the neighbouring countries have been tested on the third and sixth day after entering Japan.

Record numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths in India have recently sparked calls for the government to lock down the world’s second-most populous country.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/05/13/national/india-pakistan-nepal-japan-ban/

Category: Japan

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Japanese journalist indicted in Burma freed

Japanese journalist indicted in Burma freed

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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A Japanese freelance journalist detained by security forces in Myanmar in mid-April and accused of spreading “fake news” has been released and arrived at Yangon International Airport on Friday.

Yuki Kitazumi, 45, was arrested in Yangon on April 18 and a military spokesman said Thursday night he had been moved from prison to a police facility.

The Japanese Embassy in Myanmar said its staff spoke with Kitazumi by phone on Wednesday and found he has no health issues. The embassy also confirmed the military’s plan to release him.

According to a state-run TV station, the junta’s information office said Kitazumi had been arrested and indicted for supporting the anti-coup civil disobedience movement and violent protests, and for not complying with visa regulations.

The State Administration Council Information Team reportedly said while Kitazumi “has broken some laws,” the decision to release him was made “in consideration of cordial relations between Myanmar and Japan up to now and in view of future bilateral relations, and upon the request of the Japanese government special envoy on Myanmar’s national reconciliation.”

The journalist, who previously worked at the Tokyo-based Nikkei business daily, had covered anti-government protests and posted on social media information deemed to be critical of the military.

Kitazumi had been detained previously while covering an anti-military protest on February 26, but he was released later in the day.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s top government spokesman, had demanded during a regular briefing on April 20 that the security forces in Myanmar release Kitazumi.

Kitazumi could have faced a jail term of up to three years if convicted under the penal code as amended after the February 1 military coup.

Local journalist gets three-year sentence

Only a day earlier, a Myanmar journalist who reported on the anti-junta protests was jailed for the full three years for incitement, his news organisation said.

Min Nyo, who worked for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in Myanmar’s Bago region, was arrested on March 3 and found guilty by a military court in one of the first verdicts against media workers since the February 1 coup.

“DVB demands the military authority release Min Nyo immediately, as well as other detained or convicted journalists around Myanmar,” it said.

He had been beaten by police and denied visits by his family, it said.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, with the military struggling to impose order amid a groundswell of public anger at its overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.

Many journalists are among the nearly 4,900 people who have been arrested, according to the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group.

DVB is among several news outlets that have had licenses revoked by the military, which has restricted internet access and used lethal force to suppress countrywide strikes and protests against it. More than 780 people have been killed by security forces, according to AAPP figures.

Three of DVB’s journalists were detained in northern Thailand this week for illegal entry after fleeing Myanmar. Human rights groups have pleaded with Thailand not to deport them.

Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s deputy Regional director, said journalism had effectively been criminalised by Myanmar’s generals.

“They risk life and liberty to shed light on the military’s abuses. The military authorities are ruthless, determined to crush dissent by silencing those who seek to expose their crimes,” Gil said in a statement.

Resistance to the junta has intensified in recent weeks, with hostilities reigniting between the military and several ethnic minority armies, fatal attacks on junta-appointed administrators, and ambushes of police and soldiers by militias calling themselves People’s Defence Forces.

MRTV announced on Thursday that martial law had been declared due to unrest in Mindut in northwestern Chin State. Resistance groups there say there has been heavy fighting between armed civilians and junta troops.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/05/14/national/myanmar-yuki-kitazumi-release/

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Toyota beats forecast amid pandemic, projects further growth

Toyota beats forecast amid pandemic, projects further growth

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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Toyota Motor Corp. has managed to navigate the pandemic and related economic fallout for fiscal 2020, boosting its net profit by 10.3 percent from the previous year to JPY 2.25 trillion, the automaker said Wednesday.

The firm also revealed a projection that about 80 percent of new car sales by 2030 will be electric vehicles, including hybrids, reflecting its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

For the current fiscal year through March 2022, Toyota projects the following:

Sales of JPY 30 trillion, up 10.2%

Operating profit of JPY 2.5 trillion, up 13.8%

Net profit of JPY 2.3 trillion, up 2.4%

“We expect unit sales to make a strong recovery. This will be a major factor” in increased profit, Kenta Kon, Toyota’s chief financial officer, said during an online news conference.

For fiscal 2020, the world’s largest automaker beat its forecast of securing JPY 2.2 trillion in operating profit, ending up with more than four times its initial projection of JPY 500 billion, which was set a year ago amid heightened uncertainties over the COVID-19 outbreak. The firm eventually raised the forecast to JPY 2 trillion in February.

The firm posted sales of JPY 27.21 trillion, down 8.9%.

Japanese carmakers had initially feared that the economic damage caused by the pandemic would last for the entire fiscal year, which ended in March. But looking back, most of them only suffered a serious blow in the first quarter, between April and June 2020.

As auto demand started bouncing back in crucial markets such as China and the United States in the latter half, Toyota and other carmakers showed a robust recovery in sales.

In April this year, Toyota said it posted unit sales of 982,912 in March a record for a single month up 44.2 percent compared with the same month last year, thanks to strong performance in China and North America.

The steady sales are partly attributed to well-executed launches of new models, such as the Corolla and RAV4, throughout the year.

Toyota Motor Corp. has managed to navigate the pandemic and related economic fallout for fiscal 2020, boosting its net profit by 10.3 percent from the previous year to JPY 2.25 trillion, the automaker said Wednesday.

The firm also revealed a projection that about 80 percent of new car sales by 2030 will be electric vehicles, including hybrids, reflecting its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

For the current fiscal year through March 2022, Toyota projects the following:

Sales of JPY 30 trillion, up 10.2%

Operating profit of JPY 2.5 trillion, up 13.8%

Net profit of JPY 2.3 trillion, up 2.4%

“We expect unit sales to make a strong recovery. This will be a major factor” in increased profit, Kenta Kon, Toyota’s chief financial officer, said during an online news conference.

For fiscal 2020, the world’s largest automaker beat its forecast of securing JPY 2.2 trillion in operating profit, ending up with more than four times its initial projection of JPY 500 billion, which was set a year ago amid heightened uncertainties over the COVID-19 outbreak. The firm eventually raised the forecast to JPY 2 trillion in February.

The firm posted sales of JPY 27.21 trillion, down 8.9%.

Japanese carmakers had initially feared that the economic damage caused by the pandemic would last for the entire fiscal year, which ended in March. But looking back, most of them only suffered a serious blow in the first quarter, between April and June 2020.

As auto demand started bouncing back in crucial markets such as China and the United States in the latter half, Toyota and other carmakers showed a robust recovery in sales.

In April this year, Toyota said it posted unit sales of 982,912 in March a record for a single month up 44.2 percent compared with the same month last year, thanks to strong performance in China and North America.

The steady sales are partly attributed to well-executed launches of new models, such as the Corolla and RAV4, throughout the year.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/05/12/business/corporate-business/toyota-earnings/

Category: Japan

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Japan’s most expensive bank hides in a 7-Eleven

Japan’s most expensive bank hides in a 7-Eleven

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
5:02 AM

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US gas stations and 7-Eleven stores may dominate ValueAct’s reasoning for taking a tilt at Seven & i (3382.T). The Japanese company, though, also owns more than 40 percent of the country’s most highly valued lender. Shares in $2.5 billion Seven Bank (8410.T) have underperformed, but it’s a curiously counterintuitive play on financial and immigration reform.

Years of negative benchmark interest rates have battered net loan margins at most Japanese financial institutions. The average Topix bank-index member trades at a parlous 30 percent of book value. Wandering overseas seeking better yields has proven dangerous. Nomura and Mitsubishi UFJ, for example, took massive hits from the collapse of US fund Archegos.

Seven Bank is blessedly insulated from monetary policy because it is literally a cash machine. Nearly all its income comes from fees generated by 25,676 domestic ATMs, most located inside 7-Elevens, which accounted for roughly 90 percent of its 137 billion yen ($1.25 billion) in revenue last year. It also has a smaller US ATM subsidiary. Its return on equity last year was an inspiring 11.3%, and it trades at an envy-inducing 1.2 times trailing book value.

Yet its return to shareholders over the past 12 months, including dividends, is negative 13%, and its EBITDA margin has been shrinking from 2015 to a ho-hum 36.2%. One issue is prime minister Yoshihide Suga’s digitisation push, part of which aims to reduce consumers’ notorious addiction to cash. Stressed lenders are already consolidating automatic teller footprints to save on costs. But Seven Bank, whose ATM transactions contracted in 2020, lives on paper money.

Yet investor pessimism might be excessive. The digitisation push is proceeding at a crawl. And as conventional banks shrink ATM footprints, those who prefer cash particularly millions of elderly Japanese could migrate to 7-Eleven machines.

At the same time Seven Bank is targeting the country’s rapidly growing population of immigrants, currently around 3 million, who local lenders are reluctant to bank. If management can entice enough foreigners to use its deposit and remittance services, fees from imported restaurant workers and elderly care providers could offset slowing cash withdrawals. It may even bolster its lending arm, which already produces a whopping 3 percent net interest margin, triple the national average per Refinitiv. With a little attention, Seven Bank might start looking like the best package on 7-Eleven’s shelf.

CONTEXT NEWS

ValueAct Capital said on May 13 that it had bought some 39 million shares in Japanese convenience store operator Seven & i. It followed an exclusive Reuters report that the activist investor had taken a 4.4 percent stake, lobbying for the 7-Eleven owner to consider changes including a breakup.

Seven Bank, a financial affiliate of the Seven & i group that runs ATMs in 7-Eleven convenience stores, on May 7 reported net income attributable to owners of the parent fell 0.8 percent to 26 billion yen for the fiscal year ending March 31.

Major Japanese banks with investment arms, including Nomura and Mitsubishi UFJ, have reported big losses this year related to their relationship with US investment fund Archegos. Nomura will book around $2.9 billion in losses, it said.

https://www.reuters.com/breakingviews/japans-most-expensive-bank-hides-7-eleven-2021-05-14/

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Japan to mention Taiwan stability in defense report for first time

Japan to mention Taiwan stability in defense report for first time

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
Kyodo |
5:02 AM

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Japan will mention the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait in its next annual defense report for the first time, as China’s military pressure on the self-ruled island intensifies, a draft of the document showed Thursday.

“The stability of the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for the security of Japan and the stability of the international community,” said the draft of the white paper, which is set to be formally brought forward at a Cabinet meeting and released in July.

Again touching on security concerns over China’s military development, the defense report is set to have a new section focusing on US-China relations, in which the government says “a change in the military power balance may impact regional peace and stability.”

The planned reference to Taiwan comes after prime minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden underscored in April “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

It marked the first time in 52 years that leaders of Japan and the United States have referred to Taiwan in a joint statement a move that immediately drew a protest from Beijing, which regards the island as a renegade province awaiting reunification by force if necessary.

The draft of the report states Chinese military planes have been active around Taiwan, while the United States has been increasingly supportive of the island such as by selling weapons and boosting the presence of the US military in the Taiwan Strait.

It warned that the trend favours China in terms of the military power balance between the country and Taiwan.

Also for the first time, the upcoming defense report is set to call repeated intrusions by Chinese vessels into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea as a “violation of international law.” China claims the uninhabited islands, calling them the Diaoyu.

China’s implementation of a new law in February that allows its coast guard to use weapons against ships it views as intruding into its territory is problematic under international law, it added.

On US-China relations, it said political, economic and military rivalry between them is becoming more apparent, adding that their military activities are growing active especially in the South China Sea.

Noting views that China is seeking to acquire advanced technologies from other countries for the development of its armed forces, the report said protection of them is another important issue Japan needs to deal with.

On North Korea, the paper said a ballistic missile Pyongyang launched in March was a “new type.”

It said North Korea is believed to have already acquired the capability to attack Japan with a nuclear ballistic missile and is also pushing ahead with the development of ballistic missiles with irregular trajectories.

As for international cooperation, it said Japan will strengthen cooperation with the United States, Australia and India four major democracies collectively known as the Quad to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/05/14/national/taiwan-stability-defense-white-paper/

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Japan expands and extends emergency measures as cases rise across the nation

Japan expands and extends emergency measures as cases rise across the nation

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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As the fourth wave of COVID-19 spreads beyond Japan’s largest cities, prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced Friday evening the state of emergency will be expanded to Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures effective Sunday through the end of May.

Quasi-emergency countermeasures will also be implemented in several cities in Gunma, Ishikawa and Kumamoto prefectures from Sunday until June 13, adding to a growing list of areas under such restrictions.

By next week, the country’s third state of emergency will be in place in nine prefectures and quasi-emergency measures will be active in 10 others.

The central government continues to expand and extend measures as highly contagious variants push the pandemic to unprecedented levels in several parts of the country.

Quasi-emergency measures were lifted in Miyagi earlier this week but extended until the end of May in Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Ehime and Okinawa prefectures. Gifu and Mie were later added to the list, as was Hokkaido.

In the areas where contingency measures are in effect, dining establishments are asked to close by 8 p.m. and residents asked to stay indoors and avoid nonessential travel.

Five other prefectures Fukushima, Ibaraki, Kagawa, Tokushima and Nagasaki have also asked for the authority to employ the quasi-emergency measures, but the central government has not yet given them the authority to do so.

On Friday, officials reported 854 new cases in Tokyo, 598 in Aichi, 593 in Hokkaido, 314 in Hyogo and 166 in Okayama. Osaka reported 576 cases, the first time it has logged less than 600 infections since April 5.

According to a top government official, Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki triggered the latest expansion of the state of emergency with a strong request in light of a rapid rise in new cases.

Suga declared the country’s third state of emergency in April in four prefectures Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo before expanding it to Aichi and Fukuoka, and extending it through the end of May.

Quasi-emergency measures that preceded that order failed to contain the rebound in new cases that emerged in March, only weeks after the country began to incrementally lift its second state of emergency.

Whether contingency efforts can prevent the need for the state of emergency to be extended and expanded further remains a major question.

“Considering the situation in several prefectures, perhaps a nationwide state of emergency is necessary,” Kamon Iizumi, governor of Tokushima Prefecture and president of the National Governors Association, said Wednesday during a teleconference with Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister leading the country’s response to the coronavirus.

During a meeting of the central government’s coronavirus subcommittee Friday, Nishimura initially suggested that contingency measures be expanded to five prefectures. But experts on the subcommittee insisted stronger measures were needed, resulting in the expanded state of emergency.

Still, the effectiveness of these measures remains the subject of heavy criticism. Public officials aren’t able to impose fines or criminal charges for disobeying virus measures except in cases when a business willfully resists repeated requests to close early or suspend operations meaning nearly all appeals for residents to stay indoors or avoid travel are voluntary.

Declaring a state of emergency also comes with sizable economic costs, and extending it and expanding it twice only adds to the fiscal pain.

The Daiichi Life Research Institute projected that expanding the order to three more prefectures will bring the total estimated cost of the state of emergency up to JPY 1 trillion.

The economic hit could cause up to 57,000 people to lose their jobs over the next three months.

New cases began to take off in Osaka and Hyogo in mid-March and began to steadily increase in Tokyo shortly afterward.

Mutated strains of the coronavirus namely the N501Y variant first reported late last year in the UK are close to overtaking the original virus in Osaka, Hyogo and Tokyo, where officials are checking positive COVID-19 tests using genomic screening and blood tests to retroactively detect variants.

According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the N501Y variant has been found to be 1.9 times more contagious abroad and 1.3 times more contagious in Japan.

Nishimura said Friday that the country aims to strengthen its capacity to screen for variants, including one that was first detected in India.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/05/14/national/state-emergency-expansion-three-prefectures/

Category: Japan

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Russia to send film crew, Japanese billionaire to space

Russia to send film crew, Japanese billionaire to space

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
AFP |
5:02 AM

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Russia said Thursday it would send an actress and a director into space to make the first feature film in the cosmos and also deliver an eccentric Japanese billionaire to the International Space Station.

Moscow is seeking to boost its embattled space programme, which has stagnated since the collapse of the Soviet Union and been overtaken by US tech billionaire Elon Musk’s company SpaceX.

The Russian space agency announced the film project after NASA confirmed last year it was teaming up with US action star Tom Cruise to make a movie on the ISS.

The Russian “space drama”, whose working title is “Challenge,” will feature popular Russian actress Yulia Peresild, 36, and Klim Shipenko, a 37-year-old US-educated director and actor, Roscosmos said.

They will have to undergo training, including tests on a centrifuge, parachute jumps and flights in zero gravity, starting no later than June 1.

A mockup of the Russian segment of the ISS will be used to prepare the film crew for their space adventure.

The launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft has been set for October 5.

“Wish us luck,” Peresild said in a post on Instagram.

The film is being co-produced by the flamboyant head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, and state-run network Channel One.

Konstantin Ernst, Channel One general director, said the film was part of a major project that will also include the production of documentary films to help Russians rediscover “love and passion” for the human spaceflight programme.

“If people love a certain industry then this energy is being channelled into this process,” Ernst said in televised remarks.

Japanese billionaire

The space agency also announced plans to take Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the ISS in December, resurrecting its space tourism programme in the face of US competition.

Maezawa, 45, who made his fortune in online retail, said he planned to document the mission and share it with the world on his YouTube channel with over 700,000 subscribers.

Roscosmos said Maezawa would make the flight with production assistant Yozo Hirano aboard a Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft that is scheduled for December 8.

“I’m so curious ‘What’s life like in space?’ So, I am planning to find out on my own and share with the world on my YouTube channel,” Maezawa was quoted as saying by Roscosmos.

The eccentric billionaire has previously announced plans to take eight people with him on a 2023 mission around the moon aboard a Starship spacecraft built by Musk’s SpaceX.

Maezawa and film producer Hirano will begin approximately three months of pre-flight training in June at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City outside of Moscow.

They have already passed the required medical examinations.

Roscosmos said the flight will last 12 days and the crew will be led by Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, who has already been on two missions to the ISS.

A total of eight private self-funded space travellers have visited the ISS and Maezawa will be the first from Japan.

His flight will also be the first time that two of the three spots on a Soyuz rocket will be occupied by tourists.

“We are excited for Maezawa-san and we are honoured to have enabled this opportunity for him to fly to space,” said Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures, a private spaceflight company.

It has cooperated with Roscosmos since the first space tourist flight in 2001.

Maezawa will be the first space tourist to travel to the ISS since 2009 when Canadian Guy Laliberte, co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, travelled to the station.

According to Forbes magazine, space tourists could pay anywhere between $20 million and $35 million per person for 8-12 days in space. The cost of Maezawa’s flight has not been disclosed.

The resumption of tourist flights comes after Roscosmos lost its monopoly on ferrying crews to the ISS when a reusable SpaceX rocket last year successfully delivered NASA astronauts to space.

Russia’s space industry has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years, from corruption scandals to lost spacecraft to an aborted take-off during a manned mission in 2018.

Russia’s ageing Soyuz rockets are reliable and allow Moscow to remain relevant in the modern space industry, but the country is struggling to innovate and keep up with other key players.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/russia-send-film-crew-japanese-132615147.html

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Japan finmin: Not considering compiling extra budget now to respond to coronavirus

Japan finmin: Not considering compiling extra budget now to respond to coronavirus

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
5:02 AM

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Japan’s government is not considering crafting a supplementary budget to respond to the coronavirus pandemic immediately given there’s still money left to tap in the emergency budget reserve, Finance minister Taro Aso said on Friday.

Earlier in the day, the cabinet decided to spend 512 billion yen ($4.67 billion) in the budget reserve to secure coronavirus vaccines to contain the spread of the COVID-19 infections, Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

($1 = 109.6000 yen)

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan-finmin-not-considering-compiling-extra-budget-now-respond-coronavirus-2021-05-14/

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Toshiba unit hacked by DarkSide, conglomerate to undergo strategic review

Toshiba unit hacked by DarkSide, conglomerate to undergo strategic review

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
5:02 AM

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A Toshiba Corp unit said it was hacked by the DarkSide ransomware group, overshadowing an announcement of a strategic review for the Japanese conglomerate under pressure from activist shareholders to seek out suitors.

Toshiba Tec Corp, which makes products such as bar code printers and is valued at $2.3 billion, was hacked by DarkSide the group widely believed to be behind the recent Colonial Pipeline attack, its French subsidiary said.

It added, however, that only a minimal amount of work data had been lost.

“There are around 30 groups within DarkSide that are attempting to hack companies all the time, and they succeeded this time with Toshiba,” said Takashi Yoshikawa, a senior malware analyst at Mitsui Bussan Secure Directions.

Employees accessing company computer systems from home during pandemic lockdowns have made firms more vulnerable to cyber attacks, he added.

Screenshots of DarkSide’s post provided by the cybersecurity firm said more than 740 gigabytes of information was compromised and included passports and other personal information.

Reuters could not access DarkSide’s public-facing website on Friday. Security researchers said DarkSide’s multiple websites had stopped being accessible.

Ransomware attacks have increased in number and amount of demands, with hackers encrypting data and seeking payment in cryptocurrency to unlock it. They increasingly release stolen data as well, or threaten to unless they are paid more.

Ireland’s health service said on Friday it had shut down its IT systems after what it described as a “significant” ransomware attack.

Investigators in the U.S’s Colonial case say the attack software was distributed by DarkSide, which includes Russian speakers and avoids hacking targets in the former Soviet Union. DarkSide lets “affiliates” hack into targets elsewhere, then handles the ransom negotiation and data release.

STRATEGIC REVIEW

Amid calls from shareholders to explicitly seek offers from potential suitors after dismissing a $20 billion take-private bid from CVC Capital this year, Toshiba said it was setting up a strategic review committee and had appointed UBS as financial adviser.

The review will be conducted by independent directors and is designed to help the board consider a new business plan to be put forward by management by October.

The CVC offer faced strong opposition within the company. Its plan to retain management was perceived by some as aimed at shielding former CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani from activist shareholders.

At a briefing by the company on Friday, 3D Investment Partners and Farallon Capital Management, its No. 2 and No. 3 shareholders respectively, both criticised Toshiba for appearing reluctant to consider offers to go private.

Chief Executive Satoshi Tsunakawa responded that the company has “no reluctance to consider various proposals to increase corporate value, including going private.”

Sources have said other private equity investors such as KKR & Co Inc and Bain Capital are interested in Toshiba.

However, the Asahi newspaper reported on Friday that Bain Capital is not considering buying Toshiba, citing an interview with Yuji Sugimoto, the head of Bain Capital’s Japan operations.

Battered by accounting scandals, massive writedowns for its US nuclear business as well as the sale of its chip unit, Toshiba is a shadow of its former self.

But it remains one of Japan’s few manufacturers of nuclear power reactors and makes defence equipment, meaning any sale of would require government approval.

Toshiba on Friday forecast a 63 percent rise in annual operating profit to 170 billion yen ($1.6 billion), rebounding from pandemic-induced pain in the last year and as restructuring measures bear fruit. That follows a 20 percent slide in profit last year.

Toshiba also nominated four new board members after Kurumatani resigned last month. Kurumatani had been under fire due to allegations that investors were pressured before a shareholder meeting last year to support desired board nominations.

Shareholders in March successfully voted for an independent investigation into those allegations, marking a watershed victory for corporate governance in Japan. The probe is due to conclude before this year’s annual general meeting on June 25.

The board nominations announced on Friday included George Olcott, a former UBS banker who is also an independent board member at Japanese beer maker Kirin Holdings.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/toshibas-european-business-hit-cyberattack-043922557.html

Category: Japan

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Japan to impose tougher COVID-19 restrictions in 5 more prefectures

Japan to impose tougher COVID-19 restrictions in 5 more prefectures

15-May-2021 Intellasia |
Kyodo News |
5:02 AM

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The Japanese government plans to impose tougher restrictions under a quasi-state of emergency in five more prefectures amid growing calls for quicker response to an increasing number of infections caused by highly contagious variants of the coronavirus, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.

The measures, expected to include telling restaurants to close early, will be in place from Sunday through June 13 in some municipalities in Gunma, Ishikawa, Okayama, Hiroshima and Kumamoto, the sources said.

The prefectures will be added to eight areas currently under a quasi-state of emergency Hokkaido, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Gifu, Mie, Ehime and Okinawa.

Concerns are growing over the worsening situation in Japan with less than three months until the Tokyo Olympics. Hospitals remain under increasing strain from the surge in infections, exacerbated by the spread of the highly contagious N501Y mutation, which accounts for more than 90 percent of infections in most parts of the country, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The National Governors’ Association earlier in the week voiced disapproval of the government’s slow implementation of a quasi-state of emergency and asked it to consider expanding a state of emergency nationwide.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters the government will consult with experts on Friday regarding the decision, adding he will also consider whether additional steps are needed on Hokkaido, which saw another record number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki said he plans to ask the government to declare a full-fledged emergency in the Hokkaido capital Sapporo, allowing him to impose stronger restrictions with bigger fines for noncompliance.

Six areas are currently under a full-fledged emergency Tokyo along with Aichi, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto and Fukuoka prefectures with tougher restrictions in place until the end of May.

But the government is instead looking to expand the number of cities on the northernmost main island covered by the quasi-state of emergency beyond Sapporo, where restaurants and karaoke establishments are being asked to close by 8 p.m. and refrain from serving alcohol, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Hokkaido reported 712 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, 499 of which were confirmed in Sapporo, with a total of six deaths from COVID-19.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with health minister Norihisa Tamura and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan’s coronavirus response, Suga said the situation on Hokkaido is “severe.”

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/05/ffd0369e5399-breaking-news-hokkaido-reports-record-712-new-daily-coronavirus-cases.html

Category: Japan

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