Britain seeks a million 'Dementia Friends'

CameronBritain is seeking a million “dementia friends” who will be trained to understand the illness and help those living with it, Prime Minister David Cameron announced Thursday.

The plan is one of a host of measures aimed at dealing with dementia as the country braces for the side effects of longer lifespans. British government officials say a quarter of hospital beds are already occupied by someone with dementia; the number of people with dementia is expected to double in the next three decades. 

“There are already nearly 700,000 sufferers in England alone but less than half are diagnosed and general awareness about the condition is shockingly low,” Cameron said.

The British numbers mirror global trends that are putting new pressures on health systems and families worldwide, as better healthcare leads to longer lives and more cases of ailments associated with aging.

Earlier diagnosis of dementia can help patients find ways to cope with the illness and reduce costs for care, health researchers have found, but stigma often steers people away from diagnosis.The World Health Organization estimates that even in wealthy countries, only 20% to 50% of cases are routinely recognized.

“Through the Dementia Friends project we will for the first time make sure a million people know how to spot those telltale signs and provide support,” Cameron said.
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Japan politicians play 'game of chicken' over financial cliff

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
TADANOUMI, Japan -- Locked in a political standoff over a crucial budget bill, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is under mounting pressure to hasten elections -- a step likely to push his party out of power.

The budget bill, which would allow the Japanese government to borrow more than $480 billion, is needed to plug a gaping deficit that could force the country to make sweeping cuts. The government called an extra session of parliament to try to pass the bill this fall, warning that Japan could run out of money in November if lawmakers don’t patch the hole.

But opponents of Noda and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan have argued that the prime minister should first set the date for general elections, which would likely put his increasingly unpopular party in jeopardy.

Noda is not required to call elections until next summer but promised in August to do so “soon” to win opposition backing for other bills. Shinzo Abe, president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, insisted Wednesday that Noda should dissolve the lower house of parliament before the end of the year. The opposition has so far blocked the budget bill in protest.

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Billions for Japan tsunami recovery went elsewhere, reports find

Japan  reconstruction
TADANOUMI, Japan -- Billions of dollars meant to help Japan recover from its devastating tsunami went to government projects that had little or nothing to do with the disaster, a new spending review shows.

Japanese politicians have questioned why millions went to a factory that makes contact lenses, or why money was spent to fend off  environmental activists opposed to whaling, or other projects in areas far removed from the tsunami. Local media have dug up numerous  examples of dubious spending, from renovating government buildings outside the disaster zones to job training in  prisons.

All in all, government documents show roughly one out of every four dollars budgeted for reconstruction went to unrelated projects, and more than half has not been allocated at all, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. An outside analysis by recovery expert Yoshimitsu Shiozaki found the same pattern of spending on projects outside the disaster zones.

PHOTOS: Japan hit by magnitude 9.0 earthquake

The funds were originally earmarked solely for the stricken areas, but the government ultimately loosened the rules, saying the money could also be used to bolster the economy and prepare for future disasters nationwide. The reconstruction money was up for grabs at a time when government agencies were downsizing, making it a tempting spigot of cash.

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Tokyo governor resigns to form new party, run for parliament

IshiharaBEIJING -- Shintaro Ishihara, the strident governor of Tokyo who helped touch off a major dispute between China and Japan over some uninhabited islets near Taiwan, announced Thursday that he was quitting his post and forming a new political party.

Ishihara, 80, told reporters at a news conference in Tokyo that he wanted to return to parliament and said he would run in the next election for the House of Representatives, Japan's lower house.

Ishihara has served as Tokyo governor since 1999, following a quarter of a century in parliament. Known as a fierce nationalist and co-author of the 1989 book "The Japan That Can Say No," he has pushed for Japan to rewrite its pacifist constitution and advocated acquiring nuclear weapons.

Last spring, he announced his intention to have his metropolitan government purchase three islands -– known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China -– from a Japanese family that has administered them in recent decades. China claims the islands as its territory, and some believe the nearby seabed holds significant energy reserves.

Japan's national government, fearing that Ishihara might attempt to build structures on the outcroppings or otherwise develop them and try to change the status quo, announced in September that it would buy the islands. That "nationalization" set off a serious diplomatic row with China and sparked violent protests in scores of Chinese cities that have seriously damaged economic ties with Japan.

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Okinawa rape charges add to tensions over U.S. military presence

Okinawa police arrested two American sailors on allegations of rape Tuesday, the latest politically sensitive case to add to longstanding tensions over the U.S. military presence on the Japanese island.

The two sailors allegedly followed a woman as she walked home from work in the early morning hours on Tuesday, chased her down and assaulted her, also injuring her neck, Okinawa police told Japanese media. The sailors have been identified as Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker of the Fort Worth Naval Air Base in Texas, according to the Associated Press.

Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto called it “an extremely egregious and vile incident” Wednesday, saying the U.S. military must have failed in training its personnel, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

Okinawa officials said the U.S. military must make concrete changes to stop repeated attacks. The alleged crime echoes a similar allegation against U.S. personnel in August. Such crimes have been politically explosive in the past: The 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by American servicemen ignited mass protests in Japan and eventually prompted pledges to shut down an airfield on the island.

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Shinzo Abe, hawkish former Japanese leader, eyes return to power

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was elected as head of the Liberal Democratic Party, a move that could pave the way for the hawkish politician to return as the nation's leader if elections are called this fall

BEIJING -- Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was elected as head of the Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday, a move that could pave the way for the hawkish politician to return as the nation's leader if elections are called this fall.

Should he return to office, Abe could further test Japan's relations with China and South Korea, which recently have been strained over territorial disputes and other matters.

A staunch nationalist, Abe has called for Japan to take a firm line with its neighbors and tighten its alliance with the United States. He has also pushed to revise the nation's pacifist constitution.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is facing dismal public poll numbers and increasing opposition within parliament. Although he is not required to call elections until next summer, he has promised to do so "soon."

Noda has scored some political victories, such as winning support from opposition parties for a tax hike to fund social security costs in the rapidly aging nation. But he has faltered on other fronts as his party has been beset by infighting.

Noda, the third DPJ prime minister in three years, has faced criticism over the economy and what's widely perceived as a wishy-washy stance on a government plan to phase out nuclear power. In recent weeks, he has been forced to deal with a dispute with China over some islands, which threatens to seriously damage trade between the world's No. 2 and No. 3 economies.

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Chinese cancel ceremony in anger at Japanese claims to islands

Taiwan-protestBEIJING — China has canceled a ceremony scheduled for this week to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan in anger over Tokyo’s claims to a disputed cluster of islets in the East China Sea.

"Due to the current situation, the Chinese side has decided that the reception commemorating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations will be postponed until an appropriate time," the official New China News Agency reported Sunday, quoting an unnamed official of the Chinese People’s Assn. for Friendship With Foreign Countries.

The agency left open the possibility that the reception, originally scheduled for Thursday, would be held at an "appropriate time."

Chinese officials are angry over the Japanese government’s plans to buy three of the islands -- called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese -- in a move that would effectively nationalize the property. The island chain lies between Taiwan and Okinawa and has been contested for more than a century.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei at a regular briefing on Friday hinted that the reception would be canceled. “Due to Japan's erroneous action of illegally buying the Diaoyu Islands, many plans have been ruined, and many activities have been affected at present,” he said.

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Must Reads: Guerrilla artists, China protests and uneasy Aleppo

Protestchina

From Somali guerrilla artists to Chinese protesters, here are five stories you shouldn't miss from this past week in global news:

Somalia guerrilla artists dare to paint reality

China government's hand seen in anti-Japan protests

Critics in Britain see 'lopsided' U.S. extradition treaty

In South Africa, the poor feel betrayed by ruling ANC party

In Syria, Aleppo residents grapple with hardship, uncertainties

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Chinese demonstrators protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday. Credit: Diego Azubel / European Pressphoto Agency


Japanese businesses close in China in face of protests

China-protests
BEIJING — Japanese factories, restaurants, mini-marts and clothing retailers across China closed en masse Tuesday as protests continued in nearly 100 cities over a territorial fight between the two nations centered on some uninhabited islands near Taiwan.

Nissan, Honda, Toyota and Mazda suspended operations at some plants, as did Sony. Hundreds of 7-Eleven shops run by a Japanese company were shuttered, as were dozens of outlets of the popular Gap-like Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo. Eateries serving Japanese food -- even those with Chinese owners and staff -- closed as well, shaken by weekend demonstrations that saw protesters overturning Japanese cars, looting businesses and setting factories on fire.

Anti-Japan protests, stoked by animus dating back more than a century and often sanctioned by the Chinese authorities, arise periodically in China. But this week’s gatherings have been the largest and most violent since at least 2005.

While Tuesday’s marches were more orderly than those over the weekend and many observers believed the worst mayhem had passed, there was mounting concern that the economic fallout was just beginning.

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Panetta in China for high-level talks, tour of naval base

Panetta
BEIJING -- Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived here Monday for three days of high-level talks with Chinese officials, including Vice President Xi Jinping, who dropped out of sight earlier this month amid speculation he was having health problems.

Chinese officials informed the Pentagon only a few days ago that Panetta would be able to meet with Xi, who is widely considered to be the country's next top leader.

It was an indication that China's civilian leadership sees Panetta's visit -- his first to China as defense secretary -- as an important one at a time when the Obama administration is beefing up the U.S. military presence in the region and territorial disputes between Beijing and its neighbors have raised tensions.

Earlier this month, a planned meeting between Xi and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was canceled by the Chinese. At the time, Xi had not been seen in public since early September, and there was speculation he had suffered a mild stroke. He reappeared last weekend.

"We have expressed an interest in meeting with the vice president," a U.S. defense official told reporters traveling with Panetta. Panetta met with Xi earlier this year at the Pentagon and was hopeful for a "continuation of the dialogue," the official said.

Panetta will also meet with Gen. Liang Guanglie, the defense minister, and with Dai Bingguo, the state councilor and a senior foreign policy and security official.

The high-level meetings will give Panetta a chance to "listen to concerns that the Chinese leadership has" about the new U.S. defense strategy focus on Asia and "to seek to address them," said the U.S. official, who spoke anonymously because he was previewing the visit.

Chinese officials also confirmed in recent days that Panetta would be allowed to tour a naval base in Qingdao, headquarters of the country's northern fleet. He will be allowed to go aboard a Chinese frigate and a submarine, U.S. officials said. He is the first U.S. Defense secretary permitted to visit the facility, they said.

To accommodate that part of the trip, Panetta is staying an extra day in China, leaving Thursday for New Zealand, officials said.

The talks with Chinese officials come after the U.S. announced it was putting a new radar installation in southern Japan, a move that U.S. officials say is aimed at better detecting North Korean missiles but which is likely to raise concerns in China that it is the target of the expanding U.S. missile defense system in the region.

PHOTOS: Anti-Japan protests in China

Panetta is also arriving amid tensions between Japan and China over their contested claims to an East China Sea island chain, called the Senkaku Islands by the Japanese and the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese.

Panetta will press the Chinese officials to ease tensions over the islands and other territorial disputes with neighbors in the South China Sea, said the U.S. official who spoke anonymously.

"It's an opportunity to hear from the Chinese themselves about what their intentions are," he said.

ALSO:

China wary of U.S. military moves in Asia-Pacific

Anti-Japan protests in China spread to more cities

China plays up Xi Jinping's reappearance for foreign media

-- David S. Cloud

Photo: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta is welcomed by Chinese military leaders after his arrival at Beijing International Airport on Monday. Credit: Larry Downing / Associated Press


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