Foreigners offered less surprising Japanese toilet experience
Navigating the array of buttons on Japan’s hi-tech toilets can be a disconcerting experience for the uninitiated who, expecting to hear a familiar flushing sound, are instead subjected to a sudden, and unwanted, cleansing of the nether regions. As Japan prepares for an influx of overseas visitors during the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, the country’s sanitation industry has agreed to standardise pictograms on toilets so users know for certain if they are about to receive a blast of warm air or jet of water. Nine manufacturers will soon start using the same eight symbols to explain the buttons found on their state-of-the-art toilets.
What next? The eight new symbols will show users how to flush, open and close the lid, activate the (front and back) cleaning and drying functions, and trigger the off switch. They will be on toilets sold in Japan from April.
Duterte suggests Filipino priests and bishops should give meth a try
Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, has suggested the country’s Catholic priests and bishops should take the highly addictive drug crystal methamphetamine, as he accused them of hypocrisy for criticising his deadly drug war. Duterte launched his broadside in response to the powerful Catholic Church mounting a campaign to stop the killings in his anti-drugs drive, which has killed about 6,000 people in less than seven months. “The [critical] priests should take shabu to understand. I recommend one or two of the bishops take it also,” Duterte said, using the local term for crystal meth, the country’s most common illegal drug.
Duterte said that while parish priests around the country were well aware of the extent of the illegal drug problem, their leaders who had been railing against extrajudicial killings were clueless.
What next? After largely keeping quiet over the drug war for months, church leaders are now heading a campaign to have their flock denounce the killings. Over the coming weeks, the church also plans to train widows and other female relatives of men killed in mainly slum communities to document the deaths so they can bring criminal charges against police.
Samsung heir avoids arrest in Presidential corruption probe
A South Korean court on Thursday refused to authorise the arrest of the heir to the Samsung business empire, in a setback for prosecutors probing a corruption scandal engulfing President Park Geun-hye. Officials on Monday sought the arrest of Lee Jae-yong on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury. Lee, who became Samsung’s de facto head after his father suffered a heart attack in 2014, is accused of bribing Choi Soon-sil, Park’s secret confidante at the centre of the scandal, and receiving policy favours from Park in return. But the court rejected the request on grounds of insufficient evidence, which could mar investigators’ plan to question Park – impeached by parliament last month – on charges of bribery.
What next? As well as the investigation into Park, the decision could weaken prosecutors’ probes into the heads of other conglomerates implicated in the scandal, said Choi Chang-ryul, a professor of politics at Yong In University. “It would be far easier for prosecutors to quiz Lee if they had him under detention, and eventually build a bribery case against Park as well,” Choi said.
Philippines says officers killed South Korean, but kept up ransom demands
Police officers in the Philippines kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman, before leading his wife to believe he was still alive for months so as to extort money from her, authorities said on Wednesday. Lee Ick-joo, 53, disappeared from his home in the northern city of Angeles in October last year, and his wife initially paid a ransom of 5 million pesos (HK$778,000). But Jee was strangled to death and burned to ashes at a crematorium owned by a former police officer on the day he was abducted, the South Korean foreign ministry said, citing a report from the Philippine government. The abductors demanded a ransom of 8 million pesos on October 30, 12 days after Jee was killed. Jee’s wife paid 5 million pesos but the kidnappers then demanded another 4.5 million pesos and continued to say he was alive.
What next? The case has sparked criticism from some legislators and commentators in the Philippines, and been cited as an example of corrupt policemen in the country expanding their illegal activities after being given freedoms by President Rodrigo Duterte to prosecute his war on drugs. Duterte has encouraged police officers to kill drug traffickers and addicts, and vowed to shield them from prosecution.
Rolls-Royce bribery case sparks probes in Thailand and Indonesia
Thai Airways on Thursday said it was investigating revelations that Rolls-Royce paid millions of dollars in bribes to win contracts, including to airline and government staff. On the same day, Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency named the former CEO of the country’s flag-carrier Garuda a suspect for allegedly receiving bribes from Rolls-Royce while head of the airline. This all follows the renowned British engine-maker agreeing to pay a US$808 million (HK$6.3 billion) fine in Britain, the US and Brazil to settle bribery and corruption claims.
What next? Thai Airways said in a statement the company would “gather information from all the sources in order to investigate the matter thoroughly”.
Purchase means Australia’s breakfast staple returns home
Vegemite, the salty yeast-based spread made – and beloved – in Australia, is returning Down Under after decades of US ownership. An acquired taste for foreigners, Vegemite on toast is a staple of Australian breakfast tables. On Thursday, cheesemaker Bega announced the A$460 million (US$346 million) purchase of most of Mondelez International’s Australia and New Zealand grocery business, including Vegemite.
What next? Even haute cuisine has got in on the act, with British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal putting an experimental Vegemite-inspired ice cream on his menu for an Australia Day lunch next week in Melbourne.