A Japanese pop group looks to shake off the stigma of being ‘chubby’

A unique concept is winning fame in the cutthroat Japanese music industry – a band of “chubby” girls deploying their cheeky cuteness to combat prejudices against obesity. Pottya is a pop group named after a slang word for chubby and consisting of four young women who are well above average weight in Japan. “People assume that being chubby is a sign of laziness or lack of self-discipline,” said Michiko Ohashi, the group’s heaviest member at 87kg. “I became an idol with the hope of changing that image. If they see us working to make our dreams come true, we can show that chubby people can work hard.” The members’ average weight is 76kg – 26kg over the Japanese average for women aged 13 to 18, according to the country’s health ministry.

WHAT NEXT? “I was quite attracted and overwhelmed with how lively their plus-size bodies move and dance,” said Tabo, a 36-year-old man who gave only his fan nickname. The group is an inspiration, said Miho Kishi, who was bullied about her weight as a child. “They’ve come out and are actually selling themselves as chubby, which has given us chubby women a lot of hope and courage,” said the 25-year-old.

Japan gives green light to casinos, prompting heated debate

Japan’s parliament passed a bill legalising casinos, paving the way for billions of dollars of potential investment after years of political wrangling. The bill, sponsored by a group of lawmakers mainly from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, would allow casino gambling in “integrated resorts” that include hotels and entertainment facilities. The revised casino bill was passed in both houses after hours of delaying tactics by the opposition. International gaming companies have been mulling investments in Japan amid a boom in tourism, particularly from China.

WHAT NEXT? Opponents of the bill, including members of Komeito, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, have argued that casinos could worsen the gambling problem and compromise public safety. Opposition parties have also railed against what they see as steamrolling of legislation through the current Diet session after debate on the bill was scrapped. “[The casino bill] threatens the dignity of the legislature, so we want to find a way for it to be scrapped,” Democratic Party leader Renho told a party meeting. Details of the so-called integrated resorts must be laid out in a separate bill before any casinos can be built, meaning none is likely to open in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The poorest 10 per cent of Vietnamese students outperform U.S. teenagers

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of its 2015 global rankings on student performance in mathematics, reading, and science, on the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA. Once again, the US did poorly compared with other countries and territories, outranked by 38 countries in maths, 24 in science, and 22 in reading. The results are especially stark when comparing the figures to much poorer countries, noted Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the OECD. “The 10 per cent of the most disadvantaged children in Vietnam ... do better than the average American child,” he said.

WHAT NEXT? This is a theme US president-elect Donald Trump repeatedly hammered on during his campaign: “We are rated 28 in the world. The United States, think of it, 28 in the world,” he said in a video he uploaded to Facebook earlier this year. “Third-world countries are ahead of us.” Schleicher said it’s not a matter of spending more money on education. “It’s a lot to do with how to invest those resources,” he said. “Whenever these [poorer] countries have to make a choice between, you know, a better teacher and a smaller class, they invest in the capacity, they invest in teaching.”

Video website YouTube blocks North Korean state broadcaster’s channel

YouTube has blocked North Korea’s state television channel, which broadcasts videos on everything from nuclear tests to Kim Jong-un’s outings, to avoid breaching American sanctions against Pyongyang. “This account has been terminated for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines,” said a message on the Korean Central Television channel’s page. YouTube’s community guidelines ban videos that include violent, sexual or harmful content, or breach copyright. Google also asks users to flag content on that may violate the law.

WHAT NEXT? The Washington Post understands that Google, YouTube’s parent company, blocked the channel to avoid breaching sanctions, but the company has so far declined to comment. “We don’t comment on individual videos or channels,” said Taj Meadows, head of communications in Asia for Google, “but we do disable accounts that violate our terms of service or community guidelines, and when we are required by law to do so”. The action was apparently taken because the North Korean regime could earn money from advertising.

Duterte says he personally killed people to show cops how it’s done

Duterte claims to have personally killed suspected criminals

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he personally killed suspected criminals when he was mayor of Davao to set an example for police. Duterte made the comments in a speech to businessmen as he discussed his campaign to eradicate illegal drugs that has seen police and unknown assailants kill thousands of people since he became president in June. “In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys (police) that if I can do it why can’t you,” Duterte said. Later, the Philippine justice secretary said Duterte exaggerated the killings of criminals he supposedly carried out to send a warning to lawbreakers.

WHAT NEXT? The Philippines has cancelled a trip next year by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings to look into the war on drugs, foreign minister Perfecto Yasay said. “If they will not comply with the conditions of our president ... then the trip will not push through,” said Yasay. He did not say what the conditions were, although Duterte has said he wants to challenge rapporteur Agnes Callamard to a public debate. The government asked Callamard, “why the focus is on the Philippines, when there are other nations responsible for the death of innocent and defenceless individuals elsewhere in the world?”.

Compiled by Benjamin O’Rourke