2016.12.01 English

1 Sir Ralph Kohn
2 USA Election: Recount in 3 Battleground States and Global Uncertainty.
3 China Takes the Lead
4 Diabetes UK: 65 people die each day.
5 Let’s All Join the 150 Year Old Club
6 Brexit
7 UK Child Abuse Scandal
8 Japan News
9 Japanese Efficiency
10 Most Popular UK Surnames

1 Sir Ralph Kohn
Sir Ralph Kohn, eminent medical scientist, philanthropist and baritone singer, and a good friend of Sunstar, died peacefully after a short illness, days before his 89th birthday.

Sir Ralph’s family escaped the Nazis and came to England. At University he studied pharmacology and was awarded a PHD. He then worked with Nobel Prize winning scientists in Rome, New York and London, before setting up his own respected and successful drug testing business the ‘Advisory Service’. His company flourished and he received the Queen’s award for Export Achievement.

He married Zahava Kanarek, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen and had three children.

Sir Ralph was a polymath. He spoke fluent French, English, German, Italian and Yiddish, and he was also an accomplished musician. He trained with Beniamino Gigli in Rome, gave many performances at world renowned venues and recorded 16 CDs.

He was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006 and Knighted by the Queen in 2010. In 2004 he was invited to be on the prestigious BBC radio programme Desert Island Disc, where famous people are asked to chose their all time favourite records.

Sir Ralph and the family had close links with Sunstar and with the Kanada family.
A representative of Sunstar attended the funeral and brought the condolences of Sunstar to Lady Zahava and her daughters.

I am including a YouTube video of a historical important lecture given by Lady Zahava and her daughter Hepzibah Rodofsky about her concentration camp experience.

Both the London Times and The Telegraph published extensive obituaries.
Wikipedia biography is included for your information.

2 USA Election: Recount in 3 Battleground States and Global Uncertainty.
A recount challenge in three battle-ground States (Pensilvania, Wisconsin and Michigan) gives a little hope to US progressives still reeling from Trump’s shock victory, but the omens are not good. Clinton would have to win in all three states to overturn the result. Meanwhile President elect Trump continues in the task of selecting the men and women who will be his advisors in the White House. With Republican majorities in both Congress and the Senate and Trump nominating right-wingers to the Supreme Court, there is little doubt that the regime which will be inaugurated by the billionaire property tycoon, now champion of the common people and scourge of the elites, will bring a big wind of change to the US political landscape. Commentators are drawing parallels between former PM Berlusconi, another tycoon, that got into power and Donald Trump. The Washington Post: Trump is America’s Berlusconi

Two major “Western Leaders” Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were at their most diplomatic in welcoming Trump’s success. PM Abe, no doubt concerned about TTP and the importance of strong links to the US in the face of Chinese territorial ambitions, was quick off the mark to New York to meet Trump. Both men said it was a friendly and open meeting, though both chose not to divulge the content of their discussion. Angela Merkel on the other had a very well crafted message in which she said: “Germany and America are bound by common values — democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin colour, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments.”

However storm clouds are gathering over Europe. On December 4th Austria will hold the re-run of its Presidential Election. Last time Norbert Hofer, the populist far-right candidate of the “Freedom Party” was defeated by a whisker, but the vote was declared null because of an irregularity with the postal vote. Should he win in December it will be the first time since the war that a major European country is headed by a party of the far right. Meanwhile on the same day Italy will go to the polls to decide on the Constitutional Reforms proposed by their PM Matteo Renzi. Should the Referendum result go against him and he resigns as he has promised to do, Italy will be in crisis. This could be a boost for the anti-Euro Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement). The three main Italian opposition parties are against the Euro and should any of them attain power it is likely that they will try to take Italy out of the single currency. It is questionable if the Euro would survive.

Trump’s Election has been welcomed by the European Far Right parties. The UK’s Nigel Farage, was in the US giving support to Trump during the election and was photographed laughing with the President Elect in Trump Tower’s golden lift, but it is in France and the Netherlands were the next shocks could be felt. On March 17 the Dutch will go to the polls and the far right, anti EU and anti immigration politician Geert Wilders is just behind in the polls. Next will be the French Presidential Elections. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the nationalist, anti-EU and anti-immigration Front Nationale, was one of the first to congratulate Trump on his victory. The election is to be held on April 23 and should no candidate get over 50% of votes then a run-off will be held between to two frontrunners two weeks later. Commentators believe that she will be in the top two in the first round, but lose in the second round. After Brexit and Trump it is a brave person who will make a strong bet. Should Le Pen win, Europe will be in serious crisis. Can Marine Le Pen win?

3 China Takes the Lead

One of President Trump Elect first acts was to declare he will abandon the TPP agreement. This free trade deal between 12 Pacific region countries, and excluding China, was the mainstay of Obama’s Asian Pivot Policy. Attending the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting in Peru, China was pushing their Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement (RCEP) which up to now had not included the Americas. Speaking in Peru a senior member of the Chinese delegation announced that Peru and Chile would now be joining. The APEC final communique stated that both TTP are the RCEP are both valid routes to promote free trade in the Pacific Rim. As the US seems to chose a more isolationist route, China seeks to take advantage.

4 Diabetes

65 people each day die because of complications due to diabetes. UK Diabetes, the national charity, stated that it is the biggest epidemic of our time. 4.5 million people suffer from Diabetes 1 and 2. The government and the national health service are beginning to recognise the importance of early detection and intervention.

5 Lets All Join the 150 Year Old Club?

Evidence now suggests that one of the major drivers of the ageing process is an accumulation of molecular and cellular damage throughout the body. Treat this, and there is a real possibility of banishing age-related illness and of humans reaching the age of 150. The accumulation of biological waste products that disrupt processes in cells seems to be one factor in the damage we call “ageing”.
Research has also found that telomeres, the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, protect our DNA from becoming frayed. With time they become shorter and eventually become so short they stop working and the cell begins to malfunction in ways associated with disease and “ageing”.

Diet is a key factor is maintaining the health of our DNA. Japan and the Greek island of Ikaria are examples of places were people reach an older age. Some have emphasised superfoods, but experts are talking about combinations of foods. They believe contributing dietary factors on the Okinawan plate include regular eating of squid and octopus (high in cholesterol-reducing taurine), sweet potatoes (rich in flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin E and lycopene) and a local bitter melon – called goya – that has been shown to reduce blood sugar in diabetics. This very interesting article in the UK Telegraph is well worth reading.

6 UK: Child Abuse Scandal Continues
Apart from the usual celebrity gossip, the big story, other than Brexit, continues to be about ‘child abuse’ perpetrated by men in authority: be they teachers, priests or TV personalities. The latest scandal is about a number of top footballers who have come out to say that they were abused by their sports coaches. The UK has been rocked by abuse scandals. A far reaching enquiry ordered by the Government has seen four of its Chairs resign because of disagreements. Even the BBC had to face up to the fact that the late Jimmy Savile, one of its biggest stars, a friend of Prime Ministers and celebrities, abused hundreds of children under their very noses.

7 Brexit
Parliament, both Commons and Lords, are now trying to understand the detail of the negotiations which will follow. Stage one will be the triggering of Article 50 and the “divorce”: negotiations between UK and EU.
For now the British economy seems to be withstanding the shock of Brexit. Unemployment is at an all-time low, growth higher than predicted and the stock market is doing well. However Sterling has fallen and prices are beginning to rise and the Government has accepted independent economic figures indicating that the country will need to borrow an extra £70 billion in the next 5 years. InFacts is a very good website produced by top UK journalists about different aspects of Brexit.

8 Japan News
Japan News is a most interesting BBC webpage drawing attention to news about Japan. This week they cover Tokyo getting its first November snow dusting in 54 years; the story the newsreader Mao Kobayashi who is writing a blog about her cancer experience; and an article about how the elderly people are encouraged to hand over their driving licences in exchange for good ramen.

9 Common Surnames in UNITED Kingdom

A new UK study has revealed that many surnames were associated with occupations such as Baker, Tanner or Smith (blacksmith), and others had to do with location for example Green, Hill or simply denoting a relationship such as Jackson or Johnson (son of). Interestingly there were 100,000 people in the UK with the Indian name Patel .

10 UK Astonished by Japanese Speed
The UK is notoriously slow at approving infrastructure projects. The British side of Eurostar was modernised only 10 years after the official opening, and the government is still discussing building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. In fact the last runway built in the UK was some 60 years ago and discussion about a third runway at Heathrow started in 1978 and is still ongoing.

Same goes for the construction of a High Speed train (HS2) linking London to Scotland. The decision has now been taken, although the line will be built in stages and the route is still not defined . Opposition is huge. Landowners don’t want to sell, villagers that don’t want the line near them (NIMBIES: Not In My Back Yard), and townspeople don’t want the train to go near their shops.

So examples of Japanese efficiency are always welcome. The London Guardian was astonished that only one week after the Fukuoka Sink Hole had appeared, with the usual Japanese efficiency, the road had been repaired and the re-opened to the public.
Fukuoka Sink Hole: The Guardian


SUNSTAR Japan Focus, November 2016 No 7

This is the monthly Japan edition of Global news, giving greater emphasis on news about Japan. As of next month we hope to be able to have past editions available on our website to make it easier for you to refer back.
Thank you also to the many of you who have sent me comments and feedback. This has been most helpful.

With my best wishes

Giampi Alhadeff

In this week’s digest
1 Trump Defies the Polls to Become 45th USA President
2 Japan Reacts to Donald trump’s Victory
3 Brexit gets messy
4 Aung San Suu Kyi in Japan
5 Philippino President Duterte in Tokyo Talk
6 Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins in Vietnam
7 Ramen Chain Yamagoya Opens Restaurant in London
8 Japan to Conduct Unprecedented Racism Survey
9 So the Mexicans do not work harder than the Japanese?
10 Japan News in the UK in Brief


1 Trump Defies the Polls to Become USA 45th President.

Donald Trump has defied all predictions by beating Hillary Clinton to become the USA’s 45th President. Opinion polls and exit polls got the shock result very wrong. Trump pulled off, in his own words, “BrexitX10”. After a most acrimonious campaign, which plumbed new depths in dirty politics and in spite of the various scandals and gaffes which beset him Trump won the Electoral College vote, though Clinton was just ahead in the popular vote. It is too early to tell what this upset will mean for global peace, stability and prosperity, but the signs are not good. BBC Report on the Election Result.

Two articles well worth reading in the Financial Times. Donald Trump’s Victory Challenges the Western Democratic Model Please google Trump victory challenges Western Democratic Model.
Also worth reading 7 Trump Policies that Could Change the US. Once again please Google the title of the article.
2 Japan Reacts to Trump’s Victory

During his campaign, Donald Trump painted Japan as a trade rival to the United States, called the Japan-U.S. security treaty unfair and expressed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, which Prime Minister Abe has pushed to ratify as soon as possible.

Shortly before Trump declared victory, the Japanese government’s top spokesman said Tokyo would continue to work to bring the TPP into force. Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim nations agreed the deal in February but are yet to ratify it. PM Shinzo Abe then sent a message of congratulations to Donald Trump stressing the importance of the links between the two countries. Shinzo Abe’s Statement in full.


3 Brexit Gets Messy

It started with a simple truth that without any certainty regarding the trading relationship between the UK and the EU. Nissan, now the UK’s largest car manufacturer (488K cars 55% going to the EU) was not going to build the new Qashqai car in one of the UK’s poorest regions. The UK government gave assurances that Nissan would not be disadvantaged by Brexit. Other manufacturers are now asking for similar terms. What is at stake is unfettered access to Europe’s Single Market. No customs, no barriers and no tariffs. Without it UK exports will suffer. Why Brexit is so Important to Nissan.

Theresa May had hidden behind the motto “Brexit means Brexit” and saying that she would not disclose her negotiating hand or give a running commentary on the negotiations. Parliament was not having it and before long the Government agreed that they would allow it to scrutinise the Brexit deal and to vote on it. Then a legal case brought by ordinary citizens went to the UK’s High Court that ruled that Parliament would have to vote on the start of negotiations with the EU. The Government has challenged the ruling and the UK’s Supreme Court is due to give its verdict in early December. It is all looking a lot less straightforward than on June 24th. Many of the UK’s newspapers reacted to the Judges’ decision with fury, with one paper, The Daily Mail headlining the judges as the “enemies of the people.” Guardian on Reactions to the High court Ruling.


4 Aung San Suu Kyi the Myamar Leader in Japan

Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Japan on Tuesday to court investment and aid, as an upsurge in violence against a persecuted Muslim minority at home posed the worst crisis of her six months in power and brought U.S. criticism.

Myanmar needs Japanese investment and robust bilateral ties as a counterweight to China, its largest trading partner. Japan, for its part, is eager to seek opportunities in meeting Myanmar’s extensive infrastructure and development needs, a Japanese foreign ministry official told reporters.

Nearly 50 years of economic mismanagement by the military dictatorship has left the country’s roads, airports and electricity supply shattered. Japan never imposed trade and financial sanctions against the country. As a result, Japan already has a significant presence, centred around the Japan-led Thilawa Special Economic Zone.

In the fiscal year ending in March 2015, Japanese direct investment in Myanmar totalled $86 million, according to the Foreign Ministry. Exports from Myanmar were worth $513 million, mainly clothing and agricultural products, while Myanmar imports from Japan were worth $1.3 billion, largely cars and machinery. Reuters report of the visit.


5 Philippino President Duterte in Tokyo

Rodrigo’s Duterte, the Philippines shoot-from-the-hip President who was upsetting the US by cozying up to China, was at it again upon arrival in Tokyo. Before meeting PM Shinzo Abe he told a meeting of business men that he intended to get rid of US troops from his country within two years. His tone somewhat softened after meeting PM Shinzo Abe, who must have impressed on him the importance of keeping Chinese territorial ambitions in the South China Seas in check. NY Times Report on the Visit.


6 Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins in Vietnam

Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins has expressed strong support for a peaceful solution using international law to growing tensions in the South China Sea. Vietnam and China are in dispute over the resources-rich area known as the Paracels archipelago. The area is a great cause of tension between China and its neighbours. The Irish Times.


7 Ramen Chain Yamagoya Opens in London

The famous Kyushu ramen chain Yamagoya, founded in Fukuoka in 1969, has opened a restaurant in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, just off China Town. The restaurant will be serving its signature dish of handmade noodles in tonkotsu broth, pork belly, marinated bamboo shoots, nori seaweed and egg. Japanese food has become one of the most popular cuisines in the UK capital. Evening Standard.


8 Japan to Conduct Unprecedented Racism Survey

Japan is to ask thousands of foreigners about their encounters with racism as the country adapts to a record number of non-Japanese residents and tourists.

In an unprecedented survey, the justice ministry will ask 18,500 foreign residents aged over 17 to describe their experiences of being discriminated against in the workplace or in their free time, and how they would like the government to respond, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported. They will also be asked if they have witnessed racist incidents.

The number of foreign residents in Japan stands at about 2.3 million – or 2% of the population – and a record 20 million foreign tourists have visited the country so far this year.

International pressure on Japan to take racism more seriously has grown amid a rise in reports of hate speech in the past three years, mostly targeting members of its large ethnic Korean population. The Guardian.


9 So the Mexicans do not work harder than the Japanese?

Many thanks to Nagayuki Miyabayashi-san, from Sunstar Etoy, who sent me a most useful comment on my report of the OECD findings showing that Mexicans work more than the Japanese. He tells me that the problem is that the OECD statistics include part-time workers and that this has a huge impact on their statistics.

Part-time workers (mainly women) and the decrease of average working hours among part-timers is hugely impacting on the data. The figures are also affected by variations in retirement age, length of time in study, and public holidays. When all this is taken into account Japanese men have the longest daily working time of the OECD countries.


10 Japan News In the UK in Brief

1 The Financial Times has the best coverage of serious news about Japan, however other papers cover some of the lighter stories. This week the Fukuoka sink hole received coverage in most UK media. BBC on Fukuoka Sink Hole.

2 Another story concerns Neko Atsume cat collecting phone game is being made into a live-action movie. Film version of wildly popular and notoriously addictive ‘kitty collector’ app will star Japanese actor Atsushi Ito. Neko the Cat

3 The popular girl band Keyakizaka46 performed in outfits that have similarities with uniforms of Waffen-SS officers. This sparked outrage condemnations. The band’s producer issued an apology as did Sony the group’s label. Keyakizaka46

SUNSTAR Press Digest, October 22, 2016 No 6

In this week’s digest
1   The Wheels come off the Brexit Bus?
2   US to Have First Woman President?
3   Thailand: King Bhumibol of Thailand Dies Aged 88
4   China:  Xi to defy second term ban?
5   Thinking Computers
6   IOC Could Agree to Tokyo Request to Move Events to South Korea
7   World Economic Forum: Corruption and Competitivity
8   Philippine President unsettles Japan and US by cozying up to China 
9   “Ab Fab” star does Japan Travel Show


1 The Wheels Coming Off the Brexit Bus?
Three UK Prime Ministers have been destroyed by the Europe question already, will Theresa May be number 4? At  the Annual Conservative Party Conference May played to the gallery and won the applause of the faithful for her hardline speech on Brexit , but the financial markets reacted badly crashing Sterling to a 35 year low. Her problems increased when Nissan, BMW and the London banking sector warned the PM  she was risking the country’s prosperity. May’s Cabinet is divided between the “Hard Brexiters” that want control of immigration at the expense of access to the  EU Single Market and the “Soft Brexiters” who believe access to the EU market is essential. The Tories had thought that the Referendum would deal with the issue of Europe once and for all, instead it is still dividing their party and now it also dividing the country.

Things are not going well for the government. In the last week they had to concede to the Parliament that they would have the right to scrutinise the Brexit deal, and then one of the government’s own lawyers accepted that Parliament would have to vote on the final deal. With a majority of MPs supporting staying in the European Union  the result could go against the government.

This week May attends her first EU Summit since becoming PM. Attitudes in Europe are hardening. EU President Tusk said the Brits cannot have their cake and eat it too. He invited them to buy a cake eat it and see what is left on the plate. Meanwhile European Parliament President Martin Schulz said that it would not be possible to have freedom of movement of capital and goods without the freedom of movement of people too.
The Economist: Brexit Explained.  (An excellent guide)

2   US to Have First Woman President? 
The debates are over and we are in the last 18 days of the election campaign. Donald Trump has had a rough month with the publication of his sex talk tapes and Hillary Clinton is looking more Presidential every day.  Trump has refused to say if he will accept the result of the election if he loses, he called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” and he almost seems to have realised that he has lost the race. With 18 days to go anything can happen, but for now it looks like the US will get its first woman President.

There is another country that had a rich businessman go for the top job and he too was laughed at at first. He too was embroiled in tax and sex scandals, but Silvio Berlusconi went on to be one of Italy’s longest serving premiers. Whatever happens on November 9th it will not be last we hear from Donald Trump. Already there is talk that he is planning to set up an online TV station. It is sobering to acknowledge that after all the revelations, his poor performance in the debates and his apparent lack of preparedness for the nation’s highest office, that he still has an unshakeable 37% base of support.
We have seen Donald Trump Before his name was Silvio Berlusconi.

3   King Bhumibol of Thailand Dies aged 88
The Thai king, the world’s longest reigning monarch, died at the age of 88.  He is generally regarded to have strengthened the monarchy during his long reign. The official mourning is likely to last a year.  BBC Obituary  There are concerns that his son Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn who has been named as his successor may not be up to the job.  Thailand’s prime minister announced that Vajiralongkorn had asked for time to mourn with his country before he acceding to the throne.

Some observers would have preferred to have sister Princess Sirindhorn, but the Thai constitution stipulates a male heir. The Crown Prince, a womanising, three times married playboy, made his pet poodle Foo Foo an air chief marshal. Prince Maha has shown no interest in politics or public duties, on the contrary, his antics have proved to be highly embarrassing to his father and the to monarchy.

4   China: Xi Jinping to defy 10 Year Term convention?
According to three sources close to top Chinese Communist Party  officials, Xi and several top aides are making plans to ensure that China’s  strongman will rule until at least 2027, when he will still be a relatively sprightly 74 years old.(See China Digital Times)

Mr Xi’s efforts to enforce ideological conformity and personal loyalty have earned comparisons to Mao Zedong’s attempts to build a cult of personality. This has sparked a backlash from some Chinese journalists and commentators. However Xi’s dominance of Chinese political and public life is absolute.

5   Thinking Computers
Up to now computers have been able to solve problems when the information they needed was already contained within their network. That is how Apple’s Siri works, but this is now changing.  Google’s Artificial Intelligence arm, the London based tech group Deep Mind, has made a breakthrough by building what they have called a “differentiable neural computer”, or DNC.  This new breed of computer can for  the first time solve small-scale problems without any prior knowledge. The DNC, for example,  was able to plan the best route between distant stations on a rail system without having  knowledge of the network. What is new and revolutionary about this computer is that it learns in a way similar to the human brain and stores the new information to use at a future time.  Read More

6   International Olympic Committee  Could Agree to Tokyo’s Request to Reduce Costs. 
Newly elected Tokyo Governor, former TV personality, Yuriko Koike is determined to rein in the cost of hosting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, reputed to top 3 trillion Yen. This is four times the original estimate and three times more than the London Games. One option being considered is to move the rowing and canoeing events to South Korea.

Tokyo won its bid by promising a compact Games with 28 of the 31 competition venues within a five-mile radius of the Olympic village. Its bid stated that only venues for shooting and modern pentathlon, and one football stadium, would be located outside the radius.  Read More

7   World Economic Forum:  Corruption and Competitivety Rankings.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) research finds that 9 EU countries feature in the top 11 most corrupt OECD countries. Mexico is No1 and South Korea is at No 9, but the rest of the top 11 are all in the EU. The nine countries are  Italy, Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia,  Slovenia and Hungary.

The WEF report on global competitiveness also makes for interesting reading. (See page 13) Switzerland, Singapore and the US lead the field. The Netherlands and Germany are at the top of the EU group. Japan has slipped to 8th place, whereas the UK’s 7th place does not look that secure following the Brexit vote.

8  Philippino President Cozying to China: Threat to Japan and US
On his official visit to China last week, Philippino President Rodrigo Duterte said  “America has lost now, I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world — China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”
Duterte’s comments risk disrupting not just US-Philippines ties, but US ties to the larger Asia-Pacific, a region that Obama has made a central pillar of his foreign policy ambitions.  It is also deeply worrying to Japan where Duterte is due to be next week. PM Shinzo Abe will want assert to his guest the importance of maintaining a strong alliance with the US in the face of China’s territorial ambitions.

Duterte’s apparent cozying up to Beijing has both Tokyo and Washington worried that the commitment under former Philippine President Benigno Aquino to stand up to China in the hotly disputed South China Sea waterway is under threat.  Aquino angered China by lodging a case with an arbitration court in the Hague challenging the legitimacy of Beijing’s maritime claims in the resource-rich sea.  The ruling earlier this year emphatically favoured Manila but was rejected by China, which has repeatedly warned the United States and Japan to stay out of the dispute.  Read More: Reuters

9  “Ab Fab Star does Japan Travel Show.  
One of the the UK’s most popular TV channels has given much prominence to a three part programme on Japan fronted by one of the country’s most popular actors. Joanna Lumley, star of “Ab Fab” and  a UK National Treasure. Few politicians dare go against her because the public love her so.

Lumley travelled all the way from Hokkaido to the beautiful Pacific island of Kohama. Of her travels in Japan, she said: “Isn’t it odd, we feel we are so familiar with Japan, with sushi and Toshiba, kimonos and Hello Kitty, tsunamis and sake… and yet when we travelled around that spectacular country I couldn’t even guess at the unknown wonders that were in store for us. Every moment was thrilling, fascinating and often very moving. With my hand on my heart I can say: please come with me… to Japan!”

Then show was watched by millions and viewers were so moved that one newspaper decreed that readers wanted her to be the new Foreign Secretary for the United Kingdom.  The three episodes are now also available on DVD from Amazon and Episode 3 can still be seen on ITV.   No doubt the show will encourage many people from the Uk to visit Japan.

SUNSTAR Press Digest, October 4, 2016

Welcome to this edition of the SUNSTAR PRESS DIGEST and once again thank you for your comments and suggestions. Last week in Etoy we had the opportunity to review the progress of the  Press Digest. We will continue publish the Press Digest every two weeks in English, and  once a month there will be a special edition which will concentrate on how Japan is seen in the news. This edition will be published both in Japanese and English. All Sunstar employees who wish to can receive the Press Digest, you are therefore very welcome to forward the newsletter to other SUNSTAR colleagues and also ask them to write to either Mr Naito Takahiro (Takahiro.Naito@ch.sunstar.com) or to myself at Giampi.Alhadeff@E4U-Partners.com so that we can add them to the distribution list. As always I welcome your feedback.
With all my best wishes,
Giampi Alhadeff

In this week’s digest


The pundits gave the first round to Hillary Clinton, but some of the polls said otherwise. The truth is that no argument will be strong enough to change the mind of Trump supporters, the question is how will the swing voters in the swing states react. The campaign is still too close to call and has already turned nasty and in all probability it will get nastier still.  The BBC Report on the First Debate is a good and impartial place to get information and analysis. I particularly enjoyed reading the best tweets on the debate. In this campaign the social media have come of age. Whilst both candidates debated, their teams were busy tweeting, attacking their opponent and rooting for their candidate. Both teams also used psychology in the preparation of the debate, though Clinton by needling Trump got the upper hand and he visibly lost his cool. The TV station’s decision to have a split screen was also interesting showing both Trump and Clinton throughout the debate. It played well for Clinton, but not so for Trump who often pulled faces and looked uncomfortable. Read the Washington Post on how Clinton got the better of Trump. As I write Trump’s financial dealings and tax affairs are once again centre stage with the NY Attorney General  ordering him to stop soliciting money for his Foundation. The next two debates are on October 9th and 19th. You can find more factual information about the election, now just a month away, at the official.  Election Central website.

It is the UK political conference season. In late September and early October the major UK parties go to the seaside for a week each. This year the Labour Party went first. Membership has grown from 180K to over 500K  making it the largest political party in Europe, however this phenomenal increase is not reflected by the party’s fortune in the opinion polls. They have been sliding ever since the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn was elected as their Leader. Since then the “Moderates” and the “Corbynistas” have been fighting each other tooth and nail. In June this year, following Corbyn’s poor performance in the EU Referendum, most of his Shadow Cabinet resigned and 172 MPs (Members of Parliament) voted a “no confidence” motion in their Leader.  When he failed to do the decent thing and resign, they triggered a challenge. Corbyn, backed by an army of thousands of young idealists, many of whom had just joined the party, and a few old left wingers, won by a huge margin. So the in-fighting goes on and Labour continues to pose no opposition to the Conservatives and are likely to lose the next two elections (2020 and 2025).You would think this to be music to the ear of Theresa May, the Conservative Prime Minister, but she is far from being home and dry. Of course she has no worries from Labour; her biggest problem is in her own party. With a working majority of only 16 and the Conservative Party still divided on Europe, May has to work hard to keep her troops loyal knowing that most of them are anti-EU. On on the first day of her Conference she therefore announced that she will trigger Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, thus kicking off the negotiations which will take the UK out of the EU. She also announced plans to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, which gives direct effect to EU law in Britain, but said that all existing EU laws would be transposed into domestic legislation. The passage of this Bill through Parliament may not be as smooth as May would hope. What works well at Conservative Party conference does not necessarily work well in the House of Commons and even less so in the House of Lords. The announcement of this Bill may be a piece of theatre designed to keep the Conservative faithful happy, however what is not in doubt is May’s determination to take the UK out of Europe, control EU immigration and  if necessary sacrifice access to the Single Market. The Remain camp is shocked by the PM’s attitude. See the article by Hugo Dixon of INFacts.  Her Chancellor (Finance Minister) addressed the Conference on the next day saying that the UK must have contingency plans to deal with any “turbulence” caused by Brexit. The market reacted predictably: sterling came close to a thirty-year low against the USD. See also Kate Allen’s article in the Financial Times of 3 October (Theresa May Sets Brexit Away from the Single Market). As this article is behind a paywall you will have to google the name of the author and the title of the article.

3  JAPAN’S Yoshinori Ohsumi Awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Professor Yoshinori Ohsumi is awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or  Medicine for his groundbreaking work on Autophagy (from the Greek word meaning “eating oneself”). This is the body’s internal system that hunts down scrap cells, strips them down to their useful parts to generate energy or create new cellular components. The process is crucial for preventing cancerous growths, maintaining a healthy metabolism, helping to protect against conditions like type 2 diabetes. Dysfunctional Autophagy, has been linked to type 2 diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Professor Ohsumi’s work has been hailed by medical scientists worldwide. Intense research is already underway to develop drugs that can target Dysfunctional Autophagy in various diseases. This is the 25th Nobel Prize won by Japan and the 4th for medicine. This tally puts Japan in 6th place together with Switzerland, behind the US, UK, Germany, France and Sweden.
Yoshinori Ohsumi wins Nobel Prize (The Guardian)    Yoshinori Ohsumi awarded Nobel Prize (Japan Times)
List of Japanese Nobel Prize Winners (Wikipedia)    List of all Nobel Prize Winners by Country

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian PM, has a long reputation as a populist and a demagogue. Even before Trump, Le Pen or Nigel Farage, he was railing against ‘liberal elites’ and decrying that their policies were harming ordinary citizens. Last year, at the height of the EU migrant crisis, he accused Germany of ‘moral imperialism’ and erected razor-wire fences to prevent migrants from entering Hungary. His response to the EU proposal that Hungary help out Italy and Greece with the tens of thousands of migrants they are hosting by admitting a mere 1,294  was to hold a Referendum on the matter and recommend rejection of the EU’s proposal. The Referendum was not necessary,  it was just theatre, and the people of Hungary stayed away from the polls. Turnout was a mere 43%, well short of the 50% required for the result to be law. However 98% of votes cast were in support of Orban’s position, and the Prime Minister, not one to be stopped, has chosen to focus on the high vote in support of his policies. Reuters article and photo of Hungarians in national costume going to the pollsVicktor Oban Profile.

I am highlighting here two important articles: the first by Simon Tisdall which appeared in the UK Guardian on September 25 and the second in the Financial Times by the excellent Gideon Rachman.  Tisdall focuses on China’s desire to “reunify” Taiwan, its increasing military and economic might and the US  having to face up to the fact that its Asian policy is not working. TTP, the free trade deal for the Pacific region, seen by Japan’s Shinzo Abe as a “crucial pillar” of US influence in the region and a major plank of Obama’s Asian policy, is in big trouble and does not look like it will fly during Obama’s term.
Trouble in the Pacific, is ignored by Europeans, focused on Syria and migration, but the US getting its policy on China wrong would have major global consequences.
OBAMA’s Failed Asian Pivot. The Guardian, Simon Tisdall
Gideon Rachman in the FT of September 19 America’s Pacific Pivot is Sinking.
(Once again the FT article is behind a paywall, please google the title of the article and the name of the author.)

The tragedy of Syria continues. The civil war has been going on for 5 years. The ceasefire of two weeks ago barely lasted 48 hours. The bombing by Syrian and Russian planes of civilian targets is escalating. No end to the suffering is in sight. Barrel bombs, burst through hospital walls, the killing and the maiming is indiscriminate. The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov seems to have no shame and no morals, and Europe and the US seem powerless to halt the massacre we are witnessing. At the UN they talk, but can’t reach a deal to stop or even halt the killings for a short while. US and Russia relation are at an all time low, while food and medicines are running out. Not since Bosnia or Rwanda have we witnessed such atrocity. In the middle of this mayhem there are heroes: the WHITE HELMETS, ordinary men and women, who have volunteered to save lives from the rubble and the destruction. Their motto “better to save a soul than take a soul”. Netflix has just produced a documentary on the work of the WHITE HELMETS (see the NETFLIX trailer here). They have also been nominated for the Nobel Prize and on Friday we will know the result of the Norwegian jury. My hunch is that the White Helmets will be the 2016 Nobel Peace Winners.  THE WHITE HELMETS ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN.

Japan’s population is declining: currently at 126 million it is likely to fall to below 107 million by 2050.  Low birth rate and longer life expectancy will have a negative impact of Japan’s prosperity. A BBC Radio investigation had a look at  young people’s attitudes to relationships and family life. Traditionally, working husband and the stay-at-home housewife defined a Japanese family. Now, with society changing, young people are choosing independence over ‘troublesome’ relationships. At the same time Japan’s life expectancy 84 (men) and 87 (women) means that in 2016, 33% of the population is over 65 and it set to rise to 40%,  The result is an uncontrolled decline in population, where a decreasing birth rate and rapidly aging population paints a bleak outlook for Japan’s future. The BBC takes a look at Japan’s falling birthrate and the pressures on young people. Can the government reverse this trend by changing public attitudes and its own social policies? BBC RADIO 4 How Japan Fell out of Love with Love. This is a 28 minute radio programme. Japan’s population in 2050.

SUNSTAR Press Digest, 2016 No 3

It is already the middle of September and politicians and parliaments are back in business. The season kicked off with the Hangzhou G20 Summit, a good place to gauge the international temperature. The two big issues of the weekend were the slowdown in global growth and the disquiet in the US and Europe about globalisation. It was Theresa May’s first outing on such an international scene. A steep learning curve no doubt. Soon afterwards, the North Koreans, not part of the G20, made news with the explosion of their 5th nuclear test explosion. Meanwhile the US election continues its inevitable run to November 8th and the UK is leaving everyone guessing about what Brexit means. Some say that this is a great opportunity for the EU to re-invent itself in a two-tier union, with a federalist inner core and a looser outer one to which even the UK could belong. This story will run and run as no one yet knows what the UK government wants.
Meanwhile the tragedy of Syria continues, in spite of a ceasefire, aid is still not reaching the besieged city of Aleppo.
On a lighter note every September the UK Queen and Prince Philip invite the Prime Minister for an informal weekend at Balmoral, their Scottish castle. It is meant to be a relaxed family affair with Prince Philip doing the BBQ and the Queen clearing the plates and doing the washing up. You will enjoy this historical, and slightly tongue in cheek look at how different PMs coped with this weekend.
Edward Albee, the brilliant US playwright has died after a short illness at the age of 88. His play “Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf” brilliantly portrayed by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor is one of the great plays of the 20th Century. BBC Obituary Edward Albee
I leave you with the list of the 6 best business books of the year as chosen by the Financial Times and McKinsey.

In this week’s digest
1   Hangzhou G 20 Summit
2   BREXIT, Shinzo Abe & UK Confusion
3   Hilary Clinton’s Health
4   Two-Speed EU? 
5   Syria
6   The Queen Does the Dishes
7   FT and McKinsey Business Book of the year

Summits are strange affairs. The preparation work starts a year in advance. “Sherpas”, the trusted officials from the respective governments start working on the next G20 the moment the last one ends. Nothing is left to chance and the final declaration has been written, read, discussed, amended and agreed long before the first plane has landed. Business groups, international trade unions, key lobby interests and NGOs spend a great amount of energy trying to have their key concerns mentioned in the final declaration. Host governments give huge importance to the event, a great national showcase and little is left to chance. Having been involved in the fringes of the London G20 in 2009 I can attest to the effort these events entail and the importance host governments attach to them. The first G20 was organised by President Bush who had been urged to act by UK PM Gordon Brown in response to the 2008 Financial Crisis. Since then the Leaders of the 19 countries involved plus the EU come together once a year, and their Economy Ministers and Central Bankers also meet up three times every year. Wikipedia has a list of G20 countries and of all the summits held since then. Go to Wikipedia.
Each summit has an official theme, Hangzhou’s was about stimulating global economic growth, now predicted at 3.1% rather than the desired 7%, and the need to ensure that global free trade is not reversed. A sub-theme however was about how to make globalisation work for people. The US, EU and Australia were vocal in saying that large numbers of their voters were taking positions against globalisation. One observer at the G20’s closed meetings said that Summit Leaders “were talking more about people and less about economics”. There was also talk of a public bandwagon for ditching “austerity” in favour of fiscal support policies.

There were tensions: President Obama and EU President Juncker had a pop at their Chinese hosts. Junker warned that the EU was not happy about China exporting cheap steel thus threatening EU jobs, whilst Obama pointedly said that “You can’t just export problems . You have got to have fair trade as well as free trade.” There was a hoo-ha about President Obama’s arrival, but this was played down by the President, though some observers thought this was a deliberate snub on the part of the Chinese

However each Summit also has an unofficial theme. Hangzhou was about China’s global leadership ambitions. As China sees it the West has been in decline since the 2008 financial crisis, a decline that is now accelerating amid the distractions of a US presidential election and the disarray in Europe over Brexit, migrants and recession. Within this landscape China sees itself as offering stability and steady global governance. The Chinese government used all its resources to make sure the summit was a success: they closed factories to reduce the pollution in Hangzhou, they stopped the traffic and emptied the city and tried to show China at its best, but its bid for global leadership is likely to fall short. In a region, where so many nations still have wounds from history, China’s nationalist politics are toxic to its hopes to lead internationally. A good background read can be found on the BBC’s Website. BBC Background to the Hangzhou Summit.

There are also two good articles in the Financial Times that give a good overview of the politics of the Summit.
See also George Parker’s articles in the Financial Times (These articles are behind a Paywall. You can access them by googling “George Parker G20”.)

Away from the cameras Summits are a great place for Presidents and Prime Ministers to talk informally away from the prying eyes of the global media. That informality and opportunity to iron out problems away from the public gaze may be the best outcome from any summit.

2   BREXIT, Shinzo Abe & UK Confusion
On the eve of the G20 Summit Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe sent Theresa May a letter and 15 page memorandum warning that Japanese businesses have a huge interest in the UK negotiating a “soft Brexit”. The message is that Japanese companies want the UK to negotiate a deal that leaves Britain not just in the EU customs union, and single market, but also retains a free flow of workers between the EU and the UK. 140,000 workers are employed by Japanese companies, many in areas of high unemployment. Nomura Bank, Mitsui, Hitachi, Toyota, Nissan and Honda are critical to the UK economy. See the UK’s Daily Mirror

PM Shinzo Abe is not the only one to want some clarity from the UK government. so far all Theresa May will say is “Brexit means Brexit”. Unfortunately, and maybe more accurately one of the interpreters at the European Parliament mis-translated this to be “Brexit means Breakfast”. However 50 days before May used the phrase for the first time it is wearing thin, particularly as key members of her cabinet seem to have diametrically opposite views on what the UK’s relationship with the EU will eventually be.

Will it be “Soft Brexit” as the Japanese PM seems to want, or the “Hard Brexit” of outside the EU, outside of the Single Market, the custom union and with not Freedom of Movement of workers?

The UK Parliament is getting restless and as time goes on the May government will find itself under pressure from the both the Brexit and the Remain camp. With a majority of only 17 she does not have much room to move. May has ruled out an early election (UK has a fixed term Parliament, with the next election due in 2020), but the smart money in London is on May being tempted by the weakness in the Labour Party in calling an election in the Spring of 2017.

Confusing most commentators is the surprisingly robust performance of the British economy. Shares are up (FTSE100 and FTSE 250), retail sales very healthy and Sterling after a big fall has stabilised. The right wing pro-Brexit Spectator Magazine was exultant (Read More), but a more balanced view can be heard in this very good podcast by Chris Giles, the Economics Editor of the Financial Times.

3   US Elections and Hillary Clinton’s Health
The US Presidential election is famous for going on too long and costing too much money. The polls have narrowed and the big issue of the week has been Hillary Clinton’s stumble after the 9/11 Memorial. The story has been spun in some of the media in terms of Clinton not being truthful, but the pressure is also on Donald Trump, who has been slow to divulge his own medical record.

This focus on health is somewhat exaggerated given that many people with chronic illnesses are working in high pressure jobs and deliver first rate results. It is also at odds with history. President Kennedy suffered from Addison Disease, had chronic back pain and severe anxiety, Eisenhower suffered from Crohn’s disease, and had a stroke and a heart attack whilst in office, whilst FDR was paralysed in both legs following a bout of polio. See the health of US Presidents for more information on this. On this side of the pond Winston Churchill’s daily drinking routine would give heart attacks to most of today’s health professionals and would be a big obstacle to becoming Prime Minister. Was Winston Churchill an Alcohol Abuser?

There are 50 or so days to go to the US Election and of course there will be the TV debates. One thing is certain, Donald Trump has toned down his rhetoric and softened his image since Kellyanne Conway joined his team, but she may not be able to totally gaffe-proof Mr Trump, as this weekend’s jibe at Hillary and the right to bear arms has shown.

This weekend EU Leaders met in Bratislava, for the first time without the presence of the UK. Brexit is not on the Agenda, as negotiations cannot start before the UK has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (the exit button to begin talks), but it is sure to dominate the thinking of EU leaders. Angela Merkel has said that the EU is at a critical junction. I have heard the phrase repeated so often over the 26 years I have been involved in EU affairs that I could be forgiven for doubting it, but I think that this time she is right. In designing the Euro EU leaders glossed over the huge fiscal and financial differences between their northern and southern countries: what is good for Germany was never going to work for Greece or Portugal. Secondly migration from both outside the EU and within the EU has pitted countries against each other. Added to this cocktail is the continuing threat posed by terrorists and the volatile situation in the Middle East and in the Ukraine. To this already dangerous mix there one must add difficult elections in Germany and France in 2017. If there ever was a time for Europe to be united this is certainly it, and yet there is a distinct lack of vision and leadership.

Some commentators think that we are moving towards a two-tier EU. An inner core of federalist countries with Germany, Italy, Span, Portugal, France, if the Front National do not win the Presidential elections, and an outer ring with the Visegrad Four (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech) with the Danes, the Swedes, the Dutch and possibly the Irish. Bloomberg has argued the case well earlier this summer. See Bloomberg on Two Tier EU. An article by Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times who believes this to be a great opportunity, in my view, well demonstrates how difficult it would be pull off such a deal. Google Gideon Rachman: Two-Tier Europe as this article is behind the FT Paywall.

Obama and Putin met in Hangzhou. No doubt frank and diplomatic words were exchanged. The continuing civil war is not good for the US or for Russia. Obama would very much like to be able to announce that ISIL/Daesh have lost all their territory both in Iraq and in Syria before he steps down. However bringing some order to Syria with its disparate rebel groups and Assad’s record of abuse of power not to mention use of chemical weapons will continue to be complicated. For now the international community’s focus must be to bring aid to the besieged city of Aleppo. Four days since the ceasefire was declared relief convoys are still being blocked from entering the city. See CNN on the Aid Deadlock

6   The Queen Does the Dishes
Every year, at the end of the summer, the UK Queen invites her Prime Minister and spouse to an informal weekend at Balmoral her beloved Scottish castle. It is a weekend of walks in the Scottish hills, family BBQs and fireside chats. Margaret Thatcher hated them, Tony Blair loved them, Harold Wilson would go collecting firewood for the BBQ. This account in the London Guardian is highly amusing. See the Guardian

7   FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year
Each year the Financial Times and McKinsey select the Business Book of the year from a shortlist they announce in September.
This year’s list is as follows:

See Wikipedia: FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year

SUNSTAR Press Digest 3 ,September 2, 2016

1 Introduction and Silly Season: Benson the Carp Dies
2 Apple’s €13bn Tax Bombshell
3 BREXIT, Syria, Turkey: Putin the Winner
4 Japan Big Changes Coming
5 TTP, TTIP, EU-Japan Tade: Is Free-Trade Stalling?
6 China, North Korea, Senkaku and the US Elections
7 China and Japan’s Role in Africa
8 Italian Earthquake
9 Artisan Sake gets the Top Vintage Treatment


1 Introduction. The Silly Season: “Benson the Carp Dies”
Each month I will prepare a more Japan focussed Press Digest, which will also be translated into Japanese.  This is the first such Japan Press Digest. Some of the stories reported here have already featured in previous Digests, however in this Japan Edition I take a longer overview of each story.  So the themes of Brexit, US Elections, Russian diplomatic manoeuvres and the woes of TTP and TTIP will be familiar to you, but I hope that you will find the monthly summary useful.

One story not covered in the Japan Digest, but included here is the European Commission’s €13bn Apple tax bombshell. The EU is claiming that the tax advantage given to Apple by the Irish Government is tantamount to state aid, something that is not permissible under EU law. This story has been rumbling for a while, and still has some way to go. The Irish Cabinet has just announced they will challenge the decision.

In the Japan Digest I have, of course, given more focus to news from Japan, the Emperor’s announcement, Mr Abe’s intended constitutional changes and the modest financial easing to boost the Japanese economy. 

The Pacific Region is very far away from Europe, but tensions there are of huge importance. The Japanese Embassy in London, plays a key role alerting UK decision-makers and opinion-formers of what is going on and of the potential threats. How will the eventual outcome of the US Elections affect the stability of this increasingly tense part of the world?

China has stolen a march of most western countries including Japan in itsinvestment in Africa, So it was good to see PM Shinzo Abe taking 75 Japanese business leaders to Nairobi for the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the first to be held in Africa and making a big financial commitment to African development.

Finally, the Italian earthquake. The funerals have taken place, the mourning for the victims continues, but the recriminations have begun. Had the Italians approached the problem of protecting its people and building like the Japanese have done the destruction and the loss of life would have been less catastrophic.

Two big stories not covered this time: the Hangzhou G20 Summit taking place this weekend and the continuing EU migration crisis which once again is becoming big news. Both of these stories will feature in the next Digest.

So where does Benson the Carp feature? August is traditionally holiday time, Parliaments and schools close for the summer and this year many of us where taken over by the spectacle of the Rio Olympics.  In England they call August the “silly news season” because newspapers trying to fill their pages end up giving space to “silly stories”. A prime example of this was the death of a carp covered by all the media in August 2009. Complete with large colour photographs, the media thought that one of the most important stories of that day was the death of Benson, a 25 year old female carp, that had been caught and re-released 63 times. Benson’s death was covered by all major UK papers and the BBC with much speculation about the cause of her death.  Read More 

2  APPLE’s €13 bn Tax Bombshell
The EU is claiming that the tax advantage given to Apple by the Irish Government is tantamount to state aid, something not permissible under EU law. This story has been rumbling for a while, and still has some way to go. The Irish Cabinet has just announced they will challenge the decision. At the heart of the matter is the sovereignty of a nation to determine it’s own tax affairs and to support regions in need of development. Ireland will argue that the tax it forfeited is counterbalanced by the employment and development it generated in a part of the country that was seriously in need of it. You can expect the European Parliament, the White House amongst others to get involved, but ultimately it will be a matter of legal interpretation of eu law by the court in Luxembourg. Expect this story to run and run.   BBC NEWS  and The Guardianhas a good background story.

3  BREXIT, Syria, Turkey: Putin the Winner.
Of course there have been some “silly season” stories this year too, however the international mood is sombre.  In Europe nobody knows what BREXIT will mean for the European Union or for the United Kingdom.  What is certain is that the uncertainty is bad for the economy and bad for the Eurozone recovery. The USA is in the throes of a tough Presidential election, with huge foreign relations implications for Europe, but maybe more importantly for Pacific Region. The winner from all this uncertainly appears to Russia’s President Putin. Putin’s support of Assad is helping the Syrians  push back Daesh/ISIS, but at a terrible cost of civilian lives. Putin is also making his presence felt supporting the Turkish PM Erdogan, who was heavily criticised by the EU for his human rights abuses  following last month’s failed coup. Turkey is a strategically important NATO  ally, so no surprise that President Obama sent VP Biden to Turkey to smooth the waters and warn against too comfortable relations with Russia.  Meanwhile the UK’s new PM, desperately trying to find a new international role for the UK outside the EU,  telephones Putin to say that she wants a better relationship with Russia, ignoring or forgetting that Russian agents murdered a UK citizen on UK soil using the highly radioactive polonium-210. Once again Putin gains from the West’s disunity .  Murder  of Alexander Litvinenko

4  Japan: Big Changes Coming
One big Japanese story that featured in all the global media, was of course the announcement by Emperor Akihito of his wish to abdicate. The dignity of the announcement impressed everybody. Earlier in the month the media had reported PM Shinzo Abe LDP’s impressive Upper House election win. Abe’s win, and his appointment of Mrs Ikeda as Defence Minister, was seen as a sign that he was intent on changing Article 9 of the Constitution, which limits Japan’s armed forces to a purely defensive role. Mr Abe has the votes to win in Parliament, but would then have to take the decision to the electorate in a referendum.  Opinion polls, the London Guardian said are close: 49% in favour of change and 44% against. Referendums are often unpredictable as the london Guardian well knows. Western commentators who are not Japan specialists often do not understand the pressure Japan is under from China and North Korea, nor do they understand that having to rely on the US for its defence is not satisfactory to many Japanese.

The Emperor’s announcement has no doubt complicated the political landscape.  Abdication is not envisaged as a possibility in the Imperial Household Law, and starting the discussion, it has been reported, could open a box of surprises.

The Emperor’s TV statement came days after the announcements by the Bank of Japan of some modest financial easing and by PM Abe of a Yen 28.1Tn (.9% of GDP) in additional government spending to boost lagging consumer spending and counter the effects of the drag on exports caused by the strength of the yen. The Bank of Japan’s modest financial easing also received some press coverage.  Commentators have been sceptical about the effect both measures are likely to have.

5  TTP, TTIP, EU-JAPAN Trade: Is Free-trade Stalling? There has been a post-cold war consensus that free trade is good for economies and develeopment. That notion might have been a little over-simplistic; very true that trade and economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty, however, particularly in developed countries, large sections of the workforce, mainly the less-educated, have lost out to global competition from Asia and particularly from China. Not enough has been done to help these workers, and now both in the US and in Europe, there is evidence of a backlash against free-trade agreements, seen by many as the cause of loss of jobs or of income. The result is that politicians, eager for votes, start backing trade-protectionist policies.  Two big examples will illustrate this.  The TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement between Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile,  Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru,  and the US – encompassing  12 countries and 40% of world GDP is now unlikely to be agreed during Obama’s last days in the White House, worse still Trump and is publicly opposed to the deal, and Hillary Clinton is at best lukewarm. Meanwhile the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, being negotiated between the US and the EU is also on the ropes, with Germany’s Foreign Minister declaring it has failed, and France also getting cold feet. The European Commission says a deal is still possible, but the clock is now against them as France, Germany as well as the US prepare for elections.

Progress is, however being made in other areas, away from the media spotlight. The EU-Japan Trade negotiations, launched in 2013 are making quiet progress. Japan is the EU’s second biggest trading partner in Asia after China, and the EU and Japan, together account for 1/3 of the world’s GDP.  (See EU Commission Website). The next phase of the negotiations  takes place in September.

6  China, North Korea, Senkaku and the US ElectionsThe Japanese Embassy in London does a very good job of alerting key opinion-formers and decision-makers of the worrying situation developing the Pacific Region with particular reference to China’s expansionist exploits in the South China Seas and their activities around the Senkaku Islands. These issues are reported in the quality press, but perhaps not adequately explained. European politicians, eager to attract Chinese investments, and increasing their share of trade with China, can gloss over China’s human right’s abuses and their territorial ambitions.

The current ongoing tension of course are complicated by North Korea, who last week fired a submarine launched ballistic missile which for the first time reached Japan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).

Pacific region international relations will be affected whoever gets to the White House in January 2017. Hillary Clinton is likely to be more hawkish in response to Beijing’a ambitions; Donald Trump, however is more likely to be more laissez-faire in their regard, and may take the view that it is not America’s business. Whoever wins tensions in the area will continue.

7  China and Japan’s Role in Africa

PM Shinzo Abe in Nairobi, with 75 Japanese business leaders, for the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the first held in Africa.  Japan’s trade with Africa declined for $17billion in 2014 to $14 billion in 2015.  Japan pledged to invest $30 in Africa, about half the amount being invested by China. China’s communist People’s Daily has been dismissive accusing Japan of trying to woo Africa in its attempt to get a UN Security Council seat, a move that China opposes. See Financial Times (Please google “Japan Looks to Boost Trade with Africa)

8  Italian Earthquake
A magnitude 6 earthquake in central Italy caused the almost total destruction of many villages and the death of almost 300 people.  Old buildings, shoddy renovations and extensions greatly contributed to the scale of the disaster. It is estimated that 18% of Italian new buildings have no planning permission and that the number for extensions and renovations is much higher. The use of cheap cement and too much sand in the cement mix seems to have contributed to the number of casualties. In one village where funds were spent to make buildings safe the destruction was minimal.  Meanwhile PM Matteo Renzi has enlisted world famous architect Renzo Piano do advise on how to make the country’s buildings safer from earthquakes. The feeling in the country is that if Italy had done as much as Japan to protect its buildings the death toll would be lower and fewer buildings affected.  Read More: If the Italians had built like the Japanese  and Lax Building regulations contribute to death toll and also Fortune: Italy Investigates Whether Shoddy Buildings Worsened the Death Toll

9  Artisan Sake Gets the Top Vintage treatment
In the 24 hours since Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate released its first ratings guide for Japan’s pure polished rice sakes — the premium version of rice wine — bottles of the 78 highest-ranked names have become hot property. Collectors who tried to buy sake bottles mentioned by Parker only hours after publication were disappointed. The Financial Times reported that whilst a bottle of top Bordeaux will sell for $1,000 top sake retails for Yen 10,000. There are some fabulous long established artisan breweries not far from the Takatsuki plant well worth a visit.

SUNSTAR Press Digest August 19th, 2016 No 2

Thank you to all of you who kindly took the time to write to me following the first Press Digest with your comments and suggestions.  Following your comments I will endeavour to be more editorial and to concentrate on key themes.
August is generally a slow news month, however, this is not aways so, and some big events have the habit of breaking through. Terrorism, the war in Syria, and global insecurity are still there, but this year and for now, they are being overshadowed  by the Rio Olympics and individual stories of sport heroism and outstanding success. A good excuse for national celebrations and a good excuse to forget national and international troubles.
In this week’s digest
1   Japan’s Emperor’s abdication announcement
2    Continuing tension in South China Seas
3    Italian banking and political crisis
4    US Elections and BREXIT
5    Diabetes numbers soar in the UK
6    Chinese Universities in top 100 for its time
7    Greenland shark is 400 year old
1    Emperor Akihito’s Abdication Announcement
Emperor Akihito’s most dignigfied announcement that at the age of 82, suffering from ill health, he would like the law changed so that he can retire received much positive international coverage. Kana Inagaki, the Financial Times Tokyo correspondent, has posted a good video explaining the background to the abdication. VIEW VIDEO.

There are also two other interesting articles worth reading. Ian Buruma, Dutch expert on Japan, argues that the Emperor’s wish opens a debate between modernisers and traditionalists. This may cause difficulties for  Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s wish to amend the constitution.  Read more: Modernisers pitted against Traditionalists.   This article is to be found behind the Financial Times pay-wall. Should you not have access please google “Ian Buruma, Akihito Abdication”, which should lead you to the article.

There is also an article in the NY Times giving some good background on the the post-war constitution imposed by the US on Japan. 
Read More in the New York Times: 

2  Japan-China Tensions
Japan has warned China that ties are “deteriorating markedly” over the disputed Senkaku Islands, in the East China Sea.  China’s envoy in Tokyo reiterated Beijing’s stance that these islands were its territory and called for talks to resolve the row.

Tensions between Asia’s two largest economies have risen since Japan has seen an increasing number of Chinese coastguard and other government ships sailing near the disputed islets. 
Read More: Senkaku Islands Dispute
Read More: Recent Developments.

3      Italian Crisis in the offing? 
Italy’s oldest bank the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, weighed down by bad debt had to be bailed out in the last ten days, but the Italian banking crisis, in spite of assurances from PM Matteo Renzi, is far from over.   Renzi launched a stimulus package to try to re-float Italy’s economy now suffering a triple-dip recession. Critics are sceptical, but the stakes are high:  the beleaguered Italian PM has to publish a budget in mid-October and then has to win a Constitutional Referendum in November. With the economy in the doldrums the signs are not good. Should he loose, he will have to resign and Italy will have yet another caretaker government. The Italian crisis could become the EU’s biggest headache overshadowing the BRexit problems. 

Read More: Downfall of a Tuscan Paradise (Der Spiegel)
Read More; Renzi’s Stimulus Package   This article is to be found behind the Financial Times pay-wall. Should you not have access please google “Matteo Renzi hard push for stimulus” which should lead you to the article.

4   US Elections and BREXIT:
(If a week is a long time in politics…)
The two other big stories rumbling away are of course the US Elections and the ongoing BREXIT discussion in the UK and EU. Both stories are well covered in the media and both still have some time to run. Hillary Clinton seems to be having a better time than Donald Trump for now, but as Harold Wilson, the former UK PM, once said “a week is a long time in politics”,  and this election still has almost three months to go.

China to create political fissures with the West? 
Gideon Rachman, an excellent commentator, normally writing in the Financial Times, argues that Trump and Brexit share a similar political breeding ground,  in that in both Europe and the US, manufacturing workers and the less educated, have had their living standards hit by competition from Asia, and from China in particular. This is an important article which draws attention to the differing foreign policy implications of a win by either Trump or Clinton on relations with China, Japan and   the Pacific region.  Read More: China will create new political fissures in the West.

As for BREXIT, what is clear for now is that nothing is clear. The “Brexiters” did not know what they wanted, their voters had little idea  of what they were voting for and for now PM Theresa May is happy to take her time. We could be talking late 2017, after the French and German elections, before any substantial negotiations begin. If a week is a long time in politics, then over a year is an eternity and anything can happen.

BREXIT is also bringing about a re-appraisaL of Britain’s place in the world. Worth reading is the Guardian editorial which argues that the UK outside the EU has less influence and power vis-a -vis Russia or China.
Read More: The Guardian on Britain’s
Position in the World.

John Harris in the UK Guardian sees the United Kingdom, the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Norther Ireland is at risk because of BREXIT.
Read More: Fly the Flag for Team GB.

5    Diabetes numbers soar in the UK.
The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has increased by 60% in the last ten years from around 2 million people to over 3 million. The cost of to the National Health Service for diabetes prescriptions is now over £950 million ($1,250 million) and 10% of all publicly prescribed medicines.
Read More; Diabetes UK Report. 
Read More: Cost of Prescriptions Soar

6   Chinese Universities in top 100
Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU): Starting from 2003, ARWU has been presenting the world Top 500 universities  based on a set of objective indicators.
Harvard University remains the number one for the 14th year.  Oxford goes from the 10th place to the 7th. ETH Zurich (19th) takes first place in Continental Europe.  In Asia, the University of Tokyo is back in the top 20 but Kyoto University drops from 26th to 32nd.
Tsinghua University, Peking University, and the National University of Singapore make their first appearance in the Top 100.
Read More: Article
Read More: Full List

7  Greenland Shark is 400 years old
Greenland sharks are now the longest-living vertebrates known on Earth. Researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of 28 of the animals, and estimated that one female was about 400 years old.The team found that the sharks grow at just 1cm a year, and reach sexual maturity at about the age of 150 and are very slow swimmers. However a clam named Ming, am invertebrate mollusc, can claim the prize for the oldest living organism,  having reached the ripe old age of 507 years.
Read more: Greenland Shark is 400 years! 


Welcome to the first edition of the fortnightly Sunstar Press Digest. Rather than trying to cover every aspect of the news, a near impossible task in a 24/7 media environment, I will aim to highlight the main stories and concentrate on trends and reflective or provocative comment pieces, and perhaps some of the interesting stories that are easily missed.  To do this I trawl through a number of different print and broadcast media sources and wherever possible I try to find links that do not involve having to step over “pay-walls”.

Inevitably the selection will be somewhat arbitrary, and in this experimental phase your comments and suggestions will be most helpful and welcome. 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Giampi Alhadeff



Trump Brexit Terrorism: an unstable world

Russia and China look on. 

It is holiday time in some parts of the world, with many politicians and business people vacationing in their favourite haunts, and yet the world-wide political situation could not be more unstable.

US Elections, Brexit, Turkey, Syria
 is coping with the double whammy of Brexit (BBC 3 August) and the continuing Eurozone crisis.  In the US Hilary Clinton is facing a tough road against Trump, the populist  gaffe-prone property developer. (The Guardian)The race is so close that President Obama, felt the need to warn that Trump is unfit for the office of Leader of the Western World. Meanwhile in Turkey, a key NATO ally and potential EU Member,  President Erdogan, following the failed coup attempt, assumes near dictatorial powers sacking and imprisoning thousands whom he alleges are plotting against him, and accuses the US of harbouring the coups mastermind.  The civil war in Syria continues, with evidence of chlorine gas being used against civilian populations. Meanwhile China and Russia, who arguably can gain from these upheavals, look on.

A Bleak Scenario?
Tobias Stone, historian and polemicist,  paints a bleak possible scenario in the Huffington Post.  (Huffington Post  27 July) He argues that in these last decades the world has known a long period of peace, and that conflicts, though savage, such as in the Balkans, Rwanda or the Middle East, have been contained, but he believes that we could be entering a far more unstable period in our history.  Tobias Stone’s piece may be too pessimistic, but a timely reminder that the future is another country. It is a bleak scenario , possibly the bleakest since the 2008 global financial crisis.  Will our politicians rise to the challenge?  The signs are not altogether positive.

One indication that domestic considerations are stalling moves towards greater trade liberalisation is to be found in the current state of trade negotiations. The WTO negotiations are notoriously slow, however it had been hoped that the global economy could receive some stimulus from the two major trade negotiations the US is currently involved in.The Trans Pacific Partnership and the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment  Partnership , but these talks too, seem to be stuck in the doldrums. EU and US negotiators are making very slow progress, but now that Hillary Clinton has made a u-turn and joined Donald Trump in opposing to TTP,  It s unlikely that agreement, in either talks, can be reached in the last days of the Obama Presidency, let alone receive the required parliamentary or Congressional approval. Even in Bavaria, in Germany, the hitherto  non-controversial EU-Canada trade deal is coming under popular pressure.   Are we therefore seeing the end of this phase of trade globalisation, a process that  has lifted millions out of poverty in Aisia, in Africa and in Latin America, but which has also excluded many ordinary working people, particularly in the developed world? The danger is that the simplistic explanations of some populist politicians will find an echo among those voters who feel disenfranchised and “left-behind” by globalisation. In the UK this feeling found an echo with the many who voted for Brexit,  in the USA those who feel this way may chose Trump over Clinton in November and  in France, in next year’s Presidential Elections,  they might vote for the far-right Marine Le Pen.  The same political forces are present in many countries worldwide. Tobias Stone’s piece may,after all, not be so far fetched.

JAPAN: Shinzo Abe new stimulus package and re-shuffle
At least Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe,  victor in the recent Upper House elections, wins some credit for his attempts to re-ignite the Japanese economy in the Financial Times (pay-wall), and setting an example to the rest of the world. Bloomberg, however is less optimistic about his chances of success. (Bloomberg 2 Aug),  As I write this note, Mr Abe has just re-shuffled his Cabinet, appointing Tomomi Inada, the woman he dubbed his “Joan of Arc”, as his Defence Minister. (Reuters 3 August), The appointment of the hawkish Inada  will be seen as another step toward changing the Japanese Constitution and a continued robust Japanese response to Chinese territorial ambitious in the South China Seas (BBC South China Seas). 

Motor Neurone Disease Research: Big Result
However amid the gloomy news we learn that the “ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE” which unexpectedly raised $100 million for research into Motor Neurone Disease, has led to a ground-breaking discovery by scientists of a gene variant  (The Guardian (28 July) which could lead researchers to find a cure for  this disease.

Obituary: Alvin Toffler, Futurologist.
It is good to remember the passing away of one of our great futurologists, Alvin Toffler, who died in his sleep at the age of 87. Toffler was one of the first to predict the society’s shift from manufacturing and mass production to information and communication. (The Guardian 27 July.   He is also credited with coining the phrase “information overload”. And on this note I close this first edition of the Sunstar News Digest.