Thursday, September 30, 2004

Sex discrimination and harassment at a US base

From (yet another) Japan Times article:
A former TV anchorwoman at the U.S. Navy's Yokosuka Base [in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan] has accused the base command of failing to address what she calls a hostile work environment that allows "nonstop harassment and reprisals."

Sharon StephensonPino claims she has been repeatedly retaliated against, demoted and suspended, and was finally forced out of her job earlier this month because of a sexual harassment complaint she filed against her immediate supervisor.

Her complaint is corroborated by another ex-employee:
Others familiar with this case say StephensonPino is not the only victim.

Foremost is her former colleague, Brian Hammond, who claims he was removed for trying to support her. A technical director for "The Yokosuka Report," Hammond said he testified "whenever investigations came" and wrote letters to the base command in efforts to help her.

When one of his affidavits was revealed last October, Hammond said, he was given a letter, signed by the base commander, notifying him that his contract would not be renewed and would end last January.

Like StephensonPino, Hammond said the supervisor had given him an exemplary record, and he had won many navy awards for his work, which included developing a system to upload TV programs on the Web site.

Hammond said he filed an EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] complaint in protest, but it was dismissed by the base's EEO office after only the supervisor and another person he identified were interviewed.

"I am done with this place," Hammond recalls thinking, adding "it would look better on my resume if I quit on my own" instead of being fired.
... read the rest of the article

Takato Nahoko: former hostage, still an aid-worker

Japan Focus has an interesting article about Takato Nahoko, one of the three Japanese people taken hostage in Iraq earlier this year. They were criticised at the time by the Japanese government and media.
Takato talks about her nightmarish ordeal, as well as disclosing details of the diary she has kept since visiting Iraq for the first time, in "Senso to Heiwa: Soredemo Iraku-jin o Kirai ni Narenai'' (War and peace: Even now I can't hate the Iraqi people; Kodansha). [I have corrected the article's translation of the title.]
Since the book was published early last month, Takato and her family have received letters from people apologizing for criticizing her and misunderstanding her good intentions, she says. The senders were, of course, referring to the "personal responsibility'' that the Japanese government demanded from the hostages.
Although Takato says she has always been aware of the need to take responsibility upon entering war zones, she felt that she and the government didn't see eye to eye on exactly what "personal responsibility'' meant. But she intends to repay the government for her ticket from Baghdad to Dubai as soon as her lawyers settle other issues with the Foreign Ministry.

Prime Minister Koizumi has not apologised for his remarks which strongly suggested that he resented the trouble the hostages had put him to. Pretty arrogant for a public servant.

Also of interest are Takato's remarks about her background, not least for the light they shed on life in a fairly average Japanese town:
People still wonder why Takato risked her life to help the street children of Iraq. Quite simply, she saw herself in those children, she said in an interview after the Tokyo news conference. The kids, some as young as elementary school age, smoking cigarettes and inhaling paint thinner from dawn until dusk, reminded her of her own youth.
As a child, Takato was a troublemaker who started smoking at 12, got hooked on paint thinner at 13 and soon afterward tried hashish.
It wasn't until she moved to metropolitan Tokyo to attend university that she began to get an idea of what she wanted to do with her life.
"I used to hate children,'' says Takato, who admits she often risked being stabbed with a butterfly knife when she managed a karaoke joint in Chitose that served as a hangout for juvenile delinquents.
But ever since she set off to India on her first humanitarian mission at age 30 to give herself a break from the day-to-day grind of working at the karaoke club, she has found children in need of compassion and affection everywhere she has visited, including Cambodia, Thailand and Iraq. When she returns to Japan to earn travel expenses, she works at a ramen joint and at a cattle ranch.

Ironically, when she visits her hometown now it exacerbates the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder she is suffering from: "the roar of fighter planes and the sound of cannon fire at the nearby Self-Defense Forces Chitose Air Base, was like reliving the war in Iraq, she says."

Still, she has managed to achieve a lot since her release:
Though she hasn't yet set foot in Iraq again since her release, she returned to Amman, Jordan, for a month from the end of July to aid the Fallujah reconstruction effort. Between her April release and July, the 34-year-old aid worker helped establish the Iraq Hope Network, whose members include numerous Japanese volunteer groups and individuals, who share information and resources to enable more effective support.
With the help of local volunteers and nongovernmental organizations, the three former hostages and their families decided to contribute some of the 8 million yen in donations they received from benevolent Japanese to rebuild a school in Fallujah, she says. Creating jobs, especially for young men, and schools to keep children occupied will help keep them away from militia recruitment and the violent anti-American movement, she explains.

Chinese slave labourers win settlement from Japanese company

The workers were abducted from Henan Province during the Japanese occupation of China. The company, Tokyo-based Nippon Yakin Kogyo Co., forced 200 people to work at their nickel factory, in Kyoto prefecture. 12 died from lack of proper care:
they were forced to work 14-hour days and were beaten if they did not meet their quotas.

Slave laborers there received no wages and were given measly food and only thin blankets, even in winter, according to their claims.
(All quotes from this Japan Times article.)

The company has not apologised but it has now agreed to pay out 21 million yen (only about 158 thousand euros) following a court case brought by "Liu Zonggen, 72, three other former laborers and the family of two deceased men [who] filed the suit in 1998, seeking a total 130 million yen in compensation and an apology from both the [Japanese] government and Nippon Yakin Kogyo."
The Kyoto District Court ruled in January 2003 that the government and Nippon Yakin Kogyo had acted illegally in abducting the plaintiffs to Japan and putting them to work as slave laborers.

But the court rejected the plaintiffs' demand for compensation, saying their right to claim compensation had expired under a 20-year statute of limitations. The plaintiffs appealed the ruling.
In December, the high court recommended a settlement among the three parties. The government refused to enter settlement talks.

What a surprise! Still, it's nice to have some good news.
Supporters of the plaintiffs said they hope the settlement will have a positive influence on other pending legal battles over the responsibility of Japan and Japanese companies over wartime slave labor.
Wednesday's settlement was the second case involving a Japanese company and wartime slave laborers from China. In 2000, major construction firm Kajima Corp. settled its dispute with Chinese people taken to a mine in Akita Prefecture for slave labor during World War II by contributing 500 million yen to a relief fund for the victims.

US public brainwashed but showing signs of sanity

Evidence for intense propaganda bombardment: 52% think the US should keep bases in Japan; 62% think they should keep troops in Korea.

But a there's a fair amount of common sense too:
The public opinion poll also found 51 percent opposed the use of U.S. forces even if North Korea were to invade South Korea. It also showed 61 percent opposed the use of U.S. forces if China were to invade Taiwan. The poll found that 68 percent think it is necessary for the U.S. to win the approval of the U.N. Security Council if it were to consider using military force to destroy North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

From a Japan Times article with the interesting headline: 40% in U.S. say bases unnecessary.

Incidentally, anyone who thinks members of US elites are always more liberal than average Americans needs to explain away figures like these:
According to poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 39 percent replied that the United States should not have long-term military bases in Japan, while 52 percent said the U.S. should maintain them.

The figures were similar to a separate poll of U.S. leaders, including senior government officials and lawmakers, as 38 percent of those respondents said long-term U.S. bases are unnecessary, while 56 percent felt otherwise.

Indoctrination to be written into Japanese Law of Education

Patriotism is where the bad guys hide out, I seem to recall. Anyone putting it into an educational curriculum is attempting to corrupt a generation of children. That includes Nariaki Nakayama, Japanese Minister of Education: "a former Finance Ministry official who last served as deputy secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party before being named head of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in the new Cabinet formed this week". (Quotes are from this Japan Times article.)
Nakayama also said he hopes to submit a bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education at the next ordinary Diet session, which starts in January.

The 1947 law set the basic foundation for educational policy in postwar Japan. Last year, the Central Council for Education suggested the law be revised to foster patriotism.

Currently, the LDP is discussing how to revise the law with its coalition partner, New Komeito. But they have yet to agree on some points, including whether patriotism should be included as a key component of the law.

But the two parties decided earlier this month to let the education ministry begin drafting the bill on the points the two parties have agreed on, including further equal education opportunities.

Nakayama voiced his support for revisions to promote patriotism. "I think that as we now live in a globalized society, it's necessary to have an image of the Japanese in which (students) can have pride and confidence," he said.

By implication, Nakayama thinks it's preferable to get them to have that image by propaganda rather than trying to make Japan a country which its young people should actually be proud of. And what logical link Nakayama sees between this and 'living in a globalised society', I simply can't imagine.

In case you were wondering what the rather sinisterly-named Central Council for Education is, there's a not very informative page here. As far as I can make out, they are just a bunch of people the Education Ministry pays to provide policy advice. In this case, the ministry should ask for their money back, but they won't, because the advice is exactly what they wanted to hear...