Japan cult leader’s hanging closes chapter on shocking crime
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
Friday, July 6
Eds: Adds background on execution, other details. Removes repeated words in last paragraph. With AP Photos.
TOKYO (AP) — The executions Friday of a doomsday cult leader and six of his followers closed a chapter on one of Japan’s most shocking crimes, the poison gas attack on rush-hour commuters in Tokyo’s subway that killed 13 people and sickened more than 6,000.
The attack in 1995 woke up a relatively safe country to the risk of urban terrorism. The ensuing raid on the cult’s compound near Mount Fuji riveted Japan, as 2,000 police officers approached with a canary in a bird cage. Shoko Asahara, the bearded, self-proclaimed guru who had recruited scientists and others to his cult, was found two months later, hiding in a compartment in a building ceiling.
The executions of the 63-year-old Asahara and the six cult members were announced by the Justice Ministry after they had been hanged, as is the practice in Japan. Two major newspapers issued extra editions and handed them out at train stations.
“This gave me peace of mind,” Kiyoe Iwata, who lost her daughter in the subway attack, told broadcaster NHK. “I have always been wondering why it had to be my daughter and why she had to be killed. Now, I can pay a visit to her grave and tell her of this.”
The executions were a long time coming, but they were expected as the last trial in the case had been completed and some of the condemned convicts had been transferred to other prisons earlier this year. Six other cult members remain on death row.
The subway attack was the most notorious of the cult’s crimes, which was blamed for 27 deaths in all. Named Aum Shinrikyo, or Supreme Truth, it amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons to carry out Asahara’s escalating criminal orders in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government.
Japan’s justice minister, who approved the hangings Tuesday, said she doesn’t take executions lightly but felt these were justified because of the unprecedented seriousness of the crimes the seven committed.
“The fear, pain and sorrow of the victims, survivors and their families — because of the heinous cult crimes — must have been so severe, and that is beyond my imagination,” Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa told a news conference.
She said the crime affected not only Japan but also sowed fear abroad.
The seven executions in one day were the most since Japan began releasing information on executions in 1998. They were hanged in detention centers in Tokyo and three other places, spread out so the executions could be done at once.
Japan hangs several people in an average year but keeps the executions highly secretive. The country started disclosing the names of the executed and their locations only 11 years ago. Those executed learn their fate only when they are taken to the gallows. There are 117 convicts on death row.
Six of the seven, including Asahara, had been implicated in the subway attack. They included three scientists who led the production of the sarin gas and a man who drove a getaway vehicle.
Their other crimes include the 1989 murders of an anti-Aum lawyer and his wife and 1-year-old baby and a 1994 sarin attack in the city of Matsumoto in central Japan, which killed seven people and injured more than 140. An eighth person died after being in a coma for a decade.
On March 20, 1995, cult members used umbrellas to puncture plastic bags, releasing sarin nerve gas inside subway cars just as their trains approached the Kasumigaseki station, Japan’s Capitol Hill, during the morning rush. Commuters poured out of subway stations in downtown Tokyo, and the streets were soon filled with troops in Hazmat suits and people being treated in first-aid tents set up outside.
The convicted also assaulted and murdered wayward followers and people who helped members leave the cult.
Asahara, whose original name was Chizuo Matsumoto, founded Aum Shinrikyo in 1984. The cult attracted many young people, including graduates of top universities.
During his eight-year trial, Asahara talked incoherently, occasionally babbling in broken English, and never acknowledged his responsibility or offered meaningful explanations.
He was on death row for about 14 years. His family has said he was a broken man, constantly wetting and soiling the floor of his prison cell and not communicating with his family or lawyers. They had requested his mental treatment a retrial.
Some survivors of the cult’s crimes opposed the executions, saying they would end hopes for a fuller explanation of the crimes.
Shizue Takahashi, whose husband was a subway deputy station master who died in the attack, also expressed regret that six of Asahara’s followers had been killed.
“I wanted the others to talk more about what they did as lessons for anti-terrorism measures in this country, and I wanted the authorities and experts to learn more from them,” she told a televised news conference. “I regret that is no longer possible.”
The cult claimed 10,000 members in Japan and 30,000 in Russia. It has disbanded, though nearly 2,000 people follow its rituals in three splinter groups, monitored by authorities.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said authorities are taking precautionary measures in case of any retaliation by his followers.
Associated Press journalists Kaori Hitomi and Haruka Nuga contributed to this story.
Sanders Deserved What Burton and Taylor Got — Privacy
June 28, 2018 by Llewellyn King
Public accommodations can be a thorny matter. Historically, Virginia has had its problems, as have other states and nations.
In Marshall, Va., a little greasy spoon became notorious and its owners served time in prison because they refused to serve people of color. Very soon, the only people who frequented the joint were journalists who hoped to catch the owners in the act of violating the state’s public accommodations law.
In a bar in Baltimore, I watched the owner lie to a black man who wanted service. “This is a private club, but I could sell you something to go,” the owner said. It wasn’t a club; it was racism at work.
At a roadside restaurant in South Africa, before the fall of apartheid, my family and I and our African driver stopped for a bite. I was told that our driver couldn’t enter this humble establishment with me and my family and would have to eat in the car. We all ate in the car.
Obviously, there was no race dimension in the booting of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders from the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., but there was the owner’s anger, fury and protest. It was a comment on actions of the administration Sanders defends daily. Lexington, located in the Shenandoah Valley, is a thoroughly Trump town — home to the Virginia Military Institute, Washington and Lee University, flag-bedecked houses, pickup trucks with NRA decals, and Fox on the box.
The restaurant owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, said Sanders didn’t meet the restaurant’s standards of kindness, compassion and cooperation and that’s why she kicked out Sanders. Clearly Wilkinson was vexed, as many are these days, with the profound national division over the treatment of immigrant children at the border and the constant defense of mendacity by Sanders.
While political speech deserves defense, I think one deserves to eat one’s vittles without victimization. Chowing down shouldn’t be an opportunity for others to speak up.
Customers who meet reasonable standards of behavior and dress shouldn’t be denied service or yelled at while exercising their right to patronize public places. I think it was wrong for protesters to attack Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a Mexican restaurant in Washington. Some privacy in public is an entitlement, even if the president behaves in outrageous ways with ad hominem attacks on allied leaders, schoolyard abuse of his detractors and a rabid-dog approach to public life.
There isn’t much for which I can claim the moral high ground, but when it comes to restaurants, I have credentials — top-drawer bona fides, as it were.
Back in 1962, I was employed by one of the London newspapers, notorious for intruding on peoples’ privacy. My assignment was to follow a couple of lovebirds around London. They were Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and my job was to spend all day and much of the night at the famous Dorchester Hotel, where love was being committed.
Except that they never entered stage center.
Every day I made my way to the five-star hotel and sat around, had drinks (which the hotel provided free) and hoped to see them coming or leaving or, fond hope, kissing on the backstairs. No joy. Even hopes of asking the chambermaid about the bed were nobbled by hotel security.
Then one Sunday in Dulwich, a green and pleasant oasis in south London, my then wife, a brilliant journalist, Doreen King, and I went for our Sunday lunch, an English tradition, at a very nice pub. And there they were, my prey: Taylor and Burton as large as life having lunch. Not just having lunch, but at the next table.
My wife whispered, “Are you going to call the office and get a photographer? What questions have you got ready?”
I looked at the lovers at the next table. Never have I seen two people so in love, so happy with each other. My wife and I agreed silently to leave them alone.
I’d like to be able to say that Burton winked, but he didn’t. He had eyes only for Taylor.
To my mind, the lovely (Taylor and Burton) and the less so (Nielsen and Sanders) should be able to enjoy a private meal in public. I missed a scoop on this belief.
About the Author
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS, and he is a columnist with InsideSources.
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Residents of Ohio’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities rate their providers
Data in online consumer guide helps older adults, families choose quality care
Columbus, Ohio – The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, a division of the Ohio Department of Aging, has released results of the 2017 Long-Term Care Resident Satisfaction Survey. The survey, conducted through face-to-face interviews with residents of nursing homes and residential care (assisted living) facilities, gauges residents’ satisfaction with an array of focus areas related to their care and everyday life.
The statewide average score for resident satisfaction in nursing homes was 77.8 (out of 100). The Statewide average score for resident satisfaction in assisted living facilities was 85.2 (out of 100). Full facility-specific satisfaction survey reports are available on the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide website (www.ltc.ohio.gov).
“For a decade and a half, the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide has helped older Ohioans and their families make one of the most difficult and important decisions in their lives or that of a loved one,” said Erin Pettegrew, Acting State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. “The guide and its annual satisfaction surveys are also valuable resources for facility staff and leadership as they continue to reach toward a higher bar for quality.”
“We sometimes forget that these facilities are ‘home’ for those who live there. Residents deserve their homes to be as responsive to their needs and reflective of their interests and values as possible,” added Beverley Laubert, Interim Director of the Department of Aging. “Scores in this and other surveys show us that person-centered care not only drives customer satisfaction upward, but also leads to higher quality of life and better health outcomes.”
The 2017 Long-Term Care Resident Satisfaction Survey was conducted between July and December 2017 by Vital Research, LLC, through a competitive contract with the Department of Aging. Surveyors conducted structured face-to-face interviews with a random sample of residents in each facility. A total of 23,145 residents in 963 nursing homes and 12,849 residents of 687 assisted living facilities were interviewed. Slightly more than half of each type of facility (501 nursing homes and 357 assisted living) scored above the statewide average.
In addition to overall satisfaction, the survey measures how well specific aspects of the facility meet the residents’ needs and expectations. Areas explored include environment, choice and quality of meals, safety, care, staff and how residents spend their time, along with others. In both types of facilities, residents were most satisfied with the environment (e.g., cleanliness, privacy) and care. Lower satisfaction was reported with meals and how residents spend their time.
“With this data, we can help facilities focus on areas that are most important to the people they serve,” Pettegrew said. “Quality care is a partnership between the facility, the resident, family members and advocates like ombudsmen.”
In 2018, the State Ombudsman’s office is surveying family members of nursing home and assisted living residents. Results of the 2016 Family Satisfaction Survey are currently available in the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide.
Volunteers are another way the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for consumers and helps nursing homes. If you would like to volunteer to visit with nursing home and assisted living residents and help them resolve issues with their care, call the State Ombudsman’s office at 1-800-282-1206 or visit www.stepup.ohio.gov. To learn more about the Ombudsman program, visit www.ombudsman.ohio.gov.
23 Willow Brook at Delaware Run Delaware Delaware 94.75
About ODA – The Ohio Department of Aging serves and advocates for the needs of Ohioans age 60 and older, as well as their families, caregivers and communities. Programs include home and community based long-term supports and services, as well as initiatives to promote health and wellness throughout the lifespan. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.
US moves 100 coffins to inter-Korean border for war remains
Saturday, June 23
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The U.S. military said it moved 100 wooden coffins to the inter-Korean border on Saturday to prepare for North Korea’s returning of the remains of American soldiers who have been missing since the 1950-53 Korean War.
U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Col. Chad Carroll also said 158 metal transfer cases were sent to a U.S. air base near Seoul, South Korea’s capital, and would be used to send the remains home.
North Korea agreed to return U.S. war remains during the June 12 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.
While the U.S. military preparations suggest that the repatriation of war remains could be imminent, it remains unclear when and how it would occur.
Earlier Saturday, Carroll denied a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that U.S. military vehicles carrying more than 200 caskets were planning to cross into North Korea on Saturday. He said plans for the repatriation were “still preliminary.”
U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement later in the day that 100 wooden “temporary transit cases” built in Seoul were sent to the Joint Security Area at the border as part of preparations to “receive and transport remains in a dignified manner when we get the call to do so.”
From 1996 to 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains.
But efforts to recover and return other remains have stalled for more than a decade because of the North’s nuclear weapons development and U.S. claims that the safety of recovery teams it sent during the administration of former President George W. Bush was not sufficiently guaranteed.