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Japan lower house approves $156bn recovery budget
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 10, 2011

Japan's lower house on Thursday approved a 12.1 trillion-yen ($156 billion) draft budget to finance post quake reconstruction and boost an economy hit by slow global growth and a strong yen.

The third extra budget will now be deliberated in another parliamentary chamber, which is expected to approve it later this month.

The package, which would be the second-biggest ever following one compiled in 2009 after the global financial crisis, is the latest government effort to revive an economy reeling from the impact of the March earthquake and tsunami.

The budget comes in the wake of a four trillion yen package in May and another two trillion yen in July.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda suggested earlier Thursday that he would pursue a fourth extra budget to help disaster victims repay housing or other loans and boost assistance for farmers.

If Japan draws up a fourth extra budget it would be the first time since 1947 when the country struggled to rise from the aftermath of World War II.

The bulk of the third supplementary budget for the year to March is earmarked for rebuilding the northern region hit by the March earthquake and tsunami that left 20,000 people dead or missing.

Part of the budget would be used for decontamination and other measures to counter the worst nuclear crisis for 25 years after post-tsunami meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The spending plan also includes two trillion yen in financing for struggling businesses amid the yen's appreciation to historic levels against the dollar.

It includes 500 billion yen in subsidies to companies that build factories and research facilities in Japan.

The government plans to fund the budget through spending cuts, sales of public assets, tax hikes and use of non-tax revenues as well as bond issuance.

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Actor Brad Pitt 'inspired' by Japan's recovery
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 10, 2011 - Actor Brad Pitt praised the "tenacity" of Japan in its post-quake recovery efforts Thursday, as the star brought his partner Angelina Jolie and family to a nation still confronting a nuclear crisis.

"You are bringing everything forward to rebuilding and reclaiming the lives for yourselves and for others. It's valued and inspiring to us," Pitt told a news conference ahead of the Japan release of his new movie "Moneyball."

"Your tenacity and perseverance and survival has a great effect on us, to the world community, and I applaud you all for that," he said.

Pitt's visit to Japan, together with Jolie and their six children comes nearly eight months after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that left 20,000 dead or missing, while sparking the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

The global community is "greatly and painfully aware of the cataclysmic catastrophe," Pitt said. "Our hearts and thoughts are still with you who have been touched by this event."

In the film directed by Bennett Miller, Pitt plays the Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane who turns to a statistician with a radical new system to evaluate players and put together a competitive team at a quarter of the cost.

Baseball is hugely popular in Japan both as a professional sport and among children, and the nation has exported stars to US Major League Baseball such as Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners and Hideki Matsui of the Oakland A's.

At the film's preview Wednesday, Pitt gave autographed balls to 10 teenage baseball players from the quake-hit northeast.


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Thaksin keeps low profile in Thai flood crisis
Bangkok (AFP) Nov 10, 2011
With a flood crisis rocking his sister's government, fugitive ex-Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra is lying low as prospects of a triumphant homecoming look ever more distant, observers say. The usually outspoken Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, has mostly shied away from publicly commenting on a disaster that has killed more than 500 people and threatens the hear ... read more

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