welcome to nhk world "newsline." i'm gene otani in tokyo. here's a look at some of the stories we're following this hour. north koreans are marking the third anniversary of the death of their former leader kim jong-il. people in sydney are remembering the victims of the cafe siege for their bravery, as australian officials vow to probe how the hostage taker slipped through their radar. and class dismissed. people across japan are seeing
more and more schools close, and they're feeling the impact in their communities. people in north korea are observing the end of traditional mourning for their former leader kim jong-il, died three years ago. state-run media is commemorating kim's life, and also highlighting the reign of his son and successor. at noon local time north korean state-run television observed three minutes of silence in kim's honor. it has also been broadcasting a series of commemorative programs about him. people in pyongyang have been laying flowers on the streets in memory of the late leader. military personnel bowed before his statue. two senior bhebs of the chinese community party made condolence visits in beijing. liu yunshan is a standing committee member of the political bureau.
wang jiarui is head of the party's international department. china has traditionally been north korea's closest ally. relations had cooled since kim jong-un had his uncle executed about a year ago on treason charges. the condolence visits offer a sign that ties remain friendly. north koreans living in the chinese border city of dandong paid their respects. they visited the consulate general to offer flower baskets. more information is coming to light about the man who took 17 hostages with a gun at a cafe in sydney. a lawyer says man haron monis sent thousands of letters to australian government leaders demanding the stop -- that he stop sending troops abroad. police stormed the cafe on tuesday, shooting monis to death. two hostages also died. monis was known as a self-styled muslim cleric.
he was facing several charges but had been released from prison on bail. a lawyer who had defended monis says he sent the letters after he received political asylum from iran in 2001. he says monis claimed that he was abused by guards in jail because of the letters when he was detained this year on sexual assault charges. >> the fact is, he operated on his own. the fact is, he was not embraced by the islamic community ever. >> australian prime minister tony abbott says he will quickly review how a government agency share information about monis. >> and we do need to know why he seems to have fallen off our security agency's watch list back in about 2009. >> abbott says the review will cover monis' entry from iran in 1996, and how he was given permanent residency. he says they'll also examine how the 50-year-old obtained a gun
violence. abbott says their view will be released by the end of january. people have been gathering at the site to pray for the victims. local media reports say the cafe's manager was killed while trying to wrestle a gun away from monis. >> i just said your bravery will never be forgotten. i mean what they went through was pretty intense. so, yeah, we'll stand by our people as a nation. weep get through this. >> you realize that these things do happen. it's not just something that we hear about anymore. it's real for us now. and you look around, and it feels different. >> some of the mourners have come to lay flowers and write messages for the victims. members of the pakistani taliban have carried out the country's deadliest attack in years. they stormed a military-run school in the northwestern city
of peshawar on tuesday. and they killed more than 140 people, mostly children. seven members of the militant group detonated explosives and fired at random. military personnel rushed to the scene to try to rescue students. the standoff lasted about ten hours before soldiers killed the gunman. a spokesperson says 141 students and officials were killed. 121 were injured. the incident is the deadliest in pakistan since 2007. a bomb targeting former prime minister benazir bhutto exploded, killing more than 180 people in karachi. this year's nobel peace lawyer yet says she's heartbroken by the news. malala yousafzai is from pakistan and survived a taliban shooting. >> i call the international community, leaders in pakistan, all political parties, and everyone that we should stand up
together and fight against terrorism. and we should make sure that every child gets safe and quality education. >> malala said she stands with the children who are injured and traumatized. representatives of a group reporters without borders say the nature of violence against journalists is evolving. they've raised concerns in their annual report about an increase in abductions and murders that have become more barbaric. members of the paris-based group installed a giant container in front of the eiffel tower to highlight the plight of imprisoned journalists. and they spoke of colleagues who have died on the job. >> in 2014, everybody will remember the beheadings of american journalists. but on the world, 66 journalists have been killed in the course of their jobs in the world. >> spokespersons for the groups say five fewer journalists died this year compared to 2013 but
it says 119 were kidnapped. an increase of 32 from last year. more than a third were abducted in syria, and iraq. reporters without borders says the beheading of journalists for propaganda purposes had rarely taken police before. it says murders have become more violent and abductions are growing rapidly in attempt to prevent independent news coverage. japanese regulators have taken a step toward allowing a nuclear plant to resume operations. a draft assessment says two reactors at the takahama plant in fukui prefecture meet government regulations. the plant is the second in japan to clear this hurdle. officials at the nuclear regulation authority compiled the draft assessment. the officials looked at safety measures for the number three and four reactors. they determined the reactors
meet government regulations introduced after the fukushima daiichi nuclear disaster three years ago. the plant is operated by kansai electric power company. the officials there have taken measures to enable the reactors to withstand stronger earthquakes and taller tsunami. they also installed equipment to prepare for the possibility of a severe nuclear accident. >> translator: improving the safety of nuclear plants is never ending. i urge the operator to take the initiative in making sufficient efforts and investments to ensure the safety of the number three and four reactors at the takahama power plant. >> regulators will invite comments from the public on the draft over 30 days before officially adopting it. the operator still needs to get approval on equipment designed and pass inspections, and local leaders must give their consent before the plant can go on online. the restart is unlikely before
spring. all of japan's nuclear reactors are now offline. work to remove debris from the march 2011 tsunami has begun along the coast of taba town in northeast japan. an evacuation order has been in place for the town since the accident at the fukushima daiichi nuclear plant. on wednesday morning, government appointed workers began clearing an area of roughly 200 hectares. preparations are under way toward lifting the evacuation order on the area as radiation levels there are relatively low. the environment ministry estimates 5500 tons of debris needs to be removed. it will be taken to a provisional storage site. >> translator: i hope the debris will be removed as soon as possible, so that we can step up our reconstruction efforts. >> translator: we hope the removal will be the first step
in reconstruction, and residents can soon return to their homes. >> removal will enable decontamination work to take place and could speed up the area's reconstruction. the leaders of japan and the united states have had a chance to talk about their country's ties. prime minister shinzo abe and president barack obama confirm they'll maintain a strong alliance. the two leaders spoke by phone. obama congratulated abe on sunday's general election. japanese voters delivered a landslide victory to the governing coalition. abe and obama agreed to work closely to the in the fight against ebola, and the militant group islamic state. and they'll try to have a trans-pacific partnership free trade agreement concluded. they discussed their review of the japan/u.s. defense cooperation guidelines, and they agreed to promote steady progress on the issue. the ruble continues to drop.
ron madison is here to explain what's happening to the russian currency. ron? >> yeah, gene, you know, the russian ir russian ruble has been trading at record levels. the plunge is spurring public concern. the selling continues despite the central bank's rate hike to stem the currency's tumble. the dollar rose briefly hitting 80 rubles. in the last six months the dollar has gained more than 50% against the russian currency. it did recover slightly on wednesday. around noon russian local time the dollar was trading at around 70 rubles. many local banks have briefly halted service for exchanging rubles for currency such as the dollar and the euro. some retailers selling imported goods were crowded with shoppers fearing further price rises. many shoppers were buying electric appliances. >> translator: we need to be ready for things to get much worse.
>> translator: food prices are getting higher and higher. we have to spend more money every day because we are paid in rubles. >> some analysts say the ruble's decline could be unstoppable. they note that crude oil prices are expected to continue falling. now, the ruble's sharp decline is also worrying japanese automakers in russia. russian car sales amount to about 3 million units a year, making it the world's seventh largest car market. japanese automakers are concerned that if the ruble keeps falling, their exports to russia will be less competitive. toyota, nissan, and mitsubishi are all producing cars in russia. parts for their vehicles are supplied mainly by european manufacturers. a weaker ruble will push up the cost of imported parts and weigh on the automakers' earnings. a japanese economist says the ruble's tumble has prompted russian investors, and the country's wealthy, to sell off the currency. he says this is fuelling further declines. well market players are pretty jittery over the russian economy, and falling crude oil prices.
in london prospects for a supply glut are keeping benchmark brent futures below $60 a barrel. levels that we haven't seen in more than five years. major indexes in europe are resuming their slide, after slight rebounds in the previous session. as you can see there, all of the majors are lower. asian markets ended mixed today. tokyo's nikkei bounced back 0.4% from recent hefty losses. shanghai hit a fresh four-year high on stimulus hopes. hong kong's hang seng extended losses into a fifth straight session. moving on to currencies now, lower risk appetite among investors is supporting the yen. but the dollar gained some ground ahead of the federal reserve's policy announcement later today. dollar/yen right now at 117.18. analysts say all eyes are on fed chair janet yellen's comments on the timing of fed moves to start raising interest rates. market players are also focusing on the presidential vote in greece that starts on wednesday. well, work has begun to
build a high speed rail line in japan using magnetic levitation technology. the maglev trains will link tokyo and nagoya in 40 minutes cutting the travel time in half. officials from central japan railways, local authorities, and residents, joined in a ceremony to bless the occasion. and pray for safety on the construction site. the railway company plans to start drilling in april. they'll build a station platform 40 meters below ground. the project has raised concerns about effects on the environment, as most of the 300 kilometer line will be underground. >> translator: we will carefully monitor the impact, and prevent damage to the environment. we will also work closely with the regions involved in the project. >> the maglev train runs up to 500 kilometers per hour. the railway company is aiming to start service in 2027. the project is estimated to cost about $47 billion.
experts at japan's welfare ministry have drafted a plan to reform the government's pension investment fund. the fund has assets worth more than $1.1 trillion. the government decided in october that the national pension fund should pursue a more aggressive investment strategy. this will increase the ratio of stock holdings in the fund, while reducing the amount of domestic bonds. the ministry's expert team has been working on new investment plans, and a way to control risk. they recommend that a board of directors be appointed to set policies by consensus. the fund is currently overseen by a president. now they also recommend that the ministry set up a committee to control risk and prevent significant losses. the ministry is expected to make a decision on the plan at the start of the new year. well, sony's u.s. film subsidiary is facing a class action suit from former employees. they want compensation for the leak of their personal information when the firm's computer system was hacked.
the hackers invaded sony pictures entertainment late last month. they have published the data that they stole online. it includes unreleased films, executive e-mails, employee salaries, and other personal details. the plaintiffs filed suit on monday in the state of california. they say the firm's security measures were inadequate, and that it bears responsibility for the leak. sony has not commented on the lawsuit. the number of foreign visitors to japan has topped 12 million this year. that's the highest since the government started counting 50 years ago. officials at the japan national tourism organization say nearly 1.2 million people visited last month alone. that's up about 40% from a year earlier. and the weaker yen apparently is a pretty big attraction for them. that monthly figure pushed up the total from january to november to about 12.2 million. people from taiwan visited japan the most, with 2.6 million. they were followed by travelers from south korea and china. easier visa requirements for
people from southeast asia have been a factor in the rise, as well. more items on store shelves have been tax-free for foreign visitors since october. tourism officials expect the final total of visitors for the year to exceed 13 million. okay. that is going to wrap it up for biz tonight. japan's leaders are in a race against time. the proportion of elderly is increasing faster than any other country, and the birth rate remains low. since 2007, the number of deaths each year has outpaced the number of births. with fewer children, schools are closing across japan. that's having a big impact on local communities, even in tokyo. nhk world reports. >> reporter: more than 5,000
public schools have shuttered across japan in the past decade. education ministry officials say the number of primary schoolkids fell this year by 600,000. it's the same story in tokyo. more than 240 schools have closed in the past decade in this city. many communities are fighting the closures. this primary school in the city of odachi in eastern tokyo is scheduled to close in march. all the students will have to transfer to a neighboring school. yucca ogasawara has a daughter in the fourth grade. the city's decision means her daughter has to walk farther to school on busy roads.the fourth. the city's decision means her daughter has to walk farther to school on busy roads. >> translator: the new school is close to the train station. the roads are narrow and traffic
is heavy. it's not safe for her. and she's really sad that she could no longer go to school with her friends. but we didn't have much choice. >> reporter: shop owners say the closure of the school will also make things harder for local businesses. this man is a member of the local merchants association. he says toy and stationery shops are among the businesses suffering. >> translator: the community will die when the children are gone. if we do not hear their voices, we will lose our joy and sense of living in a community. >> reporter: not only children and local stores are affected by the school's closure. it has big impact on prevention programs in this high density downtown area. people use the primary schools as evacuation centers during
disasters, such as earthquakes. city officials are working to find alternative venues, but many residents are unhappy with the inconvenience. akira will have to walk ten more minutes to get to the closest evacuation center. he wonders whether his 84-year-old mother will be able to make it there. >> translator: i am really scared. if there's nowhere for me to go, i will become a disaster refugee. >> reporter: he has filed a lawsuit demanding that the city of adachi keep the school open. >> translator: we will only realize the impact of this decision when a disaster happens. closing the school just because
there are fewer kids will also affect the function of evacuation centers. >> reporter: professor haio is an expert in preparation studies and education policy. he says schools are vital for maintaining local social infrastructure. >> translator: officials should include schools in city plans because they are used as evacuation centers, and play a central role in local economies. otherwise, we cannot sustain our communities, as the population shrinks. >> reporter: many communities around japan face the same demographic challenge as this tokyo neighborhood. local people and officials are struggling to deal with the nation's shrinking population.
mass shi kato, nhk world, tokyo. passengers on a flight from south korea to the u.s. had an unplanned stopover in japan, after turbulence tossed their plane about in the skies. the rocky ride ended at narita airport. but not before 12 people were hurt. officials with japan's transport ministry say the crew of flight aa-280 reported the turbulence to air controllers late tuesday. the plane touched down at narita after midnight with more than 250 passengers and crew on board. >> it lasted for about maybe 30, 45 seconds. and it was very sudden. it was like a little bump, and then there was a really big one, where like all of my drinks went up and hit the ceiling. food went flying. and it was really bad. >> i've flown millions of miles. this is the worst i've ever
seen. >> transport ministry officials have quoted the pilot as saying the plane hit severe turbulence for about ten minutes. the jet was at an altitude of 8,000 meters bound for dallas. low pressure is to blame for the bumpy flight. the system is currently moving over northern japan. people in hokkaido have seen heavy snow since tuesday morning. and now they're dealing with a blizzard. authorities in the region have canceled more than 300 flights. and once again we are experiencing calm weather in tokyo, but the rest of japan is dealing with heavy snow. our meteorologist sayaka mori joins us for the details. sayaka? >> yes, heavy snow and fierce winds are affecting many parts of japan from hokkaido down towards kyushu. you can see clouds are covering many parts of the country. these are snow clouds. take a look at the snowfall depth as of this afternoon. nearly 200. or 210 sent meters of snow has piled up in niigata prefecture after 150 centimeters in fukuoka
prefeek your. i'm afraid to say more snow is expected as we go into thursday because we still have this powerful low pressure system near hokkaido. as you can see, the isobars are very, very close to each other, very strong winds are blowing across many parts of japan. the worst is happening in hokkaido. we have some pictures to show you from western hokkaido. hokkaido has been battered by blizzard conditions since tuesday. heavy snow and 135 kilometers per hour gusts were reported this afternoon. several people have been killed due to snow related accidents. hundreds of flights to and from northern japan have been canceled. meanwhile, water levels rose by one meter on the east coast causing widespread -- stormy conditions will linger as we go in to thursday. we're expecting gusts of 160 kilometers per hour. strong enough to cause some structure damage, and even trucks could overturn and still an additional 80 centimeters of snow could fall across hokkaido
within the next 24 hours. because stronger winds are blowing in to the sea of japan sight, hon chew received lots of snow fall up to 120 centimeters of snow for the hokuriku ranging. and snow will likely combine with very strong winds, so that will provide whiteout conditions in many places. snow and winds will continue into your thursday but temperatures are not so low, so instead of powdery snow, many areas will see heavy, wet snowfall. as for tokyo, sunny weather but temperatures are still below normal, as we go into the rest of the work week. calm weather across many parts of china, but winds are quite strong across the east coast of china, taiwan as well as luzon of the philippines. temperatures quite low for this time of year. minus 15 for the high in haitian. seoul your low is minus 15 degrees. that is going to be the lowest of the season and also lowest of
the year. to the south in the teens in hanoi, partly sunny skies for you, but seasonably high in bangkok with a high 31 degrees with windy conditions on thursday. now across europe, we have snowfall in morocco. let's take a look at this video coming out of the higher elevations of the country. people in north africa got a taste of winter monday as a storm moved through. this caused temperatures to drop, producing heavy snowfall in several locations across the country. the country typically sees its highest amount of precipitation during the month of december. now, snow has let up but the heavy snowmaker is now actually located over mid part of the mediterranean country. but instead of snow, people in italy and the western parts of the balkan enpins la are dealing with heavy snow -- heavy rain paul as well as gusty conditions. quite stormy over western parts of the continent but temperatures are still on the warmer side in paris. 13 degrees for the high. here's the extended forecast.
>> here are the headlines. funerals underway for some of the 141 people killed in the taliban attack on a school in pakistan. most of the victims were children. and eu court rules that palestinian group hamas must be removed from the terror blacklist, however it still considered -- it is still considered a terrorist group. this as parliament backs a palestinian state in principle. prepares toe house slap new sanctions on russia, but says there are no guarantees it will promote any change over ukraine.