Japan's prime minister is married to his first cousin

It would be hard top Miyuki Hatoyama in terms of eccentricity. The former Japanese first lady was best known for the fact that she claimed that she was abducted by aliens and knew Tom Cruise in a former life. Naoto Kan's wife Nobuko, according to the Economist, is known "mainly for her straight-talking manner and no-nonsense influence on Mr Kan." But there is one interesting thing about their relationship, as blogger Michael Cucek explains

What everyone has either been ignoring, willfully or not, is that the PM and his wife are related.

Closely related.

First cousins, in fact. If online family trees are correct, Kan Naoto’s mother and his wife Nobuko’s father are sister and brother.

Whilst first cousin marriage is the most common form of marriage in pre-modern societies and was not at all rare in even urban areas in pre-war Japan, it has become a rarity in this modern, mass education, mobile age. While obviously legal (just barely) it has been driven out by a mass inculcation of the belief that first cousin marriage carries an unacceptable risk of birth defects, should there be children. Indeed, the prime minister and his wife’s parents vehemently opposed the two marrying.

Hat tip: Japan Probe



Costa Rica cracks down on stem cell tourism

Costa Rica, increasingly known as a haven for medical tourism, is putting a stop to one controversial practice:


The health ministry last month ordered the country's largest stem cell clinic to stop offering treatments, arguing there is no evidence that the treatments work or are safe.

"If (stem cell treatment's) efficiency and safety has not been proven, we don't believe it should be used," said Dr. Ileana Herrera, chief of the ministry's research council. "As a health ministry, we must always protect the human being.

The clinic's owner, Arizona entrepreneur Neil Riordan, told Reuters he closed the clinic and admitted the treatments, involving the removal and re-injection of stem cells, had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"I think her point was that it is not FDA approved," he said in a telephone interview from Panama.

The ministry said the clinic had a permit to store the adult stem cells, extracted from patients' own fat tissue, bone marrow and donated umbilical cords, but is not authorized to perform the treatment.

Riordan has patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and other forms of paralysis who are coming to his defense, but the evidence that his treatments work is mostly anecdotal. It certainly makes sense that the Costa Rican government doesn't want to be held liable for an unproven treatment, but with patients becoming more comfortable with medical tourism, you can expect similar clinics to open elsewhere. 

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