The Japanese Parliament approved an emergency budget of $50 billion to help finance the recovery from the March 11 twin disasters.
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the recovery package but warned that subsequent recovery budgets would be more difficult to get approval. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which is the majority party in Japan, controls the lower house but not the upper house. In this instance, the opposition voted to approve the government's spending package, a range of spending cuts, but signalled that a second extra budget, which Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said would rely on selling of government bonds, would not be looked on so favorably.
Estimates of the damage caused by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami have topped $300 billion, making them together the world's most costly natural disaster. Many observers think that Japan will need help anyway to repair all of the damage. Already, repairs to the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant are expected to take most of the rest of the year.
An estimated 15,000 people are confirmed dead, and more than 11,000 are still listed as missing.
Kan, who recently toured areas hardest hit by the twin disasters, shook off fresh calls for his resignation, asserting that the Japanese people needed stability in times of crisis and that his resignation would create political chaos. Respondents to a recent public poll said overwhelmingly that Kan was too slow to address the country's monumental problems.
In the wake of the ongoing nuclear crisis, thousands of people gathered in Tokyo and other large cities to plead with their government to stop using nuclear plants to generate energy. The country currently depends on nuclear power plants for a large percentage of its energy generation. The meltdown at the Fukushima plant has frightened many people, especially after it took the Tokyo Electric Power Company so long to stop radiation from leaking into the surrounding soil and water.
On a slightly happier note, Miki Ando won the world figure skating championships, which were scheduled to take place in Japan but were moved to Moscow after the disaster. Ando repeated her triumph of 2007, besting Olympic champion Kim Yuna of South Korea by less than two points overall.