Japanese Authorities To Clampdown On Matchmaking Sites

Operators of online matchmaking sites will soon be legally obligated to register with public safety authorities and immediately remove any posts that could incite juvenile crime.

National Police Agency officials are drafting changes to the law regulating matchmaking sites that will allow them to keep tighter control over the sites for lonely hearts that have often been used as fronts for such illegal activities as prostitution.

Crimefighters hope to have their proposed revisions put before the Diet by March.

NPA officials say the existing law regulating matchmaking sites contains no way for them to be able to determine who is actually running them and they are dependent on cooperation from providers and server operators to try and obtain that information. Cops say there are many cases where they are unable to pinpoint site operators operating illegally and that allows them to go unpunished.

The NPA wants to counter that by requiring all online matchmaking sites to register with prefectural public safety commissions or be punished for not doing so. The NPA will draw up a list of requirements operators will be expected to meet and ban members of organized crime gangs or those with criminal records from involvement in the business.

To combat juvenile crime, site operators will be required to remove any posts that may lead to illegal activity. Under the current law, deletions are left in the hands of operators, but the NPA wants to make it mandatory for site operators to immediately wipe out any posts making references to children.

And law enforcers also want some way to improve age verification methods. Currently, most sites only ask users whether they are over 18 and allow them access if they say they are, making it easy for minors to use the sites if they lie. Police are hoping to make matchmaking sites a member's only business accessible through payment by credit card - which can't be issued to under 18s - or some other form of identification, such as a driver's license.

Crime connected to online matchmaking sites has declined since the law regulating the business came into effect in 2003, but there was an increase of 92 people to 1,153 cases in 2006 which prompted police to feel the existing regulations still aren't sufficient.

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Heath Ledger's Australian Doctors May Be Investigated

Heath Ledger's Australian doctors may be investigated if any of the prescription drugs that led to his death were prescribed in his homeland, it has emerged.

The news comes after a US newspaper columnist sparked controversy by describing Heath Ledger as "reckless and greedy" and "selfish".

The DEA has subpoenaed Ledger's autopsy results from the New York Medical Examiner's Office and is attempting to find out why the actor was in possession of five different types of powerful prescription drugs.

New York police, who are also assisting the DEA with its investigation, have said some of the prescription drugs were prescribed in Europe.

Ledger spent two weeks with his family in Perth just weeks before his January 22 death in Manhattan from an accidental overdose, which has been blamed on the mix of powerful drugs in his system.

Washington DC-based DEA spokesman Michael Sanders said if evidence led to Australia, DEA officers would follow it up.

"We have 86 offices in 62 countries," Sanders said.

"If it leads to a country, we can conduct an investigation there.

"It could be in Australia, England, Rome or wherever."

The DEA's Australian office is in Canberra.

The DEA is charged with enforcing drug laws in the US and is interested in why Ledger had prescribed drugs for two powerful pain killers and three anti-anxiety drugs.

A sixth drug, doxylamine, commonly found in over-the-counter cough medicines, was detected in Ledger's blood.

Drug experts say no "reasonable doctor" would ever prescribe such a combination of medications.
The DEA will determine if one doctor prescribed the five drugs or whether Ledger went "doctor shopping".

"The DEA tries to look into any suspicious death involving the overdose of any pharmaceutical medications," Sanders said.

"We investigate to find out if the drugs were obtained in some type of illegal fashion or distributed illegally or if the individual who died did what we call doctor shopping, where they would go from one doctor to the other and not tell the doctors they had prescriptions for other pills."

The DEA has conducted raids on doctors' offices in other investigations, including doctors linked to celebrity Anna Nicole Smith, who died in Florida a year ago from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

"Unfortunately with Anna Nicole Smith, it was the same thing as Mr Ledger," Sanders said.

"It was a combination of different types of pharmaceutical medications."

Prescription drug abuse has become a serious public issue in the US.

Last weekend's Super Bowl TV telecast, during which companies paid $US2.7 million for a 30 second ad, featured a commercial highlighting the dangers of teenagers stealing their parents' prescription medicine.

"Teens are getting the medications out of their parents' medicine cabinets and taking them to parties and mixing them up," said Sanders.

"What the public doesn't understand, and this is the message we are trying to get out, is because you may have an ailment and take a medication you can't mix it with another medication.

"As we have seen with Mr Ledger's case, if you start mixing several medications together, especially oxycodone, hydrocodone and sleeping aids, it becomes fatal."

The prescription drugs found in Ledger's body were: oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam.

Meanwhile, Andrea Peyser, in her column in today's New York Post, wrote she was disgusted the Australian actor chose to "self-destruct" with prescription drugs and paid little regard for his daughter, Matilda, ex-fiancee Michelle Williams and his parents.

"He threw it away, as gamely as if he had put a gun to his mouth and pulled the trigger.

"He was reckless and greedy.

"He was fundamentally selfish.

"Now his daughter will grow up never knowing the man she worshiped from birth; his parents must bury a son they cherished."

Just when Ledger will be buried remains a mystery.

His family is expected to hold a private funeral in Perth in the next few days, but has pleaded for privacy.

Ledger's former girlfriend Gemma Ward yesterday flew into Perth to join the actor's family and friends.

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