The average income of national lawmakers fell 6.5 percent in 2015 from a year earlier to 22.69 million for the first decline in four years, the Diet reported Monday. The top earner was Miki Watanabe, an Upper House member and founder of Watami Co., which operates a chain of izakaya pubs, but he saw his income decline by more than 1 billion last year, which brought down the Diet-wide average. The report covering 714 lawmakers also showed that average income from stock dividends fell by 1.12 million to 2.73 million. A 20 percent reduction in the salaries of Diet members had been applied from January through April 2014 in a bid to win public acceptance for the consumption tax hike, which was implemented that April 1, but lawmakers received their full salaries throughout 2015. The number of lawmakers who earned more than 50 million came to 19, down three from 2014.
The academy branch committees that vote on new members approached their task slightly differently this year in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite outcry. One prominent academy member who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issues said at their meeting some of the usual discussions about applicants were this year differentiated by a committee member noting a candidate's minority status. The debate at the level of committees -- which vote on acceptance -- is not unlike that of a college-admissions board deciding on an incoming class. And though the academy member said that race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality were far from the sole factors in evaluating a candidate, they could be a determining one. An applicant's minority status did, in a few cases, tip the scales in favor of acceptance, the member said.