Re: non-Japanese cannot become shihan anymore?
I am willing to bet a loy of money that the Doshu would not have been giving out a Birankai certificate. I heard that the Aikikai has given it's own certificates to all of Chiba's Birankai shihans (Chiba had promoted them within his own organisation first). As far as I know he is still issueing Birankai dan and shihan certificates independently of the Aikikai, but Aikikai dan certificates can be obtained for those who want them and are willing to pay for them.
Considering that the USAF now has more thasn a dozen non-japanese shihans (I have seen Claude Berthiaume's certificate and it is signed by Doshu) and that a majority of these were given this year, I doubt this rumour has any basis to it. The regulations posted on the Aikikai website haven't been changed.
The double standard between Japan and the outside world isn't so clearly pro Japanese anyway. From what I remember it is simply that at some early point in the Aikikai's history in Japan, all 6th dan instructors started being called shihan. This is a cultural practice and no official certificate is awarded. This is true of non-Japanese instructors living in Japan. In comparison, the overseas Shihans are all awarded official certificates in keeping with the Aikikai's international regulations.
Atr any rate, the title doesn't even come with any power. The power to recommend people for Aikikai dan ranks rests with the recognised organisations and not with the individual instructors. The only exceptions I know of are some of the early aikido "missionaries", most if not all direct students of O-sensei.
Over the last couple of years, the USAF has been restructuring itself to follow this mould. The dan tests are now held in front of a panel made of members of the technical committee (as opposed to just Yamada sensei). Interestingly, the result has been that the exams are now harder to pass, probably due to the influence of the non-Japanese shihans having a say.