Abe sends Yasukuni offering
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made his third ritual offering to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead, media reported yesterday, but again did not visit in person to avoid angering Asian victims of the nation’s war-time aggression. Visits by Japanese leaders to the shrine in Tokyo have outraged China and South Korea, because war-time leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal are honored there along with Japan’s war dead. Abe made the offering in the name of the prime minister to mark the shrine’s autumn festival, which runs until Sunday, Kyodo news agency reported, citing a shrine source. It was the third time that Abe has sent an offering to the shrine since he returned to office after his December election victory.
Suicide bombing kills 13
A suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car among houses in an ethnic minority village in the north, killing at least 13 people and injuring 52, police officials said on condition of anonymity. They said the bombing happened yesterday morning in the Shabak Village of al-Mowafaqiah near the restive city of Mosul. Shabaks are ethnically Turkomen and Shiite by religion. Most Shabaks were driven out of Mosul by Sunni militants during the sectarian fighting a few years ago.
Stop detaining Syrians: AI
An international human rights group is urging Egypt to end its policy of unlawfully detaining Syrian refugees, including children, and forcibly returning them to their homeland, where civil war is raging. Amnesty International (AI) says hundreds who fled the bloodshed in Syria — including many children without their parents — face prolonged detention in poor conditions or deportation, which has in some cases separated family members. The Britain-based group says appalling conditions in detention and the threat of being sent back to Syria is prompting many refugees to flee again. It says many embark on a treacherous journey by sea to Europe.
Typhoon leaves 11 dead
Rescuers have recovered more bodies after a typhoon flooded thousands of homes, raising the toll to 11 dead and five missing, officials said yesterday. Floods inundated more than 34,000 homes in three central provinces after Tyhoon Nari, which already had destroyed or damaged about 13,000 homes in seven provinces, the national floods and storms control department said. The typhoon damage included homes that collapsed or had roofs blown off by the winds. Nari hit Vietnam’s central coast early Tuesday after crossing the Philippines over the weekend, killing 13 people there.
No retrial for poison killer
A man who poisoned his wife, lover and three other women with pesticide-laced wine has lost his final bid for a retrial after over 40 years on death row, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court said yesterday. The decision, which came down on Wednesday, means that 87-year-old Masaru Okunishi has exhausted all avenues of appeal and will likely die in prison — either by old age or execution. The octogenarian, who spent decades in solitary confinement and is now hospitalized, has long protested his innocence, saying his confession in the 1961 killings was coerced by police. Okunishi was charged in the deaths of five women who drank wine laced with pesticides at a community party in the village of Nabari.
UN council gets new blood
The UN General Assembly was to elect five new members to the UN Security Council yesterday and the winners will almost certainly be Nigeria, Chad, Saudi Arabia, Lithuania and Chile because there are no contested races. Chad, Saudi Arabia and Lithuania have never served on the council, while Nigeria and Chile have both been on it four times. Council seats are highly coveted because they give countries a strong voice in international peace and security matters. The 15-member council includes five permanent members with veto power — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — and 10 nonpermanent members elected for two years. Seats are allocated by region. To win, each country must obtain support of two-thirds of all General Assembly members present, or a minimum of 129 votes if all 193 members participate.
Kennedy approved for Japan
The Senate late on Wednesday approved Caroline Kennedy, the sole surviving child of assassinated president John F. Kennedy and an early supporter of US President Barack Obama, to be ambassador to Japan. On a hectic day in which the Congress voted to end a government shutdown, the Senate gave the final nod to Kennedy and 22 other nominees unanimously without roll call votes. Kennedy will step into the most public role of her adult life after largely shying away from politics. She encountered no opposition at her confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Kennedy’s nomination has been hailed in Japan, although some US experts have voiced concern at having a diplomatic novice in Tokyo amid high tensions between Japan and China.
Settlements growing: NGO
New settlement construction starts rose by 70 percent in the first half of this year compared with a year earlier, a local non-governmental organization said yesterday, describing the increase as “drastic.” According to figures released by the anti-settler group Peace Now, construction on 1,708 new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem was started between January and June, compared with 995 in the same period last year. Peace Now said 44 percent of the new construction were east of the vast separation barrier that cuts through the West Bank, while 32 percent fell to the east and 86 percent were in areas where tenders are not required, meaning the government did not technically flout the quiet freeze on tenders it had reportedly agreed to this year. “This means the ‘tender moratorium’ declared by the government until the prisoners release in July 2013 was not a general construction freeze, but only of a small part of the construction in settlements,” the group said.
Nobel winners back Arctic 30
Eleven Nobel Peace Prize winners have called on President Vladimir Putin to ensure that “excessive charges of piracy” laid against 30 Greenpeace activists are dropped, Greenpeace said yesterday. The authorities have charged the 30 crew members with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, after they staged a protest against Arctic oil drilling last month. The Nobel laureates said an oil spill in the Arctic would have a “catastrophic impact” on local communities. “We, like millions of people around the world, are watching this case, eager to see Russian authorities drop the piracy charges, treat the ‘Arctic 30’ in accordance with international law, reaffirm the right to nonviolent protest, and rededicate efforts to protect the Arctic,” they wrote.