World Japan’s New Emperor Naruhito Ascends Chrysanthemum ThroneIsabel Reynolds and Kurumi Mori•Japan’s New Emperor Naruhito Ascends Chrysanthemum Throne(Bloomberg) — Japan’s new emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in a low-key ceremony after his father ended his three-decade reign.In a ritual on Wednesday at the Imperial Palace, 59-year-old Naruhito inherited the royal regalia that serves as ceremonial proof of his ascension, including a sacred sword and jewels. A more extravagant enthronement is set for Oct. 22, which will involve visits from heads of state and government from around the world, a series of banquets and a parade through the streets of Tokyo.“”In accordance with the constitution, I vow to fulfill my responsibilities as a symbol to the nation and the people of Japan,” Naruhito said. “I wish for happiness and prosperity for the nation, and for world peace.”While his position no longer bestows political power or the status as a living god, Naruhito will serve as the symbol of the nation. He’ll bring an international background to the role, having spent two years studying at the University of Oxford in his twenties. His wife, Masako, a former diplomat, studied at Harvard University, as well as Oxford.
How Japan’s First Abdication in 202 Years Will Work
“It will be interesting to see what happens with Japan’s relationship with China and South Korea under the new emperor,” said Yuji Otabe, professor emeritus of Japanese history at Shizuoka University of Welfare. “I think Naruhito wants to make amends with South Korea and make things better as an Asian neighbor.”
‘Courage and Hope’
Naruhito’s first major diplomatic task will be to entertain U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, at a formal banquet during their state visit to Japan later this month. Trump sent his congratulations, promising to “renew the strong bonds of friendship between our two countries.” South Korean President Moon Jae-in also sent salutations, asking Naruhito to remember “pain from the war” and contribute to peace like his father.
On Tuesday, Akihito, 85, became the first Japanese monarch to relinquish the throne in 202 years, voluntarily stepping down due to health concerns. He affirmed his abdication at a ceremony attended by about 300 political leaders and dignitaries, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who thanked the “emperor emeritus” for his reign and praised him for giving the Japanese people “courage and hope for tomorrow.”
“It was a happy thing for me to be able to fulfill the responsibilities of the emperor with deep trust and love for citizens,” Akihito said on a white stage in a morning coat, with his wife, Michiko, by his side. “I appreciate with all my heart that citizens accepted and supported me as a symbol.”
Japan’s Emperor Akihito Steps Down: A Life in Pictures
The government extended its spring Golden Week holidays to an unprecedented 10 days until Monday to mark the beginning of Naruhito’s reign, which has been given the official name Reiwa, or “auspicious calm.”
In a reminder of the emperor’s capacity to serve as a bridge, South Korean President Moon Jae-in wrote to the imperial family on Tuesday, congratulating Naruhito and thanking Akihito for his for his efforts to ties still strained by Japan’s colonial occupation of its neighbor. Akihito expressed “deepest regret” in 1990 for the suffering Japan caused Korea.
Naruhito is the eldest of the three children born to Akihito and Michiko. He was raised from birth to be emperor, graduating in 1982 from the department of history at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, a school favored by the Japanese imperial family. He later researched medieval water transport at Oxford.
The then-crown prince married Masako Owada in 1993. Masako eventually gave birth to the couple’s only child — a girl named Princess Aiko — in 2001, sparking talk of a change in the law that allow only men to ascend the throne. The incoming emperor’s younger brother, Prince Akishino, is next in line.
That discussion was shelved in 2006, when Akishino’s wife gave birth to a boy. By that time, Masako had largely withdrawn from public events, with the Imperial Household Agency saying she was suffering from an “adjustment disorder.” Her apparent struggles with life in the imperial household make it unclear whether she will play as public a role as her mother-in-law has done over the past three decades.
Only male adult imperial family members were invited to a key ceremony for the ascension on Wednesday. About an hour later, another event open to female imperial family members was planned. Naruhito was expected to speak publicly for the first time as the new emperor.
Members of the public will be allowed into the grounds of the Imperial Palace on Saturday to see the new imperial couple and other members of the family wave from a balcony.
(Updates with new emperor’s comments.)
–With assistance from Youkyung Lee, Chikako Mogi and Hooyeon Kim.
To contact the reporters on this story: Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at email@example.com;Kurumi Mori in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at email@example.com, Chris Kay
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By Greg Lacour
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – Two people were killed and four others wounded – two with life-threatening injuries – in a shooting on Tuesday at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, according to the Mecklenburg Emergency Management Services Agency.
Local media reported that a suspect believed to be a student at the school was taken into custody.
Television station WBTV in Charlotte reported that gunfire erupted about 5:45 p.m. (2145 GMT) near the university’s Kennedy Hall administrative building, and that one person had been arrested.
The Mecklenburg EMS, an independent agency that handles emergency services for the county, confirmed on Twitter that two people were dead on the scene and that four others were taken to a nearby hospital, two of them with life-threatening injuries. A spokesman, Lester Oliva, also confirmed the casualty toll.
(Reporting by Greg Lacour; Additional reporting and writing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney)
DES MOINES, Iowa – Nearly a dozen years after being drubbed in the 2008 Iowa presidential caucuses, former Vice President Joe Biden returned to Iowa on Tuesday to present his case that he offers Democrats the best chance of beating President Donald Trump.
Early polls show Biden, who announced his candidacy last week, leads the crowded field of Democratic contenders. He raised $6.3 million in the first 24 hours after launching his campaign, the largest first-day haul of any candidate in the Democratic field.
He’s racked up more than a dozen endorsements from members of Congress and the International Association of Firefighters, the first major labor group to announce its support for a 2020 presidential candidate.
Yet Biden’s entry into the 2020 campaign isn’t exactly sending tremors through the Democratic field or the electorate in the very early going.
“I love Joe Biden, but the candidates we have seen so far have just been … really good Democratic candidates,” said Scott McCormick, 74, an undecided voter from Ankeny, Iowa, who said Biden isn’t among the top five candidates he’s mulling. “It’s going to be hard.”
Biden’s two previous runs for the White House crumbled early. He withdrew months before the 1988 Iowa caucus after allegations that he plagiarized part of a speech from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.
He finished fifth in Iowa in his 2008 White House run and ended his campaign days after the caucuses. Biden stumbled early in the campaign when he described then-candidate Barack Obama as the “first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
Biden begins his third presidential campaign needing to demonstrate that he can avoid self-inflicted wounds and offer voters a compelling message that he’s best equipped to compete in battleground states for Obama voters who went for Trump in 2016, said Dennis Goldford, chairman of the political science department at Drake University in Iowa.
“Biden has more support among white, working-class Americans, but nevertheless, what is he saying to them?” Goldford said. “That’s not clear yet.”
Clarence Thomas hearings: Joe Biden on Anita Hill: ‘I don’t think I treated her badly’
Stating his case
Announcing his campaign launch in a video message last week, Biden stayed away from plugging his well-known biography or detailing policy goals. Instead, he called the upcoming election a “battle for the soul of this nation” and said Trump’s years in office will be recalled as an “aberrant moment in time” for the country.
During campaign events scheduled over the next three weeks, Biden is likely to offer more depth to his policy vision. He held his first major campaign rally Monday in Pittsburgh at a union hall where he talked about raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicare and rolling back tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
„The stock market is roaring, but you don’t feel it,” Biden said.
Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the moderate Democratic-aligned organization Third Way, said Biden, like all front-runners, entered the race with a target on his back. Kessler, who does not back any candidate, said Biden benefits from name recognition, affection from a sizable portion of the Democratic electorate and his service as President Obama’s vice president.
Kessler said Biden enters the race in a somewhat different position from previous favorites to win the Democratic nomination.
“He’s not a front-runner the way some Democrats have been in the past – where that person is seen as the hurdle you have to clear, say like Hillary Clinton was in 2016 and 2008 and Walter Mondale was in the 1984 race,” Kessler said. “The pundit class sees him as a weaker front-runner, but I think the support for Biden is a lot more solid than he gets credit for.”
Nathan Teut, 37, an Iowa City resident who plans to participate in February’s caucus, said he saw the prospect of a Biden presidency as an extension of Obama-era policies that would be a “stabilizing force” for the country.
In addition to Biden, Teut said, he’s giving serious consideration to South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“He’s not exciting, but he’d do a good job,” Teut said of Biden. “You can’t really get a more qualified person to run an administration.”
Attacks from all sides
Even before officially entering the race, Biden was a target of Trump, who dubbed him “Sleepy Joe Biden.” The president took to Twitter Monday before Biden’s Pittsburgh speech to say the former vice president “obviously doesn’t know that Pennsylvania is having one of the best economic years in its history, with lowest unemployment EVER, a now thriving Steel Industry (that was dead) & great future!”
Biden also faces incoming fire from fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls who question whether his record demonstrates he’s the best champion of the middle class in the field of 20 Democrats.
Last week, Warren highlighted Biden’s vote in the Senate backing the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, legislation that tightened rules on who could qualify for bankruptcy protection.
„At a time when the biggest financial institutions in this country were trying to put the squeeze on millions of hardworking families who were in bankruptcy because of medical problems, job losses, divorce or death in the family, there was nobody standing up for them,” Warren said at an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. „I got in that fight because they just didn’t have anyone. And Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies.”
In a fundraising note to supporters, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign took a thinly veiled shot at Biden for holding his first fundraiser of the campaign at the home of a “corporate lobbyist.” David Cohen, a senior executive at Comcast, and his wife hosted the Biden fundraiser last Thursday, the same day Biden officially launched his campaign.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who launched his presidential campaign last week, called on Biden to apologize to Anita Hill, who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991. In her testimony, Hill alleged sexual harassment by Thomas and faced questioning by members of the all-male committee.
Hill spoke to Biden recently about the episode. She told The New York Times she was not satisfied with the conversation.
Biden, who was chairman of the Senate panel during Thomas’ confirmation, expressed regret for how Hill was treated but stopped short of directly apologizing to her when asked about the matter in an interview on ABC’s „The View.” Biden said in an interview with „Good Morning America” that Hill „did not get a fair hearing.”
„She did not get treated well,” Biden said. „That’s my responsibility.”
More than half of Democratic-leaning voters – 54% – say they haven’t decided whom to support in next year’s nominating contests, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published this week.
The fact that so many voters remain uncommitted tspeaks volumes about where the Democratic electorate stands, said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, a left-leaning political action committee.
„He hasn’t yet presented a vision that will resonate with the modern electorate,” Chamberlain said. “The modern Democratic Party and America is looking for fighters that want to fight the status quo, that want to fight against the power structures in D.C. While America wishes Obama were still president, no one is looking to go back to the old school Democrat platform of corporate rule. Joe Biden’s support that is there is shallow and malleable.”
Albertson reported from Des Moines, Norvell from Tipton, Iowa, and Madhani from Chicago.
A man looks through the sights of a .50 caliber rifle at the Ohio Ordinance Works during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana
By Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New York’s governor assailed President Donald Trump on Monday for backing the National Rifle Association in its dispute with the state, accusing the U.S. leader of being afraid of the powerful gun lobby.
Two days after a gunman sprayed a California synagogue with bullets, killing a worshipper, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged Trump to do more to stop gun deaths.
In a statement directed at the president, Cuomo said 74,600 Americans had died from gun violence since Trump was elected in November 2016.
„You have done nothing but tweet about it,” Cuomo said. „Unlike you, President Trump, New York is not afraid to stand up to the NRA.”
State Attorney General Letitia James on Saturday confirmed her office had issued subpoenas as part of an investigation related to the NRA. The New York Times reported the probe involved the group’s tax-exempt status.
„In any case we pursue, we will follow the facts wherever they may lead. We wish the President would share our respect for the law,” James said on Monday.
The NRA annual meeting was roiled over the weekend after internal disputes spilled into the open with retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North saying he would step down as NRA president. North said he was being forced out because of his allegations that NRA leaders engaged in financial improprieties.
Trump, a Republican, shifted the spotlight on Monday to Cuomo and James, Democratic officials in his home state, after divisions within NRA leadership surfaced.
„The NRA is under siege by Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others,” Trump wrote on Twitter without providing evidence.
„It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting,” Trump said of the NRA.
New York officials have run up against the gun advocacy organization as the state aims to tighten gun restrictions. The NRA last year sued Cuomo and the state’s financial regulator for engaging in what it said was a „blacklisting campaign” aimed at swaying banks and insurers to stop doing business with it.
The state legislature passed gun restrictions this year, including prohibiting armed teachers in schools and extending waiting periods to buy guns.
NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre had accused North of trying to oust him by threatening to release „damaging” information about him, according to a letter from LaPierre to NRA board members that was published by the Wall Street Journal on Friday.
North’s allegations included that LaPierre had received about $275,000 in wardrobe items paid for by an NRA vendor, the newspaper reported.
LaPierre emerged victorious, winning re-election from the NRA board on Monday as the group’s CEO and executive vice president.
The NRA, with more than 5 million members, is the most powerful and well-connected gun lobby in the United States. NRA officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump has embraced the gun lobby, vowing not to tighten U.S. firearms laws and advocating proposals such as arming teachers as a way of preventing school shootings.
The NRA spent $30.3 million to support Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that tracks campaign spending.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Joseph Ax and Karen Freifeld; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bill Berkrot)
(Bloomberg) — The judge overseeing Roger Stone’s trial said she would wait to hear from U.S. prosecutors before ruling on a request by the defense team to unredact portions of the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference that involve Stone.
At a hearing on Tuesday, prosecutors said they wouldn’t provide Stone’s lawyers with an unredacted report without a court order. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington has given them until Friday to respond to Stone’s motion. It was the first court hearing to be held on a matter central to the Russia probe since most of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was made public two weeks ago.
The U.S. says Stone shouldn’t get to see the blacked-out portions because they contain the thoughts and analysis of prosecutors. It also says that Stone was given FBI interview reports and grand jury testimony from the witnesses in his case.
Jackson indicated that Stone’s team was unlikely to see the full Mueller report. She also said she might want to look at the blacked-out portions herself before ruling.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 30. Stone is also challenging the validity of the charges against him, claiming selective prosecution. His trial is scheduled to begin in November.
In January, Stone was charged by Mueller with obstructing the investigation of Russian election interference and lying about his communication with WikiLeaks. The anti-secrecy group published emails before the 2016 election that embarrassed top Democratic officials including Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and led to the resignation of the part’s chairwoman.
The case against Stone has taken on of heightened importance since the release of the Mueller report because it may shed light on one of the central mysteries of the investigation: whether the Trump campaign or its associates played a role in WikiLeaks’ release of emails that had been hacked by Russian intelligence.
A top Trump campaign official directed Stone to be a conduit to WikiLeaks in the fall of 2016, according to Mueller report. Stone also made repeated public statements during the campaign claiming that he was in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and had advance knowledge of the damaging information hackers had obtained about the Clinton campaign, Mueller said.
Privately, however, Stone was making feverish attempts to get in contact with Assange during the summer and fall of 2016, according to witnesses and court records, and the unreacted portion of Mueller’s report doesn’t say whether he succeeded.
There are more than three pages of redacted information in the Mueller report’s section titled “Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials.” Prosecutors said that the public release of that information might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.” The section begins by stating that “the Trump campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks’ release of hacked materials throughout the summer and fall of 2016.” Large sections after that are blacked out.
(Adds charges and background on Roger Stone case.)
To contact the reporters on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;David Kocieniewski in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeffrey D Grocott at firstname.lastname@example.org, David S. Joachim
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This week, the New York Times got itself into hot water for printing a blatantly Jew-hating cartoon in its international edition. The cartoon depicted Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an elongated dachshund, a Star of David hanging around his neck, leading a fat, blind, yarmulke-wearing Donald Trump through the streets. The implication: The nefarious, animalistic Jew is in control of the Jew-perverted president of the United States.
The image is nothing new. In 1940, the Lustige Blatter, a weekly German humor magazine, printed an image of a tall, ugly, bearded Hasidic Jew taking a tiny Winston Churchill by the hand and leading him across the surface of the globe.
So, what would tempt the New York Times to print an illustration directly from the mind of Julius Streicher? The fact that the Times, like many of today’s mainstream media outlets, has been completely and utterly willing to cover for and, indeed, engage in anti-Semitism, so long as it is disguised as anti-Zionism. Undoubtedly, the editors at the Times believed that the cartoon was merely a criticism of Israel, not a criticism of Jews. That excuse found its logical apotheosis in a 2014 German regional-court ruling that characterized a firebombing of a synagogue as merely a protest against Israel, rather than act of anti-Semitism.
The Times isn’t far behind that court. In the past few months alone, the Times ran a long piece praising the terrorist-backed Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel — a movement whose founders explicitly describe it as an economic attempt to destroy the Jewish state. The author of that piece, Nathan Thrall, had previously praised Hamas’s violence against Israel, calling its terrorism the “direct result of the choice by Israel and the West.” Unsurprisingly, the Washington Free Beacon has reported that Thrall is “tied to a large network of BDS supporters that are funded into the millions by the Qatari government.” The Times made no mention of his affiliation.
The Times ardently defended Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) against charges of anti-Semitism, even suggesting that her anti-Semitic attribution of American support for Israel to Jewish money was an important consciousness-raising exercise. Their headline: “Ilhan Omar’s Criticism Raises the Question: Is Aipac Too Powerful?”
The Times suggested that information about Palestinian payments to families of terrorists was “far-right conspiracy programming.” The Times simply ignored Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s calling U.S. ambassador David Friedman “son of a dog,” didn’t report Abbas’s comments about Jews “falsifying history,” and omitted coverage of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar telling Palestinians about to storm the Israeli border, “We will take down the border, and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.”
Back in 2015, the New York Times printed a list of lawmakers who voted against the anti-Israel Iran deal — listing them by the percentage of Jews in their districts and noting which ones were Jewish themselves. Back in 2014, the publisher of the newspaper, Margaret Sullivan, had to remind her own reporters to cover the Palestinians as “more than just victims,” thanks to the paper’s insanely one-sided coverage.
The Times’ ugly record of anti-Semitism goes all the way back to 2000, when the newspaper printed a photo of a Jewish student beaten by Palestinian Arabs and defended by an Israeli soldier – but captioned the photo by labeling the beaten man an Arab.
In actuality, the Times cares about anti-Semitism only when it can be used as a political weapon. The Times admitted in November that it had neglected to cover anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City specifically because such anti-Semitism “refuses to conform to an easy narrative with a single ideological enemy,” explaining that “when a Hasidic man or woman is attacked by anyone in New York City, mainstream progressive advocacy groups do not typically send out emails calling for concern and fellowship and candlelight vigils in Union Square.”
The mainstream Left has engaged in self-flattering blindness when it comes to Jew-hatred. And all too often, that blindness veers into outright anti-Semitism.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Army veteran accused of plotting terrorist attacks in Southern California was demoted and discharged from the military for a serious offense, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Mark Domingo violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and was kicked out of the service before completing his enlistment contract, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about personnel issues and provided the information only on condition of anonymity.
Officials would not provide details on his offense.
Domingo, 26, was arrested Friday as he planned to plant bombs before a scheduled white supremacist rally in Long Beach, authorities say. He was charged with providing material support to terrorists and held without bail.
Domingo, a former combat infantryman, had recently converted to Islam and discussed several plots over the past two months to kill scores of people in Southern California in revenge for attacks on New Zealand mosques that killed 50 people last month, federal prosecutors said.
The terror plot was foiled by the FBI and police using an undercover officer and informant, who Domingo thought were his accomplices.
Military records show Domingo served about 16 months in the Army, including a four-month stint in Afghanistan in fall 2012. He left with a rank of private, the lowest possible grade.
An Army photo of Domingo in Afghanistan in November 2012 identified him as private first class, which is two steps above his discharge ranking.
Domingo was given a general discharge, which is an administrative action a step below an honorable discharge, the official said.
Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.
Venezuela rocked by clashes as US backs uprising, threatens Cuba originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
Venezuela was rocked by violent clashes on Tuesday between opposition protesters and security forces still loyal to Nicolas Maduro, the country’s socialist president, in a dramatic escalation of the political crisis that has left the country teetering on the edge of violence for months.
The U.S. said that Maduro was prepared to relinquish power and flee the country, but was convinced to stay by Russia. The administration is now threatening Cuba with a full embargo if it does not withdraw support for Maduro and telling the leader’s senior advisers they have hours left to abandon him.
The violence began after opposition leaders Juan Guaido — who the U.S. and 53 other countries back as the legitimate leader — and Leopoldo Lopez — freed from house arrest by deserted Venezuelan security forces called for an uprising early Tuesday morning. They said they had gained military backing and would begin the „final phase” of their push to oust Maduro.
As their supporters poured into the streets, government forces met them with tear gas and heavy weaponry. In addition to reports of gunfire, video showed Maduro’s armored vehicles rolling after protesters, in some cases trampling some as they attacked with Molotov cocktails and baseball bats. At least 50 people have been reported injured, according to the Associated Press, including one by gunfire.
President Donald Trump voiced support for „the People of Venezuela and their Freedom” in a tweet and threatened Cuba with a „full and complete embargo” and „highest-level sanctions” unless it withdrew its military support for Maduro.
Then, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN that Maduro was in the final stages of exiting, that he had a plane ready on the tarmac to depart for Cuba — when a last-minute intervention by Russia convinced him to stay. When asked what his message to Maduro was, Pompeo said flatly, „Fire up the plane.”
ABC News could not confirm that detail and Pompeo declined to say how the U.S. knew that.
But earlier in the day, the State Department Special Envoy for Venezuela Eliot Abrams told reporters that three senior Maduro officials had been in negotiations with Guaido’s government to abandon the socialist leader. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, National Guard chief Ivan Hernandez Dala and Supreme Tribunal of Justice President Maikel Moreno were in talks to recognize Guaido as the legitimate president, he said, but they still hadn’t done so by Tuesday evening.
National security adviser John Bolton issued an ultimatum to them: „Your time is up. This is your last chance. Accept Interim President Guaido’s amnesty, protect the Constitution, and remove Maduro, and we will take you off our sanctions list. Stay with Maduro, and go down with the ship,” he said in a tweet.
When British Royals Meghan Markle and Prince Harry started an Instagram account last month, they broke a world record by gaining a million followers in less than six hours.
This week in Japan, a new set of royals is coming to the world stage. On Wednesday, 59-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito will take over the “Chrysanthemum Throne” from his father, 85-year-old Emperor Akihito, who decided to step down due to his health and age. Naruhito’s wife, Princess Masako, will be by his side as the country’s next Empress.
Although the new royals are believed to be more modern than their predecessors, soon-to-be Emperor Naruhito steps into an imperial system that has been in place for thousands of years and is steeped in history. The monarchy — despite its lack of social media accounts — plays an important symbolic role in Japanese culture.
Here are five things you need to know.
Emperors have a job for life
When Emperor Akihito steps down this week, he will be the first Japanese emperor to do so in more than 200 years. A 1889 law required monarchs to reign until their death to avoid power struggles between current and retired emperors, but an exception is being made for the elderly emperor, who has had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer.
He hinted in 2016 that it might be time for him to retire. “I am worried that it may become more difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state,” he said in a rare televised address.
After several months of discussions and expert consultations, Japan’s parliament passed special legislation in June 2017, to allow him to step down. The new rules apply only to Akihito, and not to future rulers.
The last emperor to abdicate was Emperor Kokaku in 1817, who also handed the throne to his son.
It is believed the be the oldest monarchy in the world
Although the Gregorian calendar is widely used in Japan, the country maintains its own calendar system. It begins in the year 660 B.C., when Emperor Jimmu, Japan’s first emperor, is believed to have founded Japan. He reigned until 585 B.C.
When Crown Prince Naruhito takes over the throne on Wednesday, he will become the 126th emperor of Japan.
The newly-named Reiwa (beautiful harmony) era will also start when the changeover happens. The country has had more than 250 eras, as rulers sometimes started new eras to mark a new beginning after difficult periods in the country’s history.
The U.S. re-wrote the emperor’s job description after World War II
After World War II, the U.S. occupied Japan from 1945 to 1952, and led the Allied effort to rehabilitate Japan. Major reforms were enacted, including an overhaul of the political system.
The U.S. drafted constitution, which came into effect in 1947, gave more power to the country’s Diet (two-house legislature) and stripped the emperor of all political power. Under the new document, the emperor’s role was to act as the “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People.”
Although there were calls from some Allied leaders to have Japan’s wartime leader, Emperor Hirohito, tried for war crimes, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur who led rehabilitation efforts, believed that reforms might be easier to enact if the emperor remained in power.
It’s a boy’s club
Women are not eligible to take the throne in Japan, and they are required to give up their royal titles if they marry commoners.
Japan has discussed the possibility of changing the rules to allow for female participation over the last few decades due to concerns that the monarchy might die out.
Prince Naruhito and his wife have only one child. Princess Aiko was born in 2001, and is not eligible to take the throne. Polls show that the Japanese public supports the amending of the law to allow for female heirs, and Prince Naruhito himself is believed to support a change in succession laws.
“I don’t think he sticks to the narrow idea that only a male on the throne is acceptable,” said Mototsugu Akashi, a friend of Emperor Akihito’s since childhood, according to the New York Times.
The debate fizzled out after Crown Prince Naruhito’s brother, Prince Akishino, had a son in 2006. He is next in line to the throne after Naruhito.
According to Reuters, the legislation allowing Akihito to step down also mooted the idea of letting female royals stay in the imperial family after they marry, but it did not specifically seek to address whether females might one day be allowed to take the throne.
Emperor: Man or God?
According to Japanese mythology, the emperor and his family are considered direct descendants of the sun-goddess Amaterasu, a Shinto deity.
For most of the country’s history, emperors acted as figureheads, while shoguns effectively controlled the country with their military powers. This changed during the Meiji Restoration in the 1800’s when power was consolidated under imperial rule, as Japan looked to strengthen itself against the threat of Western power. At this time, the emperor became the head of the country’s native Shinto religion, giving him more religious importance.
Although the role of the emperor in World War II is controversial, the Allies took steps to remove power from the omnipotent emperor and the ‘Shinto State’ after the war. A 1945 directive was issued to “prevent recurrence of the perversion of Shinto theory and beliefs into militaristic and ultra-nationalistic propaganda designed to delude the Japanese people and lead them into wars of aggression.”
To cooperate with rehabilitation efforts, after World War II, the emperor asked the Japanese public to reject the “false conception that the Emperor is divine and that the Japanese people are superior to other races.” After announcing his mortality, he reportedly turned to his wife and asked: ”Do you see any difference? Do I look more human to you now?” according to the New York Times.
In 2000, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori sparked controversy when he compared the emperor to a god. “Japan is a country of the gods with the emperor at its center,” he said, according to The Guardian.
National Guard members who joined Venezuela’s self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro, are greeted by opposition supporters in Caracas on April 30, 2019
Caracas (AFP) – Smoke and tear gas filled the air outside the military base in Caracas, where crowds chanting „Free Venezuela” flocked to embrace the band of soldiers who joined Juan Guaido’s bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday.
Violent clashes unfolded all day outside La Carlota base, where thousands of flag-waving opposition demonstrators took a stand alongside a dozen rebel soldiers, wearing blue armbands to show their new allegiance.
It was outside the National Guard base that Guaido filmed a video, posted online Tuesday morning, in which the self-proclaimed acting president claimed to have the support of „brave soldiers.”
„We’re also people and we’re fed up with this dictatorship,” said one of the soldiers backing the 35-year-old National Assembly leader.
„We have families, we’re know how they’re suffering,” said the soldier, still in uniform and carrying a gun on his shoulder, in brief comments to AFP before he was asked by a senior officer to halt the interview.
In his video message, Guaido urged people to take to the streets to demand the socialist Maduro step down.
Heeding his call, groups of protesters with their heads wrapped in clothing to protect them from the tear gas, approached the base’s perimeter fence from a nearby highway, hurling stones and molotov cocktails.
Some managed to enter the base through a hole in the fence but were quickly driven back, and confusion reigned as the demonstrators were met with gunfire and tear gas fired by soldiers at the perimeter of the base.
At least 69 people were injured in the clashes, two from gunshot wounds, according to Venezuela’s health services.
The government, which claimed one of its soldiers was hit in the neck by a bullet, played down the significance of the uprising and urged its supporters to head to the presidential palace to show their backing for Maduro.
Maduro’s supporters inside the base received support from motorcycles and armored vehicles, one of which was driven into the crowd of protesters, according to television images.
– ‘We need the armed forces’ –
„We need the support of the armed forces. We don’t have weapons, they have weapons and they should support us in our demands for our rights,” one of the demonstrators, 24-year-old Samuel Inostroza, told AFP.
Grasping a Venezuelan flag, Inostroza said he was hoping „the moment” has arrived after „years of struggling” against the Maduro regime.
Inostroza said he was detained for two days in 2014 after attending a rally organized by Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition leader who spent years in prison and under house arrest — emerging Tuesday to stand alongside Guaido before seeking refuge in the Chilean embassy.
„Rebellion,” read one huge banner held by a group of demonstrators.
„I’m here for my family, for my country, because we’re fed up with so many difficulties,” said Samira Caceres, 53.
„This is the opportunity to have a future,” said Alejandro Dominguez, 22.
Venezuela has suffered five years of recession marked by shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicines, as well as failing public services including water, electricity and transport.
The United Nations says a quarter of Venezuela’s 30 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, and that 3.7 million Venezuelans are malnourished.
It says more than 2.7 million people have fled the country’s economic woes since 2015.
Hyperinflation, which the International Monetary Fund says will reach a staggering 10 million percent this year, has left salaries and savings virtually worthless.
Caceres’s family has been hit hard: she says they have all lost close to eight kilograms (18 pounds) due to a lack of money to buy food.
„It hurts to see them losing weight,” she said through tears.
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s government defended its ally President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela on Tuesday, saying opposition calls for a military uprising against him threatened the constitutional order.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido urged the military to help oust Maduro and violence broke out at protests in a new crisis point after years of chaos and divisions.
The United States is among some 50 countries recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s president and has imposed sanctions to try and dislodge Maduro whom they say rigged an election last year.
But Turkey is among nations, including China and Russia, backing Maduro since Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January.
President Tayyip Erdogan condemned what he said was a coup attempt, adding that the whole world should respect the democratic choices of Venezuelans.
„Those who are in an effort to appoint a postmodern colonial governor to Venezuela, where the President was appointed by elections and where the people rule, should know that only democratic elections can determine how a country is governed,” he tweeted.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey always sides with the people of Venezuela and favored dialogue.
„We are worried about reports that there are certain attempts against the constitutional order in Venezuela. We are against anti-democratic methods to change legitimate governments,” he said in a tweet.
Turkey has a long history of coups, most recently a failed putsch in 2016, thwarted by Erdogan supporters who took to the streets to fight the putschists. About 250 people were killed.
More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial since then and widespread arrests are still routine.
Authorities have also suspended or sacked 150,000 civil servants and military personnel.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Andrew Cawthorne)
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) steams during a three-carrier strike force photo exercise in the Western Pacific
By Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military said it sent two Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as the Pentagon increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.
The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.
The two destroyers were identified as the William P. Lawrence and Stethem. The 112-mile-wide (180-km) Taiwan Strait separates Taiwan from China.
„The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.
Doss said there were no unsafe or unprofessional interactions with other countries’ vessels during the transit.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense said the U.S. ships had sailed north through the strait.
„U.S. ships freely passing through the Taiwan Strait is part of the mission of carrying out the Indo-Pacific strategy,” it said in a statement.
Taiwan’s armed forces monitored the transit and nothing out of the ordinary happened, the ministry said.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had paid close attention to the sailing and had expressed concern to the United States.
„The Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-U.S. relations,” he told a daily news briefing.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of „one China” and sacred Chinese territory.
It said a recent Taiwan Strait passage by a French warship, first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, was illegal.
China’s Geng told the same briefing in Beijing that China hoped that France could ensure such an incident did not happen again.
Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan are likely to factor into Chinese defense spending this year, following a stern New Year’s speech from President Xi Jinping, threatening to attack Taiwan should it not accept Chinese rule.
Last month, Beijing unveiled a target of 7.5 percent rise in defense spending for 2019, a slower rate than last year but still outpacing its economic growth target.
China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises in the past few years and worked to isolate it internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Fabian Hamacher in TAIPEI and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Tait)
Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has purportedly appeared for the first time in five years in a video released Monday by the jihadist organisation
Baghdad (AFP) – Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who purportedly appeared for the first time in five years in an IS propaganda video released Monday, remains the world’s most wanted man, despite the jihadists’ „caliphate” imploding weeks ago.
After declaring himself caliph in 2014, Baghdadi held sway over seven million people across swathes of Syria and Iraq, where IS implemented its brutal version of Islamic law.
But that land has been whittled down to disjointed sleeper cells by years of fighting, including a ferocious bombing campaign by a US-led coalition.
It is unclear when the footage was filmed, but the man said to be Baghdadi referred to last week’s deadly attack in Sri Lanka and to the months-long fight for IS’s final bastion Baghouz, which ended in late March.
„The battle for Baghouz is over,” he said, sitting cross-legged on a cushion and addressing three men whose faces have been blurred.
„God ordered us to wage ‘jihad.’ He did not order us to win,” he said.
Reclusive even when IS was at the peak of its power, the 47-year-old Iraqi, who suffers from diabetes, was rumoured to have been wounded or killed several times.
His whereabouts have never been confirmed.
„He only has three companions: his older brother Jumaa, his driver and bodyguard Abdullatif al-Jubury, whom he has known since childhood, and his courier Saud al-Kurdi,” said Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi specialist on IS.
Hashemi said the quartet is likely laying low somewhere in Syria’s vast Badia desert, which stretches from the eastern border with Iraq to the sweeping province of Homs.
That is where his son Hudhayfa al-Badri was reportedly killed in July by three Russian guided missiles, Hashemi added.
– ‘The Ghost’ –
Nicknamed „The Ghost”, he had made no public appearances since he delivered a sermon at Mosul’s famed Al-Nuri mosque in 2014, when he declared himself „caliph”.
His last voice recording to his supporters was released in August, eight months after Iraq announced it had defeated IS and as US-backed forces closed in next door in Syria.
But even as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces pressed the „final battle” against IS’s last sliver of territory earlier this year, a spokesman for the US-backed group said the elusive leader was likely not there.
„We do not think he is in Syria,” Mustefa Bali told AFP as the fall of Baghouz neared, without elaborating.
Some of those who fled the final holdout in the dying days of the caliphate claimed they had been ordered to leave by Baghdadi.
„Had the caliph not ordered it, we would not have left,” one woman told AFP in late February, referring to Baghdadi, who was not believed to have been in Baghouz as the „caliphate” crumbled.
Keeping a low profile — in contrast to slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — has helped Baghdadi survive for years.
Born Ibrahim Awad al-Badri in 1971, the passionate football fan came from modest beginnings in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
His high school results were not good enough for law school and his poor eyesight prevented him from joining the army, so he moved to the Baghdad district of Tobchi to study Islam.
„He had a vision, early on, of where he wanted to go and what kind of organisation he wanted to create,” said Sofia Amara, author of a 2017 documentary that unveiled exclusive documents on Baghdadi.
After US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003, he founded his own insurgent organisation but it never carried out major attacks.
When he was arrested and held in a US detention facility in southern Iraq in February 2004, he was still very much a second- or third-tier jihadist.
But it was Camp Bucca — later dubbed „the University of Jihad” — where Baghdadi came of age as a jihadist.
„People there realised that this nobody, this shy guy was an astute strategist,” Amara said.
He was released at the end of 2004 for lack of evidence. Iraqi security services arrested him twice subsequently, in 2007 and 2012, but let him go because they did not know who he was.
– Brutal strategist –
In 2005, the father of five pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the brutal leader of Iraq’s Al-Qaeda franchise.
Zarqawi was killed by an American drone strike in 2006, and after his successor was also eliminated, Baghdadi took the helm in 2010.
He revived the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), expanded into Syria in 2013 and declared independence from Al-Qaeda.
In the following years, Baghdadi’s Islamic State group captured swathes of territory, set up a brutal system of government, and inspired thousands to join the „caliphate” from abroad.
Baghdadi was raised in a family divided between a religious clan and officers loyal to Saddam’s secular Baath party.
Years later, his jihadist group incorporated ex-Baathists, capitalising on the bitterness many officers felt after the American move to dissolve the Iraqi army in 2003.
That gave his leadership the military legitimacy he had lacked and formed a solid backbone of what was to become IS, combining extreme religious propaganda with ferocious guerrilla efficiency.
Uncharismatic and an average orator, Baghdadi was described by his repudiated ex-wife Saja al-Dulaimi, who now lives in Lebanon, as a „normal family man” who was good with children.
He is thought to have had three wives in total; Iraqi Asma al-Kubaysi, Syrian Isra al-Qaysi and another spouse, more recently, from the Gulf.
He has been accused of repeatedly raping girls and women he kept as „sex slaves”, including a pre-teen Yazidi girl and US aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was subsequently killed.
Boeing faces its shareholders at an annual meeting amid uncertainty and scrutiny following two deadly crashes that led to the global grounding of the 737 MAX
Chicago (AFP) – Boeing executives successfully beat back shareholder challenges to their authority on Monday as the company signaled it expects regulators to take a key step next week in the effort to get the 737 MAX back in the air following two deadly crashes.
The aerospace giant, under scrutiny following the crashes that killed 346 passengers and crew and grounded the MAX worldwide, won a vote of confidence from its investors, even as company management faced tough questions over plane design and the possible missteps in getting the aircraft to market.
Boeing expects the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a test flight by the end of next week of the software fix the company developed for the flight system on the 737 MAX, a company spokesman said Monday. That would be a critical step in certifying the aircraft as flight-worthy.
However, an FAA spokesman said the agency had not released a date or time for the flight yet.
Amid reports of missteps in developing the newest version of its most popular aircraft, concerned shareholders used the annual meeting to seek greater transparency by proposing to make the chairman an independent director and to disclose lobbying activities and trade association memberships.
But those proposals garnered just 34 and 32 percent of the votes, respectively, somewhat better than similar measures last year, but still well below 50 percent.
The defeat of those motions no doubt was relief for Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg and other company brass but there was little sense of triumph at an annual meeting that included a moment of silence for the lives lost.
The company faces an uncertain timetable for bringing the grounded fleet back into service and tough questions over a new plane design that crashed twice, as well as potential costs from the crisis.
Muilenburg was asked during a press conference if he considered resigning.
„We’re focused on safety and I can tell you these accidents weigh heavily on us as a company,” he responded. „My clear intent is to continue to lead on the front of safety and quality and integrity.”
The company reported last week that the crisis had added $1 billion to costs in the year’s first quarter.
The 737 MAX has been grounded since mid-March following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight and an earlier Lion Air crash, a crisis that has raised questions about whether the US giant sacrificed safety in its zeal to market a new narrow-body plane and compete with Airbus.
At the shareholders meeting, Muilenburg faced some pointed questions from shareholders but defended the design of the 737 MAX as „thorough” and „disciplined.”
Boeing has said both crashes involved erroneous information that came to the airplane through its anti-stall system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which the software update is meant to address.
„We know that in both accidents there was a chain of events that occurred. One of the links was the activation of the MCAS system because of the data,” Muilenburg said at the media briefing. „We know we can break that link in the chain. The software update does that.”
– ‘Chain of Events’ –
But Muilenburg repeatedly declined to characterize the MCAS system as a design flaw, saying there is more than one factor in such catastrophic accidents and that an investigation is continuing.
„It’s a chain of events. There is no singular item,” he said. „I think it’s really important that we all focus on letting the investigation process run its due course.”
US carriers such as American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are targeting August to resume flights on the 737 MAX in the expectation that Boeing will receive approval for its fix by that time.
Boeing has submitted some of the documentation to the FAA for the fix to the MCAS system, said a person familiar with the matter, adding that the application will be considered complete following a test flight in the coming days.
Boeing expects certification of the software fix some time after an FAA meeting with international regulators on May 23, the company spokesman said.
Fresh questions were raised over the weekend following revelations that prior to the Lion Air crash in October, Boeing deactivated a malfunction signal on 737 MAX planes owned by Southwest without telling the carrier, a feature that would detect a sensor error of the kind thought to have been a factor in both crashes.
The FAA considered recommending grounding the planes at the time as they explored whether pilots flying the aircraft needed additional training about the alerts, according to a source familiar with the matter.
They decided against that — but never passed details of the discussions to higher-ranking officials in the FAA, the source said.
Shares of Boeing finished down 0.5 percent at $379.05.