Ex-Japanese Foreign Minister Eyes Top Job

TOKYO, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Japanese former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara confirmed he will run his party’s leadership race next week to succeed Naoto Kan as prime minister.

Maehara, who resigned as foreign minister in March, said he will focus on uniting the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and halt its plummeting approval ratings.

The DPJ fell out of favor due partly to a mishandling of the affairs in the aftermath of March’s earthquake and tsunami disasters and the ensuing Fukushima nuclear plant crisis.

Maehara, 49, likely will face Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Trade Minister Banri Kaieda and several other DPJ members in the contest.

He told members of his party that it must “change the government to give the people hope and a sense of security for the future,” a report in The Japan Times said.

“We must follow policies that address people’s concerns and give them a feeling of security and hope,” Maehara said. “Please allow me to stand at the helm of our efforts to overcome the national crisis with the help of every single one of you.”

Maehara briefly led the center-left DPJ in 2005 and resigned as Kan’s foreign minister in March after receiving an illegal $3,000 political donation from a foreign national — an ethnic Korean living in Japan, the BBC reported.

The winner of the party’s internal election will be Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years and be installed by next Tuesday.

Also expected to run will be Farm Minister Michihiko Kano, former Transport Minister Sumio Mabuchi and ex-Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa.

But because time is short and there is a high number of candidates, serious policy debates may be lacking, Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University, told the Times. Voters’ main concern will be about who can unite the DPJ and work with the opposition parties.

“The whole point of the race is to replace Kan, who has been criticized for his lack of leadership and inability to work with the opposition,” Iwai said. “The race will be about intra-party power balances. Tax hikes and other issues will be put on the back burner.”

Despite mounting criticism of Kan, none of the DPJ candidates nor executives of the Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition, has put forward any grand policy alternatives for rebuilding disaster-stricken Japan, Iwai said.

The crisis within the DPJ came to a head in early June when Kan announced he’d resign as soon as post-earthquake recovery plans were more concrete.

“I’d like to pass on my responsibility to a younger generation once we reach a certain stage in tackling the disaster and I’ve fulfilled my role,” Kan said in a nationally televised meeting of DPJ members in June.

The DPJ and its allies hold 309 of the seats in the 480-member House of Representatives.

The current crisis for the DPJ arose when Kan, 64, was unable to agree with the center-right Liberal Democratic Party on how to rebuild the communities and infrastructure destroyed by the environmental disaster in March which left nearly 24,000 people dead or missing.

The DPJ — which was formed in 1998 when several opposition groups joined forces — came to power in 2009, ending the LDP’s grip on power for all but 10 months since 1955.

Kan, himself, took office in wake of a previous DPJ crisis last year when Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned after he backtracked on a pledge to move a major U.S. military base from the island of Okinawa.

Report: Plane Skidded On Its Nose

SHANNON, Ireland, Aug. 24 (UPI) — A plane trying to land at Shannon Airport in western Ireland had trouble with crosswinds before skidding on its nose for more than half a mile, a report says.

No one on board the Aer Arann flight from Manchester, England, was injured in the July 17 incident, The Irish Times reported. The plane with 25 passengers and crew came to rest in the grass on the side of the runway.

The report found the pilot had to abort his first attempt at landing when the ATR-72 bounced back into the air. On the second attempt, the flight recorder showed the aircraft bounced on the runway several times before the nosewheel broke.

The plane traveled for more than half a mile with the nose “scraping the runway” and the crew having no ability to guide its direction, the report said.

Investigators in their preliminary findings said Aer Arann should review the wind conditions in which it makes landings.

Zardari Cautions Against Aid Cut

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Any cut in U.S. aid would both hurt Pakistan’s economy and send a negative signal to its people, Pakistan’s president told a visiting U.S. Senate delegation.

Meeting the delegation in Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari said he hoped U.S. lawmakers would not take any such steps, Dawn newspaper reported.

“Any cut in assistance will not only impact our existing economic conditions at this critical moment but will also send a negative signal to the public about the commitment of the U.S. government towards the people of Pakistan when they are suffering heavily in economic terms due to unparalleled toll of war against terror,” Zardari was quoted as saying.

The delegation, which arrived after a two-day visit to Afghanistan, included Carl Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. The visitors also met with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained since May 2 when U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a raid on his compound deep inside Pakistan. The U.S. government suspended $800 million in military assistance after Pakistan sent back U.S. military trainers.

The Obama administration may also consider linking future security assistance to Pakistan meeting counter-terrorism objectives.

Levin was quoted as saying Pakistan’s failure to act against the Haqqani network in its North Waziristan region, the Afghan Taliban around Quetta and other militant extremists, was undermining the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.

The state-run Associated Press of Pakistani quoted Zardari as saying Pakistan is ready to work with the international community for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.

Police Trying To Identify Amnesiac

LONDON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Police said they were trying to identify a man who came to a hospital in England with what he said was a splitting headache and no memory of who he is.

A week after his appearance, the man’s name and address are unknown, The Independent reported. No one matching his description has been reported missing.

The man, who appears to be in his late 50s to late 60s, told medical staff he found himself on the beach in Deal Aug. 17 with no memory of how he got there. When he was asked his name, he said “Frank” appeared to mean something to him and that was what he wanted to be called.

He was carrying a cane, a pack of cigarettes and a pair of sunglasses and was appropriately dressed for walking on the beach in jeans, a T-shirt, sweatshirt, walking coat and boots.

In a similar case in 2005, a young man who turned up on a South Coast beach was eventually identified as Andreas Grassl, a German citizen. Grassl was nicknamed “Piano Man” because, for several months, he would play the piano but would not speak, and some have suggested he faked his amnesia.

Dr. Eli Jaldow, a specialist in memory disorders at St. Thomas Hospital in London, told the Independent amnesia can be a real response to a traumatic event. He said it is more common in men than women.

“There’s a switch in certain susceptible individuals,” he said. “When they’re faced with terrible things they can’t cope with, there’s a self-protective mechanism that kicks in and wipes out all those memories so they don’t remember what they’ve been exposed to.”

Man Guilty In 1999 Suitcase Killing

LONDON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — A dozen years after a woman’s body was found in a suitcase in a parking lot at London’s Heathrow International Airport, her accused killer has been convicted.

Youssef Ahmed Mosalem Wahid, 42, who was extradited from Bahrain, was convicted Monday of the murder of Fatima Kama, the Uxbridge Gazette reported. Sentencing is set for October.

Kama, 28, a Canadian citizen had been planning to leave for Montreal July 17, 1999. A security guard found her body that morning.

Investigators said she was raped and then stabbed.

Wahid and Kama had been living in the same house in London. Security cameras showed him carrying the suitcase onto a train to Heathrow, but by the time he became a suspect he had fled the country.

Police finally located Wahid in Bahrain last year.

11 Killed In Australian House Fire

BRISBANE, Australia, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Tongan immigrants gathered Tuesday outside a house gutted by fire in northeastern Australia to mourn the 11 people who died there.

The blaze in the Brisbane suburb of Slacks Creek was believed to have been set off by four gas bottles exploding, The Courier-Mail of Brisbane reported. The fire spread quickly through the two-story house, with only three men escaping the flames.

The fire was the deadliest in Australia since 2000, when 15 people were killed in an arson fire at a backpackers’ hostel in Childers, Queensland.

One man, Jeremiah Lale, threw a mattress out of the window and jumped, screaming at his wife and five children to follow, witnesses said. The men who got out made desperate attempts to fight the flames and rescue those still inside.

Eight of the victims, believed to be mostly members of one extended family, were children and teenagers. Logan Mayor Pam Parker said some of those in the house were believed to be recent arrivals in Australia, staying with relatives until they got on their feet.

Religious leaders led an informal service early Tuesday afternoon, praying in English and Tongan, and leading hundreds of people outside the house in hymns.

One leader asked an unanswerable question: “What have we done to deserve this, Lord?”

“There’s nothing we can do, nothing we can say,” he added. “We just pray that you give us the strength to face tomorrow with all of this grief.”

Tea Party Cultural Characteristics Defined

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Aug. 24 (UPI) — Voters sympathetic to the Tea Party movement reflect four primary cultural and political beliefs to a greater degree than others do, U.S. researchers suggest.

Lead author Andrew J. Perrin, an associate professor of sociology in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences, and colleagues say the findings are based on two telephone surveys of registered voters in North Carolina and Tennessee conducted May 30 to June 3, 2010, and Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, 2010, and a set of interviews and observations at a Tea Party movement rally in Washington.

Forty-six percent of poll respondents said they felt favorably toward the Tea Party movement.

The researchers found respondents who felt positively toward the Tea Party movement held the following primary cultural and political dispositions more often than other voters:

— Authoritarianism. Respondents say they believe that obedience by children is more important than creativity, and that deference to authority is an important value.

— Libertarianism. Respondents say they believe there should not be regulations or limitations on expressions such as clothing, television shows and musical lyrics.

— Fear of change/ontological insecurity. Respondents say they sense things are changing too fast or too much.

— Nativism. Respondents say they hold negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration.

“The findings show that the Tea Party movement can best be understood as a new cultural expression of late 20th century conservatism,” Perrin says in a statement.

The findings were presented at the 106th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Govt. Seeks Compromise As Hazare Fasts

NEW DELHI, Aug. 24 (UPI) — A 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader in India began his ninth day of fasting Wednesday as the government scrambled to meet his demands.

The campaign of Anna Hazare, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, has galvanized tens of thousands of people across the country, drawn attention around the world, and raised concerns of a team of doctors attending him as he vowed to continue the hunger strike he began Aug. 16 — first in Delhi’s Tihar jail, where he was taken under preventive custody, and later on the Ramlila grounds where thousands and thousands of supporters kept vigil.

The campaign in the world’s largest democracy has become a huge challenge for the Congress Party-led coalition government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which convened an urgent meeting Wednesday as Hazare’s health deteriorated.

Hazare is insisting on a tougher “Jan Lokpal,” or citizens’ ombudsman bill against graft, than the one before Parliament placed by Singh’s government.

The Hazare movement comes as the government has been hit by a number of huge corruption scandals and allegations of high-level graft, and as the economy faces serious problems including high inflation and rising food prices. Singh personally has not been affected by any allegations of impropriety.

Proceedings have been seriously disrupted in Parliament, where several critical economic and other reform bills are pending. The masses are irate over what they see as government’s failure to crack down on corruption and other social ills.

The Hindustan Times reported the government was likely to tell the all-party meeting Wednesday it is ready to bring the prime minister under the ambit of its bill, one of the demands of the Hazare campaign.

In a letter Hazare, Singh said Tuesday the government would request the lower house of Parliament to “formally refer the Jan Lokpal Bill to the standing committee,” which would then consider all versions, including that of the government and the Hazare team.

Some reports said the Hazare team during a late night meeting with the government’s representatives had agreed to India’s judiciary being covered under a separate bill, provided it is approved along with the ombudsman bill in the current session of Parliament.

In a defiant speech late Tuesday, a frail Hazare told his supporters not to allow authorities to take him to a hospital while insisting all of their activities should be non-violent and peaceful.

“Doctors told me today that my kidney can be damaged. I told them, no worries, I can get a replacement from any of the supporters here in front of me,” Hazare said.

Doctors said he needs to be put on intravenous drip to provide him glucose and essential electrolytes.

“We discussed hospitalization with him today, but he refused to consider it,” Naresh Trehan, heading the team of doctors, was quoted as saying. “The next 24 to 48 hours are sensitive as his health needs to be tracked more closely.”

Russian President Urges War Crime Tribunal

MOSCOW, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says he believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili should face a war crimes tribunal, but he doubts that will happen.

Medvedev made the comment during a news conference Thursday, as the third anniversary of the Georgia War nears, ITAR-Tass reported.

“If you asked for my personal opinion, I would say yes, because I think what has happened was a flagrant violation of international laws.” Medvedev said. “However, it would not be possible to rely on Russia’s position alone in this matter, so the creation of such a tribunal is impossible.”

Medvedev touched on Russia’s recent admission into the World Trade Organization, which Georgia did not approve. He suggested Russia’s accession could be used to renew relations between Georgia and Russia.

“If the Georgian authorities show wisdom in this case … I think it could become a point of contact between our countries, if not quite a turning point in our relations,” he said. “We could use it to re-establish trade and economic relations and after that, we may go on to our diplomatic relations. Let me remind you that we were not the ones to sever our diplomatic relations in the first place. That was initiated by Georgia. That would be good, but the ball is in their court.”

Politicians Incite Violence Against Gays

BELGRADE, Serbia, Aug. 23 (UPI) — A gay rights organization has accused Serbian politicians of inciting violence against the gay community through statements made about a planned pride parade.

The Gay-Lesbian Info Center says Police Minister Ivica Dacic, Belgrade City Mayor Dragan Djilas and Jagodina City Mayor Dragan Markovic Palma have made comments that may endanger the lives of gay citizens, Blic reported.

“Claims by Ivica Dacic that the police shall not secure the Pride Parade and that serious incidents during that manifestation are possible are giving us reason for concern that the Home Ministry had done nothing over that issue in recent twelve months. We appeal on politicians in Serbia to be careful about their statements over the Pride Parade and not to encourage violence in the streets of Belgrade,” GLIC said in a press release.

In response to the press release, Dacic said: “My job as the Home Minister is to take care over security. I am only pointing out at security risks and it is on the Government to decide.”

Markovic said: “I am only voicing my stance. I do not see what rights of homosexuals are endangered. They are not fighting for normal human rights.”

GLIC contends the officials “are actually exposing citizens to risk and encouraging hooligans to repeat violence against the LGBT population.”