Abe weathers no-confidence motion by 4 opposition parties



Prime Minister Shinzo Abe easily weathered a no-confidence motion Tuesday submitted by four opposition parties, as his allies agreed on postponing a sales tax hike to avoid further shocks to the stuttering economic recovery.

The defeat of the no-confidence motion, by a vote of 345 against to 124 in favor, was a foregone conclusion, thanks to the strong majority Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party holds in parliament. But opposition leaders took the opportunity to renew their attacks on the prime minister’s “Abenomics” strategy for reviving the economy.

Abe is widely expected to announce on Wednesday a delay of a planned April 2017 sales tax hike to 10 percent from the current 8 percent. He has been lobbying to delay the increase until October 2019, arguing that the risk of a severe downturn is too high because of uncertainty over the global economy.

Katsuya Okada, head of the Democratic Party, one of four opposition parties that submitted the no-confidence motion, accused Abe of bungling the economy.

“Prime Minister Abe should immediately step down,” he said. “He mishandled economic policy, and his Abenomics has failed.”

Japan’s economy, the world’s third-largest, has been stuck in the doldrums for years. Since taking office in late 2012, Abe has championed a massive monetary easing aimed at vanquishing persistent deflation, which tends to discourage corporate investment and consumer spending.

Data for April showed factory output fell 3.5 percent from a year earlier and consumer spending also edged lower, while the consumer price index fell 0.3 percent.

While weak, the latest figures were better than expected. But Abe has nonetheless won grudging support for postponing the tax hike from a key ally, Finance Minister Taro Aso.

“It is one option to help support consumer spending,” Aso said of the likely delay.

With Japan’s public debt at nearly 240 percent of its GDP, putting the nation’s accounts in order remains an urgent priority.

Those favoring a delay argue the recovery is too weak to endure a fresh hit to consumer spending from a tax hike. The increase could backfire, they say, if it causes such a downturn that government revenues actually contract.

“The government probably wants to avoid delivering a hammer blow to a fragile economy without seeing solid improvement at the fundamental level,” Margaret Yang of CMC Markets said in a commentary.

At a summit of the Group of Seven rich nations last week in central Japan, other leaders demurred at Abe’s insistence that the world economy is on the brink of a crisis at a time when the U.S. economy is strong enough that the Federal Reserve is preparing to raise interest rates.

But Abe cited G-7 backing of the use of all policy tools available to countries as a justification for a tax hike delay.

Critics have accused Abe of trying to use the event as a smoke screen for the failings of his own policies.

“It’s irresponsible and shameless,” said Japan Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii.

The last time Japan raised its sales tax, to 8 percent from 5 percent in April 2014, the economy lapsed into recession. Growth has been uneven since then, and Abe initially opted to postpone the increase to 10 percent, originally set for October 2015, to April 2017.

By pushing back the tax increase again, Japan risks having its credit downgraded, though the impact would be limited by the fact that almost all of its debt is owned by domestic investors or the central bank.

It is unclear how Abe will pay for various government spending commitments that were supposed to be financed through the tax increase. They include payments of stipends to low-income pensioners, subsidies for elder care and scholarships, and pay increases for nursing and childcare workers.

“Whichever policy decision we take, there will be a risk,” said Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary-general of Abe’s party.

Abe reportedly rejected the idea of dissolving the lower house of Parliament and holding a snap election in July, when Japan is due to hold a vote for the less powerful upper house.

Islamic Racism: Egyptian Diplomat Calls Africans ‘Slaves and Dogs’…

NAIROBI, Kenya — A Kenyan diplomat has written to the dean of the Africa Diplomatic Corps to protest what she calls “uncivilized, undiplomatic, irresponsible, degrading and insulting behavior” by an Egyptian diplomat who is alleged to have called sub-Saharan Africans “slaves and dogs.”

In a letter dated May 29, Yvonne Khamati, chairwoman of the Africa Diplomatic Corp Technical Committee, said that the head of the Egyptian delegation made the remarks last week at the end of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya.

The remarks were allegedly made in Arabic during consultation on the lack of quorum to pass resolutions affecting Gaza, Khamati said.

The assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment and makes resolutions to address critical environmental challenges facing the world.

Khamati is asking for an apology and said that Egypt should be stopped from representing Africa in any leadership position.

In response, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, according to a statement issued in Cairo, has ordered an investigation into the incident. Information already available to the foreign ministry dismisses that such “language” was used by the Egyptian delegate, said the statement.

“It is unacceptable to fall into the trap of generalization and direct flimsy accusations against the state of Egypt, its people and its African identity as well as its ability to assume its responsibilities in championing African interests,” the statement said.


Barbara Ellen at U.K Guardian: Teacher who manipulated a 15 year old boy with Aspergers into a two year raping before discarding him

Former Duncanville Teacher Starts 10 Year Sentence For Student Affair


DUNCANVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – A former Duncanville teacher began a ten year prison sentence Friday, convicted of having an affair with a student.

It’s an unusually long sentence for the crime, but one Sandy Washington believes her son’s teacher deserves. “I almost had a stroke. Or a heart attack. I don’t know,” she recalls.

Her son was 17 when she says he first told her about the two year old affair with his algebra teacher, Elizabeth Ramsey.
“She was actually writing letters saying he was in tutoring,” said Washington. “They were having sex at school. They were having sex at her house.”

Washington remembers she was initially ecstatic when her son, who has Asperger’s, began to make friends his sophomore year at Duncanville High. She says she later learned Ramsey had taught him to buy marijuana, make brownies and give them away.

“He finally had friends and they weren’t true friends. That hurt,’ said Washington.

She says the affair only ended after Ramsey’s husband came home and nearly caught the two. Washington says her son had a psychological breakdown.

Japan puts military on alert for possible N Korean missile launch



Japan put its military on alert on Monday for a possible North Korean ballistic missile launch, ordering naval destroyers and anti-ballistic missile Patriot batteries to be ready to shoot down any projectile heading for Japan.

A government official confirmed that an order was issued. The official declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The order was first reported by state broadcaster NHK. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense earlier declined to comment, as did South Korea’s defense ministry.

Japan has put its anti-ballistic missile forces on alert at least twice this year after detecting signs of launches by North Korea.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and has followed that with test launches of various missiles.

Japan has advanced Aegis vessels in the Sea of Japan that are able to track multiple targets and are armed with SM-3 missiles designed to destroy incoming warheads in space before they re-enter the atmosphere and fall to there targets.

Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, designed to hit warheads near the ground, are deployed around Tokyo and other sites as a second and final line of defense.