Abe says it is hard for now to revise arms-renouncing article of constitution




Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says it would be difficult for the time being to revise the armament-renouncing article of Japan’s pacifist constitution, an issue drawing attention as the July 10 upper house election approaches.

Article 9 of the U.S.-drafted constitution renounces war and, if read literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces, although Japan’s military, called the Self-Defense Forces, has over 200,000 personnel and is equipped with high-tech weapons.

Revising the constitution is one of the key policy targets of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

“We are already making clear our view on the constitution, but it is parliament that needs to originate a proposal regarding what part of the constitution should be changed,” Abe told a TV debate program on Friday.

“In that sense, no agreement whatsoever has been reached, and I believe it is difficult under the current circumstances to revise article 9.”

The draft of the LDP’s proposed revision, unveiled in 2012, still renounces war but stipulates the maintenance of national defense forces and says Japan must be able to exercise the right of self defense – easing the constitutional constraint on military activities.

A poll by the Asahi Shimbun daily showed last month that 68% of Japanese wanted to keep Article 9 unchanged.

A formal amendment of the constitution requires approval by two-thirds of both houses of parliament as well as a majority in a referendum.

Newspaper surveys said on Friday Abe’s ruling bloc along with like-minded allies could get a two-third majority in the upper house as a result of the July election, in which half of the chamber’s 242 seats will be up for grabs.

Abe’s bloc, which comprises the LDP and junior coalition partner Komeito party, already has a two-thirds majority in the lower house.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.

Arizona state Rep. Ceci Velasquez, a well known liberal-feminist, has been indicted on welfare-fraud charges


Arizona state Rep. Ceci Velasquez has been indicted on charges of felony welfare fraud, according to Arizona Department of Economic Security Director Timothy Jeffries.

Rep. Ceci Velasquez, D-Litchfield Park, is suspected of fraud against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called SNAP. This program is the state food stamp program.

According to a news release from the agency, the state got a tip in November 2014 of possible fraudulent activity. The DES Office of Inspector General investigated the allegations. Court documents allege Velasquez between 2013 and 2015 fraudulently used $1,726 worth of food stamps.

Velasquez was charged by the Arizona State Grand Jury in May with three felony counts: fraudulent schemes and practices; unlawful use of food stamps; and theft. The court documents were unsealed this week.

Velasquez is pleading her innocence as all feminist do. Once the charges were announced, a statement was posted to her Twitter account: “I have done nothing wrong! This is a political witch hunt. I’m confident that justice WILL prevail once all the facts are known!”