Spain's King Abdicates, Luhansk Battle, Captain Chile

A boy dressed as Captain America strikes a pose at the fourth annual Comic Con Chile in Santiago.
A boy dressed as Captain America strikes a pose at the fourth annual Comic Con Chile in Santiago.

Monday, June 2, 2014

At least five separatists were killed after hundreds attacked a border post with automatic weapons in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk near the Russian border. According to the AP, seven Ukrainian troops were also injured in the early morning attack. The news agency also quotes the spokesman for Kiev’s military operation as saying that another attack had taken place on Sloviansk, where rebels reportedly “mined a number of power plants” and threatened to detonate them if the government sent its forces against them.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Energy Ministry confirmed it had received a payment of $786.4 million from Kiev to cover the country’s gas bill for February and March, ahead of a new round of talks on gas in Berlin later today.

“This is the best moment for the transition of the crown to take place with complete normality,” Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said today in making the surprise announcement that King Juan Carlos is abdicating his throne.

The Afghan government joined critics of the deal reached between Washington and the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five fighters detained at Guantánamo, Reuters reports. The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry say the deal violates international law. "No government can transfer citizens of a country to a third country as prisoners," an official said as the five Taliban prisoners were flown to Qatar as part of the agreement. Over the weekend, several Republicans denounced the deal, arguing that negotiating with terrorists sets a dangerous precedent and endangers U.S. soldiers.

Google has announced that it is receiving one request every seven seconds for its new "right to be forgotten" program. The initiative’s online form was used 12,000 times on Friday alone.

Pressure is mounting on soccer’s governing body FIFA to organize a re-vote for the siting of the 2022 World Cup after strong allegations of corruption against Qatar, appeared in the British press over the weekend. According to the reports, which rely on leaked emails, soccer officials were paid 3 million pounds ($5 million) in “cash, gifts and legal fees” to support Qatar’s bid against the other candidates — South Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States. The Qatari organizing committee is due to meet with a FIFA investigator today, the BBC writes.

A boy dressed as Captain America strikes a pose at the fourth annual Comic Con Chile in Santiago. The event, which is based on San Diego Comic-Con International, gathers comic books enthusiasts and pop culture fans and drew an estimated 20,000 people over the weekend.

At least 40 people were killed in eastern Nigeria yesterday after suspected Boko Haram fighters threw a bomb at soccer fans near a field, Nigerian Tribune reports. The blast’s location is near a military base, but some sources told the newspaper that no soldiers were among the casualties. This came after more deadly raids in villages in the northern Borno state and amid reports from Cameroon that the country’s security forces had killed some 40 Boko Haram militants in clashes after the release of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun. Read more from Reuters.


A Palestinian "national reconciliation government" formed by Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party will be sworn in later today amid vocal opposition from Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet yesterday that the reconciliation between the two Palestinian parties “will not strengthen peace, it will strengthen terror.” According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Netanyahu was assured of America’s support, as he said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had promised Israel that Washington would not immediately recognize the new Palestinian unity government. Meanwhile, AFP reported this morning that Israel had launched air raids on the Gaza Strip after two rockets were fired.

As La Stampa’s Lucia Sgueglia reports, Russian fighters — Chechens in particular — are showing up to fight the Kiev-backed military in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. “Alexander Borodai, the ‘chief separatist,’ concedes that there are foreign fighters among the ranks of the rebels. ‘They are Russian volunteers, from Russia,’ he says, explaining his blind trust in the Chechens. ‘Since Kadyrov came to power — a leader who is unquestionably loyal to Putin — the Chechens are more Russian than the Russians themselves. They’re true patriots.’”
Read the full article, In Donetsk, The Chechens Have Arrived.

The infamous Egyptian court that sentenced hundreds of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi to death last month has condemned another 37 Islamists to death and handed life sentences to 492 others, AFP reports. The court justified its decision by saying that the men were “demons” who “came out of the depths of hell ... to plunder Egypt's wealth, tyrannize its people.” It also accused them of having followed and promoted the teachings of the Talmud, Judaism’s central scripture.

New research suggests that learning a second language, even in adulthood, improves our “reading, verbal fluency and intelligence,” effectively slowing brain aging.

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A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

Japan's new PM Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Sept. 29

Daisuke Kondo


TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.

After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

Born into politics

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

He is an excellent actor.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam to , Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

An invitation for Obama

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

Photo of Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida with their backs to the camera, in Hiroshima in 2016

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima in 2016

Japanese cynics

In September, 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Leftist traditions from Hiroshima

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

How long will a Fumio Kishida government last?

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

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