Voters in Japan have ousted the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, ending fifty-five years of nearly uninterrupted rule. In elections on Sunday, the populist Democratic Party of Japan captured a record 308 of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament. It was the worst election performance for the conservative Liberal Democratic Party since the party was founded in 1955. One analyst described the vote as a bloodless revolution, the first transfer of power from one party to another in postwar Japan. Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama is expected to become Japan’s new prime minister. He is a longtime critic of Japan’s close relationship to the United States.
Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano: “The DPJ places more emphasis on Asia. It also places more emphasis on the UN framework as opposed to just following the US line. So, that seems to be the key difference, that they want to say that their policy alternatives are not just stick to the United States, but they’re going to build on the relationship with China, with other Asian neighbors, and also to try to work within the UN framework far more than in the LDP government.”
During the campaign, Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama questioned the role of the 50,000 American troops deployed throughout Japan and said he would not renew the mandate for Japanese ships on a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of US-led military activities in Afghanistan. Hatoyama has also said Japan will stay nuclear-free under his leadership and that he will seek a US pledge not to bring nuclear-armed vessels into Japanese ports.
August has become the deadliest month for US troops in Afghanistan since the war began nearly eight years ago. A US soldier died on Friday in a bomb blast, bringing this month’s death toll to forty-six.
A CBS Radio News correspondent named Cami McCormick has been seriously wounded in a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera is reporting the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan is expected to request today for the Afghan army and police forces to be nearly doubled in size. General Stanley McChrystal’s request will be part of his overall assessment of how US, NATO and Afghan forces are operating on the ground. According to the BBC, McChrystal’s assessment suggests the current US military strategy is failing. In his report, McChrystal writes, “The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort.”
The military newspaper Stars and Stripes is reporting the Pentagon is canceling its contract with the private public relations firm The Rendon Group to produce background profiles of journalists seeking to cover the war. One journalist profiled was Nir Rosen, who got a hold of his profile. The Rendon Group reported to the Pentagon that Rosen’s reporting in Afghanistan was “highly unfavorable to international efforts” and “mainly negative in tone, portraying the situation as hopeless and doomed to failure.” The Rendon Group profile also mentioned Rosen’s appearance on Democracy Now!, when he stated his belief that the war is unwinnable and that the US should withdraw.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney lashed out at the Obama administration Sunday over Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to investigate whether CIA operatives broke the law while interrogating prisoners. During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Cheney described the probe as politically motivated and said it “offends the hell out of me.”
Vice President Cheney: “The approach of the Obama administration should be to come to those people who were involved in that policy and say, 'How did you do it? What were the keys to keeping the country safe over that period of time?' Instead, they’re out there now threatening to disbar the lawyers who gave us the legal opinions, threatening, contrary to what the President originally said, they’re going to go out and investigate the CIA personnel who carried out those investigations.”
In response to a question from host Chris Wallace, Dick Cheney defended interrogators who waterboarded prisoners and used electric drills and guns to threaten prisoners, even if done in violation of Justice Department guidelines.
Chris Wallace: “Do you think what they did — now that you’ve heard about it, do you think what they did was wrong?”
Cheney: “Chris, my sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives, in preventing further attacks against the United States, in giving us the intelligence we needed to go find al-Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed. It was good policy. It was properly carried out. it worked very, very well.”
Wallace: “So, even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you’re OK with it.”
Cheney: “I am.”
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, John Kerry, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Cheney of having disrespect for the Constitution. Kerry defended the Obama administration.
Sen. John Kerry: “I think there is a little bit of a tension between the White House itself and the lawyers in the Justice Department as they see the law and as what their obligation is. And in a sense, that’s good, that’s appropriate, because it shows that we have an attorney general who is not pursuing a political agenda, but who is doing what he believes the law requires him to do. And we have an administration, on the other hand, that is balancing some of those other interests.”
New details have emerged about how the CIA hired the private military firm Blackwater as part of a secret program to assassinate top operatives of al-Qaeda. The Associated Press reports Blackwater offered the CIA the services of foreigners supposedly skilled at tracking terrorists in lawless regions and countries where the CIA had no working relationships with the government. A former senior CIA official said Blackwater relied on foreigners because “you wouldn’t want to have American fingerprints on it.”
The website CNet is reporting internet companies and civil liberties groups are alarmed over a Senate bill that appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector telecommunications and internet networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency. A Senate source familiar with the bill compared the president’s power to take control of portions of the internet to what President Bush did when grounding all aircraft on September 11, 2001.
In news from Latin America, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has come down with swine flu. Doctors say he is not considered a high-risk patient. Uribe first began feeling symptoms on Friday, the same day he met with other South American presidents at a summit in Argentina. At the summit, Uribe spent hours defending his plan to give US troops more access to Colombian bases, a plan that has been widely criticized by other Latin American leaders.
Argentina’s president has sent a media reform bill to Congress, saying it would strengthen democracy by reducing the control of a handful of companies that dominate broadcasting. The bill would allocate a third of broadcast frequencies to private companies, a third to state broadcasters and the rest to nonprofit organizations, including churches and universities. The legislation would also limit the number of licenses any one company can hold and aim to promote Argentine-made music, films and programs.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez: “This bill looks to dedicate to all of our people the right, so that everyone can be heard, so that voices of every man and woman can be heard, whether we like what they have to say or not, whether they serve our interests or are against our interests. It is for all of us.”
Argentina’s media reform bill is based on a proposal written by a coalition of community media, human rights groups, unions and progressive academics.
Here in this country, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable television provider, has won a federal court ruling that will allow it to grow even larger. On Friday, a federal court tossed out a Federal Communications Commission rule that prevented cable companies from controlling more than 30 percent of the market.
The British government has deported a former Guantanamo guard who was scheduled to address a meeting of Cageprisoners, a human rights organization that tries raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The former guard, Terry Holdbrooks, has become an outspoken critic of the US government over the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo. Holdbrooks was denied entry into Britain after landing at Heathrow airport on Saturday. Holdbrooks told the Observer newspaper of London that he had also been detained and questioned by US airport officials on Thursday, as he attempted to complete the first stage of his journey.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been indicted on corruption charges. The charges stem from allegations he took cash payments from a US businessman, advanced the interests of clients of a former law partner, and double-billed Israeli charities for overseas travel expenses during fundraising trips. He is the first Israeli prime minister, sitting or retired, to be charged with a crime.
In other news from the region, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian leadership will not resume peace talks with Israel unless Washington persuades Israel to freeze settlement activity. Nabil Shaath said only a full settlement freeze, without exceptions or “loopholes,” and an Israeli commitment to establishing a Palestinian state would be enough to bring Abbas back to the negotiating table.
A Sri Lankan court has sentenced an ethnic Tamil journalist to twenty years of hard labor for publishing articles critical of the government’s war on the Tamil Tiger rebels. In a series of articles published in 2006 and 2007, J.S. Tissainayagam accused Sri Lankan authorities of withholding food and other essential items from Tamil-majority areas as a tool of war. He is the first journalist convicted under the country’s Prevention of Terrorism Act.
In California, two Los Angeles County firefighters died Sunday as they were battling the massive wildfires. The fire had already churned through more than 42,500 acres of land, from the edge of metropolitan Los Angeles up to pine-clad ridges and down toward the Mojave Desert. More than 12,500 homes were threatened, and 6,600 were under mandatory evacuation orders Sunday night. Eighteen residences have been destroyed. Officials say the fire is only five percent contained.
And Senator Edward Kennedy was buried on Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery. Earlier in the day, President Obama gave the eulogy at Kennedy’s funeral in Boston.
President Obama: “Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion the causes of those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard.”