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26 Apr
2019

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans visits Washington DC for trade talks

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit President Donald Trump in Washington DC to discuss trade. The United States wants a free trade agreement that would cover a range of areas such as goods, services, investment and currency. Japan wants a trade deal on goods only. Part 2 of the negotiations happens in May, when Trump visits Japan.
According to Reuters, Trump has made clear he is unhappy with Japan’s US $69 billion trade surplus with the United States, mainly from auto exports, and he wants a two-way agreement to address it. For the present, Japanese automakers are protected from further tariffs, which are seen as a major threat to the export-dependent Japanese economy.

Trump would likely become the first foreign state guest to meet with Crown Prince Naruhito after he accedes to the throne on May 1, following the abdication of his father Emperor Akihito on Apr 30.

According to Kyodo, Abe and Trump are also expected to discuss how best to deal with North Korea in the wake of the collapse of a second summit between the U.S. president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February in Vietnam. Abe and Trump are expected to affirm the international sanctions on Pyongyang until it achieves complete denuclearization, according to the Japanese news service. #23053 Published: 03/21/2019

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26 Apr
2019

National Rifle Association holds annual convention facing new setbacks

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The National Rifle Association (NRA) holds its 48th annual meeting and trade show in Indianapolis, Indiana, facing an internal revolt from so-called gundamentalists and a less friendly U.S. Congress following the Nov 2018 election. Conventioneers can expect an update on the NRA’s fight against a recent court ruling that threatens the firearms industry.
Gun-rights activists, policy experts and gun-control advocates interviewed by Reuters see the rise of the fundamentalists as a worry for the NRA leadership as it threatens the association’s ability to hold on to moderate supporters and to make compromises that might help fend off tougher gun control measures.

With the Democrats holding the House of Representatives again following the 2018 election, the NRA can expect to be pressured for additional concessions. Several legislators are promising congressional action on gun control amid the rash of mass shootings, which included an assault at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 worshippers in October and a late-night attack at a California bar that killed 12 people in November.

The association has allowed very tiny concessions to the gun control activists in the aftermath of recent mass shootings, and they have upset fundamentalist members as too conciliatory on gun rights.

A lone gunman in New Zealand killed at least 50 worshippers at a Christchurch mosque in March, and the country appears to be headed toward bipartisan determination to tighten gun controls. The possibility that U.S. lawmakers could be infected with bipartisanship on gun control looms as a new worry for the NRA, but of less immediate concern than the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in March that gives victims of the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook school the right to sue the maker of the shooter’s weapon, Remington.

Reuters notes that opinion polls such as Gallup surveys show growing support for gun control in recent years. Within that trend, support for gun control typically spikes immediately after mass shootings, then falls closer to pre-massacre levels within a few months. Amid nationwide protests that followed a Florida high school shooting that killed 17 people in February 2018, the NRA endorsed strengthening background checks for gun purchasers and emergency protection orders that allow law-enforcement officials to temporarily take guns away from people deemed dangerous.

A political lobby that today claims five million members and is closely aligned with the Republican Party, the NRA supports pro-gun politicians. The organization is reported to have spent US $30 million to support Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He made his fourth address to the NRA meeting in 2018, and is likely to do the same in 2019. #22832 Updated: 03/19/2019 UPDATED MAR 18 TO INCLUDE NZ MOSQUE SHOOTING AND COURT DECISION THAT GUN MAKER CAN BE SUED

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28 Apr
2019

Spain holds yet another general election

SPAIN (WNF) - Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called a snap general election in the Eurozone’s fourth-largest economy on Feb 15 after his budget bill failed to pass. Separatist parliamentarians, retaliating for his refusal to discuss independence for Catalonia, voted with opposition parties to bring down the bill.
The April vote, the country’s third general election since late 2015, ends the shortest and probably frailest government in modern Spain. With too few seats to govern, Sanchez was forced to rely on small regional parties to pass legislation. The Catalan votes that helped him unseat his center-right predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, in June worked against him in February.

Polls generally suggest that no single party will win a majority. The Socialists appear on track to emerge as the largest party, but too frail and outnumbered by the conservative Popular Party, the center-right Ciudadanos and far-right Vox to govern. Leftist Podemos has dropped almost out of sight. A poll cited by Reuters forecasts a breakthrough for Vox, with far-right lawmakers elected to the country’s parliament for the first time in nearly four decades.

The New York Times notes that a secessionist drive in the prosperous northern region of Catalonia has challenged both the country’s territorial integrity and the core arrangements of the 1978 Constitution for Spain. The ongoing trial of 12 Catalan separatists, accused of rebellion and sedition over their unrecognized independence referendum in 2017, has exacerbated polarization in the country. According to the newspaper, Catalans have held the stability of the government hostage to their grievance that Spain siphons off their wealth and that their region’s unique language and culture entitle it to separate. #23021 Published: 02/21/2019

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30 Apr
2019

Emperor Akihito steps down after three decades on Chrysanthemum Throne

JAPAN (WNF) - Emperor Akihito steps down, marking the end of an imperial era for Japan and the first abdication in more than two centuries. It will be a state occasion at which he will make a speech. The accession on the following day of his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, starts a new imperial era.
The series of succession rites ahead of abdication begin on Mar 26, when Akihito visits the Nara Prefecture mausoleum of Emperor Jimmu, Japan’s legendary first Emperor, to report the abdication. He travels to the Grand Shrines of Ise in Mie Prefecture on Apr 18 and on Apr 23 he will visit the Tokyo mausoleum of his father, Hirohito, now more commonly known by his posthumous name, the Emperor Showa, for the same purpose. Akihito will also again ceremonially report the abdication to his ancestors at the Imperial Palace.

The 83-year-old emperor has been on the throne since the death of his father in 1989. He has had heart surgery and prostate cancer, and said in Aug 2016 that his age and health would make it difficult to fulfil his duties.

Japanese law doesn't provide for abdication; emperors, considered spiritually immortal, are expected to serve until death. In Jun 2018 the government enacted a bill that allowed him to step down. The BBC describes it as a one-off piece of legislation that does not allow Naruhito or his successors to abdicate.

National Public Radio notes that, parting from the aloof nature of imperial families of the past, Akihito enjoys popularity in Japan that stems from gestures that have demonstrated his empathy for the common people. When Japan was hit in 2011 by a massive tsunami that killed thousands and left tens of thousands homeless, according to the U.S. broadcaster, “the emperor abandoned formality to comfort the Japanese people.” #22792 Updated: 03/19/2019 UPDATED MAR 18 TO INCLUDE DETAILS OF ABDICATION RITUALS

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01 May
2019

Crown Prince Naruhito becomes Emperor of Japan

JAPAN (WNF) - Crown Prince Naruhito succeeds to the Chrysanthemum Throne, a day after Emperor Akihito steps down, in an intimate and closed-door ritual. The pomp attached to the start of a new imperial era awaits the formal enthronement ceremony in October. Naruhito becomes emperor at an uncertain time for the dwindling imperial family.
The name of Naruhito's reign will be Reiwa. The name alludes to good fortune and peace or harmony, according to the Japan Times. Akihito’s era of Heisei, which means achieving peace, was the first without a war in Japan’s modern history.

Naruhito is the 126th Emperor in the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy, believed to stretch back more than 2,600 years. Nippon.com observes that he is likely to face great pressure in meeting the imperial family’s thorny challenges, while bearing the weight of its lengthy history. One of the challenges is the succession.

Eyes will be on Crown Princess Masako, who becomes empress alongside her husband. A former career-track diplomat and a commoner, the Harvard-educated Masako gave up her profession when she married Naruhito in 1993. Battling depression, she dropped out of public life because of stress, which can only increase after the enthronement. She and Naruhito have one child, Aiko, Princess Toshi, who cannot succeed her father because she is female.

Nippon.com described the family in May 2017 as in a state of crisis. The publication notes that under the Imperial House Law, which does not allow for female succession, Naruhito’s 11-year-old nephew Prince Hisahito, the son of his younger brother Prince Akishino, is the only eligible claimant to the throne in the next generation, and the family’s seven unmarried princesses relinquish their imperial status if they wed. Their loss reduces the number of members able to complete official duties.

After Naruhito’s succession, the government will consider how to deal with these issues, according to the publication, and he will not be allowed to even express his opinions on any legal changes.

The Emperor is limited to symbolic roles, and has no political function. In all his state functions, the Emperor must have the advice and approval of the cabinet. This applies in particular to the succession issue. #22800 Published: 11/06/2018

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01 May
2019

Divisions roil the European Union 15 years after major expansion of the bloc

EUROPEAN UNION (WNF) - Ten countries joined the European Union on the same May Day in 2004, and 15 years later Brussels is at odds with eight of them.
For the present, only Lithuania and Latvia do not appear to be causing serious consternation in Brussels. Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, on the other hand, are under a cloud – and apparently unrepentant.

The sins of Malta and Cyprus in include selling EU passports to fatten their coffers. Malta, the bloc’s least-populous member nation, has also become a cryptocurrency and online gambling hub, according to the Bloomberg news service, and it is plagued by allegations of corruption and money laundering.

In Slovakia, according to DW, a delegation from Brussels in found “corruption, fraud and organized crime that have taken over entire swaths of government.” The broadcaster questioned whether the bloc had looked the other way for too long.

Hungarian Prime Minister Orban’s conflicts with the European Union appear headed to a breaking point, and calls are increasing for greater scrutiny of his government’s spending of the bloc’s funds. Associated Press reports that the EU allocated Hungary 25 billion euros in the 2014-2020 budget period, and critics say the money often has been spent on overpriced or unnecessary projects that pad the pockets of Orban’s allies.

Brussels has censured several of the former Eastern Bloc countries for testing the rule of law and the democratic underpinnings of the EU, and the accused have shown no signs of backing down. Instead, they are known to be teaming up with Eurosceptic, nationalist and far right parties elsewhere in the EU in order to emerge from the European elections in May as a force that can reshape the bloc. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has forecast this year’s European elections will lead to big changes for Brussels. #23029 Updated: 04/15/2019 UPDATED 14 APR TO ADD CYPRUS TO LIST OF WRONGDOERS

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21 days to go until NEW GRAPHIC NEWS - a new website for a new era.

28 years ago — April 2, 1991 — the original Graphic News launched using a precursor to today’s websites that used email technology. These enabled infographics to be delivered electronically around the world over telephone lines. What was possible was very limited - It took 10 minutes for a 100K file to download.

Since then delivery speeds and website technology have moved on. The new website will offer the best online experience possible now, adding many new features (and offering new opportunities for the future), but still enabling existing users to select and download infographics and enjoy the distinct brand of visual journalism that is Graphic News.


Over the coming days I will give further information. Please contact me if you have any questions. Fiona Roberts, froberts @ graphicnews.com



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