Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has dropped below 50% for the first time in more than a year as respondents expressed dissatisfaction with his response to allegations of preferential treatment toward a conservative educator.
The cabinet’s approval rating plunged to 49% in a weekend poll by Nikkei Inc. and TV Tokyo, down 7 percentage points from May and 11 points compared with April. The government’s disapproval rating climbed 6 points to 42% — the highest since October 2015.
This marks the Abe cabinet’s most serious setback in public opinion since that year, when legislation expanding the armed forces’ remit ignited a public debate on Japan’s commitment to peace.
Now, the prime minister is facing allegations of favoritism over plans to establish a veterinary school in a government-designated special zone for deregulation. The prospective school operator, Kake Educational Institution, is headed by a friend of Abe’s.
The government insists that all of the proper procedures were followed in approving the new school. But a purported memo describing the project as in line with “the prime minister’s wishes” — a document whose credibility the government had questioned — has been found at the ministry of education after a second internal investigation.
The ruling coalition’s move to cut short the upper house debate on anti-conspiracy legislation also seems to have contributed to the drop in support. Among other things, the recently enacted law makes it a crime to plot terrorist attacks. Nearly half, or 47%, of respondents support the law, which has raised concerns among civil liberties groups, while 36% are opposed.
The cabinet’s approval rating fell among both men and women. Only 24% of respondents unaffiliated with any political party expressed support for the government, down 5 points from the previous survey.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who on Wednesday took the decision that VIP vehicles should do away with red beacons, said “Every Indian is a VIP”.
Replying to a tweet hailing the government decision, Modi said: “Every Indian is special. Every Indian is a VIP.”
In another post, Modi said: “It should have gone long ago. Glad that today a strong beginning has been made.”
“These symbols are out of touch with the spirit of new India.”
The decision was taken by Prime Minister Modi, who informed the cabinet about it. Soon after the announcement, several ministers removed the red beacons from their vehicles.
The central government on Wednesday announced that no dignitary will be allowed to flaunt red beacons atop their vehicles from May 1, and necessary changes in the laws for the purpose are being brought about.
The scandal over a shady land sale to a nationalist school operator has dealt a rare blow to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, unnerving investors counting on continued political stability.
Getting out of hand
The issue boils down to whether an 800 million yen ($7.19 million) discount on land sold to Moritomo Gakuen by the government was appropriate, and whether any political figures were involved in the sale or the approval process for the school to be built on the plot. If politicians did play a role and money changed hands, that could be considered graft.
Moritomo Gakuen chief Yasunori Kagoike alleged political involvement when he testified Thursday before the Diet, but this has been denied by officials who led finance bureaus involved in the deal. Yet government explanations have not cleared up public doubts about the process or the sale price.
“It’s a shame that this couldn’t bring the matter to a close,” a senior government official said after Kagoike’s testimony.
The prime minister’s office led the effort to bring Kagoike before the Diet, seeking to highlight contradictions in his claims. Yet the administrator did not budge even while under oath, putting the onus on the government to explain the sale as well as the role of Abe’s wife, Akie.
Update: echoing comments made by Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the top House Democrat said that the Trump budget proposal is “dead on arrival.“
Today at 7am, Trump released his “skinny budget”, his administration’s first federal budget blueprint revealing the President’s plan to dramatically reduce the size of the government. As previewed last night, the document calls for deep cuts at departments and agencies that would eliminate entire programs and slash the size of the federal workforce. It also proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which the White House says will be offset by the other cuts.
“This is the ‘America First’ budget,” said White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman who made a name for himself as a spending hawk before Trump plucked him for his Cabinet, adding that “if he said it in the campaign, it’s in the budget.”
In a proposal with many losers, the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department stand out as targets for the biggest spending reductions. Funding would disappear altogether for 19 independent bodies that count on federal money for public broadcasting, the arts and regional issues from Alaska to Appalachia. Trump’s budget outline is a bare-bones plan covering just “discretionary” spending for the 2018 fiscal year starting on Oct. 1. It is the first volley in what is expected to be an intense battle over spending in coming months in Congress, which holds the federal purse strings and seldom approves presidents’ budget plans.
Trump wants to spend $54 billion more on defense, put a down payment on his border wall, and breathe life into a few other campaign promises. His initial budget outline does not incorporate his promise to pour $1 trillion into roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure projects. The budget directs several agencies to shift resources toward fighting terrorism and cybercrime, enforcing sanctions, cracking down on illegal immigration and preventing government waste.
The White House has said the infrastructure plan is still to come.
Update: The White House has just released a statement confirming this is similar to President Obama’s plan…
President Donald J. Trump Statement Regarding Recent Executive Order Concerning Extreme Vetting
“America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say.
My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.
The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.
To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”
As we detailed earlier, a president who chooses to ban immigrant refugees from majority-Muslim nations on the basis of national security and fears over terrorism is – according to the mainstream media and 1000s of Americans at various protests today – a vicious, soul-less, fascist, Islamophobic racist, and as bad as hitler (we are paraphrasing).
Japan’s Finance Ministry is set to boost the issuance of 40-year government bonds to a record 3 trillion yen ($26 billion) in fiscal 2017, betting on strong investor demand.
The issuance of two-year and other short- and medium-term bonds with negative yields will decrease due to low demand.
The JGB issuance plan for fiscal 2017 will be finalized based on opinions the ministry hears at meetings with brokerages, life insurers and other market players. The meetings are scheduled for Friday and Dec. 19. The plan will be announced along with next year’s budget, which will be endorsed by the Cabinet on Dec. 22.
It will be the first bond issuance since the Bank of Japan adopted a negative interest rate policy in January. The amount of JGBs issued periodically for institutional investors will decrease for the fourth consecutive year due to a decline in refinancing bonds. While the total issuance will decline, the issuance of superlong-term bonds with positive yields will increase.
The issuance of 40-year bonds will increase for the third straight year, rising nearly fourfold from fiscal 2008, when 40-year bonds made their debut. Investor demand for the 40-year bonds, with their relatively high yields, is expected to be strong. The increase in the issuance of superlong-term bonds might also prevent any uptick in demand for refinancing of short- and medium-term bonds.
The Cabinet will soon make a decision on an industry ministry proposal to put more curbs on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the tobacco sector, aimed at further discouraging tobacco consumption to honour the country’s commitment to the World Health Organization (WHO).
An early decision by the Cabinet on the department of industrial policy and promotion’s (DIPP) proposal to ban FDI in technological collaboration in the tobacco sector in any form — including licensing for franchise, trademark, brand name and management contract — is crucial to curbing speculations about the likely changes to the FDI rules governing the sector. This is because while the DIPP proposal has got support from the ministries of commerce, finance and health, it has faced resistance from NITI Aayog.
Since FDI is already banned in the manufacturing of cigars, cigarettes of tobacco and tobacco substitutes, any more curbs will almost choke such investments into the sector. “Consultations between the DIPP and NITI Aayog have been held on this issue,” said a senior government official. “The initial comments of various ministries have been taken into consideration.” Since key ministries support this move, there is a greater chance of its approval by the Cabinet.
One week ago, when the prospect of a Trump presidency was “calculated” as being anywhere between 0% and 20% by so-called experts, we reported that Trump’s campaign finance chair, Goldman Sachs partner and Soros Fund management alum, Steven Mnuchin, was being positioned for something much larger as Donald Trump reportedly told his aides today that he wants Mnuchin to serve as his Treasury Secretary.
Now, according to CNBC, Trump has decided to expand beyond just Goldman alumni, and is allegedly considering JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon as the next US Treasury Secretary.
Needless to say, we can only hope that this is an attempt to scare clicks by CNBC instead of the actual truth, because if Trump hopes that he can “drain a swamp” by hiring the swamp puppet master, he – and millions of his supporters – will be very disappointed.
As for Dimon, or Mnuchin, they will be delighted: as a reminder, as Hank Paulson demonstrated so well, the only reason why bankers become Treasury Secretaries, is to be allowed to sell all their corporate stock upon moving to public office, tax free.
Hillary Clinton’s sudden departure from a September 11 memorial ceremony on Sunday after becoming “overheated” came two days after she was diagnosed with pneumonia, according to a statement from her doctor that signalled the latest unexpected turn in the race for the White House.
The disclosure comes after campaign aides had insisted for weeks that Mrs Clinton’s chronic cough reflected nothing more serious than seasonal allergies and mocked Republicans who suggested that the former secretary of state was ill.
With only 35 per cent of voters calling Mrs Clinton trustworthy in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, the episode threatens to erode her slim lead in the polls.
Matt Mackowiak, a veteran Republican political operative, tweeted that Clinton aides were guilty of “campaign malpractice” for allowing several hours to elapse before revealing that the Democratic presidential candidate had been diagnosed two days earlier.
“Secretary Clinton has been experiencing a cough related to allergies,” said Dr Lisa Bardack, who examined her on Sunday at her home in Chappaqua, New York.
“On Friday, during follow up evaluation of her prolonged cough, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule. While at this morning’s event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now rehydrated and recovering nicely.”