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Yoshihide Suga was born the son of strawberry farmers

Japan’s governing party has elected Yoshihide Suga as its new leader to succeed Shinzo Abe, meaning he is almost certain to become the country’s next prime minister.

Last month Mr Abe announced his resignation due to health reasons.

Mr Suga, 71, serves as chief cabinet secretary in the current administration and was widely expected to win.

He is considered a close ally of Mr Abe and likely to continue his predecessor’s policies.

Now that the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has chosen its new leader, there will be another vote on Wednesday in parliament, where he is almost certain to be made prime minister because of the LDP’s majority.

Taking over mid-term, Mr Suga is expected to finish the rest of the current period, until elections in September 2021.

Who is Yoshihide Suga?

Born the son of strawberry farmers, Mr Suga is a veteran politician.

Given his central role of chief cabinet secretary in the administration, he is expected to provide continuity heading an interim government until the 2021 election.

“Shinzo Abe and the other party bosses picked and joined the bandwagon for Mr Suga precisely because he was the best ‘continuity’ candidate, someone who they think could continue Abe government without Abe,” Koichi Nakano, dean and political science professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University, told the BBC.

While not considered the most energetic or passionate politician, Mr Suga has a reputation of being very efficient and practical.

One of his most prominent appearances recently was during the transition from past emperor Akihito to the current one Naruhito in 2019. It fell to Mr Suga to unveil the name of the new Reiwa era to the Japanese and global public.

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He started being referred to as “Uncle Reiwa” soon after

Yet while he was the favourite to clinch the LDP leadership after Abe’s resignation, it is much less clear whether he will lead the party in next year’s general election.

Observers suggest that by then, the party dynamic could shift to put a more vibrant man at the helm who can reach a wider general electorate.

Who else was running?

Two other contenders had thrown their hats in the ring.

Kishida Fumio served as foreign minister under Shinzo Abe, but for the past three years has been heading the party’s policy research council. Compared to Mr Suga, the 63-year old brought more international diplomatic experience to the table but lacked the endorsement by the outgoing prime minister.

The third contender was Shigeru Ishiba, a former LDP secretary-general and one-time defence minister in an earlier Abe cabinet.

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Shigeru Ishiba (left), Yoshihide Suga and Fumio Kishida

Of the three contenders, Mr Ishiba who is also 63, was the one who had tried to distance himself most from the outgoing prime minister and was hoping to represent a fresh start after Mr Abe.

Even though neither he nor Mr Kishida were considered to have a realistic chance against Mr Suga, their bids might have put them in a good position for the 2021 general election once the current term is up.

What is Japan’s political outlook?

The leadership transition comes at a difficult time for the country. Japan is still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic which has caused its biggest economic slump on record.

Mr Abe’s long-standing project of kickstarting the economy, dubbed Abenomics was, even before the pandemic hit, still a work in progress and the country has seen several years of stagnation, recession or only very slow growth.

There’s also unfinished business in the government’s plans to reform the post-war pacifist constitution. Mr Abe wanted to change a section in the constitution to formally recognise Japan’s military, which is currently called the Self Defence Force and is essentially barred from participating in any international military mandates.

For all those projects, a new administration under Mr Suga could provide stability.

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Japan has been hit by the pandemic and an economic slump

But during his time as chief cabinet secretary, he was “remarkably lacking in vision,” Prof Nakano cautions.

“The only slogan he came up with is “Self help, mutual help, and public help” – emphasising neoliberal self-help and self-responsibility at the time of [a] pandemic that is exposing a whole lot of people to economic vulnerability.”

New general elections for the Diet, the lower house, are scheduled for September 2021 and by then, there will likely be another leadership contest within the LDP.

That contest will be more about who can win over the general electorate – rather than merely promise continuity, observers say.

Why did Shinzo Abe resign?

Mr Abe said he did not want his illness to get in the way of decision making, and apologised to the Japanese people for failing to complete his term in office.

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The 65-year-old has suffered for many years from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, but he said his condition had worsened recently.

Last year, he became Japan’s longest serving prime minister. His current period in office began in 2012.

He abruptly resigned from a previous term as prime minister in 2007 also because of his chronic condition.

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Purdue Pharma to plead guilty in $8bn opioid settlement

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By Natalie Sherman
Business reporter, New York

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image captionOxycontin has been widely abused

The maker of OxyContin painkillers has reached an $8.3bn (£6.3bn) settlement and agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve a probe of its role in fuelling America’s opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma will admit to enabling the supply of drugs “without legitimate medical purpose”.

The deal with US Department of Justice resolves some of the most serious claims against the firm.

But it still faces thousands of cases brought by states and families.

Purdue called the deal an “essential” step to wider resolution of the matter.

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice,” said Steve Miller, who joined Purdue’s board as chairman in July 2018, shortly before the firm sought protection from the litigation by filing for bankruptcy.

  • OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy

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The settlement with the DoJ must receive court approval to go forward.

The judge overseeing the bankruptcy case will be weighing how it will affect negotiations with other states and cities that have filed lawsuits against Purdue, many of which have already objected to the terms.

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image captionJustice Department officials defended the deal as “significant”

They say it lets the company and its owners, the Sackler family, off too lightly for their roles creating a crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans since 1999.

“DoJ failed,” said Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey after the settlement was announced.

“Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long.”

Justice Department officials defended the deal as “significant”, noting that the department would forego much of the $8bn in fines, allowing the money to be directed to other creditors in the bankruptcy case – such as the communities ravaged by opioid abuse that have sued the company.

They said they continue to review possible criminal charges against executives at the company and the Sackler family.

“This resolution does not provide anybody with a pass on the criminal side,” Rachel Honig, federal prosecutor for New Jersey said at a press conference.

What did Purdue do?

The settlement follows years of investigation into claims that Purdue and other drug-makers encouraged over-prescription of opioids, leading to overdoses and addiction which strained public health and policing resources in cities and towns across the US.

Under the terms of the settlement, Purdue will admit to conspiring to defraud the US and violating anti-kickback laws in its distribution of the addictive painkillers.

Those included payments the firm made to healthcare companies and doctors to encourage prescribing the drugs, which were ultimately paid for by public health programmes.

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image captionCampaigners outside Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford in 2019

What will Purdue actually pay?

Purdue will pay $225m to the Justice Department and a further $1.7bn towards addressing claims made in other lawsuits.

The settlement also includes a $3.54bn criminal fine and $2.8bn civil penalty, which will compete with other claims in bankruptcy court – such as those made by communities affected by the opioid crisis. It is unclear how much of that sum will actually be collected.

The Sackler family has also agreed to pay $225m and give up ownership of the firm.

The company would reorganise as a new company run by a trust for the “public benefit”. It would continue to produce OxyContin and other drugs aimed at treating addiction, with the government likely having a significant role.

Purdue backed that idea in an earlier settlement proposal but it is opposed by many states, including Massachusetts.

What about the other claims?

Along with the reorganisation as a “public benefit” firm, Purdue has proposed to settle the wider claims against it with a deal worth more than $10bn.

But critics of the plan want to see the company sold and greater effort made to recover money from the Sackler family. Court documents revealed last year that the family had transferred more than $10bn out of the company between 2008 and 2017, as scrutiny of its conduct increased.

The Sackler family, which would commit $3bn to the wider settlement, said in a statement that members that had served on the Purdue board of directors had acted “ethically and lawfully” and that “all financial distributions were proper”.

“We reached today’s agreement in order to facilitate a global resolution that directs substantial funding to communities in need, rather than to years of legal proceedings,” the family said.

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Egypt adds restaurant at ancient pyramid site

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Egypt has unveiled new visitor facilities on the plateau outside Cairo where the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx are situated, the country’s most visited heritage site and the sole remaining wonder of the ancient world.

Developers late on Tuesday night opened a new restaurant, “9 Pyramids Lounge”, which covers an area of 1,341 square meters and overlooks the Giza pyramids. There will also be a fleet of new environmentally-friendly buses to guide tourists around the plateau.

“One of the problems always faced is that people say there are no special services for tourists, that there is no cafeteria, no restaurant, nothing that can be offered to visitors,” said Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The new facilities are all easily taken part and reassembled so as to protect the antiquities and Waziri said the open-air restaurant offered “a panorama view that cannot be matched anywhere in the world.”

Tourism accounts for up to 15% of Egypt’s national output. However, officials have said previously the sector is losing around $1 billion each month after largely shutting down for several months from March due to the spread of coronavirus.

The changes at the plateau are part of wider efforts to develop key tourist sites in the country. Next year the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to be the world’s largest archaeological museum, is due to open just beyond the Giza Pyramids.

Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, the plateau’s main developer, said the 301 million Egyptian pound ($19.23 million)project is part of a greater plan to develop the UNESCO world heritage site and streamline tourists’ experience.

“We will organise the salespeople,” said Sawiris. “We will not deprive them of their income but we will put them into suitable, nice places.”

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Pelosi suggests coronavirus relief deal could slip past November elections

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Talks between the speaker and White House over a coronavirus relief package have remained at an impasse for months, though Pelosi said Tuesday that she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are “on a path” to a deal. But a larger relief agreement has met resistance in the GOP-controlled Senate, where some Republicans have blanched at a multi-trillion dollar price tag.

The California Democrat said she has been buoyed by recent progress made between House Democrats and the White House, but several issues remain outstanding with less than two weeks until Election Day.

“We’re in a better place than we have been,” she said. “None of it is insurmountable if you want to make a decision.”

The speaker said that “it’s up to” President Donald Trump — who has said he wants a relief package with a higher price tag than the $2.2 trillion proposal Democrats are pushing — to cajole members of his party and get the eventual agreement over the finish line.

“I wouldn’t even be having these discussions if we didn’t think the president had some sway as to whether the Senate would take this legislation up,” she said. Senate Democrats on Wednesday also blocked a narrow, $500 billion GOP-pushed Covid-19 relief package from moving forward in the upper chamber, essentially dismissing it as a political stunt.

Pelosi’s comments echoed those she made earlier in the day on Sirius XM, in which she said “the president needs this legislation.”

“We obviously want to have a deal by November 3rd,” she said. “That really is going to be up to whether the president can convince Mitch McConnell to do so.”

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