TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet resigned, clearing the way for his successor to take over after parliamentary confirmation later Wednesday.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, announced last month that he was stepping down because of health problems.
“I devoted my body and soul for the economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interest every single day since we returned to power,” Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office before heading into his final Cabinet meeting. “During this time, I was able to tackle various challenges together with the people, and I’m proud of myself.”
He said his health is improving thanks to treatment and that he, as a lawmaker, will support his successor-to-be, Yosihide Suga, from now on. He also thanked the people for their understanding and strong support for the upcoming leadership under Suga.
Suga, chief Cabinet secretary for Abe’s government and long seen as his right-hand man, was chosen Monday as the new head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, virtually guaranteeing his election as prime minister in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the party’s majority.
Suga, a self-made politician and the son of a strawberry grower in the northern prefecture of Akita, has stressed his background in promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities.
He has said he will pursue Abe’s unfinished policies, and that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic. He gained the support of party heavyweights and their followers early in the campaign on expectations he would continue Abe’s line.
Suga has been a loyal supporter of Abe since Abe’s first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007. Abe’s tenure ended abruptly because of illness, and Suga helped him return as prime minister in 2012.
Abe, 65, has ulcerative colitis and his current treatment requires IV injections. He said last month his condition has improved but, facing ongoing treatment and physical weakness, he decided to resign.
Suga has praised Abe’s diplomacy and economic policies when asked about what he would like to accomplish as prime minister.
Suga, who does not belong to any wing within the party and opposes factionalism, says he is a reformer who will break down vested interests and rules that hamper reforms. He says he will set up a new government agency to speed up Japan’s lagging digital transformation.
In a reshuffle of the ruling party key posts, however, Suga evenly allocated top posts to key factions, a balancing act seen as a return of favor for their support in the leadership race.
Suga said he will appoint “reform-minded, hard-working people” to the new Cabinet, to be launched later Wednesday. About half of the members in the Abe Cabinet are expected to be retained or shifted to different ministerial posts.
Media reports say some key ministers, including Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, will stay. Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, is reportedly tapped as defense minister, replacing Taro Kono who is expected be shifted to administrative reforms minister.
Compared to his political prowess at home, Suga has hardly traveled overseas and his diplomatic skills are unknown, though he is largely expected to pursue Abe’s priorities.
The new prime minister will inherit a range of challenges, including relations with China, which continues its assertive actions in the contested East China Sea, and what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to next summer due to the coronavirus. And he will have to establish a good relationship with whomever wins the U.S. presidential race.
ByteDance just asked China for permission to export TikTok’s technology as it tries to finalize a deal with the US government
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has sought permission from the Chinese government to export technology, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
ByteDance filed a request with the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau asking for approval to export its technology under restrictions recently implemented by the Chinese government, according to Bloomberg.
ByteDance, TikTok, and the Commerce Bureau did not respond to requests for comment.
In August, China expanded its list of “forbidden and restricted technology exports” to include “personalized information recommendation services based on data analysis” — such as the algorithm that powers TikTok. That move threw a wrench in the TikTok deal by requiring the company to obtain a license from the government, effectively giving Beijing veto power over a deal.
Following the announcement of the new rules, ByteDance reportedly considered bypassing that hurdle by selling TikTok without handing over its source code, but Bloomberg’s report Wednesday suggests the company wants the algorithm to be part of the deal after all.
TikTok’s recommendation algorithm is its most valuable asset, and experts told Business Insider’s Chris Stokel-Walker that any deal without that would leave buyers unable to replicate its magic.
Though TikTok has asserted it is an industry leader on algorithmic transparency, much of its technology remains behind closed doors, leading Trump and other US officials to claim that it poses a national security risk.
That contention has become one of several major sticking points in a proposed deal involving Oracle and Walmart, which Trump gave “preliminary” approval to earlier this week, prompting the US Commerce Department to delay its ban of the app by one week.
But Trump and the Chinese government both implied they might block the deal after confusion erupted over who would actually own the app, placing ByteDance at the center of a long-running geopolitical battle between the two countries.
Read the original article on Business Insider
Conjoined twins are successfully separated after being locked in embrace
After Phil and Alyson Irwin found out she was pregnant with their second child, they thought “a very big boy” was going to follow their first daughter, Kennedy. But in February 2019, at the 20-week checkup, they learned they were expecting identical twin girls — who were conjoined at the chest.
The odds were at least 1 in 50,000, and with a Google search that night, the parents from Petersburg, Michigan, quickly learned that most conjoined twins are either stillborn or die shortly after birth.
“I had the hardest time wrapping my head around the numbers,” Phil Irwin, 32, told TODAY.
After getting the news, the Irwins were referred to specialists at the University of Michigan, who thought they might be able to help.
“It went from being very devastating to, ‘Well, maybe there’s a chance,’ at least in my head,” Phil said. “It felt like no hope to at least a glimmer of hope that things could go well.”
Around when Alyson was 25 weeks pregnant, an echocardiogram revealed that separation of their twin daughters would be possible.
“They were able to tell that the hearts were very, very close, but they were separate,” Alyson Irwin, 33, told TODAY. “That was the deciding factor for a lot of people. That they had separate hearts, it was a possibility.”
Still, it was unclear if the girls would be able to breathe normally, if separated. The Irwins were initially told their daughters might “only be able to survive on a ventilator,” Alyson recalled, but then, Dr. George Mychaliska, a fetal and pediatric surgeon at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, said he thought he could help.
“It just felt like the biggest roller coaster,” Alyson added. “(It was) like an emotional whiplash day. … There was a huge possibility of stillbirth or not making it to full term, so for me it was hard to get too excited or too hopeful.”
Sarabeth and Amelia Irwin were born via cesarean section in June 2019 with separate hearts and digestive tracts but connected livers. They spent the next 85 days in Mott’s intensive care unit, and the separation surgery was scheduled for February 2020. But the girls got sick the week before, so it had to be canceled. Then the coronavirus outbreak hit.
“From the girls being born until February, I feel like we were mentally preparing ourselves for that day,” Phil said. “Then when everything else happened, we went back home and we had a pretty good pandemic at home.”
“We had a lot of really good family time together,” he continued. “We got to watch the girls grow and get so strong and so healthy that it made me feel really, really good leading up to the second scheduling of their surgery.”
For the medical team at Mott, the months leading up to the surgery on Aug. 5 were “a long journey,” Mychaliska told TODAY. “Dozens of people from seemingly obscure areas of the health system (participated) in this project. … We had to innovate in terms of all of the monitoring and data capture to have two patients in one room, which is obviously highly unusual.”
Mychaliska added that the “biggest unknown” was whether they could reconstruct the girls’ chest walls in a way that allowed them to breathe independently. But thanks to titanium plates covered with soft tissues and skin, the end result worked “beautifully,” he said.
The successful separation surgery, which took 11 hours, is the first of its kind at Mott and, it’s believed, in Michigan history, according to University of Michigan Medicine.
The twins stayed at the hospital for a month following surgery, and went home in early September. In that short time, the Irwins have gotten to watch their daughters develop as individuals. The parents always knew the twins’ had distinct personalities, but watching Sarabeth “shine” has been the “biggest surprise,” Phil said.
“Amelia is a little bit of a princess or a diva,” he joked. “She wears all of her emotions right on her sleeve. There’s no hiding how Amelia feels. … Now that they’re separate, it’s so funny to see Sarabeth’s quirky personality … just physically, emotionally and mentally, how goofy that little girl really is.”
Conjoined twins who survive separation surgeries often fall behind on developmental milestones, but Mychaliska said that they’re catching up quickly and “look fantastic. … It still seems a bit surreal that they’re separated. It’s overwhelming but in a very positive way.”
The girls are already “so fast” with their crawling and scooting, Phil said. “It was like they’d been weight training for 15 months, carrying double the body weight.”
According to Mychaliska, Sarabeth and Amelia’s current prognosis is “very favorable for a normal life.”
Or in their dad’s words? “If you didn’t know the girls before August, you’d have a hard time believing that they had been conjoined,” he said.
China to let in more foreigners as virus recedes
BEIJING (AP) — Foreigners holding certain types of visas and residence permits will be permitted to return to China starting next week as the threat of coronavirus continues to recede.
The new regulation lifts a months-long blanket suspension covering most foreigners apart from diplomats and those in special circumstances.
Beginning Monday, foreign nationals holding valid Chinese visas and residence permits for work, personal matters and family reunions will be permitted to enter China without needing to apply for new visas, according to the regulation.
Those whose permits have expired can reapply. Returnees must undergo two weeks of quarantine and follow other anti-epidemic measures, the regulation said.
Some exceptions may still be made, with the foreign ministry communicating to some journalists that the regulation may not apply to them. Journalist visas have recently opened up as a new front in the diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Beijing.
The announcement was made jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Immigration Administration on Wednesday.
China announced seven new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, all of them imported, marking 39 days since the country has reported a case of domestic transmission. China has confirmed 85,314 cases of COVID-19 since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:
— India reported another 86,508 new coronavirus cases, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees little merit in imposing even short local lockdowns. India now has confirmed more than 5.7 million cases, the second-most in the world. The Health Ministry also said Thursday that 1,129 more people have died, for a total of 91,149. India’s junior Railways Minister Suresh Angadi died on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after he was admitted to a New Delhi hospital with COVID-19. He was the first federal minister and the fourth Indian lawmaker to die from the disease. Modi on Wednesday decried short, local lockdowns imposed in some places and said the country needs to not only keep fighting the virus, but also move ahead boldly on the economic front. He asked states to focus on testing, tracing, treatment and surveillance. He said lockdown restrictions hit smooth movement of goods and services, including medical supplies.
— Auto executives have flown in early to wait out a coronavirus quarantine ahead of the Beijing auto show, the year’s biggest sales event for a global industry that is struggling with tumbling sales and layoffs. Others plan to hold news conferences by video link from their home countries during the show, which begins Saturday. Brands are going ahead with plans to unveil new models in a sign of the importance of China’s market, the world’s biggest. Sales have revived while U.S. and European demand remains weak. Organizers say they will impose intensive anti-disease controls on crowds and monitor visitors and employees for signs of infection.
— Leaders from nations large and small are criticizing the haphazard response to a microscopic virus that unleashed economic havoc and has taken nearly 1 million lives while continuing to claim more. Kazakhstan’s president called it “a critical collapse of global cooperation.” The coronavirus pandemic and its consequences topped the list of concerns shared Wednesday at the General Assembly’s first virtual high-level meeting.
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