TOKYO — Japan’s Parliament elected Yoshihide Suga as prime minister Wednesday, replacing long-serving leader Shinzo Abe with his right-hand man.
Suga had been chosen as leader of the ruling party on Monday, virtually assuring he would succeed Abe, who resigned earlier in the day because of ill health. Suga, who was chief Cabinet secretary in Abe’s government, is to launch his own Cabinet later Wednesday.
Suga has stressed his background as a farmer’s son and a self-made politician 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.
Abe said before the change was official that as a lawmaker, he will support Suga’s government and he thanked the people for their understanding and strong support for the upcoming leadership under Suga.
“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.”
Suga 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. 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.
Senate passes spending bill to avoid midnight government shutdown
The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a spending bill to prevent a partial government shutdown at midnight.
The Republican-led Senate voted 84-10 to pass the spending bill, which extends federal agency funding until Dec. 11, avoiding a bitter partisan fight ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
The Democrat-controlled House already passed the bill in a 359-57 vote last week.
The bill now goes to President Trump’s desk. He’s expected to sign it, preventing federal workers from missing paychecks when funds run out at midnight.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin brokered the short-term spending bill as they continue to be at an impasse over coronavirus relief legislation.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement announcing the legislation that she extracted various policy concessions.
Pelosi said the bill adds $8 billion in food assistance over current spending levels and prevents the use of “funds for farmers” held by the Commodity Credit Corporation “from being misused for a Big Oil bailout.”
Mnuchin, a top White House negotiator with Democrats in Congress, and Pelosi have failed to agree on terms for a COVID-19 relief package that would send stimulus checks and renew an expired unemployment insurance supplement.
The Treasury secretary and Pelosi met for about 90 minutes Wednesday to discuss a possible pandemic relief bill, but did not reach a breakthrough.
Pelosi was asked this month if “something is better than nothing” in a stimulus deal. She said: “No… It’s a missed opportunity.”
K9 finds 24 pounds of cocaine, $125K stashed in Bronx apartment
A sharp-nosed police pooch sniffed out more than 24 pounds of cocaine that was stashed behind bathroom vanity in the Bronx apartment of an alleged drug trafficker.
The Port Authority police K-9 Balu helped bust alleged trafficker, Cesar Chavez, 51, and two others in The Bronx who possessed $125,000 in cash and the large quantity of cocaine worth about $600,000, city, state and federal agencies, authorities announced Wednesday.
Cesar Chavez, of Manhattan, is the alleged mastermind trafficker who labored to secure hefty quantities of cocaine during a coronavirus pandemic-induced shortage, according to authorities.
His nephew Cristian Rodriguez Chavez, 32, and Roberto Javier-Batista, 38, both of the Bronx, were also busted in the sting — a coordinated effort among the NYPD, state police, Port Authority police and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Police found the stacks of cash in a backpack and half-kilogram of cocaine under a chair in a 1500 Popham Ave. apartment believed to belong to Cesar Chavez. As Port Authority police helped search the home, Balu led the agents to the bathroom, where most of the cocaine was found in a secret compartment behind the vanity and medicine cabinet.
The search and arrests took place on Sept. 3, when state police and DEA agents noticed Cesar Chavez carry a brick-shaped package wrapped in plastic with Javier-Batista as they left Chavez’s suspected Morris Heights apartment, according to authorities.
The pair then hopped in a car, with Chavez behind the wheel. As state police attempted to stop the car, Javier-Batista allegedly fled the vehicle carrying the package.
Later that evening, state police again observed Chavez leave the apartment, this time entering a vehicle driven by Rodriguez Chavez. Soon after Javier-Batista was spotted entering the back seat carrying what appeared to be the same brick-shaped package as earlier in the day.
As police stopped the car, they allegedly noticed Javier-Batista trying to stash the package under the driver’s seat. Police seized the package, which was later determined to be 2.2 pounds of cocaine.
Authorities then used Chavez’ keys to search the apartment, where they discovered the stash as he sat in the back of a state police vehicle. Cops in the car noticed a security alert pinged his cell phone as the agents entered the apartment, prosecutors said.
The packages of cocaine in the bathroom were labeled with a “Chinese dragon stamp,” prosecutors said.
“The conduct charged in this case is brazen. The defendants’ alleged cocaine business flourished as the Bronx and the rest of New York City struggled with devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said in a statement.
“After evading police, the defendants immediately returned to the scene of the crime, where agents and investigators were waiting,” she added. “The recovery of $125,000 in cash and cocaine worth more than a half-million dollars from an apartment in Morris Heights will put a dent in their high-level trafficking operation.”
Cesar Chavez was charged with operating as a major trafficker and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees.
Both Rodriguez Chaves and Javier-Batista were also charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and third degrees.
“As traffickers navigate COVID-impacted drug markets, their drug stashes are more valuable and their concealment methods more necessary, as evident in this investigation,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan in a statement.
“I applaud our law enforcement partners on their diligent work and their efforts in safeguarding our nation from the perils of drug use and abuse.”
AG has until Friday to release Breonna Taylor grand jury recordings
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has been given until Friday to release grand jury recordings in the Breonna Taylor case.
The reprieve comes after Cameron, who was ordered by a Jefferson County state court judge to release the records by noon Wednesday, asked for a one-week extension to “redact personal identifiers of any named person.”
Instead, he has until noon Friday, CNN reported.
The order to make 20 hours of recordings of the grand jury deliberation came after one of the jurors filed a court motion to have the records released so that “the truth may prevail.”
The anonymous juror claimed that Cameron misrepresented the instructions given to the panel when he announced the results of the proceedings last week.
The grand jury cleared three cops involved in Taylor’s March 13 shooting death of criminal wrongdoing in the 26-year-old EMT’s death — and only charged one since-fired officer of “wantonly” firing his weapon into her apartment during a botched police raid.
Kevin Glogower, the lawyer for the unidentified juror, accused Cameron of doing “damage control” when he announced the grand jury decision.
Cameron conceded Tuesday that he did not ask the panel to consider homicide charges against the Louisville cops — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Det. Myles Cosgrove, and ex-cop Brett Hankison.
Hankison was the officer indicted on the gun charge. He pleaded not guilty last week and is free on a $15,000 bond.
Taylor was sleeping when police burst into the home with a narcotics warrant. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at the cops, saying he did not realize they were police officers.
Mattingly was shot in the leg and wounded, with the cops returning fire and fatally shooting Taylor.
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