Japan conservatives win in polls

Updated 17 December 2012
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Japan conservatives win in polls

TOKYO: Japan’s conservative opposition swept to victory in national polls yesterday, giving former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a second chance to promote his hawkish security agenda and reflate the economy.
Voters decisively abandoned Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda three years after his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised a change from more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Abe, who spent the campaign pledging to bolster Japan’s defenses and stand up to China over disputed islands, secured a handsome majority for the LDP in the election for the powerful lower house of parliament, exit polls showed.
Abe, whose brief stint as premier in 2006-7 ended ignominiously, has also vowed to rectify the listless economy after years of deflation, made worse by a soaring currency that has squeezed exporters.
He also offered to boost spending on infrastructure at a time when much of the tsunami-wrecked northeast remains a shell of its former self.
Abe’s calls were criticized by opponents as a return to the LDP’s “construction state” of the last century which left the countryside riddled with underused bridges and roads to nowhere.
NHK television, citing forecasts based on its own exit polls, said the LDP had won 275 to 310 seats in the 480-seat lower house, with the DPJ reduced to a rump of between 55 and 77 seats. It won more than 300 seats in the 2009 poll.
New Komeito, LDP’s junior coalition partner, had 27 to 35 seats, NHK said.
That could give the pair a more than two-thirds majority in the powerful lower house, enough to override the upper chamber in which no party has overall control.
“The LDP sweeps to victory; Abe administration to start,” the online edition of the Nikkei newspaper said in a banner headline.
Analysts say the LDP’s victory has come by default, with voters disenchanted by the DPJ after three years of flip-flops, policy missteps and diplomatic drift, but having little faith in any of the alternatives.
Voter turnout, measured half an hour before the polls closed, was 45.42 percent, down more than seven points on the last election.
In the first national ballot since the tsunami-sparked meltdowns at Fukushima in March 2011, nuclear power had looked set to play a significant role. But an array of smaller parties promising an end to atomic generation made little impression on voters.
The LDP says it will review all nuclear reactors in three years to decide whether to restart them.
Nationalist former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, whose bid to buy the disputed islands provoked a fierce diplomatic showdown with China, secured a seat as leader of the third largest party.
His populist Japan Restoration Party won between 40 and 61 seats, NHK said, giving him weight enough to shout from the parliamentary sidelines.
Public unease about a worsening security environment — North Korea lobbed a rocket over Japan’s southern islands last week and China sent a plane into Japanese airspace — bolstered Ishihara and Abe.
The LDP has promised to revitalize a security alliance with the United States that is widely thought to have drifted under Noda’s party.
Hours before polls closed Chinese state media urged a post-election Japan to “devise its foreign policy with a long-term and pragmatic” view so Japan can “repair its strained ties with neighbors.”
Yasuko Kono, professor of politics at Hosei University in Tokyo, said the LDP had done better than anyone expected.
“The results are a harsh verdict by voters on the DPJ government. The big win is likely to guide the LDP coalition to a course to stability in power.”
Parliament will be called into session as early as December 26th to name Abe as the new prime minister, the Nikkei newspaper said.
In an evening of misery for Noda, TV Asahi reported at least two of his ministers would lose their seats.
Internal Affairs Minister Shinji Tarutoko and Education Minister Makiko Tanaka appeared to have lost their constituency seats. It is possible that they may win through on the proportional representation part of the ballot.
Noda’s own fate as leader of the much-diminished DPJ was also in doubt, despite his apparently having retained his seat.
Kohei Otsuka, a senior party official told NHK: “In general, (Noda) can’t help but take responsibility for (the defeat). But he will consider how to take responsibility.”


4 dead in Waffle House shooting in southern US state; suspect sought

Updated 23 April 2018
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4 dead in Waffle House shooting in southern US state; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, US: A nearly naked gunman wearing only a green jacket and brandishing an assault rifle stormed a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville early Sunday, shooting four people to death before a customer rushed him and wrestled the weapon away.
Authorities were searching for the 29-year-old suspect, Travis Reinking, who they said drove to the busy restaurant and killed two people in the parking lot before entering and continuing to fire. When his AR-15 rifle either jammed or the clip was empty, the customer disarmed him in a scuffle.
Four people were also wounded before the gunman fled, throwing off his jacket.
Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said there was no clear motive, though Reinking may have “mental issues.” He may still be armed, Anderson told a mid-afternoon news conference, because he was known to have owned a handgun that authorities have not recovered.
US Secret Service agents arrested Reinking last July for being in a restricted area near the White House, officials said. Special Agent Todd Hudson said Reinking was detained after refusing to leave the restricted area, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump.
State police in Illinois, where Reinking lived until last fall, subsequently revoked his state firearms card at the request of the FBI and four guns were then taken from him, including the AR-15 used in Sunday’s shooting as well as a handgun, authorities said.
Sheriff Robert Huston in Tazewell County, Illinois, said deputies allowed Reinking’s father to take possession of the guns on the promise that he would “keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis.” Huston added that, based on past deputies’ encounters with Reinking, “there’s certainly evidence that there’s some sort of mental health issues involved.”
While Huston said it was unclear how Reinking reclaimed the guns, Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said that his father “has now acknowledged giving them back to his son.”
Phone calls to a number listed for the father, Jeffrey Reinking, went unanswered.
Meanwhile, authorities hailed the customer who intervened to stop a further bloodbath, 29-year-old James Shaw, Jr., as a hero — though the father of a 4-year-old girl demurred and said he was just trying to survive.
One hand bandaged, Shaw told reporters he first thought the gunshots fired around 3:25 a.m. were plates falling from a dishwashing station.
When he realized what was happening, he took cover behind a door as shots shattered windows. The gun either jammed or needed a new clip, and that’s when Shaw said he pounced after making up his mind that “he was going to have to work to kill me.”
Shaw said he was not a religious man, but “for a tenth of a second, something was with me to run through that door and get the gun from him.”
They cursed at each other as they scuffled, Shaw said, and he was able to grab the gun and toss it over a counter. The gunman then ran away into the dark of the working- and middle-class Antioch neighborhood of southeast Nashville.
Authorities said he shed his jacket nearby and police found two AR-15 magazines loaded with bullets in the pockets. He was seen walking, naked, on a road, officials said, but later was spotted wearing pants but no shirt after apparently returning to his apartment.
Another witness, Chuck Cordero, told The Tennessean newspaper he had stopped to get a cup of coffee and was outside the Waffle House when the chaos unfolded.
“He did not say anything,” Cordero said of the gunman, who he described as “all business.”
Cordero said Shaw saved lives. “There was plenty more people in that restaurant,” he said.
The dead were identified as 29-year-old restaurant worker Taurean C. Sanderlin, and restaurant patrons Joe R. Perez, 20, Akilah Dasilva, 23, and Deebony Groves, 21. A police statement said Sanderlin and Perez were killed outside the restaurant, Groves was fatally shot inside, and Dasilva was critically wounded inside and later died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Aaron, the police spokesman, said two of the wounded were being treated for gunshot wounds at the medical center, where spokeswoman Jennifer Wetzel said one was in critical condition and the other was in critical but stable condition.
TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center spokeswoman Katie Radel in Nashville said two people were treated for minor injuries and released.
Aaron said Reinking had been employed in construction and lived near the restaurant, and police used yellow crime scene tape to block public access to an apartment complex about a half-mile from the Waffle House. Reinking is originally from Morton, Illinois.
“This is a very sad day for the Waffle House family,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “We ask for everyone to keep the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers.”
Nashville Mayor David Briley described the shooting as “a tragic day” for the city.
“My heart goes out to the families & friends of every person who was killed or wounded,” Briley said in an emailed statement. “I know all of their lives will be forever changed by this devastating crime.”
US Rep. Jim Cooper, whose district includes Nashville, said in an emailed statement that the shooting shows the need for tighter restrictions on “widespread civilian access to military-grade assault weapons.”
Nashville Chief Anderson said there was no Tennessee law that would have barred Reinking from having guns, though weapons could be taken away if the suspect had serious mental health issues. That would require taking him to court and having his rights taken away because of illness, a sometimes lengthy and difficult process, Anderson said.
Police reports filed in Illinois showed past run-ins with authorities there.
In May 2016, Tazewell County deputies were called to a CVS parking lot where Reinking told officers that Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone, and that his family was also involved, according to a report released Sunday. Reinking agreed to go to a local hospital for an evaluation after repeatedly resisting the request, the report said.
Another report from the sheriff’s office said Reinking barged into a community pool in Tremont, Illinois, last June and jumped into the water wearing a pink woman’s coat over his underwear. Investigators believed he had an AR-15 rifle in his car trunk, but it was never displayed. No charges were filed.