Monday, September 25, 2006


Globe trotting. Conservatives point Japan toward the precipice. Indonesian environmental crisis. And Lula.

Simon Tisdall in The Guardian Fairly or not, Junichiro Koizumi is widely held to have dragged down Japan's relations with former wartime enemies China and South Korea to their lowest level since the 1950s. But the Diet's expected appointment today of Shinzo Abe as his successor as prime minister could stoke east Asian tensions and make matters worse.Mr Koizumi's main offence, as seen from Beijing and Seoul, was his repeated visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine where convicted war criminals are honoured along with 2.5 million Japanese war dead. The visits were interpreted, for largely political purposes, as proof that Japan had failed to acknowledge past misdeeds. As a result, there have been no full summit meetings between China and Japan since 2001.... If anything, Mr Abe, a third generation neo-nationalist who, at 52, will be Japan's youngest postwar leader, may take a tougher line than his flamboyant predecessor. He has said that any future prime minister should continue to visit Yasukuni. He also rejects the validity of the Tokyo war crimes trials that followed Japan's 1945 defeat and says, in effect, that Japan has done enough apologising.... Mr Abe is an ideological conservative whose popularity reflects a growing, revisionist nationalism right across Japanese society, said Christopher Hughes of the University of Warwick. "He feels the 1945 postwar settlement was unfair. He feels Japanese society should stop its masochistic behaviour, that Japan was only acting like any other imperial power at that time and in fact the Japanese empire did some good. Improper drill casing in Indonesia may be behind mud geyser that is burying villages and factories (my emphasis) Mud, gas and boiling water that have been gushing out of the ground in East Java since May, submerging half a dozen villages and 20 factories, could continue for a century with "catastrophic consequences"...A According to Mr Mazzini, unless the flow stops soon, the affected land, which has already starting sinking, could subside significantly. "It will be catastrophic," he said.The mud started flowing on May 29, a couple of hundred metres from where the gas company PT Lapindo Brantas was drilling an exploratory well nearly two miles deep. It has been gushing up to 50,000 cubic metres a day - or two large bathsfull a second - ever since.... All the expenses are being borne by Lapindo, which is controlled by the family of Indonesia's senior welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie. Estimated costs are thought to be well over £70m, while the company's insurance only covered £15m.... There has been speculation that the disaster was caused by Lapindo failing to use a proper casing during drilling. Mr Mazzini said this was unlikely. Whether it's due to the wrong casing or a failure to estimate overpressure or plan for disaster, the fact that a government minister controls the company should be a matter for investigation. And in Brazil, Lula looks to The Guardian to be good for re-election. He did enough for the poor and did not so greatly offend the rich that he seems to be skating free of the scandals that have brought down those near to him. Of course, before Lula, such things weren't called "scandals." They were called "business." Sorry not to provide a link.
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