EarthLink – News
Police get arrest warrant as survivor recalls Kyoto arson
By MARI YAMAGUCHI | Sun, July 21, 2019 03:32 EDT
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese police have obtained an arrest warrant for a suspect as soon as he regains consciousness from injuries in a deadly arson at a Kyoto anime studio, officials said Sunday.
Kyoto police said they are ready to arrest Shinji Aoba, 41, on arson and murder allegations. Aoba is accused of storming Kyoto Animation’s No. 1 studio on Thursday, setting it on fire and killing 34 people.
One of the survivors, an animator, told Japanese media he jumped from a window of the three-story building gasping for air amid scorching heat after seeing a “a black mushroom cloud” rising from downstairs.
He was one of about 70 people who were working inside the studio in southern Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, at the time of the attack.
The survivor, who was working on scenery and background for an ongoing project on the second floor, said he first heard commotion downstairs and a female voice screaming. Then a loud explosion followed by a colleague running up the stairs, shouting “Fire!” An alarm went off.
“A black mushroom cloud billowed up the stairs, perhaps within 15 seconds, then everything went black, like pouring black ink all over the place. I couldn’t see anything,” the man told NHK public television on condition of anonymity. He said the building quickly filled with “diabolical smell, something that would kill you if you breathe in once.” He ran out to a balcony.
“I had to decide whether to jump and get hurt, or die in the smoke,” he said. Hot air right behind him, the animator jumped with several others. He ended up with an injured arm.
Many others tried but failed to escape to the roof, fire officials said. Experts say they believe many died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The suspect, injured with severe burns on the face, torso and limbs, is unconscious. He was transferred to another hospital specializing in treating burns, police said.
NHK and other media, quoting an unnamed source, said that Aoba has served prison terms for robbing a convenience store in 2012. The man reportedly told police that he set the fire because he thought “(Kyoto Animation) stole novels.”
Company president Hideaki Hatta said his studio never had contact from the suspect. The company founded in 1981 and better known as KyoAni made a mega-hit anime series about high school girls and trained aspirants to the craft.
The attack shocked Japan and drew an outpouring of grief from anime fans worldwide.
Aoba arrived carrying two containers of flammable liquid, police said, quoting witnesses. He entered the studio’s unlocked front door, dumped the liquid using a bucket, and set it afire with a lighter, police said.
Neighbors interviewed by Japanese media said that Aoba repeatedly ran into troubles with other residents in the apartment buildings he had lived in near Tokyo. A former owner of an apartment in Ibaraki said he saw holes in the wall and a laptop smashed up with a hammer when he inspected the room with police after neighbors complained of noise, the Asahi newspaper reported.
The fire is Japan’s deadliest fire since 2001, when a blaze in Tokyo’s congested Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people in the country’s worst known case of arson in modern times.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
EarthLink – News
The Latest: Hong Kong protesters target Chinese emblem
Sun, July 21, 2019 08:37 EDT
HONG KONG (AP) — The Latest on protests in Hong Kong (all times local):
A blackened national Chinese emblem has become Hong Kong residents’ latest expression of protest against mainland authorities after tens of thousands of people took part in the city’s latest pro-democracy march.
After the march reached its designated end point in Wan Chai district on Sunday, thousands continued onwards, at various points occupying key government and business districts before departing for the Liaison Office, which represents China’s Communist Party-led central government within the city.
Protesters threw eggs at the building and spray-painted its surrounding surveillance cameras. China’s national emblem, which adorns the front of the Liaison Office, was splattered with black ink.
Massive pro-democracy protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China.
Tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters have kicked off a march from a public park to call for an independent investigation into police tactics.
Marching under sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black walked Sunday behind a large banner reading “Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.”
Massive pro-democracy protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.
The city’s leader has declared the bill dead, but some protesters are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in the Chinese territory.
The demonstrations have since ballooned into calls for democratic reforms and an investigation into alleged police brutality.
EarthLink – News
Japan vows action if S. Korea hurts companies in trade row
By MARI YAMAGUCHI | Fri, July 19, 2019 11:18 EDT
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s foreign minister said Tokyo will take “necessary measures” against South Korea if interests of Japanese companies are harmed in an escalating dispute over World War II forced labor.
The neighboring countries and U.S. allies are quarreling over South Korean court decisions ordering Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Friday after summoning South Korean Ambassador Nam Gwan-pyo that Tokyo is prepared to take “necessary measures” to protect the interest of Japanese companies, without giving details.
Their talks were held in an icy atmosphere, briefly turning confrontational.
“It is extremely problematic that South Korea is one-sidedly leaving alone the situation that violates the international law, which is the foundation of our bilateral relationship,” Kono told Nam. “The action being taken by the South Korean government is something that completely overturns the order of the international community since the end of the World War II.”
Kono urged Seoul to immediately take action to stop the court process, under which the plaintiffs of the lawsuit are preparing to seize assets of the Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industry.
Nam defended his government and mentioned Seoul’s proposal of creating a joint fund as a way to settle the dispute. Kono raised his voice, saying Tokyo had already rejected the idea. He also criticized the ambassador for being “rude” to suggest it again.
Japan says all compensation issues had been settled under the 1965 bilateral agreement and that the South Korean government’s lack of intervention to stop the court process is a breach of the international treaty.
Tokyo is considering taking the issue to the International Court of Justice, although some officials say South Korea is expected to refuse going to court. Tokyo may seek damages from South Korea in case assets of Japanese companies are seized, Japanese media reported.
Responding to Kono’s remark, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Japan still hasn’t done enough to make amends for the sufferings South Koreans had gone through during the colonial past and that it should discuss ways to find solutions acceptable to both sides.
“To genuinely resolve the problem, Japan must look straight into the unfortunate past and make efforts to heal the pain and scars of the victims,” the ministry said. “We hope that the Japanese government would withdraw its unilateral pressure including the export restrictions of retaliatory character and return to the stage of diplomatic resolutions.”
Seoul has protested Japan’s tightened controls on sensitive high-tech exports to South Korea that could affect South Korean manufacturers as well as global supplies of smartphones and displays.
In Washington, President Donald Trump said Friday he had been approached by South Korean President Moon Jae-in asking if he could help with the dispute with Japan.
“If they need me, I’m there. Hopefully they can work it out. But they do have tension, there’s no question about it,” he said, adding “it’s a full-time job getting involved between Japan and South Korea.”
The trade dispute adds to their already strained relations.
In Seoul, a 78-year-old South Korean man died hours after setting himself ablaze near the Japanese Embassy on Friday, police said.
Police said the man had phoned an acquaintance earlier to say he planned to self-immolate to express his antipathy toward Japan. Kim’s family told investigators that his father-in-law had been conscripted as a forced laborer during the Japanese occupation.
Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate against the South Korean court rulings on compensating forced labor and plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
Tokyo said the export control issue has nothing to do with historical disputes but that the materials in question can be sent only to trustworthy trading partners. Without presenting specific examples, it has questioned Seoul’s credibility in controlling the exports of arms and items that can be used for civilian and military purposes.
South Korea has proposed an inquiry by the U.N. Security Council or another international body on the export controls of both countries.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
EarthLink – News
Hong Kong police seize explosives as rival camps rally
Sat, July 20, 2019 08:37 EDT
HONG KONG (AP) — Police in Hong Kong discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive as the semi-autonomous Chinese city readied for another major pro-democracy protest on Sunday following a pro-Beijing rally that attracted thousands.
Police said they found about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of TATP and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building late Friday night. TATP, or tri-acetone tri-peroxide, has been used in terrorist attacks worldwide.
Materials voicing opposition to an extradition bill that has sparked more than a month of demonstrations in Hong Kong were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link has been established and that the investigation is continuing.
In a rally that aimed to counter the pro-democracy movement, thousands of people filled a park in central Hong Kong on Saturday to support the police, who have been accused of using rough tactics on protesters. Some waved Chinese flags, and a giant screen behind the stage for speakers read “Safeguard Hong Kong.”
Many wore white, heeding a call by organizers, and the demonstrators did not wear masks or helmets, public broadcaster RTHK said. The anti-extradition law activists wear black and don protective gear against police pepper spray and batons.
Organizers said 316,000 people took part in the demonstration, while police put the turnout at 103,000.
Alick McWhirter, a senior bomb disposal officer, said the seizure of the explosives Friday was the largest of its kind in Hong Kong and called it troubling that such a dangerous substance was being made in a homemade laboratory in the middle of the city.
“It puts at risk everybody within the building. It puts at risk bystanders outside,” he told reporters.
Police spokesman Tse Chun-chung said more arrests may follow.
Police have erected large barricades near government headquarters in preparation for the protest march through central Hong Kong on Sunday. Earlier marches have been largely peaceful, but in a recurring pattern, police have clashed with groups of mostly young protesters who try to take over streets or refuse to disperse after the main demonstration is over.
The extradition bill, which would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial, fueled broader concerns that the freedoms and legal rights of Hong Kong residents are being eroded.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are demanding her resignation and an inquiry into the use of force by police to push back and disperse protesters.
EarthLink – News
Ahead of vote, Ukrainian museum shows ‘election trash’
By YURAS KARMANAU | Sat, July 20, 2019 08:20 EDT
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A Darth Vader costume, playground equipment, pastries and boxes of food all are part of an exhibit at Ukraine’s National History Museum displaying the colorful behavior and sometime-questionable practices that characterize the country’s elections.
The exhibition, called “The Museum of Election Trash” was put together ahead of Sunday’s snap parliamentary elections.
Unlike elections in neighboring Russia, campaigns in Ukraine tend to be lively, and the seriousness of some candidates is open to question.
One of those in this year’s election is Darth Viktorovich Vader, who is running for a seat in Odessa. This is only the latest appearance of the Star Wars villain — another Darth Vader ran for president in 2014.
The Star Wars theme continues this year with the election being widely called “Battle of the Clones,” a reference to the fact that many candidates are mimicking the still-popular recently elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his Servant of the People party.
At least 86 candidates have listed in their bios that they are a “Servant of the People” though they have nothing to do with the president’s party. And eight Zelenskiys are running — admittedly it is a fairly common name.
Though Zelenskiy, a former TV comic who won by a landslide in April to become president, is expected to win handsomely, he has recorded a video statement, urging voters to be careful not to vote for the copycats.
Election officials just shrug their shoulders.
“The law unfortunately has no restrictions for those who are trying to confuse the voters,” says Volodymyr Vyrva, spokesman for the Central Election Commission. “There’s nothing we can do.”
The “electoral trash” exhibit also highlights candidates’ efforts to influence voters through gifts. The items include colorful equipment for a town playground that one candidate provided before an election, along with pastries and boxes of foodstuffs handed out to voters.
Museum employee Yulia Reshitko says such bribery will remain a feature of Ukrainian elections so long as millions of people struggle to make ends meet. The latest trend is providing free tickets to pop gigs or classical music concerts.
“People were happy with the food boxes before,” she said.
Zelenskiy’s successful transformation has encouraged others. Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, for example, is the leader of the new Golos party — and arguably the nation’s most beloved rock star.
“Political extravaganza is part of the Ukrainian tradition where politicians have often resorted to various attention-grabbing antics,” says Kiev-based political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko. “But the extravaganza does not always produce good results.”
In 2010, a western Ukrainian man who changed his last name to “Protyvsikh” which translates into English as “Against Everyone” ran for president and won just 0.2 percent of the vote.