Archive for January 25, 2010
All Politics is Local
The Washington Post had an interesting story Sunday on the political controversy over the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station on Okinawa. Built in 1947, the air station’s 8,000-foot runway is now in a densely packed urban area. Locals complain about the noise and possible danger from aircraft mishaps while the Marines’ air operations are hampered by flight restrictions. Under a 2006 agreement with then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the air station was to move to a lightly populated area on Okinawa’s north shore. But a new Japanese government, elected last August, thinks the security relationship with the U.S. is too one-sided and wants the Marines off Okinawa – and possibly out of Japan completely. That would eliminate the only mobile ground force the U.S. has in East Asia, say the Marines.
However, the same issue of the Post had a brief story on a possible funding scandal involving a key strategist of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. That could affect the party’s voter support, according to a Reuters story out of Tokyo. Complicating matters: a candidate who opposes the existing plan to relocate the base won a local election on Sunday.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says now that things have calmed down somewhat in the North Caucasus region, which has been wracked by an Islamic insurgency, it’s time to improve the quality of life there by creating jobs, according to a Reuters story. Putin called for the creation of special economic zones to lure investors to the region, which Reuters notes is still “very tense” with a growing number of shootings and bomb attacks against police and officials.
But human rights groups say a lot of the recent violence has been directed against their workers looking into local police and security forces excesses, according to an Associated Press report. One leading rights group, Memorial, closed its Chechnya chapter following the July slaying of rights activist Natalya Estemirova. Putin, in televised remarks, called on regional authorities “to do everything for the support of normal work and daily activity of rights-defending organizations in the Caucasus,” the AP report said.