Afghan protests: Removal of accused US soldier

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KABUL - Afghans in restive parts of the country Thursday protested the removal of a U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians while others said it will not cause problems if justice is served.Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai on Thursday demanded NATO troops pull out of rural areas like the one where the massacre happened. However, he has no authority to make such a move and the U.S. military maintains the village outposts are critical to keeping the Taliban out of cleared areas.The Taliban on Thursday said it was suspending talks with the United States, though such talks were preliminary and the Taliban has thus far refused a main demand that it recognize the Karzai government for talks to proceed further.

Read more at USA Today

Online censorship: Tajik web users rail against ban

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - Internet users and providers in Tajikistan are voicing concerns about online censorship after the government lifted a six-day ban on Facebook and several news websites last week. “I assume the reasons for blocking Facebook is that its Tajik segment has become very active recently,” said Parvina Ibodova, president of the Association of Internet Providers in Tajikistan. “There are many groups and pages that discuss current issues in Tajikistan, including politics. Moreover, prominent opposition figures actively use Facebook in their daily work.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Kyrgyzstan politics: Fight rages over Kyrgyzstan's flag

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BISHKEK - It’s blood red with a yellow sunburst in the center that’s covered by the top opening of a yurt - and it’s the focus of fierce debate in this Central Asian nation. Kyrgyzstan’s flag has flown for 20 years since the country’s independence from the former Soviet Union - a tangible representation of the people’s history, heritage and pride, full of symbolism and meaning.

Read more at The Washington Times

Kazakh shift: Eyeing European mining, energy pacts

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BERLIN - Kazakh officials hope that recent trade deals with Germany will lead to a trade pact with the European Union that will spur the Central Asian nation’s economic development. “The government is making a strong effort to go beyond oil and gas, and is seeking also to diversify its foreign investors, looking beyond China, the U.S. and Russia to Europe,” said Robert Cutler, who specializes in energy security and geo-economics at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Read more at The Washington Times

Turkmenistan's elections: A lack of choice

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PRAGUE - Turkmenistan's president is running for re-election Sunday against candidates only from his own party, a contest that voters say provides them no choice. "I think the president will clearly win...regardless whether there is a choice of candidates or not," said a journalist in the capital, Ashgabat, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety.

Read more at The Washington Times

Tsunami survivors: Find hope in noodle shop

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KESENNUMA, Japan — Running a business in a battered economy in a tsunami-ravaged community is an exercise of hope and redemption for one man with a noodle shop.

“There’s a risk in starting a business now in a terrible economy in a disaster zone,” Yasuhiro Ishiwata, 28, said in his shop in this seaside town that was decimated in the March 11 tidal wave.

Read more at The Washington Times

Casino ban: Kyrgyz citizens irked

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_KGZ130319AA001.jpegBISHKEK, Kygyzstan — Kyrgyzstan has enacted a ban on casinos that supporters say will ease the negative effects of gambling on Kyrgyz society, but opponents argue will leave thousands unemployed and boost organized crime.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva signed the legislation Tuesday.

Read more at The Washington Times

Kyrgyz election: Country divided

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Kyrgyzstan’s north-south political rift is on display, as defeated southern candidates call for a new presidential election because of irregularities in Sunday’s vote that returned a northern politician to power.

“There were tens of thousands of people shut out of the vote,” said defeated presidential candidate Adahkan Madumarov, vowing to “to fight for every single vote of the electorate.” 

Read more at The Washington Times

Shrinking lake: Dry times ahead in Kazakhstan

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KUIGAN, Kazakhstan — In eastern Kazakhstan, a lake is slowly dying.

But in this village of 1,800 people on the southwestern tip of Lake Balkhash, fishermen don’t believe the lake is shrinking.

“We call it the ‘ocean’ because if you’re out on the water in a storm, you realize it’s just as dangerous,” says Oleg Schumacher, one of the village’s 200 fishermen. “Look how much water the Ili River [which feeds to the lake] has this year.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Fleeing Fukushima: youth divided

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FUKUSHIMA, Japan — Ko Saito is in his final year of high school in Fukushima and sees a bleak future for his native province.

“I am very scared of the radiation,” the 18-year-old said while waiting with friends near the city’s train station. They discussed whether to stay or leave a region devastated by the meltdown of a nuclear power plant that was crippled by a killer tsunami six months ago.

Read more at The Washington Times

Uzbek independence: Little to celebrate

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TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — Uzbekistan celebrated the 20th anniversary of its independence earlier this month, but many say there is little to celebrate.

“There is the same leader, the same oppressive system, the same kind of corruption, the same massive human rights abuses,” said Andrew Stroehlein, communications director for the International Crisis Group in Brussels. “There is no political engagement, no political discussion — I don’t know what to celebrate.”

Read more at The Washington Times

After Fukushima: survivors in limbo

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FUKUSHIMA CITY, JAPAN FUKUSHIMA CITY, JAPAN — Disaster survivors in northeastern Japan are demanding that government officials spend more resources on them instead of focusing on political squabbles in Tokyo, where Yoshihiko Noda took office this week as the country’s sixth prime minister in five years.

From the tsunami-ravaged towns of Ofunato and Rikuzen-takata to the radiation-troubled city of Fukushima, residents of Japan’s wide-ranging disaster zones told The Washington Times that Japan’s weak national leaders have left their lives in limbo.

Read more at The Washington Times

Thai tsunami: Fugitive leader plan to visit area

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TOKYO — Thailand’s self-exiled former prime minister is planning to visit tsunami survivors this week as part of a charm offensive to restore his international reputation.

Japanese authorities this month granted a visitor’s visa to Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a military coup in 2006 and convicted in absentia of corruption in 2008. His younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became Thailand’s first female prime minister earlier this month.

Read more at The Washington Times

Japanese tsunami: More helpers needed

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ISHINOMAKI, JAPAN When Masaru Tanaka joined a rush of volunteers during holidays in May, he planned to stay in the tsunami disaster zone for only a week.

Three months later, long after many volunteers have gone home, Mr. Tanaka is still helping feed survivors in Ishinomaki city in Miyagi province.

Read more at The Washington Times

Japanese tourism: Flock to 'miracle' Matsushima

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MATSUSHIMA, Japan — Japanese tourists are flocking to Matsushima, a fabled destination that escaped the wrath of the March 11 tsunami.

Widely considered one of Japan’s “three great views,” the seaside resort town of Matsushima in Miyagi province, with pine trees studding 260 islands in a majestic bay, has long been known for its esoteric powers.

Read more at The Washington Times

Japan economy: Fears over recovery

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_JPN121121AA001.jpegSHINOMAKI, JAPANHideki Suenaga says he can understand how many people feel watching their stock holdings plummet during the most recent financial crisis.

For Mr. Suenaga and most of his friends in Ishinomaki, the March 11 tsunami took away almost everything they had, and now worldwide fears of a deeper recession could set back their recovery even further.

Read more at The Washington Times

Japanese economy: Weakens Yen to aid recovery and export

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TOKYO — Japan's government called for global action to calm currency markets Thursday as it took bold measures to help Japanese companies trying to recover from the March 11 disasters and a rising yen.

The Finance Ministry said it took the drastic measure of intervening in currency markets in order to weaken the yen, which has risen in value by 5 percent in the past month amid investor concerns over skyrocketing debt in Europe and the United States.

Read more at The Washington Times

Japanese women: Leading social change

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NIIGATA, Japan — Onstage in front of about 5,000 ecstatic fans, Nic Endo unleashes a torrent of beats and shouts to help Japanese vent their feelings about their recent disasters.

“We need to release our subdued feelings,” she told The Washington Times in an exclusive interview after a frenzied performance by her pioneering digital hard-core band, Atari Teenage Riot, at the Fuji Rock Festival on Sunday night.

Energy conservation: Japan saves energy during heat wave

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TOKYO — The central government has asked civil servants to wear T-shirts and Hawaiian shirts instead of suits and ties.

Businesses such as Hitachi and Kyocera are growing vines to cover factory walls — and are asking their employees to do the same at home.

Read more at The Washington Times

Japanese football: women's team victory gives Japan hope

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TOKYO — In one of the most dramatic victories in Japanese sports history, Japan won its first women's World Cup on Sunday, upsetting the United States on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw.

While 50,000 spectators packed a sold-out stadium in Frankfurt, Germany, fans crammed into sports bars in Tokyo and other cities throughout the night, and many across Japan got up at 3:45 a.m. to watch the historic match live on TV at home.

Read more at The Washington Times

Nuclear power: Japan debates restarting reactors

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TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear industry is eager to restart reactors shut down for maintenance or switched off after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused explosions and meltdowns at a power plant in the northeast and sparked a nationwide panic over radiation exposure.

Energy officials and pro-nuclear politicians say they need to “gain public understanding” — a buzzword often heard at civic forums, on news programs and on Internet chat sites across Japan, where thousands are passionately arguing the pros and cons of nuclear power in the disaster-prone nation.

Read more at The Washington Times

Japan earthquakes: Preparing for the next Big One

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TOKYO - It sounds like a weather forecast — not for today, but for the next 30 years.
There is a 70 percent chance of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake between now and 2040 in the southern Kanto area around Tokyo, and a 90 percent chance in nearby Ibaraki, according to Japan's Earthquake Research Promotion agency.

Read more at The Washington Times

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