U.S. Lawmakers: Time for 'Next Step' in Syria - But No Ground Forces
Apr. 26, 2013 - 02:48PM By JOHN T. BENNETT
WASHINGTON — Senior U.S. House members say American intervention in Syria’s civil war is likely, but they signaled the Obama administration has yet to settle on what that will entail.
House members were briefed Friday morning by Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefeld about an intelligence assessment that Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. Lawmakers left the meeting mostly united that the U.S. should step in, but they agreed inserting American ground forces would be a mistake.
“Every option’s on the table, as far as Syria is concerned,” House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., told reporters moments after leaving the classified briefing.
Ruppersberger and Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member, confirmed to reporters some of the options under consideration by the Obama administration.
Ruppersberger said, in the wake of the administration's revelation that the intelligence community believes Assad’s regime likely used chemical weapons twice recently, U.S. officials are considering options such as directly arming rebel fighters and setting up a no-fly zone to keep regime war planes and strike helicopters grounded.
Sherman added to that list “supporting refugees” and “cash for opposition groups.”
“I’m not going into anything classified when I say the secretary laid out what some of those options would be,” Sherman said. He added “I cannot say, ‘It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt — yet — that these weapons were used ... by forces loyal to Assad’.”
Lawmakers were uncharacteristically united about what a no-fly zone would look a lot like the 2011 U.S.-led — and later turned over to NATO — mission in Libya. “Like we did in Libya, we got the Arab League involved, we got NATO involved,” Ruppersberger said. “I don’t think we, the United States, want to go into another war.”
But Pelosi said “it is pretty clear” that “this is not Libya.” That’s because “the Syrians have anti-aircraft systems” and other modern weaponry “that would make going in there much more challenging.
Sherman also raised concerns about Syria air-defense systems. The administration would be wise to realize a no-fly zone would not be a “no-casualties option.”
Administration officials said Friday they are taking steps to verify the intel assessment, adding Obama will not act until the finding has been verified.
In a striking development, typically dovish House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told a small group of reporters that, given the finding on chemical weapons, “I think we have to take it to the next step.”
“I myself think that we have tolerated for too long all of the assaults on the Syrian people made by its own government,” Pelosi said.
But she paused, her face turning more serious, and added: “That does not mean troops on the ground."
Other lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats — echoed Ruppersberger and Pelosi, saying a no-fly zone likely is the best in a set of less-than-optimal options for Washington and its allies in the region.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said U.S. officials should work with its allies on the no-fly zone, and several other issues.
“NATO, led by Turkey, could effectively set up the no-fly zones, the no-chemical weapons zones, the no-troops zones,” Issa said. “This is not a call to war, but reducing Bashar Assad’s ability to kill his own people.”
Issa applauded Obama’s cautious approach so far. And Pelosi said “we have to take this one step at a time.”
“I think there’s a strong, good reason for that,” Issa said. “I think he needs to be careful about pre-emptive attacks against targets other than protecting the lives of innocent Syrians.”
Several lawmakers told reporters the Obama administration must consider what would happen if it forms a coalition that eventually drives Assad from power.
“What happens after Assad leaves? That’s another thing we have to look at,” Ruppersberger said. “You [would] have issues with Israel, you have Turkey, you have Jordan.”
All are close U.S. allies in a region where Washington often has few dependable friends.
Issa was most upbeat about the post-Assad era, suggesting local officials could quickly fill the governance vacuum.
“Once you create safe havens where the U.N. agencies can go in to provide relief ... what you’ve really done is created the ability for local governance — for mayors, governors, and so on — to take responsibility in those areas,” Issa said.
He another House members were quick to reject the notion of a U.S.-led ground force to either strike a decisive military blow that topples the Assad regime or is inserted to stabilize the country after its fall.
“I would think, at this time with all of the other issues that we have, that we want to do everything we can to avoid having to put boots on the ground,” Ruppersberger told reporters. “We have unique resources that no other countries have, and we can work with the other countries to do what we have to do.”
There were few calls for Obama to seek congressional authorization for a Syria mission. He was widely criticized during the Libya operation for opting against doing so.
“It depends on what the next step is,” Pelosi said. And Issa sidestepped the question, saying only: “I believe there would be strong support in the House and Senate for this.”
Ruppersberger urged Obama administration officials to press Moscow, Assad’s last lone powerful ally, to help force him out. “I think Russia’s involvement would be a game changer.”
American woman jailed in UK for forcing daughter, 14, to get pregnant
Published April 29, 2013 FoxNews.com
An American woman is in a United Kingdom prison after repeatedly forcing her 14-year-old daughter to inseminate herself with donor sperm, because the mother wanted another baby and could not conceive or adopt more children.
After a miscarriage at 14, the girl had a baby at 17, after regularly inseminating herself with sperm her mother purchased on the Internet, according to a report in The Guardian. The girl -- a virgin-- was apparently too scared to refuse her adoptive “domineering” mother’s request. The mother has not been identified to protect the daughter and grandchild.
Over a two-year period, the daughter had to inseminate herself seven times, while alone in her room at home, using syringes of semen. In hopes of getting a girl, the mother forced her daughter to follow a special diet and use painful acidic douches containing vinegar or lemon and lime juice, in the belief it could affect the baby’s gender.
When she became pregnant at 16, the daughter told health workers a concocted story about spending the night with a boy who abandoned her and was now abroad. The girl also told health professionals she wanted her mother to raise the child.
The mother had already adopted three children as infants from other countries, two when she was married, and one as a single, divorced parent. A health condition prevented her from giving birth on her own so she had undergone elective sterilization.
When she had trouble adopting a fourth child, she became distraught and turned to her adopted daughter to provide her with another baby, according to court documents.
The crime was discovered in July 2011 when the girl gave birth. Midwives were alarmed at the “pushy and insensitive” mother, who didn’t want her daughter to breast-feed the baby boy, so they would not get attached.
The midwives called in child protection services when the mother tried to remove the baby from the hospital. Details of the case were kept secret and not reported until this week. The mother is serving a five-year prison sentence on child cruelty charges.
High court family judge Peter Jackson described "an abiding sense of disbelief that a parent could behave in such a wicked and selfish way toward a vulnerable child,” the Guardian reported.
The mother had isolated the family, home-schooling her children. The adoptive father of the older kids did not know where they lived and had not seen them for a decade. Court reports reveal the daughter "allowed her body to be used by her mother because she loves her," and though she did not want to take part, she told interviewers she was not "brave enough" to refuse her mother.
The daughter -- who had no friends her age-- later told investigators she was shocked when her mother first asked her but also thought, "if I do this … maybe she will love me more.”
Latin American presidents love Twitter - maybe too much
By Brian Winter
BUENOS AIRES Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:57am EDT
(Reuters) - When a million angry Argentines flooded the streets earlier this month to protest her government, President Cristina Fernandez decided to post a message on Twitter.
And another. And then another.
"Yes, I'm a bit stubborn, and I'm also old. But in the end, it's lucky to arrive at old age, isn't it?" one tweet read. She also mused about a 19th century fresco in her "gorgeous" palace, and the merits of a state-run literacy program.
At the end of the day, Fernandez had sent 61 tweets in a nine-hour period - prolific even by the standards of Latin America, where presidents and other leading politicians have embraced social media with a zeal unmatched anywhere else.
Their love for Twitter, in particular, has given millions of voyeurs a real-time window into policymaking - and, often, their leaders' most intimate thoughts.
Yet it has also fueled debate on whether some are guilty of "oversharing" - making politics more polarized, confrontations more personal, and potentially making the leaders themselves look awkward when they post about chats with strangers in a bathroom, for example, as Fernandez also did this month.
"Everybody who uses Twitter knows that sometimes you write something and push the send button without thinking enough about it. That's dangerous in politics ... and we've seen many examples of it," said Alan Clutterbuck, head of Fundacion RAP, a group based in Buenos Aires that seeks to improve the civility of political discourse.
"We should hold our political leaders to a different standard," he said. "You see a message that says 'I'm having a sandwich,' and you think: 'Who cares?'"
With a rich tradition of florid oratory, Latin America produced Cuba's Fidel Castro and his famed five-hour-long speeches. So it's unsurprising that some of its modern-day leaders have embraced a new platform to express themselves - but also struggle to shoehorn their thoughts into a few tidy blasts of 140 characters or less.
Politicians have also been hurling around insults since before the Twitter age, such as when the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez called former U.S. President George W. Bush the "devil" at the United Nations in 2006.
Yet there is no question that the technology has made the invective fly faster than ever before.
In the aftermath of this month's bitterly contested election to succeed Chavez in Venezuela, there were moments when both candidates were simultaneously tweeting attacks on each other.
Eventual winner Nicolas Maduro referred to the opposition as "fascists," declaring: "In their crazy hatred and desperation they're capable of anything." Losing candidate Henrique Capriles used Twitter to question the results of the voting hours after polls closed, tweeting "There is an illegitimate president!"
SHOWING THEIR HUMAN SIDE
Leaders elsewhere have also taken to Twitter, though not with the same fervor. U.S. President Barack Obama has a robust feed, but his profile says he only sends some himself, signing them "-bo." As of Friday, he hadn't done so in at least a month.
In contrast, Latin America's most prolific tweeting presidents - Fernandez, Maduro, Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos and Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto - all send a large percentage of messages themselves, their aides say.
The most popular of all was Chavez, who had more than 4 million followers prior to his death in March.
Not everybody's on board: The president of the region's biggest country, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff, stopped tweeting right after she was elected in 2010. "She thinks it's a total waste of time," one aide said.
But for others, it has become part of their identity.
Since leaving office in 2010, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has sometimes sent dozens of tweets a day criticizing Santos for being weak on security, among other alleged failings.
Uribe's critics say he has diminished his stature, and unfairly hamstrung his chosen successor, by weighing in so frequently on day-to-day affairs. But he has shown no signs of slowing down, and even hung in his home office a framed cartoon of himself hunched over his Blackberry, tweeting away.
"It allows direct communication, without intermediaries," Uribe said via e-mail. "The danger is that it tempts you to react to first impressions, so I try to avoid seeing many of the provocations that arrive."
At its best, Twitter can remind voters that their politicians are human - and even vulnerable.
The night of the march against her in Buenos Aires, Fernandez traveled to Caracas, and began to reflect on Chavez's death - words that added poignancy given the sudden passing of her own husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, in 2010.
"Why is it that those who live with so much intensity abandon us so soon?" she tweeted.
The following night, she started writing about "the human condition," before seemingly remembering that, even on Twitter, there are limits.
"Pardon me," she tweeted. "I started thinking, and since I can't speak (because my voice is gone), I'm channeling it through here."
"In the end, it's healthy and absolutely inoffensive."
(Additional reporting by Helen Murphy in Bogota; Editing by Kieran Murray and Sandra Maler)
'Shook up' retired pilot describes seeing 4 UFOs flying over Ohio
Mon, 04/29/2013 - 11:11am
Seeing just one UFO would be enough to freak most of us out, but this guy spotted four.
Since 1969, the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) has been collecting eyewitness accounts of UFOs. These days they've got a pretty massive online database full of UFO case files, and while many of those case files probably aren't all that noteworthy, others really jump out at you. This particular report comes from a 50-year-old retired pilot in Alliance, a city in northeastern Ohio. At about 9:23 p.m. on April 21, he was outside putting something in his pickup truck when he looked up and saw three objects in the sky.
"I closed the truck door and pivoted to my left (now facing north) to go back in my house, when I noticed on the horizon three objects approximately 30 degrees above the horizon at an altitude of 3500 MSL (2500 AGL in this area)," the witness stated. "The objects were flying in formation with the lead craft in the middle and the other two craft approximately one nautical mile back and one nautical mile to either side of the lead craft."
The witness described the objects as looking like "an orange-yellow fireball," and said it was clear they were three separate objects rather than one big object because he could see the night sky in between them.
"I am a retired pilot and the reason I was startled is that I initially stared at the lead object only due to the fact that it resembled an aircraft, especially a turbo-prop, with an engine fire. My eyes were obviously drawn to the other two craft as well and I did not know what to make of what I was seeing. The craft [was] heading due west (270 degrees) making no sound."
After going into his house to get a pair of binoculars, he came back out and saw a fourth object flying behind the other three. He didn't get photos or video of what he was seeing, and there's always the chance that his account is somewhat embellished, but after a lifetime of flying, the witness said this incident was his first encounter with something unusual in the sky.
"I'm really kind of shook up by this. I just was asked by someone the other day if I had ever seen anything whenever I was flying, you know, UFOs they asked. Honestly and emphatically, no. I've answered anyone that has ever asked me that question and I have been asked a lot. I can no longer answer no."
Obama administration officials threatened whistle-blowers on Benghazi, lawyer says.
By James Rosen Published April 29, 2013
At least four career officials at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have retained lawyers or are in the process of doing so, as they prepare to provide sensitive information about the Benghazi attacks to Congress, Fox News has learned.
Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official and Republican counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, is now representing one of the State Department employees. She told Fox News her client and some of the others, who consider themselves whistle-blowers, have been threatened by unnamed Obama administration officials.
“I'm not talking generally, I'm talking specifically about Benghazi – that people have been threatened,” Toensing said in an interview Monday. “And not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA.”
Toensing declined to name her client. She also refused to say whether the individual was on the ground in Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, when terrorist attacks on two U.S. installations in the Libyan city killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
However, Toensing disclosed that her client has pertinent information on all three time periods investigators consider relevant to the attacks: the months that led up to the attack, when pleas by the ambassador and his staff for enhanced security in Benghazi were mostly rejected by senior officers at the State Department; the eight-hour time frame in which the attacks unfolded, and the eight-day period that followed the attacks, when Obama administration officials incorrectly described them as the result of a spontaneous protest over a video.
“It's frightening, and they're doing some very despicable threats to people,” she said. “Not ‘we're going to kill you,’ or not ‘we're going to prosecute you tomorrow,’ but they're taking career people and making them well aware that their careers will be over [if they cooperate with congressional investigators].”
Federal law provides explicit protections for federal government employees who are identified as “whistle-blowers.” The laws aim to ensure these individuals will not face repercussions from their superiors, or from other quarters, in retaliation for their provision of information about corruption or other forms of wrongdoing to Congress, or to an agency’s inspector-general.
Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican from California who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday to complain that the department has not provided a process by which attorneys like Toensing can receive the security clearances necessary for them to review classified documents and other key evidence.
“It is unavoidable that Department employees identifying themselves as witnesses in the Committee’s investigation will apply for a security clearance to allow their personal attorneys to handle sensitive or classified material,” Issa wrote. “The Department’s unwillingness to make the process for clearing an attorney more transparent appears to be an effort to interfere with the rights of employees to furnish information to Congress.”
The Obama administration maintains that it has been more than forthcoming on Benghazi and that it is time for the State Department to move on. At a recent hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Kerry noted that administration officials have testified at eight hearings on Benghazi, provided 20 briefings on the subject and turned over to Congress some 25,000 documents related to the killings.
“So if you have additional questions or you think there's some document that somehow you need, I'll work with you to try to get it and see if we can provide that to you,” Kerry told committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., on April 17. But Kerry added: “I do not want to spend the next year coming up here talking about Benghazi.”
Asked about Issa’s complaints about attorneys not receiving security clearances, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell on Monday indicated that – far from threatening anyone – the administration hasn’t been presented with any such cases. “I'm not aware of private counsel seeking security clearances or -- or anything to that regard,” Ventrell told reporters. “I'm not aware of whistle-blowers one way or another.”
Ventrell cited the work of the FBI – whose probe of the attacks continues almost eight months later and without any known instances of perpetrators being brought to justice – and the Accountability Review Board. The board was an internal State Department review panel led by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. An unclassified version of the board’s final report that was released to the public contained no conclusions that suggested administration officials had willfully endangered their colleagues in Benghazi or had misled the public or Congress.
“And that should be enough,” Ventrell said at Monday’s press briefing. “Congress has its own prerogatives, but we've had a very thorough, independent investigation, which we completed and [which was] transparent and shared. And there are many folks who are, in a political manner, trying to sort of use this for their own political means, or ends.”
Analysis: Six months after Sandy, New York fuel supply chain still vulnerable.
By Sabina Zawadzki and Anna Louie Sussman
NEW YORK Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:45am EDT
(Reuters) - Six months after Hurricane Sandy ripped into the East Coast and triggered one of the worst energy crises in decades, there is scattered evidence companies and state agencies have moved to strengthen complex fuel supply networks against future storms.
But the measures taken by energy firms in New York and New Jersey are uneven, state initiatives remain on paper for now, and in the absence of an industry-wide response it's unclear the region would fare much better should there be a next time.
Hurricane Sandy unleashed a record storm surge that exposed the surprising fragility of New York Harbor's fuel supply chain - the largest, most varied trading and distribution hub in the world - serving America's most populous urban area.
The industry suffered crippling blows at almost every link. Foreign oil tankers were halted by water debris, refineries were flooded and shut, pipelines and storage depots were idled by power cuts and tanker trucks were commandeered by emergency agencies.
At the end of that chain, two-thirds of the region's service stations were unable to dispense gasoline due to power outages, while the rest struggled to procure scarce fuel. Only state-imposed rationing, the first since the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s, eventually tempered the crisis - it took months to fully restore the interdependent web of supply.
Half a year later and some action has been taken. But the measures remain worryingly incomplete, according to interviews with two dozen officials, industry groups and oil firms.
"We would, in essence, be in the same situation minus some additional gasoline stations still having power thanks to backup generators," said Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman for AAA New York in Garden City, Long Island.
Sandy claimed more than 130 lives in the United States and Canada, inflicted tens of billions of dollars worth of damage and left 8.6 million homes and businesses in darkness.
In the following days, two problems emerged with the fuel supply: flooding, which shut down two refineries and numerous terminals; and power outages, which disabled gas stations and the area's biggest pipeline. The problem was not so much a lack of gasoline as an inability to transport it to the right place.
At least a few of the companies at the heart of the supply chain - the storage depots and terminals where bulk deliveries of gasoline, diesel or heating oil are stored then loaded onto tanker trucks for retail outlets - are taking action.
Nustar, whose fuel terminal in Linden, New Jersey, was shut for days, has raised the barriers, or berms, around its tanks, elevated critical cables off the ground to avoid water contact and shifted its office further inland, the company says.
The surge during Sandy led to water overflowing several operators' berms and in some cases lifted partially filled tanks off their foundations, leading to fuel spills.
Coast Guard Commander Linda Sturgis, who oversees emergency prevention at the Port of New York and frequently discusses emergency plans with energy industry players, said several companies were working on improvements including higher berms.
"It takes considerable investment," Sturgis said. "Nobody thought, at the time, that they would need 15-foot berms."
But it is unclear how many of the 57 refined products terminals hit by the storm have taken action.
Motiva, a Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Saudi Aramco joint venture, had to scramble to clean up 380,000 gallons of diesel from its Sewaren, New Jersey, facility, most of which spilled into the thin strip of water between New Jersey and Staten Island.
Shell declined to name specific measures taken since the storm, saying it has "robust emergency response plans that are reviewed and updated in preparation for every hurricane season."
Hess Corp said it regularly updates its emergency plans. Magellan Midstream Partners said its emergency planning was followed safely and operations resumed promptly after Sandy. CITGO and IMTT declined to comment. Together with Nustar, the seven companies are the main terminal operators in New Jersey.
"WE'D DO IT THE SAME WAY"
Sandy also disrupted the flow of refined fuels into the New York area, shutting down Phillips 66's 238,000-bpd Bayway refinery - now the region's lone plant - for a month and halting for three days the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline bringing refined products from the U.S. Gulf Coast.
These facilities are more critical than ever after the closure of several East Coast refineries - including a small plant in nearby Port Reading, which operator Hess moved to shut down permanently just months after Sandy.
Some additional safeguards are being put in place.
"We've...made some physical improvements to the Bayway refinery to help better withstand future major storm events, such as elevating electrical equipment," Phillips 66 spokesman Rich Johnson said, declining to say whether the refinery's 11-foot berm would be raised after Sandy's 14-foot storm surge.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions' (PES) 335,000-bpd refinery, which shut down or slowed some units as a precaution during Sandy but ultimately missed the brunt of the storm, sees less reason to protect against what was deemed a 100-year event.
"We came through that storm in superb shape...For three or four weeks afterwards we were supplying 50 percent of the market," PES CEO Philip Rinaldi said. "There's not a lot we would do differently. We'd do it the same way."
PLUGS WITHOUT GENERATORS?
The most definitive government response comes from New York state, in the form of a provision in the 2013-2014 budget that will require gasoline stations on key populous routes to have the necessary wiring for an emergency power generator.
The state will grant $10,000-$13,000 for each station and also requires them to have an emergency generator or be part of a pool from which generators can be leased. But the $17 million program is contingent on New York securing federal mitigation funds and it is unclear whether and when this will happen.
For the majority of stations that are owned by small independent franchise operators, the bigger question is the total cost and availability of generators in an emergency.
"We still aren't sure how much the rental on the generators will cost or how effective that system will work," said Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also wants to create a Strategic Fuel Reserve, with the help of federal funding. But the proposal is at an early stage, with the state agency responsible, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), still seeking expert comments.
That agency will also check terminals' back-up power capabilities and resilience against flooding before this year's hurricane season, it said. However it does not have the power to force companies to act on its findings.
A report from a New York City agency set up in Sandy's wake to investigate how the city can become more resilient to future extreme weather may offer more proposals next month.
In New Jersey, a working group appointed to look into ways to improve fuel infrastructure has not made any recommendations as yet, and no legislation has been proposed by the administration.
DRIVERS LEARNED A LESSON
For some in the industry, the best thing the government could do is worry more about demand and less about supply.
Local industry officials say New York should be better prepared to move to rationing that would help contain panic. New Jersey imposed even/odd rationing five days after Sandy and New York ten days after, a period which retailers said was too long.
As the crisis deepened, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) commandeered commercial trucks to deliver fuel to critical services such as emergency responders, but promises of free fuel drops went unfulfilled.
"The effect was confusion," says Eric DeGesero, Executive Vice President of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey.
Mike Scott, deputy director of the Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) which coordinated much of the effort, said Sandy was an "absolute success" for the agency, though it was looking at ways to strengthen the system.
Many drivers, at least, seem to have learned their lesson.
This past February, as a massive snowstorm loomed over the Northeast, motorists rushed to fill up their tanks far earlier than usual, and in greater number, says Brian Fioretti, vice-president at Island Transportation, one of the area's biggest retail tanker-truck distributors.
"Everyone knows you're supposed to go out before a storm and get food, water and gas, but it was taken for granted," he said. "Sandy has changed people's perspective."
(Additional reporting by Selam Gebrekidan, Cezary Podkul, Josh Schneyer, Jeanine Prezioso, Scott DiSavina, Robert Gibbons, Jonathan Leff; Writing by Sabina Zawadzki; Editing by Claudia Parsons)
Japan may accept more highly skilled foreign workers
JIJI Apr 30, 2013
WASHINGTON – The government is considering increasing the number of foreign engineers and researchers accepted into the country by units of 100,000, according to Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office.
Nishimura signaled the intention to significantly ease the criteria for giving preferential treatment to highly skilled people during a question-and-answer session after giving a lecture Monday in Washington on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategies.
Nishimura said the government will promote deregulation to allow for 24-hour financial transactions in Tokyo in an effort to strengthen its status as an international financial center and encourage investment.
The proposals are part of the government’s move to set up special strategic zones in and around Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya under Abe’s economic policies.
Nishimura said measures for the Kansai special zone may include strengthening distribution networks via the area’s airports.
Also, the establishment of a center for regenerative and other advanced medicine, as well as the approval of casino operations are among proposals being discussed as ways to attract wealthy tourists from Asian nations, Nishimura said.