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Japan’s New Prime Minister Begins Work As Nation’s Leader

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Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga began work as the nation’s leader Thursday vowing to “meet people’s expectations.” Speaking to reporters at the prime minister’s office, Suga said his Cabinet would be results-oriented.  “I want to meet people’s expectations by creating a Cabinet that works for people and achieves results,” Suga said. Newly appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, meanwhile, reiterated the former administration’s commitment to fighting the coronavirus pandemic and preventing an explosive rise in infections. “The important thing is to prevent infections and bring economic and social activities back to normal and revive them,” Japan’s new top government spokesman said.  Kato added that under Suga’s stewardship, the government will continue to tackle the nation’s demographic crisis and forge deeper ties with Japan’s closest neighbors.

Suga, the new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, was chosen as Japan’s new prime minister to succeed Shinzo Abe in an extraordinary parliamentary session on Wednesday. The parliament formally chose Suga as the nation’s 99th prime minister in an extraordinary session convened at which he was elected by both chambers of Japan’s bicameral parliament, winning 314 votes in the more powerful 465-member lower house and 142 votes in the 245-member upper chamber.

Late last month and just days after becoming the nation’s longest-serving leader in terms of consecutive days in office, Abe abruptly announced that he planned to step down because of the same intestinal disease and ulcerative colitis that forced him to relinquish his role as prime minister during his first stint as a leader beginning 2006. Suga has formed a Cabinet comprising of a number of ministers who served under Abe in a bid to maintain continuity.  He has retained the services of LDP veteran heavyweights including Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi.

Fifteen of Suga’s picks for his 20-member Cabinet held ministerial portfolios in the previous administration.  Suga, who at 71 is the oldest prime minister to take office since Kiichi Miyazawa in 1991, will serve as  LDP president for the remainder of Abe’s current three-year term through September 2021. There has been speculation, however, that he may call a general election as early as next month, although he has stated that for the time being tackling the coronavirus pandemic is his priority.

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Asia

Suicide Bombers Blow up Church in Indonesia

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An explosion shook a Roman Catholic cathedral compound in the eastern Indonesian city of Makassar on Sunday morning, shattering the calm of Palm Sunday, a holy day for Christians.

The blast took place around 10:20 a.m. at the gate to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral compound, said Inspector General Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono, the Indonesian National Police spokesman.

No churchgoers were killed, but at least 14 people were being treated for injuries at Makassar hospitals, Mr. Argo said.

Local police had previously said the bomber had acted alone.

Authorities were looking into which radical networks the bombers came from and whether the attack was linked to recent arrests of suspected militants, national police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

In January, a counter-terrorism unit raided a militant hideout in Makassar and killed two men suspected by police of involvement in twin bombings at a Philippine church in 2019 that killed more than 20 people.

Father Wilhemus Tulak, a priest at the church, told Indonesian media that a suspected bomber tried to enter the church grounds on a motorbike, but had been stopped by a security guard.

Police did not say who might be responsible for the attack and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Police blamed the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group for suicide attacks in 2018 on churches and a police post in the city of Surabaya that killed over 30 people.

Boy Rafli Amar, the head of the country’s National Counterterrorism Agency, described Sunday’s attack as an act of terrorism.

Makassar Mayor Danny Pomanto said the blast could have caused far more casualties if it had taken place at the church’s main gate instead of a side entrance.

Makassar, Sulawesi’s biggest city, reflects the religious makeup of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country with a substantial Christian minority and followers of other religions.

“Whatever the motive is, this act isn’t justified by any religion because it harms not just one person but others, too,” Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, Indonesia’s religious affairs minister, said in a statement.

Gomar Gultom, head of the Indonesian Council of Churches, described the attack as a “cruel incident” as Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, and urged people to remain calm and trust the authorities.

Indonesia’s deadliest Islamist militant attack took place on the tourist island of Bali in 2002, when bombers killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

In subsequent years, security forces in Indonesia scored some major successes in tackling militancy, but more recently there has been a resurgence of militant violence.

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Asia

India Celebrates National Science Day

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On February 28th, India celebrates the annual National Science Day commemorating Indian physicist C V Raman’s discovery in 1928 of the Raman effect, the scattering of photons or light particles by matter.

India has registered notable advances in the missile, space technology, medicine, IT and many other fields with this former British colony now emerging as a leading country in the comity of nations.

This is a moment to celebrate the progress that India has made in science and technology research, thanks to its science policies.

Science and technology has assumed great significance and the theme for the current year is : Future of STI-Impacts on Education, Skill and Work”.

The event is now organized with seminars, conferences, public debates and discussions in schools, colleges, universities and other academic, scientific, technical, medical and research institutions all over the country.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, a top scientist who had served as the 11th President of India in his book “India 2020” had strongly advocated for an Action Plan to develop India into a knowledge superpower and developed nation.

He had worked on high positions in DRDO, ISRO and was popularly known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology as also India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998.

India is on the right tract of science and technology highway and it must now go with quick and sure steps.

Key to Advancement The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been underscoring the role of scientific knowledge, technology and innovations through bold initiatives for overall speed development so that India emerges as a safe and super strong nation.

Some positive signals are emerging with leading advanced educational and other institutions already in place coupled with lot of promise, scope and talent .

India has made tangible strides it has still to move forward for transformation of society to attain the status of super power with a mission of working for peace, progress and spiritual enlightenment for humanity.

The report published by the National Science Foundation of the U.S. in December 2019, India was the third largest publisher of peer-reviewed science and engineering journal articles and conference papers, with 135,788 articles in 2018.

This milestone was achieved through an average yearly growth rate of 10.73% from 2008, which was greater than China’s 7.81%.

However, China and the United States had about thrice and twice the number, respectively, of India’s publications.

According to Stanford ranking, hope for Indian science The not-so-good news is that publications from India are not impactful.

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Asia

7.1-magnitude Earthquake Jolts Japan

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Japan has been hit by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake, which struck at 11:07 p.m. local time (9.07 a.m. ET), was located 73.9 kms northeast of Namie, a coastal town about two hours from Fukushima.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said at least 50 people were injured and the quake knocked multiple power plants offline. No tsunami warning was issued for Saturday’s earthquake.

Some 830,000 households in the Kanto region, which includes greater Tokyo, and about 90,000 households in Tohoku region, were without power following Saturday’s quake, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, said.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency says it considers Saturday’s earthquake off the east coast to be an aftershock of the deadly 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the same area almost 10 years ago.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said although the damage is still being assessed, no major casualties have been reported.

However, he asked residents in the affected area to stay indoors and be prepared for aftershocks.

The March 11, 2011, earthquake caused the country’s worst nuclear disaster when three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant melted down, releasing radioactive materials into the air and forcing more than 100,000 people to be evacuated.

More than 20,000 people died or went missing in the quake and tsunami, while hundreds of thousands more lost their homes.

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