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June 15 2017

23:11

The lesson from Grenfell is simple: stop building residential towers | Simon Jenkins

High-rise blocks are wholly out of place and character. Rather, a modern, sociable city needs neighbourhoods

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spaceexp: Apollo 11 Rendezvous - Robert McCall  by x-ray delta one

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20:25

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BBC News: Japan passes controversial anti-terror conspiracy law

What changes with the new law?

The law, which criminalises the plotting and committing of 277 acts, amends an existing law against organised crime syndicates.

It bans the procurement of funds or supplies and the surveying of a location in preparation of any of these offences.

An entire group - defined as two or more people - can be charged if at least one member is found to have been plotting the crime.

It also bans the expansion or maintenance of illicit interests of organised crime groups.

Japan has signed a UN convention against transnational organised crime, but not yet ratified it. The government said the new law was needed for ratification to go ahead.

Mr Abe told reporters the law would allow Japan to ‘firmly cooperate with international society to prevent terrorism’.

What kind of crimes are on the list?

The ruling bloc has been attempting to push through the legislation for months. An earlier draft had listed 676 crimes, but it was pared down to 277.

The law bans the plotting of serious crimes such as terrorism but also lesser offences such as;

  • Copying music
  • Conducting sit-ins to protest against the construction of apartment buildings
  • Using forged stamps
  • Competing in a motor boat race without a licence
  • Mushroom picking in conservation forests
  • Avoiding paying consumption tax

Why are critics objecting?

Though the government has promised that the law will not be used unfairly, critics remain unconvinced.

They say the law is too broadly worded and gives the authorities sweeping powers.

They have also questioned the inclusion of certain acts and asked how they could be linked to terrorism and organised crime.

The government argues some could be used in association with criminal operations - for example, a gang or terror cell could fund its operations from the sale of illegally picked mushrooms.

But an editorial by newspaper The Mainichi said this argument was ‘unconvincing’, as many other possible illegal sources of revenue such as marine poaching are not included on the list.

‘While the sale of such seafood may also bring profits, that is not subject to the anti-conspiracy bill. What sets seafood apart from blessings from the mountains?’ it said.

Critics have also taken issue with the way the bill was pushed through, as the ruling bloc took the unusual step of bypassing certain formalities to ensure it would be speedily passed.

They have accused the government of steamrolling the opposition, and questioned whether this was aimed at protecting Mr Abe from being grilled on a brewing political scandal.

An opposition party recently accused the prime minister of influencing a government decision to fund and approve a veterinary school at a university owned by Mr Abe's friend.

Mr Abe has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.”

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20:24

Japan rams through contentious anti-conspiracy bill - France 24

“The legislation would criminalise plotting and preparing to commit 277 ‘serious crimes’ that critics such as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations note include acts with no obvious connection to terrorism or organised crime, such as sit-ins to protest construction of apartment buildings or copying music.

Opponents see the legislation as part of a broader agenda by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to increase state powers and fear ordinary citizens could be targeted, despite government assurances to the contrary.

Combined with a widening of legal wiretapping and the reluctance of courts to limit police surveillance powers, the changes could deter grassroots opposition to government policies, critics say.

To try to speed up passage of the law, the ruling bloc took the rare, contentious step of skipping a vote in an upper house committee and moving directly to a vote in the full upper house.

The U.N. special rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, wrote to Abe last month asking him to address the risk that the changes could ‘lead to undue restrictions to the rights to privacy and to freedom of expression’.

In an email to Reuters, Cannataci said the Japanese government had used ‘the psychology of fear’ to push through ‘defective legislation’.

‘Japan needs to improve its safeguards for privacy, now even more so that this supsicious piece of legislation has been put on the statute books,’ he said in the email.

Critics say gathering information on possible plots would require expanded police surveillance, and the legislation has been compared to Japan’s ‘thought police’, who before and during World War Two had broad powers to investigate political groups seen as a threat to public order.”

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20:24

Japan accused of stifling freedom with new terror law - CNN.com

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“Under the new laws, it will make it illegal to plan to commit 277 criminal actions, from arson to copyright infringement.

Koichi Nakano, political science professor at Tokyo's Sophia University, told CNN the new legislation ‘fundamentally’ changed Japan's legal system. ‘Unless a crime in committed in Japan, you don't get punished ... now if they think you are thinking of preparing to commit a crime, even before you're arrested, you'll be put under surveillance,’ he said.

‘It leads to a substantial expansion of police power to investigate people and put them under surveillance.’

Nakano compared the new legislation to the Peace Prevention Law enacted in Japan in 1925, which led to the country's infamous Thought Police.

‘At that time, they reassured people that ordinary people won't be affected. But the law was abused, it persecuted communists, and then religious leaders, leaders and ordinary people,’ he said.”

“Jeff Kingston, Asian Studies director at Japan's Temple University, told CNN Abe was using fear to crack down on Japanese society.

‘The government has been trying to use extensive fear mongering as a way to justify curbing civil liberties and putting democracy in handcuffs,’ he said.

‘They are giving the police extensive powers and criminalizing things that ought not to be a crime in a democracy.’

The laws have provoked protests since December, growing in intensity over recent weeks, after the extent of Abe's new laws became public knowledge.”

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“ABE FIRST is LDP-Komei politics” - in front of the Diet building in Tokyo, Jun. 15 2017.

PM Abe killed not only article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, but article 21 (freedom of expression and privacy) and 31 (due process of law in the criminal justice) with the anti-conspiracy legislation. We must purge this far-right politician from government.

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