Japan Executions – Japan has carried out three executions, the first during the latest tenure of prime minister Shinzo Abe, writes the Guardian. Japan’s last execution was in September and the country currently has 134 inmates on death row. The executions, one of which was of an infamous child-killer, are seen as a sign that Japan intends to defy international pressure to abolish the death penalty, and perhaps signal a return to more regular hangings, notes the Guardian. The justice minister, Sadakazu Tanigaki, indicated earlier this year that he would not hesitate to sign execution orders. Some previous justice ministers had refused to approve them, leading to a de facto moratorium, writes the daily. According to opinion polls in Japan, public support for capital punishment stands at around 80%. But Amnesty International described the latest executions as “an ominous and regressive move.”
Food Security – The Indian government hopes that its long-delayed food security bill will be approved by parliament in April or May, the Wall Street Journal reports. Approval of the bill would sanction the release of huge quantities of wheat, rice and course grains from overflowing storage sites to almost 70% of the country’s 1.2 billion people at inexpensive prices. But critics counter that the program would increase food subsidy costs and further bloat the government’s fiscal deficit, notes the WSJ.
Activists, Whalers Clash – Anti-whaling activists said a Japanese whaling ship rammed two of their vessels near the Australian Davis Research Base, located on the Antarctic coast, the Guardian reports. The marine conservation group Sea Shepherd called on Australia to send a naval vessel to the area after the clashes. The Australian government condemns whaling in all waters, and has taken a campaign to end the annual hunts in the Southern Ocean to the international court of justice in the Hague, Netherlands. However, it has rejected calls to send an Australian government vessel to monitor the hunt, notes the AFP. Officials at Japan’s Fisheries Agency said the conservationists were the ones who rammed the whaling ship on Wednesday, and vowed to continue its whaling program.
Volcano Mudflows – One of Indonesia’s most dangerous volcanoes is posing a new threat due to volcanic debris left over from a series of eruptions in 2010, reports the Wall Street Journal. The heavy rains of late are mixing with the tons of volcanic debris that spewed from Mount Merapi in central Java several years ago, resulting in huge mudflows along several of the mountain’s rivers. The governor of the city of Yogyakarta, the capital of Yogyakarta Special Region in Java, Indonesia, has warned people to stay away from Merapi’s rivers after a death was reported last week.
Falklands Documents — Newly declassified documents show that Britain considered allowing Argentina to set up a naval base in the Falkland Islands, just two weeks before the invasion in 1982, reports the Daily Telegraph. In a restricted memorandum, Raul Schmidt of the Chilean embassy in Buenos Aires told David Joy, his British counterpart, that Argentina’s sovereignty disputes with Chile and Britain both arose from the country’s desire to have a naval base in the Falklands. A scribbled note by an unnamed official in the margin of the document reads, “I think we are agreed that the Argentine interest in South Atlantic security is part of her wish to gain sovereignty over the islands. But it’s only a small part. After all, if all they wanted was a naval base we could easily accommodate them,” reports the Telegraph.
Ivory Trade – The head of the U.N. body dealing with the trade in endangered species has said that smuggled ivory should be treated like heroin or cocaine if the criminals involved are to be caught, reports the Times of London. “Don’t just seize it in the port when you find it. Track it, find out who ordered it, find them, convict them and give them heavy penalties,” said John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). He indicated that there were no plans to relax the laws around ivory trading, which was banned in 1989. But he said that a controversial method of licensed hunting in South Africa had undone other countries’ attempts to conserve rhinoceros populations, writes the Times.