Japan suspends death penalty

Two days into its new government, the Democratic Party of Japan is wasting no time setting new policies for the country. Yesterday, the Defense Minister suggested a withdrawl from Afghanistan; today, the country looks set to suspend use of the death penalty.

The new Japanese Government has in effect suspended the death penalty by appointing an outspoken opponent of capital punishment as Justice Minister.

Keiko Chiba, 61, a lawyer and former member of the Japan Socialist Party, has the final say in signing execution orders for Japan’s 102 death row inmates.

Although she has declined to say explicitly whether or not she will authorise them, her 20-year-long record as a death penalty abolitionist makes it a certainty that hangings will be put on hold.

The article goes on to note that the United States would now be the only "industrial democracy" to still use capital punishment. However, a look at Amnesty International's list of "retentionist" countries does show that the death penalty remains on the books in several of the largest developing nations, including India and China. Those looking for meaningless correlations should also note that other "retentionist" countries include North Korea, Chad, and Sudan.



Venezuela to U.S.: Fight to the Death

All is not well between Colombia and Venezuela. The trouble began when a military agreement between Colombia and the United States -- allowing Washington access to seven bases in the Andean country -- became public earlier this summer. Venezuela, together other regional powers, expressed concern about a U.S. military presence in the region (though none would be permanently based in Colombia), most vocally in a summit that trashed the Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe.

Chavez has assailed the military agreement, saying it "amounts to a declaration of war" by neighboring Colombia against his government. A policy paper released by the country's embassy said that Venezuela was being used as a scapegoat for Colombia's and the region's problems.

Similar yelling between Caracas and Bogota has happened many times before. But this time, it looks like Chavez is acting on some of his threats -- most notably to shut Venezuela's borders to Colombian trade.

How's this for a sign of the times? This border sign reads, my translation: 

Let us swear! Fight to the Death

If the Yankee Empire dares to profane the sacred soil of the land of Bolivar [Venezuela]

Gringos: We are here waiting for you"

Might be slightly scarier if the word "dare" (highlighted in the box) was not mis-spelled...