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Sources close to ex-PM Abe say his camp subsidised backers' party: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Sakura Murakami

TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office helped cover the costs of dinner parties held for his supporters, sources close to Abe told local media on Tuesday evening, in a possible violation of funding and election laws.

The resurfacing of the scandal, which dogged Abe in the last year of his tenure could damage his political reputation and also threatens to drag in successor Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe’s right-hand man during his 2012-2020 term.

Politicians in Japan are forbidden to provide anything to constituents that could be construed as a gift. The rule is so strict that one cabinet minister quit in 2014 after distributing paper fans during the summer.

Abe vehemently denied his office had subsidized parties during parliamentary sessions last year where he was grilled by opposition lawmakers on his office’s involvement in hosting the reception.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he said he was aware of the accusations and promised that his office will “fully cooperate” with Tokyo prosecutors who are looking into the matter, but declined to comment further on the accusations.

“He can’t run or hide,” opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said of Abe on Tuesday, adding that the revelation meant Abe had lied in parliament when he had denied his office subsidized parties.

“Prime Minister Suga was also the ringleader of the Abe administration in his position as chief cabinet secretary, and he can’t escape that responsibility,” Edano said, according to NHK.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, stepped down in September due to health problems, but has stayed on as a lower house lawmaker.

The opposition has demanded he address the accusations during a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday, but the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) refused to concede to the request, saying it was “unreasonable.”

Local media, including public broadcaster NHK, said Abe’s office helped cover a shortfall of about 8 million yen ($76,540) over the last five years of his premiership to hold annual dinner parties at swanky hotels for his supporters, citing people close to the ex-PM.

Although each supporter paid about $48 for their attendance, the total cost of hosting the parties came to more than $190,000 over five years, exceeding the total amount collected from ticket sales and creating a gap covered by the ex-PM’s office, NHK said.

Tokyo prosecutors are analysing hotel documents that suggest Abe’s office partly subsidized the receptions, and conducted a voluntary questioning of Abe’s former aides, media said on Monday.

In interviews with NHK, sources close to the ex-PM said staff members working for Abe had told their former boss when asked last year by Abe whether the office had partially footed the bills for parties that the ticket sales had covered the costs when in fact, they had not.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; editing by Richard Pullin)

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KINSELLA: International media unimpressed by Canada's vaccine rollout and they're right – Toronto Sun

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Other countries? Well, in Israel – a nation perpetually under attack, with a dysfunctional system of government, and no coronavirus vaccine-manufacturing capacity of its own, like Canada – more Israelis get vaccinated in a single day than Canada vaccinated in all of December.

In the United States – a divided nation run by an impeached lunatic, with an actual insurrection still underway – nearly ten million Americans have been vaccinated with one or more doses. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to “move Heaven and Earth,” meanwhile, to get 100 million of his fellow citizens vaccinated in the first 100 days of his administration.

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Justin Trudeau’s Canada? Not so good.

Now, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc is a whip-smart guy, educated at Trinity College and Harvard. He was sent out, a few days ago, to polish the turd that is Justin Trudeau’s record on vaccines.

Canada is “on track” with its coronavirus vaccine rollout, Leblanc said to various media, with a straight face. And, in response to criticisms arising from the fact that provinces have run out of doses – because they actually have – well, Leblanc said this: it’s “a bit simplistic.”

And that much is true, although not in the way that Leblanc intended. It is simple: you either have vaccines, or you don’t.

Many provinces didn’t, or not nearly enough. The University Health Network – which has thousands of beds, and patients from across Canada – effectively ran out of vaccines a few days ago. They were forced to reschedule vaccination appointments.

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KINSELLA: International media unimpressed by Canada's vaccine rollout and they're right – Toronto Sun

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Article content continued

Other countries? Well, in Israel – a nation perpetually under attack, with a dysfunctional system of government, and no coronavirus vaccine-manufacturing capacity of its own, like Canada – more Israelis get vaccinated in a single day than Canada vaccinated in all of December.

In the United States – a divided nation run by an impeached lunatic, with an actual insurrection still underway – nearly ten million Americans have been vaccinated with one or more doses. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to “move Heaven and Earth,” meanwhile, to get 100 million of his fellow citizens vaccinated in the first 100 days of his administration.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

[embedded content]

Justin Trudeau’s Canada? Not so good.

Now, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc is a whip-smart guy, educated at Trinity College and Harvard. He was sent out, a few days ago, to polish the turd that is Justin Trudeau’s record on vaccines.

Canada is “on track” with its coronavirus vaccine rollout, Leblanc said to various media, with a straight face. And, in response to criticisms arising from the fact that provinces have run out of doses – because they actually have – well, Leblanc said this: it’s “a bit simplistic.”

And that much is true, although not in the way that Leblanc intended. It is simple: you either have vaccines, or you don’t.

Many provinces didn’t, or not nearly enough. The University Health Network – which has thousands of beds, and patients from across Canada – effectively ran out of vaccines a few days ago. They were forced to reschedule vaccination appointments.

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Media coverage of COVID is failing Albertans, and it's not the media’s fault. – Alberta Daily Herald Tribune

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This has to stop.

Either Dr. Hinshaw or her two expert, and well-compensated, deputies need to make themselves available on a regular basis to answer technical questions — from reporters whose microphones don’t get muted. They’ll need to explain what the statistics they release really mean and take questions about the particulars of outbreaks and the evolving science of the pandemic.

Yes, some of the questions and answers will be uncomfortable, and uncertainty will be highlighted. But Albertans will be better served by having these questions answered with uncertainty than they are when the questions aren’t even asked.

Of course, the semi-regular official briefings with top decision-makers should continue when there are major policy announcements. But those would also benefit from being less stilted. Also, Alberta is a wealthy province; we can afford a socially distanced second podium on the stage so that we don’t have to waste precious question time on the theatre of hand sanitizing.

COVID is contagious and it has required us to change the nature of news gathering, but the news-gathering function is more important now than ever.

Albertans are being asked to give up so much. Our compliance should happen in exchange for our government’s willingness to answer all our questions.

Vitor Marciano was formerly press secretary to two leaders of the Opposition.

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