- Japan PM names lawmaker Jojima as finance minister
- Expectations game in full swing for U.S. presidential debate
- Two Americans killed in confused Afghan shootout
Posted: 30 Sep 2012 09:21 PM PDT
TOKYO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appointed Koriki Jojima, a senior lawmaker in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), as the country's new finance minister in a cabinet shakeup on Monday.
Jojima, 65, who previously served as the party's parliamentary affairs chief, replaces Jun Azumi as the minister in charge of fiscal, tax and currency policies.
(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Michael Watson)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 30 Sep 2012 07:49 PM PDT
WASHINGTON/LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Three days before the first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign, allies of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sought to influence expectations on Sunday, with the president describing his debating skills as "just OK."
The Democratic incumbent and the Republican former governor of Massachusetts face off in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday for their first of three televised debates.
Advisers to both men have tried to lower expectations for their respective candidates, and Obama got into the action during a rally in Nevada.
"Gov. Romney ... he's a good debater. I'm just OK," the president told a crowd of about 11,000 outside a local high school.
"What I'm most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need to do to keep the country growing and restore security for hard-working Americans. That's what people are going to be listening for," he said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie predicted fellow Republican Romney's performance would alter the course of the campaign. Polls show Obama with a slight edge nationally and in critical swing states that will decide the November 6 election.
"This whole race is going to turn upside down come Thursday morning," Christie told CBS' "Face the Nation."
His comments strayed from the script of both campaigns, which have tried to play down their own candidate's chances and talk up their opponent's, thus making it easier to claim victory or explain a defeat after the face-off.
"I think what we need is a big and bold performance on Wednesday night, and that's what he's going to give us," Christie said of Romney on ABC's "This Week."
Romney comes into the debate still trying to recover from a leaked video where the former private equity executive described nearly half of Americans as dependent upon government and who view themselves as victims.
"We've had some missteps, but at the end of the day, the choice is really clear," Romney's vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan told "Fox News Sunday."
Ryan tried to lower the stakes for Romney's debate performance. "I don't think any one event is going to make or break this campaign," he said.
Ryan said Romney would give a major foreign policy speech in the days after the debate.
Obama's advisers said the president was not focused on scoring points or coming up with zingers to use against his rival.
"He wants to speak directly to the families - the people who are on their couches at home, having snacks, drinking a beer, drinking soda, whatever it is, and tuning in for the first time - and that's who he's speaking directly to," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One.
Obama, who is in Nevada for intense debate preparation, was accompanied by White House adviser David Plouffe, campaign strategist David Axelrod, chief of staff Jack Lew, economic adviser Gene Sperling and speechwriter Jon Favreau.
The White House and Obama's campaign are guarding against complacency, despite their strength in the polls.
"We're not going to win battleground states by 10 or 12 points. This race is going to tighten," Plouffe said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Romney remained in Boston for private meetings, including debate preparation, at his campaign headquarters.
Not all of Romney's hours have been devoted to studying and sparring with his debate partner, U.S. Senator Rob Portman.
Romney attended a party Saturday evening at the Wellesley, Massachusetts, home of his finance chairman, Spencer Zwick.
With a stretched Hummer limousine blaring party music and several school buses parked outside the home, chants of "Mitt!" could be heard from within. Romney departs for Denver on Monday.
His wife, Ann, will campaign in Nevada and Ryan will embark on a bus tour of eastern Iowa on Monday.
Both are swing states where victories would be critical for the path to the presidency.
(Additional reporting by Sam Youngman in Boston, Susan Cornwell and Bill Trott in Washington; editing by Alistair Bell)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 30 Sep 2012 05:46 PM PDT
KABUL (Reuters) - Two Americans were killed in Afghanistan during an exchange of fire between NATO-led forces and the Afghan army that may have been the result of a misunderstanding, as the death toll of U.S. military and civilian personnel passed 2,000.
A U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, said on Sunday that an American soldier and a civilian contractor had been killed in the incident in eastern Afghanistan, the circumstances of which remain unclear.
The coalition initially said the incident may have been the result of an "insider attack" and another example of a member of the Afghan national security force turning on coalition troops in a war that began in 2001.
But it later said that nearby insurgent gunfire may have led to a misunderstanding.
"The circumstances were somewhat confused ... There was a report of insurgent firing taking place in this incident which we believe may have been a factor," Lt. General Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of the NATO-led coalition, said.
It was the latest setback for the coalition after the United States said joint operations with Afghan forces were returning to normal.
Joint operations were halted two weeks ago after a surge of attacks on the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) by its Afghan allies. At least 52 ISAF service members have been killed this year in so-called "green-on-blue" attacks.
The suspension of joint operations was a blow for NATO which wants to train the 350,000 members of the Afghan security forces so that they can try to ensure stability after coalition forces withdraw.
Pentagon data listing the number of U.S. troops and U.S. contractors killed in Afghanistan since combat began 11 years ago showed the two new deaths pushed the total combined number of U.S. personnel killed past the 2,000 mark.
The attack took place in the Sayed Abad district of the Wardak province, according to local police sources, who said a gun battle had broken out between coalition soldiers and Afghans when an Afghan National Army member opened fire on American troops.
Three members of the Afghan National Army were also killed in the firefight, while three other U.S. citizens and one Afghan were wounded, police spokesman Wali Mohammad said on Sunday.
"We appreciate the sacrifice of our fallen heroes, every death is tragic and important - none more than any other," ISAF said in a statement after the incident on Saturday.
Tension between coalition forces and their Afghan allies has been rising due to an escalation of so-called "insider" attacks, but Bradshaw denied the incident was a reflection of growing mistrust between Afghan and coalition forces.
"There is a very strong relationship between ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) and our Afghan colleagues," Bradshaw told a press conference late on Sunday.
Separately on Saturday, police in eastern Kunar province said they had found the beheaded bodies of three male civilians in a forest.
The Taliban had kidnapped the men three days ago for allegedly spying for the government and NATO forces, Kunar police chief Shirwah Sameen told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni in Kabul, Mustafa Andalib in Ghazni and Phillip Stewart in Washington; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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