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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 6, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Japan Marks Hiroshima Bombing Amid New Defense Debate

Japan commemorated the sixty-ninth anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Wednesday, with tens of thousands gathering for peace ceremonies (AP). Mayor Kazumi Matsui gave a speech that called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to bridge differences between nuclear states in the quest for global disarmament, although he refrained from directly mentioning the issue of Japan's collective self-defense (JapanTimes). The anniversary comes as the country remains divided over Abe's controversial cabinet decision to reinterpret the constitution (AFP), allowing the country's military to defend foreign countries and play a greater role overseas. The 1945 Hiroshima bombing killed around 140,000 people, prompting Japan's surrender in World War II.


"With his sights set on reinterpreting Japan's postwar constitution, Abe has run into considerable domestic resistance. But the changes in Japanese politics run deeper than party rivalry and legislative contention," writes Sheila Smith for CFR.

"In short, the Japanese public appears anxious about separating from the past, but equally convinced of the need to prepare for the future. The debates over amendments to as many as 15 existing bills in the fall and winter will hinge on how well Abe portrays his policies in the latter affirmative context," write Michael Green and Jeffrey W. Hornung for The Diplomat.

"After all, the new interpretation of the peace clause became possible only because so few Japanese people remember what the last war was like. It is hard to see how such forgetfulness will contribute to peace and security," writes Norihiro Kato for the New York Times.


Explore CFR’s Interactive on the Sunni-Shia Divide

Sectarian conflict is becoming entrenched in a growing number of Muslim countries. Tensions between Sunnis and Shias could reshape the future Middle East. Click on the Sunni-Shia Divide to learn more.


City in Xinjiang Bans Beards and Hijabs

A city in China's western Xinjiang province has banned beards and Islamic clothing from public buses, prompting outrage from a Uighur rights group (SCMP). Xinjiang, home to China's mostly Muslim Uighur minority, has seen a spate of clashes between locals and security forces that have killed hundreds in the past year.

This CFR Backgrounder sheds light on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Muslim separatist group founded by militant Uighurs that China has blamed for stoking violence.



U.S. General Killed in Afghan Attack

An insider attack by a suspect believed to be an Afghan soldier killed a U.S. general and injured more than a dozen people, including a German general, at a training center in Kabul on Tuesday (Reuters). Officials said the U.S. general, Major General Harold Greene, was the most senior U.S. military official killed in action overseas since the Vietnam War.

PAKISTAN: Pakistan's air force killed at least 30 militants (PTI) in an attack on the restive North Waziristan tribal region during a military offensive to clear the area of local and foreign militants.



Gaza Ceasefire Holds

A cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian factions including Hamas held into a second day as delegations prepared for Cairo negotiations that aim to produce a longer-term truce (al-Jazeera). International Mideast envoy Tony Blair was in Cairo to meet with Egypt's foreign minister and Arab League officials on Wednesday.

CFR's Elliott Abrams discusses Hamas' financial situation in this new blog post.

IRAN: Iran's foreign ministry said there was still no new information about the Washington Post reporter detained with three others, including his wife and two photojournalists, last month in Tehran (AP).



Ebola Summit Begins

World Health Organization experts are convening in Geneva, Switzerland for a two-day conference to discuss new measures in tackling the Ebola outbreak (BBC). Discussions will include the decision on whether to declare a global health emergency, which could impose travel restrictions on affected areas.

CFR's Laurie Garrett discusses the significance of the WHO meeting and the need for global leadership in confronting the outbreak, on this conference call with CFR's John Campbell.

AFRICA: President Barack Obama held the keynote conference of his three-day U.S.-Africa Summit, convening nearly fifty African leaders with American investors (NYT).



Scotland Debates Independence

Scotland held a televised debate on the question of independence on Tuesday (Guardian), roughly six weeks before a September referendum that will determine whether Scotland breaks its 307-year union with England. The pro-independence camp, the Scottish National Party, has been trailing in opinion polls.

RUSSIA: Russia sharply increased its troop and vehicle presence on the eastern border of Ukraine (FT) in the past few days, raising fears of an invasion to stop the Ukrainian army's recent advances against pro-Russian separatists.

Putin seems to be angling for invasion, CFR's Janine Davidson writes in this blog post.



Brazil Denies Stagflation

Brazil's central bank chief Alexandre Tombini defended Brazil's economy on Tuesday, saying is was far from any "stagflation" and forecasted "reasonable" growth levels in 2015. Some economists and investors have criticized Brazil's mounting inflation and halting growth ahead of the October presidential elections (MercoPress).

UNITED STATES: Government officials announced that three temporary shelters that have housed almost 8,000 immigrant youths at military bases in California, Oklahoma and Texas will close in the next eight weeks (LATimes).



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