Sapporo, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — Searchers used dogs, backhoes and shovels to dig through mud and debris Friday looking for survivors beneath the landslides caused by a powerful earthquake in northern Japan that left at least 16 people dead or presumed dead.
The magnitude 6.7 quake early Thursday unleashed scores of landslides that buried homes in avalanches of soil, rock and timber on the country's northernmost main island of Hokkaido. In Atsuma, a town of 4,600 people, 26 were still unaccounted for.
The landslides ripped through some homes and buried others. Some residents interviewed by national broadcaster NHK described awakening to find their relatives and next-door neighbors gone.
"The entire thing just collapsed," said one. "It's unbelievable."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said nearly half of the nearly 3 million households on the island had their power restored after a day of island-wide blackouts.
"The forecasts are for rain, and that could bring more landslides, so please continue to exercise extreme caution," he said.
The regional government said the bullet train to the provincial capital, Sapporo, was due to reopen later in the day. The city's regional airport also was beginning to resume operations after hundreds of flights had been cancelled, stranding thousands of travelers, due to Thursday's power outage and light quake damage.
Hokkaido is Japan's northern frontier and a major farming region with rugged mountain ranges and vast forests, and its people are accustomed to coping with long winters, isolation and other hardships.
It is sparsely populated compared to the rest of Japan, but disruptions were widespread. Many roads were closed and some were impassable.
In Sapporo, the regional capital and home to 1.9 million people, casualties were relatively light. But damage to some parts of the city was severe, with houses atilt and roads crumbled or sunken. A mudslide left several cars half buried, and the ground subsided, leaving drainpipes and manhole covers protruding by more than a meter (yard) in some places.
"I was on the 9th floor when it hit. I was about to go to sleep. Then, all of sudden, there came a big tremor. I never experienced such big tremor since I was born. So, I was really surprised," Sayaka Igarashi, 20, told The Associated Press.
"People are saying there could be aftershocks. I 'm worried that another big one will hit," said Ryota Kitsui, 29.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters Friday that it would take at least a week to fully restore power to all communities due to damage at a thermal power plant at Tomato-Atsuma that supplies half of Hokkaido's electricity.
"We're trying to do it faster, but it will likely take a week," Seko said. He urged residents to conserve power by keeping lights off, unplugging unused appliances and having family members stay together in one room.
"This will help us to restore power to more places," he said.
The last few months have brought a string of calamities in Japan. The quake came on the heels of a typhoon that lifted heavy trucks off their wheels and triggered major flooding in western Japan, and damaged the main airport near Osaka and Kobe. The summer also brought devastating floods and landslides from torrential rains in Hiroshima and deadly hot temperatures across the country.
New York, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — The coup of publishing a column by an anonymous Trump administration official bashing the boss could backfire on The New York Times if the author is unmasked and turns out to be a little-known person, or if the newspaper's own reporters solve the puzzle.
Within hours of the essay appearing on the paper's website, the mystery of the writer's identity began to rival the Watergate-era hunt for "Deep Throat" in Washington, and a parade of Trump team members issued statements Thursday saying, in effect, "it's not me."
The Times' only clue was calling the author a "senior administration official." James Dao, the newspaper's op-ed editor, said in the Times' daily podcast that while an intermediary brought him together with the author, he conducted a background check and spoke to the person to the point that he was "totally confident" in the identity.
How large the pool of "senior administration officials" is in Washington is a matter of interpretation.
It's a term used loosely around the White House. Press offices often release statements or offer background briefings and ask that the information be attributed to a senior administration official.
The Partnership for Public Services tracks approximately 700 senior positions in government, ones that require Senate confirmation. Paul Light, a New York University professor and expert on the federal bureaucracy, said about 50 people could have legitimately written the column — probably someone in a political position appointed by President Donald Trump.
He suspects the author is in either a Cabinet-level or deputy secretary position who frequently visits the White House or someone who works in the maze of offices in the West Wing. Most of the Cabinet has denied authorship.
Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project, meanwhile, puts the number of true senior administration officials at around 100, defining them as high up in the government and having regular interaction with the White House or the president himself.
Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, tweeted that, based on her experience with the Times and sourcing, "this person could easily be someone most of us have never heard of and more junior than you'd expect."
That would be a problem for the Times, partly through no fault of its own, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, communications professor and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The column attracted so much attention — as much for its existence as for what it actually said — that it raised the expectation that the author is someone powerful, she said.
If the person is not among the 20 top people in the administration, "the Times just gets creamed," said Tom Bettag, a veteran news producer and now a University of Maryland journalism instructor. "And I think it gets held against them in the biggest possible way. I have enough respect for the Times to believe that they wouldn't hold themselves up to that."
It would look like the Times was trying to stir the pot if it were not a high-level person, said Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press."
Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post, told Todd on MSNBC that if the author had come to the Post it would provoke a serious discussion, because the newspaper has not in the past run anonymous op-ed columns. She said no one approached the Post to hawk the column.
"When you give someone anonymity on this, you are putting your credibility on the line," Marcus said.
News organizations have different standards for using information from unnamed sources. Frequently, they try to give some indication of why the person would be in a position to know something — the senior administration official, for example — and why anonymity was granted. In this case, the newspaper considered that the person's job would clearly be at risk and that the person could even be physically threatened, Dao said.
He did not see much difference in the use of anonymity in news and opinion pages.
The Times has long been a target of Trump's vitriol. He criticized the newspaper for printing the column and said the Times should reveal its source for reasons of national security. In an interview Thursday with Fox News, Trump said, "What they've done is virtually, you know, it's treason, you could call it a lot of things."
Dao said, "There's nothing in the piece that strikes me as being relevant to or undermining the national security."
The newspaper maintains a strict policy of separation between its news and opinion side, and the decision to publish the column without identifying the author was made by Dao and his boss, Editorial Page Editor James Bennet, in consultation with Publisher A.G. Sulzberger. The paper's executive editor, Dean Baquet, is responsible for the news side and was not part of the decision.
Few people at the paper know the writer's identity, Dao said, and he could not see any circumstances under which it would be divulged.
The Times' own news story about the column said the author's identity is "known to the Times' editorial page department but not to the reporters who cover the White House."
Trump, in a tweet Thursday evening, posed the question: "Are the investigative 'journalists' of the New York Times going to investigate themselves - who is the anonymous letter writer?"
Indeed, like hundreds of other reporters in Washington, the Times' news staff is trying to find out the writer's name. If the Times learns the identity, it could raise serious questions about the newspaper's ability to protect a confidential source among people who don't know — or don't believe — that one part of the newspaper will keep important information away from another.
"You could write a novel about this," said Jamieson, author of the upcoming "Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President." ''If they engage in successful journalism, at some level they discredit themselves."
Naypyitaw, Sep 07 (AP/UNB) — Myanmar's government on Friday rejected an International Criminal Court ruling that it has jurisdiction to investigate allegations that Myanmar security forces violated international law by driving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from their homes.
The office of Myanmar President Win Myint said Thursday's decision by The Hague-based court was "the result of faulty procedure and is of dubious legal merit."
It reiterated the government's previously stated position that it has no obligation to respect the court's ruling because it is not a party to the treaty that established the institution. It also listed points of law and evidentiary arguments in rejecting approval for the court to make a preliminary investigation.
A special U.N. commission on Monday recommended prosecuting senior Myanmar military officers for suspected genocide.
Because Myanmar is not a member of the international court, some legal experts had contended the court did not have jurisdiction.
But the argument that prevailed, made by court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, was that while the Rohingya were forced from their homes in Myanmar, part of the crime involved them being driven across the border into neighboring Bangladesh, which is a member of the court.
Myanmar's statement Friday said the court's decision "was the result of manifest bad faith, procedural irregularities and general lack of transparency."
It challenged the factual basis of the ruling, contending that "The allegations of deportation cannot be further from the truth."
"Myanmar reiterates that it has not deported any individuals in the areas of concern and in fact has worked hard in collaboration with Bangladesh to repatriate those displaced from their homes."
Some 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh after a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by Myanmar security forces. The report issued Monday by the three-member "fact-finding mission" working under a mandate from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council alleged widespread rights violations, including rape, murder, torture and the burning of Rohingya homes and villages.
Myanmar denies any organized abuses and says the army's operations were a response to attacks last August by an underground Rohingya insurgent group on Myanmar security personnel in Rakhine state.
Earlier this year, Myanmar signed agreements with Bangladesh and U.N. agencies concerning the repatriation of the Rohingya, but it has been dragging its feet in allowing access to U.N. representatives to ensure their safe return.
The Muslim Rohingya have long been treated as outsiders in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
Earlier Friday, the top government spokesman addressed another issue that has drawn international criticism of Myanmar, the sentencing of two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison on charges of illegal possession of official documents.
Zaw Htay said at a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the court's ruling Monday against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo was the prerogative of the judicial branch, and the government could not interfere.
The verdict and sentence caused international outrage. The prosecutors' case was widely seen as based on fabricated evidence, and a key police witness undercut the case when he testified in a pre-trial hearing that the reporters had been set up. The reporters had been gathering evidence of a massacre by security forces of 10 Rohingya in a village in Rakhine state at the time of their arrest.
He also acknowledged that Myanmar had yet to develop adequate media freedoms, saying the country's transition to full democracy has yet to be completed. The country was under military and military-backed rule for more than five decades until the National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, took power in 2016.
Suu Kyi has been criticized for failing to ensure fair treatment of the Rohingya and falling short in implementing democratic reforms.
Rio De Janeiro, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — Jair Bolsonaro, a leading presidential candidate whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others in a deeply polarized Brazil, was stabbed at a campaign event Thursday and suffered serious abdominal injuries.
Police said the suspected attacker was in custody.
Dr. Luiz Henrique Borsato, who performed emergency surgery, said Thursday night that the right-wing candidate was in serious but stable condition and would remain in intensive care for at least seven days. The first round of Brazil's presidential election is Oct. 7.
The doctor said the two-hour procedure stopped serious internal bleeding and repaired most of the damage from the knifing. The candidate will need further surgery within months for a part of his intestines that was temporarily fixed with a colostomy, the surgeon said.
"We can't say when he will be able to leave hospital," Borsato said. "But in the first hours after the surgery his recovery has been very satisfactory."
Numerous videos on social media showed Bolsonaro, who has promised to crack down on crime in Latin America's largest nation, being stabbed with a knife to the lower part of his stomach while campaigning in Juiz de Fora, a city about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of Rio de Janeiro.
At the moment of the attack, Bolsonaro was on the shoulders of a supporter, looking out at the crowd and giving a thumbs up with his left hand.
After the attack, he is seen flinching and then goes out of view. Other videos show supporters carrying him to a car and hitting a man who was apparently the suspect.
Police spokesman Flavio Santiago confirmed to The Associated Press that 40-year-old Adelio Bispo de Oliveira had been arrested in connection with the incident.
De Oliveira was beaten badly by Bolsonaro supporters after the attack. The man was arrested in 2013 for another assault, police said.
Luis Boudens, president of the National Federation of Federal Police, told AP that the assailant appeared to be mentally disturbed.
"Our agents there said the attacker said he was 'on a mission from God,'" Boudens reported. "Their impression is that they were not dealing with a mentally stable person. He didn't expect to be arrested so quickly; agents reacted in seconds."
Bolsonaro's son, Flavio Bolsonaro, initially posted on Twitter that the injury was superficial and his father was fine. However, an hour later he posted another tweet saying the wound was "worse than we thought."
He arrived at the hospital "almost dead," Flavio wrote. "His condition now seems stabilized. Please pray."
A statement from federal police said the candidate had bodyguards. In the videos, Bolsonaro does not appear to be wearing a protective vest. Such measures are rare for candidates in Brazil.
"This episode is sad," President Michel Temer told reporters in Brasilia. "We won't have a rule of law if we have intolerance."
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, is second in the polls to jailed ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been barred from running but continues to appeal.
Despite being a congressman since 1991, Bolsonaro is running as an outsider ready to upend the establishment by cracking down on corruption in politics and reducing crime, in part by giving police a freer hand to shoot and kill while on duty.
While Bolsonaro has a strong following, he is also a deeply polarizing figure. He has been fined, and even faced charges, for derogatory statements toward women, blacks and gays.
He speaks nostalgically about the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship and has promised to fill his government with current and former military leaders.
Earlier this week, Bolsonaro said during a campaign event that he would like to shoot corrupt members of the leftist Workers' Party, which made da Silva its candidate. The comment prompted an immediate rebuke from the attorney general, who asked Bolsonaro to explain that comment.
His vice presidential running mate, Hamilton Mourao, is a retired general who blamed leftists for the knife attack.
Underling Brazil's divisions, people took to Twitter to either to decry the stabbing and ask for prayers for Bolsonaro or to say the candidate had brought it upon himself and even may have staged it.
The top five trending topics in Brazil were related to the stabbing.
Other presidential candidates quickly denounced the stabbing and many of them decided to suspend their campaign events Friday.
"Politics is done through dialogue and by convincing, never with hate," tweeted Geraldo Alckmin, former governor of Sao Paulo who has focused negative ads on Bolsonaro.
Fernando Haddad, who is expected to take da Silva's place on the Workers' Party ticket, called the attack "absurd and regrettable."
The attack comes at a time of increasingly heated rhetoric, and sometimes violence, related to campaigns and candidates.
In March, while da Silva was on a campaign tour in southern Brazil before his imprisonment, gunshots hit buses in his caravan. No one was hurt, and da Silva, who is in jail on a corruption conviction, was not in the vehicles that were hit.
Also in March, Marielle Franco, a left-leaning black councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro, was shot to death along with her driver after attending an event on empowering black women.
It wasn't immediately clear how the attack on Bolsonaro might reshape a presidential race very much up in the air with the front-runner, da Silva, in jail. In many ways, the incident feeds Bolsonaro's narrative that Brazil is in chaos and needs a strong hand to steady it.
"It's likely that Bolsonaro will use the attack to argue his opponents are desperate, that they had no other way to stop him," said Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro's state university.
A handful of Bolsonaro supporters held a vigil in São Paulo on Thursday night, and briefly exchanged insults with leftists. 'They made Bolsonaro a martyr,' said Jonatan Valente, a student. 'I think the left shot itself in the foot because with this attack they will end up electing Bolsonaro.'"
Washington, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — One after another, President Donald Trump's top lieutenants stepped forward Thursday to declare, "Not me."
They lined up to deny writing an incendiary New York Times opinion piece that was purportedly submitted by a member of an administration "resistance" movement straining to thwart Trump's most dangerous impulses.
By email, by tweet and on camera, the denials paraded in from Cabinet-level officials — and even Vice President Mike Pence — apparently crafted for an audience of one, seated in the Oval Office. Senior officials in key national security and economic policy roles charged the article's writer with cowardice, disloyalty and acting against America's interests in harsh terms that mimicked the president's own words.
Trump was incensed about the column, calling around to confidants to vent about the author, solicit guesses as to his or her identity and fume that a "deep state" within the administration was conspiring against him. He ordered aides to unmask the writer, and issued an extraordinary demand that the newspaper reveal the author to the government.
In an interview Thursday with Fox News, Trump said it was unfair for the person to pen the editorial anonymously because there's no way to discredit it.
He suggested it "may not be a Republican, it may not be a conservative, it may be a deep state person who has been there for a long time."
As striking as the essay was the long list of officials who plausibly could have been its author. Many have privately shared some of the article's same concerns about Trump with colleagues, friends and reporters.
With such a wide circle of potential suspicion, Trump's men and women felt they had no choice but to speak out. The denials and condemnations came in from far and wide: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis denied authorship on a visit to India; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke chimed in from American Samoa. In Washington, the claims of "not me" echoed from Vice President Pence's office, from Energy Secretary Rick Perry, from Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman from Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, and other Cabinet members.
The author professed to be a member of that same inner circle. So could the denials be trusted? There was no surefire way to know, and that only deepened the president's frustrations.
On Twitter, Trump charged "The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy - & they don't know what to do."
White House officials did not respond to requests to elaborate on Trump's call for the writer to be turned over to the government or on the unsupported national security grounds of his demand. Some who agreed with the writer's points suggested the president's reaction actually confirmed the author's concerns.
Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney, suggested that it "would be appropriate" for Trump to ask for a formal investigation into the identity of the op-ed author.
"Let's assume it's a person with a security clearance. If they feel writing this is appropriate, maybe they feel it would be appropriate to disclose national security secrets, too. That person should be found out and stopped," Giuliani said.
As the initial scramble to unmask the writer proved fruitless, attention turned to the questions the article raised, which have been whispered in Washington for more than a year: Is Trump truly in charge, and could a divided executive branch pose a danger to the country?
Former CIA Director John Brennan, a fierce Trump critic, called the op-ed "active insubordination ... born out of loyalty to the country."
"This is not sustainable to have an executive branch where individuals are not following the orders of the chief executive," Brennan told NBC's "Today" show. "I don't know how Donald Trump is going to react to this. A wounded lion is a very dangerous animal, and I think Donald Trump is wounded."
The anonymous author, claiming to be part of the resistance "working diligently from within" the administration, said, "Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office."
"It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room," the author continued. "We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't."
First lady Melania Trump issued a statement backing her husband. She praised the free press as "important to our democracy" but assailed the writer, saying, "You are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions."
The Beltway guessing game seeped into the White House, as current and former staffers traded calls and texts trying to figure out who could have written the piece, some turning to reporters and asking them for clues.
In a rare step, Pence's communications director Jarrod Agen tweeted early Thursday that "The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts."
With many prominent administration members delivering on-the-record denials, the focus could now fall on other senior aides to do the same, with questions raised about those who stay silent.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to head off reporters' inquiries of Trump officials, tweeting that the questions should be aimed at the Times, which she said was "complicit in this deceitful act."
The anonymous author wrote that where Trump has had successes, they have come "despite — not because of — the president's leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective."
Down Pennsylvania Avenue, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he did not know of any role Congress would have to investigate, though Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a Trump ally, said the legislative body could take part.
"Nothing in this town stays secret forever, and so ultimately I do think we will find out who is the author," he said.
The writer said Trump aides are aware of the president's faults and "many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them."