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News Briefs

Koizumi’s Wins High Marks For First National Address


Voters, economists and political analysts gave Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi generally high marks for his first address to the nation Monday in which he outlined his vision of a Japan that would address problems head-on, be more open and stop wasting money on ill-conceived public works projects.

“I want to establish an economic and social system suitable for the 21st century,” Koizumi, 59, said. In a speech laced with the word “reform,” he also vowed to fight special interests.

Still, many people questioned how their new leader, who rode into office April 26 on a grass-roots call for change, can achieve his ambitious goals with an election looming and adversaries across the political spectrum -- including within his own Liberal Democratic Party -- watching his every move.

“He cannot afford to be timid,” said Takashi Kiuchi, an economic adviser with Shinsei Bank. “The opposition within and outside the LDP is watching very carefully for him to make a misstep.”

Koizumi called for the direct election of Japan’s prime minister, a better social safety net to help the elderly and unemployed and privatization of the nation’s postal savings system.

Administration’s Energy Report To Focus on Long Term Problems


Bush administration officials have begun warning Republicans on Capitol Hill that the energy policy to be released next week will do little to help with gas prices or California blackouts this summer, officials said Monday.

The Energy Department estimated Monday that the price of regular gasoline will range between $1.50 and $1.75 per gallon this summer, a 5 percent increase from the record set last year.

Such forecasts have GOP lawmakers beginning to fear that President Bush’s emphasis on long-term energy supplies could result in furious constituents and consequences for next year’s elections, officials said. Bush’s energy report will focus on developing supplies and not on the crisis in California, according to officials who have read it.

Administration officials pointed out that Bush has taken many steps requested by California Gov. Gray Davis (D), including expediting the permitting process for new power plants.

“We are doing all that we can for California,” a senior administration official said. “California didn’t get into this problem overnight, and they won’t be able to correct this problem overnight. There are unfortunately not a lot of steps the federal government can take to prevent blackouts this summer.”