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Incoming Japanese emperor’s life filled with breaks from tradition

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Crown Prince Naruhito, set to become Japan’s emperor on May 1, is known as an earnest, studious man who wooed and won his ex-diplomat wife, Crown Princess Masako, with a pledge to protect her.

FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife, Crown Princess Masako, appear before well-wishers through bulletproof glass as they celebrate Emperor Akihito’s 74th birthday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan December 23, 2007. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

Naruhito, 59, will not only be the first Japanese emperor born after World War Two and the first to be raised solely by his parents, but also the first to graduate from a university and pursue advanced studies overseas.

He will assume the throne after his father, Emperor Akihito, abdicates on April 30, the first Japanese emperor to do so in nearly 200 years.

“When I think of what is coming up, I feel very solemn,” Naruhito said at his birthday news conference in February.

SELFIES WITH BYSTANDERS

Naruhito, the eldest of three children, was cared for by his mother, Empress Michiko, instead of being raised by wet nurses and tutors. She even sent him to school with homemade lunches as part of parental efforts to make the royal family seem closer to the people.

A student of medieval European river transport, Naruhito spent two years at Oxford University, a time he has described as some of the best years of his life.

Described by some as having a “playful” side, Naruhito posed for selfies with bystanders while visiting Denmark several years ago.

FAMILY DEVOTION

Naruhito defied palace officials to marry Masako Owada, now 55, after she caught his eye at a concert, prompting a years-long courtship during which she rejected his early proposals.

In late 2003, about a decade after their wedding, she largely disappeared from public view, the start of a long struggle with what palace officials termed an “adjustment disorder” brought on by the strains of palace life and demands she bear a male heir. In recent years her public appearances have increased.

At one point, Naruhito shocked the nation with his passionate defense of his wife, saying she had “totally exhausted herself” trying to adjust and that there had been moves to “negate her career and her personality.” His blunt remarks drew a rebuke from his younger brother and sorrowful remarks from the emperor.

Unique in becoming the first Japanese emperor in modern times to not to have a son, Naruhito has been devoted to his daughter Aiko, now 17, and has advocated for men becoming more hands-on fathers – still uncommon in conservative Japan.

WORTHY CAUSES

Naruhito, who espouses environmental causes, has taken part in international conferences on clean water and in 2015 made remarks at a U.N.-linked advisory board on water and sanitation. He has implied that he could work on climate change as well.

Masako has repeatedly said she is concerned about children in difficult situations, including those who are abused or live in poverty in Japan.

“When I think to the days ahead, I don’t know how useful I can be,” she said in remarks released on her birthday in 2018. “But after being by the sides of their majesties for all these years, and looking forward to their future guidance, I will make as much effort as possible to assist the crown prince and work for the happiness of the nation.”

Reporting and writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Malcolm Foster and Gerry Doyle

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Mexican musician Celso Pina, accordion ‘rebel,’ dies at 66

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FILE PHOTO: Mexican musician Celso Pina performs during the Santa Lucia International Festival in Monterrey, northern Mexico September 21, 2008. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican musician Celso Pina, famed as “the rebel of the accordion” for mixing eclectic styles with traditional Colombian cumbia, died on Wednesday of a heart attack in his hometown of Monterrey, his record label La Tuna Records said.

He was 66 years old, according to local media.

With an interest in genres ranging from ska to hip-hop, Pina collaborated with a number of major Mexican rock artists including Cafe Tacvba, Lila Downs and Julieta Venegas. In 2002 his solo album “Barrio Bravo” was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

The composer and singer began playing music with his brothers growing up in Monterrey near the northern border, according to his official website. He picked up the accordion in his late 20s, and, still in Monterrey, learned Colombia’s celebrated vallenato style, central to the bouncy cumbia genre.

“Nobody can resist cumbia,” Pina wrote in his last tweet before his death, ahead of concerts planned in the United States, one of some 30 countries he had toured, according to his profile on the Spotify music streaming platform.

“The rebel of the accordion has left us. His music united Latin American cultures and captivated Americans,” the U.S. Embassy in Mexico wrote on Twitter.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Leslie Adler

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Risk-off environment exposes SA’s weak fundamentals

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The global risk-off environment, brought about by fears of a US recession, has further exacerbated South Africa’s economic woes. “When the tide goes out, you tend to see which countries are exposed in terms of weak fundamentals,” says Annabel Bishop, Investec Chief Economist.

 

In this Investec Focus radio podcast, Investec Chief Economist Annabel Bishop discusses local and international concerns affecting the South African economy.

 

Annabel Bishop on rand volatility

“Typically, you do see quite a bit of volatility in the domestic currency in the middle two quarters of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere summer period, we tend to see heightened sensitivity to global market events.

“So if you have a risk-off event like the recent escalation of trade war tensions between China and the United States and concerns that the FOMC might not cut interest rates as much as previously was expected – those concerns were exacerbated in terms of the market impact and that’s quite typical for this time of the year. This given that trading conditions are fairly thin as the bulk of market traders in the Northern Hemisphere do tend to go away on their summer vacations now.”

Read Annabel’s Rand Note.

On underlying fundamentals for SA currency and markets remaining weak

“When the tide goes out, you tend to see which countries are really exposed in terms of weak fundamentals and of course with the global financial markets seeing a risk-off period, essentially the tide flowing out, then you see some of South Africa’s worries really being exposed, particularly in the run-up to the medium-term budget policy statement.

“That mini-budget we get, halfway through the fiscal year, gives us an update on government finances and of course the great worry around Eskom and its financing – what’s the quantum of debt that’s going to likely be transferred to the South African government balance sheet?”

On the proposed Debt Relief Law

“The worry [with the new Debt Relief bill] for the banking system is that such write-offs can have a significant impact on the banks’ books themselves. Conversely, this comes at a time where debt forgiveness could see some increase in borrowing.”

On an IMF bailout

“The IMF has said that South Africa is not, at the moment, in a situation which would require IMF rescue, which only happens when you go into a balance of payments crisis, so if we were unable to make payments on our government debt, particularly hard currency and foreign payments. South Africa is not deemed to be in that territory at the moment.”

On Brexit’s impact on SA

“There’s been a lot of increased relationships with South Africa in terms of trade. The UK is looking to foster deeper trade relationships and business ties with SA. If we do see a hard Brexit, strong breakaway from the EU for the UK, it will look to foster trade relationships and deals with other countries.”

On a potential US recession

“We have seen concern that the United States might not cut interest rates by as much as needed in the face of what could be a weakening in US economic growth and global economic slowdown.

“If we do see a situation where it looks like the United States will really go into a recession then I don’t think the Fed would hesitate in terms of cutting interest rates. But at the moment the US economy is deemed to be doing fairly well and I think there’s a friction between what the markets expect and what’s been communicated by the FOMC.”

 An interest rate cut from the FOMC?

“Markets are pricing in an 80% chance of a cut in the next meeting which is in September and slightly less than that for October and then perhaps around about 50% in terms of the December cut. Although these probabilities do change quite a bit.” BM

 

 

This article originally appeared on Investec’s FOCUS.

 

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In other news…

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government – mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

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Leeds United 1-0 Brentford: Eddie Nketiah scores winner on home debut

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Eddie Nketiah’s goal was his second in two games in all competitions for Leeds

Eddie Nketiah scored on his Championship debut to earn Leeds United a late but deserved win at home to Brentford.

The 20-year-old, on loan from Arsenal, tapped in from Helder Costa’s square ball within four minutes of coming on as a substitute.

The hosts had the better of the game and victory gave them 10 points from a possible 12, seeing them top the early Championship table on goal difference.

For Brentford, the defeat was their second from their opening four league games and their first away from home, leaving them six points behind the strongest starters.

After a relatively quiet first half, Leeds applied significant pressure in the second and finally found a way past the visitors’ defence thanks to two of their substitutes.

Wolves loanee Costa – who was introduced with 25 minutes remaining – made a good run down the right and played the ball across perfectly for Nketiah to slot home in the middle.

The England Under-21 international, who joined Leeds on a season-long loan deal from the Gunners on transfer deadline day, also scored at Salford City in the Carabao Cup on his Leeds debut on 13 August.

His goal saw pace-setting Leeds add to their early-season away league wins over Bristol City and Wigan, as they claimed their first home victory of 2019-20 after drawing with Nottingham Forest.

The Bees’ best chance arguably fell to Said Benrahma in second-half stoppage time, but he blazed well over the bar after the ball had fallen nicely for him just outside the area.

Sweden centre-back Pontus Jansson – who scored for Leeds in this fixture at Elland Road last term – captained Brentford against his former club following his July move to Griffin Park for an undisclosed fee.

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