Japan Pulls Troops From Afghanistan

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Japanese opposition lawmakers yesterday refused to extend the mission of its support troops, who have been refueling coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since 2001.


Hey, good morning, everyone.

Japan is pulling its support troops out of Afghanistan. Opposition lawmakers in Japan yesterday refused to approve an extension of Japan's mission in Afghanistan, saying it violates the country's pacifist constitution. So Japan's defense minister ordered ships supported - supporting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan to turn around and come home. Japan has refueled U.S. coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since 2001. The move isn't expected to have a major impact on the U.S. operations in Afghanistan, but Japan as America's top ally in Asia. So it's a symbolic blow to the war effort in Afghanistan.

There are reports of new violence in that country today. A nighttime raid in eastern Afghanistan by U.S. and Afghan troops sparked a gun battle that killed three people, including two children. The U.S. military said it's investigating the deaths. Civilian casualties have triggered mass demonstrations and a lot of social unrest against U.S. and NATO forces, though officials blamed militants who used civilian homes as cover during clashes.

And officials in Southern California haven't yet decided whether they'll prosecute a boy who's admitted to starting one of the devastating Southern California wildfires. Conflicting reports about the boy's age put him at either 10 or 12 years old. Officials say he admitted to playing with matches which triggered a blaze that burned more than 38,000 acres last week and destroyed 21 homes. California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke about the case yesterday.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): We just have to be careful and do everything that we can to educate our children that they're not to play with fire and with matches and all this for kids, but especially when it's a dry area. I think the parents have to really be in top of that situation.

MARTIN: The boy admitted to starting the blaze in north Los Angeles County after arson investigators determined the fire started outside his home. Prosecutors say they're reviewing evidence, but they're unsure about bringing charges against the boy, considering it was an accident.

And we move from fires to floods. Tropical Storm Noel has ravaged the Caribbean over the past few days. Now it's threatening Southern Florida. There's a tropical storm warning for coastal Miami Dade and Broward Counties. Noel triggered high surf and winds as it surged towards the Bahamas today. The storm is making its way from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it killed at least 81 people. At least 58,000 Dominicans were forced to flee their flooded homes, and the president of the Dominican Republic has asked for international help with rescue and recovery efforts.

Finally today, the price of oil smashed yet another record yesterday, rising more than $96 a barrel after a surprise announcement of diminished U.S. crude stockpiles. An expected shortfall in American petroleum before winter worried investors and sent prices soaring.

That's the news, and it's always online at npr.org.

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

MARTIN: Luke and Alison, back to you.

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