Health Care

Advocates React To Mississippi Ban On Abortions After 20 Weeks

The bill signed this week by Gov. Phil Bryant that bans abortions after the midpoint of a pregnancy, and which makes no exception to cases of rape or incest, has quickly provoked adverse reactions from the pro-choice and pro-life communities

A bill signed by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday that bans abortions after 20 weeks with no exception for cases of rape or incest has provoked typically split reactions from the pro-life and pro-choice communities.

“Today is an important day for protecting the unborn and the health and safety of women in Mississippi,” Bryant said after signing HB 1400, which is set to become a law July 1. The bill bans abortion starting at 20 weeks’ gestational age, or since the beginning of the woman’s last period of menstruation. Pregnancies typically last 40 weeks. While the bill doesn’t provide exceptions to women who have been the victim of rape or incest, it does allow women to abort if they face risks of death or permanent injury or “severe fetal abnormalities.”

Bryant’s remarks were echoed by supporters who believe the law is a crucial step for women’s health. “A woman seeking an abortion at 20 weeks is 35 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester. At 21 weeks or more, she is 91 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester,” Dr. Charmaine Yoest, CEO of Americans United for Life, said in a statement. “I commend the leadership in Mississippi who worked together to achieve commonsense limits on dangerous abortion procedures.”

Opponents, however, called the new restrictions “dangerous” and “unconstitutional.” The Center for Reproductive Rights said that instances of abortions after 20 weeks were “exceptionally rare,” claiming only two were performed in 2012.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which deals with reproductive health, while 23 percent of American abortion providers offer abortions at 20 weeks, only 1.2 percent of abortions occur after that point. Still, there has been a recent trend of legislation to bar abortion at that period. Several states including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas ban abortions from the mid-pregnancy point.

But Planned Parenthood claimed that while those bans begin at the point of fertilization — or two weeks after the first day of a woman’s last menstrual cycle — the Mississippi law would start counting the pregnancy at gestation, which they said was typically the 18-week mark of a pregnancy. “Women who make the deeply personal and often complex decision to end a pregnancy after 18 weeks should do so in consultation with their physician, not politicians,” Felicia Brown-Williams, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, told The Clarion-Ledger.

But Diane Deriz, who owns Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, says that the bill would have little bearing on actual abortion practices in the state. “[The bill is] a totally irrelevant piece of legislation that I’m sure was aimed at the clinic,” Derzis, owner of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told the Jacksonville Free Press in March. “The clinic goes to 16 weeks, so what difference does that bill make?”

White House

Watch: Obama Meets ‘Scary’ Humanoid Robot In Japan

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On the second day of his visit to Japan Thursday, President Barack Obama toured the country’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation where he came face to face with the tiny Honda-built humanoid robot ASIMO.

“It’s nice to meet you,” the robot said in a metallic voice, welcoming Obama to the facility. It then proceeded to run around and kick a soccer ball at the commander-in-chief, who deftly stopped it.

But the experience left Obama spooked. He later quipped, “I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike,” he said. “They were amazing.”

Military

Killing of 3 Americans Raises New Questions About Afghanistan and Iraq

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST-HOSPITAL-ATTACK
An Afghan policeman outside Kabul's Cure hospital, where another Afghan policeman killed three U.S. doctors Thursday. SHAH MARAI / AFP / Getty Images

The deaths of three U.S. doctors at the hands of an Afghan policeman raises questions about a continued American presence there

The killing of three U.S. medical personnel Thursday, allegedly by an Afghan policeman guarding their hospital, raises anew questions about the wisdom of a continued U.S. presence there, in uniform, scrubs or any other kind of garb. While U.S. troops may have increased protection after a spate of so-called blue-on-green attacks in recent years, the lifesavers working at Kabul’s Cure International Hospital apparently were slain by a policeman dedicated to their protection.

The murders come as two veteran reporters file on what life is like in Iraq, where the last U.S. troops left in 2011; and Afghanistan, where the U.S. troop presence has shrunk to 33,000, on the way to removing all U.S. combat troops by year’s end.

“Two years after the last American soldiers departed, it’s hard to find any evidence that they were ever there,” Dexter Filkins writes of Iraq in the latest New Yorker. Bombings are a deadly, and everyday, occurrence. Filkins notes that the U.S. started pushing for the election of Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister in 2006, after a Central Intelligence Agency officer recommended him to U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. “Among many Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil war,” he writes, “and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge.”

A total of 4,486 U.S. troops died in Iraq.

Meanwhile, 1,800 miles away in Afghanistan, a unit from the 82nd Airborne Division recently returned and came “looking for a fight.” But it hasn’t happened. “Although they’re still preparing for the worse, the soldiers are discovering that the Afghanistan they left in 2012 isn’t the same country they returned to,” Drew Brooks of the Fayetteville Observer wrote Tuesday. “The job of fighting off insurgents now falls to Afghan national security forces.”

It was a member of those forces who killed the three Americans earlier today.

A total of 2,317 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan.

Two countries, one lesson: there is more than one way to win, or lose, a war.

Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: April 24

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the News: Obama in Japan; FCC proposes 'net neutrality' rules; did Sarah Palin blow the Alaska Senate race; and the 2014 TIME 100

  • Obama to Japan, yes we will defend you [TIME]
  • Overseas, Obama projects a whole lot of nothing [Washington Post]
  • “The Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday that it would propose new rules that allow companies like Disney, Google or Netflix to pay Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers.” [NYT]
  • From The Wall Street Journal: “This latest plan is likely to be viewed as an effort to find a middle ground, as the FCC has been caught between its promise to keep the Internet open and broadband providers’ desire to explore new business models in a fast-changing marketplace. It likely won’t satisfy everyone, however. Some advocates of an open Internet argue that preferential treatment for some content companies inevitably will result in discriminatory treatment for others.” [WSJ]
  • A defiant rancher savors the audience that rallied his side [NYT]
  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that sanctions against Russia need to be “widened and tightened” to prevent the crisis in Ukraine from escalating further on Wednesday [The Hill]
  • Caroline Kennedy says she would ‘absolutely’ back Hillary Clinton if she decided to run for president [ABC News]
  • Georgia governor signs expansive new gun law: “House Bill 60, or the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 — which opponents have nicknamed the “guns everywhere bill” — specifies where Georgia residents can carry weapons. Included are provisions that allow residents who have concealed carry permits to take guns into some bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports.” [CNN]
  • The left’s secret club [Politico]
  • LA Times reports: “The IRS handed out a total of nearly $1.1 million in bonuses in a 27-month period to more than 1,146 employees who had been disciplined for failing to pay taxes, according to an inspector general’s report.”
  • How Sarah Palin threw the Alaska Senate race [Politico Magazine]
  • “Sen. Elizabeth Warren claims she’s not running for president in two years. Of course, President Obama and many others said the same thing before running. But even if she does seek the Oval Office, the Massachusetts Democrat wouldn’t be 2016′s version of Barack Obama in 2008. Still, Warren may be able to transform the policy debate in the way John Edwards did in 2008.” [FiveThirtyEight]

What’s prettier in print: TIME 100 2014

Political highlights

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sen. Rand Paul

Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Congressman John Lewis on Attorney General Eric Holder

Gov. Chris Christie on Gov. Scott Walker

41 women made the 2014 TIME 100 list

 

 

TIME 100

Political Outsiders Shine on TIME 100 List

With Washington, D.C. mired in partisan gridlock, the nation’s political power centers have shifted outside the nation’s capital to statehouses and boardrooms across the country. That migration is reflected in this year’s TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people, where alongside must-mention names like President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are Edward Snowden, Jerry Brown, and Scott Walker.

The admitted National Security Agency leaker and Time Person of the Year runner-up is one of several political figures making their debut on the list. Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists, philanthropists, and Republican donors, and Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist and Democratic donor, earned spots on account of the growing influence of outside political campaign spending on American politics.

Brown, the Democratic California governor who has worked to right his state’s finances, is an established figure on the political stage but eschews the nation’s capital. Republican up-and-comers like Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, and Sen. Rand Paul, are both eyeing runs at the White House built on a disdain for the way business is done in Washington. And New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has built a name for herself taking on the Pentagon and other lawmakers in an effort to reform the way the military handles cases of sexual assault.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes the list yet again, as her consideration of a repeat bid for the presidency locks up the Democratic field and keeps the nation waiting. Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the outspoken officer twice-passed over for promotion, made the list because of his willingness to challenge the military’s conventional thinking. He will soon take over the Army’s command focused on designing the service’s future.

Here is the full list of politicos and the authors of the profiles:

California Gov. Jerry Brown by former California Gov. Gray Davis

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Malala Yousafzai

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) by former New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato

Attorney General Eric Holder by Rep. John Lewis

Secretary of State John Kerry by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

David and Charles Koch by Karl Rove

Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster by Lt. Gen. Dave Barno (Ret.)

President Barack Obama by Joe Klein

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Edward Snowden by Daniel Domscheit-Berg

Tom Steyer by former Vice President Al Gore

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen by International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde

Military

Chelsea Manning: Not the Only Military Name Change

With a stroke of his pen, President Harry Truman finished changing the name of the Department of War to the Department of Defense in 1949. Truman Library

The Pentagon has long replaced names it doesn't like

A Kansas judge on Wednesday allowed Bradley Manning to change the imprisoned Army private’s name to Chelsea Manning. “It’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been—a woman named Chelsea,” Manning said in a statement on ChelseaManning.org.

The name change shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has spent time in or around the U.S. military. The Department of Defense has been known to erase one name in favor of another when it has suited its purposes—and it didn’t need a judge’s approval to do it.

The Army said Leavenworth County District Judge David King‘s ruling is “only a name change” and won’t change Manning’s status. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence at the Army’s all-male Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks in Kansas, for leaking 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks before his arrest in Iraq in 2010.

War always generates an often-foul ground-pounders’ patois, but it’s the top-down rebranding that’s of interest following the Manning case.

For starters, the Department of Defense was known as the Department of War until 1947, when the newly-created (and named) Air Force, along with the Army, gathered under the same roof for the first time with the Navy (the new outfit was known as the National Military Establishment until 1949).

War has always had, not to put to fine a point on it, a specific and violent meaning. With the end of World War II—and the beginning of the Cold War—the U.S. government found itself needing a standing Army for the first time in its history. Replacing War with Defense made the change more palatable.

The Pentagon tends to embrace words that make war seem antiseptic: exploding bullets, bombs and missiles have become kinetic, which is the Pentagon’s preferred way of saying bloody. “When you fire a kinetic weapon, it blows something up—you can see the effect,” Mark Lewellyn of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, explained to Congress last year. “With some of the non-kinetic weapons you don’t really know what effect you’ve had until either the weapon from the other side doesn’t show up or it misbehaves.” Non-kinetic weapons include forms of electronic warfare that disable while not destroying (at least in a physical sense).

Along the same lines, over the past generation, civilian casualties have become collateral damage. When the Obama Administration was weighing military action against Syria last year for its alleged use of chemical weapons, a congressman voiced concern that “the possibility of civilian casualties could be very great” to Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Well,” Dempsey responded, “the targeting requirements actually, as given to me by the president, require us to achieve a collateral damage estimate of low.” Doesn’t hurt quite as much, rhetorically, when stated like that.

In 2010, the Pentagon opted to replace the term Psychological Operations with Military Information Support Operations, which went over like lead leaflets for the psyop troops charged with airdropping them on Afghans and Iraqis far below. But psyops—with its connotations of deception and other black arts—was deemed so tainted that U.S. commanders were leery of working with its proponents.

“Although PSYOP activities rely on truthful information, credibly conveyed, the term ‘PSYOP’ tends to connote propaganda, manipulation, brainwashing and deceit,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in 2010, according to the National Journal. “As a result, a wide range of military-information related activities and capabilities have become tarnished by the term.”

One of the late comedian George Carlin’s wryest bits was the evolution of World War I’s shell shock to World War II’s battle fatigue. The nervous malady wrought by combat became operational exhaustion in Korea, and post-traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam.

“The pain,” Carlin said of the changing nomenclature, “is completely buried under jargon.”

justice

Low-Level Drug Convicts Get New Route to Ask Obama For Clemency

The Obama Administration opens a door for non-violent drug offenders to reduce their sentences

Non-violent federal inmates who have served at least 10 years of their prison term are eligible to participate in a new initiative to send more clemency requests to President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The Obama Administration has been working for years to reduce the sentencing disparities between convictions for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, but sentencing legislation updated in 2010 was not made retroactive. Obama recently granted commutations to eight crack-cocaine offenders who were serving lengthy sentences, but there are thousands more in similar positions, some of who are expected to qualify under the expanded criteria for clemency announced Wednesday. Under the 2014 Clemency Initiative, non-violent, low-level, federal prisoners who would have received a lower sentence if convicted today and have served 10 years in prison with good conduct can be identified and seek clemency through the Bureau of Prisons, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said.

“These defendants were properly held accountable for their criminal conduct,” Cole said. “However, some of them, simply because of the operation of sentencing laws on the books at the time, received substantial sentences that are disproportionate to what they would receive today.

Officials said the new initiative will streamline the process of clemency requests and identify more candidates for Obama to consider. They said the initiative will keep public safety in mind, reiterating that clemency does not mean prisoners are being pardoned for their crimes. “Even low-level offenders cause harm to people through their criminal actions, and many need to be incarcerated,” Cole said.

A number of pro-bono lawyers and organizations, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union have also agreed to work with prisoners who fit the criteria and request legal assistance. The groups praised the administration’s shift on sentencing, while noting there are many other federal inmates whose sentences are disproportionate to their crimes.

“The doors of the Office of the Pardon Attorney have been closed to petitioners for too long,” said Mary Price, FAMM General Counsel. “This announcement signals a truly welcome change; the culture of ‘no’ that has dominated that office is being transformed. We stand ready to assist in any way we can to support petitioners and bring their cases to the attention of the President.”

2014 Election

The Republican Woman Loses, Again

Lizbeth Benacquisto
Lizbeth Benacquisto, facing, hugs supporters after losing to opponent Curt Clawson in the special Congressional District 19 Republican primary during her election night party in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Carolina Hidalgo

It's starting to look like the GOP won't have many female candidates left standing by November

Voters in a Florida congressional district went to the polls Tuesday to elect a new representative following Trey Radel’s resignation this year after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. The winner was millionaire businessman and Tea Party darling Curt Clawson, who self-funded his campaign to the tune of $2.65 million. But the story of who won isn’t much of a surprise: A rich, white Tea Partier is not a new breed in Washington these days. It’s the story of who lost that’s more telling for the GOP: Florida state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Benacquisto was the establishment favorite for the seat and had the most political experience by far. Her supporters in Tallahassee spent almost $300,000 in Super PAC money to help get her elected and she received money from Republican Reps. Aaron Schock and Jason Chaffetz. Not to mention former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came and campaigned for her.

But while she raised almost $1 million in less than three months, Benacquisto couldn’t compete with Clawson’s self-funding. Nor could she keep pace with the nastiness of the special election.

During a midterm election cycle in which establishment candidates are generally beating back Tea Party challengers, it’s striking how many female House GOP candidates have lost primaries or are trailing in both polls and in fundraising. In statewide elections this year, Republicans have succeeded in attracting a host of qualified women who are running strong campaigns. But House candidates continue to lag. To date, House Republicans have 33% less women running this cycle than in 2012.

Theoretically, Benacquisto should have gotten help from Project GROW, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s push announced last year to help elect women. But that program has done little since failing to help Kathleen Peters, a Florida lawmaker, win a primary in another special election earlier this year. And the NRCC’s director of strategic initiatives and coalitions, Bettina Inclan, who ran Project GROW, made a rare mid-cycle jump from the NRCC earlier this month to a Florida consulting firm. Jessica Furth Johnson, the NRCC’s deputy executive director and general counsel, has taken over running to program, according to NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.

As I wrote earlier this week in a story about another neglected female House candidate, highly qualified Republican women are struggling to break through in House races this cycle. Female lawmakers on the state level tend to be more moderate and thus have a harder time competing in highly gerrymandered districts where primaries favor the most conservative candidate. And even if they are as conservative, women candidates also tend to be less bombastic, making it tough to break through on a rhetorical level. “The NRCC doesn’t endorse candidates in primaries,” Bozek says. “We work with all candidates in competitive races put together strong campaigns.”

At this rate, there won’t be many Republican women left standing come November.

White House

Obama’s New Bodyguard: Mr. Issa, Meet Mr. Eggleston

Sara Taylor testifies before Congress
Former White House political director Sara Taylor (R) confers with her attorney Neil Eggleston (L) at a hearing of the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. USA on 11 July 2007. STEFAN ZAKLIN—EPA

The new White House counsel is an expert at managing Congressional investigations in high-profile cases

Perhaps the best indicator of what the final two years of the Obama presidency will be like came Monday with the announcement that Obama had chosen W. Neil Eggleston as his White House counsel.

A former lawyer for Bill Clinton’s White House, Eggleston continues a return of veterans of the 90’s like John Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri to the Obama team. More importantly from Obama’s point of view, Eggleston’s client list over the last 20 years includes top players in some of the messiest, highest-stakes fights in Washington.

Eggleston represented two Clinton administration cabinet officials in corruption cases and Hillary Clinton’s close aide Cheryl Mills during the controversy over Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. He was Rahm Emanuel’s lawyer when former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was being investigated for selling Obama’s vacated Senate seat in 2008-9.

It is his work during the Bush administration that offers the best foretaste of Obama’s final two years, however. During the scandal over the allegedly politically-motivated firing of U.S. prosecutors, Eggleston deftly represented Karl Rove’s aide and former White House political director, Sara Taylor, in negotiations over her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Eggleston was also hired by Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, during the lobbying scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff. Reed served as a pass-through for money from Abramoff’s Indian tribal clients, and Abramoff asked Reed to arrange access to Karl Rove early in the Bush presidency. Once Congress began investigating Abramoff, Reed hired Eggleston to represent him as he cooperated with the Congressional inquiry.

The Obama administration has faced a number of Congressional investigations over the years, including an ongoing one by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa into alleged politically motivated behavior at the IRS. Issa’s committee has charged a mid-level IRS official with contempt of Congress for refusing to testify on Fifth Amendment grounds. Issa previously charged Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt for refusing to provide documents in the Fast and Furious case. Last week, Issa announced he was probing the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to revise questions regarding health insurance coverage, saying the adjustments “could be used in misleading arguments about the coverage impact of the affordable care act.”

If Republicans win the Senate next year, such conflicts between the legislative and executive branches are sure to increase. With Eggleston, Obama will now have one of the best in the business on his end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

White House

Barack Obama Just Ate The Best Sushi In The World

President Obama begins his week-long Asia trip by dining with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the world's only three Michelin star sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, which was popularized by Anthony Bourdain's television show No Reservations

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro.

The unassuming restaurant is located in the basement of an office building off a subway station and seats just 10 people at a time at a long bar. It is owned and operated by Jiro Ono, who turns 90 next year, who has been learning and perfecting the art of sushi since the age of nine, with Jiro’s eldest son, Yoshikazu Ono, pitching in. Their restaurant was popularized by Anthony Bourdain’s television show No Reservations, and gained mythical status after the 2011 release David Gelb’s documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

What makes this sushi so good? First off, the ingredients. Each morning Yoshikazu bikes to the Tsukiji fish market to select fish and seafood to his and his father’s exacting standards. In the film, the restaurant’s tuna dealer (they have a prefered vendor for each seafood variety) scoffs at an array of beautiful tuna, “People say there is good quality here today—there is nothing good here today.” Jiro has his own special rice vinegar for the sushi rice. “It has good body and is both mild and sharp,” the restaurant website explains. “Although its degree of vinegar is high, it does not have that pungent smell of vinegar. This is the perfect rice vinegar for sushi.”

Next, there’s the technique. Jiro’s apprentices train for at least ten years, and don’t slice anything until they first learn how to hold the fish. In the film, Jiro explains how he came to prepare the perfect octopus, saying his apprentices used to massage it for 30 minutes before cooking it. Now, it’s massaged for 45 minutes. The seaweed is hand-toasted over charcoals. Jiro or Yoshikazu hand-form each individual dish, applying just the right amount of soy sauce or salt to bring the seafood closer to perfection.

Jiro has spent decades mastering the proper temperature to serve sushi. The rice is maintained at body temperature, while the toppings are kept different ideal temperatures for the specific preparation. The seafood itself could be marinated or aged for days depending on the specific fish to meet Jiro’s standards.

Finally, the experience. While Obama and Abe were in the restaurant for 90 minutes, the average Jiro meal last little more than 20 minutes. Immediately after each bite-sized dish is consumed, the next is placed on the wiped-down plate. The sushi is eaten with your hands, and there’s no additional soy sauce or wasabi to apply. It’s perfection, as determined by Jiro.

From left: Japan's Prime Minister Shizo Abe fills the glass of U.S. President Barak Obama during a dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant in Tokyo's Ginza district on April 23, 2014.
From left: Japan’s Prime Minister Shizo Abe fills the glass of U.S. President Barak Obama during a dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district on April 23, 2014. Japan’s Cabinet Public Relations Office/Kyodo/Reuters

There is only one menu at Jiro’s restaurant, his. The 30,000-yen Chef’s Recommended Special Course. And the drink list is spare: beer, or Japanese sake (though tea is also served.) Moreover, getting a seat at the restaurant is notoriously difficult. Reservations are taken one month in advance beginning at the first of the previous month and are usually gone in a matter of hours. At current exchange rates, the quick meal puts a large dent in the wallet, costing nearly $300, though this is down from more than $400 when the dollar was weaker against the Yen.

Joining Obama and Abe were US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and national security adviser Susan Rice. On his way out, Obama told reporters, “That’s some good sushi right there.”

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