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2009年8月31日 (月)

衆院選:民主党が単独で308議席獲得 自民は歴史的惨敗


(Mainichi Japan) August 31, 2009
Opposition Democratic Party of Japan wins election in landslide
衆院選:民主党が単独で308議席獲得 自民は歴史的惨敗

The largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) scored a landslide victory in Sunday's general election, capturing more than 300 of the 480 seats in the House of Representatives.

The DPJ is set to take over the reins of government, putting an end to the 10-year-old coalition government comprised of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito (NKP).

DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama will be elected prime minister at a special Diet session expected to be called sometime around Sept. 14, and form a DPJ-led Cabinet.

The ruling coalition suffered a humiliating defeat with its pre-election strength plunging from 331 to 140.

The focal point of Sunday's general election was whether the DPJ would take over the reins of government, or would the LDP-NKP coalition stay in power.

Following the massive defeat, Prime Minister Taro Aso said he would resign as LDP president. "I must assume responsibility (for the election outcome)," he said.

Vote counting began immediately after almost all of about 51,000 polling stations across the country closed at 8 p.m.

The DPJ won 308 seats, the LDP 119, NKP 21, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) nine, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) seven, the People's New Party (PNP) three, the Your Party (YP) five, the New Party Nippon (NPN) one and the New Party Daichi one, while the Japan Renaissance Party (JRP) won no seats. Six independents were also elected to the chamber.

The DPJ suffered a massive defeat in urban areas in the previous Lower House race in 2005. Its current acting leader Naoto Kan was the only winner of a single-seat constituency in Tokyo. But the party won 21 of Tokyo's 25 electoral districts this time.

Of the 480 seats, 300 are allocated to single-seat constituencies (SSC) while the remaining 180 are allocated to proportional representation blocs (PRB).

Voter turnout in single-seat constituencies is estimated to be 69.27 percent, slightly above that in the previous election in 2005, which stood at 67.51 percent. The figure is the highest since the current election system combining the single-seat district and the proportional representation system was introduced in 1996.












毎日新聞 2009年8月31日 2時18分(最終更新 8月31日 3時28分)

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民主党政権実現 変化への期待と重責に応えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 31, 2009)
DPJ must be responsible, live up to expectations
民主党政権実現 変化への期待と重責に応えよ(8月31日付・読売社説)

People's dissatisfaction with the Liberal Democratic Party's politics and their expectation that a new administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan can bring "change" has ushered in a historic change in power in this country.

 The DPJ romped to a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election Sunday, handing the LDP its most devastating defeat since the party was formed.

This is the first time since the end of World War II that an opposition party has won a single-party majority in the lower house and brought about a change in administration.

DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama, who is expected to be named prime minister in the special Diet session to be convened soon, will bear the heavy responsibility of managing the country.


Disappointment and weariness

The largest cause of this sea change in public sentiment lies in the LDP itself.

Policies taken by the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, which espoused the importance of market principles, widened disparities in society, devastated the country's medical and nursing care services and impoverished many rural areas.

Koizumi's successors--Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda--abruptly resigned as prime minister.

Prime Minister Taro Aso, who took over from Fukuda, suffered a string of self-imposed setbacks with verbal gaffes and other blunders that raised questions about his ability to serve as prime minister before he could correct the policy line taken by the Koizumi administration.

The LDP lost its status as the largest party in the House of Councillors after a thumping defeat in the 2007 election. Subsequently, the LDP's support organizations and industrial groups that traditionally supported the party began to increasingly distance themselves from the LDP.

In short, it can be said that the LDP's historic defeat was brought about by the collapse of its structural reforms that went too far, its leaders' failure to live up to their responsibilities and their lack of leadership ability, the alienation of its traditional support base, and weariness and disappointment with the administration that had been in power for a long time.

In addition to criticizing the LDP's failings, the DPJ wooed discontented voters by putting forward policies including support for households, such as a monthly child allowance for families and a gradual phasing out of highway tolls, as well as adopting election campaign tactics that included fielding a diverse range of candidates.

In the previous lower house election, the LDP was blessed with strong and favorable winds whipped up by the postal service privatization debate and the divisions wrought by the party's decision to put "assassin" candidates on the official party ticket to run against those LDP members who opposed the Koizumi-led postal reform drive and were forced off the party ticket.

The winds of change then took a sudden turn, swinging behind the DPJ, which advocates a change in power--and the favorable conditions have remained since the dissolution of the lower house, culminating in heavy damage to the LDP's junior coalition partner, New Komeito, too.

This development should be interpreted as meaning that the overwhelming sentiment among voters was to give the DPJ a chance to hold the reins of power, despite anxiety in the electorate about how a DPJ-led administration might fare.

Despite the DPJ's landslide victory, however, it does not mean voters have given the party an open-ended mandate.


Review election pledges

A new cabinet to be formed by Hatoyama is to carry out policy measures based on the schedule presented in the DPJ's election manifesto. However, the new government should not stick to its "election" pledges so much so as to destabilize people's lives.

Its most important task is to put the Japanese economy, which is now in the process of recovering from a serious recession, on a steady road to recovery. Given the deteriorating employment situation, public spending on economic pump-priming measures must be continued seamlessly.

When drafting the next fiscal year's budget, the new administration needs to give top priority to boosting the economy.

In the realm of foreign and security policy, the change of government will not be accepted as an excuse to tear up international agreements. The new government must seek to achieve consistency in this country's foreign policy and firmly maintain the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Since it does not have a single-party majority in the upper house, the DPJ will start talks soon with the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party about the formation of a coalition government.

One major concern is the huge gap between the DPJ and the SDP regarding their basic policies on foreign and security affairs, including the participation of the Self-Defense Forces in international peacekeeping activities.

A political situation in which a small party can use its casting vote to push around a major party would be extremely harmful. The DPJ should approach the talks determined to scrap plans for a coalition with the SDP if they cannot reach an agreement on fundamental policies.

The DPJ has set a goal of "bidding farewell to bureaucrat-led policy-making."

But the DPJ should not be under the illusion that bureaucrats will dance to the party's tune simply by establishing a politician-led "National Strategy Bureau" or by assigning a bevy of lawmakers to positions within each government agency or ministry.

Lawmakers will be scrutinized for their ability to use bureaucrats to serve their purposes, rather than to act hostilely against bureaucrats. Lawmakers should know that only when they win the trust of bureaucrats will they be able to effectively implement policies.


Can LDP make comeback?

The LDP was formed in 1955 through a marriage of conservative parties to counter the Japan Socialist Party, which in that year merged the rightist and leftist socialist parties.

The ideological clash between the LDP and JSP that was dominant in those days has since evaporated, and the JSP the nation knew then no longer exists. The LDP's crushing defeat in Sunday's election completed the demise of the so-called 1955 political system that centered around the LDP and the socialists.

The LDP must brace itself for an extended period in the opposition camp. The party will need to dust itself off and rebuild itself almost from scratch if it wants to be a viable political party that can occupy the position of one of the two major political parties--together with the DPJ.

The LDP was temporarily ousted from power in 1993 in the wake of money-for-favor political scandals. Since then, it has remained at the helm of the government by forming coalitions with the JSP, Komeito and other parties.

The LDP has been forced by the voters to start over--after having neglected to reform itself.

The party will be pressed to drastically change everything from its political philosophy to its policies and its structure under a new party leader who will replace Aso ahead of the upper house election next summer.

The LDP must present healthy, sound policies and bolster its ability to counter the DPJ-led administration if it wants to be a key player that can level criticism at the government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2009)
(2009年8月31日05時28分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月30日 (日)

衆院選:民主単独で300議席超へ 鳩山政権誕生が確実に


(Mainichi Japan) August 30, 2009
Opposition Democratic Party of Japan set to win election in landslide
衆院選:民主単独で300議席超へ 鳩山政権誕生が確実に

The largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is set to score a landslide victory in Sunday's general election, likely capturing more than 300 of the 480 seats in the House of Representatives, according to Mainichi Shimbun exit polls.

The DPJ is certain to take over the reins of government, putting an end to the 10-year-old coalition government comprised of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito (NKP).

DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama will be elected prime minister at a special Diet session that must be called within 30 days after the polling day under the Constitution, and form a Cabinet.

The LDP is expected to suffer a humiliating defeat, possibly falling short of 100 seats.

The focal point of Sunday's general election has been whether the DPJ will take over the reins of government or the LDP-NKP coalition will stay in power.

Vote counting began immediately after almost all of about 51,000 polling stations across the country closed at 8 p.m.

As of 10:40 p.m., the DPJ had won 243 seats, the LDP 62, NKP 11, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) five, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) two, the People's New Party (PNP) two, the Your Party (YP) three and the New Party Nippon (NPN) one, while the Japan Renaissance Party (JRP) had won no seats. Four independents have also been elected to the chamber.

All winners in the nation's 300 single-seat constituencies (SSC) will be announced by about 1 a.m. on Monday and all those elected in the proportional representation blocs (PRB) will be determined by around 3 a.m.

The voter turnout was 53 percent as of 7:30 p.m., down 2.65 points from the previous election in 2005. However, as the number of those who cast absentee ballots was more than 50 percent more than the previous election, final voter turnout is expected to be above that in the previous election, which stood at 67.51 percent.

A confidence vote among the public for nine Supreme Court justices, who were appointed after the previous Lower House election, was also held simultaneously with the general election.





毎日新聞 2009年8月30日 21時02分(最終更新 8月30日 22時08分)

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語彙は難しいですが、Japan Timesや東南アジアの英字新聞のレベルだと思います。
スタンフォード大学名誉教授Daniel I. Okimoto氏へのインタビュー議事録です。

U.S., Japan need new dimension in bilateral ties

Tokyo and Washington should move to broaden their concept of security and focus their attention on such issues as global warming and aid to Africa, Daniel I. Okimoto, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, said in a recent interview. Such a bilateral approach would help stabilize a world now polarized by poverty, disease and natural disasters, he believes.

A close friend who advises new U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, Okimoto expressed hope that U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Tokyo in November will broaden the scope of bilateral cooperation to include areas such as clean technology.

Following are excerpts:

* * *

Question: How do you feel about the current economic situation and its implications for U. S. security policy?

Answer: We probably have hit bottom and are beginning gradually to climb out of the deep financial and economic hole into which we had fallen. We're no longer facing the threat of a collapse of our global financial system.

But, the financial sector in Europe and the United States remains fragile and the economy still requires massive government spending in order to generate and maintain stable economic expansion. American households have had to overcome deeply in-grained patterns of heavy borrowing and profligate spending. Savings have risen from zero to 4 percent. Corporations have reduced capital investments because consumers are buying less. This has forced the government to step into the demand vacuum and prime the pump.

Even after the United States begins to recover, the recovery will be weak. It will be a "sawtooth recovery," not a V-shaped turnaround. It may take two or three years before America returns to robust rates of steady growth--similar to, say, 1993-2000.

Defense budgets will have to be pared back. In 2008, depending on how you define it, the defense budget was around $540 billion or $550 billion. However, if you include supplemental and discretionary budgets, which cover the full costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the actual defense budget probably amounted to around $1 trillion. That's huge.

Obama scored a small but noteworthy victory when he and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defeated the increase of spending for F-22 fighter aircraft in the budget. But they are going to have to do much more paring. There is plenty of room for spending cuts, but the process will take time. Most weapons systems are multi-year projects, and most of the big ticket items can only be pared down gradually. That said, I do think that it is possible to prune defense spending back down to, say, 5 percent of GDP over time. It's about 7 percent now (if you include supplemental and discretionary budgets).

If the Obama administration can do that--a big "if"--the fiscal impact would be exceedingly positive, because precious, finite resources can be freed up and ploughed back into productive infrastructure investments--like smart power grids, a rapid transit system and the upgrading of our energy infrastructure. If we reallocate resources to, say, clean technology and renewable energies, the U.S. economy could get back on to a robust growth trajectory, which will contribute to both global growth and the protection of the global environment.

Q: What are your views on the threats facing the world today?

A: No international system can be stable if the world economy is not growing and if the gap between the rich and the poor is wide. Unfortunately, global growth has been slowing down and economic inequality within and between nations has been widening.

Consider Africa. The continent is adrift. Much of sub-Saharan Africa is caught in a quagmire of grinding poverty, disease and tribal conflict. The dire problems in Africa cannot be ignored. We simply cannot allow the disproportionate number of failed states in Africa to plunge the continent into anarchy, poverty and warfare.

Take Somalia. It is the prototype of a "failed state," where anarchy reigns, where ordinary people are forced to live with poverty, malnutrition, disease and constant fear of death, and where terrorists and jihadists have emerged. The advanced industrial world cannot stand by idly and allow Somalia to become a refuge for terrorist training and terrorist organizations.

We need to pay more attention to the developmental needs of the African sub-Saharan continent as well as to other parts of the developing world, including South Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, East Europe and Central Asia. We cannot afford to allow whole continents to fall into abject poverty and anarchy. That would be a formula for disaster.

The other area where we confront serious security problems, broadly defined, is environmental degradation. Look at the nature of global warming. What you see already looming on the horizon are slowly rising temperatures, leading to changes in rainfall and soil, volatility in weather patterns, floods, drought, famine, infectious diseases and pandemics. These are huge security problems. They are immediate and real, not hypothetical or statistically improbable. The probability of an outbreak of Avian flu, for example, may be as high as, say, a North Korean nuclear attack. Chinese citizens are more apt to suffer from the debilitating, cumulative toll of severe air and water pollution than they are from a sudden war with Taiwan. And it is not just the desperately impoverished regions of Africa which are vulnerable to the problem of natural disasters, compounded by environmental degradation. Even the fastest growing states, such as the BRICs--Brazil, Russia, India and China--are highly susceptible. The BRICs are sprawling land masses, with teeming populations, crammed together in densely-packed megacities, crowded cities and surrounding urban areas.

Q: How is the Obama administration faring on the domestic front?

A: The Republicans are seeking to avoid political marginalization. They're losing their national base of support. Increasingly, the Republican Party is turning into a shrinking base of conservative, older, white voters and the religious right, concentrated in the South. The Republicans are falling behind in the fastest growing segments of the U.S. electorate, especially young voters between the ages of 18-40, women and minority groups, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans. So, what are the Republicans doing? They're embarked on a negative campaign. Republicans in Congress are voting against almost every piece of legislation that the Democrats sponsor, such as the stimulus package, health-care reform, climate change and regulatory reform. It's clear that the Republicans want the Obama administration to fail. For if the Obama administration succeeds in nursing the economy back to health and in pushing through historic reforms, such as the passage of universal health care, the Democratic Party may ensconce itself securely in power for years to come just as it did under President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

On the health-care issue, we have witnessed a surge of partisan politicking. A great deal of misinformation, exaggerations, distortions and even some outright lies are being spread. For Obama, health-care reform is the defining issue of his administration. Success or failure here will go far in defining Obama's legacy, to say nothing about his chances of re-election for a second term.

If America fails to reform health care, the runaway costs of heath care will threaten to bankrupt the country. It's critical, particularly in the wake of the financial implosion, that we find ways to control our fiscal expenditures. If we don't, American power will be severely impaired.

Q: What are your views on the status of the North Korean nuclear problem?

A: We've been trying to deal with the problem of nuclear proliferation in North Korea since the early years of the first Clinton administration in 1993-94. Unfortunately, we have not gotten very far. Since 2001, in fact, we have backslid. Since 2002, North Korea has developed we don't know how many nuclear weapons, but maybe six to eight. They've further refined their missile delivery capability, the Nodong and Taepodong missiles, and no doubt they have sold nuclear or missile technology--first to Syria, then to Iraq, and now, apparently, to Myanmar (Burma), and maybe to Iran as well.

The nuclear genie has been let out of the bottle. Israel, China, India, Pakistan and now North Korea have entered the ever-expanding circle of nuclear weapons states. Iran is trying to break in, too.

Q: You mean the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime is collapsing?

A: Yes. It's awfully hard to denuclearize a country, or even to cap the number of nuclear weapons of a country, once it has crossed the threshold. The question is: Can the Obama administration find ways of persuading North Korea to give up the nuclear capability that it now possesses? I doubt it. From North Korea's perspective, this is the one weapon of last resort that is indispensable. It is true that with nearly 1 million soldiers and with a hardened heavy artillery capable of inflicting considerable damage, North Korea possesses a formidable conventional force. Yet, with limited supplies and reserves of energy, and with scant financial resources, North Korea would not be able to carry on a conventional war for an extended period, not unless China provides substantial energy supplies. Nuclear weapons also represent a visible symbol of power, perhaps North Korea's sole symbol of "accomplishment," and it is an instrumental means of exercising diplomatic leverage. North Korea's powerful and entrenched military would not be inclined to give up what has taken decades to develop.

Q: What would you suggest the United States should do?

A: First of all, America has to maintain the credibility of its extended deterrence.

If North Korea were to attack, say, South Korea or Japan, we would have to retaliate. We'd have to maintain our credibility in Northeast Asia. Otherwise, our credibility around the world, particularly in the Middle East, would be called into question.

Q: Should the United States do something tangible to enhance the credibility of extended deterrence?

A: Japan and the United States are already taking steps to strengthen the extended deterrence in Northeast Asia, by joint development of ballistic missile defense. This is an expensive and long-term undertaking, but it is essential for Japan to have a system of defense in place against the possibility of a pre-emptive strike from North Korea.

The threat posed by North Korean nuclear capability is not just that of an attack on neighboring nations, it is also the great danger of North Korea's transfer of technology, and possibly nuclear materials, to non-state actors and terrorist groups. Now that is deeply worrisome. It is exceedingly difficult to forestall or prevent the transfer of fissionable materials and missile technology. This is what gives the North Korean nuclear issue an added sense of urgency.

The humanitarian mission undertaken by former President Bill Clinton to secure the release of two American journalists was, in my mind, a very positive development. I believe that the criticism that his visit to Pyongyang represented a kowtowing to North Korea is misplaced. The successful release of the two American journalists doesn't mean that the United States has made a secret promise to repay North Korea in some way. Nor does it mean that the United States has retreated from the imposition of strong U.N. sanctions. Even though the efficacy of sanctions is unclear, the United States is prepared to move forward with the fairly stringent sanctions that the United Nations has approved. The release of those hostages is welcome, but we shouldn't run to the table with North Korea. And we should do it within the six-party talks and not just on a simple bilateral basis.

Q: How should six-party talks function?

A: What we need in the six-party talks is to come up with concrete contingency plans for North Korea, should a major crisis unfold, say, a succession crisis. We need to have an understanding of what steps will be taken (as well as what actions to avoid), with South Korea, Japan, China and Russia. It also would be desirable for the five powers to sit down and discuss the basic framework for a new security architecture in Asia.

Q: How do you think Japan's political situation will affect Japan-U.S. relations if the Democratic Party of Japan takes power on Aug. 30?

A: It will take two elections for any new ruling party to establish an enduring base of power. If there is a change in the political party in power, there will be a period of several years of fluidity before a new structure of political party alignment takes hold.

Q: The DPJ says it would change policies vis-a-vis the United States, for example, re-examining the planned relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to Henoko in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.

A: What I've noticed over the past several weeks is that the DPJ statements have stepped back from commitments to make immediate and far-reaching changes.

They've been backtracking from the positions of ending the refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and of moving quickly out of Futenma. What the DPJ leaders appear to be seeking is a smooth, seamless transition, where bilateral issues don't get entangled with domestic reform priorities.

They may be taking on too much, if they try to renegotiate the Status of Forces Agreement, while at the same time trying to reduce the power of the bureaucracy or to remedy the problems of Japan's pension system. That would be a formula for over-extension.

I think they will probably come into office and assess the political and economic situation, engaging in a dialogue with the Obama administration, and, over time, develop a concrete plan of action.

Q: What are your views on the overall status of our bilateral relations?

A: I think that it's in satisfactory shape. Of course, there are areas where it could be upgraded. What I would like to see is a broader concept of security agreed upon by both states. It would be desirable for more attention and resources to be devoted jointly to environmental issues, clean technology and the alleviation of international poverty, hunger, infectious disease, natural disasters, anarchy, piracy and genocide. Bilateral cooperation in these areas could be strongly stabilizing as well as good for the global political economy.

Q: What is the primary objective of Obama's visit to Japan in November?

A: He has only one day in Japan. I think that the main goal would be to introduce himself to the Japanese leadership--whomever is in power at the time, and to reach out and connect with the Japanese people.

Obama is one of those once-in-a-lifetime political figures who possesses the rare gift of charisma. This enables him to galvanize public support, and indeed, widespread enthusiasm and passion everywhere he travels, whether it be to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or in Asia. It would be great to see him weave his charismatic magic in Japan. If he does, it would expand the degrees of operating freedom. Obama could propose a vision of bilateral cooperation in, say, clean technology, and this could open up multiple avenues of bilateral cooperation, both in the public and private sectors.(IHT/Asahi: August 25,2009)

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視点論点/かよこ なかばやし: 障害者を介護士に育成しよう

caregiver 介護士
deaf 耳の聞こえない
mute 話す機能障害のある
job-hoppers 職業を転々とする人々

POINT OF VIEW/ Kayo Nobayashi: Train people with disabilities to be caregivers
視点論点/かよこ なかばやし: 障害者を介護士に育成しよう

Japan's dire shortage of nursing care providers is drawing much attention.

Measures aimed at alleviating the shortage include importing care workers and nurses from Indonesia from last year and the Philippines from May. The Indonesian group began working this year after receiving language and other training.

Moreover, Japanese workers who lost jobs in the recession have been invited to recruitment sessions by welfare facilities hoping they will consider working in nursing care. Wages for caregivers are expected to be raised.

Still, it remains to be seen how effective such moves will be to meet the growing need for care workers.

As a social worker, I have long experience in the fields of medical care and nursing. One thing I have learned is that having an aptitude for the job is important for anyone doing such work.

As the director of an elder-care home, for whom I have great respect, once said to a group of prospective employees: "Regrettably, nursing-care work is not for everyone. Some people are just not cut out for the job."

I agree. Caring for others in need of help is a vocation. It is not the sort of work that job-hoppers should do if they simply want to earn enough to make ends meet while they look around for something that pays better.

Speaking of aptitude, when I look around, I notice many disabled people who are vigorous, sincere and considerate. Many such people have varying levels of disabilities, and of course, some are unable to work because of their disability.

However, many others are strong enough and capable of handling the job of nursing-care worker.

Generally speaking, people with disabilities are socially vulnerable. For that reason, they tend to be able to better understand the pain that others feel and are inclined to be kind and caring.

With some support, I believe many such people can be hired to work in nursing-care services.

Society today mistakenly believes that all people with disabilities are incompetent and unable to handle the work of a caregiver. This is definitely not true.

For example, in the Kansai region, people with hearing impairments, known as "deaf-mute helpers," are employed as caregivers for the elderly. People with intellectual disabilities also work alongside certified care workers after undergoing training to be an assistant. Still, there are only a few such cases.

Unfortunately, most disabled persons find no opportunities to receive training to become home-care workers or certified care workers, and few facilities hire them. While there are many relatively energetic, young disabled people who could easily do such work, nursing is not a career option for most of them.

In Sweden, the state-backed company Samhall AB employs people with disabilities. It trains such employees to work as care workers and runs services for the elderly staffed by disabled people. Japan would be wise to adopt a similar system of support.

Under the Services and Support for Persons With Disability Law that came into force in April 2006, employment support for disabled persons is an important theme.

If the government is serious about this, I urge it to create more opportunities for disabled persons to acquire the qualifications needed to become care workers and to support places where they too can work as members of the nursing workforce.

Moreover, care workers can also learn much from their disabled colleagues. Disabled people deserve wider career choices and opportunities for self-realization.

* * *

The author is a certified social worker.(IHT/Asahi: August 29,2009)

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(Mainichi Japan) August 30, 2009
Japan needs distance from U.S., China -- not U.S. military might

There is no question about the fact that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the core of Japan's diplomacy. However, the structure of current Japan-U.S. relations is distorted, with too much emphasis placed on the military aspect.

The new administration formed following Sunday's House of Representatives election will be required to redesign the Japan-U.S. ties that form the basis of Japan's diplomacy, based on the international situation at the beginning of the 21st century, which is characterized by both multi-polarization and non-polarization.

Japan has been unable to reshape its relations with the United States owing to the destabilized domestic political situation in the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War, followed by the rise of China and the coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001.

Tokyo has strengthened its military relations with Washington on the grounds that it has no choice but to follow in U.S. footsteps, which put Japan in confrontation with China. However, the United States has chosen "constructive engagement" rather than confrontation when it dealing with the China itself. Therefore, Washington will find value in Japan if it is trusted by all of Asia, including China.

Japan is required to not strengthen its martial relations with the United States but place an appropriate distance from the U.S. and China, while clearly asserting its own standpoint. To that end, Japan should create a specific plan to gradually reduce the number of U.S. bases in Japan and revise the bilateral status-of-forces agreement without creating a military vacuum in Northeast Asia.

The Cold War structure has collapsed and 64 years have passed since the end of World War II. We are supposed to come back to the common notion that it is abnormal that foreign forces are continuing to stay in Japan. (By Jitsuro Terashima, honorary chairman of the Japan Research Institute)

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きょう投票 1票が日本の進路を決める

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 30, 2009)
An election that will chart Japan's future course
きょう投票 1票が日本の進路を決める(8月30日付・読売社説)

Which political party and which candidates should be entrusted to take the helm of this nation?
Today, Aug. 30, is the polling day for the 45th House of Representatives election. It is an election that will determine Japan's future path.

Voters must choose whether to continue under the current administration of the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito, or to switch to a new administration centered on the Democratic Party of Japan.

The election campaign has focused not only on a straight evaluation of the accomplishments and policies of each party. Voters also have had to weigh up which party most deserves to govern.

The LDP had to fight the election campaign in the face of a strong voter backlash.

After an overwhelming victory in the lower house election in 2005 under the administration of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the premiership changed hands three times, passing to Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda and then Taro Aso. The party was subject to persistent criticism for passing the reins of government from one party head to another.

Since taking power in September, Prime Minister Taro Aso showed himself to be inconsistent and indecisive at a number of crucial moments, such as when he failed to explain what the flat-sum cash benefit program was meant to achieve. Each time he floundered, he pushed down the LDP's approval rating.

For the DPJ, doubts have been raised over its ability to govern due to its composition--a motley collection of politicians from different parties ranging from conservatives on one side of the political spectrum to former members of the now-defunct Japan Socialist Party on the other.
In addition, some observers have expressed caution over the party's desire to form a coalition with the Social Democratic Party, which has very different national security policies from the DPJ.


Vote on policies, not feelings

Some observers have said that the vote likely will reflect dissatisfaction with the LDP or anxiety over the DPJ, rather than voters' active decision to continue with an administration formed of the LDP-Komeito coalition or move to one centered on the DPJ.

However, the results of the lower house election will have a direct bearing on this nation's future.
It cannot be correct to decide which party and politician to choose simply on the basis of one's discontent, anxiety or a fleeting emotion.

Policies must, first and foremost, be the key criteria for deciding who to vote for.

Each party conducted its campaign by first drawing up a platform covering the policies each would implement during the four-year House of Representatives term.

Policies on pensions, health care, child-rearing and education, which are of great interest to voters in this nation that is rapidly aging and has a very low birthrate, as well as funding for those policies, surfaced as major issues in the election campaign.

The LDP stressed it would introduce drastic reforms of the taxation system, including an increase of the consumption tax rate, to provide stable financing for the social security system. The LDP did not clarify when it would raise the consumption tax, saying only that it would occur after the nation achieved 2 percent year-on-year economic growth.

The DPJ listed many schemes that would provide direct payment of benefits to households as a way of boosting spending, such as child-rearing allowances. It said it would fund the measures by cutting spending in other areas, for example suspending nonessential projects. The party said it would not raise the consumption tax rate before the next lower house election.


Leadership important

Differences among the two key parties in the fields of diplomacy and national security are conspicuous, such as whether to press on with the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

It is important to calmly assess the persuasiveness of each party's policies. We hope voters will thoroughly examine each party's stance.

Choosing between the party leaders is as important as choosing policies.

If the LDP and Komeito secure a majority in the lower house, Aso will hang on to the premiership. If the DPJ and other opposition parties take a majority of the seats, DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama will be appointed prime minister.

Aso has criticized the DPJ's foreign and security policies as lax, stressing at the same time that only the LDP is able to govern responsibly.

Hatoyama, however, has said that a bureaucrat-led political system would continue if an LDP-led regime continued, and has pointed to the importance of a shift to an administration led by the DPJ, which he said would be more people-focused.

Unless the lower house is unexpectedly dissolved or the prime minister is replaced, this lower house election will select a leader who will guide this nation for the next four years. We hope that voters will consider the remarks Aso and Hatoyama have made during the election campaign.


Will the young vote?

In the polling booth, voters have to write down on the ballot paper the name of the political party they wish to vote for in the proportional representation block and the name of their preferred candidate for the single-seat constituency. The qualifications of each candidate to be a lawmaker is an important element to consider when making this judgment.

If a candidate was an incumbent lower house lawmaker prior to the dissolution of the Diet, his or her past achievements and Diet performance can, of course, be used to make this decision. If a candidate is running for the first time, voters are recommended to carefully study the candidate's political views contained in public bulletins published during campaigning.

In a democracy, ultimate power rests with the people. We hope each voter will cast his or her vote responsibly, after comprehensively judging each party's policies, each party leader's competence and each candidate's insight.

The number of people who already have cast their ballot in early voting prior to Sunday's lower house election has dramatically increased. This indicates high interest in the election. A recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey showed that 79 percent of those polled said they definitely would vote.

Among those in their 20s, however, the figure stood at just 56 percent. It is extremely regrettable if younger people feel that "politics won't change even if we vote" and have given up hope.

Social security system reform and job-creation measures, which once again emerged as major points of contention in the election, are issues that no one can remain indifferent to.

We hope young people will go to the polls and exercise their right to choose their future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2009)
(2009年8月30日01時15分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月29日 (土)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 28(IHT/Asahi: August 29,2009)
EDITORIAL: Revamping education

The basis of economic strength is "people." It was also hardworking, competent personnel who supported Japan's postwar growth.

When students finish school, they get jobs. Once they join companies as full-time employees, they are taught the basics of work. It was a matter of course for workers to stay with the same company until they reached retirement age.

However, there is no way young people today can follow such a life model--even if they want to. Forty percent of university graduates who find jobs quit within three years. The ratio is 50 percent for those who start working after high school. Ten percent of university graduates neither land jobs nor go on to a graduate school and remain unemployed. This is the harsh reality of recent years.

Companies can no longer afford to train young people on their own. With economic globalization, desired skills have become diversified. In order for Japan to survive, society as a whole needs to train people who can support the next generation and break new ground. For that, educational systems need to be drastically re-examined.

Also due to intense competition from newly rising countries, Western industrialized nations are allocating a large portion of their budgets for education. The average educational budget for members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is 5 percent of gross domestic product. The ratio for Japan is only 3.4 percent.

In many Western countries, high school tuition is free. Scholarship systems are also available to university and graduate students.

In particular, Finland, which produces good results in the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment, carried out a major educational system reform and provides high-level education for almost free from the elementary to university levels. The country is also known for its narrow gaps in children's academic performance.

In Japan, gaps in children's scholastic abilities and the schools they attend are getting wider, depending on the income of the parents. If the gaps become fixed, it would greatly undermine the vitality of society.

To provide adequate educational opportunities to children from poor families, the quality of public education must be raised as a first step. In order to provide detailed instructions to meet the needs of individual students, classes need to be small. The number of teachers and their skills must also be raised.

While there are differences in national circumstances and educational systems among countries, Japan is urged to at least raise the ratio of its educational budget to GDP to the average level of industrialized countries. While fiscal demand for welfare also keeps swelling, politicians need the determination to make a bold investment for the future.

Money is not the only thing needed for development of human resources. The awareness of schools and teachers must also change. They need to change their inward-looking mind-set and turn out young people who can challenge the world.

For Japan to build an economic bloc to live together with Asia, the country should drastically promote internationalization of universities and increase the number of foreign students they accept.

In many industrialized nations, it is possible for workers to return to university and graduate school and advance their careers, making use of the knowledge, skills and qualifications they gained. Japanese society also needs to develop such mobility and flexibility.

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 28(IHT/Asahi: August 29,2009)
EDITORIAL: Thaw in Korean tensions

The recent death of former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who devoted himself to reconciliation and peaceful coexistence with North Korea, has led to a resumption of dialogue between the two countries. The development would have pleased Kim.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il sent a delegation led by a close aide to South Korea to offer condolences. South Korean President Lee Myung Bak met with it.

Currently, Red Cross officials from both countries are trying to arrange reunions of families separated by the division of the Korean Peninsula. The family reunion program was put on hold last year.

We will be delighted if progress on this humanitarian issue serves as a catalyst for better North-South relations, which had been steadily deteriorating since the inauguration of the Lee administration.

North Korea reacted angrily to the U.N. Security Council's decision in June to impose new sanctions to protest Pyongyang's second underground nuclear test. As tensions escalated, fears were voiced of a possible military clash between the two Koreas.

Earlier this month, however, Pyongyang welcomed former U.S. President Bill Clinton's flying visit to secure the release of two American journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegally crossing over into North Korea from China. The reclusive regime has also released a South Korean worker it had detained.

North Korea has shown a willingness to allow regular visits by South Korean tourists to Mount Kumgang on its eastern coast and the ancient city of Kaesong. The North stopped permitting such visits last year.

It would appear that North Korea has ulterior motives for its "smile diplomacy."

Economic progress is needed to lay a solid foundation for the leadership of Kim Jong Il's successor.

North Korea can earn precious foreign exchange by promoting tourism and revitalizing the Kaesong Industrial Park, which was developed to attract South Korean investment.

Pyongyang is also aiming to entice the United States into holding bilateral talks by improving its ties with Seoul.

Despite these positive moves, we cannot welcome North Korea's attempts to alter the situation unless it takes specific steps toward abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

Things have changed dramatically since Kim Dae Jung promoted his "sunshine policy" of engagement with the North.
In the ensuing years, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and continued its development of ballistic missiles. In addition, suspicions have surfaced that it provided nuclear arms technology to Syria and Myanmar (Burma). The situation now is far more serious.

So Lee only did what he was expected to do when he made it clear to the North Korean delegation that large-scale economic cooperation between the two countries was possible only if the North made a significant move toward abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

There was nothing new in the North Korean leader's message to Lee conveyed by the delegation. Pyongyang is making no significant concession by agreeing to the resumption of the family reunion and tourist programs, which won't cost the regime a thing.

Meanwhile, North Korea reiterated its refusal to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program when Wu Dawei, China's vice foreign minister, who chairs the talks, visited the country earlier this month to persuade the regime to change its stance.

North Korea should be criticized for making absolutely no effort to make a positive response to international calls for it to scrap its nuclear weapons program.

It should realize there can be no change in the basic situation unless it demonstrates a commitment to returning to the table of six-party negotiations and honoring the promises it made in the past.

There should be solid consensus among Japan, the United States and South Korea on this point. The three allies should also seek closer cooperation with China and Russia on issues concerning North Korea.

With the likelihood of a change of government in Japan, Tokyo will need to develop a robust and coherent diplomatic strategy for dealing with the unpredictable regime while monitoring its moves for any important change.

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遠心力 centrifugal forces
重心 center of gravity

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 22(IHT/Asahi: August 24,2009)
EDITORIAL: Bolt flashes to more world records

The man was in a totally different league from the other competitors. He ran with unparalleled speed down the bright blue track.

At the World Athletics Championships, Jamaican Usain Bolt won the men's 200 meters in 19.19 seconds, soundly beating his own world record of 19.30 seconds by 0.11 second.

This was his second victory following his world record of 9.58 seconds in the 100 meters. The American silver medalist at the Beijing Olympics, Shawn Crawford, who finished fourth, called Bolt a gift to the world and a blessing to the sport of track.

Even his competitors cannot help but forget their bitterness and sing his praises. Bolt is that astounding.

His amazing run in the 100 meters was stunning, but his performance in the 200 meters was also spectacular.

While the 100 meters record had been broken frequently over the years, it had been difficult to establish a new world record in the 200 meters. New records have been established about once a decade.

This is because in the 200 meters, the athletes must run the first 120 meters around a bend and then finish with a straight sprint. They are required to cope with centrifugal forces from the start, while accelerating at the same time, which requires incredible skill.

In 1996, Michael Johnson of the United States ran the 200 meters in 19.66 seconds, beating the previous world record for the first time in 17 years. One month later at the Atlanta Olympics, he beat his own record, clocking 19.32 seconds in front of 80,000 people. Johnson's performance was simply awesome. People called him "superhuman," and said his record wouldn't be broken for a century.

However, Bolt beat Johnson's record at the Beijing Olympics last year, and beat it mightily yet again at the latest games.

Johnson is 185 centimeters tall, but has a long torso and his center of gravity is quite low. His physique was thought to be ideal to resist the centrifugal forces while running the curve, and therefore perfect for the 200 meters race. In contrast, Bolt is 196 centimeters tall and has long legs. Yet his physique, thought to be unsuited for the race, caused him no problems at all, and he blazed to the finish line.

Before the start Bolt kids around, making faces and funny gestures. So much so that we worry that he's too relaxed. But being relaxed is exactly the source he taps to unleash fully all of his powers.

The Jamaican sprinter's running form is different from the conventional style that keeps the upper body still. From the front, we can see Bolt swaying his upper body first in an S-curve, then swaying backward in a counter-S curve. As a result, his four limbs lithely snap forward. It is as if he is a wild animal. His running style presumably converts his form into propulsion in a highly effective manner.

Bolt said that he sets no limits and that anything is possible.

Despite his height, which was believed to be unsuitable for short races, Bolt established world records, defying conventional wisdom.

After Bolt, there will come a time when it is not unusual to see sprinters over 190 centimeters tall take their marks at the starting line. And the day will come when Bolt's own record, which seems so amazing now, will be broken.

Sprints starkly highlight the abilities and limitations of humans. Bolt's running reminds us of the unlimited possibilities in human beings.

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The author is an Asahi Shimbun reporter covering the economy.(IHT/Asahi: August 27,2009)
POINT OF VIEW/ Tetsuya Nozawa: We must tear down barriers and help each other

Prime Minister Taro Aso, who insisted "the economy comes before Diet dissolution," will finally see his government tested by voters in Sunday's Lower House election.

Aso surely had hoped his government's generous pump-priming measures would eventually bolster his Cabinet's public approval ratings from their dismal levels.

But to the contrary, most people apparently feel that lavish handouts, while good for temporarily improving the economy, will not be enough to ensure good times return. This wide gap in perception is likely what is behind Aso's slumping approval ratings.

As a reporter for a series called "Kohin Shakai" (society with collapsing public systems), which focused on mutual support across our society, I spoke with many people struggling to make ends meet amid the recession. It has run in the vernacular Asahi Shimbun for slightly more than a year.

A hungry 33-year-old man who lost his job at Oita Canon Inc. was walking on the street near the company dormitory complex that he would soon have to leave. "If I collapsed inside my room, I would not be saved," he said.

A 66-year-old man, on welfare and living with other homeless people at a shelter run by a nonprofit organization, had this to say: "All I can do is merely try to stay alive until I die."

At the other end of the spectrum were parents devoting themselves to their children's junior high school entrance examinations, hoping to ensure their offspring are "winners in life," and rich people intent on saving inheritance taxes.

While a growing number of people are out on the streets with no means to support themselves, those who live comfortably in "safety zones" are building higher walls around themselves.

Our society has lost its mutual support systems. What it needs most is not a government that doles out fixed benefits to encourage spending or tax reductions to encourage people to take out housing loans. What Japan needs is to transform itself from a nation that believes in the "growth myth" to a nation that can sustain itself.

We need to recover our spirit of mutual aid and cooperation, establish an environmentally friendly, sustainable economy and work to build a society in which our children can have hope. In short, we need to place precedence on sustainability, even at the cost of forgoing immediate growth.

What concrete steps will help us reach this goal?

The top policy priority of politicians must be to fight poverty. Instead of simply shoring up the social safety nets, lawmakers must take positive steps to ensure poverty does not become entrenched. Such steps include, for example, upgrading and expanding public education and job support for young people.

If the budgets needed for such measures are covered by increases in inheritance and gift taxes, it would also help ease the "inheritance of disparities" passed down from parents to children.

Generous support for child care is also important. To help finance such programs, outdated tax systems--

including deductions for spouses that benefit workers whose spouse is a full-time homemaker or works part-time more than it helps double-income households--should be reviewed or scrapped.

The current business world exploits workers and deprives them of happiness and the chance to earn a reasonable living, and thus needs transformation. If "sustainability" is the new yardstick of values, it would also be reasonable to apply the brakes from time to time.

For example, if businesses in the same trade take turns to stay open late at night or on holidays, we can be one step closer to becoming a user- and eco-friendly society.

The manufacturing industry can absorb the impact of economic downturns by shortening work hours instead of slashing jobs. In Germany, workers can bank their overtime work as "savings" that can be "withdrawn" a few years later as holidays. Perhaps Japan can consider a similar program.

What about individuals? In view of Japan's rapidly aging society, tax increases may be inevitable.

However, to avoid drastic tax hikes, people in the private sector also need to take the initiative to share public functions by chipping in what they can. For example, people who volunteer to work in nursing, child care and other areas to help others should be rewarded with points that they can later use when they find themselves in need of nursing and medical services.

Such a system of mutual exchange is well worth considering.

We can all help by using our free time to tutor neighborhood children with their homework or to shop for elderly neighbors, for example. We should tear down our fences and do what we can to help each other.

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社説:NOVA判決 消費者被害に歯止めを

(Mainichi Japan) August 28, 2009
Nova ruling puts spotlight on Japan's consumer affairs
社説:NOVA判決 消費者被害に歯止めを

Nozomu Sahashi, the former president of collapsed English language school operator Nova, was recently handed a three-year six month prison sentence in a ruling at the Osaka District Court.

Sahashi was convicted of embezzlement in the conduct of business, by misappropriating money from an employees' fund to cover payments for cancelled contracts. Nova had collected some 56 billion yen in advance from around 300,000 students, in one of the biggest cases of consumer damage in Japan's postwar history.

The former president has no assets, and even if bankruptcy proceeding are undertaken, there appears to be no prospect of students having their lesson fees returned. The fact that relief from the damage cannot be obtained by pursuing the criminal responsibility of the company's operator is a consumer problem -- and a governmental lapse.

If Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which has jurisdiction over the industry, had taken a more serious view of the problem of canceled contracts and had quickly issued an administrative order against Nova, it is possible the damage could have been reduced. However, the ministry, the government body responsible for nurturing industry, was not greatly concerned with the damage caused to consumers and left the problem unaddressed.

The imminent formation of a consumer agency is based on reflection on this kind of problem. The agency is designed to be a kind of consumer administration control tower, intended to aggregate information on consumer problems like fraudulent sales methods and accidents involving common products -- such as the carbon monoxide poisonings caused by water heaters produced by Paloma -- and solve these issues.

The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan had received complaints from students about Nova's handling of cancelled contracts, such as its lowering of the amount of lesson fees returned, for more than a decade. In 2002, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government issued an administrative order to the company, but the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry sided with Nova's claim that cancellation of contracts was made at the convenience of consumers. This effectively gave Nova an official stamp of approval and the company expanded its business while receiving lesson fees in advance without taking profit into consideration.

Later, the company was hit with a succession of lawsuits from students who demanded the return of their lesson fees. In April 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that provisions demanding heavy compensation for terminated contracts are invalid.

Just before the ruling, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry had finally carried out a spot inspection at Nova on suspicion that the company was violating the Specified Commercial Transaction Law. In June 2007, the ministry judged that Nova had violated 18 provisions of the law, which pertain to procedures for cancelled contracts, and issued a business suspension order against the company. The move was an echo of the judicial decision.

The government's consumer promotion administration council, which had been considering the series of incidents involving the company, had made recommendations regarding establishment of a system to quickly transmit information on damage and a mechanism enabling administrative authorities to respond swiftly. It is envisioned that Japan's new consumer agency will have the authority to quickly conduct spot inspections at businesses and issue warnings and other administrative instructions, while bringing together information that had previously been held by various related government ministries and agencies.

The Liberal Democratic Party's House of Representatives election manifesto promises that the party will radically strengthen regional consumer administration, while the opposition Democratic Party of Japan promises to improve working conditions for regional consumer affairs consultants. Due to economic difficulties, the budget for consultation counters at consumer affairs centers is decreasing, along with the number of staff. Reinforcement of consultation counters is indispensable for the task of comprehensively releasing information and responding quickly to the issue, and the new government administration must quickly implement support measures.

毎日新聞 2009年8月27日 東京朝刊

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雇用と物価 デフレに至る悪循環を防げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 29, 2009)
Deflationary pressures must be nipped in bud
雇用と物価 デフレに至る悪循環を防げ(8月29日付・読売社説)

Utmost caution must be exercised to prevent falling prices and the worsening employment situation from allowing deflation to take a vicelike grip on the nation's economy.

The nation's key consumer price index in July fell 2.2 percent from a year earlier, marking the first fall in the 2 percent range in the postwar period.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in July climbed to a postwar high of 5.7 percent, up 0.3 percentage point from the previous month.

The worsening employment situation is eroding workers' incomes. Tightening the purse strings at home leads to sluggish sales of products and, in turn, to falling prices. As companies struggle with falling sales, they resort to restructuring and other measures to cut costs, exacerbating the grim employment situation. The latest government figures on prices and employment show that a vicious cycle of deflationary pressures is becoming increasingly real.

Whichever party takes power after Sunday's House of Representatives election, the new administration must do everything it can to arrest these deflationary pressures and boost the economy.

The sharp price falls are due mainly to the drop in oil prices that soared last year. Gasoline prices fell as much as 30 percent from last year, lowering overall prices about 1 percent.

But prices, excluding those of energy-related products, fell 0.9 percent. The rate of fall was about the same as that in fiscal 2001 during a serious deflationary period.


Domestic demand weak

The current deflationary trend should not be waved off as a temporary phenomenon caused by the correction in oil prices after they skyrocketed last year. Rather, weak domestic demand should be considered the major cause of falling prices.

The nation's real gross domestic product for the April-June period returned to positive growth for the first time in five quarters. However, the improvement was mainly attributed to a recovery in exports and policy initiatives under the government's stimulus package that, for example, increased sales of energy-saving home appliances. Worryingly, overall domestic demand remains weak.

Boosting consumption is critical for a full economic recovery. However, sales at department stores and supermarkets have been lethargic for a prolonged period, and sales at convenience stores, which had been brisk, registered a record plunge in July.

Consumers are cutting back spending on foods and other daily necessities. Both the number of shoppers and the amount each shopper spent at convenience stores decreased last month.


BOJ has role to play

Fierce price wars might be good news for consumers, but excessive discounting would add to a deflationary spiral, in which the economy heads south while prices fall.

For the time being, we think it is necessary to bolster domestic demand through economic pump-priming and employment support measures.

The Democratic Party of Japan has indicated it will overhaul the supplementary budget compiled for boosting the economy if it takes power. We agree that it is important to eliminate wasteful spending, but austerity measures such as drastic cuts in spending on public works projects should be avoided.

The Bank of Japan's monetary policy has a crucial role to play. Although the central bank has kept its key interest rate near zero, real interest rates will rise if prices fall. This would sap the impact of the bank's low interest rate policy.

If the deflationary trend gets stronger, the central bank should consider taking additional measures, such as increased purchases of long-term government bonds and the introduction of a quantitative easing policy setting a target for the outstanding balance of current account deposits held by private financial institutions at the central bank.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2009)
(2009年8月29日01時03分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月28日 (金)


srachai from khonkaen, thailand

(Mainichi Japan) August 28, 2009
Japan's unemployment rate hits record high in July

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's unemployment rate rose to an all-time high in July and prices fell at a record pace -- both threatening to undermine a nascent recovery for the world's No. 2 economy.

The jobless rate hit a seasonally adjusted 5.7 percent, the highest level in Japan's post-World War II era and worsening from 5.4 percent in June, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The previous record was 5.5 percent, last hit in April 2003.

Japan's economy climbed out of a yearlong recession in the second quarter, expanding at an annual pace of 3.7 percent. But economists note that exports served as the main driver of growth and that domestic demand remains fragile.

The result comes just two days before the country holds parliamentary elections, widely seen as a referendum on the ruling party's handling of the economy. Recent polls predict that the Liberal Democratic Party, in power for most of the last half-century, is headed toward a historic defeat at the hands of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

Under a mantra of "Putting People's Lives First," the Democrats are offering a platform heavy on social welfare initiatives, including cash handouts for job seekers in training and families with children.
政権公約は社会保障制度の強化に重点をおく。 失職者や職業訓練生に対する補助金、子供のいる家庭に対する補助金などが含まれる。

The total number of jobless in July jumped 40.2 percent from a year earlier to 3.59 million. Those with employment fell 2.1 percent to 62.7 million.

The labor ministry also reported Friday that the ratio of job offers to job seekers in July fell to an all-time low of 0.42. That means there were 42 jobs available for every 100 job seekers.

The unprecedented drop in global demand triggered by last year's financial crisis have forced Japanese companies to slash output and jobs. A recent rise in exports is fueling an emerging recovery among manufacturers, but many continue to cut costs.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday that it plans to reduce production capacity at one of its factories in Japan. Japan Airlines Corp. plans to cut about 10 percent of its workforce over the next three years, news reports said this week.

Kyohei Morita, chief economist at Barclays Capital in Tokyo, expects the unemployment rate to reach 5.9 percent in the first half of 2010.

The specter of deflation intensified amid the labor market worries.

Japan's key consumer price index, which excludes volatile fresh food prices, tumbled a record 2.2 percent in July from a year earlier, the government said.

Lower prices may seem like a good thing, but deflation can hamper growth by depressing company profits and causing consumers to postpone purchases, leading to production and wage cuts. It can also increase debt burdens.

The nationwide core CPI, which excludes volatile fresh food prices, has dropped for five straight months. The figure marks steepest decline since the officials began compiling comparable data in 1971.

The core CPI for Tokyo retreated 1.9 percent in August, suggesting that prices nationwide are headed further south. Prices in the nation's capital are considered a leading barometer of price trends across Japan.

Meanwhile, a separate government report showed that families spent less. Average household spending, a key barometer of individual consumption, in July declined 2 percent from a year earlier.

"Japanese households are becoming increasingly defensive as the environment surrounding wages and employment turns severe," Morita said in a note to clients.

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 27(IHT/Asahi: August 28,2009)
EDITORIAL: Consumption tax hike

During the campaign for Sunday's Lower House election, Japanese voters have heard little serious debate among the parties on one issue that has huge implications for the nation's future: the proposed increase in the consumption tax rate.

Both the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan have admitted that the consumption tax will have to be raised sooner or later to finance social security spending, which will keep swelling in the years to come as the population ages rapidly.

If so, the two main parties have a responsibility to present a clear tax-hike plan to voters as part of their quest for a public mandate to govern the nation.

Unfortunately, however, both parties have ducked the issue in the election debate.

Annual social security outlays will balloon to 140 trillion yen in 2025 from the current 90 trillion yen, according to a government estimate.

If lowering the levels of pension, healthcare and nursing-care benefits is not a policy option, it is a political imperative to figure out ways to secure necessary funds from taxes and premiums.

A tax hike is always unpopular among the people. That's why the history of the consumption tax in Japan is littered with serious setbacks for successive LDP administrations.

In 1979, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira made a failed attempt to introduce a consumption tax into Japan. In 1989, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita finally introduced the consumption tax. In 1997, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto raised the tax rate to 5 percent from 3 percent.

All these moves were followed by an electoral drubbing for the LDP.

In recent years, the LDP government has been carefully avoiding this political third rail on the pretext that wasteful expenditures must be eliminated first before considering a tax hike.

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed not to raise the tax during his tenure. His three successors--Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda and incumbent Taro Aso--set time frames for radical tax reform. But they all eschewed tackling the hot-button issue of the consumption tax head-on by ruling out a rate increase under their administrations.

DPJ chief Yukio Hatoyama has promised to keep the consumption tax rate unchanged for at least four years. This also sounds like an evasive tactic.

The two parties are treating the issue of a consumption tax hike as a political taboo probably because of fear about a possible public backlash. But how does the public actually feel about the issue?

An Asahi Shimbun survey earlier this month found that 83 percent of the respondents felt anxiety about how the LDP and the DPJ would finance the policy measures promised in their election manifestoes.

It seems voters are well aware that eliminating wasteful spending won't create unlimited sources of revenue. They also appear to know that the government can neither rely on "buried money," or reserves in special budget accounts, for long-term financing of social security programs nor keep postponing a tax hike forever.

Of course, the government must wait until the end of the global economic crisis to actually raise the levy.

But debate must start at an early stage on such key questions as how large the hike should be or whether different tax rates should be applied to certain kinds of goods and services.

Debate on a tax increase should involve sweeping reviews of the three main revenue sources--the income, corporate and consumption taxes.

Yet what must be centermost in the debate is the consumption tax rate, which at 5 percent is far lower than comparative sales tax rates in other major industrial nations.

Another reason for focusing on the consumption tax is that this tax revenue is stable and less susceptible to economic conditions, which means the levy is suitable as a source of funds to finance social security programs.

The new government should act swiftly to start serious tax reform debate focusing on the consumption tax while starting efforts to reduce wasteful outlays.

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 27(IHT/Asahi: August 28,2009)
EDITORIAL: Rise in child abuse cases

The number of children dying at the hands of abusive parents and guardians is rising. Slightly more than 100 children are losing their lives to abuse each year. The figure, which includes those caught up in family murder-suicides, means that on average two children are being killed each week.

Cases into which child guidance centers investigate are also on the rise. In fiscal 2008, centers across Japan handled some 43,000 cases, a record high and a six-fold increase from 10 years before. We are appalled at the number of parents who use force against their children or neglect to properly care for them.

Since the child abuse prevention law went into effect in 2000, the government has strengthened the authority of child guidance centers in phases. Since 2004, abused children can be admitted to child welfare facilities without the consent of parents so long as the action has court approval. Starting spring 2008, in cases where child abuse is suspected and guardians refuse to cooperate with authorities, the centers have been empowered to break locks and enter homes with court permission.

There were two such cases in fiscal 2008. In the Tohoku region, a girl of lower grade of elementary school age was taken into protective custody. Although she had not been to school at all, in two months after entering a children's home, she was able to read and write hiragana. Her parents reacted with hostility at first, but eventually relented and agreed to her admittance to the children's home.

The local child guidance center had been in contact with the girl's family for several years but was unable to even meet with them. That prompted officials to raid the house.

"When we use force, relations with guardians tend to deteriorate. We try to avoid it as much as possible but we made an agonizing choice for the sake of the child," the director of the center said.

However, for children to recover from the trauma of abuse, welfare facilities do not always provide adequate settings. Nationwide, such facilities are nearly full and in some areas, they are packed beyond capacity. There are only 31 medical facilities across the nation that can provide intensive care to children suffering from the trauma of abuse.

Child welfare facilities need to drastically increase their staff numbers, especially with regard to psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in treating abused children. Each caseworker at child guidance centers handles about 100 cases. The figure is more than double that of the United States and Europe. Even though the number of staff has increased over the past 10 years, it has yet to catch up with the steep rise in child abuse cases.

While action must be taken to separate and protect such children from their parents, the important thing is to work toward providing support until children and parents can be reunited. Society must help by supporting neighbors facing family problems and poverty.

In cases of death resulting from causes other than murder-suicides in families, 80 percent of the victims were children 3 years old or younger. Nearly half of them were not even 1 year old. In many cases, they are children of unwanted pregnancies or the mothers have mental problems, officials say.

As a measure to prevent child abuse, local governments across Japan are initiating programs to ensure that all families of newborns are visited by an official within four months of birth. Officials speak to parents and listen to their anxieties and problems concerning child care and, if necessary, refer them to nonprofit organizations, welfare programs, hospitals or other organizations that specialize in child-care problems. Such systems will prove more effective if they are put to practice from pregnancy.

Local community networks should watch over young parents with problems in an effort to reduce as many victims of child abuse as possible.

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新型インフル ワクチンだけには頼れない

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 28, 2009)
Vaccine isn't the only weapon against new flu
新型インフル ワクチンだけには頼れない(8月28日付・読売社説)

Expectations are rising that infections of the H1N1 strain of influenza A and further outbreaks could be prevented once the vaccine for the new flu becomes available.

However, it is far from a foregone conclusion that things will pan out as expected. Even past epidemics of seasonal influenza have not been repulsed by a vaccination program.

Of course, vaccination can work to a certain extent. During ordinary flu seasons, vaccinated people will develop only relatively mild symptoms even if they become infected with the disease.

Medical experts also point out that the spread of infection could slow if a large number of people are vaccinated. If the number of patients falling into critical condition is reduced thanks to a vaccination program, front-line doctors and hospitals would have more time to treat flu patients in general.

However, the flu vaccine has the major drawback of providing only weak preventive effects. This is different from the vaccine for measles, which can prevent the disease developing once a person is inoculated. Furthermore, vaccination in general has very minor side effects.

The government must explain the limited effectiveness of the flu vaccination to the public. The most important thing is to help people understand that inoculation is not the only countermeasure against the new influenza strain.


Prevention better than cure

Obviously, preventing infection is the best way to defang the new-flu threat. Regularly washing one's hands and gargling are quintessential rules for preventing infection. Members of the public also must bear in mind that they will be unable to avoid infection if the virus spreads widely because most people are not immune to the new flu.

However, it also should be remembered that most people, excluding small children and people with kidney and other chronic diseases, would likely display only mild symptoms even if they catch the new flu. Of course, people with mild symptoms should be careful not to spread this disease.

Meanwhile, the shortage of vaccine for the seasonal influenza has often caused widespread consternation.

Worryingly, the same problem has become apparent regarding the new-flu strain. Domestic manufacturers are working flat-out to produce a vaccine for the new flu, but they are unable to produce enough to meet the nation's requirements. Japan reportedly faces a shortage of about 20 million doses. However, panic over the new-flu vaccine must be avoided.


Govt must pull out all stops

The government must immediately discuss and decide who should be given priority in receiving vaccinations. It makes perfect sense that medical workers and people likely to develop serious symptoms should they catch the new flu be given priority. However, the current projected supply of vaccine is not sufficient even to cover these high-risk groups.

The government should take every possible measure to acquire enough vaccine to combat the new flu.

Importing vaccine from the United States and European countries has been touted as the best solution to meet this shortfall. However, the government has not yet settled on measures to confirm the safety of imported vaccine and detailed procedures to deal with possible side effects.

Until 15 years ago, the government required every primary and middle school student to be vaccinated against influenza. However, mandatory vaccination was terminated because of lingering doubts about its effectiveness and possible side effects.

The government must tread carefully to ensure a sense of mistrust against flu vaccine does not take hold among the public once again.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2009)
(2009年8月28日01時16分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月27日 (木)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:世間との闘いの難しさ /東京

(Mainichi Japan) August 27, 2009
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Striving for excellence can be a double-edged sword
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:世間との闘いの難しさ /東京

I suspect that there have been many sleepy-eyed sports enthusiasts determined to overcome the time difference between Japan and far-off Berlin to take in the World Championships in Athletics recently.

The astounding display of speed put on by Jamaica's Usain Bolt in particular captured not just the people in the stands, but many of us around the world. One announcer, when seeing Bolt on the track, exclaimed "How fast can a human being go!" Even after breaking his own 100 meter world record, Bolt was ready to try for an even faster time, declaring, "I always say anything is possible."

But while I stand in wonder at Bolt's physical ability and psychological strength, I also find myself thinking: Is there a need to go any faster?

At the news conference held after winning the 200 meter race, the topic of doping came in repeatedly. Furthermore, questions about South African runner Caster Semenya's gender continued to arise after she won the women's 800 meter race, paining her father, who said, "She is my little girl. ... I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times."

"Faster! Faster!" the world demands, and athletes respond by training to the limits of mind and body. And when these athletes fulfill our expectations, getting ever stronger and setting ever faster times, we look at them askance and say, "That's too fast. Something must be up." Thus is the fate of all world athletics champions, and I must admit I feel a little sorry for them.

The athletes themselves probably wonder if they wouldn't be the subject of doubts if they had failed our expectations. They may feel they have to push themselves to the limit every time out, knowing that they would be attacked if they didn't put their all into their training.

This kind of thinking also often appears in our everyday lives. We try our best to meet the expectations of those around us and, when successful, are either told "Next time, aim higher," or suspected of cheating somehow. If this kind of treatment is kept up long enough, even those among us with remarkable abilities will retreat into their shells, slowly coming to distrust those around them and the world in general. Perhaps those celebrities recently caught up in drug use are among those who have "lost" to that kind of pressurized existence.

To prevent falling into this performance pressure spiral, the best thing to do is to think to yourself, "Well, this will do," neither letting yourself be driven by others' expectations or betraying them. Saying that, I wonder if we would be shocked if Bolt strung together a series of narrow wins instead of record-shattering performances?

For the athletes in Berlin --and for the rest of us -- far more difficult than challenging records or rivals is challenging society itself. That's what I understood from watching the World Championships in Athletics. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2009年8月25日 地方版

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 26(IHT/Asahi: August 27,2009)
EDITORIAL: Review of top justices

Nine of the 15 Supreme Court justices are up for a people's review when voters head to the polls for Sunday's Lower House election. The occasion provides voters with their only opportunity to directly express their approval or disapproval of the current state of the judiciary.

Amid expectations for a regime change, debate is heating up over the government system.
However, we should also think about the top court's personnel system.

The Constitution stipulates that Supreme Court justices are to be "reviewed" by the public, but no one has been dismissed under this system so far.

Justices are subject to a review at the time of the first Lower House election after their appointment. Their next review will be during the first Lower House election "after a lapse of 10 years."

However, since many justices are older than 60 at the time of their appointment and their mandatory retirement age is 70, there is effectively no second review for anyone. Consequently, justices who come under the review are fairly new to the job.

Of the nine justices up for review this time, five, including Chief Justice Hironobu Takesaki, have never made a decision related to the Constitution, nor have they participated in a Grand Bench ruling that can reverse established precedents.

In short, these justices have too meager a track record, if any, on which the people can form their opinions.

But perhaps the more fundamental problem than the people's review system, which serves no practical purpose, is that Supreme Court justices are appointed behind closed doors.

The chief justice is named by the Cabinet and appointed by the emperor. The remaining 14 justices are appointed by the Cabinet. In reality, however, the sitting chief justice picks his successor and recommends his choice to the prime minister, and the Cabinet respects the choice.

As for the other justices, the custom is that the Supreme Court picks candidates when a justice who is about to retire is a former judge, while the Cabinet puts together its shortlist of candidates when the retiring justice is a former bureaucrat. That is an accepted practice.

The public is kept completely in the dark about the screening process, and the Cabinet merely announces the result.

Including Takesaki, we have so far had nine consecutive chief justices who were former judges. The backgrounds of other members of the bench are rigidly predetermined, too, with fixed quotas in place for former judges, prosecutors, lawyers, bureaucrats and legal scholars. All these individuals are invariably preceded and succeeded by their peers in their respective professions.

The public is not informed of the professional histories of Supreme Court justices, nor why they were chosen. This is the fundamental factor that renders the people's review system a mere formality.

Bringing transparency to the selection process is of critical importance if the will of the people is to be reflected in the Supreme Court, which is supposed to protect the Constitution and keep the Diet and the administration in check.

The Justice System Reform Council recommended in its 2001 report that studies be conducted to bring transparency and objectivity to the process of appointing Supreme Court justices.

A reform plan was once presented to the Diet, proposing an advisory panel of jurists, members of both houses of the Diet and academics, who would recommend several candidates for the Cabinet to consider.

Our elected representatives should be deeply committed to tangible reform. But political parties are apparently not particularly interested, which is most regrettable.

The citizen judge system was introduced in May to make the judiciary more open to the people. If the judiciary is to be supported by the public, full disclosure of the process of nominating and appointing the chief and other justices at the top court is now needed. That would give the people enough information on which to form their opinions of justices up for review.

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09総選挙 年金再建―対立超え安心の制度を

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 26(IHT/Asahi: August 27,2009)
EDITORIAL: Pension reform debate
09総選挙 年金再建―対立超え安心の制度を

The ruling and opposition camps have been at loggerheads over the issue of pension reform. The main bone of contention has been whether the system should be maintained in its current form or reconfigured into one financed by taxes. However, both sides are showing signs of changing their stances ahead of Sunday's election.

The ruling bloc had until recently insisted that the current system will be financially viable for 100 years. But it has finally admitted the program is fraying at the edges. The ruling camp has promised to shorten the minimum required period of enrollment to 10 years from the current 25 years. It has also pledged to tackle the problem of people who are not eligible to receive pension benefits, or are eligible for only a very small amount.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which has offered to guarantee minimum pension benefits financed by tax, has made it clear the system it envisions basically offers universal coverage as a social insurance program with premiums and benefits proportional to income. The proposed minimum guaranteed benefits would only serve as an income supplement for low-benefit recipients. The DPJ says it would create a new revenue agency to ensure premiums are collected from everybody obliged to pay.

Through their pension proposals, both camps seem to be aware of the need to stem the rise in people failing to pay into the system and providing support for people with no benefits, or small ones at best.

About 40 percent of the people covered by the national pension program, which was originally designed for self-employed people, are now employees, mainly nonregular ones. The fixed-sum premiums for the program represent a heavy financial burden for these employees. This is believed to be one factor behind the growing nonpayment of premiums.

The average of the monthly benefits under the program is 48,000 yen, well below the full benefit of 66,000 yen. Under the current system, monthly benefits are reduced if the overall revenue falls due to a contraction of the working-age population or if the total payouts grow because of prolonged life expectancy. There is actually no guarantee of minimum pension benefits.

What is the best remedy for these problems with the current system? There is undoubtedly room for constructive bipartisan talks since the ruling and opposition camps are proposing changes basically in the same direction, even though there are still differences in their approaches.

But the reform blueprints of both camps leave many important questions unanswered. As for promised relief for people facing retirement with no or scant pension benefits, the ruling camp has yet to say how much would be provided to whom. The DPJ's reform plan says nothing about what to do with the premiums paid by self-employed workers. The opposition party also leaves it unclear what would be done for people with no benefits or small ones during the transition to the new system.

To ensure fairness in the burdens and benefits, it is necessary to introduce a taxpayer identification number system to track people's income accurately. As the nation's population ages further, public spending on health and nursing care is bound to keep growing. The crucial question of how much taxpayer money should be devoted to pension reform requires an answer based on a comprehensive perspective that takes into consideration the future prospect of social security spending.

That makes it all the more important for all parties to make efforts to swiftly set up a forum so that national debate on pension reform can be started soon after the Lower House election.

A pension system demands long-term stability. The people's interests would not be served if every national election results in radical changes to the system.

Whichever party wins a public mandate in Sunday's Lower House election, it is the political responsibility of the entire legislature to build a pension system that can serve as a solid foundation for social security in this aging society. We hope to hear constructive, nonpartisan debate.

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放送・通信融合 新たなルール整備が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 27, 2009)
New regulatory system needed for airwaves
放送・通信融合 新たなルール整備が必要だ(8月27日付・読売社説)

Through technological innovations, new types of services that are not covered by existing regulations targeting broadcast and communications services have emerged. To make such new "buds" part of the industry's growth strategy, related rules and regulations need to be reviewed.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry's advisory panel on information and communications services has compiled a proposal to drastically review regulations on broadcast and communications services.

The proposal calls for reviewing the current regulatory categorization of services based on the type of operation, such as wired or wireless services, and instead recategorizing the services based on function, such as program production and radio transmission.

There are as many as nine major laws governing information and communications services. The laws include a number of regulations that do not match the actual situation. It therefore is of great significance to remove barriers between broadcast and communications services, eyeing the integration of those services.


Function key under plan

Under the envisaged new regulatory framework, there would be no distinction between communications and broadcast services. Services would instead be categorized into three areas--program contents offered to viewers; transmission infrastructure such as communications networks and transmitting stations; and transmission services for conveying information to viewers.

The regulations on radio waves, which separately target broadcast and communications services, would be relaxed so that broadcast stations could distribute their programs on cell phones and broadcast their programs via cell phone antennas.

By reforming regulatory categories so they are based on functions, it would become easier for broadcasters to operate their program production and transmission services in separate corporate entities. Local broadcasters would be able to improve management efficiency by jointly using transmission equipment. It also would be possible for outside businesses to enter the broadcasting services field by renting other companies' equipment.

An invigorated business environment would result in expanded and cheaper communications and broadcasting services. The industry should strive to create new services by putting consumers' interests first.

Some observers have pointed out that under the new regulatory framework it would be easier for the government to intervene in the content of programs, a situation that would threaten the independence of broadcasters.

The proposal says there would be no new regulations imposed on information on the Internet, and that editorial freedom in respect of broadcast programs would be stipulated under the law. It is essential to give due consideration to freedom of expression during the process of drafting related bills.


Fix administrative structure

The Democratic Party of Japan, in its policy pledges for the upcoming House of Representatives election, suggested that administration of broadcast and communications services be taken out of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry's jurisdiction to prevent the government from intervening in broadcast services.

The main opposition party called for the creation of an independent administrative commission, modeled after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, to which administrative power would be devolved from the ministry. The DPJ apparently intends not only to revise the current regulations, but to reform administrative structures as well.

But transplanting a U.S. model alone would not ensure the smooth operation of broadcast and communications administrative services. What is necessary first and foremost is to review the current administrative structure that involves the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and a cabinet member whose portfolio includes information technology policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2009)
(2009年8月27日01時30分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月26日 (水)





スラチャイは小学館のbookshelf 2.0を愛用しています。






srachai from khonkaen, thailand

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 25(IHT/Asahi: August 26,2009)
EDITORIAL: Improving education

Japanese teens shone at the International Science Olympiads for high school students this summer, winning a record 12 gold medals in five subjects. Every one of the 23 Japanese participants ended up with a medal.

We hope these results will generate momentum for improvement of science education in Japan.

At the International Science Olympiads, gold medals are awarded to the top 10 percent of students and silver and bronze to the next 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

This year's International Biology Olympiad was held in Japan for the first time, with four Japanese students participating. One of the four won Japan's first gold medal in this category, and the rest won silver medals.

Next, in the International Physics Olympiad, two of the five Japanese contestants won gold medals. In Mathematics, five of the six contestants won gold medals, and one had a perfect score. In overall performance, Japan placed second after China.

As for Chemistry and Informatics, two of the four Japanese participants won gold medals.

The International Science Olympiad started with Mathematics in 1959. Physics, Chemistry and Informatics were added later. The first Biology Olympiad was held in 1990.

Lately, top-ranked nations, territories and regions include China, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and Russia. China has made participation a national priority. Students chosen to represent China are given many perks. Nearly every Chinese student brings home a gold medal.

Japan is a latecomer among advanced nations. It first participated in the Mathematics Olympiad of 1990, followed by Biology in 2005 and Physics in 2006. Until then, Japanese education authorities worried that Japanese students could not compete with their overseas peers because of the low level of science education here.

Nowadays, Japanese contestants use global-standard textbooks to relearn their subjects. They prepare for the big day with special lab training rarely provided at Japanese high schools.

These efforts clearly paid off this year. Also, many of the participants were experienced. Another factor was that more teens have participated in the preliminary rounds since the government began supporting the Olympiads in fiscal 2004.

But we should not become complacent. Participation in international competition has reminded us again of the flaws in our education system.

A bronze medalist at a past Chemistry Olympiad scored less than 10 out of a maximum 60 points on a test right after returning to Japan. We believe this was because Japan's chemistry education stresses textbook knowledge rather than a fundamental understanding of the subject.

By teaching science systematically and raising the nation's overall level of science education to global standards, we hope more teens will come to love science.

At the week-long International Biology Olympiad in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, high school students from around the world spent more than 10 hours grappling with theoretical and practical problems. But the teens also got to experience Japanese culture and enjoy outdoor activities by going to a summer festival and traveling to Nikko, a well-known tourist resort.

We believe it was greatly significant that young people from around the world competed intellectually in Japan and made new friends.

Tokyo is scheduled to host next year's International Chemistry Olympiad. We hope it will prompt high school students to take a greater interest in the world.

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電気自動車:産学タッグで量産計画 技術供与へ慶大、ベネッセなど新会社

(Mainichi Japan) August 26, 2009
New company aims to have cheap and efficient electric vehicles on road in 2013
電気自動車:産学タッグで量産計画 技術供与へ慶大、ベネッセなど新会社

Major correspondence education firm Benesse Corp. and used car giant Gulliver International Co. are teaming up with a Keio University professor to put affordable electric vehicles on the road in 2013, it has been announced.
The firms and Keio University professor Hiroshi Shimizu have established a new company, named SIM-Drive, to propagate electric vehicle technology pioneered by Shimizu.

SIM-Drive will license its designs to automobile and parts manufacturers, and aims to bring a mass-produced five-person passenger car that can run for 300 kilometers on a single charge to market in 2013.

At present, even with government subsidies electric vehicles cost upwards of 3 million yen and have a range of less than 160 kilometers.

The company plans to overcome the high cost of batteries by leasing them to buyers, allowing the electric vehicles to be sold at a sticker price in the range of 1.5 million yen.

Shimizu, who was named president of SIM-Drive, developed the in-wheel motor -- a small electric motor that drives each wheel of a four-wheel vehicle. According to Shimizu, this system allows a car twice the single-charge range of vehicles with one, centrally-mounted electric motor, as far less energy is lost in transferring power from the motor to the wheels.

SIM-Drive also received investment from major trading firm Marubeni Corp. and has initial capital of 44 million yen.

"We hope to gain the approval of most (automotive) companies, and bring a practical electric vehicle with twice the range of previous models to market at the earliest possible date," said Shimizu at a news conference to announce the new company.

毎日新聞 2009年8月25日 東京朝刊

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アジア外交 膨張する中国とどう向き合う

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 26, 2009)
China, Asia policy vital part of election debate
アジア外交 膨張する中国とどう向き合う(8月26日付・読売社説)

In the campaign for Sunday's House of Representatives election, the contending political parties have all touted their policies on Asian issues, but what voters really want to hear about is how the parties intend to fulfill their campaign promises and what actions the parties will take to solve the problems at hand.

In its manifesto, the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan promises to create an East Asia Community. The central plank in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Asia platform is to tie Japan's economic growth to that of Asia. New Komeito, the LDP's ruling coalition partner, also touts the promotion of economic integration in Asia.

East Asia consists of several countries with a broad spectrum of political systems. It is a realistic choice to move toward economic partnership among them as a first step toward closer integration. Sixteen countries, including India and Australia, plan to soon start discussing an East Asian economic partnership agreement.

There are many problems to overcome to achieve such an agreement. Negotiations between Japan and Australia on a free trade agreement faltered over liberalization in the agricultural sector. Negotiations with India and South Korea also are sluggish and have made little progress.


Farm policy vs trade policy

The DPJ modified the expression in its manifesto concerning a Japan-U.S. free trade agreement after opposition from agricultural organizations. It is difficult to harmonize domestic agricultural policies and trade liberalization.

If political parties intend to promote the idea of creating an East Asia Community or the importance of economic partnership, they should clearly explain to voters how they will overcome these obstacles.

Among Asian issues, of particular importance is Japan's relationship with China in light of China's emergence as both an economic and military superpower. All the parties call for strengthening ties with China, but none outline specific measures for accomplishing this goal.

It is natural for Japan to develop closer economic ties with China, but the nation must consider ways to safeguard its intellectual property rights and protect itself against the kind of widespread production of knock-off merchandise and pirated DVDs rampant in China.

As Japan largely depends on China for its food, it also is important to ensure food safety. There has been no progress in clarifying what happened in the food poisoning cases involving frozen gyoza dumplings made in China.


Numerous pressing concerns

In addition, there are many other pressing issues between the two countries, including treaty negotiations for a joint gas field development project in the East China Sea and securing a stable supply of rare metals from China.

China's rapid military buildup also is a vital issue for East Asia.

China's defense spending has grown by double-digit percentages for 21 consecutive years. Chinese naval vessels are expanding their operational areas south into the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. China makes no secret of its intention to construct an aircraft carrier.

It is necessary to tenaciously urge China to be more open about its military policy, including the reasons behind its military buildup--whether, for example, it is only for national defense or for securing sea lanes.

In addition to relations with China, there are other points of contention over Asian policy in the election, including how to handle the threat of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. There is limited time before voting day, but we hope that the political parties will deepen their debate over foreign policy in Asia to address these vital issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2009)
(2009年8月26日01時23分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月25日 (火)

09総選挙 生活保障―重層的に支える制度へ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 24(IHT/Asahi: August 25,2009)
EDITORIAL: Livelihood security
09総選挙 生活保障―重層的に支える制度へ

Fixing the troubled social security system and rebuilding the weakened social safety net have emerged as major topics on the campaign trail.

What is notable is that there have been policy proposals that go beyond the traditional framework of social security centering on the pension, health-care and nursing-care programs and which address challenges in related areas such as employment and education.

It is important to combine these proposals in an organized way into a multilevel approach to improve the economic viability of households. It is clearly time to promote efforts to develop a comprehensive policy agenda to achieve what can be called "livelihood security."

In the area of employment, calls are growing within both the ruling and opposition camps for institutionalizing an emergency program to subsidize living expenses for people undergoing job training. There can be no livelihood security without job stability. Programs to support people seeking job opportunities should be enhanced.

In the area of education, the parties have made a variety of proposals in their election manifestoes, such as making public senior high schools practically tuition-free and the creation of a grant scholarship program. Making education available to anybody is essential for reversing the trend toward increasing poverty and economic inequality.

Equally important is the need to establish an effective system to provide housing security. It is still fresh in our memory that many temporary workers were turfed out of their homes as companies slashed jobs in response to the recession. It may be time to consider housing allowances as part of overall public benefits.

In addition, more policy efforts should be devoted to people trying to gain financial independence. A system for providing such multilevel livelihood support would help curb growth in overall social costs.

The government's employment policy should not be confined to providing income compensation for people who have lost their jobs. The government should also bolster programs to help jobless people find new jobs and maintain their living standard. This could be done by providing support for job training and skills development so these people can readily find employment.

Critics say the public livelihood aid program, a symbol of the social safety net, is not really helping poor people of working age, like the so-called working poor, to gain financial independence. They point out that elderly households account for nearly half of all households on welfare.

It could be too late to try to help people after they fall into financial difficulties. A wider range of programs should be readily available at earlier stages. And careful livelihood support by expert counselors should be incorporated into these programs to help people stay financially independent.

To fine-tune welfare services, it would help if local governments, which generally maintain close ties with residents, were able to play the leading role in providing services tailored to local conditions and needs. That would entail reconsidering the division of roles between the central and local governments by transferring related powers and revenue sources to local governments.

Providers of such services may not necessarily be the central or local governments. The government should try to increase the number of providers outside the public sector, such as private-sector nonprofit organizations.

The challenge is how to go beyond simply repairing the frayed social security system and reshape it to meet the demands of the times so as to create a society where people support each other with a sense of solidarity.

All the political parties owe the public detailed explanations about their visions for the future of livelihood security.

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社説:視点 衆院選 日米と民主党 「対等」の中身を語れ=論説委員・岸本正人

(Mainichi Japan) August 24, 2009
DPJ should clarify 'equal partnership' between Japan and U.S.
社説:視点 衆院選 日米と民主党 「対等」の中身を語れ=論説委員・岸本正人

It has been seen as a taboo for the Japanese government, which regards the Japan-U.S. alliance as the core of its diplomatic policy, to make an assertion that is not consistent with the position of the U.S.

A report published by an advisory council on defense to the administration of former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in the early 1990s placed a multilateral security arrangement involving East Asia and a stance to attach importance to the United Nations ahead of the Japan-U.S. security arrangement. This gave the U.S. government the impression that Japan attached less importance to the Japan-U.S. alliance, making Washington aware of the necessity to redefine the agreement.

In its manifesto for the House of Representatives election, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) characterizes the Japan-U.S. alliance as the basis for Japan's diplomatic policy. Just like the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the DPJ attaches particular importance to Japan's ties with the United States.

At the same time, however, the DPJ pledges to form a close and equal partnership between the two countries. A statement made by a diplomat claiming that, "It is for Japan's national benefit to keep pace with the U.S.," has justified the LDP-led administration's policy of following in the footsteps of the U.S. The DPJ's direction obviously differs from LDP policy.

The question is how to define this equal partnership. The DPJ's manifesto calls for the creation of a proactive diplomatic strategy, the division of roles between Japan and the United States and fulfillment of Japan's responsibilities. However, it stops short of clarifying specific details. This is why the DPJ's stance toward the United States remains obscure.

An amendment of the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement, the reorganization of U.S. forces in Japan and a review of U.S. bases in Japan, which are all covered in its manifesto, are important policy issues, but they alone would not be enough for forming the basis for establishing an equal partnership.

The equal partnership, which is based on a wide gap in military strength between the two countries, should consist of three factors.

Firstly, Japan should strengthen its cooperation with the United States in tackling global challenges, such as climate change and other environmental problems as well as countermeasures against poverty and infectious diseases. Japan's technology will be helpful in these fields. Japan's proactive contributions to international efforts to ensure peace, including nuclear disarmament and arms control, will also be of great significance. Japan's influence on the United States, which is a military superpower, will be tested in these fields.

Secondly, the DPJ should clarify the role Japan should play and the direction of the Japan-U.S. cooperation in building a new order in East Asia. Policy toward China and North Korea will be the pillar of these efforts. Japan's proactive stance will be a key to its success.

Thirdly, the largest opposition party should clarify its policy on Japan's peace-making efforts, such as active participation in United Nations' peace missions, which may call for use of the Self-Defense Forces, as well as Japan-U.S. cooperation in defending Japan. The pros and cons of strengthening nuclear deterrence based on the nuclear umbrella and exercising the right to collective self-defense will be the key points of contention.

It is impossible to discuss an "equal partnership" solely from a military viewpoint. However, it is true that Japan-U.S. relations could not be defined without the third point.

It is becoming increasingly realistic that a DPJ-led administration will be formed following the House of Representatives election. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama is urged to show his clear vision on Japan-U.S. relations.

毎日新聞 2009年8月23日 東京朝刊

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雇用対策 若者の就労支援が緊急課題だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 25, 2009)
Helping youth find jobs is an urgent task
雇用対策 若者の就労支援が緊急課題だ(8月25日付・読売社説)

The upcoming House of Representatives election will be held amid growing concern over employment. Though individual parties have proposed measures to tackle the employment crisis, none offers a quick fix.

Voters should carefully consider what effect particular policies will have on their workplace.

The government and the ruling parties have taken emergency countermeasures for employment-related problems in the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget and through other means. The Liberal Democratic Party is quite right to tout these policies in its manifesto for the lower house election. They include drastic expansion of job-training programs and an emergency employment project under which local governments would create jobs with grants from the central government.

The nation's unemployment rate stands at 5.4 percent. There is growing speculation that it is only a matter of time before the rate tops the current post-World War II record high of 5.5 percent. Will it be possible to put the brakes on this worsening trend? The effectiveness of the job-creation measures will be tested against such circumstances.


DPJ wooly on dispatch issue

Three opposition parties--the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party--have pledged to strengthen measures to boost employment in a common policy pledge. The measures include setting up a system to help those seeking jobs and banning, in principle, the dispatch of temporary workers in the manufacturing sector and to daily-paid jobs.

The system to assist job-seekers is meant to provide financial assistance to nonregular workers and others who are not covered by unemployment insurance while they are participating in job-training programs. The government and ruling parties have already introduced a similar system in the supplementary budget for fiscal 2009.

While the system established by the government and the ruling parties is a temporary measure that will expire in three years, the opposition parties propose a permanent system. However, the government and the ruling bloc plan to examine the advisability of extending the system after studying its effects and the employment situation. In this regard, there is no major difference between the two systems.

As for the dispatch of temp workers in the manufacturing sector, the DPJ proposes to set up a system for jobs requiring specialized skills and knowledge, and allow those engaged in jobs that fall into this category to be employed as dispatch workers. But the party has failed to spell out the details of the system it envisages.

Moreover, what will happen to the nearly 500,000 people who are currently dispatched as temp staff in the manufacturing industry? We suspect they will end up shifting to other unstable positions, such as subcontractor jobs, in which people are hired by one company to work at another firm. It will be impossible for us to judge how effective the proposed system will be unless the party provides a clear picture of how it plans to secure employment in the manufacturing sector.


Future in hands of young

The LDP also takes the position of banning the dispatch of workers to daily-paid jobs, in principle. However, there is a demand for short-term jobs from both employees and workers. We believe what needs to be done first is to set up a simple, smooth system for introducing work to job seekers, instead of relying on temporary staffing service firms.

The government must also make efforts to widen a system to hire dispatch workers as regular employees in cooperation with the business sector. At the same time, it needs to take into account the danger that simply regulating a flexible working style may leave people out of a job.

As society is steadily graying while the birthrate is declining, the number of unemployed and nonregular workers is increasing among young people, who are expected to play central roles in society in the future.

How can we nurture young people who are motivated to work and support them? This is an urgent problem for us to tackle, regardless of which party or parties takes the reins of government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2009)
(2009年8月25日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月24日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 22(IHT/Asahi: August 24,2009)
EDITORIAL: Election polls point to a DPJ landslide

The findings of a recent Asahi Shimbun survey about the Aug. 30 Lower House election were stunning, although there is still much uncertainty about how things will turn out.

The poll indicated that the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan was on track to win more than 300 of the chamber's 480 seats in the early stage of the race, while the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is likely to see their strength reduced drastically to less than 150.

The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Nikkei reported similar poll results.

There is apparently a groundswell of public opinion favoring a change of government that is as huge as the one that gave nearly 300 seats to the LDP in the 2005 Lower House election, which centered on the issue of postal privatization.

The voting public is also showing strong interest in the upcoming election. The Asahi survey found 54 percent of the respondents taking a great interest in the election, the same as the figure four years ago.

But the seemingly clear picture of fervent popular support for the DPJ is actually not as simple as it looks.

Only 24 percent of those polled anticipated that a power transfer would move Japanese politics in a good direction, compared with 56 percent who expected no change.

The public is apprehensive about the possibility of the DPJ coming to power. Still, people are inclined to vote for the opposition party because of the great distrust they have in the LDP.

In other words, many voters are not putting unconditional hope in the DPJ's ascent to power.

What the DPJ should take seriously is the fact that large numbers of voters are taking a dim view of the party's key policy proposals.

In the survey, 55 percent of the respondents said they did not back the DPJ's proposal to create a new child support program. The party's promise to scrap tolls for highways was even more unpopular, with 67 percent cool to the proposal.

An overwhelming 83 percent expressed concern about whether the party would be able to raise the funds needed to finance these and other election pledges.

The LDP's campaign platform received no higher marks from the public.

A significant 66 percent said they didn't back the ruling party's promise to increase household take-home income by 1 million yen in 10 years. Concern about the financing of the LDP's policy proposals was voiced by 83 percent of the pollees, the same number as that for the DPJ.

Both parties clearly need to explain how they intend to pay for their programs. Otherwise, voters will find it hard to embrace their election promises, no matter how good they sound.

Six years since the manifesto-based approach to election campaigns was introduced into national elections, Japanese voters now scrutinize the parties' policy platforms far more rigorously than before.

It is distressing to see Prime Minister Taro Aso and other LDP heavyweights focusing more on criticizing the DPJ with increasingly tough rhetoric than on selling their policy messages.

Despite being given an overwhelming majority in the Lower House four years ago, the LDP has ended up leaving the nation in the current political impasse. The party should tell the public how it thinks this situation has come about and what it will do to change it.

The LDP is acting in a way that doesn't befit a ruling party by devoting itself to attacking the opposition party without offering clear explanations about these questions.

It is notable how many people are willingly taking party manifestoes from campaigners at street speeches and on other occasions.

But many voters read these manifestoes while asking whether the policies described in them are plausible and whether the parties really have the ability and determination to push through these proposals. They are trying to figure out how much faith they can place in the parties, whatever their manifestoes may say.

Just a week is left until election day. We hope the stretch run will produce some meaningful policy debate that is more reassuring to voters longing to see change in politics.

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(Mainichi Japan) August 23, 2009
Donjon at Nagoya Castle to be restored to its original wooden form

NAGOYA -- Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura has announced that the city government will move ahead with restoring Nagoya Castle's donjon to its original form.
Kawamura told reporters during a regular news conference on Aug. 10 that the municipal government will officially start discussions on restoring the current donjon at the city's symbolic Nagoya Castle -- currently constructed of concrete -- to its original wooden structure.

"Many citizens have claimed that Nagoya has nothing to be proud of, and this makes me very sad," Kawamura said. "We would like to build a wooden castle as something Nagoya's citizens can be proud of today, and for the next 1,000 years."

The city will launch a project team on Monday, aiming to include research expenses in the fiscal 2010 budget draft, the mayor said.

The original castle buildings, including the donjon and Honmaru Palace, were burnt down during an air raid in 1945. However, detailed blueprints and photographs of the castle survived the war, and the current concrete donjon was reconstructed in 1959 using such documents.

"We must carry out thorough research on relevant laws and ordinances, such as the Fire Service Law and the Building Standards Law. It is also essential to determine whether the stone walls are strong enough to support the wooden donjon," said the city's office for castle development.

Kawamura also announced that the city will continue with the reconstruction of Honmaru Palace, even though he had pledged to review the project during his mayoral election campaign. The restoration is scheduled to be completed by 2017.

"I noticed that everyone in the open debate held on June. 14 shared a common feeling that Nagoya needs something that its citizens can be proud of," said Kawamura.

However, in response to the criticism of the large costs for the palace project, Kawamura said that they will scrutinize the plan in an attempt to cut back expenses.

毎日新聞 2009年8月10日 11時54分(最終更新 8月10日 14時19分)

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成長戦略 本格回復の展望が見えない

Both LDP, DPJ's recipes for growth lack punch
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 24, 2009)
成長戦略 本格回復の展望が見えない(8月24日付・読売社説)

Although the nation's economy has come out of its worst period, no clear direction for a full-scale recovery can be seen.

Amid such circumstances, attention in the House of Representatives election campaign is focused on political parties' strategies for achieving a steady economic recovery and stable growth.

High economic growth can no longer be expected for the Japanese economy, which is mature. However, economic growth is indispensable for supporting a society in which the majority of people can maintain modestly satisfactory living standards and live without significant anxiety for their future.

Firstly, the economy needs to be righted again in a steady manner.

Secondly, the framework of the nation's economy, which is highly dependent on exports, must be reformed to balance domestic and foreign demand. Structural changes in the economy, including shrinking domestic demand due to a declining population and aging society, and the aggravating factor of international competition resulting from the rise of emerging economies, also need to be dealt with.


LDP policies already on menu

The Liberal Democratic Party has pledged a numerical goal for the economic growth rate and a deadline for achieving it in the party's election campaign platform, promising to achieve 2 percent year-on-year economic growth in the second half of fiscal 2010. The party also said it will create domestic demand worth 40 trillion yen to 60 trillion yen and secure about 2 million jobs over the next three years.

Credit should be given to the LDP as the party has vowed to achieve specific goals. Its stated policies of fostering vitality in the private sector through providing support for research in environmental industries and other growth areas while continuing to implement economic stimulus measures also are laudable.

But specific measures drawn by the LDP are less persuasive, as existing policies are listed in the manifesto, such as expansion of solar power generation and boosting sales of energy-saving home electrical appliances through utilizing the eco point system. They alone do not seem capable of realizing the goals the LDP has set.


DPJ not saying who'll pay bill

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Japan has not set target figures for economic growth and other issues. The rate of economic growth will affect how major tasks, such as fiscal reconstruction and social security system reform, are approached. If the DPJ claims it is capable of taking the reins of government, it should spell out goals.

The DPJ's strategies for economic growth mainly consist of measures to directly provide benefits to boost household budgets, such as child-rearing allowances, making public high school education free of charge and scrapping highway tolls. The DPJ's manifesto says its strategies will boost consumption and transform the nation's economy into one led by domestic demand.

While households receiving benefits will increase their consumption, domestic demand will cool off if public works projects are slashed. Reviewing already-formulated budgets also has downsides. In the first place, consumption will not become self-sustaining merely by dint of the government handing out cash to support household budgets.

To expand consumption steadily, it would make more sense to enhance trust in the social security system, thus shifting the excessive amount of savings, which households hoard because of fears about the future, into use for consumption.

Holding off on raising the consumption tax rate for the next four years, which the DPJ has pledged in its campaign platform, will not secure stable financial resources that are vital for strengthening the social security system. A mood of anxiety will spread, dampening consumption.

We hope that DPJ lawmakers will engage in fundamental discussions on strategies for economic growth with an eye toward the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2009)
(2009年8月24日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月23日 (日)



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日米同盟 責任分かち信頼を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 23, 2009)
Proactive security stance key to Japan-U.S. alliance
日米同盟 責任分かち信頼を強化せよ(8月23日付・読売社説)

Given that North Korea's nuclear and missile threat has manifested itself, it is necessary to strengthen the Japan-U.S. security alliance to enhance the effectiveness of both bilateral defense cooperation and the combined deterrent force.

The alliance is important, not only in dealing with issues surrounding North Korea but also other concerns.

The establishment of a stronger Japan-U.S. alliance would serve this nation's interests in responding to the worldwide recession, global warming and energy issues. It also would benefit Japan with regards to the nuclear disarmament efforts proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Japan's mid- to long-term relations with China, a country that has been moving further toward major power status.

Both the Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Party of Japan manifestos for the Aug. 30 House of Representatives election name the Japan-U.S. alliance as the main axis of Japan's diplomacy. Despite this, the parties' policies relating to the alliance differ greatly.

As part of its proposed measures to solidify the alliance, the LDP has decided to adopt a policy of partially allowing the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, a longstanding issue, so that Japan could intercept ballistic missiles heading toward the United States and protect U.S. military vessels from armed attacks. It is a welcome move.


Review the Constitution

Japan currently does not have the capability to shoot down missiles heading toward the United States, so gaining that ability is an issue to be discussed in the future. Sticking to the nation's stance of prohibiting missile interception in accordance with the Constitution could shake the Japan-U.S. alliance.

In this regard, it is important for the ruling and opposition parties to work on reviewing the government's interpretation of the Constitution on the matter and establishing a basic law governing Japan's national security in a suprapartisan fashion.

A more solid Japan-U.S. alliance cannot be realized through passive diplomacy under which Japan simply abides by U.S. demands and requests. It is important that Japan adopts a proactive diplomatic stance under which it actively considers how to solve problems, puts forward proposals and plays a role that is in keeping with its strength as a nation.


DPJ behaving irresponsibly

The DPJ's manifesto stresses its slogan of building "a close and equal Japan-U.S. alliance" and stipulates "Japan will fulfill its responsibilities by sharing roles with the United States."

However, what does an "equal" relationship really mean and what kind of roles and responsibilities does the DPJ plan to take on? The DPJ's manifesto fails to address these critical points. The party is acting very irresponsibly if it plans to consider such points only after taking the reins of government.

There is no country in the world that maintains an equal footing with the United States in terms of military strength. U.S. allies are striving to play their respective roles to the extent they can in the international security arena.

In Afghanistan, more than 40 countries are currently engaged in the fight against terrorism, so far enduring the sacrifice of more than 1,300 lives. The DPJ's policy, which will end even the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the far safer Indian Ocean, will never make an "equal alliance" viable.

The DPJ also says the planned relocation within Okinawa Prefecture of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan in the prefecture, which has been agreed between Japan and the United States, should be reviewed and instead the facilities should be relocated outside the prefecture or abroad. However, the Okinawa prefectural government has approved the relocation of the facilities within the prefecture and only requested minor changes in the relocation site.

Reviewing the relocation of the Futenma Air Station is tantamount to scrapping bilateral negotiations and agreements achieved over the past 13 years and would deeply harm the mutual trust built up by the two countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2009)
(2009年8月23日01時15分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月22日 (土)

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憲法改正 「国づくり」の基本を論じよう

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 22, 2009)
Parties, candidates must debate top law reform
憲法改正 「国づくり」の基本を論じよう(8月22日付・読売社説)

There must be quite a few people who still feel somewhat unsure about the election pledges or manifestos prepared by political parties for the upcoming House of Representatives election. In what direction do the political parties want to lead this country?

This election will be a chance for voters to select which party they think deserves to govern the country. Accordingly, voters need to listen to each party's vision for this country's society and what course the nation should take. We think each party should take part in a debate to make their respective positions clear on the Constitution, which can be regarded as the "shape of the nation."

However, we have heard almost no debate on constitutional reform even though the election campaign is in its final stretch. We find this a worrying development.


Don't avoid discussion

The Liberal Democratic Party at least emphasizes in its manifesto that it will revise the nation's top law based on the party's draft of a new constitution.

However, the argument on instituting the party's constitution has been almost drowned out amid the chorus of calls by Prime Minister Taro Aso and other LDP candidates' attempts to win over voters by putting economic stimulus measures first.

Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama is known to favor reforming the Constitution. However, the DPJ's election pledges only say that the main opposition party "will carefully and positively examine" the issue of revision. This gives no indication whatsoever about where the party stands on this issue. Such wording must leave voters scratching their heads.

The Social Democratic Party only talks about "protecting the Constitution." We think it is quite regrettable if the DPJ has been ducking debate over revising the Constitution due to fears that such exchanges would only cause confusion in and hinder its joint campaign efforts and coalition negotiations with the SDP.

However, lower house members elected in the coming election will have to face the Constitution issue whether they like it or not.

The National Referendum Law that defines procedures for revising the Constitution will be enforced next May. This will legally enable the submission of a bill for revising the Constitution to the Diet.


All issues related to Constitution

Policy pledges trumpeted by political parties for the looming election--such as child-rearing allowances, scholarships and tuition exemptions, employment measures and the promotion of the decentralization of government functions to local authorities--are all inextricably connected with the top law.

After the election, the fuel supply mission of the Maritime Self-Defense Force in the Indian Ocean as part of antiterrorism operations will again become the subject of intense bickering between ruling and opposition parties. How to clarify the Self-Defense Forces' international peace cooperation activities in the Constitution will be one of the contentious issues in any possible revision of the top law.

Whether the government's interpretation that the Constitution prohibits Japan's exercise of the right to collective self-defense should be altered to help this nation better deal with the ballistic missile threat posed by North Korea will be another unavoidable political issue.

We think the lower house's Deliberative Council on the Constitution, which has for all intents and purposes been rendered dormant, should be reactivated during the Diet session after the election.

According to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey of prospective candidates in the upcoming election, 98 percent of those in the LDP and 62 percent of those in the DPJ said that the current Constitution should be revised.

Each party, not to mention each candidate, should make debate on the Constitution a top item on its agenda--and make clear its views on this crucial issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2009)
(2009年8月22日01時07分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月21日 (金)

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少子化対策 「手当」「無償化」で済むのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 21, 2009)
Parties must grapple with declining birthrate
少子化対策 「手当」「無償化」で済むのか(8月21日付・読売社説)

A report compiled by a government advisory panel on social security issues states, "The declining birthrate is the biggest challenge confronting Japan."
Meanwhile, a report released by a different government advisory panel studying strategies to realize a "secure" society notes, "The continuously declining birthrate is 'a quietly advancing emergency.'"

The ruling parties and, by the same token, the opposition parties would be foolish to challenge these views.

The nation's total fertility rate--the estimated number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime--has improved slightly to 1.37. However, this is still a very low figure, and the number of children in the country continues to decrease each year.


Financial incentives

It was inevitable that the political parties would put expanded support measures for child-rearing families at the heart of their policy pledges for the upcoming House of Representatives election.

In particular, the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan has proposed the creation of a child allowance scheme that would provide 26,000 yen per month for each child up to middle school age.

We applaud the party for proposing such a bold plan.

However, it is crucially important to find fiscal resources to fund this idea.

Under the envisaged plan, the child allowance would be provided across-the-board, regardless of family income levels, and could end up totaling about 5.3 trillion yen.

The DPJ intends to raise part of the funds through such measures as scrapping tax deductions for spouses. However, this would still leave a shortfall of about 3 trillion yen, which the party insists could be covered by reviewing the state budget, among other measures.

With the abolition of the spouse deduction, tax burdens would be heavier for some households, such as those without children or those that contain women who already have raised children. Conversely, households with children--even high-income homes--would be entitled to the child allowance.

The DPJ argues that child-rearing should be supported by society as a whole and that the financial burden should be shared. A considerable number of people, however, have voiced objections to the proposed measures.

In an apparent bid to counter the DPJ's proposals, the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner, New Komeito, have posited that preschool education be free.

The parties have yet to work out the details of the plan, such as whether unauthorized day care centers should fall within the remit of the scheme. Even if only kindergartens and authorized day care centers were covered, it would still cost about 800 billion yen. As the consumption tax rate is unlikely to be raised anytime soon, no permanent revenue source has been identified to fund this plan.


Additional measures

The child allowance scheme and the provision of free preschool education--moves apparently aimed at wooing voters--should not be relied upon too heavily as the main measures for coping with the declining birthrate.

In addition to the financial support for households, improved administrative services, such as more day care centers, also should be considered as priorities for child-raising families.

Regardless of which party takes up the reins of government following the general election, the new administration will have to focus on fulfilling the vote-garnering financial support measures pledged during the election battle. We think the ruling and opposition parties should first and foremost strive during the election campaign to offer grander visions for tackling the declining birthrate.

Voters, for their part, must carefully consider which party has the clearest concept for expanding the support measures, and sourcing and allocating the necessary financial resources.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 21, 2009)
(2009年8月21日01時35分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月20日 (木)

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金大中氏死去 問われ続ける太陽政策の功罪

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 20, 2009)
'Sunshine policy' weighs on Kim Dae Jung legacy
金大中氏死去 問われ続ける太陽政策の功罪(8月20日付・読売社説)

Kim Dae Jung, who recently died at the age of 85, was the first South Korean president to pay a visit to North Korea, during which he held a historic summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and afterward was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

South Korea's modern history cannot be told without mentioning Kim Dae Jung. Throughout his life, he was a constant presence in the midst of the nation's political turbulence.

He became known the world over when he was abducted in Tokyo by South Korean intelligence agents and forcibly taken back to Seoul in 1973.

He then endured persistent suppression by the then South Korean administration, including imprisonment and house arrest. In 1980, he was sentenced to death on treason charges.

Without ever giving in, he continued to lead the democratic movement. Kim's courage was the driving force in ending that nation's military rule. Nobody can deny that achievement.

After he was elected president, at his fourth attempt, he led the nation to overcome an unprecedented economic crisis through drastic structural reforms. He also saw the country achieve remarkable breakthroughs in the area of information technology.

On the other hand, despite major steps forward, he was unable to settle some important issues he set out to tackle.


Triumphs and letdowns

In 1998, Kim, together with then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, signed a Japan-South Korea joint declaration, expressing an intention to seek future-oriented development in bilateral relations by putting an end to past historic issues. Kim decided to lift restrictions on Japanese pop culture, which resulted in a dramatic increase in exchanges between Japan and South Korea.

But in the later years of his only term as president, the South Korean government requested Japan make further alterations to history textbooks used in middle schools, despite the fact that the books had already been screened once. This was apparently driven by strong nationalistic sentiments in South Korea. He thus failed to solve tensions over perceptions of history between the two countries.

In relations with North Korea, Kim's "sunshine policy" took a conciliatory approach, under which South Korea tried to persuade Kim Jong Il's regime to effect change through economic assistance. Such a shift in policy--from confrontation to coexistence--opened up new diplomatic avenues on the Korean Peninsula.

But given the current situation, which has seen North Korea step up its nuclear and missile programs significantly, Kim Dae Jung's legacy cannot avoid criticism that aid to North Korea only helped further its nuclear development.


Whither inter-Korea relations?

What changes will Kim Dae Jung's death bring to the situation on the Korean Peninsula? It likely will be a big blow to North Korea following the suicide of former South Korean President Roh Moon-hyun, who also was an advocate of the sunshine policy.

Following Kim Jong Il's reported expression of sympathy over Kim Dae Jung's death, North Korea reportedly intends to send a delegation to the funeral. Taking this opportunity, the two nations may look for ways to resume bilateral talks.

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has pressed North Korea over the abandonment of its nuclear development program. He also has called on North Korea to begin bilateral talks for reducing conventional weapons. Lee's initiative is aimed at patching up holes in the sunshine policy, under which South Korea failed to take measures to ease military tensions with North Korea, despite the call for peaceful coexistence with Pyongyang.

If the sunshine policy is to be seen as a success, it will be when North Korea abandons its nuclear program and engages in dialogue with South Korea for establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2009)
(2009年8月20日01時04分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月19日 (水)

社説:衆院選 きょう公示 日本の未来を語れ

(Mainichi Japan) August 18, 2009
Parties need to speak up on foreign diplomacy ahead of Lower House election
社説:衆院選 きょう公示 日本の未来を語れ




While Japan faces a general election this month that could lead to a historic change in government, the party leaders' debate at the Japan National Press Club on Monday left a feeling of dissatisfaction.

Issues that have a direct influence on people's lives such as social security, employment and child-rearing are worthy topics for debate, but they do not form the sole basis for selecting a government. It's important for the parties to show the public what kind of country they want to make Japan, including in the areas of foreign diplomacy and security.

Party manifestos for the House of Representatives election devote little space to foreign diplomacy and security, and discussion of these issues was similarly limited in the leaders' debate. It's probably true to say that while the election could be a major turning point for Japan, the future that lies around the corner remains unclear.

Sam Jameson, 73, former Tokyo bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, has lived in Japan since 1960. He says that Japanese today have lost the "hungry" spirit of the 60s, and he is frustrated over the fact Japan could be doing more -- evidenced by its low economic goals.

The same goes for foreign diplomacy. He says that no matter whether Japan is dealing with the United States or the United Nations, it has had a tendency to avoid proposals in case they meet opposition. But Japan needs to press ahead with such proposals, he says: if it remains silent, not even its ally the United States will understand how it feels.

The year 2005, when the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election, was a time when Japan had aspired to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, but abandoned hope after the U.S. responded negatively to the idea.

While criticizing the U.S. attitude as betraying an ally, Jameson is troubled by the recent security debate in Japan. He says that if Japan has the ability to intercept a missile headed toward the United States but fails to do so, then it would lose the trust of Americans, and the Japan-U.S. alliance would in effect come to an end.

He is also puzzled by Japan's stance of not wanting to get its hands dirty when dividing up defense roles, saying that it is involved in the clean, clever and cool tasks, while the U.S. takes on the dangerous, difficult and dirty. It is a claim often heard from Japanese rightists, but the worry from a journalist familiar with Japan shows through.

The tendency for Japanese politicians and bureaucrats to remain sensitive to the feelings of the United States has been pointed out long ago. But what is the actual situation regarding Japan's compliance with the United States? Rather than it being a case of the U.S. making Japan comply willy-nilly, it has been pointed out that Japan has simply fallen into a state of suspension of thought due to self-regulation, getting tangled in its own net.

In this situation, a paradox emerges: Japan still wishes to follow the U.S., while the administration of President Barack Obama is attempting to solicit advice from its allies.

It is important to bring such issues together.

No clear focus has emerged, but it can be said that doubts about following the United States -- including Japan's response to the Iraq war -- that have festered inwardly among Japanese have had a small impact on elections in Japan.

In their manifestos, the LDP has stated that it would strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, while the opposition Democratic Party of Japan has called for a "close and equal Japan-U.S. alliance," but unless the alliance is one that Japan and the U.S. can debate frankly, such descriptions will be nothing but empty, flowery phrases.




毎日新聞 2009年8月18日 0時22分

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エイトクレジット ショッピング枠現金化







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衆院選公示 政権構想と政策を吟味しよう

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 19, 2009)
Voters deserve a clear presentation of policies
衆院選公示 政権構想と政策を吟味しよう(8月19日付・読売社説)

Official campaigning for the House of Representatives election kicked off Tuesday. This is an extremely important contest, the outcome of which will steer the future course of the nation.

We hope that each voter, political party and candidate will carry an awareness of the significance of this election and fulfill their respective responsibilities in it.

The nation faces a number of difficult and serious problems.

The world economy appears to be emerging from the business downturn that struck the globe at the same time, but has yet to reach full-fledged recovery. How to put the nation's economy on a recovery path while taking into consideration the worsening employment situation is a pressing problem.

With the declining birthrate combined with the aging of the population, the assumption of a social security system supported by a steadily growing economy no longer holds water. It is necessary to work on a new mechanism that addresses benefits and burdens and to reconstruct a sustainable system to realize it.

The security environment surrounding the nation has grown more severe. North Korea is accelerating its nuclear and ballistic missile development and China is aiming to be a military superpower.

How can the nation's peace and security be ensured? Appropriate ways to solve these pressing issues should be a key point of contention in the election.


Priorities of the 2 coalitions

Each political party and candidate needs to present fresh visions for the nation and the policies needed to realize them so that voters can have clear choices.

Both the ruling and opposition parties are presenting their ideas of a government with the notion that they will be establishing ruling coalitions.

A good way to see which policies a future government would give priority to is to look at the common policies of the current ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, and the common policies of three opposition parties--the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and People's New Party.

As their growth strategy, the ruling parties have pledged in their common campaign platform to create domestic demand worth 40 trillion yen to 60 trillion yen and secure 2 million jobs over the next three years. They specify that they will implement drastic tax reforms--including raising the consumption tax rate once the economy recovers--to ensure a stable financial resource for social security programs.

Though the pledge carries the responsible attitude of a ruling party toward tackling economic recovery and financial reconstruction in two stages, the presentation's concrete measures to realize these policies have not been made clear. The two parties need to provide a more understandable explanation of this to voters.

The three opposition parties tout as their top policy priority the support of household budget concerns, such as directly providing child-rearing allowances and free high school education. They aim to increase disposable incomes and spur economic growth through domestic demand. They also say they would leave the current consumption tax rate unchanged until the next lower house election.


Promises must be paid for

If the opposition parties were to implement these new policies, estimated to cost about 16.8 trillion yen a year, it would indeed bring about a certain expansion in domestic demand. But there is no denying that the ideas presented regarding domestic demand-led growth were made hastily, as evidenced by the common criticisms that the plans are "pork-barrel policies" and "lack future growth strategy."

Since it was first presented, a fundamental question of whether the opposition parties can really secure this 16.8 trillion yen a year only through cuts in wasteful spending has not been cleared up.

In the fields of foreign policy and national security, the ruling parties stipulated the continuation of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and antipiracy mission off Somalia.

Both missions are important activities for Japan to assume its role in the international community's fight against terrorism, and to reinforce its alliance with the United States.

On the other hand, the three opposition parties have made no reference to foreign and national security policy issues in their common policy.

This is primarily because of the large difference in the positions taken by the three parties, with, for instance, the SDP opposed to the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces abroad. Yet this is merely an attempt at postponing the solving of thorny issues until after the election.

Should the three parties form a coalition government, while leaving their stances on such a fundamental issue murky, will they be able to pursue a responsible foreign policy and protect the national interest?

It is important for parties to deepen their discussion on foreign affairs and national security through the election campaign.


View of the past

Another vital point is how to sum up the track record of the ruling coalition government of the LDP and New Komeito since the previous lower election four years ago.

The ruling parties suffered a crushing defeat in the House of Councillors election in 2007. Ever since, the Diet has been divided with the DPJ-led forces dominating the upper house and the ruling coalition parties controlling the lower house--sending the Diet's business into disarray.

As a matter of course, the ruling parties' major defeat stemmed from the problems involving the ruling coalition government, including the sloppy management of public pension data by the Social Insurance Agency and the opaque reports of office expenses of political fund management organizations of Cabinet members.
Yet, the DPJ may also carry grave responsibility for the political turmoil under the divided Diet, as the party, under the leadership of Ichiro Ozawa, pursued a strategy of all-out confrontation with the ruling parties.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his successor Yasuo Fukuda both abandoned their administrations about one year after taking office, making apparent the LDP's declining ability to govern.

Meanwhile, successive DPJ leaders Seiji Maehara and Ichiro Ozawa also resigned to take responsibility for scandals that damaged the party, with Maehara quitting over a DPJ lawmaker using a faked e-mail to make spurious accusations against a relative of an LDP Diet member, and Ozawa stepping down over false records of political fund donation, incidents that increased people's distrust of politics.

Both the ruling and opposition camp should bear in mind that it is their joint responsibility to rebuild the public's trust.


Future of nation at stake

A change of government, as the DPJ asserts, is an important element for realizing a sound parliamentary democracy.

Yet the crucial point is not a "change of government" per se, but how the nation's politics should be changed through changes in the government.

The upcoming election is the third time the lower house poll has been fought based on the political parties' respective policy platforms they intend to pursue if they come to power.

Their policy pledges cover a wide range of issues and include a lot of highly technical matters. Voters should not be bewildered by mere make-believe populist policies, campaign tactics or fleeting sociopolitical atmosphere of the moment.

Voters must think carefully and consider the issues from multiple angles to grasp the pros and cons of the parties' policies level-headedly and choose the administration.

The upcoming lower house election is an important opportunity for us to think seriously about the future course of the nation and push the nation's politics forward.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2009)
(2009年8月19日01時17分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月18日 (火)

RHサービス ショッピング枠現金化










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(スラチャイ 記)



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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 15(IHT/Asahi: August 18,2009)
EDITORIAL: Memories of war must be passed down


A recent academic survey of students at the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science turned up a surprising number. The survey, conducted last year by the university's Nagasaki Institute for Peace Culture, found only 33.2 percent of the respondents knew the correct day when World War II ended with Japan's surrender.

The figure was around 50 to 60 percent 15 or so years ago.

Now, more than three-quarters of the Japanese population are those born after the war. Of the people who returned to Japan from World War II battlefields, only an estimated 400,000 are still alive. The people who received the nation's last examinations for conscription in 1945 at the age of conscription--19 at that time--are now 83.

How can we ensure that memories of the war will be handed down through generations? We are apparently facing a challenge that is getting increasingly difficult year after year.

Listening to war veterans

Naoko Jin, a 31-year-old employee at an English language school in the city of Saitama, visited the Philippines as part of a study tour when she was a student. During a gathering in the country, Jin was shocked to hear an old Filipino woman say she didn't want to see any Japanese.

She said that her husband was killed by a Japanese soldier.

Three years later, a friend happened to tell Jin about a former Japanese soldier who died while repenting what he did on the battlefield.

The poignant story gave her the idea of making a video of former Japanese soldiers speaking about their feelings concerning their wartime experiences in the Philippines and delivering the video to people in the country.

Using information sources like lists of personnel who served in Imperial Japanese Army units, Jin sent letters to several hundred Japanese who fought in the Philippines, asking them to appear in the planned video.

After a while, replies started arriving sporadically, and Jin began to travel to various parts of the nation with a videocamera to visit those who expressed a willingness to accommodate her request.

"We were all educated to do anything for the country. I just think I lived according to what the (militaristic) education taught me," said a former army soldier.

"Robbery, rape, murder, arson. Although I acted on military orders, I still feel guilty. But I don't know how to apologize," a man who served in an engineer corps said with a strained voice.

One veteran, after recounting his wartime experiences in the Philippines, disclosed that he stabbed guerrillas in a frenzy.

The Philippines was one of the bloodiest battlefields of the Pacific War. About 500,000 of the 600,000 Japanese soldiers and civilian personnel serving the country died amid fierce battles between Japanese and U.S. forces. In addition, more than 1 million Filipinos were killed.

Jin revisited the Philippines with a video showing Japanese war veterans speaking about what they did in the country.
Many of the local people who watched the video were surprised to find the former members of the Japanese Imperial Army still struggling with emotional turmoil. Some of the locals said they forgave the Japanese.

To Jin, the history of the war looks hazy.

Chinese and South Korean criticism concerning descriptions of the war in Japanese school textbooks or Japanese high-ranking officials' visits to Yasukuni Shrine usually provokes a backlash in Japan.

When she traveled abroad, Jin was suddenly faced with Japan's wartime past. But she learned little about modern history at school. She has read "Barefoot Gen," a Japanese manga series describing the effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on a boy's life. But she has no clear images of Japanese soldiers sent overseas during the war.

Jin felt she couldn't disperse the fog and move forward unless she knew more about the war and the era through firsthand accounts by people who took part in the war.

Jin set up a group named "Bridge for Peace." Young members of the group interviewed nearly 70 former soldiers. The group screens films comprising the interviews almost every year in cooperation with citizen organizations in the Philippines.

Discussing experiences

Makoto Yasuda, an 86-year-old living in Tokyo's Nakano Ward, was an air radio soldier during the war. After returning from the Philippines, Yasuda worked for a company importing pharmaceuticals and retired after serving as president of the company's subsidiary.

Yasuda had been long convinced that nobody would be interested in hearing the war experiences of a former private second class.

But he was alarmed to find a nationalistic atmosphere pervading this nation, encouraging the use of belligerent language toward foreign countries.

He wondered if young people today really knew about the wretchedness of war.

Two years ago, Yasuda's life reached a turning point when his grandchild took him to a meeting to discuss the war. Now, he speaks about his wartime experiences at places like community centers in response to requests.

When he encounters people around the same age while taking a walk, he invites them to join in this activity.

There are also attempts to make the experiences of former soldiers readily available to the public.

Last month, a small war museum opened in a private house in Tokyo's Kita Ward. A group of volunteers in their 20s and 30s dedicated to showing and preserving records of war experiences have spent four years interviewing World War II veterans. DVDs and written materials at the museum offer personal accounts of the war provided by some 2,200 former soldiers.

"Leaving records of the experiences of people who took part in the war--which were once national memories--as much as possible is an important mission of the generation of their grandchildren, who were born after the war," says Junko Nakata, the 35-year-old leader of the group. "The next five years, or rather the next three years, will be crucial."

The number of former soldiers offering to talk about their experiences for the group is increasing as contributors invite their comrades in. Their slogan is: "Buddies, let's tell (the younger generation) before we die."

Yasuda has also joined the movement.

Vanishing memories

Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) is promoting a project called "War Testimony Archives," which produces videos available on the Internet of former soldiers talking about their war experiences.

NHK posted videos of about 100 World War II veterans during the trial period through October. The broadcaster plans to expand the archives further by collecting accounts from people behind the front lines and set up a website devoted to the project in 2011.

NHK has compiled video archives of interviews with war veterans made for its programs, including those that were not broadcast.
Viewers can search the archives using the names of battlefields or a chronological table.

The project is aimed at building a systematic and comprehensive collection of videos to preserve Japanese people's memories of the war.

This is one example of an effort to recover the vanishing memories of the war. A number of attempts are under way to pass the experiences of the war onto future generations.

Ordinary people can be dragged into a war by a government taking the wrong path and commit or suffer brutalities in extreme situations.

This harrowing reality of war is the coherent message that should be gleaned from the accounts these unknown former soldiers leave for young people.

The accumulation of these firsthand accounts of the war should be kept as a shared public asset to ensure that Japan won't make the same mistake again.

We must not tolerate the prevalence of political debates that ignore the reality of war.

Before long, there will no longer be people who experienced the war. But that won't end Japan's postwar era.

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GDPプラス 本格回復へ詰めを誤るな

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 18, 2009)
Govt must pull out stops for full-fledged recovery
GDPプラス 本格回復へ詰めを誤るな(8月18日付・読売社説)

Though statistics show the nation's economy has finally hit bottom, this does not mean there is no risk that the economy will fall back into recession.

The nation's gross domestic product grew 0.9 percent in the April-June period from the previous quarter, which represents an annualized growth rate of 3.7 percent, marking the first expansion in five quarters.

Exports began increasing thanks to the recovery of overseas economies, while on the domestic front, consumer spending and public investment got a shot in the arm from the government's economic-stimulus measures.

Though the rapid economic downturn, which had progressed at the worst pace since the war, has halted, annualized real GDP stands at 526 trillion yen, down about 40 trillion yen from a year ago, a state of affairs that fails to convince us that the economy is on a recovery track. The government must not stumble in putting the finishing touches on its policies for a full-scale business recovery.

GDP growth in the April-June period was led by overseas demand. During that period, China and many other Asian countries achieved high economic growth. In the United States and Europe, the margin of economic contraction narrowed, while exports of major products, such as electronics parts and automobiles, recovered.

Nevertheless, the prospects for overseas economies remain highly uncertain. Therefore, whether the Japanese economy will be able to get on a stable recovery track hinges on the strength of domestic demand.


Self-sustained demand crucial

The fact that consumer spending, which accounts for about 60 percent of GDP, moved into positive territory, is encouraging news. In particular, consumption of consumer durables, such as electrical appliances and vehicles, increased significantly. The government's pump-priming measures, such as tax breaks and subsidies for the purchase of eco-friendly vehicles, and the introduction of the eco point system aimed at boosting sales of eco-friendly electrical appliances, have proved quite successful.

Public spending, which was boosted in supplementary budgets, showed the largest growth in about 10 years, helping push up GDP.

The series of economic-stimulus measures put forward by the government and ruling parties since last summer was accompanied by fiscal deterioration. However, the measures can be viewed as appropriate policy decisions because they helped prevent the economy from sinking into a double-dip recession.

But once the pump-priming steps' positive effects have run their course, there will be concern that consumer spending and public investment will slow down.

It is desirable that domestic demand move into a self-sustaining recovery mode, which is evidenced by the expansion of consumption resulting from higher employment and higher incomes, supported by policy measures. However, the prospects for such a situation are grim.


Austerity not the answer now

Unemployment continues to rise, and workers' income is on the decline due to cuts in bonus and overtime pay. Under such circumstances, we urge the government to make steady efforts to tackle unemployment and provide financial assistance to those in trouble. The government must not hesitate to take additional measures when necessary.

Capital investment, another pillar of domestic demand along with consumer spending, has long been sluggish. Additional policies aimed at spurring business activities, such as further investment tax credits, are likely to be necessary.

At this stage, the government must not take the short-term economic recovery for granted and switch to belt-tightening policy measures, such as cutting down on public works projects.

We also urge the government--irrespective of the political situation--to avoid delaying the compilation of the fiscal 2010 budget, which would hinder policy implementation.

Whichever party or parties take the reins of government following the general election, a business recovery must continue to be the government's top priority in its economic policies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2009)
(2009年8月18日01時22分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月17日 (月)

社説:国立追悼施設 今度は議論途切らすな

(Mainichi Japan) August 17, 2009
Time to consider a new facility to pay respects to Japan's war dead
社説:国立追悼施設 今度は議論途切らすな

Prime Minster Taro Aso avoided a visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the 64th anniversary of the end of World War II, living up to his earlier declaration that he would not make a visit. The Mainichi has consistently opposed prime ministerial visits to the shrine, where Class-A war criminals are enshrined along with Japan's war dead, and we consider Aso's response only natural.

Together with former prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda, Aso is one of three consecutive leaders after former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to have refrained from visiting the shrine while in office, and it appears that a trend of not visiting the shrine has set in. However, this does not provide a solution to the longstanding issue of how respects can be paid to Japan's war dead without producing discomfort among people in Japan and abroad.

Opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Yukio Hatoyama has indicated that if the DPJ takes over the reins of government in the upcoming House of Representatives election and he is elected prime minister, then he will refrain from visiting the shrine and advise his Cabinet to follow suit. He has also suggested that he would consider setting up a national monument to pay respects to the war dead in place of Yasukuni Shrine.

This is by no means a new idea. After Koizumi visited the shrine on Aug. 13, 2001, while serving as prime minister, he raised the issue during informal talks, and a private consulting group of the chief Cabinet secretary considered setting up a separate memorial.

An ensuing report concluded, "In order to show to the world that Japan is actively pursuing peace through its actions, it is necessary for the nation to set up a permanent, national facility with no religious affiliation where people can pay respects and pray for peace."

However, at the time Koizumi stated that even if a new facility were set up, it would not serve as a replacement for Yasukuni Shrine, and he continued his visits. As a result, the idea of establishing a new monument quickly wilted, and the designation of budget funds for a memorial facility that officials had initially considered was put off. Needless to say, Japan's relations with China and South Korea experienced a stormy season during Koizumi's term as prime minister.

It is not only out of consideration for other Asian countries that the Mainichi has remained opposed to prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine. The heart of the Yasukuni issue is that people who became Class-A war criminals during the International Military Tribunal for the Far East are enshrined there. It recently emerged that Emperor Showa had expressed strong discomfort over the enshrinement of Class-A war criminals at Yasukuni. There are probably also many people among the public who have doubts about the status of Yasukuni Shrine in terms of the possibility of the past war being justified.

Yasukuni Shine officials say that under Shinto doctrine, it would be difficult to separately enshrine Class-A war criminals who have already been enshrined at Yasukuni. At the same time, Aso has proposed altering the status of Yasukuni Shrine from a religious organization to a special corporation, but the proposal has not received support in political circles. It remains a fact that various opinions exist among lawmakers from both Aso's Liberal Democratic Party and the DPJ.

However, the issue of how to create a monument that both members of the Japanese public and non-Japanese can visit without feeling uncomfortable is one that must be solved eventually. Regardless of the outcome of the Lower House election, isn't it time for the political world as a whole to once again consider a new memorial facility, including the current plans to enlarge Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery? This time we cannot let the debate be interrupted.

毎日新聞 2009年8月16日 東京朝刊

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アットサービス ショッピング枠現金化



カードのショッピング枠現金化のアットサービス ショッピングの特徴は以下の通りです。




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The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 16, 2009)
Nation remembers war dead / Emperor, Aso hope for world peace in memorial service

The Emperor speaks as the Empress stands with him at a memorial service for the war dead at Nippon Budokan hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Saturday.

Prime Minister Taro Aso and the Emperor spoke of their hopes for world peace at a national memorial service held Saturday in Tokyo to mark the 64th anniversary of the end of World War II and remember 3.1 million Japanese war dead.

About 6,000 people attended the ceremony, including the Emperor and Empress, government representatives and bereaved family members of the war dead. According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, about 4,820 bereaved family members attended, about 240 more than last year.

Aso expressed profound remorse for Japan's conduct during the war and offered his condolences to the war dead.

"Our nation inflicted significant damage and pain on many countries, especially on people in Asian nations," he said at the ceremony at Nippon Budokan hall in Chiyoda Ward. "We must pass on the lessons we learned through the tragic war to coming generations without allowing them to fade with time. We'll actively contribute to ensure a lasting global peace."
「過去の過ちから学んだことを生かしていかなけばならない。決して風化させてならない。今後も世界平和のために尽くします。」 と、首相は述べた。
Attendees offered a silent one-minute prayer as the clock struck noon.

The Emperor said, "I profoundly express my sincere condolences to the soldiers who died on the battlefield, and I sincerely hope for world peace and Japan's further development."

Representing the bereaved families, Norihiro Otsubo, 66, from Ogi, Saga Prefecture, whose father died in battle in New Guinea, said: "We should never forget that today's peace and prosperity is based on the ultimate and heavy sacrifices made by the war dead. We firmly pledge to never repeat this sad history."
「戦没者の命をかけた努力が今日の日本の繁栄につながっていることを忘れてはならない」 と述べた。

According to the ministry, 4,957 bereaved family members were initially scheduled to attend the ceremony. Of them, 4,799 were relatives of military and army civilian personnel, 96 were family members of people who died in air raids and other attacks, and 62 were family members of atomic bomb victims.

The gradual generational change among attendees has become ever clearer. The number of war widows who attended was 64, the lowest ever. No parents of the war dead participated for the second consecutive year. The oldest attendee was the 101-year-old widow of a military member who died in action.

About 2.3 million Japanese military and army civilian personnel and about 800,000 civilians died in World War II.


Diet members visit Yasukuni

Seiko Noda, state minister in charge of consumer affairs, was the only Cabinet minister to visit war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on the anniversary of Japan's surrender.

Noda also visited the shrine, which enshrines 14 Class-A war criminals along with war dead, on Aug. 15 last year when she was a member of the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

Three cabinet members visited the shrine last year.

Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe, former prime ministers who belong to the Liberal Democratic Party, visited the shrine Saturday morning. Koizumi visited the shrine on the anniversary of Japan's defeat for the fourth straight year, while Abe visited for the second consecutive year.

Forty-one members of a nonpartisan group of lawmakers that promotes Yasukuni visits went to the shrine Saturday morning.

The group, which included Koizumi and Abe, is chaired by former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister
Yoshinobu Shimamura.

(日本語翻訳 by スラチャイ)

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(Mainichi Japan) August 16, 2009
News Navigator: How much does education cost in Japan?


The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about the price of education in Japan, from kindergarten through to university.

 ◇すべて私立なら2258万円 欧米に比べ少ない公費支出

 なるほドリ 日本の教育費は高いと言われるけど、幼稚園から大学卒業までに、実際はどのくらいかかるの?
Question: Education expenses in Japan are generally said to be expensive. How much does it cost to put a child through kindergarten to university?

Answer: Cost can vary a great deal depending on whether the schools are national or public, or private. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) calculated average education expenses per child in fiscal 2006 for six different educational scenarios.
 記者 学校が国公立か私立かで、ずいぶん変わります。文部科学省は、子供1人当たりの教育費(06年度)を六つのケースに分けて算出しています。

Attending public schools from kindergarten through high school and then a national university proves to be the least expensive, at about 8.64 million yen in total. Meanwhile, if a child goes only to public schools throughout his or her education, it will cost 8.8 million yen. If a child enrolls in even one private school, expenses creep up closer to 10 million yen. Specifically, going to a private elementary school will cost 8.24 million yen. The most expensive scenario is enrollment at private schools throughout, which will cost 22.58 million yen.

While the data includes the cost of cram schools and extracurricular activities, they are average figures calculated without taking whether a child has chosen a university major in the arts or sciences into account; studying a math or science-related field costs more.

Q: So, education expenses can really squeeze family budgets.
 Q 家計をかなり圧迫することになるね。

A: Yes, and education tends to take up a higher percentage of annual income among lower-income households.
According to a 2008 survey by Japan Finance Corp., in families with an annual income of 9 million yen or more, education expenses per child in elementary school or above accounted for 23.2 percent of income, while in families with an annual income between 2 and 4 million yen, the expenses made up 55.6 percent.
 A そうなんです。特に所得が低いほど世帯年収に占める割合が高くなる傾向があります。

For households with two children enrolled in university at the same time, MEXT estimates education expenses to be about one-third of the country's average household income, which is 6.5 million yen after taxes.

Q: How do education expenses in Japan compare to those in other countries?
 Q 他の国々と比べるとどうなのかな。

A: Compared to Japan and other East Asian countries, people in Europe and the United States strongly expect their country to bear responsibility for education, and parents do not personally put in as much money into their children's education as they do in Japan. Instead, other countries spend more public funds on education. Meanwhile, there is a pronounced dearth of public funds spent on preschool education and higher education in Japan, including universities. The high percentage of children continuing their education at universities in Japan is made possible by the efforts of their families. (Answers by Tomoko Onuki, Political News Department)
 A 日本をはじめとする東アジアの国々に比べ、欧米では「教育は国家の責任」という意識が強く、私たちほど親が子供の教育に多くは投資していません。その代わり各国は教育費へ公費を支出する割合が高いのです。特に日本では、就学前教育と大学など高等教育への公費の支出が少ないことが顕著です。日本の高い進学率は、お金の面でみれば各家庭の努力に支えられているのです。(政治部)

毎日新聞 2009年8月11日 東京朝刊

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:芸能界の違法薬物問題 /東京

(Mainichi Japan) August 16, 2009
Alleged drug use by celebrities sending shockwaves through Japanese society
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:芸能界の違法薬物問題 /東京


In times past, people in show business were seen as unique and free-spirited, living outside the rules of society. In recent years, however, I'd heard celebrities being characterized as well-mannered and generally the model-student type, barely touching alcohol or going out all night. "Unless you're the serious type, the kind who's interested only in pets and books, there's no way you can survive the brutal world of show biz," a friend of mine who works at a television station once told me.

Having been on television programs with young celebs, I've found them to be surprisingly hardworking and polite. Whenever I encounter students with a poor command of honorific language at the university where I teach, I silently think, "You really could learn a thing or two from spending a few months at a talent agency."

And yet, just recently, celebrities popular among the younger generation have been arrested on suspicion of drug possession and use. More than a few fans must have been disappointed to discover that their beloved idols were irresponsible people after all.

Every time the issue of drug abuse in the entertainment industry resurfaces, people attribute it to the acute pressures of the industry. Indeed, show business is characterized by irregular employment, where a top star today could have the plug pulled on a on his TV series next month. Those with a strong sense of duty especially must experience sleepless nights, worrying about an unpredictable tomorrow and the trouble they could potentially cause their family and colleagues.

Still, turning to drugs to alleviate pressures one finds unbearable is unacceptable. Perhaps I'm being harsh, but people who are that fragile are probably not fit for show business to begin with.

Drugs momentarily provide users with extraordinary sensations, but they also have various harmful effects on the body. Most of all, their danger lies in the emotional and physical dependency that users can develop on them, making quitting incredibly difficult. You could say that virtually no one who uses drugs thinking they'll stop "after a few times" is actually able to do so.

There are reports that of late, drugs, seen as "relaxation medication" or something akin to vitamins and dietary supplements, are exchanged among young people with ease. Regardless of one's justification for drug use -- be it to relieve stress, seek excitement, or as mere recreation -- what is wrong is wrong. If you are unwilling to experience your demise and that of those around you, take this to heart: do not mess with drugs. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2009年8月11日 地方版

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2009年8月16日 (日)

社説:終戦記念日に際して 「打たれ強い日本」に 低エネルギー化急げ

(Mainichi Japan) August 15, 2009
Japan should reduce energy consumption to make it less vulnerable to global crises
社説:終戦記念日に際して 「打たれ強い日本」に 低エネルギー化急げ

It may seem odd to take the opportunity on the anniversary of the end of World War II to insist that Japan should reduce energy consumption. However, it is indispensable for peace and safety in Japan.

It is impossible to completely eradicate the threats posed by climate change, uncertainties in the demand and supply of energy and potential food crises. However, Japan can at least make itself less vulnerable to these threats by transforming itself into a society that relies less on energy. By doing so, Japan can also extend assistance to developing countries faced with such global problems.

The more energy efficient a military is, the stronger it is. The climate change strategy announced by the British Defense Ministry in December last year is based on this idea. To promptly respond to the threat posed by climate change, the British ministry believes it indispensable to increase the energy efficiency of its weapons. Any military that consumes a huge amount of oil lacks the ability to continue to fight in a war. U.S. forces are even considering developing and introducing hybrid tanks.

Japanese forces constantly suffered a shortage of resources and energy throughout World War II. They desperately attempted to extract petroleum from oil shales in Manchuria and to get fuel for aircraft from pine tree roots, but to no avail.

The United States is now processing massive amounts of corn into bioethanol, a fuel for automobiles, contributing to a potential food crisis.

Japan's technology of extracting oil from pine tree roots was far more primitive than the U.S. technology of producing bioethanol. However, both are similar in that labor force and facilities were wasted.

The global population, which now stands at approximately 6.5 billion, is expected to grow to 9 billion. A growing number of countries are assuming that the increase in the global population could trigger a food crisis. Last year, countries banned exports of agricultural products one after another. India and many other countries continue to do so this year.

A coup in Madagascar in the spring of this year was triggered by protests against a foreign company for buying up farmland in the country. There are numerous countries that buy up farmland in developing countries and secure food exclusively for themselves. The potential for oil, water and food crises are growing all over the world.

Various countries including Japan are competing in their own Green New Deal policies, to decrease their reliance on fossil fuels and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, they are trying to ensure both environmental protection and economic growth through technological innovation. We have urged Japan to take the lead in such efforts.

Still, it is necessary to go one step further considering the urgency of problems involving global warming and the limits of natural resources available.

Sooner or later, we need to drastically change our lifestyles due to the need to protect the environment and the limits of natural resources. Experts are divided over when we have to do so. In any case, as the British Defense Ministry points out, the less energy we consume, the less vulnerable we are to environmental and energy crises.

Japan has not drawn a road map toward a low-energy but affluent society that could be a model for the world. Low energy consumption is widely regarded as leading to a poor lifestyle. Nobody would accept it. People must be affluent even if they are forced to substantially reduce their energy consumption.

One thing is clear. Reduction in energy consumption is a matter that is closely linked to the independence and self-reliance of regional communities because it requires each regional community to ensure their self-sufficiency for not only food but also energy.

Japan should transform itself into a country where regional communities will compete with each other in pursuing affluent lifestyles without wasting energy.


毎日新聞 2009年8月15日 東京朝刊

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フラワーサポート ショッピング枠現金化







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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 14(IHT/Asahi: August 15,2009)
EDITORIAL: Growth strategy



Japan's rapid recovery from the devastation of World War II and strong postwar growth were admired by the world as an economic "miracle."

Japanese confidence in the country's performance was bolstered in 1969, when its gross national product surpassed that of West Germany, making Japan the second-largest economy in the Western bloc after the United States.

But Japan is about to lose the No. 2 spot to China, whose economy has been growing at a breakneck pace.

Now, Japan is gripped by pessimism, in a sharp contrast to the uplifting mood of 40 years ago.

The country is reeling from an unprecedented economic crisis, and people are concerned about the prospects of low economic growth and the shrinking population.

The heady days of booming economic growth in tandem with an expanding population are long gone.

Some might shrug and say it is time that Japanese people sat back and enjoyed the fruits of their matured economy.

But unless a country's gross domestic product grows, it is difficult to maintain its standard of living.

A new model for economic growth is crucial to increase the economic pie and shake off the nation's sense of stagnation.


To that end, Japan must take up three challenges: compete and coexist with the world's emerging economies such as China, overcome the consequences of an aging society and reshape the nation into a low-carbon society.

While these tasks are all daunting, there is no reason to worry. Japan can turn these challenges to its advantage if it approaches them from new angles.

Here is one example. China is not only morphing into a formidable rival to Japan; it is also shaping up to be a rich, neighboring market. The world is looking to China's robust growth to help pull the global economy out of the recession.

Asia, which includes India and Southeast Asia, offers far greater economic growth potential than the United States or Europe. The region's middle class has expanded to nearly 900 million people.

Japan needs to devise a strategy to maintain competitiveness in this new phase of economic globalization led by multiple key players.

Japan should work to integrate Asian countries into a common market in which all the region's countries share in its wealth, while expanding global trade. This would create huge opportunities for Japanese business.

To transform into a low-carbon society, Japan should slash greenhouse gas emissions within an international framework.

While it will be a demanding task for a manufacturing economy like Japan, the transition will open up great opportunities to develop new technologies and products.

Solar power generation is a case in point.

According to Sharp Corp. Chairman Katsuhiko Machida, whose company is a major manufacturer of solar cells: "Japan's solar cell plants are like oil fields. Oil-producing countries in the Middle East have asked our company to build (solar cell) factories there."

Japan can emerge as a winner in a low-carbon society if it improves on such world-class environmental technologies.

Meanwhile, the aging of its population means Japan will find it increasingly difficult to secure labor force and maintain its pension and medical insurance systems.

Given that concerns about these prospects are crimping consumer spending, Japan must make it a key economic priority to bolster its social safety net and allay public anxiety.

Populations are aging fast in many other countries, too, such as Italy and South Korea. China's 1.3-billion population will also start graying quickly in the near future.

But Japan is the world's first country to go through this radical demographic change, and it will be closely watched as a model of how to build a successful advanced-age society.

Japan could establish world-leading industries if it promotes the development of nursing care robots and highly advanced medical and welfare services through policy incentives, including deregulation and tax breaks.

If such cutting-edge products and services create new jobs and ease the burden of people caring for aging family members, tackling the challenges of the aging society will lay the foundation for renewed growth.


A fundamental question as the nation gears up for the Aug. 30 Lower House election, which could result in a change of government, is how to secure a decent future for our nation.

Unfortunately, the election manifestoes of neither the Liberal Democratic Party nor the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan offer a grand vision on this question.

Granted, the LDP has set a few numerical targets, such as achieving economic growth of an annualized 2 percent in the latter half of fiscal 2010 and creating demand worth 40 trillion to 60 trillion yen over the next three years.

The DPJ, criticized for offering few growth strategies, has added some campaign promises, such as transforming Japan's economy into one led by domestic demand.

But both parties have failed to offer a road map to reach these goals, leaving their entire economic strategies unclear.

To achieve economic growth, political parties need to put together a comprehensive program that draws on the synergies of government policies and taps private-sector resources in Japan and abroad.

In addition, the parties need to win the public's understanding by explaining not just the benefits that growth will bring, but also the pain and burdens that will accompany the shift in the nation's industrial structure.

Turning Asia into a booming common market will call for the creation of a free trade zone centered on Japan, China and South Korea.

Now is the time to seriously consider the vision of an East Asian community, along with a common Asian currency.

Meanwhile, Japan should also work toward concluding a free trade agreement with the United States.

To overcome the fallout from a liberalization of farm imports, Japan will have to carry out drastic agricultural reforms. We may have to scrap the acreage-reduction program and introduce income-supplementing payments to farmers, for example.

Expansion of the distribution networks between Japan and other Asian countries will also be imperative.

One effective way to do this will be to enter into projects to build highways, railways and ports in other Asian countries at the planning stage, perhaps by mobilizing the government's official development assistance programs.

Japan must view all these challenges as golden opportunities and reinvent itself as a matured economy.

More than ever before, Japan's political leaders are required to offer innovative visions and a broad perspective to lead the way for a new industrial revolution.

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野球の五輪落選 魅力をどう世界に広めるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 16, 2009)
IOC decision tough on baseball, softball
野球の五輪落選 魅力をどう世界に広めるか(8月16日付・読売社説)

Even if Tokyo is chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games, we will not be able to enjoy watching the battle for baseball and softball medals.

The International Olympic Committee executive board has selected golf and rugby sevens for proposed inclusion in the 2016 Summer Games. The board will submit the two sports for ratification by the IOC Assembly in Copenhagen in October.

Baseball and softball, which have been dropped from the Olympic program for the 2012 London Games, failed in their comeback bids. As both are sports Japan had a chance of winning gold medals in, it was a regrettable outcome for this nation.


Baseball stars failed to speak

Baseball is only popular in a few regions around the world, and this may be the main reason it was dropped from the Olympic program. While baseball is popular in Japan and the United States, it cannot be denied that in Europe it lags well behind other popular sports, such as soccer, and is a minor sport there.

The failure of U.S. Major League Baseball's leading players to state whether they would participate in the Games also affected the outcome. In contrast, leading golfer Tiger Woods appealed to the board for his sport to be included in the 2016 Summer Games.

The participation of star players increases interest in a sporting event, which in turn allows higher broadcasting rights fees to be charged, bringing in increased funds for the IOC.

This fact undoubtedly formed the basis of the decision to select golf and not baseball for proposed inclusion in the 2016 Olympics.

Allegations of performance-enhancing drug use by MLB players may also have been a key factor behind the IOC's decision, as the committee has toughened its stance on doping.

There is no doubt the World Baseball Classic will continue to be seen as an important event. To spread baseball's appeal around the world, efforts must be made to improve the standing of this competition that determines the world's number one national baseball team.

In the second WBC, which was held in March, it was great to see that the competitiveness of European baseball teams had greatly improved. This is encouraging in terms of promoting the internationalization of the game.

If Japan and the United States continue to play a leading role in promoting the sport around the globe, such improvements in the skill level of emerging baseball nations should lead to the return of the game to the Olympic program in the future.

The IOC decision also came as a huge shock to softballers, for whom participation in the Olympics was their main goal. Maintaining the high standards that saw the Japanese national team win the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games has now become a pressing issue.


Good news for golfers

If golf is officially included in the 2016 Summer Games, we would be able to cheer on Ryo Ishikawa and Ai Miyazato as they drive for gold.

If Tokyo hosts that Games, the inclusion of the two players would make the Olympics even more exciting.

On Oct. 2, the IOC will pick the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games. We hope the nation's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games continues to gain momentum.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2009)
(2009年8月16日01時39分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月15日 (土)


(Mainichi Japan) August 14, 2009
Effectiveness of high-priced celebrities in TV ads overrated

"I couldn't believe what they were paying me. If I could do one every year, I could retire," confessed Hollywood actor Dennis Hopper half-jokingly about his appearance in a Japanese television commercial. The ad for bath salts featured Hopper soaking in a tub with a rubber duck.

Well-known figures are generally not seen in television commercials in the West. Celebrities may make more appearances today than they did in the past, but still, they only account for about 20 percent of all the commercials in the U.S. While they fear that endorsing products in their home countries would earn them a reputation for "selling out" their names, they have taken on goofy roles in Japan for TV commercials, figuring their secret will be safe here. After all, they can get paid hundreds of millions of yen for just a few days' work.

According to CM Databank, a television commercial research and consulting company, 41 percent of all commercials aired in Japan in fiscal 2008 employed celebrities. From this figure, one would assume that famous faces translate into increased profits.

However, there is research showing that this is not necessarily the case.

A team led by professor Brett Martin from the University of Bath in Britain presented students with fake ads for digital cameras to determine the ads' effectiveness. As it turns out, ads featuring average, student-like characters proved to be more effective than those with famous people. Apparently, it's the "If Joe Blow uses it, then maybe I will, too," mentality. Furthermore, it's said that this holds true in any culture.

Perhaps our conviction that famous people sell products had been wrong all along.

Seeing how not only private companies, but even the government and courts have employed big names in their advertisements and public service announcements, only to be forced to "voluntarily" pull those ads off the air when those very celebrities become embroiled in unexpected scandals, it's about time we try a different tack.

Both Toyota and Honda have received praise for their innovative and humorous commercials created for overseas audiences.

And that's without the help of famous people.

Have we lost the creativity to stimulate the sensibilities of our viewers with new ideas?

The ill effects of our dependency on celebrities may be more far-reaching than we think.

(Column by Yoko Fukumoto, Business News Department)

毎日新聞 2009年8月14日 東京朝刊

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終戦の日 追悼めぐる論議を深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 15, 2009)
Time to discuss how to commemorate war dead
終戦の日 追悼めぐる論議を深めよ(8月15日付・読売社説)

Whenever we ponder on those
who dedicated their lives
for the cause of our nation,
our heart aches with deep emotion
 「くにのためいのちささげし ひとびとの ことをおもへば むねせまりくる」

This poem by Emperor Showa (1926-1989) is inscribed on the monument to the memory of the war dead at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Once again, the day has arrived on which the nation commemorates the end of World War II. The government will host a memorial service for the war dead at Nippon Budokan hall, which is close to the national cemetery.

In an ordinary year, the ceremony is attended by the Emperor and Empress as well as the heads of the three branches of state power: the heads of both houses of the Diet, the prime minister and the Supreme Court chief justice. In this regard, it is the nation's most solemn event.
This year, however, the House of Representatives speaker will not attend because the lower house has been dissolved ahead of the upcoming general election.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II. The war broke out with the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Germany had concluded a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union only a week earlier on Aug. 23.

Soon after, Soviet forces invaded Poland and annexed three Baltic states. The three states only regained their independence shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In July, the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe adopted a resolution calling for the anniversary of the day the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was concluded to be a day of remembrance for victims of Stalinism and Nazism. The session was held in Lithuania--one of the Baltic states that came under Soviet control.


Diplomatic blunders

During the war years, Japan repeatedly made diplomatic blunders by making approaches to Germany and the Soviet Union.

The Imperial Japanese Army initially believed it could keep the Soviet Union in check by forming an alliance with Germany. The signing of the nonaggression treaty between those two countries, however, stunned the Cabinet of Prime Minister Kiichiro Hiranuma, which resigned en masse after issuing a statement that said, "Europe's heaven and earth are complicated and inscrutable."

Later, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe concluded the Tripartite Alliance with Germany and Italy as well as the Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact. Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka apparently thought the impasse in Japan-U.S. relations could be broken by balancing against Britain and the United States by strengthening cooperation among four countries--Japan, Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union.

But Matsuoka's plan was scuttled by the outbreak of hostilities between the Soviet Union and Germany. The next cabinet, that of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, decided to go to war with the United States--a reckless undertaking on Japan's part.

As the conflict drew closer to its end, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki asked the Soviet Union to broker a deal with the Allies to end the war. However, the Soviet Union turned its back on the neutrality pact with Japan and invaded Manchuria (what is now northeastern China). As a result, 575,000 Japanese officers and soldiers were captured and detained in Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union. An estimated 55,000 Japanese are believed to have died in the Soviet Union after the war.

A massive amount of documents detailing the Japanese detainees has recently been discovered at a Russian archive. We hope these documents will help identify the Japanese who died in Soviet detention.

Looking back, it is clear that Japanese leaders grossly misinterpreted what was happening on the international stage.

The House of Representatives election to choose the leaders who will be tasked with navigating Japan through uncharted waters will be officially announced Tuesday, opening an 11-day campaign.

Both the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan have mapped out policies they plan to implement should they hold the reins of government. The battle to woo voters will be fierce.


Grandfathers' experiences

The current state of affairs no doubt reminds many people of the grandfathers of Prime Minister Taro Aso and DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama.

Aso's grandfather, former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, served as ambassador to Britain before the war and was a strong proponent of closer ties with Britain and the United States. Yoshida, who engaged with Konoe and other like-minded people in a futile effort to bring the fighting to an end in the closing months of World War II, was arrested by military police and detained for 40 days.
Yoshida fell ill after being released. The war ended while he was recuperating in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Hatoyama's grandfather, former Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama, was a lawmaker focused on party politics who had served as education minister. Hatoyama clashed with Tojo and, as a result, he had to spend some time in seclusion at a villa in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture. He listened to the radio broadcast in which Emperor Showa announced Japan's surrender while he was tucked away in Karuizawa.

While at his villa, Hatoyama regularly read a book written by Austro-Hungarian diplomat Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, who is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of European integration. The book stressed the need for "fraternal revolution." Hatoyama later translated the book under the title of "Jiyu to Jinsei" (Liberty and Life).


Lessons of history

What historical lessons can Aso and Hatoyama learn from the bitter experiences of their grandfathers?

Aso will observe the war anniversary for the first time since becoming prime minister. He has said he will not visit Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo because it would be wrong to make "the people who sacrificed their precious lives for the country" a matter of political contention.

Fourteen Class-A war criminals, including Tojo and Matsuoka, are enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine along with other war dead.

Some LDP members insist the Class-A war criminals must be enshrined elsewhere. Some other LDP members have advocated constructing a national memorial facility. However, the party has not formulated a united position on the matter.

Hatoyama said he would not visit Yasukuni should he become prime minister, and he would urge his cabinet ministers to refrain from going to the shrine. Hatoyama has suggested he favors establishing a national memorial facility for the war dead.

DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said he wants to have a group of experts discuss building a national facility, possibly making use of the Chidorigafuchi cemetery.

Emperor Showa expressed concern that the essence of Yasukuni Shrine, a resting place for the spirits of the nation's war dead, has been distorted with the enshrinement of the Class-A war criminals.

Yasukuni Shrine insists the teachings of Shintoism prevent it from separating the war criminals from the shrine.

However, even if Yasukuni Shrine refuses to separately enshrine the Class-A war criminals, discussions about establishing a national facility will gain momentum regardless of the outcome of this month's general election.

It is time to deepen national-level discussions on the best way to pay tribute to the people who sacrificed their lives for the country, and to settle this issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2009)
(2009年8月15日01時23分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月14日 (金)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 13(IHT/Asahi: August 14,2009)
EDITORIAL: Broadcasting ethics

The Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization (BPO) is an industry watchdog run by the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and commercial networks. It recently made strict demands of two television companies.

It told Nippon Television Network Corp. (NTV) to make a program to clarify erroneous reporting on the program "Shinso Hodo Bankisha!" and demanded Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc. (TBS) take "appropriate measures" over a "serious violation of broadcasting ethics" by its program "Sunday Japon."

In both cases, the organization issued "advisories," the most serious category of recommendations. It issued a wake-up call about problems with program production, after delving into the causes of false reporting.

With regard to "Bankisha," the BPO once again pointed out its inadequacy in corroborating its coverage. Because of poor communication between NTV employees who direct coverage and the production company crew that goes on location to do the actual reporting, work to dig into the truth instead became an exercise to "procure" comments and images in time for the program to air.

"Sunday Japon" put together images that were shot on different days to give viewers a false impression. The comment of a personality who appeared on the show was also misleading. Personalities appeared on the live program without being given basic information. The situation exposed a disturbing lack of journalistic awareness from a program that purports to be a news show.

This time, the BPO addressed such problems as sloppy fact checking, programming that gives first priority to images without delving deeper into the issues and a lack of understanding among concerned parties. These problems are hidden in many parts of television programs. We can almost hear sighs of disappointment within the advisories that ask why such situations are repeated.

The BPO comprises members chosen from outside the broadcasting industry who discuss problems and come up with advisories and views. It is a matter of course for television stations that receive warnings to respect them. At the same time, the broadcasting industry as a whole also needs to seriously accept them.

Tsutomu Sato, minister of internal affairs and communications, made a comment that we find worrisome. Referring to the BPO, he said some people held the view that the watchdog made decisions to suit itself. Based on that observation, he went on to propose the establishment of a "system to constantly examine and monitor programs by an organization with certain powers" that keeps a certain distance from the ministry.

We don't think the BPO is run to suit itself. The comment, which could lead to the regulation of program content by the government, is very questionable.

Coverage of trials for the 1999 murder of a mother and child in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, illustrates the functions of the BPO.

Since many programs effectively criticized efforts to defend the accused, the BPO urged broadcasters to rethink their approach to criminal trials.

As a result, many programs adjusted their stance to better consider human rights.

Such efforts enhance the quality of broadcasts.

Some of the crew of "Bankisha" reportedly did not even know about the BPO.

Unless broadcasters thoroughly educate staff, the same mistakes will be repeated.

If broadcasters continue to produce programs that undermine the trust of viewers, they could encourage moves by the administration to interfere in program production and impose regulations.

NTV plans to shortly air a program to clarify its false reporting on "Bankisha."

We urge it to recover trust through sincere reflection and thorough examination, because autonomy is the path to protect broadcasting freedom.

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社説:09衆院選 党首討論 もどかしさだけが残る

(Mainichi Japan) August 13, 2009
Debate between Aso and Hatoyama was disappointing
社説:09衆院選 党首討論 もどかしさだけが残る

The 90-minute debate between Prime Minister Taro Aso and opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Yukio Hatoyama on Wednesday was frustrating. It was regrettable that their policy discussion lacked substance because it was the last chance for the two candidates to become the next prime minister to have a debate before the upcoming House of Representatives election.

It has been pointed out that the focus of the general election is whether voters will concentrate on their "dissatisfaction" with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) or their "concern" about the DPJ in selecting the next administration. In that sense, both Aso and Hatoyama failed to relieve voters' dissatisfaction and concerns in the debate.

Hatoyama appeared particularly lackluster. He repeated his earlier message that he will transform bureaucrat-dominated politics into one led by legislators and implement "policy measures with a human touch." However, questions he asked Aso lacked an edge.

For example, Hatoyama should have posed severe questions about why the prime minister has failed to prevent retired senior bureaucrats from landing lucrative post-retirement jobs before restrictions on such practices are tightened if the DPJ takes the reins of government. The LDP has pledged to ban bureaucrats from landing post-retirement jobs in organizations they once supervised, but doubts remain about whether it is feasible.

Aso appeared to have carefully prepared questions in advance. The prime minister apparently believes the DPJ cannot explain how it will secure financial resources for policy measures outlined in its manifesto.

Hatoyama explained that a DPJ-led administration would review the way to compile both general and special accounts of the state budget and reduce wasteful outlays and eliminate non-urgent projects to secure enough funds for its policy measures. However, unless he provides a more specific explanation, he will remain on the defensive.

The prime minister went on the offensive over diplomatic and security policies, including the Maritime Self-Defense Force's mission in the Indian Ocean to refuel U.S. and other vessels engaging in the war against terror.

"We just can't allow a political party that has no consistency in its security policy to take over the reins of government," Aso said.
Hatoyama argued that there are measures that can contribute to peace in Afghanistan other than refueling. However, he failed to specify them.

Aso, who has continued to criticize the DPJ as if he has become an opposition leader, cannot be praised, either. He simply emphasized his government's achievements without addressing the widening income gap, a major issue since the previous general election. He also underscored the importance of a strategy for economic growth, but failed to show a road map toward that end.

The debate, organized by the National Congress for 21st Century Japan, has tried to provide voters with important information they can use in selecting the next administration and prime minister.

However, it is regrettable that the debate was not broadcast by terrestrial TV stations out of consideration for other political parties whose leaders did not participate in it. This failure is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in the future.

毎日新聞 2009年8月13日 0時23分

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年金改革 党派の対立超え接点を探れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 14, 2009)
Compromise necessary for pension reform
年金改革 党派の対立超え接点を探れ(8月14日付・読売社説)

The pension system is the bedrock upon which the citizens of this nation build their postretirement life. However, if this system lacks stability, notions of a strong ultra-aging society will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

In the last fiscal year, the rate of contributions paid by subscribers to the national pension scheme, which mainly covers self-employed and nonregular workers, declined to a record low of 62.1 percent. This figure is believed to reflect public distrust in the current system, with many people reportedly concerned about being unable to receive pension benefits, despite having paid premiums over many years.

Evidently, the pension system will need to be fundamentally overhauled before public confidence can be restored.


Different visions

The Liberal Democratic Party pledged in its policy platforms for the upcoming House of Representatives election to offer help within three years to people who currently receive little or no pension benefits.

More specifically, the party--in a shared pledge with its coalition partner, New Komeito--proposed shortening the minimum period that people are required to pay premiums in order to qualify for pension benefits from the current 25 years to 10 years.

In addition, New Komeito proposed improvements aimed at guaranteeing minimum benefits for low-income earners by providing additional financial assistance from the state coffers.

Conversely, the Democratic Party of Japan proposed an all-encompassing pension program in which everyone would be asked to pay premiums in proportion to their income. The envisaged program also is designed to guarantee a minimum monthly pension income of 70,000 yen by drawing upon taxpayers' money to provide extra benefits. Such a move would transform the current pension scheme.

Though the ruling bloc's pension reform plans and the DPJ's ideas are significantly different, they are not completely incompatible.

Up until the previous House of Councillors election, the DPJ had said the basic pension portion of its minimum-guarantee pension scheme would rely entirely on taxpayers' money. This proposal thus gave the impression that the current premium-based system would be rebuilt from the ground up into a system that was fully funded by tax revenues.

However, the party altered its rationale ahead of the upcoming lower house election. Under its newly drafted reform plan, the envisaged pension scheme would be based on benefits linked to the amount of premiums paid into the system by people during their working years, with the minimum-guarantee pension benefits complementing this income-linked pension.

As a result of this new stance, friction lessened between the ruling and opposition blocs over whether a premium-based or tax-funded program was best suited to the nation's needs.


Cross-party challenge

The ruling parties continue to maintain that a domestic unified pension program should be this country's long-term goal.

We believe the idea of a unified income-linked pension program to be worthy of serious consideration.

However, the DPJ plan would require a long transitional period before the new system could be operated smoothly and effectively. Therefore, as proposed by the ruling parties, the government would need to take measures to financially support those people who had only small pensions, or no benefits at all.

The ruling and opposition blocs' pension reform proposals are not completely contradictory. As such, it would be possible to seek a compromise.

As for coming debates on pension reform, voters should keep a close eye on which party or candidate seems the most constructively minded on the issue.

Whatever political shape the nation takes after the lower house election, reforming the pension system is a task that must be tackled across party lines.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2009)
(2009年8月14日01時13分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月13日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 12(IHT/Asahi: August 13,2009)
EDITORIAL: Suu Kyi's ordeal

The military junta of Myanmar (Burma) on Tuesday ordered pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to remain under house arrest for an additional 18 months.

Suu Kyi was indicted on charges of violating the national defense law, which bans contact with the outside. She is accused of letting an American stay after he allegedly slipped past authorities to swim across a lake to her home.

The court sentenced her to three years in prison with hard labor, a ruling quickly commuted by the military regime to house arrest for 18 months.

The junta, mindful of international criticism, was apparently keen to demonstrate its leniency. But the decision does nothing to change the travesty of Suu Kyi's indictment, which was based on spurious grounds.

Suu Kyi has spent 14 years either under house arrest or in detention.

The extension is aimed at keeping her isolated from the political scene next year, when the junta will hold parliamentary elections to turn the country over to "civilian rule."

But the regime cannot possibly hope to claim legitimacy for an election held under such circumstances.

Japan and many other countries are calling for the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Myanmar. The junta should heed the call immediately.

The military regime seized power in a 1988 coup, and then ignored the results of a 1990 parliamentary election won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in a landslide.
Since then, the generals have only tightened their iron grip over the nation.

Two years ago, the military brutally crushed demonstrations by thousands of Buddhist monks and citizens seeking better living conditions. Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai was murdered by security forces, who shot him while he filmed the protests.

The self-justifying stance of the Myanmar junta is casting dark clouds all over Asia.

Of particular concern are suspicions that the country is advancing military cooperation with North Korea.

A North Korean ship tracked by the U.S. military in June on suspicion of carrying weapons and other cargoes banned under U.N. sanctions is thought to have been headed for Myanmar.

Reports also say an underground tunnel system that appears to be part of a nuclear facility is under construction near the capital Naypyidaw, with Pyongyang's cooperation.

On a visit to Thailand in July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed concerns about a possible transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to Myanmar.

The security environment throughout Asia will shift drastically if Myanmar is developing nuclear weapons.

Until now, the Japanese government has maintained dialogue with the junta and refrained from strong criticism. Its chief concern is that driving the military rulers into a corner would only strengthen the clout of China, which traditionally has close ties with Myanmar.

But such a soft approach can no longer be justified if Myanmar is pursuing a nuclear program. The Japanese government should call on China to exercise its influence on Myanmar, and China should treat the situation seriously.

Japan should also cooperate more closely with other countries when dealing with Myanmar, partly as a way to give teeth to U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

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サイバー攻撃 ネット社会に深刻な脅威だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 13, 2009)
Cyber attacks a threat to modern society
サイバー攻撃 ネット社会に深刻な脅威だ(8月13日付・読売社説)

Cyber attacks are a grave threat to the globe-spanning computer networks that underpin modern society and it is imperative that checks be made to ensure adequate countermeasures are in place to deal with potential problems in this country.

In early July, a spate of cyber attacks hit the Web sites of government organizations, banks and stock exchanges in the United States and South Korea.

Internet bots, which can remotely control the computers of unsuspecting users, were used to launch the attacks. Using such hijacked computers, the hackers simultaneously sent enormous volumes of data to particular Web sites, forcing them to shut down.

The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in South Korea were compounded by the destruction of data, which meant it took many of the affected organizations a considerable time to restore their Web sites.


North Korean involvement?

According to global information security experts, the attacks were launched from about 170,000 bot-infected computers in 74 countries. Though it is highly suspected that North Korea or pro-North Korean groups had a hand in the cyber offensives, it is difficult to conclusively identify the attackers.

However, if North Korea was involved in the attacks in some form, it is likely that Japan will be targeted at some point in the future. We hope careful analyses of the U.S. and South Korean cases will help bolster domestic countermeasures against such attacks.

As exemplified by these recent events, government Web sites are the prime targets for cyber assaults.

While government Web sites are becoming increasingly convenient for the public--such as by allowing people to file income tax returns online, among other tasks--the fact that anyone can access these networks leaves such computer systems vulnerable to cyber attacks.

At the end of July, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry's Web site was tampered with by an unidentified person or group. As a result, it was possible to access with a single click a Web site written in Chinese. Although no real damage was confirmed, this was typical of the kind of malicious behavior that drives hackers to send out computer-infecting bots.

We hope the government, led primarily by the Cabinet Secretariat's National Information Security Center, will closely monitor the situation and take the requisite steps to ensure security is given high priority.


Vigilance required

In terms of countermeasures, individuals, too, also have an important role to play. It has been confirmed that many Japan-based computers were unknowingly involved in the recent digital bombardment of U.S. and South Korean Web sites. According to a government estimate, there are about 300,000 bot-infected computers in Japan.

The most important single step that users can take to protect their computers is to install antivirus software and make sure that it always runs the latest version. Running an up-to-date operating system, such as Windows, also is an effective countermeasure. The Web site of the government-operated Cyber Clean Center offers users a free check to learn whether their computers are infected with bots.

Let us hope we can all avoid becoming unwitting accomplices in bot-based cyber attacks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 13, 2009)
(2009年8月13日01時09分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月12日 (水)

社説:’09衆院選 教育 理念とビジョンがいる

(Mainichi Japan) August 11, 2009
Political parties should explain philosophies, visions on education
社説:’09衆院選 教育 理念とビジョンがいる

Education is a long-term project for a nation.

The guarantee of equal opportunities for the young to receive an education, which is the core of the nation's education system, is being affected by uncertainly in people's livelihoods caused by the rising unemployment rate and the widening income gap.


These problems have not only forced youths to leave schools or abandon advancing to higher education. Data shows that such disparities in living standards are reflected in the results of academic aptitude tests.

Political parties have pledged to extend financial support to the education of children in their education policies, just like aid in their childcare policies. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has promised to make early childhood education for those aged 3-5 free of charge on a step-by-step basis. The largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has declared that it will make tuition fees for public high schools free and extend a large amount of financial assistance to private high school students.

Reducing household education costs is an effective way to apply the brakes to the declining birthrate, and numerous households will obviously welcome the move. Political parties should take this opportunity to discuss their basic policies and philosophies on education and work out concrete measures to achieve them.

It was in the 1970s that the government began to seek a third educational reform policy following one at the time of the Meiji Restoration and after World War II. However, the government's review of the education system hardly progressed. In the 1980s, the Ad Hoc Council on Education, which was set up as an advisory panel to the prime minister, called for respect for the individuality of students, education suited to internationalization and an increasingly information-oriented society with emphasis on lifelong education.

However, there are inconsistencies in the nation's education policy over the past decade amid the rapidly declining birthrate and dramatic changes in the economic environment. Criticism emerged that the lighter school education curriculum, which was aimed at preventing cramming, caused academic ability to decline. This forced the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to revise the curriculum to boost what is taught at schools.

While the ratio of students who attend universities has surpassed 50 percent, an increase in the number of students who have no clear goals for their future careers has become a serious problem.

Japan tends to be regarded as a country that does not spend much money on education compared with other countries.  一方、国際比較すると、日本は教育にあまり金をかけない国と映る。

The taxpayer money Japan spends on education accounts for about 3 percent of the country's gross domestic product, well below the average of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries, which stands at 5 percent.

Behind this is the traditional idea in Japan that parents should foot the costs of educating their children.

The government's efforts to restrain spending of taxpayers' money have prevented the ministry from increasing education outlays.

The ministry attempted to call for an increase in its education spending to equal the average of OECD member countries and incorporate a numerical target of increasing the number of schoolteachers by 25,000 in its basic education promotion plan.

However, the Finance Ministry refused to approve it on the grounds that there was no prospect that such efforts would produce positive results.
(他の先進国に負けぬにはこれだけ予算や人がいるという論法だが、) 支出抑制の財務省は「成果の見通しがない」と認めなかった経緯がある。

Discussions on increasing financial assistance for education should be expanded to those that cover the education policy as a whole.

Education should be regarded as not only a way to develop the potential of children but also as a public investment necessary to ensure a stable and sustainable society.

The upcoming general election offers an opportunity to express opinions on the hopes of the nation.

Voters should pursue a vision of education with the future of their children fully in mind.

毎日新聞 2009年8月11日 東京朝刊

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災害列島 避難準備と救援体制は万全に

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 12, 2009)
Sound preparations a must for disasters
災害列島 避難準備と救援体制は万全に(8月12日付・読売社説)

The combination of a typhoon and an earthquake reminds us afresh that Japan is an archipelago of disasters.

First, heavy rains associated with Typhoon No. 9 hit various places in western Japan. As the typhoon moved east, an earthquake with an intensity of lower 6 on the Japanese scale of 7 occurred in the Tokai region, which fell in the path of the typhoon, with its focus under Suruga Bay off Shizuoka Prefecture.

It was found that Tuesday's quake was not related to the much-feared expected major Tokai earthquake. However, the damages done by the two disasters are serious. We hope the central and local governments involved do their best in rescue and restoration efforts.

The heavy rains caused flooding of rivers and landslides in many places. The number of people dead or missing reached 30 in Hyogo Prefecture and surrounding areas. Many houses were buried by landslides.

In the Shizuoka Prefecture earthquake, a violent tremor of lower 6 in intensity was recorded in several cities in the prefecture. Many injuries were reported, both minor and serious, including people hurt in neighboring Kanagawa and Aichi prefectures as well as Tokyo.


Complex disaster

As rainfall from Typhoon No. 9 before the quake made the ground loose, the quake caused landslides in several places, apparently broadening and combining the impact of the two disasters.

In particular, the collapse of part of the Tomei Expressway in Shizuoka Prefecture is expected to seriously affect the nation's distribution system.

A 100-meter section of the expressway, dubbed the "aorta of transportation," which connects eastern and western Japan, was destroyed. The road should be repaired as soon as possible to allow traffic to begin to flow once more.

Typhoon season is just getting started. A huge earthquake could occur anywhere. While work on rescue and relief efforts is vital, it also is important to check whether preparations for natural disasters are sufficient.

Our concern is the current state of evacuation arrangements prepared in case of flooding and landslides. In Hyogo Prefecture, there were those who were swept away by the flooded river while evacuating in anticipation of the river rising. In addition, the evacuation took place at night.

In western Japan, large-scale landslides caused by heavy rains occurred last month, killing 30 people in Yamaguchi Prefecture and other places. At that time, too, problems concerning the evacuation arrangement were pointed out.

The government in 2005 compiled guidelines on evacuation in natural disasters and called on municipalities throughout the nation to streamline evacuation procedures. The government took the move in light of frequent disasters caused by heavy rains the previous year that left more than 200 people dead.


Guidelines poorly observed

The guidelines stipulate that places where the danger of flooding and landslides is high must be identified. Based on the data, a hazard map must be made marking areas where damage is expected. Conditions under which residents will be asked to evacuate have to be decided in advance, taking into consideration the amount and rate of rise in river water levels and amount of rainfall, according to the guidelines.

However, according to the results of a survey by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency announced this spring, only about 40 percent of cities, towns and villages in the country have set such evacuation criteria. Similarly, about 40 percent of municipalities have prepared text messages to tell residents how to evacuate, according to the survey.

The Meteorological Agency says the incidence of heavy rainfalls in a year has been increasing in recent years. We should spare no pains in making a reality of the old Japanese adage that "If you are prepared, you don't have to worry."

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 12, 2009)
(2009年8月12日01時37分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月11日 (火)

社説:ODAの今後 予算の増額が必要だ

(Mainichi Japan) August 10, 2009
Free aid, not loans, the key to effective foreign assistance
社説:ODAの今後 予算の増額が必要だ

The reorganization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' International Cooperation Bureau, the government branch in charge of official development assistance (ODA), has resulted in the previously separate sections handling international yen loans, grant aid, and technical cooperation being divided up by geographical region.

Following the move, officials aim to examine whether each country needs yen loans, free aid or technical cooperation, and examine what combination of assistance is appropriate.

With the exception of some free assistance, implementation of ODA was aligned with the activities of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), together with the yen loan division of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), in October last year. In line with the change, the bureau will consider aid on a country-by-country basis, whether it be in the form of loans, free assistance or technology. The move streamlines the operations of the Foreign Ministry, which handles ODA planning, and JICA, which carries out the plans.

Japan is now approaching an important phase in its ODA activities. In addition to pledges that past Japanese prime ministers have made to assist Africa, Japan must increase the amount of its assistance to other Asian countries. It has declared that it will provide both financial and technological cooperation in environmental measures, represented by measures to combat global warming.

However, as reforms align income and expenditure, the budget for aid has continued to decrease. On a global scale, Japan has fallen from its position as the world's top provider of ODA to fifth place. And in terms of the ratio of ODA to gross national income, it sits at the bottom of the list of developed countries, alongside the United States.

There is no doubt that up until now, Japan had considered the provision of foreign aid to be an important method of diplomacy. But in terms of the general account, cuts in aid have continued, and the situation has gradually become worse. By increasing the amount of its yen loans, the government hopes to secure projects and carry out its international pledges, but this has limited effect. Most poverty reduction is the result of free aid.

Determining what assistance is required in countries covered by JICA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, promptly carrying out investigations, deciding on and providing assistance, and implementing reforms that make an impression on recipients of Japan's ODA are essential. But that alone does not enable Japan's aid to function as soft power.

Firstly, if the government is not able to provide funding, then its assistance plan will be a pie in the sky. Neither the ruling nor opposition parties have clarified their stance in this respect. The budget for ODA should be increased. Saying that, however, budget constraints are tight. In addressing the issues, Japan should back a combination of private funds and funds from JBIC.

Secondly, while strategic aid as a diplomatic means is unavoidable to some extent, Japan must not forget that the foundation of ODA is in measures to help countries emerge from poverty and underdevelopment.

When facing a situation of recession, it is easy for political measures to turn inwards. But it is exactly at this time when development of ODA strategies is necessary.

毎日新聞 2009年8月10日 東京朝刊

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警察白書 国民の「抵抗力」が被害を防ぐ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 11, 2009)
Develop immunity to remittance frauds
警察白書 国民の「抵抗力」が被害を防ぐ(8月11日付・読売社説)

This year's white paper on police published by the National Police Agency has a special section titled "Measures against crimes that threaten people's daily lives."

As examples of such crimes, it mentions bank remittance fraud and vicious business scams. It details current police measures against remittance fraud and lists related problems to be tackled.

The total number of criminal offense cases has been decreasing in recent years after peaking in 2002. But the white paper points out that the spread of such crimes is "one of the factors preventing people's uneasiness about public security from being allayed."

If the current economic slump prolongs, new types of crimes that threaten people's daily lives may proliferate.

The police white paper emphasizes that it is important to enhance people's understanding and cooperation when it comes to fighting crime, such as by encouraging members of the public to provide information to police, and to boost people's crime-prevention capability. Indeed, preventing remittance fraud is not something that can be accomplished by police alone.


Various ploys used

There are a variety of ploys used in the commission of remittance fraud, including the "It's me" type, in which offenders pretend to be a son or grandchild of the targeted victim, and the refund type, in which offenders pass themselves off as workers at social insurance and tax offices.

People across the country have been victimized. In many cases, money remitted to criminals is withdrawn from ATMs in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The bank accounts and cell phones used in the crimes belong to third parties or fictitious people.

The criminals in the groups that run the scams perform different tasks, and it is not easy to gain a clear picture of how the frauds are perpetrated. For instance, a group might consist of a person who dupes victims, one who obtains bank accounts and cell phones, and another who withdraws swindled money. The ratio of arrests to cases of remittance fraud remains slightly more than 20 percent.

The NPA has been making efforts to combat such crimes, with police forces nationwide alerted to take countermeasures. For instance, it has inputted the modus operandi of all reported remittance fraud cases into a database that can be used in investigations. It also has deployed a special full-time investigation force comprising investigators from the Metropolitan Police Department and prefectural police headquarters in the metropolitan area.

These were necessary responses to fight a crime that is a threat to people all over the country.


Cat-and-mouse game continues

After banks limited the amount of cash that may be transferred via ATM to 100,000 yen, cases of money being remitted between accounts increased. Offenders began using a special postal package service to receive money instead of ATMs, which are subject to heightened security measures to counter remittance fraud.

Police will have to continue their cat-and-mouse game with these wily offenders. To prevent new scams from being devised, it is crucial to prevent criminals from using and coming up with new ways to foil police, including revising related laws and creating new ones.

What can be done to prevent bank accounts, ATMs and cell phones from being used in crimes? Financial institutions and cell phone service operators should think seriously about measures to solve this problem.

The need for cooperation among agencies and ministries concerned--including the Financial Services Agency, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the consumer affairs agency that is to be launched as early as autumn--is also increasingly evident.

In its conclusion, the white paper describes the importance of reviving solidarity among people in communities as well as bonds among family members, which are weaker than they used to be, so society as a whole can combat crime.

What should we do to prevent criminals from cheating us? Steady efforts by individual communities are also now required to combat crime.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 11, 2009)
(2009年8月11日01時07分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月10日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 8(IHT/Asahi: August 10,2009)
EDITORIAL: Politicians and policy



The longstanding system that allows bureaucrats to play a leading role in the nation's politics has reached a dead end.

Under this system, bureaucrats define national interests and develop and execute the optimal policies to promote them.

The status of bureaucrats changed from the emperor's servants, as they were since the beginning of Japan's modernization in the late 19th century until the end of World War II, to "servants of the whole community," as defined under the postwar Constitution.
But the basic policymaking structure has not changed much. The bureaucracy takes the initiative in mapping out policies and the governing party simply piggybacks on the proposed programs.

Unlike political parties, which tend to get locked in partisan battles over narrow, parochial concerns, and politicians, who tend to be influenced by the interests of their constituencies, bureaucrats are supposed to focus purely on national interests as they carry out their duties.

It is fair to say that many bureaucrats have worked hard at their jobs with a sense of mission, and won the trust of the people. Saburo Shiroyama's novel about such hardworking bureaucrats, titled "Kanryo-tachi no Natsu (The summer of bureaucrats)," has recently been made into a TV series.

But many Japanese are keenly aware that this traditional system is no longer working.

That is clear, for instance, from the history of massive public works spending in Japan. Bureaucrats, working in tandem with the Liberal Democratic Party, kept funneling huge amounts of financial resources into projects to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure, turning Japan into a unique "construction state."

Even though Japan has changed from a fast-growing emerging economy to a mature economy with slower growth, there has been no major shift in public works policy, with the road budget kept off-limits to any radical reform.

Despite growing public demand for increased spending on social security programs and policy efforts to maintain the people's living standards, politicians serving the interests of the construction industry and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism are working together to prevent the reform needed to change budget allocations. The prime minister does not have the power to break their resistance.

Meanwhile, a string of bid-rigging scandals involving former bureaucrats on the payrolls of businesses they once supervised has come to light. A series of revelations has exposed numerous examples of wasteful public works spending.

Bureaucrats monopolize policy information. This could cause serious problems, as is obvious from the devastating scandals over pension recordkeeping at the Social Insurance Agency.

Furthermore, bureaucrats, who are not elected officials, are not held directly accountable for misguided policies.

While many people think this system is already beginning to collapse, the bureaucratic stranglehold on government is showing no signs of easing.

Here lies one fundamental factor behind the public distrust of politics.

* * *

Under a parliamentary Cabinet system, the government is formed by the party that controls parliament. The governing party should lead the bureaucracy in crafting and implementing policy.

In Japan, however, the ruling party has been less than eager to take the lead in policymaking. On the contrary, the party has maintained cozy relations based on mutual dependence with the bureaucracy.

It is hardly surprising that main opposition party Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), which is seeking to wrest power from the LDP in the upcoming Lower House election, has made proposals to change the status quo.

Minshuto promised to establish a system in which it will control policymaking if it comes to power through five specific measures described at the outset of its election manifesto. The party's main proposals include the following.

A team of lawmakers would be appointed to top posts at each ministry and agency, such as senior vice ministers, parliamentary secretaries and advisory aides to ministers. Through such political appointments, more than 100 politicians of the party would direct policymaking within the government.

A new "national strategy bureau" would be created to map out policy visions and budget outlines under the direct supervision of the prime minister.

A new administrative reform council would monitor the entire operation of the government to check and eliminate waste and illegalities.

Under the LDP, policy decisions are made under a bottom-up system. Policy proposals are made from ministries and agencies and endorsed by the Cabinet after the party's screening.

Minshuto's top-down approach would reverse the process. The broad outlines of key policies and the order of priority would be determined by the prime minister's office and then communicated to the related ministries and agencies for implementation.

This approach is designed to remove wasteful and dubious expenditures from the government budget. These are items that have been allowed to remain far too long. Some have been hidden in the shadows of the highly compartmentalized bureaucratic system. Others are the result of cozy ties between bureaucrats and special-interest politicians. This reform should lead to budget allocations more focused on policy priorities.

Minshuto says it would ax government contracts whose main purpose is to support businesses offering cushy jobs to retiring bureaucrats.

* * *

There is no telling whether the system envisioned by Minshuto will actually work as advertised until it is tested in the real world.

Do politicians have the ability to shoulder such heavy policymaking responsibilities? Will the envisaged new cooperative relations with bureaucrats working on the front line of policy implementation really work?

There are many questions and uneasiness concerning the opposition party's policymaking vision.

But driving a stake into the entrenched structure of bureaucratic control of policymaking may require radical reform in several power transfers through elections.

The LDP, of course, has not been unaware of the importance of lawmakers' leadership in the government.

The ruling party's manifesto pledges to launch a national strategy staff to support the prime minister and enhance political leadership. It also promises a complete end to the practice of amakudari--senior bureaucrats retiring into plum jobs in the industries they supervised. But the document offers few specific measures to achieve these objectives.

The LDP is stressing its ability to carry out a public mandate in a responsible way. We urge the ruling party to make a sweeping review of the relations between politicians and bureaucrats under its long rule and present a convincing plan to overhaul the system.

How should relations between politicians and bureaucrats be changed? Answering this question in a meaningful way requires serious debate on key decentralization issues. What should the roles of the central and local governments be? How should revenue be distributed?

Voters are hoping to be offered viable options for the future of this nation that address all these questions.

All the parties are stressing their election promises concerning the protection of people's livelihoods in their campaigns for the upcoming Lower House poll.

The question is who would develop and execute specific policies to achieve these goals and how they would be implemented.
The kind of government this nation should have is a large and important issue fit for the campaign debate for this historic election.

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:“ジャクソンさん中毒” /東京

(Mainichi Japan) August 9, 2009
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Michael Jackson addiction
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:“ジャクソンさん中毒” /東京

"Doctor, even if I think to myself that I have to stop, I just can't give it up."

When I heard this from one long-time patient, I was shocked. She had once had a shopping addiction, and I was worried that she had relapsed. However, it was not shopping this patient could not stop, but watching Michael Jackson DVDs.


"While I was watching the videos of him dancing being shown on TV over and over again, I started to want a DVD. But once I had the DVD, it was like my eyes were nailed to the screen, and I found myself watching it repeatedly in a single day," she told me.

While my patient's DVD watching could not really be called an addiction, and there was no harm in her distress, she was quite serious about the problem.

After that, when I asked my friends about Michael Jackson, I discovered there were quite a few of them who couldn't tear their eyes away from images of the late pop star. They found themselves captured by the stream of videos and pictures that flooded the media in the wake of his death. "I wasn't such a fan before, but now ..." or, "I was really hoping to see him live one day," were common comments.

According to developmental psychology, when children are shown a picture or someone moving that they've never seen before, they will concentrate intensely on the new image. However, if the image is shown to them repeatedly, the children will get used to it and their attention will wane over time. Our everyday experiences work the same way. If we see the same movie two or three times, we tend to think "Ah, I've seen this before," and get tired of watching.

With images of Michael Jackson, however, that familiarity and boredom do not seem to set in. Even if people know how Jackson is going to move next in a particular video by heart, or rather because they know the moves by heart, they find themselves staring at the screen, completely hooked. No matter if the viewer can say "Oh, he's raising his leg. Next comes a jump," Jackson seems to have a power and flexibility that surpasses normal human limits. Thus, perhaps every time Jackson's on screen, one is awed anew by his performance.

It seems probable that the pressure on Jackson to keep up such a level of performance so constantly was immense. If it was this psychological pressure that affected part of his personality and sometimes drove him to do strange things or take up drugs, his life then really became unfortunate.

Personally, I'm a little conflicted at the moment. Should I buy a Michael Jackson DVD, or not? If I did, I fear I, too, would end up a "Michael Jackson addict." (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2009年8月4日 地方版

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「アニメの殿堂」 文化政策のあり方を問え

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 10, 2009)
Parties' cultural policies a focus in election
「アニメの殿堂」 文化政策のあり方を問え(8月10日付・読売社説)

The Democratic Party of Japan is fiercely opposed to a government plan to build a national popular culture center, dubbed the "anime hall of fame," arguing that it would be a wasteful use of the state budget.

The Diet passed in an ordinary Diet session a supplementary budget that included 11.7 billion yen for the construction of the comprehensive media arts center. But the DPJ intends to cancel the plan if it takes power after the upcoming House of Representatives election.

The issue is more than a disagreement over whether such a center per se should be built--it also highlights each party's policy stance on cultural affairs.

We hope, taking this opportunity, that political parties will have active discussions on the issue of cultural affairs.

The envisaged center is expected to serve as a base for disseminating information on manga, anime and game software to people at home and abroad. Planned projects at the center include the exhibition, collection and preservation of such works, research into pop culture and the nurturing of pop culture creators.

Tokyo's Daiba area was at one point considered for the site for the planned facility, but the government now reportedly will have to work from scratch to decide on the location.


'Manga kissa' jibe misplaced

The DPJ has condemned the planned center, saying it would be a "state-run manga kissa [cafe]." This kind of stance will only foster misunderstanding about the project.

It is an important task for the government to actively support the production and publicizing of works in this area, which has gained international recognition. A particularly big challenge will be collecting pop culture works, which are said to be widely dispersed.

The point is to create a facility that matches the purposes for which it is built without wasting taxpayers money.

It also is important to have cooperation with other facilities across the nation, such as the Kyoto International Manga Museum, set up by a group of entities including Kyoto Seika University.

Consideration should also be given to the idea of using existing buildings that could be renovated without necessarily sticking to the idea of constructing a new facility.


Arts a broad field

The Association for Corporate Support of the Arts, comprising companies engaged in cultural support activities, polled political parties about their policies on cultural affairs ahead of the general election.

In its reply to the questionnaire, the Liberal Democratic Party said promotion of culture and arts is a basic plank of its national strategy, and that culture-related budgets need to be drastically increased.

The DPJ, for its part, said it wants to transform the conventional cultural policy centered on construction of facilities into one that makes use of human resources. The party also said it would carefully study culture-related spending in the past and compare it with the situation in the other countries before deciding the scale of its budget for the arts.

These differences in opinion seem to be reflected in the two parties' positions toward the media arts center project.

Cultural administration covers a broad range of issues, including the transmission of traditional culture and the development of cities' cultural assets by taking advantage of their historic landscapes and buildings. We hope political parties will deepen their discussions on cultural policy and come up with concrete policy proposals on the arts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 10, 2009)
(2009年8月10日01時11分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 9日 (日)

掘り出しニュース:お殿様が遊んだ亀 一般にお披露目

(Mainichi Japan) August 9, 2009
Rare Edo Period wind-up toy goes on display in Kitakyushu
掘り出しニュース:お殿様が遊んだ亀 一般にお披露目

A wind-up turtle that once belonged to a 19th-century feudal lord has been put on display to the public at a castle museum here.
精巧に作られた亀の玩具と小川さん 【福岡】長州藩の支藩、清末藩七代藩主、毛利元承(もとつぐ)(1833~1849)が愛用したゼンマイ仕掛けの亀の玩具が5日から、小倉北区の小倉城で公開された。甲羅や亀頭、手足など精巧に作られ、まるで本物のようだ。専門家は「国内で現存する江戸期のからくりの玩具は少なく貴重」という。

The turtle was found by historian Tadafumi Ogawa, 69, at a house of a samurai descendant in the Yamaguchi Prefecture city of Shimonoseki, the former Kiyosue Domain of the Edo Period.

According to a note on the wooden case, the 17-year-old lord Mototsugu Mori presented the elaborate animal toy to his 14-year-old playmate from the domain in 1849.

The wind-up turtle, made of Japanese paper coated with lacquer, is 20 centimeters long and nine centimeters wide. Its spring-powered mechanism allows it to move, swinging its neck and legs.

There are only six wind-up turtle toys from the Edo Period confirmed to exist. "This one was found in very good condition," said Susumu Higashino, an expert in the clockwork studies of Edo period, who repaired the turtle's joints.

The wind-up turtle will be on display at Kokura Castle in Kokurakita Ward, Kitakyushu, until Dec. 1.
 小倉城天守閣1階歴史ゾーンで始まった「おがわ是苦集(コレクション) 第2章 江戸の科学」で公開された。12月1日まで。小倉城093・561・1210。【尾垣和幸】

2009年8月6日 毎日新聞より

(スラチャイ 記)

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消費税引き上げ 必要性を率直に国民に説け

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 9, 2009)
Parties must explain need for consumption tax hike
消費税引き上げ 必要性を率直に国民に説け(8月9日付・読売社説)

It is time to answer the question of how to secure the financial resources needed to make the social security system sustainable.

Most of the public understand that the consumption tax, which spreads the burden on taxpayers broadly and thinly, is the only tax that can be tapped to provide a stable source of financing.

But deep debate on the consumption tax among the ruling and opposition parties in the run-up to the House of Representatives election is yet to occur. Even if the parties argue that priority should be given to economic recovery or thorough expenditure cuts, they also should try to show how a consumption tax rate hike might be achieved.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party specifies in its manifesto that it will take the necessary legal steps by fiscal 2011 to implement drastic reform of the taxation system--including consumption tax changes--immediately after the economy turns for the better.

The LDP will designate the consumption tax as a special purpose tax, allowing it to allot all the increased revenue to social security programs, while gradually raising the consumption tax rate. The party also stated a deadline for completion of the preparation stage, which seems to be a responsible attitude for a ruling party.

In the 2005 lower house election, the ruling bloc pledged to implement drastic reform, including consumption tax reform, around fiscal 2007, but failed to fulfill their promise. If it intends to tackle the reform issue seriously this time, it should clearly state what the tax rate will be and when it will be raised.


DPJ must explain position

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan said in its manifesto that it will not raise the consumption tax rate in the coming four years. In the run-up to the 2005 lower house election, the DPJ said it backed a three percentage point consumption tax rate hike. So far, the party has not sufficiently explained to the public why it has decided there is no need to raise the tax rate this time.

As part of its program for taxation reform announced in December 2008, the DPJ said the importance of the consumption tax would continue to grow and that it intended to draw up a framework for tax reform, including consumption tax changes, during its first term if it gains power.

If the DPJ intends to use the consumption tax as a financial resource to fund the social security system and begin to draw up a plan for drastic taxation reform, little would separate the DPJ and LDP on the issue. The DPJ therefore needs to admit it is necessary to increase the consumption tax burden and frankly explain the reasons why to the public.


Scope for a rate increase

At 25 percent, Sweden has the highest consumption tax rate in Europe, with value-added tax rates in much of the continent, including Britain, France and Germany, ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent. Those of China and South Korea are 17 percent and 10 percent, respectively, making Japan's 5 percent rather exceptional.

It is necessary to take into consideration the effect on low-income earners whose burden will become larger if the consumption tax rate is raised.

By allotting some of the increased revenue to the financing of social security programs, the benefits received by low-income earners can be increased. But at the same time, the question of what the reduced tax rate should be on daily necessities will arise. It will be necessary to consider making mandatory an invoicing system in which various taxes would have to be recorded on an itemized bill whenever a purchase is made.

The DPJ is proposing a system that would see low-income earners given payments equivalent to the consumption tax levied on daily necessities, but this leaves key problems unaddressed, including how to accurately assess each low-income earner's income. So, it is more realistic to first consider applying a lower tax rate on daily necessities than on other items.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 9, 2009)
(2009年8月9日01時19分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 8日 (土)

社説:子育て支援 これが審判を左右する

(Mainichi Japan) August 8, 2009
Political parties try to appeal to voters through child-support policies
社説:子育て支援 これが審判を左右する

The highlight of the Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ) election manifesto is the 26,000-yen monthly allowance to be given per child to households until the child graduates from junior high school. It is approximately five times the amount currently provided by the government, and will cost 5.3 trillion yen a year.

The DPJ proposes that spousal deductions and dependent deductions for income tax be eliminated to generate the necessary funds. This will result in a 511,000 yen increase in revenue for a family with an annual income of 3 million yen and two children, while a family with no children will receive 19,000 yen less than it does now. An additional characteristic of the policy is that, like in various European nations, the allowance is not income-tested.

While there are criticisms that the proposal lacks a reliable source of funds and is merely a cash handout program, gross childcare benefits under the current policy are a mere 0.2 percent of the nation's GDP, a whole digit less than those of major European nations. Childcare allowances plus childbirth and child rearing expenses comprise about 3 percent of the GDP in Britain, France and Sweden, while the figure is 0.75 percent in Japan. The DPJ proposal would finally bring Japan up to the standards already set by other countries.

Existing policy provides financial support in the form of childcare allowances to households with children until they graduate from elementary school, and also offers aid to single-mother households and households with children who have disabilities. The policy was meant to support children whose families had difficulty caring for them on their own, and childcare allowances were initially begun as support for poor households with many children.

The system has been revised several times, but the government has generally worked around its budgetary constraints by shifting funds around -- putting a limit on children's ages when it broadened the range of eligible children, and abolishing additional tax exemptions for dependents to secure more funds when the age limit for eligible children's ages was extended.

In addition to its promise to make preschool free in three years, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has pledged to focus on improving childcare services and to make shorter working hours compulsory for families raising children. Komeito has also announced its plans for free preschool education and the fundamental expansion of the childcare allowance.

The basic principle underlying Japan's traditional approach to child rearing policies is the notion that children be brought up by their own families. In contrast to the ruling parties, who, even as they try to step out of that framework are promoting realistic improvement measures, the DPJ's intention appears to be an ideological shift toward child rearing as a society-wide effort.

It goes without saying that the demise of large families and the rise in two-career and single parent households has been a contributing factor to such trends. Furthermore, such issues as pensions, medical services, and elderly nursing care have the potential to change their course depending on how the next generation chooses to handle them. In other words, child rearing comprises the foundations for the continuous running of a nation, and as such, it is significant that the DPJ counts its childcare policies among the most important in an election that will determine whether it takes over the government.

Naturally, comprehensive measures addressing such issues as balance between career and child rearing and the expansion of childcare services are necessary for the public to be able to raise children without anxiety. However, not many innovative ideas have been brought up on this front. Cash handouts are probably not enough for the idea that "children are a shared fortune" and calls for "investment in the next generation" to gain wide support as policy.

毎日新聞 2009年8月2日 0時03分

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政権公約選挙 正しい方向なら変更は当然だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 8, 2009)
Parties should be open to revising election vows
政権公約選挙 正しい方向なら変更は当然だ(8月8日付・読売社説)

Obviously, it is important for politicians to try to stick to election pledges. However, if they treat pledges as if they are set in stone, they may face problems in meeting their political obligations.

The Aug. 30 poll will be the third House of Representatives election for which political parties have announced their policy platforms, along with proposed revenue sources and deadlines for implementation, since the practice began in 2003.

Academics who proposed such an approach have stressed the need to review previous election pledges each time a lower house election is held.

In keeping with this goal, a number of organizations recently held a joint meeting to rate the degree to which the ruling bloc has met manifesto pledges laid out ahead of the 2005 lower house election.

The organizations were critical of the ruling parties, saying that the structural reform drive promoted by the cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had been gradually adjusted over the past four years.

However, when judging the ruling parties' success, it is dangerous to simply focus on whether the points as laid out in their manifestos four years ago have been attained.


Changing realities of reform

The negative effects of Koizumi's reform drive, such as widening social and economic disparities, started to become evident after the last lower house election in 2005. In addition, the country later entered a dramatic economic downturn as a result of the global economic crisis that began last autumn.

If cabinets that succeeded the Koizumi administration had continued belt-tightening policies--neglecting economic current conditions and failing to take into account problems resulting from market-based structural reforms, such as widening disparities--the Japanese economy likely would have been thrown into chaos.

It is therefore essential to maintain flexibility and a willingness to modify policies in response to changing economic and political realities.

At the same time, it is important for policymakers to offer a clear explanation to voters of why such adjustments are necessary.

However, simply judging the ruling parties' pledges while ignoring the implications of the opposition's proposals also is questionable--the Democratic Party of Japan is battling with the ruling parties for power in the upcoming lower house race, and it is therefore only right that its policy pledges come in for scrutiny.


DPJ must be flexible

The DPJ stated in its 2005 manifesto that the party would "undertake" a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement with a view to having U.S. bases in Okinawa Prefecture relocated out of the country.

But if the DPJ had seized power in the 2005 election and followed through with its election pledges, cracks would have been created in Japan-U.S. relations. Acceptance of this reality is evident in the DPJ's decision to change the phrasing regarding the bilateral accord from "undertake" to "propose" and drop the reference to relocation overseas in its latest manifesto.

Of course, it is not right to judge the DPJ's pledges solely on their consistency--if positive changes are made they should be welcomed.

The DPJ reportedly plans to modify wording on decentralization and a Japan-U.S. free trade agreement in its election pledges.

Apart from this, there are some pledges whose feasibility is doubtful and which are written in an extremely ambiguous way, especially on security and global environment issues, among others.

The party must therefore continue to carefully examine and reflect on its manifesto pledges until the election is officially announced, and it must not hesitate to revise them if necessary.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2009)
(2009年8月8日01時23分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 7日 (金)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 6(IHT/Asahi: August 7,2009)
EDITORIAL: 64 years and counting

This summer has special significance for Hiroshima and Nagasaki in that it is the first since U.S. President Barack Obama gave his landmark speech in Prague in April to declare that the United States will "take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons."

It is enormously significant that Obama said the United States, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, has "a moral responsibility to act." But this is not the only reason why his Prague speech was so galvanizing.

In this age of globalization, the world is becoming increasingly interdependent. A nuclear explosion in any major city in the world would not only kill a great number of people but also bring the global economic system to the brink of collapse. The consequences would be the same whether it was a nuclear strike or a terrorist attack.

The argument that nuclear deterrence is more effective in securing stability around the world still enjoys considerable support among the nuclear powers and their allies. But succumbing to the allure of nuclear deterrence could result in the acceleration of nuclear proliferation. The world is also facing a real danger of nuclear arms falling into the hands of terrorists. If that nightmare becomes reality, the risks would be immeasurable.

What must be done? Shouldn't we come up with a new security strategy to move toward a nuclear-free world? That is the question posed by Obama.

On Obama's initiative, it has been decided that leaders of the United Nations Security Council member countries will meet on Sept. 24 to discuss nuclear issues. No pre-emptive nuclear attacks

Creating a security framework that doesn't rely on nuclear arms will require formulating and implementing a broad array of policies. We have a raft of proposals for countries that have nuclear arsenals. In particular, we want them to work on spreading the "nonnuclear umbrella."

The idea is that nuclear powers will pledge not to use nuclear weapons against any nonnuclear countries that are part of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). If this is established as a global rule, nonnuclear parties of the treaty could significantly reduce their risks of coming under nuclear attack. This is how the nonnuclear umbrella works.

Expanding the nonnuclear umbrella would help decrease the role of nuclear weapons and lead to a substantial reduction in the number of nuclear weapons in the world. This approach, which would contribute to both arms reduction and global security, should be promoted as much as possible while Obama is in office.

There are many ways to expand the nonnuclear umbrella. One would be a Security Council resolution that bans nuclear attacks against nonnuclear countries in the NPT camp. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has said that it is possible for the Security Council permanent members, which are all nuclear powers, to guarantee they will not use nuclear arms to attack countries without nuclear capability. Such a Security Council resolution should be adopted as soon as possible.

A second way would make use of nuclear-free zone treaties. There are treaties on nuclear-weapon-free zones for five regions--Latin America, the South Pacific, Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia. The treaty for Africa has not yet come into force. Each of these treaties comes with a protocol that commits the nuclear powers to refraining from nuclear attacks against the treaty participants.

Only the nuclear-free zone treaty for Latin America, however, has been ratified by all the five original members of the nuclear club--the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China. The nonnuclear umbrella should be established as an obligation under international law through efforts to put the treaty for Africa into effect as soon as possible and to have the nuclear powers ratify all the protocols to those treaties.

A third way would be for nuclear-armed nations to declare that they will not stage pre-emptive nuclear strikes and thereby confine the role of their arsenals to deterrence to nuclear attacks from other countries. Since nonnuclear countries cannot stage nuclear attacks, such declarations by nuclear-capable nations would spread the nonnuclear umbrella drastically.

The Japanese government is cautious about the United States vowing not to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes. North Korea has conducted nuclear tests, and the reclusive regime may have biological and chemical weapons as well. Japan's position is that the option of a pre-emptive nuclear strike by the United States should be left open to deter Pyongyang from using those weapons.

However, the credibility of Japan's nonnuclear diplomacy would be badly damaged if Tokyo emphasizes the importance of nuclear deterrence too much and obstructs Obama's efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and promote nuclear disarmament. Even if it wants to keep nuclear deterrence intact for the time being, Japan should adopt a policy of promoting the nonnuclear umbrella. Nuclear-free zone in Northeast Asia

One worthwhile idea would be a nuclear-free zone treaty for Northeast Asia. Japan and South Korea could take the initiative by signing such a treaty first and putting it into force. If the United States, China and Russia all ratify a protocol that bans them from launching nuclear attacks against Japan and South Korea, a nonnuclear umbrella would be raised for the region.

North Korea should be able to join the treaty for protection under the nonnuclear umbrella after it abandons its nuclear program and returns to the NPT. This prospect would give North Korea a strong incentive to abandon its nuclear ambitions and help bolster regional stability.

It is also vital to deal with China's rapid military buildup. During the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting in Washington in July, Obama underlined the importance of bilateral cooperation. He cited the denuclearization of North Korea as one such policy challenge, saying neither Washington nor Beijing has an interest in a nuclear arms race in East Asia. "A balance of terror cannot hold," he said in his speech at the conference.

The U.S. and Chinese economies are rapidly become entwined. Their relations are completely different from those between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Back then, the two superpowers could have destroyed the other's industry without suffering much damage to its own economy.

Japan should understand the reality of the U.S.-China relationship and propose a plan for enhancing regional stability while curtailing the role of nuclear arms in Northeast Asia. The Japan-U.S. security alliance should evolve from the current security architecture based primarily on nuclear deterrence into a platform for broader cooperation to expand the nonnuclear umbrella and enhance arms control in the region. That would give a big boost to efforts to engage China in nuclear disarmament efforts. Integrating China into arms reduction

The problem of nuclear proliferation in the world is linked closely to regional and religious conflicts. India and Pakistan have both carried out nuclear tests. Israel is widely regarded as a virtual nuclear power. Iran is continuing with its program to enrich uranium. Regional or religious conflicts are behind all these examples of nuclear proliferation.

Pushing these countries into giving up their nuclear ambitions will require tenacious efforts to resolve the conflicts and convince them that they only endanger themselves by possessing nuclear arsenals.

As the only country to have come under nuclear attack, Japan should make greater contributions to such diplomatic efforts.

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記者の目:被爆64年の広島 私は黙り込んだ=井上梢

(Mainichi Japan) August 6, 2009
Serving as a bridge to spread the message of the atomic bombing
記者の目:被爆64年の広島 私は黙り込んだ=井上梢

"You don't need to tell anybody my feelings -- the message isn't getting through," the 49-year-old doctor, a second-generation atomic-bomb survivor, told me.

When I heard these words during my coverage of the medical treatment of atomic-bomb diseases, I could do nothing but remain silent.

This summer, 64 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, U.S. President Barack Obama's declaration on aiming for the elimination of nuclear weapons has provided a new ray of hope.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba and the Hiroshima confederation of organizations supporting A- and H-bomb sufferers have supported his stance.

In addition, seven groups supporting atomic-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, have sent letters to Obama and are hoping that he will visit Hiroshima.
They hope to convey their feelings directly and add momentum to the move to eliminate nuclear weapons.

But when I visited the 49-year-old doctor during my reporting on medical treatment of people suffering from atomic-bomb diseases in June this year, he told me he couldn't find any meaning in conveying messages about the atomic bombing, adding that he told his son, "I don't think I'll share my thoughts on the atomic bombing. It should end with my generation."

The doctor's mother suffered burns on her back during the atomic bombing, and her shoulder blade showed through her thinned skin, he said.

His father suffered from a condition common to many atomic-bomb survivors that brought on a feeling of fatigue.

At the time, when the atomic bombing was not recognized as the cause of such illnesses, many hibakusha were labeled lazy. まだ原爆の影響と認められなかった当時、多くの被爆者が怠け者とみなされた。

The doctor's father quit his company job and opened a bar.

He often felt unwell and the doctor, from when he was young, helped out at the business. When he spilled drinks he was hit relentlessly by customers.

The mere sight of photographs of Hiroshima at the time of the bombing made the doctor's father throw up.

"There was something sad about seeking life's simple daily pleasures but not being able to attain them," the doctor says. "That's something I can't convey."

After becoming a doctor and seeing hibakusha die from cancer and other illnesses, that feeling only grew stronger.

It has been four years since I was first assigned to work in Hiroshima.

Many times hibakusha have told me, "You don't understand," but they have quickly changed their minds and carefully shared their feelings with me.

However this doctor simply adopted an attitude of detachment.

I felt a gap that seemed impossible to bridge.

Still at a loss about what to do, I headed to Hawaii to visit 60-year-old second-generation hibakusha Hiromi Peterson, who teaches Japanese at the school Obama attended and is also involved in peace education.

Peterson's grandfather died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and her father also suffered major burns. When she decided to marry an American and move to Hawaii, her grandmother cried in opposition, and her grandmother never saw her husband up until the time she died. Her sister died from leukemia at the relatively young age of 62.

When teaching Japanese, Peterson thought that her students should learn about the point where Japan and the United States met, and what she had to show them was the atomic bombing. She produced a textbook recounting her family's experiences and used it in her lessons. At first, many students said that the atomic-bombing was justified, but in the end, about half the class came to the conclusion that the bomb shouldn't have been dropped. Now the textbook is used across the United States.

Looking at Peterson, who was conveying the terror of the atomic bombing in the land that is home to Pearl Harbor, a place holding special meaning for America, I felt her strength. Her words, "I won't let them say, 'That never happened,'" came at a time when I was feeling discouraged, and stirred up in me a renewed belief that it was important to convey the message of the bombing.

For a year and a half I have interviewed hibakusha who have risked their lives and continued to spread the message of the atomic bombing. One of them is 86-year-old Suzuko Numata, who says she was taught to live from the example of a Chinese parasol tree that was hit by the atomic bombing but returned to life. Though she now spends most of her time in bed due to illness, twice a month she continues to give talks to students who visit the home for the elderly where she lives.

When I visited her after the nuclear test by North Korea in May, she had a hollow look in her eyes.
"We've been saying nuclear weapons should never be used, and now this," she said, moving her head as she spoke even though it would hurt her weakened backbone. In the past she had told me, "I want hibakusha in North Korea to speak out and stop the nuclear tests." I wondered if such a thing was possible, but it was a case of believing in the power of conveying a message.

Still, I worried about whether I could carry out the role of introducing the words of hibakusha to the world. I have always written articles on the assumption that I am conveying hibakushas' messages to the friends I had as a student. I want to serve as a bridge and have the same generation, which had no interest in the atomic bombing, think about the issues.

At the beginning of August, I visited the doctor once again. I asked him why he had agreed to meet me when he didn't want to convey a message in the first place.

"I'm not completely without a feeling of wanting to convey a message. It comes down to whether you can convey my feelings in writing. It's an experiment and a written challenge," he said.

Behind the Hiroshima that uses anger and sadness as energy in its push to eliminate nuclear weapons, there are people who still swallow their feelings. Needless to say, it is difficult to understand the feelings inside people's hearts and convey them. But I believe that I can listen with simple honesty, and convey something, albeit to a small extent. At the same time, in my own way, I want to find the real answer for the doctor. ("As I See It," by Kozue Inoue, Hiroshima Bureau)

毎日新聞 2009年8月6日 0時01分

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裁判員判決 検証の積み重ねが欠かせない

Lay judge system should be monitored, improved
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 7, 2009)
裁判員判決 検証の積み重ねが欠かせない(8月7日付・読売社説)

The nation's first lay judge trial has ended. Many more trials in which ordinary citizens participate as lay judges in criminal cases are expected to follow across the country.

It is vital that people in the judicial world look for any shortcomings or problems in lay judge trials, including the one that just ended Thursday, and rectify them so the lay judge system can be improved.

The first lay judge trial dealt with a murder that took place on a Tokyo street in May. A 72-year-old man had been accused of stabbing to death his 66-year-old female neighbor with a survival knife.

The Tokyo District Court courtroom where the trial was conducted looked completely different to courtrooms in the past. Three professional judges in robes were flanked by six lay judges wearing their everyday clothes.

Prosecutors and lawyers showed images on monitors and paraphrased hard-to-comprehend technical terms with plain language.

As one example, a prosecutor explained that a "defensive wound"--which was found on the woman's body--is an injury sustained when a victim tries to use their hand, arm or other body part to block an assault by an assailant with a sharp weapon.

We welcome such changes because they will help the general public more easily understand what is discussed during trials.


Heavy burdens

The trial focused on determining the punishment for the defendant, who had admitted to killing the woman. The crux of the decision centered on to what degree the defendant had intended to kill the woman.

One lay judge asked the defendant why he decided to go and fetch a knife while he was quarreling with the victim. Such questions indicated the lay judges' willingness to determine for themselves the degree of the defendant's intent to commit murder.

While prosecutors demanded a 16-year term of imprisonment, the court sentenced the defendant to 15 years in prison, acknowledging that he stabbed the woman with a strong intent despite being aware that doing so would result in her death. The court handed down a ruling in line with the argument put forward by prosecutors.

During the four-day trial, a female lay judge averted her eyes when images of the victim's body were shown on a monitor. Another female judge was unable to appear in court on the third day because she was feeling unwell due to a cold. She was replaced with a male "supplementary" lay judge.

The daily trial undoubtedly placed a heavy strain on lay judges. In cases when lay judges are asked to make even tougher decisions, such as choosing between the death penalty or an indefinite prison term, they likely will bear an even heavier burden.

In this regard, the Supreme Court must do everything it can to take care of the lay judges' mental condition, such as ensuring the smooth operation of the counseling service counter that has been set up to give advice to lay judges.


Weighty responsibility

Another issue that needs careful consideration is how to select lay judges.

In the Tokyo District Court trial, the six lay judges randomly chosen by the court turned out to be five women and one man. But for trials on cases involving sex offenses, we wonder whether the age and gender balance of the lay judges could subtly affect rulings.

After the ruling Thursday, the six lay judges and a supplementary citizen judge attended a press conference. "I sincerely felt the heavy responsibility I bore in judging a person," one said.

This comment should be kept in mind, given that any of us could be asked to serve as a lay judge any time soon.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 7, 2009)
(2009年8月7日01時15分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 6日 (木)


(Mainichi Japan) August 5, 2009
Responsibility of the young to continue hibakusha push for nuclear disarmament

 ◇自ら行動して平和探求を 悲惨さ伝える義務がある
In mid-July, 74-year-old Sakue Shimohira, an adviser of the Association of Bereaved Families of Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Victims who has given approximately 10,000 lectures about her A-bomb experiences and is a staunch advocate of nuclear disarmament, suspended her activities due to health concerns. Now that her hip surgery has been successfully completed, she is highly motivated to resume her activities.

It is an undeniable fact, however, that A-bomb survivors are growing old. Throughout my reporting on the A-bomb, I have asked myself how the stories and hopes of this aging population can be passed on to younger generations. Sensing the urgency of this current situation, some survivors in the city of Nagasaki -- which will commemorate the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing on Aug. 9 -- have begun engaging in new efforts to keep their stories alive. It is important that younger generations learn from such efforts to make their own efforts in inheriting their legacy.


Shimohira and a sister two years her junior were holed up in a bomb shelter approximately 800 meters from Ground Zero when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. What they saw when they emerged from the shelter the next day was a scene from hell. Family members who had been at home at the time of the bombing had died, and her sister who'd survived later committed suicide after struggling with illness. Shimohira herself went through trials and tribulations, including uterine and ovarian surgery. She began lecturing about her A-bomb experiences around the age of 40, and as a plaintiff in the Nagasaki lawsuit for A-bomb illness recognition, has engaged in various activities in support of A-bomb survivors. I have been overawed not only by her A-bomb experience, but also in the life she has chosen to live, bringing advocacy for the total abolition of nuclear weapons into the center of her life. "Nuclear weapons and humankind cannot coexist. My hope is that we are the last ones to experience the kind of suffering we did," she says.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, as of late March, there were approximately 235,500 A-bomb survivors nationwide, with an average age of 75.92. As the survivor population grows older and the number of lecturers like Shimohira declines, we rapidly approach a time when those of us who have not experienced the atomic bombings must take the lead in nuclear disarmament. Seeing Shimohira lying in a hospital bed after her operation in late July, I was struck by a renewed sense of responsibility to continue the legacy.

Teruo Ideguchi, 73, a former company employee and a member of the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, is one of those who takes an innovative approach to the passing down of A-bomb history. At the time of the atomic bombing, Ideguchi was at home, located 1.4 kilometers from Ground Zero. Having lost consciousness from serious injuries to his back and head, he has very little recollection of the experience.

"I didn't have the type of experience that Ms. Shimohira did," he says. "All I can talk about is what my surroundings were like."

That was why he spent about eight years studying such fields as medicine and physics on his own, eventually compiling what he learned about the A-bomb into a book. When asked to give lectures, Ideguchi talks about both what he has learned from his independent study and his personal experiences.

In May 2008, he began a monthly gathering called Heiwa-juku (Peace school), in which Ideguchi, along with survivors that lead tours of sites affected by the bombing and local citizens, engage in debates on nuclear power and weapons. He has discussed the origins of the code names "Little Boy" and "Fat Man," given to the bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively.

"Young people who have not experienced the atomic bombings tend to think that the elimination of nuclear weapons is impossible," he says. "But I think there must be things that can be done."

Another member of the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace and a volunteer guide, 67 year-old Yasujiro Tanaka, was 3 years old when the A-bomb was dropped 3.4 kilometers from his home. While he has no memory of the bombing aside from "a bluish white light that appeared as if tens of thousands of camera strobes had gone off," he wanted to find a way to pass on the history to younger generations through tales that children could relate to, like the famous story of Sadako Sasaki, who experienced the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and died at age 12 from A-bomb related leukemia.

Tanaka was inspired by the story of Kayoko zakura (Kayoko's cherry tree). The tree was donated to Shiroyama Elementary School in Nagasaki, where it still stands today, by the mother of Kayoko Hayashi, who was at the school when she died of the bombing at age 15, in memory of her daughter and others who had perished. Determined to spread the mother's legacy to the rest of the country, since February, Tanaka has raised money to buy cherry tree seedlings, which have been planted in the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He explains that it's a way to let younger people know about the horrors of atomic bombs and war. He also talks about the bombings, but supplements certain areas in which he is not knowledgeable.
"With regards to experiences I personally didn't go through, I familiarize myself through photo books and by listening to other people talk about their experiences. Then I throw myself into character and pass their stories on to other people. We do not have memories of the atomic bombings, but we have a responsibility to pass them on."

The efforts of these two people -- who are trying to establish an understanding of what happened by re-examining the history of the bombings and the war -- provide us with hints on how we can inherit and pass on the legacy of the atomic bombings, ways that allow for self-motivated thought, action, and the pursuit of peace.

The hopes of such people are gradually spreading across the country. The 10,000 high school student petition drive begun in Nagasaki in 2001 is one such example. Every year, the signatures of high school students calling for nuclear disarmament are collected and delivered to the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva and other organizations. About 300 high school students have participated in gathering signatures. Meanwhile, students and staff at a junior high school in Yamaguchi Prefecture who were touched by Tanaka's efforts sent him money that they had raised. We must not let the efforts made by survivors in the past 64 years for the realization of peace come to nothing.

There have been signs of change in the global situation regarding nuclear weapons. We have seen the emergence of President Barack Obama, who has called for "a world without nuclear weapons," and who has signed a treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons.

"The reason we continue to talk about our atomic bombing experiences is because we do not want nuclear weapons to be used ever again." As citizens of the only country in the world to have suffered atomic bombings, we must take to heart the meaning of these words Ideguchi has repeated over the years. (By Tomohiro Shimohara, Nagasaki Bureau, Mainichi Shimbun)

毎日新聞 2009年8月4日 東京朝刊

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原爆忌 オバマ非核演説をどう生かす

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 6, 2009)
Obama's nonnuclear goal worthy but difficult
原爆忌 オバマ非核演説をどう生かす(8月6日付・読売社説)

It has been 64 years since atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this year a ray of light appeared to illuminate the profound desire of those who experienced the terrible devastation of the atomic bombings to see a world free of nuclear weapons.

This light was the speech by U.S. President Barack Obama in Prague in April.

In the speech, Obama clarified that "the United States has a moral responsibility" to lead an effort to realize a world without nuclear weapons "as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon."

The speech was not an admission of responsibility by Obama over using destructive weapons on Japan, which was unable to continue fighting at the time.

However, it is no surprise that this speech by the U.S. president, whose country tends to justify the dropping of the atomic bombs, has brought excitement and hope to people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We hope Obama, without betraying those hopes, exerts leadership by promoting talks on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia as well as leading the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.


New treaty for new times

We also need to look at another aspect of Obama's speech.

Obama said of eliminating nuclear weapons: "This goal will not be reached quickly--perhaps not in my lifetime." The current state of the world's nuclear weapons is precarious.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which bans the possession of nuclear weapons except by five nations--Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States--has become a mere facade since India and Pakistan became nuclear powers. And even among the five nations, China has been building up its nuclear arms.

There also is a growing risk that nuclear weapons and related materials could fall into the hands of terrorists.

The United States is at last seriously addressing the issue of nuclear disarmament--a responsibility is shoulders as a nuclear power under the NPT--a move being touted as a way to thwart the potential for nuclear terrorism, which the United States fears most.


Still under the U.S. umbrella?

Japan also faces serious threats from nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, North Korea aggressively conducted missile launches and a second nuclear test.

Japan has to depend on the U.S. nuclear umbrella to be safe from any North Korean nuclear missile and other military threats. After Obama's speech, it is not surprising that the government has tried to reconfirm with the United States the protection of the nuclear umbrella, as Japan fears a weakened nuclear deterrence.

Meanwhile, Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, stressed that Japan should make the United States pledge that it will never preemptively use nuclear weapons.

He explained that this would not prohibit U.S. retaliations if a hostile nation strikes first, which he said would partly expose Japan from the protection of the nuclear umbrella. But doesn't this render useless the protection afforded by the umbrella?

While seeking the elimination of nuclear weapons, the grave reality is that we must also depend on the nuclear deterrent. It is vital that nuclear disarmament be tackled without having it threaten Japan's peace and security.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 6, 2009)
(2009年8月6日01時24分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 5日 (水)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 3(IHT/Asahi: August 4,2009)
EDITORIAL: Next-generation power

To stem global warming, the world is stepping up its efforts to achieve a low-carbon society. As one important component of that infrastructure, next-generation power transmission networks are attracting attention.

The vagaries of weather can easily affect electricity generation systems that rely on solar and wind power, what with clouds obscuring sunlight and winds dying at nature's whim. Thus, the frequency of electricity generated by such sources tends to be unstable.

There are also concerns that surplus electricity generated by household solar units could "flood" transmission systems, causing voltages to spike.

Because of these problems, Japan's electric power industry is reluctant to integrate a huge amount of power from renewable sources into its transmission systems. Too much too soon could threaten the stability of the power supply, companies say.

Expanding renewable power use, therefore, requires not just policy incentives such as subsidies and systems for the electric companies to purchase surplus power, but also an evolution of the transmission network.

We need an advanced power grid that can deal with a significant increase in renewable power sources. Otherwise, the government-set targets of a 20-fold increase in solar power generation by 2020 and a 40-fold jump by 2030 will be difficult to achieve.

Responding to the challenge, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is starting test development of the next-generation power transmission system. The ministry will spend three years to identify key technological challenges by using power transmission networks on about 10 remote islands in Kyushu and Okinawa Prefecture.

We are pleased the government is taking the first step toward development of a new power transmission system. But the ministry's project seems unlikely to lead to widespread adoption of renewable power.

As part of the tests, for instance, storage batteries will be incorporated into transmission networks to see whether a stable quality of electricity can be maintained.
By and large, the project seems to be aimed at improving the existing power grid. The project's objectives apparently don't include truly epoch-making innovations that can lead to next-generation technology.

It is necessary to think boldly outside the envelope if the nation is to dramatically expand the use of natural power sources.

In Europe, for instance, various countries' power grids are closely interconnected in a structure that makes it easy to absorb changes in frequency and voltage.

Japan needs to create a more innovative system of power transmission, such as a network connecting the existing largely independent grids operated by different power companies.

The United States and Europe are trying to develop next-generation transmission systems that are kinder to the environment.

Such systems will be designed to contribute to energy conservation while promoting renewable energy.

One notable example is the "smart grid" that is the centerpiece of U.S. President Barack Obama's Green New Deal, woven into his administration's economic stimulus package.

The envisioned smart grid would use information technologies to control the power consumption of electric appliances at the user end of electricity distribution to save energy.

The system would automatically switch on and off electric appliances in response to changing electrical charges. It would also make power consumption more efficient through regional interchanges of electricity.
Electric utilities would, for example, remotely control the temperature settings of air conditioners in homes and offices in response to daily changes in the overall supply and demand for electricity.

Such controls would be made possible by smart meters installed in homes and offices that would communicate to the power utilities on a real-time basis information about end-user consumption.

In Japan, the ministry and the power industry are less than eager to work on such a system, claiming the domestic power transmission system is already "smart" enough.

But developing a next-generation power transmission network represents an investment in the future to create new business opportunities in the low-carbon age.

Both the government and the power industry should explore all options with a more flexible view.

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 4(IHT/Asahi: August 5,2009)
EDITORIAL: Nursing-care system

Have Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare bureaucrats learned anything from the confusion over the medical insurance system for elderly people aged 75 and older? We cannot help but wonder, looking at the current situation.

Before they can receive nursing-care services under the public insurance scheme, all applicants must be screened and ranked according to how much care they need. Even though the standards for certification were just revised in April, the ministry has decided that many of them need revising again.

The April revisions were officially aimed at making the standards easier to understand so that there would be little variance across regions. However, before the revisions were implemented, many care managers and users expressed apprehension that the new standards would lower users' ranks.

When a user's rank is lowered, the insurance benefits paid to cover the service fees are also lowered. Users are understandably worried they will not be able to afford to pay for the services they need.

When the new standards were put to practice, as predicted many users were ranked lower than previously or were even declared ineligible for services. This happened despite the ministry's previous reassurance that since the opinions of family doctors would be taken into consideration, the revisions would not necessarily result in lowered ranks. It proved not to be the case.

When making the April revisions, the ministry also included exceptions so that users could remain at their same rank, even if judged at a lower rank under the new standards. But that makes screening for certification a meaningless effort, local governments complained. Why bother?

So the ministry now has no choice but to revise the standards again.

What caused all the confusion is the fact that the ministry forged ahead with the revisions in April without taking time to listen to users and care providers. The ministry also did not examine the situation adequately or make an effort to broadly inform those groups about the revisions.

Under April's revised standards, persons who need help putting on or taking off their trousers are judged as "needing assistance." However, people who wear adult diapers are categorized as "not in need of assistance." This is obviously wide of the mark. Such discrepancies could have been easily avoided if the ministry asked caregivers to help revise the standards. We urge the ministry to seriously reflect on this point.

The standards need to be reviewed and revised if necessary. However, in doing so, the ministry must not allow people in dire need of care to have their ranks lowered.

The degree of nursing care need should be determined based on factors such as how much time is required for the care. The ministry should continue to examine whether the proposed standards are in line with that standpoint.

Behind all the criticism is the ministry's continued efforts to curb rising social security spending. Critics are beginning to suspect that the ministry's efforts back in April were intended more to cut nursing-care expenses than to revise the standards and how they are applied nationwide.

The nursing insurance system, which is run with a limited budget, has led to various arguments. For example, how much care for less-needy people should be covered by insurance? Also, the system is supported by premiums paid by people aged 40 and older. Should that age bracket be changed?

The system was inaugurated nine years ago. How can it be operated in a sustainable manner, given that the number of its users will keep increasing? It is time for our political leaders to provide a broader vision of future welfare care.

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防衛有識者会議 大胆な提言を新大綱に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 5, 2009)
New defense guidelines should reflect bold ideas
防衛有識者会議 大胆な提言を新大綱に生かせ(8月5日付・読売社説)

A report was presented to Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday by a group of experts studying the revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines, which define how to maintain Japan's defense capabilities. The panel's report contains a number of daring and important proposals.

To ensure the nation's peace and security amid the changes taking place in the international security environment, it is imperative that traditional taboos be cast aside and that a review takes place of defense policy and the organization of Self-Defense Forces units and the defense equipment available to them.

Whichever party takes office after the Aug. 30 House of Representatives election, efforts should be made to reflect the group's proposals as much as possible in the new defense guidelines that are due to be formulated by the end of this year.

In the report, the experts said that the ability of the United States to be the driving force of "a free and open global system" has weakened in relative terms. Therefore, Japan and European countries need to make up for the United States' declining influence and try to solve international security problems with a joint approach, according to the panel.


Review PKO participation rules

In concrete terms, the report proposed a review of the nation's five principles for participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations (PKOs) and a revision of the U.N. Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law so that SDF troops can more actively participate in peace cooperation activities.

The threats of international terrorism and piracy in the waters off Somalia symbolize the reality that Japan's security is tied to world peace. The nation has a responsibility to play a part in peace-building efforts by the international community. However, only 39 Japanese were participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations as of June 30, a figure that places Japan only 82nd in the world.

To increase the number of SDF members participating in PKOs, it is important to develop a system enabling the dispatch of troops flexibly in line with the actual circumstances of such missions. It is also necessary to relax existing rules on the use of weapons and develop permanent legislation on the dispatch of SDF members abroad.


How to interpret Constitution?

In the report, the panel also urged the government to change its interpretation of the Constitution to enable the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense so that the SDF can intercept ballistic missiles heading toward the United States and protect U.S. Navy ships monitoring missile launches.

When North Korea fired a ballistic missile in April, the SDF and U.S. forces worked together to deal with the situation. To further strengthen confidence in the Japan-U.S. alliance, the government should change its constitutional interpretation as soon as possible.

On the question of whether the nation should possess the capability of attacking bases in enemy territory, the panel stressed in the report that Japan should study the suitability and cost-effectiveness of equipment and operational procedures to this end on the condition that should such contingencies arise Tokyo and Washington would work together to deal with them.

Calmly discussing what responsibilities Tokyo can share with Washington to help supplement the offensive capabilities of U.S. forces has huge significance.

The report said the nation's three principles for banning arms exports were preventing Japan from participating in international research projects for developing and producing weapons and that these should be made exceptions to the rules. They also proposed that the ban on the export of weapons to support efforts against terrorism and piracy should also be lifted.

In addition to Japan not being left behind when it comes to state-of-the-art military technology, it should also be a matter of course that Japan allows the export of weapons when this can serve as a contribution to global peace.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2009)
(2009年8月5日02時09分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 4日 (火)

問われるもの:’09衆院選・選択を前に/2 東大大学院教授・藤原帰一氏

(Mainichi Japan) August 4, 2009
Election provides chance for Japan to change diplomatic stereotypes
問われるもの:’09衆院選・選択を前に/2 東大大学院教授・藤原帰一氏

As Japan approaches the House of Representatives election, the possibility of the government administration changing hands has arisen. In an interview with the Mainichi, Kiichi Fujiwara, a postgraduate professor at the University of Tokyo, discusses the possibility of the opposition taking power and the implications for Japan's foreign policy.

"In this House of Representatives election there is a possibility of a transfer of power in the administration, something very rare in Japan. But normally, administration changes are a natural part of elections," Fujiwara says.

"Looking back on history, in countries that have adopted a parliamentary democracy, there has been a situation of one political party being very strong -- as one can see from the Christian-democratic party of Italy or Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party. But in each case, the parties have eventually dissolved or lost power. In Japan, that has hardly occurred at all, and the administration has continued under one party for a long time, which is something not commonly seen internationally.

"This time, even if an administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is formed, it will likely have to place emphasis on continuity on the diplomatic front. Not changing too many things on the diplomatic front creates the image of being a responsible political party," Fujiwara points out.

However, the professor adds that a change of administration is a chance to change Japanese diplomacy stereotypes.

"For example, when the anti-Liberal Democratic Party coalition administration of (Morihiro) Hosokawa was formed, it squarely admitted Japan's responsibility for invasions in Asia," he says. This came earlier than the war apology statement on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war's end by (former Prime Minister Tomiichi) Murayama, and was more highly valued in Japan and abroad.

"I think there are few people in the DPJ who want to become involved in historical problems, but rather than doing something after being accused by China or South Korea, taking the initiative can earn trust, and will result in Japan having a concrete framework placing emphasis on Asia.

"To use the nuclear issue as an example, now that the administration of (U.S. President Barack) Obama is strengthening its stance on nuclear nonproliferation, it has become easier than before for Japan to discuss security in Asia that does not rely on nuclear force. It is a chance to shift to concrete policies rather than just emphasizing the symbols of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Fujiwara says that in the context of the six-party talks, it is important for Japan to jump into negotiations that are conducted mainly by nuclear powers such as the United States, Russia and China.

"The Japanese government has given up, thinking that unless it is a nuclear power it can't negotiate nuclear issues, but that's a misconception. Japan can go ahead and take the initiative in the reduction of nuclear weapons.

"There is always a limit to nuclear disarmament ideas led by nuclear powers. That's because they don't want to reduce their stockpiles, so they can't tell the other party to do so. In order to mutually reduce nuclear stockpiles, it is necessary for non-nuclear nations to have more of a voice in disarmament negotiations. When Japan makes claims as a country that has suffered atomic bomb attacks, it is unlikely that other countries will be able to criticize it as saying something that only sounds good.

Fujiwara says that Japan's voice in diplomatic policy has been consistently weak since World Ward II.

"Since the end of the war, diplomacy has been about Japan-U.S. relations and East Asia, and there has been only extremely narrow debate. As a world power, Japan has a responsibility to create international order. Japan can't say, "The Middle East? That's nothing to do with us."
戦後も外交といえば、日米関係と東アジアばかりで、極端に狭い議論しかない。日本も世界の大国として国際秩序を作っていく責任がある。「中東? おれには関係ない」ではいられないのだ。



毎日新聞 2009年7月29日 東京朝刊

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私大定員割れ 特色作りで活路を見いだせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 4, 2009)
Specialty key to survival of private universities
私大定員割れ 特色作りで活路を見いだせ(8月4日付・読売社説)

With the shakeout of private universities having finally begun, these institutions must seriously take to heart the fact that those among their number that cannot demonstrate a specialty will no longer be able to survive.

A survey released Thursday by the Promotion and Mutual Aid Corporation for Private Schools of Japan found that 46.5 percent of four-year private universities were underenrolled at the start of this academic year, almost the same level as last academic year, while 69.1 percent of two-year private junior colleges were in such a situation, a slight increase from last academic year.

Since the beginning of this year, five private universities, including those run by joint-stock companies, have said they will stop accepting new students from next academic year.

Despite the fact that the population of 18-year-olds has been declining due to the low birthrate since academic year 1993, when it fell below 2 million, the number of universities and junior colleges has continued to rise, with the number of four-year private, and state-run and other public universities totaling as many as about 770. It is natural that universities that cannot demonstrate a specialty will be forced to close.


Students' needs paramount

Stable university management will not be ensured merely by contriving to continuously recruit students through recommendation-based admission and interview- and essay-based tests, known as "admission office exams." It is very important that private universities offer attractive courses of study and clearly present their education policy and method of developing human resources so young people will be able to envision their future after they are educated there.

At some private universities, people who have had careers in corporate management serve as president, and faculty and companies in their local community discuss and decide on study goals, textbooks and other educational materials. Other universities have established unique departments, including one specializing in manga.

To increase the number of mature students holding down full-time jobs, which accounts for only about 2 percent of the total, private universities must also provide education that meets such students' various needs.

The government's Central Education Council is currently discussing future university education from a mid- and long-term perspective. We hope the council will thoroughly discuss the appropriate number of universities and students.


Safety net needed

It is noteworthy that the council's first report, compiled in June, emphasizes that the desirable size and nature of universities should be discussed from the perspective of different targets. The report lists seven such targets, including "nurturing professionals in a wide range of fields" and "social contribution."

In their respective proposals on human resources development, the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai) and the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) also are calling on universities to increase specialization in their areas of expertise.

However, the Central Education Council should spell out in greater detail the targets it believes an ideal university should meet. We hope the council will work out this point before compiling its final report.

The council has also proposed discussions on the establishment of a new higher educational body, specializing in vocational education, other than existing universities and junior colleges. The raison d'etre of junior colleges, whose main objectives include vocational education, therefore comes into question.

Cultivating a specialty is necessary, but it may also be a wise option for junior colleges to actively discuss transforming themselves into four-year universities as well as realigning and integrating.

The population of 18-year-olds is expected to hover around 1.2 million for the next decade. Should private universities remain underenrolled, their management will face an increased danger of collapse. The Education, Science and Technology Ministry should prepare measures to deal with a possible collapse of universities, including a system to protect students enrolled in universities that fail.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2009)
(2009年8月4日00時43分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 3日 (月)

太陽光発電:新事業の優良株 国も後押し、企業参入相次ぐ

(Mainichi Japan) August 2, 2009
Outlook bright for home solar power market
太陽光発電:新事業の優良株 国も後押し、企業参入相次ぐ

Thanks to new subsidies for homeowners, solar power generation is gaining momentum, with manufacturers rushing to replace their previous clunky offerings with upgraded, slimmed-down modern versions, as well as introducing solar technology to the automotive and cellphone industries.

Fueling interest further are plans to introduce a system for selling power back to power suppliers -- at twice the standard rates of around 24 yen per kilowatt-hour -- by the end of the year.

A 3-kilowatt solar panel can cover between 60 and 70 percent of the electricity needs of the average household. However, for all their environmental friendliness, old-style roof-mounted solar panels are something of an eyesore. However, homebuilders now have the more attractive options of solar roofing tiles, or transparent solar panels for glass doors and ceilings. For more complicated applications, consumers can even buy a 1-millimeter-thick flexible power generating film.

Construction firm Sekisui House reports that orders for solar generator-equipped homes have surged since the beginning of the year, and has bumped up its sales target from 4,000 homes to 6,000. The company says that despite the modest price increase, the reductions on monthly utility bills are proving popular with buyers.

Home solar power units first went on sale sometime around 1993. Priced between 6 and 10 million yen for a standard 3-kilowatt setup, they were almost exclusively the preserve of the rich, but since January this year interest in home solar generation has risen. Improvements in technology, combined with government subsidies, have whittled down the price to the point where homeowners can fit a solar panel for less than 2 million yen. Over 40,000 subsidy applications were made during the first half of this year alone, almost certain to surpass the previous record set in 2005.


Local governments are also supporting the new solar boom. According to the Japan Photovoltaic Expansion Center (J-PEC), 451 local governments are either running or planning to run a subsidy system. For a 3-kilowatt system in a house in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, at an average cost of 2 million yen, the national government will pay a 210,000 yen subsidy, with another 300,000 yen from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and a hefty 540,000 yen from the ward, more than halving the price.

In Saitama Prefecture, which introduced subsidies in April, the prefectural government budgeted 400 million yen for the predicted 2,600 applications during the fiscal year. It's now had to rebudget an additional 700 million yen, after over 2,200 applications were received by June.

However, modern solar technology also has other applications. Electronics manufacturer Kyocera, for example, drew a crowd at an exhibition in June with its solar panel-equipped Toyota Prius hybrid. The car's fans are driven by a power generating film on its moonroof, keeping the interior at room temperature, and industry leaders speculate it may become a standard feature in the future. The upgraded roof costs around 220,000 yen.

Cellphone carrier au by KDDI is also in on the act, hoping to shake up a saturated market with an injection of fresh technology. Sharp claims that its Solar Phone SH002 can provide a minute of talk time after 10 minutes' charge under the sun.

毎日新聞 2009年7月30日 13時44分(最終更新 7月30日 14時12分)

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最低賃金 まだ残る生活保護との逆転

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 3, 2009)
Minimum wage should always exceed welfare
最低賃金 まだ残る生活保護との逆転(8月3日付・読売社説)

The Central Minimum Wages Council, an advisory panel to the health, labor and welfare minister, has proposed to the minister reference increases for the minimum wage in fiscal 2009 that differ from prefecture to prefecture.

The proposals are to leave unchanged the minimum wage in the 35 prefectures in which the minimum wage exceeds welfare benefit, and to raise the minimum wage in the remaining 12, including Tokyo, by 2 yen to 30 yen an hour.

If the panel's recommendation is adopted, the national average minimum wage would rise by between 7 yen and 9 yen to 710-712 yen an hour, which translates to a net monthly income of about 106,000 yen. Considering current economic conditions, such a hike would be a drastic one.

A year-on-year comparison of the national average minimum wage shows that increases of 14 yen and 16 yen occurred in fiscal 2007 and 2008, respectively, representing double-digit growth for two consecutive years. But the rate of wage increases for small companies nationwide, which the advisory panel studies when working out the minimum wage reference increases, fell into negative territory in 2009.

Panel members selected from labor circles sought an increase of 50 yen an hour in the minimum wage last year, but failed to demand a specific figure this year, no doubt in consideration of the severe business environment.


Panel's proposal no panacea

The Minimum Wages Law, which was revised in July 2008, calls for setting the minimum wage by factoring in employers' ability to pay wages and "harmonization of the minimum wage and welfare benefit."

Even in the current economic climate, if the panel had abandoned the goal of pursuing "harmonization of the minimum wage and welfare benefit" only two years after the law revision, its raison d'etre would have been called into question.

The problem of the minimum wage being below welfare benefit in the 12 prefectures will not be solved merely through the implementation of the panel's recommendation. In the case of Tokyo, if the minimum wage is raised in line with the panel's proposal, the amount would be increased from the current 766 yen an hour to a maximum 796 yen. But 796 yen an hour is 30 yen less than the amount of welfare benefit paid in the capital, in hourly terms.

The amount of welfare benefit is categorized in six ranks according to municipality (cities, towns and villages). The national average minimum wage is compared with the average amount of welfare benefit received by young, single people in each prefecture. In most of the 35 prefectures whose minimum wage the panel proposes be left as is, the amount of welfare benefit paid out in the capitals of those prefectures likely will exceed the minimum wage paid in those cities.

The advisory panels responsible for setting the minimum wage in each prefecture will decide how much to raise it based on the reference increases proposed by the central government panel, and the raises will be introduced from October. We hope the minimum wage will exceed welfare benefit in all the areas of each prefecture.


Deeper discussions needed

If welfare benefit exceeds the minimum wage, workers who receive little more than that amount will lose the motivation to work, while people on welfare will have no incentive to find a job. "Harmonization of the minimum wage and welfare benefit" is an issue that should be seriously discussed next year and after, too.

With the increase in the number of nonregular workers, including part-time workers, the importance of the role of the minimum wage system as a social safety net is growing.

The manifestos of each opposition party and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's coalition partner, New Komeito, for the next House of Representatives election propose a minimum wage of 1,000 yen an hour. But it is problematic to treat student part-timers on an equal footing with fatherless families when it comes to setting the minimum wage.

More intensive discussions on a fair minimum wage level and how to set such a level should be held, taking into account how this issue affects corporate management.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 3, 2009)
(2009年8月3日01時21分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 2日 (日)


(Mainichi Japan) August 2, 2009
More than one way to measure development

I recently had the opportunity to talk about Japan's declining birth rate to 10 government officials from developing countries in Africa and other areas who had arrived on a study and training trip.

I explained that in Japan, there had been an increase in singles in their 30s and their 40s as a result of late marriages or people simply remaining unmarried. At this point one of them asked, "Are you talking about people who don't get married but live together?"

The question didn't mean much to me. When I replied, "Well, there are lots of people living alone," they gasped.
 ? 何を聞かれたのか、ぴんとこなかった。「1人暮らしが多いですけど」と答えたら「えー!」となった。

"That would be too lonely. It's impossible," one of them said.

"There are also people who live with their parents," I added -- but that only increased the confusion. I tried explaining that people lacked the money, but the explanation wasn't persuasive; Japan is a country that provides economic support to their countries. I carried on to explain the phenomenon of "herbivore men" who show less interest in the other sex -- but such an image may have seemed strange to people from Africa, where there are many real herbivores.

In Zambia, the home country of 35-year-old Grivas Shimonde Chiyaba, the visitor who asked me whether the people don't get married but live together, relatives apparently build settlements and live like a large family. They share meals, and educate their own children and their siblings' children together. For the children "cousins" and "siblings" are one and the same.

"It is a glory and pride to have lots of children," Chiyaba says. "It's not a case of 'Whose child is it?' The person who can raise the children raises them."

Louis Kwame Amo, 35, the guest who said it was impossible for people to live alone, was from Ghana. He has three children. One of them he took from an acquaintance who said he couldn't raise his child because he was too poor.

"It's not unusual," he says.

The visitors toured a factory producing Prius hybrid vehicles for Toyota Motor Corp. a company that has risen to the status of the world's top vehicle producer by volume with its top technology. But now the country where that company is located is fretting over how it can see an increase in childbirths.

People talk about economic development. I wonder what each of the visitors will be thinking when they return to their countries where their families are waiting for them. (Column by Yoko Fukumoto, Business News Department)

毎日新聞 2009年7月31日 東京朝刊

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ラグビー W杯をスポーツ界の活力に

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 2, 2009)
2019 Rugby World Cup could give sports fillip
ラグビー W杯をスポーツ界の活力に(8月2日付・読売社説)

Japan has won the right to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

We hope that hosting the event will invigorate not only rugby, but sport more generally in the nation, which has been suffering during the severe economic downturn.

The Rugby World Cup is said to be the third-biggest sporting event in the world after soccer's World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games. Since it was launched in 1987, the Rugby World Cup has been held every four years. But Japan will be the first Asian nation to host the tournament.

Japan was likely picked in light of the praise it earned for its hosting in June of the Junior World Championship (for players aged 20 or under) among other factors. Also, the International Rugby Board apparently is intent on expanding the rugby business through greater internationalization of the sport.


Long way to go

But the reality is that Japan still has many obstacles to overcome ahead of the tournament.

First and foremost, it is imperative to raise the standard of the national team--a strong team would likely lead to greater public excitement over the tournament.

Japan has participated in all six rugby World Cups, but has each time failed to progress beyond the group stage--the national team struggles to compete with the world's top teams.

The Japan Rugby Football Union must therefore work hard to come up with effective measures to improve standards with an eye on the next decade.

One way to strengthen the national team would be the fielding of foreign players. Foreign rugby players would be eligible to play for Japan as long as they have not played for any other national team and have played in Japan for at least three years consecutively.

However, if there are too many foreign players in the national team, people may feel the thrill of cheering on their country's own players at the World Cup is diminished.


Investing in success

It is difficult to argue that rugby is particularly popular in Japan, with many members of the public likely to say they only watch the latter stages of the national university championship early in the New Year on TV.

To broaden the sport's fan base, it is essential that the nation's players improve their skill levels and battle hard in games.

The Japan Rugby Football Union is due to make an about 15 billion yen host guarantee payment to the International Rugby Board. Meanwhile, the construction and upgrading of venue facilities will require huge investment.

A further issue is how attractive rugby will appear to businesses and other groups whose support is being sought.

The nation also has been bidding to host the 2016 Olympic Games and a soccer World Cup. If Tokyo is chosen to host the Games in 2016, a new stadium with a capacity of 100,000 is expected to be built in the city's Harumi district. Using the same stadium for the Rugby World Cup would save on costs.

The host city of the 2016 Games will be announced in October. We hope that Tokyo will win, helped on by the successful bid to host the Rugby World Cup.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2009)
(2009年8月2日01時46分  読売新聞)

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2009年8月 1日 (土)

自民党政権公約 「責任力」に見合う具体策示せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 1, 2009)
Responsible party needs responsible policies
自民党政権公約 「責任力」に見合う具体策示せ(8月1日付・読売社説)

The Liberal Democratic Party unveiled its campaign platform for the upcoming House of Representatives election on Friday.

Although the manifesto contained an unusual phrase lauding the party's "ability to govern responsibly," the LDP was at pains to trumpet that it is a responsible political party and spelled out where it differed from the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

However, sections on how the LDP will carry out its policies are riddled with vague explanation. We think the LDP should describe its policies in far more detail during political debates from now on.

The LDP picks up social security system reform and tax system reform from the opening of its manifesto. It says, "We will implement necessary legislative measures by fiscal 2011 in regard to fundamental taxation reform, including a consumption tax rate increase."

The platform then goes on to say the party "will construct a social security system of medium welfare levels and medium burden." The LDP spells out in black and white that it wants the public to bear a fair share of the cost of providing a social security safety net, including through a rise in the consumption tax rate in the future.


Finding the funding

The LDP tried to pick apart the DPJ platform and cast doubt on whether the DPJ can actually find the resources to bankroll its policies. The LDP should be given some credit for having found the courage to mention a consumption tax increase and prodding the public to shoulder a "medium burden" of social security costs. However, the LDP failed to specify crucial details of these policies.

The centerpiece of the LDP manifesto is a policy to phase out preschool fees for children aged 3 to 5, with these fees eventually being waived in fiscal 2012. The policy is a direct counterproposal to the DPJ pledge to offer a monthly allowance of 26,000 yen per child to households with children of middle school age or younger.

However, the LDP will need to wring an additional about 790 billion yen from somewhere to cover the costs of this policy. Although this is a fraction of the 5.5 trillion yen the DPJ will need for its monthly allowance policy, it is still a hefty price tag. The party manifesto offered no clear answers on how it would finance this plan.

If the LDP is serious about extolling its ability to govern responsibly, it should not crank up a skirmish based on pork-barrel spending as it seeks to woo voters.


Security issues

In the diplomatic and national security fields, the platform says that, to counter North Korea's ballistic missile threat, the LDP will implement necessary security measures that will enable the interception of ballistic missiles fired toward the United States as well as protect U.S. vessels operating in cooperation with Japan on the ballistic missile defense shield.

If the LDP suggests there could be a change from the current government interpretation on the right to collective self-defense--in which the nation possesses this right but cannot exercise it--we think the party should have come right out and said so.

The DPJ said in its collection of policies unveiled at the same time as its manifesto that it will not stick to conceptual discussions on whether self-defense is individual or collective. The DPJ's stance can be interpreted as accepting the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, but this lack of clarity makes the party's stance difficult to understand. We think the DPJ needs to flesh out its explanation.

All the major parties have presented their campaign platforms, so now the cut-and-thrust of a full-fledged election campaign can begin in earnest. We hope each party focuses on spreading their messages and policies on pending domestic and international issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 1, 2009)
(2009年8月1日01時18分  読売新聞)

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