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2011年12月31日 (土)

社説:回顧2011年 3・11を乗り越えて


(Mainichi Japan) December 31, 2011
Editorial: Overcoming the March 11 disasters
社説:回顧2011年 3・11を乗り越えて

One cannot help but wonder how the actions of Japan and the Japanese people in 2011 in response to the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster will be evaluated by future generations.

It was at 2:46:18 p.m., March 11, when the magnitude-9 earthquake hit.

About three minutes later, even as tremors were still rattling northeastern Japan, a tsunami warning was issued. 揺れの続く中で約3分後に大津波警報が出された。

Scenes of whole neighborhoods being engulfed by massive waves are still fresh in our memory.

The disasters claimed the lives of more than 15,000 people, and the number rises to nearly 20,000 if those still missing are included.

This is despite the fact that the government had spent a huge amount of taxpayers' money to implement the world's best tsunami countermeasures.

The disasters have reminded us that we are still vulnerable to natural threats.

Still, the world has been amazed at the lengths to which disaster victims went to help others amid such extreme circumstances.

Also, numerous members of the Japanese public have extended support to disaster-hit areas by providing donations and working as volunteers to help disaster victims.

It has been pointed out that regional communities in Japan have collapsed and society is increasingly divided.  共同体が崩れ、社会の分断が進んでいると言われている。

However, the actions taken by many people to help disaster victims have convinced the public that the bonds between Japanese people remain close.

This will help restore Japanese people's trust in their own society even under the sad situation brought about by the disasters.

We could certainly say that earthquakes are purely natural disasters if we were able to keep damage from powerful quakes to the minimum.

However, this was not the case in the March 11 disasters.

The crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has demonstrated that the government and utilities had neglected to work out effective measures to respond to nuclear accidents, while weaving an illusion of safety.

The political world's response to the disasters was also poor.

An intensifying conflict between ruling and opposition parties under the "twisted" Diet -- in which opposition parties control the House of Councillors while the ruling coalition has an overwhelming majority in the powerful House of Representatives -- adversely affected the government's response to the disasters.

Since manufacturing across the world is deeply interdependent, a problem in one area can spread rapidly across the globe.

Not only the March 11 disasters in eastern Japan but also a massive flood in Thailand have demonstrated the vulnerability of supply chains.

Greece's failure to take appropriate measures to address its debt crisis at an early stage has sparked a financial crisis throughout Europe.

Now, all countries' risk- and crisis-management abilities are being tested.

In particular, the Fukushima nuclear crisis has highlighted to the world Japan's poor ability to respond to crises. 特に原発事故は、日本の対応力の低さを世界に示した格好だ。

Furthermore, the government's confusion over its submission of an environmental assessment report on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa to the prefectural government is also a noteworthy example of a decline in its response to difficult policy issues.

In no other year has the need for the government and companies to rebuild their risk- and crisis-management abilities been highlighted as it has in 2011.

It will take a long time, a massive amount of resources and much patience to restore disaster-ravaged areas, bring the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactors under control and decontaminate areas tainted with radioactive substances leaking from the plant.

There are many risks involved in each stage of these processes.

In 2012, whether Japan can improve its abilities to respond to risks and crises and overcome damage caused by the March 11 disasters will be tested.

毎日新聞 2011年12月31日 東京朝刊

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2011年12月30日 (金)

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社説:原発コスト 「安価神話」も崩壊した

renewable energy 再生可能エネルギー(=自然エネルギー)

(Mainichi Japan) December 29, 2011
Editorial: Gov't should promote renewable energy as myth of nuclear power's cheapness shattered
社説:原発コスト 「安価神話」も崩壊した

"The cost of nuclear power generation is cheap" -- we have repeatedly heard such a line as part of the reasoning for promoting nuclear energy.

The myth of the cheapness of nuclear power generation collapsed following the catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

A government panel set up in the wake of the nuclear disaster estimates that the cost of nuclear power generation now stands at a minimum of 8.9 yen per kilowatt hour -- 1.5 times higher than the figure presented by utilities and the government before the disaster.

If the costs for decontaminating areas affected by radioactive materials, decommissioning the damaged reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and compensating for damages emanating from the nuclear crisis soar further, the cost of nuclear power generation would be even higher.

Considering the fact that the costs of coal-fired power generation and liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fueled power generation stand at somewhere near 10 yen per kilowatt hour, respectively, the superiority that nuclear power generation had enjoyed in terms of "cost performance" can be said to have been shattered.

Even wind power generation and geothermal power generation could rival with nuclear power generation in terms of cost performance depending on conditions, while the cost of solar power generation is likely to become cheaper in 20 years time.

The government should take this opportunity to proceed with full-scale measures to invest in and promote renewable energy sources, which had previously been shunned for their "high costs."

What makes the government panel's latest estimation significantly different from previous calculations is that the panel took into consideration the social costs emanating from nuclear power generation, such as accident risks, on top of the expenses for the construction, operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants as well as their fuel costs.

In hindsight, it was a mistake that we failed to take into account accident risks involving nuclear plants.

It shows that the myths of the safety and the cheapness of nuclear power generation were closely intertwined with each other.

The government panel has also indicated that energy savings per household are tantamount to generating power and pointed to the potential of a dispersed power system, to which we should pay renewed attention.

The panel's estimates should be indicating the feasibility of the government's policy of cutting down on nuclear power generation.

In the meantime, we should take heed of the fact that the figures currently presented are highly uncertain.  

Experts were sharply divided in their opinions over how nuclear accident risks should be evaluated when they were discussing how they should calculate the latest estimates.

While some experts projected that the odds of such a serious accident as the Fukushima disaster happening were once every 100,000 years, their opinions are way too different from ordinary people's feelings considering the fact that we have seen three major nuclear accidents across the globe -- Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011 -- over the past several decades.

It should be noted that the government panel has given minimum estimates because it excluded accident probabilities from their estimates for nuclear accident risk-related costs.

The panel has also indicated that the cost of the nuclear fuel cycle -- which the government describes as the core of Japan's nuclear energy policy -- is almost twice that of direct disposal.

The nuclear fuel cycle program, albeit the large amount of money spent on it, should be reviewed from square one.

The panel's estimates should be examined by people from various quarters in order for Japan to come up with the best mix of energy policies.

Those estimates should serve as the first step toward achieving such diverse energy policies.

毎日新聞 2011年12月26日 2時31分

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2011年12月29日 (木)

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 28
EDITORIAL: Rethink needed for Futenma relocation plan

In continued disregard of Okinawa Prefecture's vehement opposition to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district in Nago, the Democratic Party of Japan administration has delivered to the Okinawa prefectural government an environmental assessment report on the construction of a new offshore runway.

In early November, the Okinawa prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a statement demanding that the central government abandon the submission of such an environmental assessment report. Later that month, the director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau outraged the people of Okinawa by using a rape analogy to explain Tokyo's reluctance to set the submission date of the assessment report.

Determined to stop Tokyo from having its way, Okinawan protesters gathered outside the prefectural government building on Dec. 27, surrounded the van carrying the report, and prevented the report from being handed over to Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.

But the administration of Yoshihiko Noda delivered the report to Nakaima on Dec. 28 because of its earlier promise to Washington to submit it by the end of this year. But the U.S. Congress recently decided to cut expenditures from the 2012 budget for the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam, which was part of the relocation package. Saddled with massive deficits, the Americans are not saving military spending from the ax.

Nakaima was not opposed to Tokyo's submission of the environmental assessment report per se. But he has always stood for Futenma's relocation to outside Okinawa or overseas, and stated his unequivocal opposition to the reclamation of the sea off Henoko.

Although Nakaima welcomed Tokyo's decision to substantially increase its Okinawa promotion budget for fiscal 2012, the fact that he was re-elected governor on his anti-Henoko platform makes it most unlikely that he would go against public opinion in his prefecture on this issue.

May 2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan, and a prefectural assembly election is slated for June. The Noda administration is looking to file an application for reclamation with Nakaima next summer after the completion of environmental assessment procedures, but to do so would only fan the distrust and anger of the people of Okinawa.

Tokyo and Washington must stop and think.

Henoko was chosen as the relocation site after lengthy negotiations between Tokyo and Washington to reconcile the two conflicting goals of easing Okinawa's burden and maintaining the deterrence power of U.S. forces in Japan. Given the history, we certainly appreciate the difficulty of reviewing the whole plan from scratch to seek a new solution.

But that is the only option if any progress is to be made at all.

Next year, presidential elections or leadership changes will take place in the United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan. And with the recent death of Kim Jong Il in North Korea, the situation in East Asia has grown less predictable.

An unsteady Japan-U.S. relationship will destabilize the region and weaken the diplomatic bases of both partners.

Seeking a new solution is a daunting challenge that also requires every care along the way. But the leaders of both Japan and the United States must accept the fact that this is their only option.

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2011年12月28日 (水)








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--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 27
EDITORIAL: Fukushima report highlights crisis management flaws

A report on an investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster has made us wonder if the operator of the crippled plant put blind faith in the facility because of the "safety myth" created by propaganda to promote nuclear power generation.
The interim report was published on Dec. 26 by a government panel looking into the disastrous accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

At the No. 1 reactor, members of the task force at the plant and the head office of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, initially failed to recognize that an isolation condenser, which is intended to cool the reactor during a blackout, was not working, according to the report.

The report bitterly criticized TEPCO for lacking sufficient understanding of how the condenser works. "As a nuclear power plant operator, it was highly inappropriate," said the report. The fact indicates how little importance TEPCO engineers placed on such a system to deal with an emergency.

The interim report also addressed problems concerning facilities outside the plant, such as the off-site center located 5 kilometers away. The center failed to perform its functions as the front-line base to respond to a nuclear accident. That's because the center was not designed to function under circumstances of heightened levels of radiation even though it is a facility to be used when an accident has broken out at the nuclear power plant.

The document, naturally, also raised the issue of the fact that data of the government's System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), a system to predict the spread of radioactive materials during a nuclear emergency, was not used for the evacuation of residents in areas around the disaster-stricken plant. The government "didn't have the thought of publicizing SPEEDI information," according to the report. Why did the government decide to spend taxpayers' money to build the system in the first place if it didn't think about communicating information it generates to local residents?

The inquiry panel also pointed an accusing finger at the prime minister's office. The report said there was not enough mutual communication between the underground crisis management center, where top officials of ministries and agencies concerned gathered, and the room on the fifth floor where the prime minister and his close aides worked to deal with the situation.

The report painted a distressing picture of how top officials at TEPCO and the government got flustered in the face of the nuclear crisis as they lacked knowledge about what to do in such a severe event. We applaud the investigation panel for shedding light on this disturbing truth. But the report has still left some stones unturned.

The report pointed to the possibility that the core meltdown at the No. 1 reactor could have been at least delayed through an earlier injection of water if the plant operator had had an accurate grasp of the situation. But it failed to make clear how missteps and errors in judgment actually worsened the damage.

We have some advice for the panel as it continues to prepare a final report to be published next summer.

First of all, we urge the panel to be more willing to seek the help of outside experts. That the panel has no expert in nuclear reactors among its members is good from the viewpoint of insulating its work from the influence of the "nuclear village"--a close-knit community of policymakers, industry executives and scientists bent on promoting nuclear power generation. But its lack of necessary expertise could make it difficult for the panel to understand what happened in the reactors.

We also want the panel to interview as many politicians involved as possible. This is also crucial for uncovering the truth about the SPEEDI fiasco.

Yotaro Hatamura, an engineer who heads the panel, advocates the "science of failure." The principal purpose of research in this field is to prevent big failures by examining small ones. It is important to scrutinize the many small failures that must have occurred during the nuclear disaster to learn necessary lessons. We hope the panel will step up its efforts to accomplish its mission during the remaining half year.

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2011年12月27日 (火)

反プーチンデモ ロシアに「法の支配」が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 27, 2011)
Putin must commit fully to rule of law in Russia
反プーチンデモ ロシアに「法の支配」が必要だ(12月26日付・読売社説)

Mass rallies to protest the high-handed political tactics of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin illustrate public discontent with his long-standing grip on power.

It can be said that the contradictions plaguing Russia have come to the fore 20 years after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Demonstrations began immediately after an election for the State Duma earlier this month, as protesters claimed there had been vote-rigging and called for the election to be held again. An image of alleged vote-rigging was posted on the Internet, igniting the rallies.

About 30,000 people gathered in Moscow alone Saturday, according to Russia's Interior Ministry. It was the biggest antigovernment rally of Putin's tenure, surpassing the one held Dec. 10. In addition to decrying the alleged election irregularities, the protesters openly called for an end to Putin's rule, shouting, "Russia without Putin."

During the 12 years of his grip on power as president and prime minister, Russian politics became relatively stable and its economy grew remarkably thanks to high crude oil prices.

The recent series of rallies, however, indicates the people's mounting dissatisfaction with Putin, who is aiming to prolong his rule by running in the presidential election next March.


Anger against corruption

It is noteworthy that many participants in the anti-Putin protests were middle-class and intellectual people whose situations improved due to the economic growth.

They may be prompted by their anger toward the little progress made in modernizing Russian politics. Their indignation is largely targeted at the rampant corruption in the bureaucratic machine, which has collusive ties with the ruling party.

The government made full use of TV media as a publicity tool to lead the campaign in favor of the ruling United Russia party. Lack of impartiality, a prerequisite for elections, spurred criticism of the administration.

Putin has refused demands to hold a new election. He is trying to get out of his present difficulties by pledging to take measures to prevent irregularities in the presidential election.

As no powerful candidate has emerged from the opposition camp, Putin's strategy for returning to the Kremlin remains unshaken.


Legal compliance vital

It is natural, however, that those in power must also comply with rules. Establishment of the full rule of law has been pending since the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Putin needs to face seriously the problems raised by the series of rallies and commit himself completely to the rule of law.

Putin faces challenges on the diplomatic front, too.

He has put forth the idea of creating an "Eurasian Union" aimed at the economic integration of former Soviet republics. But these states have been deepening their relations with European countries and the United States, and remain strongly wary of Russia's attempt to take leadership.

After 18 years of negotiations, Russia will become an official member of the World Trade Organization next year. If it is to earnestly seek capital investment from the West, Moscow will be strongly urged to follow WTO rules and international business practices.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 26, 2011)
(2011年12月26日01時17分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月26日 (月)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:いまどきの卒業論文 /東京



(Mainichi Japan) December 25, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Learning from the next generation
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:いまどきの卒業論文 /東京

Being both a psychiatrist and a university professor, December is always an exciting month for me -- it is this time of the year when my students submit their graduation theses.

There are some students who rush up to me at the very last moment, saying, "Professor, I can't make it on time," to whom I would say: "Hang in there, you're only a breath away." There are also the self-assured ones, who submit their "works of confidence," in which I later on find plenty of spelling mistakes that sometimes even frustrate me.
直前になって「先生、ダメです! 間に合いません」と泣きついてくる学生を、「大丈夫、あと一息!」と遠泳のコーチのように励ます。「自信作です」と見せに来る学生の論文に大量の誤字脱字を発見して、途方に暮れることもある。

However, as I read my students' works, I realize that there is quite a lot to learn from the way "today's young" think, write, and form their judgments.

Every year, what specifically amazes me is their computer and internet skills. As I read through their works, I often find myself wondering how they created such beautiful graphs or about the meaning of acronyms that I often see online, but never knew what they were for. On such occasions, I feel as if we are "exchanging knowledge," and things such as poor writing or lack of in-depth research stop bothering me.

It is common for educators to criticize the next generation by saying that in the past students studied much more. However, this is only because we are comparing them to ourselves, based on standards that we lived through in our student days. There are things that students nowadays know and can do easily, which we in the past could not -- and I'm not only speaking of their use of computers and mobile phones.

While for many people from my generation reading in English was common, but speaking was nearly impossible, young people these days openly speak to overseas students, using both Japanese and English with no evidence of embarrassment. They are also much more open to sexual and gender differences. It is somewhat more refreshing than surprising to hear someone say: "I like a person from the same sex," to which another person simply replies, "Oh, really?"

At parties, the old rule obliging women to pour drinks for men seems to not exist for many young people -- they act naturally and drink in the style that suits them.

As I watch the young people these days, I think that the traditional way of "measuring" knowledge and quality of graduation theses is, in fact, not that important.

There are times when part of me says, "A graduation thesis is not a personal essay, so writing in the first person is against the rules," while the other me says, "This personal essay-style thesis is so rich and sensitive, and extremely interesting."

I will teach my students everything I know, and hope they would do the same for me. I don't want them to feel afraid of telling me, "Professor, you really don't know something like that?"

As a professor I always try to think in this way. However, at times I blurt out things like: "Really? You haven't read Hermann Hesse? When I was a student, I..." This bad habit seems to be a hard one to shake.
教員としてはいつもそう思っている私だが、それでもつい口にしてしまう。「なに、ヘルマン・ヘッセも読んだことがない? 私が学生の頃は……」。このクセはなかなかなおらないようだ。

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2011年12月20日 地方版

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放射能「新」基準 食の不安の拡大防止策が先だ




The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 25, 2011)
New food safety rules require time for explanations, preparation
放射能「新」基準 食の不安の拡大防止策が先だ(12月24日付・読売社説)

Stricter limits on radiation in food are meant to make the public feel safe and secure--but what if they have the opposite effect?

The government must be circumspect in its moves in this area.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has worked out a set of proposals for new limits on radioactive cesium in food. Following exchanges of views within the government on the proposed standards, the ministry plans to put the new criteria into practice in April 2012.

Currently, "provisional regulatory ceilings" are in place as yardsticks for safe levels of radiation in food. The provisional ceilings were set immediately after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The new ceilings proposed by the ministry are far stricter.

For instance, the proposal calls for a ceiling of 50 becquerels per kilogram for milk and baby food items, including baby formula. This is one-fourth the current 200-becquerel limit. The planned limit for general food items such as rice, meat and vegetables is 100 becquerels per kilogram, or one-fifth the current ceiling. The proposed limit on drinking water is 10 becquerels, which is one-twentieth the current 200-becquerel limit.


Risk of worsening anxiety

The ministry says the tightening of the limits is for the sake of "ensuring a sense of safety among the public." Specifically, the risk of "internal exposure to radiation affecting human bodies" would be reduced to less than one-fifth the risk under the provisional ceilings, according to the ministry.

If the new ceilings proposed by the ministry are introduced, decisions on such matters as banning shipments of food would be made on the basis of the toughened criteria.

Careful attention should be paid, however, to the possibility of stricter limits instead heightening the risk of social unease.

If the new criteria are enforced, there may be many cases in which food items with "safe" radiation levels under the current limits would be found to contain "excessive" levels of radioactive cesium. It is therefore feared that shipments of foodstuffs could be suspended one after another.

The current provisional ceilings are already markedly strict as they are one-half to one-fourth the regulatory limits in the United States and European countries. Because of this, the government and many experts have said in explaining the provisional ceilings that eating foods whose radiation readings are slightly above the provisional limits does not mean they are "dangerous" to health. Instead, they say, people can eat them without fear.

The health ministry, before implementation of the new ceilings, is set to seek understanding and cooperation from local governments and industries concerned about toughening the limits. For some categories of food, the ministry is considering taking "tentative steps," or measures to delay the application of new ceilings.

To measure radiation levels in accordance with the new ceilings, high-precision instruments capable of detecting radioactive cesium at a single-digit level of becquerels will be needed. Some industries may be unable to obtain such instruments immediately. The switch from the current ceilings to new ones, therefore, should be preceded by sufficient time to make preparations.


Cesium levels dwindling

In its studies of the advisability of introducing the new criteria, the ministry has conducted a series of sampling examinations of a wide range of foodstuffs to find how much radioactive cesium they contain.

According to the investigations, less than 1 percent of food items examined nationwide were found to contain radioactive cesium in excess of the provisional ceilings. Any foodstuffs with radioactive cesium exceeding the ceilings have been prohibited, in principle, from being put on the market.

Moreover, the number of cases in which radioactive cesium has been detected at levels below the provisional ceilings has been gradually shrinking, the ministry says. A fact that should be taken into account is that, due to the characteristics of radioactive material, the quantity of radioactive cesium in food is certain to decline by a wide margin in the year to come.

It is very important for the government to provide detailed explanations of such matters to spread accurate information about food safety among the public.

Government efforts to ensure the safety of foodstuffs in the process of their distribution must continue to be undertaken in a reliable way.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2011)
(2011年12月24日01時16分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月24日 (土)





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八ッ場ダム 混乱と無策の果ての建設続行


The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 24, 2011)
Yamba construction to restart after 2 years of meandering
八ッ場ダム 混乱と無策の果ての建設続行(12月23日付・読売社説)

After more than two years of turmoil, the government has finally settled the issue of whether to cancel or resume construction of the Yamba Dam in Gunma Prefecture.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Takeshi Maeda has at last decided to resume construction of the dam in Naganoharamachi. The government will earmark costs for building the main structure, funds for which had been frozen, in the fiscal 2012 budget.

The decision was based on a reexamination of the project by the ministry, in which it judged "construction of the dam is most desirable" in terms of flood control and water utilization effects as well as project costs.

We think the decision is quite appropriate.

The concept for the Yamba Dam project dates back about 60 years. It is designed to prevent floods in watershed areas of the Tonegawa river system and provide a water resource for the Kanto region. With a total construction cost of 460 billion yen, the dam will be one of largest in the country.


Maehara started turmoil

Under the slogan "from concrete to people," the Democratic Party of Japan included cancellation of the Yamba Dam project in its manifesto for the 2009 House of Representatives election, which brought about the DPJ-led administration.

Seiji Maehara, now the DPJ's Policy Research Committee chair, became infrastructure minister after the 2009 election. Based on the manifesto's promise, he forcibly terminated the dam's construction without any consultation with local governments involved. That was the start of the turmoil.

In the face of strong opposition by residents and local governments, then Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi in autumn 2010 effectively nullified Maehara's decision on the project. Subsequently, the ministry had been reexamining the project to decide whether the dam should be constructed.

The DPJ has never come up with an alternative plan. Land ministers after Maehara just put off reaching a conclusion, bowing to the "manifesto-supremacism" within the party. This is nothing but political delinquency. The government as well as the DPJ must reflect seriously on their actions.

Maehara bears a particular heavy responsibility.

Although it was crystal clear there would be enormous side effects to canceling the construction, he did not accept the results of the ministry's reexamination of the project--which concluded construction is appropriate--to the end.

"If the government forces the construction costs through in the budget, the party won't approve it. I won't let the Cabinet approve it," Maehara said Thursday. This is going too far. It is unbelievable that these are statements of the policy chief of the ruling party. He should not cause further turmoil.


Residents made sacrifices

Years ago residents and local governments made a painful decision to accept the dam construction, and many residents moved from areas that were to be submerged under the planned dam lake. While the dam construction was up in the air, residents suffered more economic losses--a number of hot spring inns closed their doors, for example.

If construction had actually been canceled, plans to revive areas around the dam as tourism spots might have been scrapped.

Already 80 percent of the total project costs have been spent on related works, such as construction of roads to replace ones that will become unusable. If the project had been axed, the government would have had to return funds to Tokyo and five other prefectures of the Tonegawa basin, which had paid out more than half of these costs.

We do not think anyone in the DPJ can say the party fully took such factors into consideration while the party was creating the manifesto. The government needs to flexibly review policies if defects and misjudgments become clear. It must learn this lesson from the Yamba Dam issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 23, 2011)
(2011年12月23日01時38分  読売新聞)

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 22
EDITORIAL: Clock is ticking on tax reform to finance the future

The tax debate among government and ruling party policymakers involved in the development of a draft plan for integrated tax and social security reform is coming to a head. This is an important process to secure financing of the social security reform plan recently drawn up by the government.

The government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan decided in June to gradually raise the consumption tax rate to 10 percent by the mid-2010s as part of the integrated reform. The first thing is to decide on specifics of the proposed consumption tax hike--the timing and scale of each of the tax increases.

The ruling camp has made it clear that all the revenue from the consumption tax will be used to finance growing social security spending. This policy is based on the notion that the consumption tax, which everyone pays at the point of purchase, is suitable as a revenue source to fund the social security system, the principal social safety net based on mutual aid among all members of society.

But raising the consumption tax rate to 10 percent alone will not put social security on a firm and sustainable financial footing.

The government’s social security spending, including health care, pension, nursing care and child care benefits, will reach 108 trillion yen ($1.383 trillion) in fiscal 2011, which runs through March 2012.

Of that total, nearly 60 trillion yen is financed by social security premiums collected from taxpayers. The revenue from a 10-percent consumption tax is less than 30 trillion yen, while social security spending keeps growing by 3 trillion yen every year. The consumption tax hike now being discussed will only be one landmark in the long process of making the social security system financially sustainable.

That is why it is vital to start a serious and in-depth debate on taxes other than the consumption tax from the viewpoint of the future of the nation’s tax system.

The government has already decided to lower the effective corporate tax rate in response to intensifying international competition companies are facing. So the debate on the future of the tax system should focus on such key levies as income and inheritance taxes.

One proposal would change the current six income tax brackets--ranging from 5 to 40 percent--and raise the top tax rate to 45 percent.

The government is also considering shrinking various tax deductions, which reduce the amount of income subject to tax.

The draft bill for tax changes for the next fiscal year already includes a provision to impose a ceiling on the standard income deduction applied to corporate employees. This provision was first proposed as part of the tax changes for the current fiscal year but later dropped amid partisan confrontation at the Diet.

The state general-account budget is in dire straits, with the amount of government bond issues, or the government’s overall borrowing, exceeding the total tax revenue.

It is now inevitable that the tax burden on high-income earners will be increased in addition to raising the consumption tax.

But effective efforts should be made to avoid putting an excessive load on the working population, or people who bear the burden of swelling social security spending in an aging society.

It is also necessary to debate the question of what would be the best balance between premium payments for health-care, pension and nursing care programs and income tax payments.

In planning an increase in the social security burden, the emphasis should be placed on taxation of assets.

Another proposal for fiscal 2011 tax changes that fell through would have reduced the basic deduction for the inheritance tax and lifted the top rate to 55 percent from 50 percent. This is a good place to start.

With economic inequality widening in this nation, it would make sense, also from the viewpoint of fairness, to increase the tax burden on people who have a significant amount of assets coming, for example, from a large inheritance from their parents.

The government and the ruling party first need to draw up a vision for the overall tax reform focused on the consumption tax. Then, they need to develop a specific plan and timetable for pushing through the reform.

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2011年12月23日 (金)

日米外相会談 「核」「拉致」進展へ協力強化を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 22, 2011)
Beef up international cooperation on nuclear, abduction issues
日米外相会談 「核」「拉致」進展へ協力強化を(12月21日付・読売社説)

We hope the change of leadership in North Korea will be a chance to resolve the long-pending issues of that country's nuclear development program and abduction of Japanese nationals.

During their meeting in Washington on Monday, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed it was important to ensure that the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il did not negatively affect peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Gemba and Clinton also agreed that the two countries would cooperate and promote information-sharing with other countries concerned, including South Korea, China and Russia.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke on the phone Tuesday and confirmed that their two countries would work together toward stabilization of the Korean Peninsula.

The immediate common interest for not only Japan and the United States but also the other countries concerned, including China and South Korea, is ensuring that unpredictable events such as a coup d'etat or military provocation do not happen in North Korea. Close, multilayered cooperation is needed among the countries concerned.


Give up nuclear ambition

From a medium- and long-range perspective, it is essential to convey to Kim's successor Kim Jong Un and other leaders of the new North Korean regime that relinquishing its nuclear ambition is indispensable to reconstructing the battered economy. The countries concerned must lead North Korea in that direction.

The key element in this area could be cooperation with China, which exerts influence over North Korea through food and energy assistance.

Tokyo and Washington must hold consultative talks with Beijing to devise concrete strategies on how to work on Pyongyang.

Recent U.S.-North Korea talks saw a certain degree of progress on food assistance and halting uranium enrichment activities. It will be important for the countries concerned to move in step with each other toward the next round of U.S.-North Korea talks, which may be held as soon as early January, and the six-nation talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to be held afterward.


Tripartite dialogue significant

In his meeting with Clinton, Gemba proposed creating a framework for dialogue involving Tokyo, Washington and Beijing, and Clinton concurred. China is wary of such a move, but tripartite dialogue would have great significance for peace and prosperity in Asia. Strenuous efforts are needed to achieve that goal.

For Japan, moving forward on the deadlocked abduction issue is a top priority.

There have been no negotiations on the issue since September 2008, when North Korea unilaterally broke its promise to reinvestigate the abductees' cases.

In the Washington meeting, Gemba also sought U.S. cooperation in resolving the abduction issue. His request reflected expectations among the families of abductees that Kim's death will contribute to progress toward a resolution.

If progress is made on the nuclear issue, it is also possible regarding the abductions. There used to be differences in the level of interest regarding a solution among Japan and its allies the United States and South Korea. But in recent years Washington and Seoul have consistently supported Japan's position on the matter. So the international environment is not unfavorable for Japan.

Of course, we cannot be too optimistic when it comes to North Korea. But now is the time for the government to make utmost efforts to work toward resolving the abduction issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun Dec. 21, 2011)
(2011年12月21日01時17分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月22日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 20
EDITORIAL: Cooperation needed to prevent chaos in Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has died.

Under Kim's rule, North Korea developed nuclear weapons, ignoring international rules. Its economy is in tatters, with people suffering from acute food shortages. The country also abducted many Japanese citizens and still repeatedly violates human rights. Its government strictly controls the information made available to the public.

Kim was a dictator who held absolute power in this outlandish and outrageous country.

It is still unclear how the transition of power will play out in the secluded nation. But there is no doubt that Kim's death offers an opportunity for North Korea to change itself dramatically. At the same time, however, it creates a precarious situation that could throw the nation into serious turmoil.

There have been no signs of unsettling developments in the country, at least so far.

But South Korea and the United States have put their armed forces on emergency alert. Japan and other countries concerned should work in close cooperation in dealing with any situation that may arise following the dictator's death.

It seems that Kim died suddenly. According to local media, he suffered a heart attack on a special train as he was traveling to the country during an "on-site guidance" tour, a practice that was introduced by his father, Kim Il Sung, who founded the country after the end of World War II.

Three generations of hereditary rule

Kim was long one of the world's most enigmatic leaders.

He was chosen as the successor to his father in a secret meeting of the Korean Worker's Party in 1974 and appeared in public for the first time in the party convention in 1980.

Kim solidified his grip on power by taking advantage of his father's powerful backing and established a dictatorship based on a personality cult like that of a feudal dynasty.

Kim drastically changed his image as a leader who remains behind the scenes through a series of high-profile diplomatic actions he started taking in 2000.

As a starter, he met with then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in the first summit between the leaders of the two Koreas. His spirited exchanges were televised and immediately earned the North Korean leader a reputation as a person well informed about international affairs. Kim Jong Il also met with the leaders of both China and Russia, as well as a U.S. Secretary of State. He held talks with then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi twice.

Kim's diplomacy was described as "brinkmanship diplomacy" or "saber-rattling diplomacy" because he used his nuclear and missile programs as leverage to extract concessions from other countries.

Kim also started diplomatic efforts to build a formal relationship with the United States and revive his country's dilapidated economy as a way to maintain his autocratic regime. But he died before achieving the goals.

His third son, Kim Jong Un, has been groomed as his anointed successor.

The younger Kim may not assume the official leadership posts held by his father until after the period of national mourning expires.

But the dictator's son is likely to attain supreme power as a third-generation hereditary ruler--a striking anomaly in a country that claims to stand for socialist principles.

The process of the transition of power to Kim Jong Un, who has yet to turn 30, began only three years ago when his father suffered a stroke.

In stark contrast, Kim Jong Il had some 20 years to solidify his position as the successor to his father.

It is probably reasonable to assume that the nation will be under de facto collective leadership for the time being. A group of close aides will support the younger Kim's rule behind the scenes while ensuring that the new leader will stand at center stage.

We cannot, of course, tolerate North Korea's nuclear tests and test-firing of ballistic missiles. We also cannot overlook Pyongyang's attempt to intimidate the international community by suddenly launching an artillery attack on a neighboring country. We are opposed to the country's system of keeping a close watch on citizens and sending anyone it doesn't like to dreadful concentration camps.

Road map to get rid of North Korea's nukes

The demise of the dictator should not be allowed to unsettle North Korea and destabilize surrounding areas.

Is it possible that Kim's death will trigger a fierce power struggle within the military or among the party elite during the period of transition?

It has long been assumed that North Koreans, despite their deep anger and resentment over their destitution and the regime's tight control on their lives, are unable to organize themselves because of close mutual surveillance. But is it possible now that people in the country will put up organized resistance against the regime and flee the country as refugees in droves?

Such confusion must be averted at any cost.

The big question now is whether North Korea will make serious efforts to improve its relations with neighboring countries in order to attain economic and social stability at home.

To tackle the formidable challenges it is facing, North Korea needs to shift its foreign policy toward cooperation with other countries and change itself into a country that respects international rules and follows common sense.

The international community has an important role to play in leading Pyongyang in the right direction. In dealing with this erratic nation, other countries should put the priority on ensuring that the nuclear materials produced and stockpiled by the regime will be strictly controlled to prevent their proliferation.

First of all, the six-party talks that have mapped out a plan for North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions should be put back on track. Then, concrete steps should be taken according to the plan.

The issue of North Korea's development of nuclear weapons has gained more urgency as the country has admitted to enriching uranium.

Kim Jong Il died just when the United States and North Korea were beginning to take the first step toward breaking the current impasse. But this window of opportunity should be taken to resume talks over Pyongyang's nuclear ambition.

Solving the abduction issue

Cooperation among the countries concerned is crucial for preventing confusion in North Korea.

China is North Korea's largest ally, while the United States holds the key to the country's national security.

Russia is raising its economic profile in the Far East, while South Korea, which is pursuing a vision of future unification of the Korean Peninsula, is directly affected by what is happening in the North. All the countries concerned should work together in dealing with North Korea through a combination of pressure and dialogue.

Japan, also a victim of Pyongyang's abduction of foreign nationals, has a direct interest in peace and stability in the region.

North Korea has made no serious effort to honor its promise three years ago to carry out a fresh investigation on the fate of Japanese citizens it abducted decades ago. There has been no progress either in the talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang toward establishing a formal diplomatic relationship.

Japan should develop a new strategy to find a way to make real progress toward a solution of the abduction issue.

Japan needs to prepare itself to make flexible and bold responses to any significant changes that might happen in North Korea.

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2011年12月20日 (火)

日韓首脳会談 慰安婦で安易な妥協は禁物だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 20, 2011)
Don't make easy compromise on 'comfort women' issue
日韓首脳会談 慰安婦で安易な妥協は禁物だ(12月19日付・読売社説)

Japan absolutely must refrain from making an easy compromise on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak in Kyoto on Sunday.

During their talks, the president sought the prime minister's "decision" on the issue, insisting that resolving it should be given priority while some former comfort women are still alive.

The prime minister reiterated Japan's position that the issue had been legally settled but called for using wisdom from a humanitarian standpoint.

The president apparently brought up the comfort women issue with a view to recent developments in his country, such as a stiffening of public sentiment after South Korea's constitutional court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government not to make an effort to have Japan pay compensation to the comfort women.


Already a settled matter

However, Japan and South Korea already signed a bilateral accord stating that the right to demand wartime compensation had been "fully and finally settled" when the two countries normalized diplomatic ties in 1965.

The government must firmly maintain this position. The issue involves recognizing the facts of history. So, even if Japan were to take half measures from a "humanitarian standpoint," it would be difficult to satisfy South Korea and would only be likely to further complicate the problem.

More problematic is the South Korean government's tacit approval of a South Korean private organization setting up a statue of a girl symbolizing comfort women in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

In their meeting, Noda requested of Lee that the statue be removed as soon as possible. But the president objected, saying that unless Japan takes sincere measures, another statue will be added every time a former comfort woman dies.

South Korea's argument makes no sense. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations stipulates that "the receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps...to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity."

The Japanese government believes the South Korean government's tacit approval of the statue violates the convention. Noda was quite right to demand the statue's removal. The Japanese government must tenaciously urge the South Korean side to remove it.


Other important topics sidelined

The comfort women issue wound up taking a conspicuously long time in the bilateral summit meeting, which failed to deepen discussions on other important issues. The South Korean side is responsible for this result.

However, it is also important to keep the comfort women issue from causing the Japan-South Korea relationship to stagnate.

As for the stalled negotiations on the economic partnership agreement between the two countries, Noda called for accelerating discussions to resume the talks as soon as possible, but the president did not give a positive response.

Apparently wary of a further increase in its trade deficit with Japan, South Korea remains cautious about resuming the negotiations. However, if Japan moves forward by boldly opening its market, it will benefit both countries quite a lot.

If Japan and South Korea fail to keep in step with each other on issues involving North Korea, such as its nuclear development program and abduction of Japanese nationals, it could only benefit North Korea.

The two countries should cooperate on economic and security issues from a broader viewpoint to steadily move forward on various problems.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2011)
(2011年12月19日01時10分  読売新聞)

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こんな素敵なファミリーアンサンブル ができたら最高に幸せでしょうね。

私にはとても無理だ感じていましたが、フェイスブックページ でサイトを読み進めていくうちに、自分でも出来るかも知れないなって考えが変わりました。

家族バンド は私の長い間の夢ではありましたが、このサイトで実現しそうです。





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2011年12月19日 (月)

米イラン制裁 懸念される原油取引への影響

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 19, 2011)
U.S. sanctions on Iran likely to affect Japan most
米イラン制裁 懸念される原油取引への影響(12月18日付・読売社説)

Iran has refused to comply with the international community's demands that the country prove it is not developing nuclear weapons. It is unavoidable for other nations to pressure Iran to reconsider its stance by strengthening sanctions.

However, if sanctions are introduced incorrectly, they could have a negative impact on other countries, including Japan, which imports oil from Iran.

We should carefully and thoroughly study the impact of the new U.S. sanctions on Iran, which were recently approved by Congress.

The sanctions, which were included in an annual U.S. defense authorization bill, limit dollar-based transactions between U.S. financial institutions and those in foreign countries, including Japan, which engage in transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

The sanctions will come into effect six months after U.S. President Barack Obama signs the bill into law.

The Central Bank of Iran is in charge of settling accounts for the nation's oil trade.
Therefore, it plays a crucial economic role as oil accounts for about 80 percent of the country's exports.

If foreign banks stop doing business with the central bank to avoid being targeted by U.S. sanctions, it will be difficult for Iran to export oil.

This is the aim of the United States--to prevent funds accrued from oil exports from being used to develop nuclear weapons.


Negative effects of sanctions

However, if Iranian oil supplies decline due to the U.S. sanctions, international oil prices are likely to jump.

The sanctions will be meaningless if the oil price increase benefits Iran or cools down the world economy.

What is more disconcerting is the influence sanctions could have on Japan, which is Iran's second-largest oil export partner after China.

About 10 percent of Japan's total oil imports come from Iran.

Among U.S. allies, the sanctions are likely to affect Japan the most.

If sanctions are imposed, Japan could be doubly hit by difficulty in procuring oil and high oil prices. This would hinder rebuilding the nation from the aftermath of the March 11 disaster. Our economy also may slow down.

According to reports, some exemptions are permitted, such as removing foreign financial institutions from the sanctions list if they meet certain conditions. The U.S. president also is authorized to refrain from imposing sanctions for security reasons.

The government must closely liaise with the U.S. administration and draw up measures to avoid Japan's oil imports being affected by the U.S. sanctions.

Other countries share similar concerns, such as South Korea--which imports about 10 percent of its oil imports from Iran--Greece, Italy, Spain and other European countries.
The Obama administration needs to implement the sanctions carefully.


China's reactions key

We also need to keep an eye on Beijing's moves in relation to the U.S. sanctions, as China is the largest importer of Iranian oil.

China has been critical of imposing any sanctions on Iran.

If the U.S.-China relationship becomes strained because of the new sanctions, it will become more difficult to form an international coalition against Iran.

Iran is expanding its uranium enrichment activities after ignoring four U.N. Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on that country.

The United States, China and other permanent members of the Security Council should double their diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 18, 2011)
(2011年12月18日01時10分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月18日 (日)

社会保障改革案 負担増求める施策を避けるな




The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 18, 2011)
Govt, DPJ must not shy away from increasing public burden
社会保障改革案 負担増求める施策を避けるな(12月17日付・読売社説)

Can progress be made on social security and tax reform by putting off decisions on such key issues as asking the public to accept higher tax burdens and lower pension benefits?

The Democratic Party of Japan's research council on integrated reform of the social security and taxation systems and the DPJ Tax System Research Committee held a joint meeting Friday. The meeting approved an outline of the social security-related portion of a draft of overall reform plans that is scheduled to be worked out before the end of the year.

The social security reform outline will likely be formally authorized by the government in a meeting early next week of five related Cabinet ministers.

It is praiseworthy that the joint meeting of the two key DPJ panels reached an accord to take concrete steps to rectify the overpayment of pension benefits, a question that has been pending since before the change of government that brought the DPJ to power in 2009.

Pension payouts are designed to fluctuate, in principle, in accordance with ups and downs in consumer prices. When the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito were in power, however, the government left payouts at the same level despite declines in prices.


Don't avoid benefit cuts

As a result of the extraordinary measure to avoid cutting payouts, current pension payments are about 2.5 percent higher than they should be.

The overpayment for the last 10 years may be as high as 7 trillion yen.

According to the outline, pension benefits will be lowered in stages to a level considered appropriate over three years, starting in October 2012.

To be exact, the planned adjustment of pension payouts should not be referred to as "reducing" pension benefits, but just returning benefits to a right and proper level.

The outline also covers a wide range of measures for improving social security plans, such as an additional basic pension payment to elderly people in low income brackets and greater government support for child rearing. It rightly says many of these steps will be put into force "from the fiscal year when the consumption tax rate is raised."

No policy measure can be implemented without securing a source of revenue to fund it.

Changing the social security system and raising the consumption tax are inseparably intertwined, and the DPJ and the government are urged to specify without delay when and by how much the 5 percent consumption tax will be hiked.

The problem, however, is that the outline, while mentioning an array of measures to boost social security services, hardly refers to reforms that would require a greater burden on the public and cuts in benefits.

Regarding the current medical care system for people aged 70 to 74--under which they pay 10 percent of their overall medical bills from their own pocket at medical facilities--the plan to raise the percentage to the originally intended 20 percent was shelved during discussions at the joint meeting.

To keep the current practice unchanged, the government is poised to earmark 200 billion yen in a supplementary budget to keep the system going in fiscal 2012.


Strong resolve crucial

Also pigeonholed was a reform plan to collect 100 yen from outpatients every time they visit a medical facility to secure funds to lower the financial burden of those who must pay for costly medical treatment.

In the draft the government and the ruling coalition parties mapped out in June for social security reform in tandem with taxation reform, it was envisioned that nearly 1.2 trillion yen in government spending would be trimmed through such steps as curbs on social security benefits. Meanwhile, revenues would be increased by about 2.7 trillion yen through a consumption tax hike.

It is highly doubtful whether the outline approved in the joint meeting of the DPJ panels is compatible with the June draft.

It is hardly possible to make ends meet in social security services unless the DPJ and the government give priority to boosting the efficiency of the entire social security system by curbing benefits.

The government and the ruling coalition parties are scheduled to enter last-ditch discussions next week about the wisdom of raising the consumption tax.

They must be candid enough to squarely seek the public's understanding of the need to accept greater burdens that are deemed essential.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and DPJ executives must have strong resolve in winning over opponents of a higher consumption tax, thus concluding the issue within the year as the prime minister has pledged.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 17, 2011)
(2011年12月17日01時31分  読売新聞)

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イラク戦争終結 米軍撤収後も山積する課題

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 17, 2011)
Piles of problems left in Iraq after withdrawal of U.S. forces
イラク戦争終結 米軍撤収後も山積する課題(12月16日付・読売社説)

Eight years and nine months after launching a war against Iraq, the United States is poised to finally bring its military operations in that country to a historic end.

U.S. President Barack Obama declared the end of the war at a ceremony held Wednesday at Fort Bragg, N.C., a U.S. Army installation, to welcome home soldiers who had been deployed to Iraq.

During his presidential election campaign, Obama criticized the administration of former President George W. Bush for committing the United States to the "wrong war" in Iraq. Obama pledged an early withdrawal from Iraq, and won the 2008 presidential election.

The last U.S. troops stationed in Iraq will finish leaving the country shortly, thus fulfilling the promise Obama made after he took office to completely withdraw from the Middle Eastern country by the end of 2011.


U.S. paid heavy price

However, the United States has paid a heavy price for the war.

The Bush administration launched the war after claiming Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.
The war also tarred the United States' national prestige, partly because of the chaos that erupted during its occupation of Iraq.

The country has racked up swelling fiscal deficits caused by massive military spending, and the war has claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers.

Nevertheless, Obama stressed the war had not been fought in vain. "We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq...This is an extraordinary achievement nearly nine years in the making," he said in the speech at Fort Bragg.

The question now is whether these achievements can remain in place and be built on in Iraq without U.S. forces stationed there for backup. Piles of problems lie ahead.

After the collapse of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in the war, the country at one time became mired in military conflict and terrorist attacks as confrontation raged between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Although the United States finally calmed the situation by boosting its military presence in the country, it would be a stretch to say Iraq is now a nation totally at peace.

Even today, many Iraqi citizens are being killed or wounded in terrorist attacks.

There are fears that the departure of U.S. troops could embolden terrorist organizations and lead to a deterioration of security in the country.


Region crucial for Japan

Iraq has been riven by continuing confrontation between religious and tribal groups. National reconciliation is an urgent task, but the power base of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is backed by Shiite Muslims, remains vulnerable.

There also is the possibility that Iran, a major Shiite nation that shares a border with Iraq, might use the withdrawal of U.S. forces to step up its influence on Baghdad.

If Iraq plunges into chaos again, it would have a significant impact on the whole region.

The United States bears a heavy responsibility for the future of Iraq and the Middle East.

Washington will have to not only cooperate with Baghdad in the security field, such as by training Iraqi military forces, but also press the country in the diplomatic arena so it becomes a responsible major country in the region.

In his meeting with Maliki in November, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda expressed his intention to extend yen loans totaling about 67 billion yen to Iraq for programs including a project to improve a refinery plant in the country.

We believe such efforts will help develop bilateral ties.

Iraq's stability is extremely important for Japan, which imports 90 percent of its crude oil from the Middle East.

In addition to providing reconstruction assistance through official development assistance programs and other channels, it is critical that Japan deepens its economic and business ties with Iraq.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 16, 2011)
(2011年12月16日01時22分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月16日 (金)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 16
EDITORIAL: U.S. should learn heavy lessons from Iraq war

U.S. President Barack Obama has declared the end of the Iraq war.

Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops were killed during the war that stretched about nine years.

The death toll among Iraqi civilians is said to have topped 100,000.

"It is harder to end a war than to begin one," the president said in a speech at a U.S. Army installation in North Carolina.

We wish to commend Obama for making good on his pledge to withdraw troops and pulling out of the quagmire in Iraq.

However, it is questionable whether this war was really needed when we think about the horrible bloodshed it incurred.

We need to address this question once again.

The former administration of George W. Bush went to war against Iraq, claiming the Saddam Hussein regime was developing weapons of mass destruction.

It capitalized on U.S. public opinion frightened by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. nerve centers and incited fears that unless the United States took pre-emptive action, it would be attacked again.

In fact, there was no connection between the Saddam regime and the international terrorist organization al-Qaida.

Nevertheless, the United States went to war without winning the support of the United Nations Security Council.

The war without legitimacy drew harsh criticism from both international society and the U.S. public and caused a serious rift both at home and abroad.

In the end, no weapons of mass destruction were found. Washington's stopgap occupational policy threw Iraq into confusion and ignited a bloody sectarian conflict between Sunni Muslims and Shiites.

Obama said: "We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people."

But the actual situation in Iraq is far from stable.

Terrorist bombings are still going on.

On the very day Obama delivered the speech, at least three people were killed in northern Iraq by terrorist bombs.

The rebuilding of infrastructure, such as power plants, also still has a long way to go.

As the United States pulls out its troops, it must squarely face the heavy lessons of this war.

There are also signs that sectarian antagonism is flaring up again in expectations of a power vacuum after the U.S. withdrawal as the administration of Nouri al-Maliki is detaining Sunnis.

Armed Sunni insurgents who cooperated with the U.S. forces while the country was under occupation appear to be increasingly nervous about retaliation.

Iraq's relations with neighboring countries are also unstable as Iran is increasing its influence in southern Iraq and Turkish forces are advancing into the northern region inhabited by the Kurds.

If confusion continues at home, it could once again lead to foreign intervention.

To avoid such a situation, we want the Iraqi people to build a stable democracy on their own.

Japan also dispatched Self-Defense Forces to Samawah in southeastern Iraq.

It is an active player in supporting Iraqi reconstruction.

Japan should continue civilian aid and economic cooperation so as not to create a vacuum in support.

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2011年12月15日 (木)

グアム予算凍結 事態打開へ「普天間」の進展を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 15, 2011)
Govt must advance Futenma issue to lessen Okinawa's base burdens
グアム予算凍結 事態打開へ「普天間」の進展を(12月14日付・読売社説)

It has become even more difficult to implement visible steps that would lessen Okinawa Prefecture's burdens as the host of many U.S. military bases.

The government must recognize that this situation is extremely serious.

The armed services committees of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed on revisions to a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2012, which includes a freeze on the entire 156 million dollars budget for shifting U.S. marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam.

The revised bill is scheduled to be approved at plenary sessions of both chambers shortly.

The Guam relocation budget was earmarked for constructing the headquarters building and family residences, as well as for the relocation of 8,000 marines and their about 9,000 family members from Okinawa Prefecture.

The budget has been cut in the past, but this was the first time the entire budget was frozen.


Guam relocation to face scrapping

The U.S. Congress has been trying to cut massive defense spending. It has been toughening its stance of not approving the Guam relocation budget unless progress is made on the relocation plan of Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, which is considered a "set" with the marines' relocation.

If there is no budget for the program in fiscal 2013, the Guam relocation plan itself likely would face being scrapped.

If that should happen, the scheduled return of six U.S. military facilities in southern Okinawa Prefecture to Japan's rule--a key element in the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan--would also face a setback.

Many people in Okinawa Prefecture want the issue of moving the marines to Guam to be separate from the Futenma station's relocation within the prefecture.

However, they should recognize such a plan is unrealistic.

The U.S. government tried to persuade Congress not to freeze the funds because it believed a degree of "tangible progress" would be made if the Japanese government submits an environment impact assessment statement to the prefecture within the year as planned. However, the efforts at persuasion failed.

A "far more substantial development" in the Futenma issue will be necessary to convince Congress to revive the Guam relocation budget in fiscal 2013.

There are only two options left for Tokyo and Washington, as well as the Okinawa prefectural government.

One is to move ahead with the relocation of the Futenma base to the Henoko district in Nago, also in the prefecture, and realize the U.S. marines' relocation to Guam.

When the six U.S. military facilities are returned to Japan's rule, the availability of these vast sites will give momentum to a new revitalization plan for the island prefecture from next fiscal year.

The other is to give up both the Futenma relocation to Henoko and the transfer of the marines to Guam.

In this case, those involved will have to accept that the dangerous situation of the Futenma base, located in the middle of a city, will remain for a long time.

Govt, Okinawa must see reality

The central and Okinawa prefectural governments must recognize the reality that only two options are left. It is essential that they discuss straightforwardly and seriously how to ensure Japan's security while lessening Okinawa Prefecture's burdens.

Of course, the responsibility for the current situation rests with former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and other officials.
After all, they proposed relocating the Futenma base somewhere outside the prefecture or even outside the country, a suggestion that built up unreasonable expectations among many Okinawa residents--and then eventually betrayed these hopes.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has not visited Okinawa Prefecture since he assumed the post.

It is about time he stood up to break the deadlock.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2011)
(2011年12月14日01時46分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月14日 (水)


(Mainichi Japan) December 13, 2011
Remember past enthusiasm for nuclear science as we edge towards non-nuclear future

It's been pointed out in many quarters that the field of nuclear power in Japan has been failing to attract the interest of students.
There was a time not so long ago, however, that nuclear energy was at the cutting edge -- the superstar of scientific disciplines.

One can catch a glimpse of this by looking at how nuclear researchers were depicted in the literature and films of the period -- although hints of misgivings are also easily found.

Take, for example, Yasushi Inoue's novel "Hyoheki" (Ice wall), first serialized in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in 1956 -- the same year the government formed the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and the industrial world entered the nuclear industry in a serious way.

"Hyoheki" is primarily the story of a man and a woman stranded in the mountains. However, the novel also depicts a senior researcher for a major company lab as a representation of the era's scientific rationalism.

When someone tells him that nuclear science "carries all the hopes of humanity" and "contains within it every potentiality," the researcher replies, "I don't think only humanity's bright dreams and possibilities are wrapped up in nuclear science.

It also carries the possibility of humanity's ruin."

When Inoue wrote these words, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear arms race and conducting above-ground nuclear tests, while at the same time the "peaceful use" of nuclear energy was being trumpeted as possessing "limitless possibility."

In the cynicism expressed by the researcher Inoue depicted in the novel, one can see the author's own thoughts on nuclear technology seeping through.

In 1959, the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper ran a serialized novel by noted author Fumiko Enchi called "Watakushi mo moeteiru" (I, too, am burning).

In the story, a young, dissolute nuclear physicist lost in his research absorbs a lethal dose of radiation when he makes a mistake during an experiment.

Before dying, the man sums up the novel, saying, "I turned towards that thing all humanity hopes for: the peaceful application of nuclear technology.
And I bet my life on opening that door just a crack."

Three years later, in 1962, film studio Toho Co. released a film titled "Gorath" in which nuclear power saves Earth from destruction by a mysterious object hurtling through space.

The entire world's nuclear energy is combined to create a propulsion device at the South Pole and shift Earth out of the way of the object. The nuclear engine, however, alters Earth's orbit.

Regardless of the story's plainly ridiculous premise, what can be seen in the film is a spirit true to the era in which it was made, with the countries of the world transcending national interests to save the Earth through nuclear power.

In the period from the mid-1950s to the mid '60s, the image of nuclear power was forged by anxiety and fear of a nuclear holocaust mixed with sky-high hopes for nuclear technology's peaceful uses.

Things have changed a great deal since then. For today's youth, the Fukushima nuclear disaster has spurred the idea of leaving nuclear power behind. However, on this point there is one thing I'd like to say:

Look back on how nuclear science was portrayed in the 1950s and '60s. To resolve the great unknowns lurking in the undiscovered territories of a non-nuclear future, a fresh, vibrant intelligence and way of thinking -- a new superstar -- will be needed.

Is it asking too much to bring all Japan's top minds together, just like in the movies, to tackle the challenge?

(By Kenji Tamaki, Expert Senior Writer)
毎日新聞 2011年12月13日 東京朝刊

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2011年12月13日 (火)

EU首脳会議 金融不安の払拭にまだ力不足

fiscal sovereignty 財政主権

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 13, 2011)
Europe accord not enough to dispel financial concerns
EU首脳会議 金融不安の払拭にまだ力不足(12月11日付・読売社説)

European leaders barely managed to reach an agreement to prevent the Greece-triggered sovereign debt crisis from spreading to the rest of the world from Europe.

However, it does not seem powerful enough to dispel financial concerns.

Leaders of European Union countries, including the 17 nations that use the euro, such as Germany and France, agreed Friday to conclude a new treaty that will impose stringent fiscal discipline on its members.

The countries taking part in the new treaty will specify the principle of "fiscal balance" in their respective constitutions.

The principle is designed to automatically impose sanctions on countries whose fiscal deficit exceeds 3 percent of their gross domestic product in a single fiscal year.

The measure can be called a praiseworthy step forward, obliging individual countries to take steps to repair their finances based on lessons learned from the lax fiscal management of Greece and some other European countries.


One currency, many policies

The euro's fundamental weakness has lain in the fact that while eurozone countries have introduced the single currency, they have widely different fiscal policies.

If the European countries can sign the new treaty by March as scheduled under the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, European unity will enter a new phase toward fiscal integration, which has been a long-standing issue.

However, British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose country is not a eurozone member, refused to join the new treaty, from the standpoint of protecting his country's fiscal sovereignty.

The divide between the French-German position and that of Britain can be said to have highlighted discord among EU member states.

More serious was the fact that the latest summit meeting failed to come up with bold measures to contain the raging crisis.

Leaders agreed at the meeting to launch the European Stability Mechanism in the middle of next year, one year ahead of the original schedule.
The bailout fund will provide fiscally distressed European countries with financial assistance and has been described as the European version of the International Monetary Fund.

The leaders also agreed on a bailout plan that would extend loans of up to 200 billion euros (about 21 trillion yen) to countries in fiscal crisis through the IMF.


IMF plan may not work

However, there are questions whether the IMF plan will be feasible given that the United States, the largest contributor to the international body, showed reluctance to make additional contributions.

The EU leaders also failed, because of Germany's objections, to agree on a common euro bond to be jointly issued by eurozone countries.

Above all, European countries have yet to secure enough funds to tackle the region's fiscal and financial crisis due to the slow progress of the plan to expand the European Financial Stability Facility, whose functions will eventually be taken over by the ESM.

For European countries to regain the rest of the world's confidence, it will be essential for them to act quickly to strengthen the EFSF.

It still remains uncertain how the global stock and exchange markets and credit rating companies will evaluate the conclusions agreed upon at the summit meeting.

Market players have high expectations that the European Central Bank will support Italy and other distressed eurozone countries through massive purchases of those nations' government bonds. Yet the ECB remains cautious about taking such steps.

Germany and France are taking the lead in Europe's precarious attempt to overcome the crisis. They bear a heavy responsibility in this regard.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2011)
(2011年12月11日01時10分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月12日 (月)

参院問責決議 防衛相の資質には疑義がある

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 11, 2011)
Defense minister's competence questionable
参院問責決議 防衛相の資質には疑義がある(12月10日付・読売社説)

Questions have been raised about Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa's competence.

It probably will be unavoidable at some stage to replace him.

The House of Councillors passed censure motions against Ichikawa and Kenji Yamaoka, state minister for consumer affairs, at a plenary session Friday with majority support from the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and other opposition parties.

Unlike a no-confidence motion in the House of Representatives, an upper house censure motion is not legally binding.

It is problematic that for their own interests opposition parties repeatedly present censure motions or refuse to attend Diet deliberations when censured ministers are present. They should refrain from adopting such strategies.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi both made clear they want to keep the two ministers in their posts.

They presumably concluded it would be undesirable to allow opposition parties to effectively hold absolute powers over cabinet ministers by passing censure motions against them in the upper house given the current divided Diet.

That is fully understandable.

The Defense Ministry faces a number of important issues, such as selection of the next-generation fighter aircraft, an environment impact assessment report for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture and the dispatch of a Ground Self-Defense Force unit to South Sudan on a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Govt wants to avoid fallout

Therefore, the government and the DPJ apparently want to avoid any fallout that could occur by replacing the defense minister at this stage.

But we wonder whether Ichikawa is aware of his responsibility.

Upon appointment to the post in September, Ichikawa said he was an "amateur" on security issues.

Last month, he skipped a state banquet at the Imperial Palace to attend a fund-raising party for a DPJ lawmaker, saying, "I thought this was more important."

Ichikawa has supervisory responsibility over the highly controversial comments made by a former chief of the ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau in connection with the Futenma relocation issue.

The defense minister himself provoked strong resentment from Okinawa Prefecture residents for saying in the Diet that he did not know the details about the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen in the prefecture.

He lacks competence and is unsuitable to be in charge of national defense.

It will also be difficult for him to restore a relationship of trust with Okinawa Prefecture.

Meanwhile, it came to light that Yamaoka had received political donations from and had cozy ties with companies involved in a pyramid scheme before assuming his current post.

In this regard, it makes sense for the opposition bloc to argue that Yamaoka is unsuited for the consumer affairs post.


All-out confrontation seen

If the prime minister does not replace the two ministers, the ordinary Diet session next year will almost certainly see an all-out confrontation between ruling and opposition parties from its outset.

In that event, it will be difficult for the ruling and opposition parties to start negotiations on the consumption tax hike, which the prime minister has expressed his "unwavering resolve" to carry through.

Without the cooperation of the opposition parties, it will be impossible to pass bills through the Diet.

The situation surrounding the Noda administration is growing increasingly tough.

The extraordinary Diet session that ended Friday failed to produce tangible results.

It managed to pass a supplementary budget and bills related to reconstruction of areas affected by the March 11 disaster.

But as the Diet session was not extended, deliberations on such important bills as those to cut central government officials' salaries, reform postal services and revise the worker dispatch law have been put off.

The Diet also postponed a decision to rectify the disparity in the value of votes in lower house elections.

Diet management by the government and the ruling parties is primarily to blame for the poor progress.

However, the opposition parties also bear heavy responsibility in the divided Diet.

It is time for the ruling and opposition parties to seriously discuss how to put an end to the political imbroglio.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 10, 2011)
(2011年12月10日01時28分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月11日 (日)

社説:原子力協定承認 拙速にすぎはしないか

(Mainichi Japan) December 10, 2011
Editorial: Japan needs more discussion before exporting atomic energy technology
社説:原子力協定承認 拙速にすぎはしないか

The Diet's approval of atomic energy agreements, which the government has signed with Jordan, Vietnam, Russia and South Korea, has opened the way for exports of nuclear power plants to these countries, but the decision came too hasty and has not been thought through.
The pacts are expected to come into force as early as January.
However, the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has not been brought under control and the cause of the accident needs to be clarified. The Diet has endorsed the accords without in-depth discussions on how to ensure safety of nuclear power stations.

Atomic energy agreements are aimed at preventing exported atomic-energy-related technology and materials from being diverted to military use, and are a prerequisite for exporting nuclear plants.

Japan has already signed such accords with seven countries including the United States, France and China as well as the European Atomic Energy Community.

Under the agreements, Japan is expected to construct nuclear power plants in Jordan and Vietnam and commission Russia to enrich uranium while exporting parts for nuclear reactors to South Korea.

During Diet deliberation on the pacts, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, "If we receive requests for cooperation despite Japan's current situation based on lessons learned from the crisis, we should do whatever we can to contribute to international efforts to enhance the safety of atomic energy."

However, one cannot help but wonder how Japan can prove its nuclear technology can contribute to global safety.

True, the Japanese nuclear power industry is quite advanced, but it alone cannot ensure the safety of operations at nuclear power stations.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, is highly unlikely to participate in such an international deal even though it had been expected before the crisis to play a leading role in operations at these nuclear power stations abroad.

Moreover, even if Japan emphasizes that its nuclear technology is safe without clarifying the cause of the crisis, it cannot win confidence from the international community.

At the same time, the prime minister also emphasized that it is Japan's responsibility to share its experiences learned from the nuclear crisis with the international community.

While this is correct, Japan should put greater emphasis on sharing with the world its knowledge on how to prevent nuclear accidents based on its thorough investigation into the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The Diet had only 10 days to deliberate on the atomic energy pacts.

It failed to carry out thorough discussions on safety measures even though Jordan is an earthquake-prone country and it is reportedly difficult to secure the massive amount of water needed to cool down reactors that are expected to be built in inland areas of the country.

It has been pointed out by some critics that the government was desperate to ensure the pacts clear the Diet within this year so that Japanese companies will not be put in a disadvantageous position amid international competition for contracts on the construction of nuclear power stations.

However, some members of the ruling coalition voted against the pacts.

Deliberations that fail to convince even some ruling coalition legislators can never win confidence from the Japanese public and the international community.

The government is currently negotiating atomic energy agreements with India, South Africa and Turkey.

In particular, Japan should exercise prudence in its negotiations with India, which is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty even though it possesses nuclear arms.

To prevent Japan from exporting danger and anxiety to the world while decreasing its reliance on nuclear energy, the executive and legislative branches of the government are urged to hold more in-depth discussions on nuclear energy safety based on its verification of the cause of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

毎日新聞 2011年12月10日 東京朝刊

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2011年12月10日 (土)

防災教育 自ら危機回避できる力育もう

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 10, 2011)
Nurture children's ability to avoid danger on their own
防災教育 自ら危機回避できる力育もう(12月9日付・読売社説)

Japan is one of the nations most frequently hit by natural disasters.

It is imperative that children are taught in their daily lives how to respond effectively when an emergency strikes.

The details of what children should be taught, however, have so far been left up to individual schools.

The Great East Japan Earthquake claimed the lives of 550 children, ranging from kindergartners to high school students.

Reflecting on this, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to work out a set of nationwide guidelines spelling out how to make children more capable of avoiding danger by themselves.

We urge the ministry to responsibly provide specifics in intelligible, concrete terms.

The example set by children in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, has been a beacon.


'Miracle of Kamaishi'

Although Kamaishi was struck by the catastrophic tsunami on March 11, the great majority of the 3,000 primary and middle school students in the city fled to safety and were physically unhurt.

Many children decided on their own that it would be risky to take shelter at designated evacuation sites, and instead made a beeline for higher ground to escape the oncoming tsunami.

For the last seven years, schools in Kamaishi have taught their students the basics of evacuation by inviting experts in disaster management as advisers to speak to the children.

The golden rules drilled into the children were "Don't trust assumptions about disasters" and "Put yourself first and flee."

The schools also incorporated content about disasters in each subject.
One question in a mathematics class on velocity asked students to think about the speed at which a tsunami would reach the coast.

The accumulation of these efforts resulted in the students swiftly evacuating in what has widely been referred to as "the miracle of Kamaishi."

Other ingenious methods have been employed elsewhere.

In some places, children heard from elderly local people who experienced massive earthquakes in the past, while others drew antidisaster maps highlighting vulnerable areas by examining geographical features of their neighborhood.

Some school athletic meets included bucket relay races and contests to build makeshift stretchers.

These antidisaster education activities, however, have been held only in some regions, rather than nationwide.

The education ministry and several local governments have introduced examples of antidisaster education on their websites.

They should provide more in-depth information online so their expertise can be shared with schools in every corner of the nation.


Don't leave kids home alone

Boosting teacher awareness about antidisaster education is also a key task.

The ministry is scheduled to hold antidisaster training courses this month and January for 220 supervisors from prefectural boards of education.

These supervisors will pass this information on to teachers.
It is of basic importance that every teacher acquire the skills to teach students how to stay safe in a disaster.

It will also become necessary to include antidisaster lessons in university courses for prospective teachers and courses for newly appointed educators.

After the March 11 disaster, many commuters were unable to go home because of disruptions to transportation networks in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Many children spent hours at home alone after returning from school, waiting for their parents to return.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has settled on a policy of, in principle, keeping children at school after a massive disaster until they can be given to their parents.

We hope parents and schools will together work out the rules governing when children should be picked up following a catastrophe.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 9, 2011)
(2011年12月9日01時15分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月 9日 (金)

欧州危機拡大 市場が催促する首脳の抜本策

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 9, 2011)
EU heads must unite to resolve debt crisis
欧州危機拡大 市場が催促する首脳の抜本策(12月8日付・読売社説)

A tense two-day meeting that will determine whether the sovereign debt crisis in Europe can be resolved is finally starting.

The meeting must devise a sweeping solution that will enable eurozone countries to regain market confidence.

A summit meeting of European Union members, including 17 eurozone states such as Germany and France, will be held Thursday and Friday in Belgium.

The European Central Bank is also to discuss financial policy on Thursday.

The debt crisis has spilled over from Greece with its huge fiscal deficit to Italy, and is now spreading to Spain and France.

This is a serious situation.

Before the summit meeting, Standard & Poor's announced it was considering a possible downgrade on the credit ratings of long-term sovereign bonds issued by 15 eurozone countries, including six states such as Germany and France whose bonds are rated AAA.

In addition, the U.S. rating agency warned it might cut the credit rating of bonds issued by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which are guaranteed with the creditworthiness of the six states' bonds.
The agency's announcement appears to illustrate its distrust of the reactions by the political sector, which have always been one step behind.


Fiscal rehabilitation needed

Leaders of EU countries should take this seriously as a warning from the market.

If the summit meeting comes out with half-baked measures to deal with the debt crisis, S&P will go through with the downgrades.

This would aggravate the turmoil in financial markets and undermine the functions of the EFSF, which is supporting countries already in trouble from the debt crisis.

We must watch out for the negative chain reactions that could cause.

A focus of the summit meeting is whether the participating countries can agree on a fiscal rehabilitation plan to stabilize the euro.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have agreed on a plan to impose automatic sanctions against countries that exceed a fiscal deficit limit of 3 percent of their gross domestic product.
They will jointly propose revising the EU treaty at the summit meeting to bring this about.

It is a matter of course to stop free spending policies and enhance fiscal discipline.

We expect the eurozone countries to hammer out a clear policy based on the proposal by Germany and France toward the introduction of mutual surveillance of fiscal policies, which have never been coordinated among these countries.


Stop spread of crisis

What is needed most are emergency measures to prevent the crisis from spreading any further.

The eurozone countries decided at the end of October to expand the EFSF, reduce Greece's debts and strengthen the core capital of banks, but none of them has been carried out yet.

If these measures are not implemented immediately, they may come too late.

In relation to these measures, the role of the ECB will become more important.

In early November, immediately after its new President Mario Draghi, an Italian, assumed office, the bank cut its benchmark interest rate to 1.25 percent for the first time in 2-1/2 years.

However, there are fears the European economy might slow down and register negative growth if the countries introduce austerity measures.

The ECB would win praise if it considers an additional interest rate cut to support the economy.

If the ECB buys up a large number of bonds from Italy and other countries, it will also be an effective measure to prevent the yields of government bonds from soaring and to soothe credit uneasiness in the market.

The rest of the world is watching whether European countries can stand together and act quickly to deal with this crisis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 8, 2011)
(2011年12月8日01時30分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月 8日 (木)




そろそろ、替え時。イスト 中古車がよいですね。

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ヒアリング上達の切り札 英語発音上達ソフト「修音英語」



さっそく、英語 発音上達ソフト「修音英語」を試してみました。

中国語 発音上達ソフト「修音中国語」もあるらしいですね。

英語・中国語の上達方法 なら、「修音」が効果的なようですね。

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中国語学習の切り札 中国語発音上達ソフト「修音」


英語・中国語の上達方法 なら、だらだらと聞き流すソフトよりも、しっかりとした目的をもって意識的に脳を活性化させる、こちらのシステムをおすすめいたします。


画期的な中国語 発音 ソフトを発見したので、それをご紹介させてください。


これとまったく同じ原理ですが、英語用にも英語 発音上達ソフト『修音英語』が用意されています。ただ聞き流す英語よりも、脳を活性化させるこちらのソフトがおすすめです。

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(Real-time budget deficit counter)




(Mainichi Japan) December 7, 2011
Japan's own debt crisis is closer than you think

On the Internet, there is a site called "Real-time zaisei akaji counter" (Real-time budget deficit counter) that displays the country's rising total debt.
The number covers not just central government debt including short-term securities, but local government liabilities as well, and at the time of writing was in the 1.177 quadrillion yen range.
What's more, visitors to the site can see the estimated debt rising to the tune of about 2 million yen a second right before their eyes. It is not a comfortable experience.

Broken down into liabilities per citizen, the site informs the visitor that there is about 9.23 million yen in government debt for every person in the country, or some 36.88 million yen per typical four-person household.  この債務の国民1人当たり残高も表示される。922万円だ。よく「夫婦子2人の標準的な家庭」というが、日本の標準的家庭は3688万円の借金がある計算になる。

To put it another way, it's as if each family is carrying a second home loan.

Of course, government debt is not like a mortgage, in that the government doesn't have to pay all of it back.  住宅ローンと異なり、全額返済する必要はない。

Similar to a personal loan, however, if payments keep piling up it can become very difficult to cover daily necessities.

One look at the current state of Greece should make that obvious.

One lesson we can learn from the European debt crisis is that it is better to hold national debt internally rather than relying on foreign countries.

In 1997, the citizens of Italy -- now the focus of the European debt panic -- held more than 80 percent of the country's debt.

Worries over public finances, however, prompted Italians to shy away from government bonds, dropping the percentage of debt held domestically to about 60 percent and creating serious instability.

With the country now under the shadow of a looming debt crisis, many Italians are reconsidering this path, and there is even a national movement urging Italians to start buying Italian government bonds again.

The same is happening in Portugal, which was forced to take a bailout package from its European Union partners earlier this year.

On the one hand these moves look to be of the too little, too late variety, but they're certainly better than doing nothing.

Now, what about Japan?

Some 93.6 percent of Japan's debt is held internally.

This is certainly reassuring, but there are already warning signs that this may not continue forever.

According to a Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ report, while domestic financial institutions are for now snapping up government debt just as it's issued, those days will soon be over.

So far, the nation has managed to service its debts from its own savings, but the aging of Japanese society is destroying this hitherto stable cycle.

Furthermore, Japanese firms' overseas profits have evaporated and the current account balance has plunged under the pressure of the high yen and spikes in resource prices, meaning there is even less capital available for buying up Japanese sovereign debt.

Already there are months when Japan -- the former export colossus -- imports more than it ships abroad.

As such, "From fiscal 2017 onwards, less than 50 percent of fresh government debt issues will be absorbed domestically," the bank report states, leading domestic national debt holdings to fall to 79.8 percent of the total by fiscal 2020.

Meanwhile, the growing ranks of foreign buyers of Japanese debt will demand better returns on their investments, driving up interest on the bonds and increasing the risk of a debt crisis.

"If something isn't done, Japan could see a sovereign debt crash in the next 10 years," Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ President Katsunori Nagayasu said recently.
I was shocked.

Bankers don't usually say things like that, which gives you an idea of how close a crisis really is.

(By Michio Ushioda, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2011年12月7日 東京朝刊

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3 continuing lessons from the Pearl Harbor attack

1) The first lesson is that we must not seek any simple, quick solution to a problem in times of crisis.
1) ひとつは、危機の時代には、単純な解決を性急に求めないことだ。
2) The second lesson to learn from history is that we must respect the diversity of thought, especially in times of crisis.
2) ふたつめは、危機の時代にこそ、意見の多様性を尊重することだ。
3) The third lesson is that we must look at ourselves objectively when we turn our eyes to the rest of the world.
3) 三つめは、世界に目を向けるときは、あわせて他者の視座でわが身を見ることだ。


--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 7
EDITORIAL: 3 continuing lessons from the Pearl Harbor attack

December 07, 2011 Dec. 8 (Japan time) marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Pacific War.

News of a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, by a task force of the Imperial Japanese Navy threw the Japanese people into wild elation.

Novelist Sei Ito (1905-1969) noted to the effect: "Yes! This is the way to go." Actor Musei Tokugawa (1894-1971) recalled, "I felt my whole body tingle with excitement."

But that day was the beginning of Japan's downfall, which ended with its unconditional surrender three years and eight months later.

The Pearl Harbor attack has been discussed extensively.

In Japan, the recurring question has been why the nation was so foolhardy as to go to war with the United States, whose strength was vastly superior.

Was this to blame on the out-of-control military? Or did political confusion of the time play a factor? Or did the media fan jingoistic feelings that were already surging around the nation?

In his address before Congress, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) called the day "a date which will live in infamy."

For the Americans, Pearl Harbor became an object lesson in how a country can fall flat on its face for underestimating its opponent.

During the Cold War, the lesson was applied to America's relationship with the Soviet Union. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were likened to Pearl Harbor.

International order's breaking point

History is always reviewed in the light of the present.

How should we interpret Pearl Harbor today amid the escalation of the European debt crisis and concerns about the future of democracy?

Let us put the start of the Pacific War in a broader historical context, rather than look at it as an error in judgment by the Japanese government or an outcome of Tokyo's falling-out with Washington.

Seen in that light, one could say that Pearl Harbor represented the point where the international order, which was already in bad shape since the Great Depression of 1929, finally broke down in the Asia-Pacific region.

The world's major powers formed exclusive economic blocs to protect their interests, and that led to World War II.

Nowadays, there are more diverse frameworks of international cooperation, such as the Group of 8 and the G-20, and the necessity of international policy coordination in many fields is much better understood than in the past.

On the other hand, the World Trade Organization has come to a standstill, and this could cause member nations to rush into forming economic blocs. In this age of the Internet, a local crisis can immediately develop into a global crisis, and there is no refuge for anyone.

Historically, there is no such thing as a recurring drama.

But it is also a fact that history repeats similar mistakes.

That is because humans are often incapable of controlling their desires, political ambitions and technology.

Domestic, international stability go together

The progress of Japan's modernization was made possible by stability at home and peace in the world.

The policy of international cooperation that characterized Japanese diplomacy during the two decades of the Taisho Era (1912-1926) mirrored the state of the post-World War I world.

Japan's attainment of post-World War II prosperity was proof that the nation was able to enjoy peace under the strong leadership of the United States during the Cold War years.

Put another way, Japan becomes unstable when international relations begin to deteriorate.

Pearl Harbor happened when political turmoil at home was compounded by crises abroad.

In present-day Japan, the failure of the historic regime change of 2009 to renovate Japanese politics has deepened the public's sense of disappointment. In diplomacy, Japan has to contend with the destabilization of Asia due to America's diminishing influence and China's emergence.

Faced with uncertainties both at home and abroad, now is the time for us to learn three lessons from history leading up to Pearl Harbor.

The first lesson is that we must not seek any simple, quick solution to a problem in times of crisis.

In prewar Japan, the disintegration of party politics resulted in the military seizing dictatorial power.

In that process, the people turned to militarism as a means for getting their nation out of a jam.

Since Junichiro Koizumi became prime minister in 2001, the public has become used to "theatrical" politics characterized by decisive, clever slogans that have a strong populist appeal.

But there can never be a clear-cut solution to any complex issue involving conflicting interests.

We must not forget that resolving such an issue requires thorough preparation, patience and a determination to follow it through.

Respect opinions of others

The second lesson to learn from history is that we must respect the diversity of thought, especially in times of crisis.

Before and during World War II, society was all too ready to denounce people who voiced their own opinions as "traitors to the country," and that killed freedom of thought and expression.

We must watch out for people who make "brave" assertions and refuse to listen to or accept different opinions. And we must shun the sort of nationalism that fans hatred.

Respecting minority opinions broadens our options.

The third lesson is that we must look at ourselves objectively when we turn our eyes to the rest of the world.

Kiyoshi Kiyosawa (1890-1945), a journalist who criticized myopic foreign policy opinions before and during the war, noted: "Japan's greatest handicap is its inability to explain its partner's position on international issues. Its own position is the only position Japan can understand."

His observation was completely accurate, given that Japan drove itself into the Pacific War because it underestimated Chinese nationalism and misread America's intentions.

Today, Japan's survival hinges on understanding China's motive behind its rapid expansion and deciding how best to rebuild the Japan-U.S. relationship.

On the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, which the U.S. historian Samuel E. Morrison (1887-1976) called "a grand strategic blunder" for Japan, let us remind ourselves of the above three lessons.

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2011年12月 7日 (水)

ロシア下院選 陰りうかがえるプーチン支配

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 7, 2011)
Putin's grip on power wanes as public discontent grows
ロシア下院選 陰りうかがえるプーチン支配(12月6日付・読売社説)

Results of Sunday's elections in Russia have shown in black and white the mounting public discontent with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated power for more than a decade.

The United Russia party led by Putin lost many seats in the State Duma, or the lower house.

The party fell far short of its goal of holding the two-thirds of the 450 seats--the number needed to revise the Russian Constitution--that it held before the election. It did no better than maintain a majority.

The largest opposition Communist Party, which has criticized growing income gaps and called for a fairer distribution of wealth, increased its preelection representation of 57 seats by more than 30 seats.

This indicates many voters who had become disillusioned with the government voted for the Communists.

The popularity of Putin, who is widely believed to be a shoo-in in next year's presidential election, seems to be on the wane.


Communist Party prevails

The lower house poll was the second since the Russian election system was changed to hold elections only through proportional representation. The new system was believed to be extremely advantageous for the ruling party because it has an extensive national network of organizations.

Political groups with fewer local chapters are not officially recognized as political parties and thus are not allowed to run in elections.

Nevertheless, the ruling party has suffered a setback. Putin admitted this "reflects the real situation" in Russia.  にもかかわらず、与党が不振だったことについて、プーチン氏は「今のロシアの現実を反映する」とコメントした。

The election result might have been unexpected, but he must accept it gravely.

After Putin was elected president in 2000, he served two terms spanning eight years. In 2008, he handed the presidency to Dmitry Medvedev and instead became prime minister to keep his grip on power.

Medvedev trumpeted slogans of establishing the rule of law and fostering high-tech industries, but he will leave office next spring without achieving anything significant.

Putin will have no strong rival in the presidential election scheduled for next March.

In fact, he still has strong support from many Russian people.

But if he has aspirations of holding on to the presidency in the long term, he will have to tackle a host of issues.


Corruption still rife

Corruption that has spread its tentacles to the furthest reaches of the bureaucracy has yet to be eradicated.

By forging close ties with the bureaucratic machine, United Russia appears to be monopolizing the nation's rights and interests.

Strong public dissatisfaction with this was a factor behind the ruling party's poor election showing.

The Russian economy has been unable to break away from its reliance on energy resources, so the country's revenue is largely influenced by fluctuations in crude oil prices.

Many Russians are worried the debt crisis roiling Europe--Moscow's biggest trading partner--will affect their country.

It is evident that Russia needs to implement political, economic and social reforms.

Putin will need to squarely deal with challenges that have been put off for years and produce tangible results.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 6, 2011)
(2011年12月6日01時11分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月 6日 (火)




横浜で名の売れた産科医院といえば産科 横浜 の「堀病院」ではないでしょうか。


今や、「堀病院」は産科 神奈川 と呼ばれるほど、規模を拡大しているようです。

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(Mainichi Japan) December 5, 2011
Plutonium brings no real chance of prosperity

Some readers appear to wonder why I recently write only about nuclear power generation in this column. I do so because I believe that it is a crucial issue that will determine the fate of Japan as well as the whole world.

There have recently been various news reports that offer valuable insight into the future of nuclear power generation.

The Dec. 2 morning edition of the Mainichi Shimbun ran an article reporting that in 2002, the then administrative vice minister of economy, trade and industry and the chairman and president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) were nearing an agreement to withdraw from a nuclear fuel recycling project.

Nuclear fuel recycling refers to a process of treating spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power stations with chemicals and extracting reusable uranium and plutonium from it.

This project has so far been unsuccessful and there are no prospects that the project will work.

It was only natural that the government regulator and the power supplier were negotiating a withdrawal from the project.

The negotiations came to nothing after top executives of TEPCO were forced to resign over the utility's cover-up of a series of technical problems. Nevertheless, the Mainichi report indicates that a change in Japan's nuclear power policy is not a pipe dream.

Furthermore, the Mainichi evening edition of the same day (the morning edition the following day in some areas) reported that the United Kingdom is planning to dispose of some of its surplus plutonium, which it had accumulated as a result of nuclear fuel reprocessing, in an underground repository. This news is of greater significance.

Plutonium is generated as a result of burning uranium in nuclear reactors.

One gram of the substance has energy equal to that in 1 kiloliter of oil.

It can be used as a material for both atomic bombs and fuel for nuclear reactors.
The U.K. has steadily accumulated plutonium, but failed to develop fast-breeder nuclear reactors, which had been viewed as the core of the peaceful use of such a substance.

The U.K. then attempted to develop technology for the use of plutonium-uranium MOX fuel in thermal reactors at nuclear power stations, a project known in Japan as "pluthermal." However, the country has been unsuccessful in producing such fuel. The same is true with Japan.

Areva SA, a nuclear technology company in France, is now manufacturing plutonium-uranium MOX fuel, but questions remain as to its quality.

The U.K. ended up being the world's largest holder of surplus plutonium.

The U.K. faced a major challenge in dealing with a massive amount of plutonium, which needs to be stored safely.  イギリスは困った。プルトニウムは厳重に保管しなければならない。

The storage of plutonium costs a huge amount of money, but the U.K. can no longer afford to pay for this.

The U.K. needs to prevent such a substance from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The country has consequently decided to bury part of its plutonium in an underground repository that is scheduled to begin operations in 2040.

Even if the U.K. says it will bury only "part" of its surplus plutonium, its amount is enough to produce hundreds of atomic bombs.

The amount of surplus plutonium that needs to be buried could increase as there is no prospect that the U.K. will be successful in developing technology to use plutonium-uranium MOX fuel in thermal reactors.

Moreover, the U.K. will abandon its project to reprocess spent nuclear fuel over the next decade.

Behind the decision is the growing awareness that plutonium offers no positives, while also being a terrible nuisance.

This is the essence of the story written by Haruyuki Aikawa, a Mainichi correspondent in London.

The U.K. has already abandoned developing fast-breeder nuclear reactors, and is set to give up nuclear fuel reprocessing as well.

Moreover, its planned construction of a facility to dispose of radioactive waste including plutonium is likely to materialize even though it is still at a planning phase.

In contrast, there are no prospects that Japan can build a disposal facility.

However, for Japan to call for operations at the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture and the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the Aomori Prefecture village of Rokkasho to be carried out as planned, would be like putting the cart before the horse as it appears the country is incapable of building a disposal facility.

Plutonium is directly related to security issues.

The U.K. possesses nuclear weapons but Japan does not. One may wonder whether Japan's independence will be threatened if it abandons nuclear fuel recycling and loses its ability to produce plutonium.

Even though it is an important point of contention the issue should not be used as a reason to underestimate the harm of plutonium.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano who is in charge of energy policy, Goshi Hosono, state minister for handling the nuclear crisis, and Yoshito Sengoku, second-in-command in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's Policy Research Committee, have been hearing the views of experts on the issue.

It is not enough for the government to talk only about the dream of "prosperity" built on dependence on nuclear power. Japan's ability to overcome the mess that follows such prosperity is now being tested.

(By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)
毎日新聞 2011年12月5日 東京朝刊

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2011年12月 5日 (月)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:神童にならなくても /東京


(Mainichi Japan) December 4, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Not every child has to become a prodigy
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:神童にならなくても /東京

This year has been marked by a drastic rise in the popularity of child celebrities.

There are many child actors and singers, all of whom are still in kindergarten or lower elementary school, with skills that would put adults to shame.

They're well mannered in interviews but still maintain age-appropriate cuteness.

Amidst the endless serious and dark news these days, these children's smiles have become indispensable in soothing our minds.

Such children are not only present in the world of TV; there are athletes, musicians, English and math experts, and many other "child prodigies" with impressive talents in various fields.

There is nothing wrong with looking at these children and thinking, "Wow, there are some really amazing kids out there." However, there are many occasions when this fascination escalates and some parents become obsessed with the idea of turning their children into prodigies no matter what.

Because children like to be praised by their parents, at the beginning they try very hard and show good results in everything they do. They try to live up to their parents' expectations.

However, not everyone who tries hard becomes a success.

Dealing with failure is a major challenge for parents and children. Sometimes no matter how much kids try they can't pass an audition or receive a prize, and that is part of the reality that many parents and their children face in the pursuit of success.

I once had a patient in my consultation room, a mother, who told me that she just couldn't give up on the idea of her daughter becoming a professional ballerina.
She told me the following:
"I have sacrificed everything in my life to make my dream of her becoming a ballerina come true. But her ballet instructor told me that I should give up, because my daughter doesn't have the potential. I just can't accept this. When I told my husband that I want to send our daughter to ballet lessons abroad, he advised me to consult a psychiatrist."

As the mother talked away, her still very young daughter listened, looking down.

She seemed embarrassed and apologetic for not having the ability her mother would have wished for her.
She looked as if she was saying, "My mother is suffering because of me."

My job on such occasions is to first try to console the child before the mother. I have to tell them that it's not their fault. Otherwise they will forever feel responsible for not living up to their parents' expectations.

Needless to say, every parent is proud and happy if their children are especially talented.

However, not every child can become a prodigy.
Sometimes it is in fact better for children not to be so special.

Always being in the spotlight and admired is not necessarily a positive experience. Sometimes it may harm children emotionally as they grow up.

Having a talent can bring happiness, but not having a special skill can also leave one content.

This is what I thought as I recently observed popular child celebrities.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2011年11月29日 地方版

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2011年12月 4日 (日)


I love Burma (Myanmar). Burma is one of the most important country in my life.
In order for the Myanmar regime to claim that democracy has taken root solidly in the country, it must release all political prisoners, reconcile itself with ethnic minorities and amend the Constitution, which provides legal foundation for the military’s rule.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 3
EDITORIAL: Myanmar must continue with political reforms toward true democracy

Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of Myanmar's (Burma's) pro-democracy movement, shook hands with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and had a private dinner with her on Dec. 2 in Yangon (Rangoon), the country's commercial capital.

This would have been unimaginable just half a year ago.

After meeting with the country's new president, Thein Sein, Clinton praised the steps he has taken for political reform, including the release of political prisoners and dialogue with pro-democracy forces, and said the United States will consider upgrading diplomatic relations with Myanmar.

However, Clinton stopped short of explicitly referring to the possibility of lifting Washington’s economic sanctions against Myanmar, saying Thein Sein’s reforms had only just begun.

She also warned the regime against military cooperation with North Korea.

Clinton’s visit to Myanmar is the first step for President Barack Obama’s new security strategy, which defines the Asia-Pacific region as a “top priority.”

Having been under autocratic military rule for years, Mynamar is now making steady progress toward democracy.
This development can only be very beneficial to the United States and its allies.

But there is no room for unreserved optimism about the country’s current regime, whose key posts are occupied almost exclusively by former senior military officers.
Washington has good reason to think it would be premature to lift sanctions.

The U.S. move is also intended as a warning to China, which has been increasing its influence over the geopolitically important Southeast Asian country.

While the United States has continued its economic sanctions against Myanmar, China has helped develop ports in southern parts of the country and is now building a pipeline to carry natural gas from a Myanmar port to China’s Yunnan province.

In September, however, Myanmar’s government decided to freeze construction of a dam in the north funded by aid from China.

The United States and other countries have welcomed the decision as a sign that Myanmar is reconsidering its unqualified pro-China foreign policy.

We, too, welcome the Myanmar government’s attempt to diversify its foreign policy focus and strike a balance between its relations with China and the United States if it contributes to the nation’s progress toward democracy.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) recently re-registered as a political party after a ban on the group was lifted.

Aung San Suu Kyi has also announced her intention to run for parliamentary by-elections to be held next year.

Some people in the pro-democracy camp question the wisdom of her decision, recalling how the ruling military junta refused to recognize the result of the 1990 general election, in which the NLD won a landslide victory. These skeptics also point out that the number of parliamentary seats that come up for contest in the forthcoming by-elections will be less than one-tenth of the total.

However, it is true that missing out on this opportunity would further muddy the party's political prospects.

It is easy to imagine that it was a difficult decision to make.

Aung San Suu Kyi must be looking beyond next year to a victory in the general election scheduled for 2015.

In order for the Myanmar regime to claim that democracy has taken root solidly in the country, it must release all political prisoners, reconcile itself with ethnic minorities and amend the Constitution, which provides legal foundation for the military’s rule.

We hope the nation’s new government will pluck up the courage to make such bold moves.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano will both visit the country soon.

Tokyo should also watch carefully to see whether Myanmar is making steady progress toward democracy before it decides to supply aid to the country or expand bilateral economic ties with it.

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2011年12月 3日 (土)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 2
EDITORIAL: Drastic financial easing needed to solve Europe debt crisis

The central banks of Japan, the United States, Canada and Europe jointly proposed measures to deal with the ongoing financial crisis.

They will lower interest rates on their U.S. dollar loans to make it easier for banks facing financial difficulties because of the European debt crisis to borrow funds.

In stock markets across the world, share prices rose on the grounds that concerns for a financial system crisis were alleviated.

However, the dollar supply plan is no more than a stopgap measure.

The European debt crisis that spread to Italy has become increasingly serious with concerns for the downgrading of French government bonds and the failure of a German government bond auction to draw investors.

With the drop in bond prices, European banks are facing deteriorating financial standings, and pressure of a credit crunch caused by cutbacks in lending and sales of assets shows no signs of abating.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that the economy of the euro zone will shrink for two consecutive quarters from the October-December period of 2011.

The debt crisis is undermining financial functions and cooling the real economy.

At this rate, the situation could lead to a global economic crisis, affecting the United States, which has a huge amount of investments and loans in Europe, China, with its large quantities of exports to Europe, and Japan, which has been hit by a strong yen.

A recurrence of the Lehman Shock must be averted at any cost.

However, major European countries that are the key players in the euro zone have yet to make a concerted effort to deal with the crisis.

The expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which is considered an ace in the hole for now, has a far way to go to meet its target of 1 trillion euros in the face of objections by Germany, which puts importance on financial discipline of each country.

While it is important to restore fiscal health, the European Central Bank (ECB) should first expand its purchase of government bonds.

It is also necessary to drastically reduce interest rates and implement drastic financial easing.

We urge Germany, which is objecting to the purchase of government bonds on the grounds that it would cause inflation, to change its stance on this matter.

A credit crunch would sooner or later develop into massive pressure for deflation.

Unless unrest of financial systems is brought under control, the situation could lead to a deflationary spiral beyond help.

Currently, the growth rate of prices in the euro zone is 3 percent.

Since it is higher than the ECB's target of "2 percent or less," the situation calls for austerity measures under ordinary circumstances.

But now is a time of emergency.

While Germany bitterly remembers the hyperinflation that hit the country after World War I, if the current situation leads to a deflationary spiral, it would be a total loss.

Furthermore, as France proposed, the EFSF should be reorganized into a bank.

Like ordinary banks, if it borrows funds from the ECB by using government bonds in its possession as collateral and purchases more bonds, the expansion of the EFSF would be unnecessary.

Although the idea was scrapped because of Germany's opposition, top priority must be given to the prevention of a crisis.

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2011年12月 2日 (金)





果たして、バストアップの効果 が現れるか否か、ワクワクドキドキしますよね^^。

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沖縄局長更迭 政府は信頼の再構築に全力を


The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 2, 2011)
Govt must rebuild trust with Okinawa Prefecture
沖縄局長更迭 政府は信頼の再構築に全力を(12月1日付・読売社説)

It is not easy for the central government to regain the trust of Okinawa Prefecture, which recently was adversely affected.

The government should do its best to rebuild the relationship by sincerely tackling the issue of U.S. bases in the prefecture.

Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa has dismissed Satoshi Tanaka as chief of the Okinawa Defense Bureau over an inappropriate remark concerning the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station.

During an informal drinking session at an izakaya bar with reporters in Naha, Tanaka said, "You don't say you're going to commit a rape before you do it, do you?" when asked a question about the submission of an environment impact assessment report on the base relocation to the Okinawa prefectural government.

Tanaka joined the drinking session on condition that any remarks he made would be off the record. But the Ryukyu Shimpo, a local newspaper, printed his remarks based on its judgment that they were of a public nature and it was in the public's interest to know.

The newspaper's decision is questionable.


Honor off-the-record remarks

While regarding off-the-record news gathering as "an important means to meet the people's right to know," the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association said news organizations have a moral obligation to abide by off-the-record agreements.

If a news organization reports off-the-record remarks without the prior consent of the news source, a relationship of trust cannot be built between the media and the source, which in the end may limit the people's right to know.

When Yoshio Hachiro resigned as economy, trade and industry minister over a verbal lapse concerning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station's meltdown accident, it was not clear whether his remark was off-the-record or not. But this time it definitely was.

Needless to say, Tanaka's remark likening the government's submission of the assessment report to raping a woman is extremely inappropriate.

It is not surprising the remark upset people in Okinawa Prefecture, particularly as the issue of relocating Futenma Air Station was triggered by the rape of a primary school girl by U.S. marines in 1995.

It is natural for Tanaka to have been dismissed for his remark.

While apologizing to the people of Okinawa Prefecture for Tanaka's remark, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda indicated the government would submit the assessment report as scheduled.

The submission of the report before the end of the year has been confirmed on several occasions between Japan and the United States.

The government needs to do so without delay.


Steadily implement measures

The government recently tried to mend its relationship with Okinawa Prefecture by enabling the Japanese authorities to put on trial civilian employees of the U.S. military who commit serious offenses while on duty in Japan, through a review of the application of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.

It is important in the days ahead for the government to steadily implement measures, including the transfer of military exercises by U.S. forces outside the prefecture, to lessen the burden on Okinawa Prefecture of hosting U.S. forces.

In the United States, congressional pressure is increasing to cut defense spending, making it more difficult to realize the planned transfer of marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam.

If there is no progress made on the Futenma relocation issue, the Futenma base will remain where it is, and the plan to transfer U.S. marines to Guam may founder.

The Okinawa prefectural government wants the transfer of U.S. marines separated from the Futenma relocation issue. But this seems no longer possible.

The central and Okinawa prefectural governments should consult with each other in a levelheaded manner over how to proceed with the issue of reducing the burden on the prefecture in hosting the U.S. military base.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 1, 2011)
(2011年12月1日00時55分  読売新聞)

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2011年12月 1日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 30
EDITORIAL: Rape remark could spell end to Futenma plan

It was about the most unconscionable slur anyone could have directed at women and the people of Okinawa.

Discussing the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Satoshi Tanaka, director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, said to the effect on Nov. 28, "Would you say, 'I will rape you,' before you rape someone?"

Tanaka used the rape analogy to explain the government's reluctance to set the submission date of an assessment report on the environmental impact of the air station's planned relocation to the Henoko district in Nago--a plan the people of Okinawa vehemently oppose.

Tanaka was reportedly holding court with members of the press at a pub in Naha when he made that comment.  那覇市の居酒屋で県内の報道関係者と懇談し、酒を飲んでいた。

He was drinking, and the session was supposed to be off the record, which must have loosened his tongue.

But an Okinawan newspaper went ahead and reported his gaffe.

The Asahi Shimbun did not have any of its reporters at the pub when he made the outrageous remark, but the paper ran its own version of the story after establishing the veracity of the original report.

What Tanaka said should never be condoned.

In fact, it was the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by U.S. soldiers 16 years ago that triggered the move to relocate the Futenma base.

But the girl was certainly not the last victim of sex crimes by U.S. service personnel.

Anyone who has any understanding of the feelings of the people of Okinawa would never even dream of saying what Tanaka said.

He was totally unqualified for the job, and of course he had to go.

The Yoshihiko Noda administration has at least shown its readiness to gradually lighten Okinawa's base burden.  野田政権は、沖縄の基地負担を軽減する具体策を少しずつ積み上げてきた。

For instance, drills at the Kadena Air Base will be partially moved to Guam, and the Status of Forces Agreement will be reviewed to allow Japanese courts to try civilians in the employ of the U.S. military for crimes they commit while on duty.

These measures are nowhere near adequate, of course, and they may well represent nothing more than the administration's ploy to defuse opposition to Futenma's move to Henoko.

Still, Okinawans might have taken these moves as Tokyo's attempt to restore trust.

But these efforts have gone down the drain now.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima said of Tanaka's gaffe, "I refuse to make any comment on his remarks that are grossly offensive to decency."

We are sure this is how many Okinawans feel.

For all this mess, however, the government is reportedly set on going ahead with the final environmental assessment procedures before the end of this year.

Earlier this month, the Okinawa prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a statement demanding that the government abandon the submission of an environmental assessment report.

Now that Tanaka has vastly compounded the problem, it must be all too obvious that the assessment cannot possibly proceed as planned.

We have repeatedly argued that the planned relocation to Henoko is no longer viable, and that Tokyo and Washington must seek a new solution.

It appears that the mess caused by Tanaka spells the end of the Henoko plan.

The government must stop and think.

Should the government go ahead with the environmental assessment as if nothing has happened, it would be tantamount to accepting Tanaka's slur.

The government must not repeat the same mistake.

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