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2012年10月31日 (水)

首相所信表明 戦略見えない「明日への責任」

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 31, 2012)
Noda's 'responsibility speech' lacks clear strategy
首相所信表明 戦略見えない「明日への責任」(10月30日付・読売社説)

Since Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda touts "responsibility for tomorrow," he needs to present a policy commensurate with this phrase and a strategy to realize it.

An extraordinary Diet session was convened Monday, and Noda delivered a policy speech in the plenary session of the House of Representatives.

From his speech, however, we cannot see what political challenges, following integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, he will place priority on to tackle.

Noda stressed he will realize "a system that would enable effective political decisions" and said revitalizing the economy to end deflation and overcome the current superstrong yen is "the biggest challenge now."

To achieve those goals, it is indispensable for the nation to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework, which would enable Japan to harness the growth of other Asian countries through expansion of free trade.


Why so vague on TPP?

In Monday's policy speech, Noda again failed to officially declare that Japan will participate in the TPP negotiations, but instead only said he will "promote" the accord. Why is that?

Noda is probably concerned about the possibility of Democratic Party of Japan members leaving the party and opposition from agricultural organizations. However, such an inward-looking and defensive attitude will not help Japan find a way out of the economic doldrums.

After the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election, full-fledged TPP negotiations will start among 11 countries, including the United States and Australia. It is possible that trade and investment rules will be decided next year without Japan's involvement. It is an urgent task for Japan to announce that it will participate in the TPP negotiations.

Doing so would stress the contrast between the DPJ and the Liberal Democratic Party, which is cautious toward the TPP, when it compiles a manifesto for the next lower house election.

Meanwhile, Noda insisted he will implement an energy policy based on the Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment, which sets a target of zero nuclear power plants operating in the 2030s.


Path to zero N-energy unclear

However, the path to achieving zero nuclear power is unclear. It is expected that seeking zero nuclear power would not only destabilize the supply of electricity but also deal a serious blow to people's livelihoods in the form of higher electricity rates and the hollowing-out of domestic industries. Also, it would become difficult to secure excellent human resources in the field of nuclear power.

The government therefore should withdraw its zero nuclear power policy and work out a realistic nuclear and energy policy instead.

Concerning sovereignty and territory issues, Noda only said he will carry out "the natural duty of a nation with unflagging resolve." We want to hear concrete measures from him on how to rebuild Japan's diplomacy toward China, South Korea and Russia.

It is problematic that the Diet session began while the prime minister is still unable to obtain cooperation from leaders of the LDP and New Komeito and he lacks a strategy to break the deadlock.

There is no prospect for passage of a bill that would enable the government to issue deficit-covering bonds and bills related to an electoral reform of the lower house.

Politics will not make any progress by simply blaming opposition parties for "politics of unproductive partisan confrontations with a priority placed on political gamesmanship." The government and ruling parties should make responsible proposals and seek common ground with opposition parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 30, 2012)
(2012年10月30日01時18分  読売新聞)

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演説拒否の参院 不要論を加速させる愚行だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 31, 2012)
After turning Noda away, can upper house justify existence?
演説拒否の参院 不要論を加速させる愚行だ(10月30日付・読売社説)

For the first time in the postwar era, a prime minister has not made a policy speech in the House of Councillors. This leaves an indelible stain on the history of constitutional government.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda delivered his policy speech only in the House of the Representatives plenary session on the opening day of an extraordinary Diet session Monday. He could not do so in the upper house because the opposition parties controlling the chamber refused to comply with a request to hold a plenary session.

Making a policy speech during a plenary session provides an important opportunity for a prime minister to present basic policies on international and domestic issues. In response to the speech, representatives from the ruling and opposition parties interpellate the government as full-scale parliamentary debate is launched. This procedure has been customarily observed in the Diet.

The upper house caucuses of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, two major opposition parties, insist they refused to have Noda appear in the upper house plenary session because a censure motion against him had been approved in the same chamber during the previous ordinary session of the Diet.


Unreasonable excuse

"It was the desire of the upper house caususes not to invite him to make a policy speech," they said. "This does not mean we refuse to enter deliberations." Such sophistry is inexcusable.

Upper house censure motions against former Prime Ministers Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso were approved and they stepped down as a result. But they did so before the next Diet session convened. So Noda is the first prime minister to enter a Diet session after a censure motion had been approved.

The opposition camp must discontinue its pernicious tactics of refusing to enter Diet deliberations following approval of the censure motion and bring to an end its fruitless struggle with the ruling parties.

In the first place, a censure motion in the upper house is not legally binding, unlike a no-confidence motion against the cabinet in the lower house. This is because a prime minister is not permitted to take any counteraction in the upper house, while a no-confidence motion in the lower house can lead to dissolution of that chamber. It also runs counter to the constitutional principle that gives the lower house precedence over the upper chamber.

It is natural for the upper house not to be given the means to make a prime minister resign because members of that house serve six-year terms.


LDP's move baffling

The LDP's behavior on the matter is incomprehensible.

As a reason for submitting the censure motion in question, the opposition parties cited the bill to increase the consumption tax rate as "betraying the will of the people." But the LDP, based on an agreement with the Democratic Party of Japan and Komeito, voted for the bill in the Diet. It is appalling that the LDP is brandishing the censure motion approved in the previous Diet session as a political tool in the current extraordinary session to attack the government.

Under the divided Diet, the opposition-controlled upper house has abused its powers repeatedly, throwing Diet business into chaos. It is lamentable for the LDP and Komeito to apparently take revenge on the DPJ-led government for the hardships they suffered in the upper house when they formed a coalition government.

An upper house Budget Committee session is scheduled to be held. This is because the opposition parties want to question the government on scandals involving Cabinet ministers. They plan to ask Noda to attend the session to take him to task for appointing Keishu Tanaka, who resigned as justice minister before the extraordinary Diet session convened.

If they do this, how will the LDP and Komeito explain their inconsistency between refusing to allow the prime minister to deliver a policy speech in the upper house and holding a Budget Committee session with Noda in attendance?

Moreover, the LDP and Komeito upper house caucuses said they would refuse in principle to enter deliberations on government-proposed bills in other upper house committees. We wonder why the LDP is adopting such an opportunistic and inconsistent policy toward Diet business while it is trying to regain power?

If the upper chamber becomes a political football, it will inevitably inflame the smoldering argument under the divided Diet that the upper house is unnecessary.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 30, 2012)
(2012年10月30日01時18分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月30日 (火)

鹿児島3区補選 自民を後押しした政権不信

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 30, 2012)
Distrust in govt helped LDP win Kagoshima by-election
鹿児島3区補選 自民を後押しした政権不信(10月29日付・読売社説)

Victory in a House of Representatives by-election in Kagoshima Constituency No. 3 has given a boost to the opposition Liberal Democratic Party led by Shinzo Abe, which wants to regain the reins of power from the Democratic Party of Japan as soon as possible.

However, the LDP should not take too much pride in the election result. It should instead play a constructive role in the extraordinary Diet session to be convened Monday.

Kazuaki Miyaji, a former lower house member of the LDP, defeated Takeshi Noma, a first-time candidate of the People's New Party who was also backed by the DPJ, and the two other first-time candidates in Sunday's by-election to fill a lower house seat in Kagoshima Prefecture. The seat had been held by Tadahiro Matsushita, former state minister for postal reform and financial services, who died last month.

It was the first national election for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration. The by-election, a prelude to the next general election, was actually a joust between Miyaji and Noma.

With New Komeito also endorsing Miyaji, the LDP waged an all-out war against the DPJ, sending Abe and LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba to campaign for their candidate.

The constituency has serious economic and employment problems. A factory in the constituency, for example, is to close down. The LDP stressed it would help bring about an economic revival.


Good start for Abe

The LDP also considered the by-election an opportunity to question the three years of DPJ-led government and marked the first step in its march back to power. The by-election victory represents a good start for the new LDP leadership under Abe.

Meanwhile, Noma said he was a natural successor to Matsushita and his campaign stressed a generation change. The DPJ, which did not want the ruling coalition to lose even one Diet seat, established a campaign support system equivalent to that for a candidate on the DPJ ticket. Government ministers and leaders of the PNP and the DPJ stressed to voters that the ruling coalition parties would keep working for political reform.

Nonetheless, the support for Noma did not significantly increase, apparently due to public distrust in the Noda government. The resignation of Keishu Tanaka as justice minister following revelations that he received donations from a foreign national and had past ties with criminal organizations worked to Noma's disadvantage.

Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear power plant is located in the constituency.

Both candidates indicated they would approve reactivation of the plant's idled reactors on condition that the national government guarantees their safety. A Japanese Communist Party candidate stressed that all nuclear reactors in the country should be abolished now and forever, but his view did not resonate with the voters.


Voters want decisive politics

With the by-election defeat, more members of the ruling coalition parties are likely to raise their voices to demand a lower house dissolution be delayed as long as possible because they believe they will suffer a crushing defeat if a general election was held now.

However, we think the ruling coalition parties must not stagnate the nation's politics any longer by trying to extend the life of the current government unnecessarily.

The LDP intends to adopt a more confrontational approach toward the government and the ruling coalition parties, demanding dissolution of the lower house for a general election by the end of this year.

As for the extraordinary Diet session, the LDP and other opposition parties said they would not even allow the opening of the plenary session of the House of Councillors for the prime minister to deliver his policy speech. We think this is going too far.

Rather than a futile confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties, the voters want the kind of politics in which decisions can be made. The LDP should not misunderstand this.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 29, 2012)
(2012年10月29日01時53分  読売新聞)

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電気自動車 不毛な規格争いは混乱を招く

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 30, 2012)
Carmakers shouldn't fight over EV charging systems
電気自動車 不毛な規格争いは混乱を招く(10月29日付・読売社説)

It now seems inevitable that conflict will emerge between Japanese and Western automakers over charging systems for electric vehicles.

The difficulties are a blow to the Japanese auto industry, which had aimed to make its battery charging system a global standard. Domestic carmakers are now being urged to review their strategy so they can further promote their electric models.

EVs are regarded as the ultimate eco-friendly vehicle because they emit no carbon dioxide, while their major disadvantage is a range of only about 200 kilometers per charge.

Automakers have been competing over improvements in the quality of the lithium-ion batteries EVs run on, as well as over fast-charging technology.

The Japanese auto industry--including Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Co., both of which mass-produce EVs--has successfully implemented its CHAdeMo system and has called for European and U.S. automakers to adopt it.


Incompatible systems

However, the U.S. auto industry has decided on a different system, called Combo, which is being promoted mainly by General Motors Co. of the United States and Germany's Volkswagen AG.

The two schemes use different charging connectors and are incompatible with each other.

Although Combo is still in development (it is expected to be ready in 2013 or later), the U.S. auto industry rejected a proposal from the Japanese auto industry apparently out of fear the EV market would come to be dominated by Japanese firms.

If the Combo system becomes standard in the West and other markets, Japanese automakers, despite currently being ahead in developing a charging system, would instead find themselves isolated.

Automakers should make customer convenience their top priority. Having two different systems would confuse people, which could negatively effect EV sales.

In sales terms, EVs are less popular than hybrid vehicles, which use both gasoline and electric motors. Thus a global tussle over a vital EV technology is highly unwelcome.


Adopt flexible approach

We believe Japanese automakers should not only try to promote CHAdeMo, but should undertake initiatives to develop technology to make the two systems compatible.

It is also important for Japanese makers to accommodate China--the world's largest auto market--which is developing its own EV charging system.

Further, installing many more charging stations and other necessary EV facilities both in Japan and abroad is important to make EVs more popular.

Despite its technological prowess, Japan has sometimes failed to make its technologies the global standard--typical examples being its analog high-definition broadcasting system and mobile phone technology. No more such failures should be allowed.

It is reasonable that the government decided in its strategy for promoting intellectual property to prioritize making Japanese technologies into global standards. The government and the private sector should work together to find ways to achieve this goal so Japanese companies can increase their industrial competitiveness.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 29, 2012)
(2012年10月29日01時53分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月29日 (月)

公取委員長不在 「市場の番人」務めが果たせぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 29, 2012)
FTC chairman's empty seat must be filled--now
公取委員長不在 「市場の番人」務めが果たせぬ(10月28日付・読売社説)

The Fair Trade Commission chairman's seat has been empty for more than a month.

The government must submit a proposal to fill this vacancy in the coming extraordinary Diet session and obtain approval from both houses of the Diet to resolve this irregularity.

Kazuhiko Takeshima retired as FTC chairman on Sept. 26 after completing his second five-year term. However, the government did not submit a proposal to fill the vacancy to the ordinary Diet session.

The five-member FTC board now lacks two members as one of the members died before Takeshima retired. It is the first time since the FTC was inaugurated for the board to have only three members.

This means that if a single member is unable to attend a meeting, the FTC will lack a quorum. If this situation continues, it may affect the operations of the commission.

The FTC plays a leading role in keeping competition fair through such activities as clamping down on price cartels, bid rigging and illicit activities of administrative organizations as well as by approving corporate mergers.

Needless to say, the responsibility of the chairman is especially heavy. It is extremely problematic to leave the seat vacant for a prolonged period.

Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations have a bad habit of lightheartedly shelving decisions on important policies and personnel appointments and placing the blame squarely on the divided Diet, in which opposition parties control the House of Councillors. The party should break this habit immediately.


Commission's functions stronger

Recently, the FTC has been steadily strengthening its functions as a "guardian of the market."

Drastic revisions to the Antimonopoly Law gave the FTC authority to launch legally binding investigations. Financial penalties for companies violating the Antimonopoly Law were raised, while a system was adopted to reduce or exempt surcharges on companies voluntarily reporting bid rigging.

Such changes enabled the FTC board to take a more effective carrot-and-stick approach, leading to a number of serious violations being uncovered. The amount of financial penalties imposed on companies reached a record 72 billion yen in fiscal 2010.

Still, illegal business practices show no sign of declining significantly. Bid rigging involving officials of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry and the Defense Ministry were revealed recently.

Also noteworthy is the practice of companies abusing their status to "oppress" subcontractors, such as by demanding lower prices or delaying payment. The public places high hopes on the FTC as a watchdog to prevent illegal practices.


Bigger role in corporate mergers

The FTC's role of approving corporate mergers is also gaining weight as the number of mergers that influence the global market is increasing, due to the rapid globalization of the economy.

The commission recently revised its methods in approving corporate mergers, such as by paying more attention to the global market share of the merging companies as well as simplifying the approval process.

The revision has enabled the FTC to more rapidly complete its examination of huge mergers, such as that between Nippon Steel Corp. and Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd. and the management integration of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Osaka Securities Exchange.

Considering the importance of the FTC role, its leadership must be returned to good working order as soon as possible.

The Diet also has not yet approved the government's personnel appointments for the Nuclear Regulation Authority and the NHK Board of Governors. It is time to put an end to the prolonged turmoil caused by the Diet's failure to approve the government's appointments, which is the result of political maneuvering.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 28, 2012)
(2012年10月28日01時25分  読売新聞)

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読書週間 本との出会いを大切にしたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 29, 2012)
Book Week a wonderful chance to delve into books
読書週間 本との出会いを大切にしたい(10月28日付・読売社説)

Book Week 2012 started Saturday.

The theme for this year's Book Week is "Foster true ties with books." We believe it is important to cherish ties with the books we encounter.

How about looking over your bookcase during a day off this autumn and cracking open a favorite book again?

This year's Characters and Print Culture Promotion Grand Prize has been awarded to the board of education of the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture. The prize, which is sponsored by the All Japan Magazine and Book Publishers and Editors Association, recognized the board's years of effort in encouraging townspeople to read books.

Primary and middle school students of Okuma now study at a temporary school building in Aizu-Wakamatsu in the prefecture, where they evacuated due to the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. These children still read books and do similar activities for 10 minutes every morning.

Their activities have been assisted by more than 10,000 books sent from all corners of the country. Spending time reading may provide these children with food for the mind.


Books can have lifelong impact

Writer Keigo Higashino, who was awarded the Chuokoron Literary Prize on Oct. 19 for his novel "Namiya Zakkaten no Kiseki" (The Miracles of the Namiya General Store), said the pleasure of reading dawned on him when he was a high school student.

Before that, he reportedly detested reading, much to the annoyance of his mother and teachers.

One day, he began reading a detective story authored by Seicho Matsumoto, which belonged to his sister. Higashino found the book so fascinating that he could not put it down. This encounter with books marked the starting line for Higashino, who is now one of Japan's most esteemed mystery novel writers.

A single book can have a great impact on a person's entire life. We hope an environment more conducive to making children familiar with reading will be established.

For example, no more than half of the nation's primary and middle schools have libraries that meet the government-set standards for book numbers. In addition, school libraries have many old books, while some have stacks of books in some fields but few in others. The number of school librarians is still insufficient.

Local governments should step up efforts to make their libraries more attractive so children can have chances to encounter books well suited to their individual preferences.


E-books expand reading styles

Places where people can come across books have diversified in recent years. The Hibiya Library & Museum that the Chiyoda Ward government recently established in the heart of Tokyo, for instance, holds exhibitions that regular museums would be proud of. These exhibitions are on timely themes such as "a history of reconstruction from disasters" and display books relevant to the topics.

A major bookstore in Tokyo has set up an in-house cafe at which customers have space to freely bury their noses in books. A small bookstore plays the role of "a culture hall," sponsoring seminars at which invited writers and editors give lectures just about every evening.

Meanwhile, electronic books are likely to spread at an accelerated pace.

A major U.S. online shopping service company recently announced it will start marketing e-books in Japan in the near future, a move that will expand people's reading style options.

A recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey showed about 30 percent of people are enthusiastic about using e-books.

Some analysts have pointed out people who purchase e-readers also tend to buy paper books. E-books should be accepted as one way to stimulate people's familiarity with books and help nurture a rich print culture.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 28, 2012)
(2012年10月28日01時25分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月27日 (土)

石原都知事辞任 国政復帰に何が期待できるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 27, 2012)
Ishihara's dramatic move: What does it portend?
石原都知事辞任 国政復帰に何が期待できるか(10月26日付・読売社説)

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced at a hastily arranged press conference Thursday that he would resign as governor.

He also said he would form a new political party and run in the next House of Representatives election.

Five members of both houses of the Diet from the Sunrise Party of Japan will join his new party.

While denying his party plans to cooperation with Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the People's Life First party, Ishihara indicated his intention of joining hands with other political forces, such as Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

With a new party, Ishihara aims to create a third major political force to unite conservatives, drawing a line between his party and the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan.

Will Ishihara's action, which he calls his "last service to the country," jolt national politics out of the smothering sense of helplessness brought on by unproductive conflict between the ruling and opposition parties?


Factors behind his decision

Regarding the scheme of forming a new party, something he had reportedly decided not to do in the past, Ishihara said in April that he would "start it all over." His turnabout in forming a new party is believed to have much to do with the fact that the issue of the purchase of part of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which he had sought persistently as governor, was settled with the recent purchase by the national government.

Ishihara's decision may also have been influenced by the defeat of his eldest son, former LDP secretary general Nobuteru Ishihara, in the LDP's recent presidential election, which removes a major obstacle to Ishihara's forming a new party that would compete with the LDP.

Yet it isn't entirely clear what Ishihara, now 80, intends to achieve by returning to the national political fray, especially at an age when he should be concerned about his health.

At the press conference, Ishihara fiercely criticized the way the nation's bureaucratic system operates, saying, "We must change the rigid system controlled by bureaucrats of the central government."

He also emphasized the need to amend the Constitution, his cherished idea, and to work out measures to reinforce the nation's control of the Senkaku Islands.

We can agree, to a certain extent, on his awareness of problems concerning the current situation of national politics.


Clearer vision needed

However, we want Ishihara to spell out his policies in more concrete detail and lay out his strategies to realize them. As Ishihara, who assumed the governorship following 25-plus years of service as a Diet member, quit his job without completing his fourth term--to which he was elected just last year--to return to national politics, we would like to know more about his thinking.

Takeo Hiranuma, leader of the Sunrise Party, apparently hopes to see a new wind start blowing in politics with "the two leading figures" of "Hashimoto from western Japan and Ishihara from eastern Japan." But things won't be so simple.

While Hashimoto said he has many policies that are in accord with those of Ishihara, he has also said some of Ishihara's statements on nuclear power and energy policies are out of line with his own. Clearly, it is vital to reconcile their policies.

A new party led by a popular head of a local government, such as Ishihara or Hashimoto, is drawing a certain amount of expectation from the public.

This is made possible by the people's strong distrust and discontent with the existing political parties, which have been mired in "politics incapable of making decisions."

Within the DPJ, there is a sense of danger that Ishihara's new party may prompt more members to leave the party. And in the LDP, there is concern that conservative voters may become divided.

We would like to see what sort of ripples of "political reorganization" Ishihara's new party will set in motion.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 26, 2012)
(2012年10月26日01時41分  読売新聞)

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再生エネ発電 電気利用者に重いツケ回すな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 27, 2012)
Don't overcharge users for feed-in tariff system
再生エネ発電 電気利用者に重いツケ回すな(10月26日付・読売社説)

Although it is definitely important to help spread the use of renewable energy such as solar and wind power, passing excessive fees for renewables on to companies and households should not be permissible.

The "feed-in tariff system," under which power utilities are obliged to purchase electricity generated by renewable energy sources, was launched in July. The system has led to a sharp rise in the number of companies entering solar power and other renewable energy markets.

The increase in the number of firms entering the renewables market is progressing quickly. In the three-month period to the end of September, the figure reached 70 percent of the government-set goal of expediting companies into the market.

The feed-in tariff program has utilities pay above-market rates for electricity generated from renewable energy sources for up to 20 years.

The idea of encouraging the use of renewable energy, in which it is possible to be domestically self-sufficient without discharging greenhouse gases, as a government policy is laudable.

The problem, however, is that the framework of the feed-in tariff system is designed to have the utilities' costs of purchasing renewables added to electricity charges paid by electricity users.


Draw lessons from abroad

The current payments by utilities are 42 yen per kilowatt-hour for solar power and 23 yen for wind power, about double the rates in Germany, where the system has been in place longer.

While the high margins may be highly attractive for new entrant firms, the fees paid by electricity users also become higher with the high margins.

We cannot help but feel the situation is not ideal for spreading the use of renewables. It is an urgent challenge for the government to find an appropriate balance between expanding renewables and user fees from a long-range point of view.

Good lessons on this subject can be seen in examples of failures overseas.

In Germany, additional fees to electricity bills because of utilities' purchasing power from renewable sources are over 1,000 yen a month for an average household.

With the German renewable energy market rapidly progressing on inexpensive solar panels from China, purchasing costs have continued to increase.

Under these circumstances, the German government is reportedly planning to increase the charges to be added to electricity bills. It is estimated the additional power charges levied on households will be in excess of 10,000 yen a year on average.

German consumers have reacted strongly to the proposal, with one critic saying solar power generation should be deemed the "most costly mistake in the history of German environment policy."

The increase in monthly fees due to the introduction of the feed-in tariff system in Japan is set at 87 yen for average households for this fiscal year.


Never be too optimistic

The extra charges are not yet as high as in Germany. If power generation from renewables continues to increase with the high purchasing costs remaining unchanged, however, this country is bound to follow the same path as Germany.

The government should be vigilant enough not to allow a profit-first "renewable rush" to take place, and be flexible and efficient in reviewing purchasing prices of electricity from renewable sources.

Expectations are high in Japan for positive effects on the economy resulting from the promotion of new industries through the spread of renewable energy.

In light of the German situation, there is no room to be overly optimistic.

This is because a German company, which was ranked first in the world in solar panel production, went bankrupt in April because of heavy competition from Chinese rivals.

It is important for this country to carefully examine cases abroad and work out and implement necessary measures early in order not to duplicate the mistakes of Germany and others.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 26, 2012)
(2012年10月26日01時41分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月26日 (金)

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防衛予算 将来見据えて削減に歯止めを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 26, 2012)
Stop defense budget cuts, keep eye on future
防衛予算 将来見据えて削減に歯止めを(10月25日付・読売社説)

Improvement of defense capabilities cannot be achieved overnight. It is time to stop slashing defense-related spending and start strengthening the Self-Defense Forces in earnest with an eye to Japan's security environment five to 10 years from now.

The Defense Ministry has requested 4,585.1 billion yen in budget appropriations for next fiscal year, down 1.3 percent from the previous fiscal year. Is it all right for the defense budget in fiscal 2013 to fall for the 11th year in a row?

If part of a request for budget appropriations from the special account for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake is included, the defense budget will mark an increase from the previous fiscal year. However, that includes funds to restore damaged defense-related facilities and equipment.

The defense budget in the initial fiscal 2012 budget dropped by about 300 billion yen from its peak in fiscal 2002. The total decline over the past 10 years comes to as much as 1.8 trillion yen.

Defense spending cuts have caused many problems. The maintenance costs currently necessary to extend the life of ships and aircraft exceed the cost of procuring new equipment, causing equipment procurement to be delayed and the defense industry to decline. Twenty percent of SDF facilities are obsolete, aged 50 years or older.


Russia and China bulking up

The fact that Russia and China increased their defense spending by 5.3 times and 3.4 times, respectively, over the past 10 years cannot be overlooked. While countries such as the United States, South Korea and Australia have increased their defense spending substantially, only Japan has cut it, due to financial difficulty and other reasons.

In particular, vigilance must be exercised regarding the Chinese military's buildup of its equipment and expansion of its activities.

In September, an aircraft carrier was commissioned into the navy of the People's Liberation Army. On Oct. 16, seven Chinese naval vessels passed through the contiguous zone near Yonagunijima island. On Oct. 19, Chinese naval ships staged joint exercises with vessels from the State Oceanic Administration and other organizations in the East China Sea on the premise of trouble around the Senkaku Islands.

In light of China's recent high-handed attitude over the Senkakus, the nation must be prepared for Beijing to expand its activities to make its presence felt in the medium and long terms.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Air Self-Defense Force have strengthened their vigilance and surveillance activities against the Chinese military. However, because patrol planes stationed in Okinawa Prefecture are insufficient, the MSDF and ASDF are only able to engage in those activities by redeploying resources from other parts of the country.

China's defense spending is currently more than 50 percent greater than that of Japan. If its defense spending continues to increase at the current pace, this gap will widen to 500 percent 10 years from now. The situation is extremely grave.


Make SDF bigger, more dynamic

It is essential to use the defense budget efficiently and review the SDF's current setup. To prioritize a buildup of "dynamic defense capabilities" in the southwestern region of the country, it is necessary to further reduce the number of Ground Self-Defense Force personnel, garrisons, tanks and artillery in other areas, mainly Hokkaido.

Since the end of the Cold War, Japan has beefed up Japan-U.S. defense cooperation by continually improving defense capabilities with a focus on quality rather than quantity. But from now on, Japan must seriously consider reinforcing the SDF while giving consideration to its quantity as well.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he will protect the nation's territorial land and sea "with unwavering resolve." He should reflect that resolve in the budget.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2012)
(2012年10月25日02時03分  読売新聞)

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放射能拡散予測 原発で最悪の事故防ぐ一助に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 26, 2012)
N-disaster simulations should help prevent the worst from occurring
放射能拡散予測 原発で最悪の事故防ぐ一助に(10月25日付・読売社説)

How might radioactive substances spread from the nation's 16 nuclear power plants should they be hit by serious accidents? The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday released maps based on its diffusion simulation results.

The government has refrained from conducting this kind of simulation on its own for fear of heightening anxiety among residents around the plants.

However, it is surely necessary to simulate worst-case scenarios in the course of preparing disaster management measures.

Local governments around these facilities have to compile disaster management plans by March next year. They should refer to the new data as they make steady efforts on those plans.

The NRA regards its simulations only as rough estimates because geographical features were not taken into account and the data did not reflect the constantly changing direction of the wind.

The NRA should provide the affected local governments with detailed explanations of the simulations to minimize uncertainty among residents. We urge the organization to help those municipalities in compiling their plans.

However, there is cause for concern regarding the simulation results for four facilities, including Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture and Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture.


30-km standard is reasonable

The NRA has said it will designate a 30-kilometer-radius zone around each plant as a priority area under the new disaster management guidelines it is now drafting. Governments in these areas will be urged to take safety measures to be prepared for an emergency.

However, the simulations showed that there could be some areas more than 30 kilometers from the plants where accumulated radiation readings could reach 100 millisieverts--the level at which international standards consider it necessary for residents to evacuate--in seven days. According to the results for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, for example, such high levels of radioactive substances could reach as far as Uonuma, about 40 kilometers away.

"It's good enough to designate the 30-kilometer-radius zones as priority areas," NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said during a press conference Wednesday. "In case of an accident, areas beyond the zones should respond to it by measuring [levels of radiation in their areas]."

We believe his approach is reasonable to avoid unnecessary confusion.

Nonetheless, it is up to local governments to decide how to respond to a disaster. If prefectural and other local governments wish to expand the scope of priority areas, they would have to make arrangements beyond prefectural borders--such as how to evacuate residents, deliver necessary goods and secure enough shelters. It will be necessary for the central government to support coordination among local governments involved.


NRA should refine its projections

Regarding its skill at predicting the diffusion of radioactive substances from nuclear power plants, the NRA should aim at enhancing efficiency.

A more refined level of simulations could help local governments prepare better disaster management measures, as well as plans on how to evacuate residents safely following the outbreak of an accident.

First and foremost, it is important to prevent such a serious nuclear accident from taking place.

Nuclear power plants nationwide have already implemented emergency safety measures, such as increasing their capacity to withstand tsunami and securing more reliable sources of emergency power.

As a result, safety at these facilities is better now than it was prior to the outbreak of the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

They have also started other measures, including investigations to find out if there are any active faults near plant premises.

The NRA has been working on new safety standards for nuclear power plants. It should compile them as soon as possible so they can be used in making decisions on whether idle nuclear reactors can be reactivated.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2012)
(2012年10月25日02時03分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月25日 (木)

FX究極のテクニカル分析 しろふくろうのEA(自動売買プログラム)




1) しろふくろう氏のロジックが無料で利用できる
2) 利用する為の基本料金は無料ですが、運用で利益が出た場合には手数料が発生いたします
3) 取引内容は取引口座内で全て閲覧可能


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米大統領選 対中圧力で一致した外交討論

Obama, Romney agree on applying pressure on China
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 25, 2012)
米大統領選 対中圧力で一致した外交討論(10月24日付・読売社説)

Which candidate will win the closely contested U.S. presidential election?

President Barack Obama, a Democratic candidate seeking reelection, and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, crossed swords in a heated third and final nationally televised debate Monday.

Polls taken immediately after the debate suggested Obama won the verbal joust. This, combined with the unemployment rate's recent fall to 7.8 percent, could provide Obama with a tailwind.

But the two candidates remain locked in a dead heat in public support rates. The fierce battle will certainly continue until Election Day on Nov. 6.

The topics for the final debate were diplomatic and security issues.

The Middle East situation has become chaotic in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolutionary movement and as the civil war in Syria intensifies. In Asia, North Korea forges ahead with its development of nuclear weapons and China has expanded its military presence in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. How will the next U.S. president handle these issues? The attention of Japan and many other countries was focused on the debate in this respect.


Is U.S. power ebbing?

Romney criticized Obama's diplomacy as weak-kneed, saying that "nowhere in the world is America's influence greater today than it was four years ago."

Obama, who gave a lackluster performance in the first debate on the economy, was more eloquent as he discussed diplomatic issues.

The president boasted of his diplomatic achievements such as ending the war in Iraq, paving the way for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and listing the effects of tough sanctions imposed on Iran to check its nuclear development program. Citing these points to refute Romney's contention, Obama said the United States "is stronger now than when I came into office."

However, Romney was correct in the sense that U.S. influence has declined in relative terms due to the rise of China and other newly emerging countries.

Obama said China is "both an adversary, but also a potential partner in the international community if it's following the rules."

Beijing is a principal trade partner for Washington. The United States is running the biggest trade deficit with that country among its trade partners. China is now the nation holding the most U.S. Treasury bonds after it overtook Japan. Therefore, China must be closely watched by the United States, but at the same time their relationship is interdependent.


Compliance with rules

Obama stressed his policy line of pressuring Beijing to conduct economic activities based on international standards and bolstering cooperation with allies in carrying out security policies.

Romney, for his part, stated he would deal with China strictly if it violated international rules, declaring he would label China "a currency manipulator" on his first day in office. He displayed a harder line toward Beijing than Obama did.

Obama reconfirmed that the United States, as a Pacific Rim nation, would attach importance to Asia. Romney basically shared this stance. This was welcome news to Japan.

Japan, together with the United States, should urge China to comply with international rules. Japan needs to make all-out efforts to maintain its territorial integrity and ensure the freedom of navigation and trade.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 24, 2012)
(2012年10月24日01時33分  読売新聞)

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臨時国会召集へ 年内解散へ「懸案」を処理せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 25, 2012)
Diet should clear key issues, then dissolve before year-end
臨時国会召集へ 年内解散へ「懸案」を処理せよ(10月24日付・読売社説)

Even if an extraordinary Diet session is convened, nothing will come of it as the prime minister's talks with the leaders of the two main opposition parties failed.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should hold further talks with leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito to enable the Diet to deal with pending issues.

During a meeting of Diet affairs officials from the ruling and opposition parties, the Democratic Party of Japan said it planned to set the term of the extraordinary session, which is expected to be convened next Monday, at 33 days through the end of next month.

The main purpose of the extraordinary Diet session is to address three pending issues--passing a bill to enable the government to issue deficit-covering bonds, rectifying the vote disparity in House of Representatives elections and establishing a national council on social security system reform.

These issues will not be resolved before the end of the monthlong session unless the ruling and opposition parties cooperate, given the divided Diet in which the lower house is controlled by the ruling camp and the House of Councillors by the opposition camp.


More 3-way talks needed

First of all, the prime minister must seriously consider the opposition's demand that the lower house be dissolved for a general election within this year.

Noda explicitly said during talks with LDP and Komeito leaders, "I do not intend to seek a prolongation of the life of my administration." If he is true to his word, he should again hold three-party talks and promise to quickly dissolve the lower house to obtain cooperation from the LDP and Komeito.

Seiji Maehara, state minister for national policy, referred to the three pending issues listed by Noda as "conditions for dissolving" the lower house. Maehara thus indicated the dissolution could take place before the end of the year if these conditions were met. Although DPJ executives responded negatively to Maehara's remarks, we consider his stance reasonable.

The opposition parties also bear responsibilities in addressing the pending issues.

The opposition camp in the upper house has indicated it will not take part in deliberations on government-sponsored bills, nor will it attend the prime minister's policy speech at the extraordinary Diet session. It has adopted this stance because of the passage of a censure motion against the prime minister in the previous ordinary Diet session.


Deliberations boycott pointless

However, boycotting Diet deliberations will produce nothing. Opposition lawmakers should realize this kind of action would only increase public distrust of politics.

Neither the DPJ, the LDP nor Komeito has a majority in the upper house. If a relationship of trust between the three parties remains ruptured, there will be no progress in politics even after a lower house election.

Meanwhile, Keishu Tanaka finally resigned as justice minister after he was accused of receiving donations from a foreign national and having past ties with gang members. Tanaka did not attend Diet sessions citing official duties or poor health as reasons. It is obvious he was not qualified to be in charge of judicial administration.

The Prime Minister's Office initially did not take the matter seriously and reacted too slowly in settling the problem. It is absurd Tanaka was forced to resign for health reasons.

It was only natural for Noda to admit his responsibility for appointing Tanaka to the post by saying, "A Cabinet member whom I appointed failed to fulfill his duties."

The prime minister has faced similar problems with Cabinet appointments in the past. He must be prepared to face fierce attacks from the opposition over his responsibility in this regard.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 24, 2012)
(2012年10月24日01時48分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月24日 (水)

冬の電力需給 北海道の停電は命にかかわる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 24, 2012)
Winter blackout in Hokkaido will endanger people's lives
冬の電力需給 北海道の停電は命にかかわる(10月23日付・読売社説)

If a massive blackout occurs during a severely cold winter in Hokkaido, many people's lives will be in danger.

The government and Hokkaido Electric Power Co. must avert a potential electricity crisis by using every option at their disposal to ensure there is enough power to meet demand in cooperation with local communities.

The nation's electric utilities have forecast their power supply capacity will exceed demand this winter. This is probably because they made efforts to increase supply from thermal power plants and other sources, and also power saving has taken hold in this country.

However, it is premature to assume that leaving nuclear reactors idled will be no problem because there will be enough electricity without them.

The reality is that all thermal power plants available, including aging ones, are being used to make up for an electricity shortage.

Hokkaido Electric has been plagued by an increasing number of malfunctions at thermal power plants that have been pushed to the limit since reactors at the Tomari nuclear power plant were suspended. An output loss of about 600,000 kilowatts often occurs.

However, Hokkaido Electric's supply capacity is expected to be only about 300,000 kilowatts more than peak demand in winter. The supply-demand situation is on a knife-edge.


Industries also in peril

Risks such as frozen pipes are higher in winter. In February, Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s thermal power plant stopped operating after pipes froze, but it overcame a power crunch by obtaining electricity from other utilities as an emergency step.

Only a small volume of electricity can be transmitted between Honshu and Hokkaido. There is no way Hokkaido could receive a large volume of electricity like Kyushu did. If several electricity generation problems occur simultaneously, Hokkaido will be in danger of a blackout.

During a power outage, not only air conditioners but also kerosene and gas fan heaters will stop. In some parts of Hokkaido, the temperature falls below minus 30 C. It cannot be denied that people could freeze to death due to a plunge in the indoor temperature after their heating devices stop.

Factory production and the tourism and dairy industries cannot carry on without a stable supply of electricity. The northern island also has some unique problems that will need to be solved in the winter months. Traffic will be paralyzed if snow on roads cannot be melted, and water supplies will be cut if measures to prevent pipes from freezing up do not function due to a lack of power.

To avoid this grave situation, it is necessary to set numerical targets for power saving and steadily achieve them.


Restarting reactors is the answer

Reactivating the reactors at the Tomari nuclear plant would put these fears to bed. However, the establishment of the Nuclear Regulation Authority was considerably delayed, and it is now impossible for even safety standards necessary to decide whether to restart idled reactors to be drawn up before winter sets in.

Consuming massive amounts of fuel at thermal power plants nationwide also brings other serious negative effects.

The nation's trade deficit topped 3 trillion yen for the first time in the first half of fiscal 2012 because of a surge in imports of liquefied natural gas and other fuel. Unless reactors are steadily brought back online once their safety has been confirmed, the outflow of national wealth cannot be stopped.

However, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, which has allowed its nuclear plant and energy policy to stray off course, has shirked making important decisions on restarting idled reactors. Just how aware is he of the "sinfulness" of this avoidance?

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 23, 2012)
(2012年10月23日01時21分  読売新聞)

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危ない自転車 運転マナー欠如が事故を招く

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 24, 2012)
Rising tide of bicycle accidents calls for education, enforcement
危ない自転車 運転マナー欠如が事故を招く(10月23日付・読売社説)

Bicycling through gaps between pedestrians at high speed. Furiously ringing a bell at people walking ahead. Such dangerous and reckless behavior by bicyclists continues without end.

Urgent measures must be taken to make bicycle riders obey traffic rules.

There were about 140,000 accidents involving bicycles last year, accounting for 20 percent of all road traffic accidents and reflecting a recent uptrend in the percentage of such accidents.

Accidents include those between bicycles and automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians and bicycles and bicycles. Showing a remarkable increase are accidents involving bicycles and pedestrians. Last year saw 2,800 such accidents, a 50 percent rise over the past decade.

According to the National Police Agency, accidents in which bicycle riders are at fault have been significant. Behind such accidents are reckless cycling on walkways, ignoring traffic signals, drunk riding, riding with a passenger and bicycling while talking on a mobile phone.


Pedestrian-first rules vital

Lack of riding manners, it can be said, cause accidents.

Bicycles are vehicles that are easily available. But they are classified as light vehicles by law and riders are obliged to observe the Road Traffic Law. The law makes it mandatory for bicycles to run on the road. But as an exception, bicycles are permitted to use sidewalks when riding on roads is deemed dangerous, as in the case of thoroughfares.

Speeding on sidewalks is prohibited. Pedestrian-first rules must be thoroughly driven home.

Police launched a crackdown on dangerous bicycle riding in October last year. Almost a full year has passed since then but the number of accidents has not shown the hoped-for decline.

As for traffic violations by bicycle riders, there is no system in place to impose fines on violators, as there is for violations by drivers of automobiles. Even if violators are caught, punishment is no more than a caution in almost all cases. For this reason, simply strengthening enforcement would not deter dangerous riding.


Seminars eyed for violators

The NPA established an expert panel earlier this month to begin studying a system that would make it mandatory for violators to attend safety seminars.

The proposed seminars would teach that bicycles are vehicles that may pose threats to pedestrians. The seminars would introduce cases in which people died after being hit by bicycles and the riders ended up paying damages. If the seminars serve as an opportunity to learn the danger of bicycle riding, they will contribute to enhancing riders' awareness of safety.

A system has been introduced in Mitaka and Musashino, both in Tokyo, to give preference in the allocation of rights to bicycle parking spots to those who voluntarily take part in safety seminars. The response to these offers exceeded the capacity of the seminars. The number of bicycle accidents has reportedly dropped by 30 percent in the two cities since the system was introduced.

With the Mitaka and Musashino cases as a reference point, we suggest that police and local governments cooperate in studying measures to prevent dangerous riding.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 23, 2012)
(2012年10月23日01時21分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月23日 (火)

新潟県知事選 柏崎再稼働に向き合う契機に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 23, 2012)
Niigata election result offers chance to restart nuclear plant
新潟県知事選 柏崎再稼働に向き合う契機に(10月22日付・読売社説)

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata Prefecture, which hosts the idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, was elected for the third time Sunday.

The central government, the Niigata prefectural government and the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the nuclear plant, will now be tested on how they can take advantage of this occasion to put in place an environment to reactivate the nuclear plant. This issue will have a huge impact on Japan's energy policies and economic problems.

In the gubernatorial election, Izumida, the incumbent candidate supported by the five ruling and opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party, defeated two other candidates. One of them, fielded by the Japanese Communist Party, pledged to decommission the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant and work to abolish all of Japan's nuclear plants.

While Izumida opposed the immediate decommissioning of the nuclear plant, he pledged not to make a snap decision to start discussions on reactivating the plant. During the campaign, he stressed the need to thoroughly investigate the crisis at TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant before discussing whether to reactivate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Izumida has already started the prefecture's own investigation into the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture. We appreciate his efforts to do everything possible to prevent a recurrence of a nuclear accident as a governor responsible for the safety of his prefecture's residents.


NRA has authority, expertise

However, it is the central government's Nuclear Regulation Authority that has the authority and expertise to assess the safety of nuclear plants. If the NRA considers there is no problem in restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, local governments hosting the plant will have to respect this judgment.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is a key facility for TEPCO and accounts for 12 percent of the company's generation capacity. All of its seven reactors were suspended by March with no prospect in sight to begin procedures to reactivate them.

TEPCO is planning to put its accounts in the black and lower electricity charges in the near future on the condition the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant's reactors are restarted sequentially from next spring.

If the reactors' operations are not resumed, the electricity supply system for the Tokyo metropolitan area will become unstable and negatively affect company production and the livelihood of the people.

There also is a possibility TEPCO will be forced to hike its electricity charges again because of a further increase in fuel costs for thermal power generation. The utility's investment plan, which is essential for supplying power, could be affected.

We hope Izumida will continue to pay due consideration not only to the situation in his own prefecture but also to the above factors.


Govt, TEPCO owe explanation

Meanwhile, TEPCO has to make a greater effort to eradicate the fears of local residents over the safety of the nuclear plant. In addition, the firm must carefully explain in detail why the reactors need to be restarted.

The central government should not thrust all the responsibility on TEPCO, while remaining on the sidelines. It should work with the utility and do its utmost to persuade local residents of the necessity of reactivating nuclear reactors.

In Niigata Prefecture, a group of residents is campaigning for the formulation of an ordinance on a municipal referendum that would decide whether or not the reactors should be restarted. The group carrying out the signature-collecting drive is expected to ask the governor directly for formulation of the ordinance by the end of this year.

However, it is extremely problematic that the judgment of residents in one region will be allowed to affect the reactivation of nuclear power plants. We do not think a municipal referendum is the proper way to decide on restarting nuclear plants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 22, 2012)
(2012年10月22日01時19分  読売新聞)

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EU首脳会議 危機克服へ統合を深化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 23, 2012)
EU must deepen integration to overcome crisis
EU首脳会議 危機克服へ統合を深化せよ(10月22日付・読売社説)

The European Union has hammered out a policy of boosting solidarity and deepening its unity in a bid to weather its fiscal crisis. This is one step forward in solving the crisis. However, the EU's ability to quickly realize its plans has yet to be tested.

At a summit meeting, EU leaders agreed to have the supervision of eurozone banks--presently carried out by each member country--carried out unitarily under the European Central Bank, starting next year and continuing in stages. It can be said that the accord came in line with the plan of pushing the eurozone toward a "banking union," which would integrate the financial administration of EU members.

Although European countries have been unified in their use of the euro, financial administration has been handled by each member country.

Bank supervision has been lax, allowing fiscal deficits of some member countries to expand. Learning from this, the European countries have taken a step forward in deepening its integrity. This is quite appropriate.

To provide a permanent financial stability net, the European Stability Mechanism was inaugurated on Oct. 8.

For the ESM to shore up banks in financial difficulties through a direct capital injection, it is a prerequisite for the ESM to precisely grasp the management condition of banks.

With a single supervisor overseeing banks, the way will be opened to utilize the ESM to assist shaky banks. The supervision by one body is expected to stop a "negative chain reaction," whereby a member country rescues its banks through public funds, deteriorating its fiscal health and sending the market into disarray.


EU countries must act quickly

Yet it remains uncertain as to when the single supervisor for banks will be created.

For the eurozone to complete the banking union, it is necessary to work out a deposit insurance system for the EU countries as a whole and measures for the disposal of failed banks.

Although Germany, wary of an increase in its financial burden, remains cautious over the creation of the supervisor, EU countries must seek a point of compromise swiftly.

At the summit meeting, EU leaders also agreed to discuss measures for fiscal integration, including the introduction of a "common budget for eurozone countries" designed to shore up members in fiscal crisis, with the discussions to continue at their next summit slated for December. We hope they expedite their effort in working out a concrete action schedule.


Woes continue in Spain, Greece

A matter of concern is that EU leaders have deferred assistance measures for Spain, a key issue at the moment. This is because the Spanish government, which is in a serious fiscal crisis, has not sought assistance from EU authorities.

Even though the yields on Spanish government bonds have been relatively stable lately, it is too early to relax. It is vital to work out assistance measures for the country and tackle fiscal reconstruction quickly.

Also worrisome is the outlook for the fiscal reconstruction of Greece, the epicenter of the European fiscal crisis. EU leaders at the summit talks put off a decision on whether they should agree to postpone the target date for putting that country's fiscal house in order, as Greece had requested.

The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for its role in contributing to the peace and reconciliation of Europe and the promotion of democracy and human rights.

The prolonged European financial crisis has been slowing down the global economy. The award is probably meant as a morale booster for the EU as it struggles to deepen its integration to overcome the crisis. Each member country must fulfill its responsibilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 22, 2012)
(2012年10月22日01時19分  読売新聞)

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EU首脳会議 危機克服へ統合を深化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 23, 2012)
EU must deepen integration to overcome crisis
EU首脳会議 危機克服へ統合を深化せよ(10月22日付・読売社説)

The European Union has hammered out a policy of boosting solidarity and deepening its unity in a bid to weather its fiscal crisis. This is one step forward in solving the crisis. However, the EU's ability to quickly realize its plans has yet to be tested.

At a summit meeting, EU leaders agreed to have the supervision of eurozone banks--presently carried out by each member country--carried out unitarily under the European Central Bank, starting next year and continuing in stages. It can be said that the accord came in line with the plan of pushing the eurozone toward a "banking union," which would integrate the financial administration of EU members.

Although European countries have been unified in their use of the euro, financial administration has been handled by each member country.

Bank supervision has been lax, allowing fiscal deficits of some member countries to expand. Learning from this, the European countries have taken a step forward in deepening its integrity. This is quite appropriate.

To provide a permanent financial stability net, the European Stability Mechanism was inaugurated on Oct. 8.

For the ESM to shore up banks in financial difficulties through a direct capital injection, it is a prerequisite for the ESM to precisely grasp the management condition of banks.

With a single supervisor overseeing banks, the way will be opened to utilize the ESM to assist shaky banks. The supervision by one body is expected to stop a "negative chain reaction," whereby a member country rescues its banks through public funds, deteriorating its fiscal health and sending the market into disarray.


EU countries must act quickly

Yet it remains uncertain as to when the single supervisor for banks will be created.

For the eurozone to complete the banking union, it is necessary to work out a deposit insurance system for the EU countries as a whole and measures for the disposal of failed banks.

Although Germany, wary of an increase in its financial burden, remains cautious over the creation of the supervisor, EU countries must seek a point of compromise swiftly.

At the summit meeting, EU leaders also agreed to discuss measures for fiscal integration, including the introduction of a "common budget for eurozone countries" designed to shore up members in fiscal crisis, with the discussions to continue at their next summit slated for December. We hope they expedite their effort in working out a concrete action schedule.


Woes continue in Spain, Greece

A matter of concern is that EU leaders have deferred assistance measures for Spain, a key issue at the moment. This is because the Spanish government, which is in a serious fiscal crisis, has not sought assistance from EU authorities.

Even though the yields on Spanish government bonds have been relatively stable lately, it is too early to relax. It is vital to work out assistance measures for the country and tackle fiscal reconstruction quickly.

Also worrisome is the outlook for the fiscal reconstruction of Greece, the epicenter of the European fiscal crisis. EU leaders at the summit talks put off a decision on whether they should agree to postpone the target date for putting that country's fiscal house in order, as Greece had requested.

The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for its role in contributing to the peace and reconciliation of Europe and the promotion of democracy and human rights.

The prolonged European financial crisis has been slowing down the global economy. The award is probably meant as a morale booster for the EU as it struggles to deepen its integration to overcome the crisis. Each member country must fulfill its responsibilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 22, 2012)
(2012年10月22日01時19分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月22日 (月)

PC誤認逮捕 取り調べの徹底検証が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 22, 2012)
Police should review interrogation process
PC誤認逮捕 取り調べの徹底検証が必要だ(10月21日付・読売社説)

Police must thoroughly reflect on why they wrongfully arrested four men on suspicion of sending online threats.

The Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office on Friday nullified the indictment of a man whose trial they demanded on suspicion of interfering with business through deceitful means, one of a number of incidents concerning online threats sent via computers infected with viruses that enabled them to be remotely controlled. The Osaka prefectural police, which had arrested the man, expressed their intention to apologize to him.

The Kanagawa and Mie prefectural police also admitted making erroneous arrests and have apologized to two of the four men. The Metropolitan Police Department also has admitted it made a wrongful arrest.

Police and prosecutors were misled by the real culprit, who remotely controlled the four men's computers, and also conducted sloppy investigations and made false allegations against innocent people. Confidence has been lost in both police and prosecutors.

Police believe a person, who claimed responsibility for the threats in e-mails to TBS and a Tokyo lawyer, actually controlled the computers remotely because the e-mails contained details only the real culprit would know.


Coercion used again?

Those e-mails apparently forced police to admit they arrested the wrong people.

All four men initially denied the allegations, but police did not listen to them.

For instance, the Kanagawa prefectural police included in a detailed statement a university student made that his supposed motive was that he wanted to harass a primary school where students looked happy.

The university student even explained in the statement that he created the alias Juzo Onikoroshi for the online threat because Juzo sounds similar to 13, an unlucky number, in Japanese and Onikoroshi is the name attached to various brands of sake.

This makes us believe the student was coerced into providing statements matching the picture drawn up by police and prosecutors. Police and prosecutors have totally failed to learn from the past false accusation against Atsuko Muraki, a bureaucrat of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, who was arrested for abusing a postal discount system.

It is essential to conduct proper interrogations.


Videotaping interrogations

Police around the country are conducting tests to determine whether interrogations should be made more transparent by audio recording and videotaping them. The latest cases are sure to increase demands for the introduction of such measures.

The MPD and Osaka, Kanagawa and Mie prefectural police have decided to investigate jointly to identify the real perpetrator.

We hope they tap the skills and knowledge of cybercrime experts in both public and private sectors to find the real criminal. If they fail to locate the perpetrator, hackers, who break into the computers of other people, will think the police are pushovers for good.

The latest incidents also reveal a risk of considering an owner of a personal computer as a criminal based solely on an IP address or the address of a computer. Police must study similar cases to determine if they committed mistakes in past investigations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 21, 2012)
(2012年10月21日01時30分  読売新聞)

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中国GDP 景気減速をどう食い止める

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 22, 2012)
Can China rise to the challenge of stemming GDP slowdown?
中国GDP 景気減速をどう食い止める(10月21日付・読売社説)

With the impact of the European debt crisis still being felt and Japan-China ties remaining chilled, there is little sign of a reversal in the slowdown of China's economy. All eyes are on what policies the Chinese government will hammer out to get its economy sizzling again.

China's gross domestic product slowed for a seventh straight quarter in the July to September period, growing 7.4 percent after inflation from a year earlier, according to preliminary government data. Growth for the July-September quarter fell below the government-set target of 7.5 percent for the full year.

Economists say 8 percent annual economic expansion is the "minimum requirement" for China to ensure its economic health and generate enough jobs for its workers. However, it is difficult to tell when China's falling growth will bottom out. Indications are that growth through 2012 will likely dip under 8 percent for the first time in 13 years.

The slowdown of China's economy, which has been a locomotive of the global economy as one of the world's key growth centers, must be closely watched because it could hurt the economies of Japan and other nations.


Risk factors surging

China's downturn can be attributed mainly to falling exports to Europe, its biggest export market, where financial uncertainty has spread. Consequently, the output of China's export industries and related sectors has been sluggish.

The deterioration of ties between Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture also has contributed to China's slowdown. Boycotts of Japanese-made products, including motor vehicles, spread across China, hitting sales of Japanese goods. In addition, personal consumption--an engine of China's growth--has been losing steam.

Due to the surge in such risk factors in China, many Japanese companies have decided to cut production there. Cracks have started to emerge in the production framework based on a division of labor in which Japan exports parts to China, where they are assembled into finished products.

If these trends spread, in addition to the tepid production of Japanese firms in China, employment and income conditions of Chinese workers at Japanese factories and other places will deteriorate. This could spell even more bad news for China's economy.

After Lehman Brothers collapsed four years ago, the Chinese government implemented a massive stimulus package that generated, albeit temporarily, a V-shaped recovery. The stimulus measures created several downsides, such as leading to a real estate bubble. As a result, Chinese authorities are reportedly circumspect about launching a similar large-scale package to deal with the latest slowdown.


Boost Japan-China trade

Amid all this, China is in an unstable period as it prepares for a transition of power. Vice President Xi Jinping is set to take the helm of a new government in November. If the business slowdown cannot be halted, the very foundation of the government could be shaken.

Widening income disparities between urban and rural regions and increasing unemployment among young people have become serious social problems in China. Under these circumstances, maintaining China's stable growth could be the most urgent task for its leaders.

Specifically, front-loading and accelerating projects to improve infrastructure such as expressways, in tandem with steps to boost personal spending, will be indispensable.

Additional monetary easing measures may be another option. We hope China promptly takes steps to lift its economic growth while preventing a reemergence of the bubble economy.

China needs to expand trade with Japan and encourage more investment by Japanese companies. Chinese authorities should change their hard-line policy toward Japan and quickly bring bilateral ties back to normal.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 21, 2012)
(2012年10月21日01時30分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月21日 (日)

田中法相問題 これ以上「醜態」を見たくない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 21, 2012)
Justice Minister Tanaka must go now
田中法相問題 これ以上「醜態」を見たくない(10月20日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda must not remain indecisive any longer over whether to dismiss Keishu Tanaka as justice minister.

Tanaka, having been tainted with revelations about donations from a foreign national and past connections with a crime syndicate, skipped a Cabinet meeting on Friday for health reasons and was hospitalized later the same day.

The justice minister reportedly conveyed his intention not to resign to Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

If he really is in poor health, his hospitalization is understandable. It seems, however, the justice minister may only be trying to squirm his way out of the question of whether he should step down.

The previous day, Tanaka was absent from a session of the House of Councillors' Audit Committee, at which his attendance had been sought by the opposition, pleading pressing "official duties."

Members of a cabinet must attend Diet deliberations when asked to do so by the legislature, since it is their obligation stipulated by Article 63 of the Constitution.

It is definitely reasonable that the opposition camp, having reacted adversely in chorus to the attitude of the justice minister, has stepped up its demands that the prime minister sack Tanaka.


Links with crime syndicate

With an extraordinary Diet session drawing near, the Noda administration will find it tough to run state affairs if the current situation is left unaddressed. If the situation is left as it is, the public's image of the Democratic Party of Japan will grow even more negative than it already is.

Immediately after Tanaka assumed the post of justice minister, it was disclosed that a DPJ branch he headed had received donations from a company run by a Taiwanese living in Japan.

The Political Funds Control Law prohibits politicians from receiving contributions from foreign individuals or from entities whose membership consists mainly of non-Japanese. Although Tanaka committed himself on Oct. 4 to investigating and explaining the matter, he has yet to demonstrate his accountability.

It has also come to light that Tanaka, about 30 years ago, attended a party hosted by a leader of an organized crime group, while acting as a wedding matchmaker for a person affiliated with a yakuza gang. Tanaka admitted these facts at a news conference, expressing his "profound apology."

Given this, there is no doubt Tanaka was never appropriate as the person to head the nation's administration of justice.

The fact that the possible dismissal of the justice minister has become an issue barely half a month after the Cabinet reshuffle highlights the fragility of the new Cabinet lineup. This is mainly because the appointments reflect Noda's intention to hand out Cabinet and DPJ executive posts as rewards for backing him in the latest party leadership election, while also attempting to consolidate party unity through personnel affairs.


Noda's ability questionable

Since the prime minister claimed the reshuffle was aimed at "strengthening Cabinet functions," Noda should have closely scrutinized the abilities and aptitude of candidates for portfolios.

Regarding Tanaka, even his capability to respond to interpellations in Diet deliberations has been brought into question.

The prime minister of course must be held seriously responsible for appointing such a person to the post of justice minister.

Under Noda's 13-month-old government, the personal qualities of more than a few Cabinet members have been called into question by the opposition. Two of his defense ministers--Yasuo Ichikawa and Naoki Tanaka--have even been dismissed.

We cannot help but wonder if the prime minister has the ability to handle personnel affairs adequately.

Japan is currently confronted with a multitude of important challenges, including diplomatic and security problems, rehabilitating deficit-stricken government finances and recovery from business stagnation.

The prime minister must not let the problem of whether to dismiss Justice Minister Tanaka drag on any longer.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 20, 2012)
(2012年10月20日01時52分  読売新聞)

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民自公党首会談 首相が守り一辺倒では困る

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 21, 2012)
Prime minister should compromise on dissolution
民自公党首会談 首相が守り一辺倒では困る(10月20日付・読売社説)

The three major political parties--the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito--finally held a summit meeting Friday, but it quickly broke down. The three parties should seriously try to find common ground to resolve a mountain of issues.

During the meeting with LDP President Shinzo Abe and New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asked them for their cooperation to tackle key issues such as the passage of a bill allowing the government to issue deficit-covering bonds.

However, Noda was coy about the timing of a dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election, saying only, "It's a grave matter" that must be considered. During three-party talks in August, Noda said the dissolution of the lower house would be carried out "sometime soon." The opposition party leaders urged him to specify the timing Friday as a condition for their cooperation, but he did not do so.


Discuss issues in Diet

It is understandable that Abe and Yamaguchi argued Noda's "sometime soon" statement concerning dissolution of the lower house is a pledge to the people.

The opposition party leaders said they would not cooperate in passing the legislation without a definite pledge to dissolve the lower house and would boycott Diet deliberations after submitting to the House of Councillors a censure motion against Noda. This stance is unlikely to win public support for their parties.

An extraordinary Diet session is expected to start on Oct. 29. We think the opposition parties should grill the government about problems, such as what appears to be misuse of the budget for disaster reconstruction, through Diet discussions.

Meanwhile, we view the maneuvers currently taken by the Noda side as more problematic. More than three weeks have been wasted between the time Noda met with the then LDP leader and the three-party talks Friday. This apparently resulted from Noda's stance of placing priority on delaying a decision on a general election to buy time.

His instruction to his Cabinet members to draw up a new economic stimulus package by the end of November is also a tepid move. This is no doubt part of his strategy to put off the dissolution of the lower house.

If he wants to effectively stave off an economic slowdown, the prime minister should ensure the extraordinary Diet session is long enough to formulate and then pass a more substantial supplementary budget, instead of tapping budget reserves.


Noda's 3 proposals

During the meeting Friday, Noda proposed the opposition leaders work together with him on three issues to pave the way for the lower house dissolution: drawing up rules for handling a draft budget and a deficit bond bill together; correcting the wide disparity in the value of votes in lower house elections; and setting up a national council for debate on social security system reforms.

The idea of making rules on the deficit bond bill is praiseworthy as it seems to be a constructive proposal that could avert blocking the issuance of deficit-covering bonds in the divided Diet.

As for the vote disparity, Noda only proposed that the issue, which includes reducing the number of lawmakers, be discussed again by party secretaries general. Can such discussions lead to an agreement between the DPJ and the opposition parties?

The ruling party should give the nod to the proposal by the LDP and other opposition parties to reduce five single-seat constituencies of the lower house as a first step for electoral reforms.

After Friday's talks, Abe expressed his disappointment with Noda for his failure to present a new proposal on the timing for the lower house dissolution. Noda will not be able to break the current deadlock if he remains defensive.

The government and ruling party cannot fulfill their responsibility as long as they regard pushing back the dissolution as the best answer.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 20, 2012)
(2012年10月20日01時52分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月20日 (土)

原発と活断層 公明正大な調査が求められる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 20, 2012)
Fair probe necessary on faults under N-plants
原発と活断層 公明正大な調査が求められる(10月19日付・読売社説)

In November, the government's Nuclear Regulation Authority will begin on-the-spot investigations to confirm if there are any active faults immediately below nuclear power plants.

It is necessary to strictly check the safety of nuclear plants to prevent them from being directly hit by earthquakes.

The first to be probed will be Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, whose reactors are the first and only ones to be reactivated since the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Earthquake expert Kunihiko Shimazaki, a delegate representing the NRA chairman, will visit the plant with four other experts on active faults. The NRA plans to conduct similar investigations at five other locations, including Hokuriku Electric Power Co.'s Shika nuclear plant in Ishikawa Prefecture.


Ground to get a second look

The six nuclear plants were believed to have no active faults beneath them when they were designed and built. But after last year's earthquake disaster, the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reexamined relevant materials from the time of those plants' design and construction, and found data that raised suspicion that active faults might exist below them.

It also has been found that power companies in their past investigations sometimes erred by considering separate faults as a single fault.

A powerful movement by an active fault beneath a nuclear plant could have unpredictable results, such as reactors being knocked askew or other key equipment getting damaged.

Some observers believe last year's massive earthquake has changed the geological conditions of the Japanese archipelago in ways that make active faults more susceptible to movement. The NRA's investigations are expected to closely examine such possibilities and dispel concerns associated with them.

The NRA has said it will ask power companies to halt the operations of nuclear reactors or decommission them if the existence of any active faults immediately below the plants is confirmed.

We consider it reasonable to strictly screen nuclear plants whose safety is questioned based on investigation results.


Clear judgments not easy

The problem is that even experts often assess active faults differently. There are usually many cracks and fractures in the bedrock and overlying strata. It is no easy task to determine to what extent they would cause intensive and dynamic movements in the future.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said, "In scientific and technical terms, it's quite difficult to make a 'gray area' judgment [on whether a fault is active]."

But we think the authority should not be able to order the decommissioning of nuclear reactors based on vague evaluations.

The NRA should establish clear and uniform criteria for determining whether faults are active as soon as possible. If the authority demands that power companies decommission reactors in the absence of guiding standards, the utilities may take the matter to court.

For their part, power companies must not simply wait for the NRA's evaluations. They should not neglect to confirm the safety of their nuclear plants on their own.

It also has been found that power companies have failed to properly keep materials related to past explorations of subterranean conditions.

We want them to keep firmly in mind that they cannot escape responsibility if a nuclear disaster triggered by an earthquake occurs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2012)
(2012年10月19日01時30分  読売新聞)

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沖縄米兵事件 再発防止へ実効性ある対策を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 20, 2012)
Crimes by U.S. servicemen must be prevented
沖縄米兵事件 再発防止へ実効性ある対策を(10月19日付・読売社説)

A mean-spirited and wicked crime has adversely impacted the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The U.S. forces must quickly take effective measures to prevent such criminal acts from being repeated.

The Okinawa prefectural police have arrested two U.S. Navy men for allegedly raping and injuring a Japanese woman who was walking home before dawn in a central area of Okinawa Prefecture. The case must be thoroughly investigated.

The two sailors, who are stationed at a naval air station in Texas, arrived in Japan early this month and were scheduled to leave Japan later the same day when they committed the crime.

In August, a U.S. marine stationed in Okinawa sexually molested a Japanese woman in the early hours on a Naha street.

Should these crimes occur frequently, the stationing of U.S. forces in Okinawa, deemed essential for maintaining Japan's security, will be destabilized.

It is not surprising for Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima to react indignantly by saying, "It's sheer madness." The U.S. forces must take urgent concrete measures to prevent such crimes from recurring.


Lectures on Okinawa

U.S. servicemen stationed in Okinawa have been ordered to restrict their drinking off base, and are obliged to attend lectures on the culture and history of Okinawa. However, servicemen who stay briefly in Okinawa, like the two sailors who have been arrested, are not under such obligations.

Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and other Cabinet members say the government should demand at a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee that the U.S. side take strict disciplinary action.

Comprehensive and effective measures should be worked out to bolster educational programs for young U.S. servicemen from a mid- and long-term perspective, as well as impose restrictions on their leaving the base.

As the latest incident took place immediately after deployment in the prefecture of the MV-22 Osprey, the U.S. new transport aircraft, resentment among local people has grown stronger.

But the response to the rape and assurance of the safety of the aircraft are different issues that should be resolved separately.

At the same time, it is necessary for both Japan and the United States to make constant efforts to deal with the issues involved. The U.S. forces should prevent accidents and reduce noise involving the new aircraft and Japan must try to lessen the burden of local residents living near bases.


Local anger may increase

Some government officials are concerned that local sentiment against the U.S. forces in Okinawa may heat up, as it did at the time of the rape of a young girl by U.S. servicemen in 1995.

However, the circumstances between the 1995 rape and the latest case differ. In 1995, the U.S. side at first refused to hand over the servicemen involved in the case to the Japanese authorities although the prefectural police had taken out arrest warrants for them. This time, however, the prefectural police already have the suspects in custody.

The two sailors are expected to be punished in accordance with Japanese judicial procedures.

Nakaima has once again called for the revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. But in the latest case, the bilateral accord that restricts the transfer of U.S. suspects, including servicemen, to Japanese authorities before indictment is not hindering the investigation.

Both governments have resolved specific problems by improving the way the bilateral accord is applied. This is the most realistic option and probably makes the alliance stronger than ever.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2012)
(2012年10月19日01時30分  読売新聞)

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参院1票の格差 抜本改革へ最高裁の強い警告

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 19, 2012)
Top court sternly warns Diet over electoral system reform
参院1票の格差 抜本改革へ最高裁の強い警告(10月18日付・読売社説)

It was a strong warning from the Supreme Court to the Diet, which is not working on fundamentally rectifying the vote-value disparity.

The top court's Grand Bench ruled Wednesday that the 2010 House of Councillors election, which had a maximum vote-value disparity of five times, "was in a state of unconstitutionality."

Twelve of the 15 justices so concluded, while the remaining three judged the election "unconstitutional," which is a stricter term.

The Supreme Court pointed out, as it has done before, that it is "extremely difficult to meet a request to ensure equality of the value of votes" under the current system based on 47 prefectural constituencies while populations have become concentrated in urban areas.

This is because, under the current system, two seats must be allotted even to Tottori Prefecture, the prefecture with the smallest population.


Pending bills not bold enough

A bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law submitted to the Diet by the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party in the last ordinary Diet session will not change this prefecture-based electoral system. Instead, it calls for a two-seat increase in each of two prefectural constituencies and a two-seat reduction in each of two other prefectural constituencies.

Wednesday's ruling also said simply increasing or reducing the number of seats for some prefectural constituencies will not solve the disparity. In other words, the top court apparently meant to raise doubt that "a state of unconstitutionality" would be eliminated even if the bill to introduce the "plus-four, minus-four" plan were enacted.

If the upper house election is held in summer next year with only such a cosmetic measure taken, there is no doubt that a wave of lawsuits over the number of seats allotted to prefectural constituencies will be filed after the election. It is even possible that a court in the future may rule an election "unconstitutional," invalidating part of it.

We think the ruling and opposition parties should quickly discuss another plan, one bolder than the "plus-four, minus-four" plan, to correct the number of seats allotted to constituencies.

The drastic electoral reform urged by the top court should also be quickly implemented.


A better plan fizzled

In debates over reform of the upper house electoral system that started in 2010, the ruling and opposition parties took up for discussion a plan to change constituencies from prefecture-based to bloc-based. This is because the bloc-based system has an advantage--it would make it easier to narrow disparities.

The plan fizzled out after the death of Takeo Nishioka, the former upper house president who took the initiative in introducing the change. However, we think the plan should be discussed again.

The Diet response has always been too late. This may make people think Diet members lack the ability to handle the problem, only increasing public distrust in politics.

The top court previously ruled that the 2009 House of Representatives election was also "in a state of unconstitutionality." It is unusual for judicial authorities to judge both chambers to be in a situation violating the Constitution, which stipulates equality under the law.

The electoral system for the upper house is a dual system that combines proportional representation and constituencies. It resembles that of the lower house. It is indispensable, then, to have discussions with an eye on the division of roles of the lower and upper houses.

The ruling and opposition parties must quickly convene an extraordinary Diet session and take necessary measures to solve the state of unconstitutionality in time for the next elections.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2012)
(2012年10月18日01時20分  読売新聞)

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消費税と新聞 軽減税率の議論を再開したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 19, 2012)
Resume discussions on applying lower tax rate to newspapers
消費税と新聞 軽減税率の議論を再開したい(10月18日付・読売社説)

Newspapers are an important foundation of democracy and the culture of the printed word. When the consumption tax rate is increased, we think a reduced tax rate system should be introduced--and newspapers should be subject to this lower rate.

The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association held its annual convention in Aomori this week. A resolution adopted at the event called for a reduced tax rate to be applied to newspapers because "imposing more taxes on knowledge--including newspapers--would undermine the maintenance and development of democracy."

The newspaper industry delivered a strong message after bills on integrated social security and tax system reform--of which increasing the consumption tax rate was a central pillar--were passed by the Diet in August.

During a discussion session at the convention, officials from national newspapers said a reduced tax rate should be applied to newspapers to maintain these publications, which are a basic lifeline for democracy and culture.

Representatives of some local newspapers also spoke of the high educational effect newspapers can provide, while others described the nation's high proportion of households that subscribe to newspapers as a "social asset."


Look at European examples

Newspapers, which can be picked up easily and cheaply in every corner of the nation, are de facto public property and part of the social infrastructure. We believe many readers recognize that newspapers are an important daily necessity on a par with rice and other food items.

If newspapers shut down due to worsening financial conditions following the tax hike, this nation would be stripped of some of its diversity of speech and opinions. There are fears such a situation would impair the ability of newspapers to be a watchdog ensuring government accountability, and citizens' interest in politics would fade. Eventually, the vitality of local communities could decline.

We should learn from European countries, which cherish the public nature of newspapers and their role in protecting the culture of the printed word.

The rates of value-added taxes in Europe, which are equivalent to Japan's consumption tax, are about 20 percent. However, much lower tax rates are applied to newspapers--just 2.1 percent in France, 4 percent in Spain and 7 percent in Germany. Belgium, Britain and Norway even impose no tax on such publications.

Under the enacted laws on integrated reform, the consumption tax rate will increase to 8 percent in April 2014 from the current 5 percent, and rise further to 10 percent in October the following year. They also stipulate that "comprehensive examination from various points of view" will be given to the possible introduction of a reduced tax system.


No time to waste

Nevertheless, it can be called problematic that the government has not started full-fledged discussions on this issue more than two months after the legislation was enacted.

Earlier this week, Yoshihisa Inoue, secretary general at New Komeito, submitted a petition signed by about 6 million people calling for the introduction of a reduced tax system to Finance Minister Koriki Jojima. Inoue urged that this system be introduced when the consumption tax rate is increased to 8 percent.

The submission should be used to get the wheels turning on the resumption of discussions on the issue.

Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe and Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba included the introduction of a reduced tax system among their pledges for the recent party presidential election in which they both ran.

The process of introducing a reduced tax system will involve several stages, such as determining what items should be subject to it. The government should waste no time in beefing up coordination with the LDP and Komeito.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2012)
(2012年10月18日01時20分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月18日 (木)

原発住民投票 再稼働の判断にはなじまない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 18, 2012)
Referendums no way to decide restarts of nuclear reactors
原発住民投票 再稼働の判断にはなじまない(10月17日付・読売社説)

Nuclear energy policy is connected with economic growth, employment and national security, among other concerns.

It is not a matter that should be settled by referendums.

On the reactivation of reactors at nuclear power plants where safety has been confirmed, the government needs to be responsible for making decisions while taking local opinions into consideration.

The Shizuoka Prefectural Assembly has rejected a draft ordinance on holding a referendum to ask residents whether they would support the restart of reactors at Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka nuclear plant in the prefecture.

The draft ordinance was requested of the prefectural government by a citizens organization that collected the signatures of more than 160,000 residents in the prefecture.


Far-reaching ramifications

Even if such a referendum were held, the result would not be legally binding. But it would likely affect decisions made by the central government, concerned local governments and the utility company. We praise the prefectural assembly for its sound judgment in rejecting it and preventing unnecessary confusion.

The problem is that Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu expressed support for holding a referendum on the grounds that there were a large number of signatures in favor of submitting a draft ordinance.

The Hamaoka plant once played a vital role in power supply not only in Shizuoka Prefecture but also in wider areas covered by Chubu Electric.

But in May last year, at the legally groundless request of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the utility suspended the operations of the reactors. The utility remains unable to restart the reactors under the current circumstances.

Heads of local governments hosting nuclear plants have the duty of deciding whether to restart reactors while considering such factors as the safety of nuclear reactors, the supply and demand balance of electricity and the local economic impact.

Kawakatsu wanted to leave such a gravely important decision to a referendum. This does not represent respect for public opinion. Rather, the governor has left himself open to criticism for dodging responsibility.


Not a yes-or-no issue

In a referendum, residents are asked to simply vote yes or no on an issue. This is a method inherently unsuitable for such complex issues as whether to support the restart of nuclear reactors since voters may hold a variety of views, such as supporting a restart under certain conditions.

It will be reasonable to limit referendums to issues, such as those on mergers of municipalities, whose results would not greatly impact external parties.

Also in Niigata Prefecture, where Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant is located, procedures for the submission of a draft ordinance to hold a referendum have begun. We cannot brush off concern that moves seen in Shizuoka Prefecture may spread to many other local governments hosting nuclear plants.

The government has adopted a policy of using nuclear power as an essential source of electricity for the time being. It is more important than anything else to steadily put reactors back online. The government needs to make sincere efforts to obtain local understanding, together with utility companies operating nuclear plants.

But Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano and other relevant Cabinet ministers have taken a stance of leaving decisions on the restart of reactors to the Nuclear Regulation Authority and letting utility companies work alone to obtain local consent.

We cannot accept such "politics that does not fulfill its responsibilities."

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 17, 2012)
(2012年10月17日01時32分  読売新聞)

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ソフトバンク 吉と出るか米携帯会社の買収

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 18, 2012)
Will SoftBank's purchase of Sprint be a ringing success?
ソフトバンク 吉と出るか米携帯会社の買収(10月17日付・読売社説)

SoftBank Corp. President Masayoshi Son is again making a big gamble with his pursuit of a policy of aggressive business expansion.

Whether his company's investment in a U.S. mobile phone carrier will prove fruitful is sure to receive much attention.

SoftBank, the third-largest wireless carrier in Japan, announced Monday plans to purchase Sprint Nextel Corp., the No. 3 mobile operator in the United States. SoftBank plans to buy about 70 percent of Sprint's shares for 20.1 billion dollars (1.57 trillion yen) to make the U.S. firm its subsidiary.

With the purchase, SoftBank would jump to more than 90 million subscriptions in Japan and the United States combined, far exceeding the domestic number of Japan's largest carrier, NTT Docomo Inc. Its sales are expected to rank third in the world if the deal goes through.

The domestic mobile phone market has reached a saturation point, with no room for further growth. Under the circumstances, SoftBank has decided to expand its business to North America through the purchase of the U.S. mobile carrier.


Era of realignment

The telecommunications industry has changed dramatically recently with the spread of smartphones and next-generation high-speed networks, such as the Long-Term Evolution. As international competition to provide goods and services at universal standards is now fully under way, the industry has entered an era of realignment that will take it beyond national borders.

SoftBank and Sprint both sell Apple Inc.'s iPhone as their flagship product. SoftBank seems to think its planned expansion would put it in a position where it can negotiate better prices from Apple.

Ultra-low interest rates and a historically high yen provided a tailwind for the deal. Other domestic companies can look to SoftBank's strategy of pushing ahead with international mergers and acquisitions as an example.

SoftBank has used corporate acquisitions as an engine to drive the growth of its business. It previously purchased Japan Telecom Co. and Vodafone Japan, the Japanese arm of British company Vodafone, and only earlier this month agreed to acquire eAccess Ltd., the fourth-largest domestic wireless carrier.


Areas of concern

Nevertheless, there are some causes for concern regarding SoftBank's planned purchase of Sprint.

First, Sprint lags far behind its two biggest U.S. competitors in terms of subscribers, and has suffered a loss for five straight years. It remains to be seen whether SoftBank can synergistically improve the U.S. company's business performance.

SoftBank's financial standing is expected to deteriorate considerably through the deal. The firm plans to raise cash for the purchase through bank loans, which would boost the firm's interest-bearing debt to about 4 trillion yen. This could prove to be a heavy financial burden. The radical moves by SoftBank's stock price after the acquisition deal was announced indicate the market is watching the deal warily.

Troubles with communication networks have been unceasing as telecommunication capacity has failed to keep up with the market's demands, which has been exacerbated by the spread of smartphones. Japan's complex and expensive rate system, the highest in the world, has also been the subject of much criticism.

There have also been persistent complaints over poor connections, especially among SoftBank subscribers. We hope the firm remembers to improve service for domestic subscribers, such as by expanding its communication infrastructure to provide a better transmission environment, and lowering rates.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 17, 2012)
(2012年10月17日01時32分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月17日 (水)

PC乗っ取り 官民連携で摘発体制の強化を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 17, 2012)
Cybercrime crackdown requires joint public-private effort
PC乗っ取り 官民連携で摘発体制の強化を(10月16日付・読売社説)

There has been a recent string of incidents in which online threats were sent via remotely controlled personal computers infected with viruses.

The owners of these computers were placed at risk of being charged for crimes they did not commit. The police must strengthen their investigative capabilities to deal with this new type of cybercrime and leave no stone unturned in their search for the true perpetrator.

The Osaka and Mie prefectural police and the Metropolitan Police Department have released three men who had been arrested on suspicion of sending indiscriminate murder and bomb threat messages via their computers and forcibly obstructing business.

In a case handled by the Kanagawa prefectural police involving an online threat to attack a primary school, it seems increasingly possible that a university student arrested for making online threats might not have been the person who sent the messages.

TBS Television, Inc. has reportedly received an e-mail sent by a person claiming responsibility for these incidents.

The computers of the three released men were likely being controlled remotely after being infected with viruses, and criminal threats were posted on online message boards without their knowledge.


Virus infections overlooked

Police identified the computers in question as belonging to the three men via their Internet protocol (IP) addresses. But they failed to detect that the computers were infected with viruses that enabled them to be remotely controlled by an outsider. Investigators discovered this only after arresting the men.

If a computer is being controlled remotely, arresting the perpetrator will be impossible by tracing its IP address alone. The recent incidents show there are limits to conventional cybercrime investigative methods.

The threats were posted on message boards via the computers of the three men via servers in foreign countries, including the United States and Germany. Identifying the perpetrator will be a painstaking task. Nevertheless, computer hacking cannot be allowed to go unchecked because it raises the risk of people being falsely accused of crimes.

The National Police Agency has hired engineers who studied cyber-attack countermeasures at private companies and assigned them to prefectural police headquarters. More specialized staff like this are needed.


Self-defense vital

We think the public sector must cooperate more closely with the private sector and harness the expertise of firms with advanced cyberdefense technology. A system that enables the public and private sectors to cooperate in tackling cybercrime needs to be quickly put in place.

Computer users, for their part, must stay aware of the importance of taking precautions to protect themselves. The computers in question were infected with viruses hidden in free software available on online bulletin boards. In a case overseas, a third party turned on an infected computer's camera without the owner's knowledge to look into their room.

There are some effective ways to keep viruses at bay: Do not open suspicious e-mails; avoid browsing suspicious sites; do not download programs unless necessary; regularly upgrade antivirus software; and turn off your computer when it is not being used.

It is essential that each computer owner protect their own PC by properly taking basic precautions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 16, 2012)
(2012年10月16日01時29分  読売新聞)

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3党幹事長会談 いつまで条件闘争をするのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 17, 2012)
When will 3 parties stop squabbling over Diet session?
3党幹事長会談 いつまで条件闘争をするのか(10月16日付・読売社説)

Talks between the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito over the next extraordinary Diet session are a mess.

How long will they continue to put their party interests before everything else?

DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi said he wanted to convene an extraordinary Diet session late this month when he held talks Monday with his LDP counterpart Shigeru Ishiba and Komeito counterpart Yoshihisa Inoue. The secretaries general will meet again Thursday, and a meeting between the leaders of the three parties will likely be held by the end of this week.

Such a sluggish approach to the talks is appalling. In particular, the DPJ has a heavy responsibility for delaying the convening of an extraordinary Diet session. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should announce the policies of his reshuffled Cabinet at this session.

A mountain of problems, including the confrontation between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, and energy issues, await action. Lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties are failing to fulfill their responsibilities by not debating these issues in the Diet.

The qualifications of Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka also must be taken up. It was recently revealed that the justice minister, who is at the center of a scandal over donations from a foreign national, had ties with an organized crime syndicate. There is no doubt these entanglements are inappropriate for a justice minister.


Resolve vote disparity

One issue the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito should immediately resolve is the vote-value disparity in House of Representatives elections.

On an NHK program Sunday, Koshiishi hinted at the possibility the DPJ may accept a plan to first reduce the number of lower house single-seat constituencies by five. However, he also told reporters that "unanimity among all opposition parties" is a condition to carrying out the plan.

The DPJ's adherence to its plan to simultaneously correct the vote-value disparity by cutting the number of lower house single-seat constituencies by five and reduce the number of lower house seats complicates the issue and has delayed correcting the vote-value disparity. If the DPJ sets this new condition now, we cannot help but wonder if the party is serious about tackling the issue.

Enactment of a bill to allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds is also a pressing issue.

During the meeting of secretaries general Monday, the LDP and Komeito demanded that Noda promise to dissolve the lower house for a general election by the end of this year. "If [the prime minister] is so insincere, there will be no meeting of leaders [of the three parties]," Ishiba was quoted as saying.


Financial resources at risk

If the current stalemate continues, the passage of the bill to issue deficit-covering government bonds will be delayed and, as a result, the government's financial resources in the fiscal 2012 budget will be exhausted. The DPJ, LDP and Komeito should quickly reach a compromise on the issue so people's livelihoods will not be adversely affected.

The LDP has called for a delay in the establishment of a national council to revamp the social security system--which the three parties already have agreed on--until after the lower house election. We urge the three parties to come to terms on this issue.

The opposition-controlled House of Councillors passed a censure motion against the prime minister during the last ordinary Diet session. If the opposition parties plan to stall the Diet session for this reason, there is no point in convening an extraordinary Diet session. This will only increase public distrust in political parties.

The ruling and opposition parties should agree not to carry over the censure motion into the next Diet session and make it a general rule of the divided Diet not to do this in future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 16, 2012)
(2012年10月16日01時29分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月16日 (火)

新聞週間 期待に応える紙面を届けたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 16, 2012)
Delivering newspapers that meet readers' expectations
新聞週間 期待に応える紙面を届けたい(10月14日付・読売社説)

"Don't give in! A news article encouraged me." The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association selected this as the main slogan for Newspaper Week, which starts Monday.
 「負けないで 背中を押して くれた記事」。あすから始まる「新聞週間」で、日本新聞協会が選んだ代表標語だ。

Nineteen months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. The Yomiuri Shimbun is continuing to report on reconstruction efforts moving ahead in affected areas and the support extended from around the nation.

One Yomiuri article featured a senior executive of a spinning company in Osaka who regularly visits a farming community where land was blighted by seawater during the tsunami. He gives advice to farmers on how to grow cotton. Another story described a doctor who returned to his hometown following a 13-year absence and has been helping local medical services get back on their feet.

We will make further efforts to improve our news coverage, by reporting on the current situation in affected regions and writing articles that support areas still trying to recover.


Written records

In March this year, Iwate Nippo, a local daily in Iwate Prefecture, started a project featuring people who died in the March 11, 2011, disaster. These stories explore their lives and are accompanied by photos of the subject's faces. Sharing these messages will ensure victims of the disaster are not forgotten and underline the significance of each of their lives.

The Iwate Nippo project uses printed media's special trait of excelling in providing a tangible record.

We live in an era in which the Internet is a source of an immense amount of information. Nevertheless, 89 percent of respondents to a survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun before Newspaper Week said "newspapers will remain an important source of information and knowledge."

Japan's politicians must tackle mountains of domestic issues, such as dealing with post-disaster reconstruction and clearing up the Fukushima nuclear crisis. On the diplomatic front, this country faces many thorny issues, including soured ties with China over the Senkaku Islands and with South Korea over Takeshima islands.

Newspapers have important roles to fulfill. Are we providing readers with the accurate news reports and responsible editorials they expect? We aspire to provide readers with the best pages possible, while questioning ourselves every day about whether we are meeting this goal.


Getting back to basics

Another key mission for newspapers is to painstakingly expose facts that have been concealed and close in on the truth.

The Yomiuri Shimbun's series of exclusives on the retrial of the criminal case in connection with the 1997 murder of a female Tokyo Electric Power Co. employee won this year's newspaper association award in the editorial category.

The articles revealed that DNA test results showed a former Nepalese defendant who had been given a life sentence in this case had likely been falsely charged. The articles also reported that prosecutors had not shown the defense counsel evidence favorable to the former defendant and had failed to try every means of investigation to find the assailant.

We can say that these articles lifted the lid on the prosecutors' slipshod investigation in which they belittled physical evidence that did not fit their arguments.

However, the former defendant insisted he was innocent ever since his arrest in 1997. Why did we not get to the heart of the problems with the investigation more quickly? Looking back at our earlier coverage of this case leaves a lingering sense of shame.

To exhaustively check whether public authority is being exercised properly: We again confirm that this is the starting tenet of news reporting.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 14, 2012)
(2012年10月14日02時03分  読売新聞)

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IMF世銀総会 世界経済の減速に懸念高まる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 16, 2012)
Fears mounting over global economic slowdown
IMF世銀総会 世界経済の減速に懸念高まる(10月14日付・読売社説)

The slowdown of the global economy due to the protracted European debt crisis is becoming increasingly conspicuous. Countries around the world must work together to stop a negative chain reaction.

The annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were held in Tokyo for the first time in 48 years, with 188 countries taking part. The meetings were a good opportunity for Japan to demonstrate its recovery from the devastation caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011.

A focus of attention at the annual meetings was how the world economy can overcome the challenges it faces.

In its global economic forecast, the IMF has revised downward the 2012 growth rate of the world's real gross domestic product to 3.3 percent, 0.2 percentage point lower than its projection in July.

Countries in the eurozone have failed to extricate themselves from their negative growth patterns due to the fiscal and banking crises they are facing. The harmful effects are spreading to the rest of the world. The economic slowdown in China, India, Brazil and other emerging countries has become more pronounced.


Uncertainty on rise

It was a matter of course for IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde to warn at a press conference ahead of the annual meetings that the "level of uncertainty" weighing down global economic growth was increasing.

Terminating this vicious cycle of global economic malaise is not easy. A major challenge is to determine how to achieve fiscal rehabilitation and economic growth at the same time.

Attention should be focused first on how to resolve the European crisis, the root cause for the global economic downturn.

We highly regard the European Central Bank's decision to buy the bonds of fiscally troubled countries and the eurozone's launching of the European Stability Mechanism on Oct. 8 as a new permanent safety net for banks.

Spain, a focal point of the fiscal crisis, is still hesitant in asking assistance from the ESM, and its government bond rating has been downgraded by two levels. Greece, meanwhile, has called on its creditors to extend its fiscal reform deadline by two years. The request has not yet been granted due to Germany's opposition and other factors.

If appropriate countermeasures are not taken promptly, the crisis will become even worse again. Based on a series of points made in Tokyo, the eurozone countries should take quick action to contain the spread of credit uncertainty. They also need to realize fiscal integration as soon as possible.


End friction with China

It is feared in the United States that drastic cuts in federal spending--the so-called fiscal cliff--will be made early next year. We hope both the ruling and opposition parties in the United States take appropriate measures to deal with this immediately after the U.S. presidential election.

Japan is on the brink of entering an economic downturn due to the slowdown of economies abroad and the superstrong yen. The country will be required to take additional measures to stimulate the economy and to get out of deflation.

Lagarde criticized China for not sending its finance minister and central bank officials to the IMF-World Bank annual meetings because of Beijing's confrontation with Tokyo over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. We think her remark was important as it emphasized the necessity of normalizing Japan-China relations at an early date.

Protracted deterioration of bilateral ties will also damage the global economy. Beijing will not benefit if such confusion applies downward pressure on the Chinese economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 14, 2012)
(2012年10月14日02時03分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月15日 (月)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:タレントと比べないで /東京

October 14, 2012(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Don't compare yourselves with celebrities
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:タレントと比べないで /東京

Books on how to lose weight after giving birth have recently been selling well.

These books typically feature female celebrities who have given birth.

Specifically, they introduce exercise and dietary tips that helped celebrities -- whose weight increased by more than 10 kilograms after getting pregnant -- restore their body shape to that before they became pregnant.

These stories are often accompanied by "before" and "after" pictures.

Looking at these books out of curiosity, I find that they feature celebrities with brilliant smiles.

As someone who has never given birth, I become envious, wondering whether it's really true that women are the most beautiful shortly after giving birth.

However, this is not apparently the case with every woman.

A woman who has two children aged three and one lamented in my consultation room, "I can't restore my body shape to what it was before I gave birth.

I have no time or the emotional space to think about my own beauty in the first place.

Look at my worn-out skin and messy hair."

She added, "The other day, my husband was watching TV and said, 'That celebrity is beautiful even though she has three children,' and looked at me as if he were comparing her with me, so I became furious."

She said her husband was usually busy with work and hardly helped with the kids, forcing her to take care of everything at home.
It must be intolerable to have to be compared with celebrities on top of that.

It is true that I meet far more women who have been depressed from stress and fatigue after childbirth than those who remain beautiful and luminous after having children.

For those exhausted women, books featuring celebrities who remain beautiful after giving birth are nothing but an eyesore.

I told a woman who complained she was worn out, "Celebrities have people who help them look after their children.

In a sense, dieting and looking beautiful are part of their work, so they get advice from lots of experts.

You don't have to take them at face value and compare them with yourself.

Tell your husband that I said so."

It is natural that many women are envious of those who maintain their body shape and beauty even after giving birth and handle their work as energetically as before.

But those women shouldn't be made into subjects of comparison that make you feel depressed.

It is wiser to look at such women with a cool eye saying to yourself, "They must have the support of so many people to be who they are."

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2012年10月09日 地方版

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2012年10月14日 (日)

受信料値下げ NHK改革を進める一歩に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 14, 2012)
NHK viewership fee cut must lead to further reform
受信料値下げ NHK改革を進める一歩に(10月13日付・読売社説)

NHK has cut its monthly television subscription fee, starting this month. The public broadcaster should take this opportunity to press ahead with internal reform.

The fee cut is the first since 1968, when NHK introduced the current subscription fee system. The monthly fee of 1,345 yen for viewers of terrestrial broadcasting has been reduced by 120 yen when it is automatically withdrawn from bank accounts or paid by credit card, and by 70 yen when paid via bank transfers or convenience stores.

The fee reduction is equivalent to 7 percent of NHK's subscription revenues. The cut is expected to reduce NHK's revenues by more than 100 billion yen during the three-year period from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2014.

In recent years, NHK has come under public fire for a string of misappropriations of expenditures for program production and other scandals, increasing the number of people who refuse to pay.

The fee cut is believed to be aimed at recovering eroded public trust.


Cost-cutting efforts not enough

The impact the cut will have on the business of NHK will not be small. NHK management says the public broadcaster plans to make up for the revenue reduction by redoubling efforts to boost the percentage of subscription payers and curtail expenditures. It is questionable, however, whether NHK can implement the cost-cutting plans as envisioned.

The national average of payment ratios for NHK subscription fees, which the broadcaster made public recently for the first time, stands at 72.5 percent. By prefecture, Akita had the highest ratio at 94.6 percent while Okinawa had the lowest at 42 percent.

The percentages of paid subscribers are also low in Tokyo and Osaka, hovering at around 60 percent. The subscription fee cut should be used as a lever to boost the percentage of fee payers.

A continuation of NHK's reform efforts is crucial to restoring viewers' trust.

NHK has launched a three-year business improvement program starting this fiscal year. However, its workforce of more than 10,000 will be reduced by only 280 under the plan.

The broadcaster should step up its streamlining endeavors to enhance efficiency of its bloated corporate structure.

Its efforts to slash expenditures can hardly be considered sufficient.

Despite the subscription fee cut, NHK still will secure more than 600 billion yen in revenues. There should be concern that the colossal amount of subscription revenues will lead to a lack of cost-consciousness among NHK employees.


Quality programming crucial

In an age when fewer people are watching TV, NHK must focus on prompt reporting and high-quality programming.

The broadcaster has in fact gained a degree of public trust for such activities as earthquake disaster reporting and documentary programs. But instead of being complacent with this, NHK must renew its awareness of its proper role as a public broadcaster. Making programs similar to those seen on commercial television will never be enough.

With the use of mobile communication devices rapidly spreading, the issue of fusion of broadcasting and telecommunications is taking on greater significance to broadcast operations.

A case in point is the planned service of real-time transmission of broadcasts via the Internet. If realized, the service will enable people to watch broadcasts with smartphones wherever they are.

The advisability of such services being undertaken by NHK, which depends on viewer subscription, should be discussed as scrupulously as possible.

A firmly established framework of in-house governance is indispensable to the reform of NHK.

Kenichiro Hamada, who previously worked at All Nippon Airways, has assumed the long-troubled chairmanship of NHK's board of governors, the broadcaster's supreme decision-making body.

The new board chairman said in a press conference last month he is committed to "keeping a sound balance between NHK's business execution branch and the board as mutually necessary entities."

We hope very much Hamada will give full play to his ability in steering NHK in the right direction.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 13, 2012)
(2012年10月13日02時14分  読売新聞)

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ミャンマー支援 民主化と経済再建に弾みを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 14, 2012)
Myanmar reforms need wholehearted support
ミャンマー支援 民主化と経済再建に弾みを(10月13日付・読売社説)

We welcome moves by the international community to build a system to underpin Myanmar's reform efforts toward democratization. The country needs help in boosting its political reform and economic rebuilding efforts.

A meeting on Myanmar was held in Tokyo on Thursday, with the participation of developed countries and international organizations, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

During the meeting, creditors agreed to write off Myanmar's outstanding debts in January and resume financial aid to the country after an interval of more than 20 years.

Japan, Myanmar's largest creditor, said it will forgive most of the 500 billion yen debt owed to this country and resume yen loans for the first time in 26 years at the earliest possible date next year.

To enable the World Bank and the ADB to extend new loans to Myanmar, Japan also decided to provisionally shoulder the country's arrears to help it repay its creditors.

It is significant that Japan, which has been proactive in improving its relations with Myanmar, took the initiative in paving the way for the international community to provide full-fledged support to the country.

Developed countries imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar for many years, citing such reasons as human rights abuses under the military junta. As a result, the country lags other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and is the poorest country in the region.


Country's great potential

However, Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2010, and the country saw a power shift from the military to a civilian government in the spring of 2011. Since then, the government led by President Thein Sein has promoted democratization.

This significant change was hailed by the international community, and Myanmar managed to win pledges for a resumption of international aid.

Myanmar has a population of more than 60 million and is rich in natural resources. Hopes are high that Myanmar, the so-called last frontier in Asia, will achieve rapid economic growth.

ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said that if the country makes sufficient progress in domestic reforms, it could catch up with other ASEAN countries in the next five to 10 years.

With the backing of financial aid and investment from developed countries and other lenders, Myanmar's economic development should accelerate.


Building infrastructure is key

The main challenges the country faces are its abysmal infrastructure, such as electricity and railway systems, and its inadequate educational, medical and other social services. Japan aims to use yen loans to provide materials and expertise to develop the country's infrastructure.

Major trading houses and other companies have already launched projects in Myanmar. The government plans to fully cooperate with these companies to develop Myanmar's special economic zones.

For Japanese companies, Myanmar is highly likely to become a new production base in Asia. Cooperation between the public and private sectors must be strengthened.

Although Myanmar has strong ties with China, its major trading partner, it apparently harbors concern about Beijing's clout.

In light of this, Japan's wholehearted support for Myanmar could put a brake on China, which is attempting to increase its presence in the region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 13, 2012)
(2012年10月13日02時14分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月13日 (土)

党首会談打診 民主は臨時国会から逃げるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 13, 2012)
DPJ should not avoid opening Diet session
党首会談打診 民主は臨時国会から逃げるな(10月12日付・読売社説)

The government and the Democratic Party of Japan have been dragging their feet in convening an extraordinary Diet session.

Although their actions give the appearance that they are very carefully taking the necessary steps, we think they are actually trying to postpone the extraordinary session and delay dissolving the House of Representatives for a general election.

New party executives of the DPJ and the Liberal Democratic Party have held their first face-to-face meeting, at which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told LDP President Shinzo Abe, "We intend to hold an extraordinary Diet session at an appropriate time." Noda also suggested that he and Abe hold a meeting with New Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi, and the LDP agreed.

Party officials at the secretary general-level are said to be working out the particulars of the meeting, but concrete results have yet to emerge.

Our questions is, when will be the "appropriate time"?


Bond bill needs attention

Noda wants the meeting of the leaders of the three parties to smooth the passage of a bill to allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds.

If the bill is not enacted, state coffers are expected to run dry by the end of November. The government has already put in place curbs on budgetary spending, such as withholding allocations to local governments, which has vexed some prefectural governments. If the situation continues, the daily lives of ordinary people could be more widely affected in areas such as social security and education.

The LDP's position is that it will not cooperate over the bond bill unless the prime minister makes a clear promise on dissolving the lower house. However, we oppose any course that would make "hostages" out of people's daily lives. It appears the LDP is using the same tactics as were employed under former party president Sadakazu Tanigaki, which only led to political stalemate.

Meanwhile, the DPJ has elected not to apply for the quarterly state subsidies allotted to political parties this month, saying it bears responsibility for not having passed the bond bill and thus the subsequent restrictions on government spending. This act alone does nothing to solve the problem.


DPJ disconnect

DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi said passing the deficit-covering bond bill and correcting vote disparities in lower house elections "must be solved without wasting any time." However, the DPJ No. 2 seems hesitant to convene an extraordinary Diet session--a contradiction of words and deeds.

Koshiishi probably fears that once the Diet is in session, his party would splinter further, driving the administration into a corner where it has no choice but to dissolve the lower house.

Wasn't Noda's new Cabinet formed to "strengthen Cabinet functions...to cope with a number of issues both at home and abroad"? It seems to be a matter of course to immediately convene an extraordinary Diet session so the prime minister and members of his new Cabinet can deliver speeches and be questioned before the legislators.

And there are plenty of issues to be debated, such as diplomacy toward China and South Korea, whether to participate in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, and the establishment of a national council to reform the social security system.

Lawmakers also need to examine the donations made to a political organization headed by Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka by a company run by a foreign national, as well as the "siphoning" of funds earmarked to rebuild areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake to projects not directly related to the affected areas.

The biggest problem is that the next moves of the prime minister, with his fresh Cabinet and new party leadership lineup, remain a mystery.

We urge Noda to set new political goals while steadily making progress in addressing immediate issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 12, 2012)
(2012年10月12日01時44分  読売新聞)

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iPS細胞 医療応用へ支援体制を整えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 13, 2012)
Build a system to support clinical use of iPS cells
iPS細胞 医療応用へ支援体制を整えよ(10月12日付・読売社説)

The race to put induced pluripotent stem cells into practical use will likely intensify soon as iPS cells are expected to play a pivotal role in regenerative medicine.

Countries are already competing to research and develop iPS cells, which can be grown into different body cells, in hopes that iPS cells can be applied to various fields including regenerative medicine.

Japan must not miss the boat--the government should take the initiative to improve the support system for clinical applications of iPS cells. There is no time to waste.

The aim of regenerative medicine is to replace or repair organs and tissues damaged by disease or injury with new cells.

The fact that Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, the creator of iPS cells, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine shows that Japan is leading the world in the basic research of regenerative medicine.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has decided to subsidize Yamanaka's iPS research with about 20 billion yen to 30 billion yen over about 10 years, to provide him with a stable research environment with long-term assistance.

It is crucial for the government to continue implementing such measures based on a strategic vision.


Delays in therapeutic application

However, there is a big problem in Japan's regenerative medicine--although the nation has a remarkable record in basic research, it lags behind other countries in therapeutic application. This problem is not limited to iPS cells research.

Sheets of laboratory-grown skin cells have already been used to treat burns. However, domestically, only one other regenerative treatment--for cartilage tissue--is approved by the government, while about 50 treatments have been approved globally.

One of the underlying reasons why Japan lags behind other countries in therapeutic application is said to be a problem with clinical tests. The efficacy and safety of treatments and drugs are confirmed through clinical tests conducted on patients. However, many of the nation's hospitals are relatively small, making it difficult for them to find patients willing to participate in clinical tests.

It is necessary for the government to establish hospitals that will play a leading role in the nation's clinical tests. Other medical institutions must cooperate with such hospitals to effectively conduct clinical trials. Establishing such a system is important.


Improve quality of clinical studies

The quality of clinical studies conducted should also be improved.

Looking at the number of articles carried in major U.S. and European medical journals, Japan ranked high in basic research, but ranked 25th in clinical research. The number of Japanese clinical research articles carried in such journals is about one-fortieth of the number of U.S. articles, which led the rankings.

This example shows Japan's weakness in clinical research and lower-than-expected achievements in the field.

It is also essential to speed up the governmental approval process for regenerative medicine treatments.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Party of Japan agreed with the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito to establishing a basic law concerning clinical applications of regenerative medicine. The parties should pass a bill on establishing the basic law as soon as possible to prepare guidelines on promoting practical implementation of the technology.

(From the Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 12, 2012)
(2012年10月12日01時44分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月12日 (金)

性犯罪条例 子供を守る手だてを考えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 12, 2012)
Osaka ordinance on sex offenders a model for protection of kids
性犯罪条例 子供を守る手だてを考えたい(10月11日付・読売社説)

Sexual violence leaves children with emotional trauma. Society as a whole should examine how to prevent them from becoming the victims of this heinous crime.

About 4,000 to 5,000 cases of sexual violence against children are recorded by police every year. There must be many more that go undetected.

Many sex offenders tend to repeatedly commit similar acts of abuse. According to the National Police Agency, 105 of 740 sex offenders against children who were released from prison from 2005 to 2010 were found to have later committed similar acts. Moreover, 57 of them reportedly did so in their first year out of prison.

How can sex offenders against children be deterred from committing similar acts? This should be the main pillar of measures to protect youngsters from sexual violence.

In this regard, an ordinance the Osaka prefectural government put into effect just this month is worthy of attention.

If people who sexually assaulted victims younger than 18 live within the prefecture after being released from prison, the ordinance obligates them to report their personal information--such as address and kind of crime--to the prefectural government over the five years after they completed their terms. Such residents are subject to a civil fine if they fail to do so.

It is reportedly the first ordinance of its kind in the nation.


Social rehabilitation

It should be noted that the ordinance features measures to help sex offenders against children reintegrate into society as a way to encourage them to report their information to the prefectural government. It calls for offering them job-search assistance in collaboration with Hello Work job placement offices.

Clinical psychotherapists also will offer residents subject to the ordinance counseling that is expected to be effective in helping them control their sexual impulses.

Such counseling is already offered to prison inmates, but they cannot continue receiving it once they are released into society. Therefore, the measure aims to allow them to continue receiving the treatment even after serving out their terms.

It can be expected that the ordinance could deter those released from prison from sexually assaulting children again because they know that the Osaka prefectural government knows their whereabouts.

However, the prefectural government has no way to find where past offenders live after being released from prison if they do not report their criminal record to the prefectural government. Moreover, they do not have to report their information once they move to areas outside Osaka Prefecture. This illustrates the limits of what the ordinance alone can do.


National measures needed

Therefore, it is important for the central government to take the initiative in beefing up measures to prevent sexual violence against children.

After a girl was kidnapped and murdered in Nara in 2004, the NPA began receiving information from the Justice Ministry regarding individuals released from prison after serving terms for sexual offenses against children. Based on that information, officers from prefectural police headquarters nationwide can confirm the whereabouts of those people, mainly by visiting their houses.

The NPA receives information on those who have sexually assaulted children younger than 13. However, consideration should be given to the idea of expanding the ages of children covered by this measure to those younger than 18, just as Osaka Prefecture's ordinance does.

It is important for the central government to use effective steps taken by local governments as models for action.

Some states in the United States require sexual offenders to register with local authorities and reveal their status to local residents. In South Korea, meanwhile, those released from prison are required to carry Global Positioning System tracking devices to make their whereabouts known.

Overseas efforts like these should be reference points for coming up with measures for our nation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 11, 2012)
(2012年10月11日01時27分  読売新聞)

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尖閣国有1か月 長期化する対日圧力に備えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 12, 2012)
Prepare for prolonged pressure from China over Senkakus
尖閣国有1か月 長期化する対日圧力に備えよ(10月11日付・読売社説)

One month has passed since the government put three of the Senkaku Islands under state control. There is no sign that China's pressure on Japan will wane. The government should make necessary preparations on the assumption that the confrontation over the islands will lengthen.

China decided not to send its finance minister or the governor of the People's Bank of China to the plenary session of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, which are scheduled to open in Tokyo on Friday. The decision apparently aims at demonstrating to the world its protest against Japan over the Senkaku issue.

The world's second-largest economy is behaving as if it is showing little regard for a venue for the discussion of global economic issues. Such an attitude will never win the understanding of the international community.

Following anti-Japan demonstrations that spread across China, the Chinese government allowed people to stage a campaign to boycott Japanese products. Unit sales of Japanese carmakers, including Toyota Motor Corp., substantially dropped in China in September. Adverse impacts on Japanese companies' business are spreading.

Also, many Chinese tourists have canceled visits to Japan, dealing a serious blow to airline companies and the tourism industry.


Avoid risky compromise

Under tangible and intangible pressure from China, Japanese business circles are asking the government to quickly resolve the situation. Referring to Japan's diplomacy toward China, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said, "We can't concede what we can't concede, but we want to explore what is possible."

However, the government must not improvise its policies on the fly.

If the government easily compromises on the issue, Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands itself could be put in danger.

For years, China has made it a national policy to expand its territorial and maritime interests. Its goal for the time being is that Japan admit the existence of a territorial dispute over the islets and agree to sit at the negotiating table to discuss it. Beijing is expected to relentlessly apply pressure by various means until it extracts concessions from Japan.

However, the amount of international trust that China will lose by unilaterally continuing its diplomacy of pressure against Japan must be substantial.

The government has unofficially decided to appoint Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Masato Kitera as the new ambassador to China to succeed Shinichi Nishimiya, who died before leaving for China to start his official duties as envoy. We urge the government to use the replacement of the ambassador to China as an opportunity to carefully seek common ground between Tokyo and Beijing.


China held at bay for now

China is continuing to make its presence felt by sending surveillance ships to waters near the Senkaku Islands.

However, Beijing has refrained from taking any action that could further escalate tension. This must be linked to recent moves the United States took to keep Chinese forces in check, such as dispatching two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Western Pacific and showing the news media a joint landing exercise by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Ground Self-Defense Force in Guam last month.

It is clear that the Japan-U.S. alliance is functioning to deter China's provocation.

The Japan Coast Guard, meanwhile, is forced to engage in vigilance and surveillance activities on a 24-hour basis. It has sent its patrol ships and boats from across the country to areas around the Senkaku Islands.

As long as it is necessary to maintain this preparedness for the long term, the government must take all possible measures, such as securing the necessary number of JCG personnel.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 11, 2012)
(2012年10月11日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月11日 (木)

オスプレイ配備 より強固な日米同盟の象徴に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 11, 2012)
Osprey should be symbol of stronger Japan-U.S. alliance
オスプレイ配備 より強固な日米同盟の象徴に(10月10日付・読売社説)

The U.S. military's new MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft have been deployed to Okinawa Prefecture.

The government must unbendingly continue its efforts to explain the purpose of the aircraft's deployment and its safety to local people concerned.

During a meeting with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sought support for basing the Ospreys at the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station. "The major premises of the deployment are that it can be done safely and give utmost consideration to the daily lives of local residents," Noda said.

Nakaima pressed for the deployment to be reviewed, saying, "The Futenma base is located in a populous area, and it can't be said [the deployment] is safe in some aspects." The governor also handed Noda a written request that demanded the Japan-U.S. agreement on ensuring the safety of Osprey operations be followed to the letter.

To ensure the Ospreys operate safely, the government made various efforts such as conducting examinations of the aircraft, holding consultations in the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee and reaching an agreement on safety measures in the committee.


Safety risks overblown

Some residents in Okinawa Prefecture have reported witnessing Ospreys fly in the helicopter mode used for vertical takeoffs and landings while in the skies above populated areas. They pointed out that this would be a violation of the Japan-U.S. agreement.

Nevertheless, the safest way to operate aircraft changes depending on such factors as weather conditions. It is out of the question that the U.S. forces would choose dangerous flight operations. We consider it unreasonable to immediately judge, based on the flight mode alone, that the agreement has been violated.

The accident rate for the MV-22 Osprey is lower than the overall average for aircraft operated by the U.S. Marine Corps. In particular, the accident rate for the Osprey's first 100,000 flight hours is the lowest among the marines' aircraft. Based on this data, we think it is wrong to claim the Osprey is an extremely dangerous aircraft.

More importantly, the deployment of Ospreys strengthens the Japan-U.S. alliance and contributes to stability in Asia.

China is stepping up its naval and air force activities in the East China Sea, which includes waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Given the hefty increases in China's defense spending, it can be assumed that Beijing intends to continue beefing up and modernizing its vessels and aircraft over the mid- and long-term.


Wide array of operations

Compared with CH-46 transport helicopters--the U.S. forces' current transport workhorse--Ospreys are far superior in terms of cruising speed and flight range. The new aircraft will help the marines improve their rapid response capabilities and strengthen the deterrent of U.S. military forces in Japan as a whole, not only as part of a strategy toward China.

Furthermore, the Ospreys will do more than just jump into action in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula and when defending remote islands. The aircraft will play significant roles in times of peace, such as disaster response operations and providing humanitarian aid.

Noda should factor these points into his argument as he tries to win over Nakaima and other local government officials concerned.

To make maximum use of the Osprey's capabilities, it is essential that U.S. forces conduct joint exercises with the Self-Defense Forces, in addition to drills on their own.

In mid-October, the Ospreys are expected to begin full-scale operations in Okinawa Prefecture. Exercises using SDF bases elsewhere in the nation are likely to take place sometime in the future.

These exercises should be steadily conducted to help reduce the excessive burden Okinawa Prefecture shoulders in hosting U.S. bases, by sharing the load around the nation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 10, 2012)
(2012年10月10日01時09分  読売新聞)

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復興予算「転用」 被災地支援が後回しでは困る

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 11, 2012)
Aid to disaster-stricken areas must be given priority
復興予算「転用」 被災地支援が後回しでは困る(10月10日付・読売社説)

Fiscal allocations for the reconstruction of areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake have been used for projects not directly related to disaster-stricken areas.

This diversion of funds cannot be ignored.

Under pressure from the Liberal Democratic Party at the House of Representatives Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration, the Finance Ministry and other ministries listed projects under way. Many of the projects are suspected of not being essential to reconstruction.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry earmarked the cost for dealing with Sea Shepherd, an antiwhaling organization, as part of its reconstruction budget. Its reasoning is that unless antiwhaling protests can be halted, it will affect the reconstruction of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which has whale processing facilities.

The Justice Ministry allocated funds for vocational training programs at prisons in Saitama Prefecture and elsewhere on the grounds that inmates may work in disaster-stricken areas after being released. This argument is hardly persuasive.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has provided a subsidy to a contact lens manufacturing plant in Gifu Prefecture because the plant procures materials from the disaster-stricken region.


Okada's lame excuse

Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada explained at a news conference that "because we had to compile a huge budget within a short period, we didn't have time to go into details."

Based on its basic reconstruction policy, the government originally estimated 19 trillion yen would be required for reconstruction in the first five years. A total of 18 trillion yen was allocated in the first to third supplementary budgets for fiscal 2011 and in the initial budget for fiscal 2012.

The budgets are aimed at decontaminating areas affected by the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, rebuilding infrastructure damaged by the earthquake-triggered tsunami and disposing of debris.

Under the pretext of using tax hikes as a major resource to carry out reconstruction, the residential tax and income tax will be increased over 10- and 25-year periods, respectively.

The government offices insisted on the validity of their budget allocations, arguing that the basic reconstruction policy includes such wording as "antidisaster measures will be carried out across the nation" and "reconstruction of the disaster-devastated areas will be impossible without revival of the national economy."

It is true that measures also must be taken in other areas to prepare for disasters and prevent the hollowing out of industry.


Significant delays

However, an anything-goes budget cannot be tolerated given the significant delays in the key reconstruction projects.

If government offices earmark spending even for projects that should be dealt with normally by the state budget because the reconstruction budget does not have a strict ceiling, it will invite a strong backlash from people who cooperated in the government's tax increase plans.

On this matter, the LDP is calling for screening the projects although the Diet is not in session. The Diet must scrutinize whether the reconstruction budget is being used appropriately.

Implementation of the budget has been delayed in disaster-stricken areas. Only 60 percent of the 15 trillion yen earmarked for fiscal 2011 was used before the fiscal year ended on March 31, 2012. Concerns have been voiced about the differences between what is in the budget and what is needed.

Tatsuo Hirano, state minister for disaster reconstruction, said, "We want to compile a budget for next fiscal year that will give priority to disaster-stricken areas." The government must make arrangements quickly so that the necessary funds can be allocated to these areas.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 10, 2012)
(2012年10月10日01時09分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月10日 (水)

環境税導入 企業と家計の負担が重すぎる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 10, 2012)
Green tax a big burden on businesses, households
環境税導入 企業と家計の負担が重すぎる(10月9日付・読売社説)

An environment tax aimed at dealing with global warming was introduced this month amid a host of challenges posed by dramatic changes in the energy situation.

The tax was imposed in addition to the petroleum and coal tax levied on oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels.

The tax rates will be raised again in two phases--in April 2014 and April 2016--bringing a projected additional tax revenue of 260 billion yen. This revenue is said to be aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy sources and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, measures to deal with global warming are necessary. However, introduction of the environment tax was studied before the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

Originally, the government aimed to incorporate the environment tax in a tax system reform bill for fiscal 2011 but opposition from the Liberal Democratic Party prevented that. A bill calling for introduction of the tax in fiscal 2012 was passed by the Diet in March this year. However, we must question the propriety of introducing this tax as the bill is an unrevised version of the original one and fails to take into account changes in the situation.


End users will suffer

Electric power companies have sharply increased imports of fossil fuels for thermal power plant operations to make up for the suspension of nuclear power plant operations. This has forced the utilities to bear heavier tax burdens.

The environment tax is paid by businesses using fossil fuels. But they pass this on in the form of higher electricity and gas charges, so consumers and other end users inevitably shoulder the burden.

Except for Tokyo Electric Power Co., utilities plan for the time being to postpone hikes in rates following the introduction of the environment tax. But if their business performances deteriorate due to a rise in fuel costs, they will find it unavoidable to increase rates.

Because of fierce price competition, many gas stations have kept their prices unchanged as they cannot pass on the tax increase to their customers. The financial burden to be borne by the gas station industry is estimated to exceed 10 billion yen in the current fiscal year alone.

Unless something is done, oil, chemical and steel industries may suffer a drop in international competitiveness due to an increase in the burden they will have to shoulder. Industrial circles naturally are calling for cuts in their tax burdens.

An additional financial burden on households is also worrisome.


Inconsistent stance

The Environment Ministry estimates that the average family will face an additional financial burden of about 1,200 yen a year. But it must be noted that power rates have just been raised following full-fledged implementation of the feed-in tariff system in July.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations have been inconsistent in their environment and energy policies. The government's policy to end reliance on nuclear power generation runs counter to its measures against global warming. It is impossible to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Under such circumstances, introduction of the environment tax ahead of other options will not win public understanding.

The government has suggested various ways of using the tax revenue, including subsidizing local government energy-saving projects. But implementation of many of these projects is far from urgent or unlikely to be highly effective. The government must reconsider the environment tax, including the advisability of raising tax rates in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2012)
(2012年10月9日01時27分  読売新聞)

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ノーベル賞 山中氏への支援体制を手厚く

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 10, 2012)
Beef up support for research of Nobel laureate Yamanaka
ノーベル賞 山中氏への支援体制を手厚く(10月9日付・読売社説)

Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

We offer our heartiest congratulations to him for winning this prestigious prize.

It is the first time in 25 years that a Japanese won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The only other Japanese laureate in this field was Susumu Tonegawa, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1987.

Yamanaka won the prize for developing a technology to reprogram somatic cells--a technology to return somatic cells such as skin cells to a state immediately after fertilization--the beginning of life. He was awarded the prize jointly with British scientist John Gurdon.

After fertilization, cells develop into specific cells of various tissues and organs as they grow and gradually age. Yamanaka's research reversed this process, which previously went in only one direction.

It was an epoch-making achievement. Since Yamanaka announced results of his studies in 2006, his name has been at the top of the list of front-running Nobel candidates every year.


Reprogramming cells

Yamanaka won the prize only six years after the announcement of his findings, probably due to the high expectations for the application of the technology in the medical field.

Cells reprogrammed using Yamanaka's technology are called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. Organs and tissues damaged by diseases and injuries could theoretically be replaced with cells made from iPS cells. Such "regenerative medicine" is not just a dream anymore.

For instance, the technology could be used to treat a patient paralyzed from the waist down due to a damaged spinal cord. Injecting nerve cells developed from iPS cells made from the patient's skin cells might regenerate his nerves and enable him to walk.

Although Yamanaka's studies are still at the basic research stage, the technology has the potential to completely innovate medical technologies in the future.

Kyoto University, where Yamanaka works, has obtained international patents on iPS cells as part of its efforts to stay at the top of research and development in this field.


Japan lags other nations

However, the United States and some European countries, for instance, have jumped ahead in research aimed at actually putting the technology to practical use. Yamanaka has repeatedly sounded the alarm about this development, saying, "The United States and Europe are way ahead in terms of research funds and human resources."

In these nations, major pharmaceutical companies have been spending huge funds to advance iPS research. A shortage of researchers is not a problem for them.

Japan lags behind, not only in the field of iPS cells, but also in research systems for new drugs and treatment techniques.

Yamanaka's Nobel Prize success is a prime opportunity for the whole nation to reinforce efforts to energize research labs.

Yamanaka's technology has also generated a new problem. Some observers have raised concerns that in research that fertilizes eggs with sperm, both created using iPS cell technology, a new life would be born through an abnormal reproduction process.

Consideration of this issue from a bioethics viewpoint should not be neglected.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2012)
(2012年10月9日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 9日 (火)

シニア消費 日本経済を牽引する団塊世代

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 9, 2012)
Baby boomers' consumption could be driving force for economy
シニア消費 日本経済を牽引する団塊世代(10月8日付・読売社説)

Consumption by elderly people has been picking up recently.

We hope their purchasing power will give the nation's economy a shot in the arm.

Annual consumption by elderly people--mainly those aged 60 and older, including postwar baby boomers--topped 100 trillion yen for the first time in 2011. It accounted for 40 percent of domestic consumption.

Monthly consumption expenditure per household whose head is aged 65 to 69 has been on an upward trend. The growth rate of expenditure for this age group is above the average for all demographics.

After retiring, elderly people tend to withdraw savings they squirreled away while they were working to spend on products they need or want. In economics, this is known as the "life-cycle hypothesis" (LCH).

In addition to this special characteristic, many baby boomers, who are happy to spend their money and have led their generation, started turning 65 this year. The baby boomers have apparently been adding momentum to unconventional patterns of consumption.


Elderly population growing

The proportion of people 65 and older has reached 24 percent of the population. This figure is expected to top 30 percent in 2030. It is important to maintain the consumption trend of senior citizens as an engine supporting the economy.

Already business activities targeting seniors with time and money on their hands, such as supermarkets that open early in the morning and around-the-world cruises, have become popular.

However, many companies seem unable to shake off their traditional mindsets. Today's senior citizens are not all modest old folks. They are very active and quite a few are willing to splash out for things they feel are significant, even if they usually closely watch their pennies in everyday life.

It is not only consumption of tangible objects that is thriving, but also courses at culture schools and music schools, such as piano lessons. This suggests elderly people value spending time or having experiences that provide psychological satisfaction.

They are enthusiastic about staying healthy and favor items that help slow the aging process, which has been a boon for sports clubs and cosmetics that keep them looking younger.


Think outside the box

Potential money-spinners can be found in areas that many businesspeople assume would appeal more to young people. For instance, many elderly men are interested in sports cars. Many are accustomed to using personal computers and smartphones. The Internet is a familiar part of their daily life. They could contribute to the expansion of e-commerce.

We hope every corporation will sniff out the needs of elderly people and use their wisdom to develop or provide innovative products and services as well as cultivate new markets.

When baby boomers turned 60 in 2007 through 2009, consumption did not pick up as much as expected. Factors behind this included growing concern over whether these baby boomers could keep working until they reached 65, and sluggish stock prices after the so-called Lehman shock.

The government must help erase elderly people's worries for the future by, for instance, implementing policies that will ensure social security systems can be stably maintained.

If the willingness to spend among the elderly encourages greater consumption among working generations, the Japanese economy would undoubtedly have a bonanza.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 8, 2012)
(2012年10月8日01時27分  読売新聞)

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体育の日 運動習慣身につけ体力向上を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 9, 2012)
Get children into habit of regular physical exercise
体育の日 運動習慣身につけ体力向上を(10月8日付・読売社説)

Today is Health-Sports Day.

We think this is a good day for the whole family to go out and get some exercise.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has released the results of its fiscal 2011 survey on the physical strength and athletic ability of Japanese. This survey has been conducted every year since 1964, when the Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo.

The latest survey found that basic physical ability of primary, middle and high school students to run, throw and jump are showing signs of improvement after years of decline. Nevertheless, their athletic skills remain low compared with the peak results recorded around 1985.

Among 11 year olds, only 34 percent of boys and 27 percent of girls could throw a ball farther than the average scores posted in fiscal 1985. The survey showed that in this activity, the less physical exercise children did, the lower they scored.

Children's dismal physical abilities are probably the result of changing living environments, such as less time spent playing outdoors due to the spread of cell phones and video game consoles.


Start them young

It is important that children acquire the habit of getting plenty of exercise from their early years.

Some schools provide children with playtime before class, letting them jump rope and play tag. It is desirable that even children who are not fond of physical exercise are given as many fun opportunities as possible to exert themselves and build up a sweat.

The survey analyzed how often people of different age categories usually enjoy sports. The number of men and women taking part in sporting activities tends to decline from the latter half of their 20s, and bottom out in their 30s.

The tendency among many young parents to give up sports may have influenced their children's daily habits.

The nation needs more facilities where parents and their children can easily take part in sports. More than 3,000 "comprehensive local sports clubs"--membership clubs managed by residents voluntarily and on their own initiative--dot the nation. Utilizing these clubs can be one idea to get more kids up and moving.


Help kids in disaster-hit areas

Children's physical ability has declined sharply in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

A survey conducted between May and October last year by the Miyagi prefectural board of education found that children in primary, middle and high schools performed worse on average than the previous year in almost every event, such as a 50-meter run and sit-ups.

Temporary school buildings and makeshift homes for evacuees still stand in the grounds of many schools in coastal areas of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, limiting spaces where children can play.

In Fukushima Prefecture, many people remain acutely worried about radioactive contamination stemming from the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Many parents reportedly are reluctant to let their small children play outside.

Children will become important supporters of future communities in disaster-hit areas.

The physical ability survey should continue to be conducted regularly. Securing places where children can run around, such as indoor athletic facilities at places other than schools, is an urgent task.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 8, 2012)
(2012年10月8日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 8日 (月)

首都高速道路 東京再生につながる改修を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 8, 2012)
Revamping Tokyo's expressways could give capital a boost
首都高速道路 東京再生につながる改修を(10月7日付・読売社説)

How should a large-scale renovation be undertaken on Tokyo's aging expressway system?

This is a crucial task that will affect disaster prevention preparations, redevelopment projects and distribution networks in the metropolitan area.

An expert panel of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has compiled a package of recommendations that call for the elevated Inner Circular Route to be shifted underground and for other routes of the weblike network to be revamped. We can understand why the recommendations go further than simply proposing an upgrade of the expressways and instead urge that Tokyo's shutoko tollways be radically overhauled.

We hope the ministry will launch studies with the Tokyo metropolitan government and Metropolitan Express Co., the operator of the network, about specifics of the envisioned changes.

Tokyo's expressways extend across the capital and three neighboring prefectures, making the network a major transport artery for the entire national economy.


Dangerous curves, junctions

This year marks the 50th year since the first section of the expressway system opened. About 30 percent of the network's 300 kilometers was built at least 40 years ago.

The expressways need repairs at nearly 100,000 locations, a threefold increase from seven years ago. Temporary fixes are approaching the limit of their usefulness.

To build as many expressways as possible in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, most were constructed above existing roads and waterways to avoid land procurement problems. The result is that 95 percent of expressways are elevated or in tunnels, making it an unusual network by global standards.

The ministry panel focused its discussions on the Inner Circular Route because it has many tight curves and hazardous junctions on roads threading their way through densely built-up areas. Traffic accidents and congestion occur frequently. In addition, making expressways more earthquake-resistant is urgently needed in preparation for an expected powerful epicentral quake with its focus below Tokyo.

One of the panel's recommendations was to dismantle elevated sections that spoil Tokyo's landscape and hang ominously over areas and people below. This could be a good option for a new expressway system.

The biggest problem, of course, will be coming up with the more than 4 trillion yen that would be needed for this massive project.

Considering the increasingly stringent government finances, the panel quite rightly pointed out that restructuring the expressways "should be funded not by counting on government money as much as possible, but instead mainly by toll revenues."


Draw lessons from overseas

However, a large jump in tolls could earn the ire of expressway users. Harnessing private-sector funds as much as possible by such means as selling land that will become vacant in prime locations after elevated sections are dismantled should be scrutinized.

About 60 percent of vehicles that use the Inner Circular Route simply drive through the heart of Tokyo. This is a major cause of the chronic traffic jams, a situation that must be taken into account in remodeling the expressways.

Some observers argue that the Inner Circular Route could be done away with by improving routes that form a concentric pattern in outer areas of the Inner Circular Route, such as the Central Circular Route and Tokyo Outer Ring Road, or Gaikando.

The reconstruction of expressways has rejuvenated the central part of many major cities, such as Seoul, Seattle, Duesseldorf and Paris. We hope these cities provide useful references for Tokyo's case.

The Tokyo metropolitan expressway system is not alone in nearing the end of its expected service life. Many roads, bridges and water and sewerage systems built by the central and local governments across the country during Japan's high-growth days also are becoming decrepit.

Renovating Tokyo's expressway network, if done successfully, could be a good model for upgrading aging infrastructure throughout the country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 7, 2012)
(2012年10月7日01時27分  読売新聞)

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原子力防災 実効性ある対策作りを急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 8, 2012)
Effective nuclear safety measures urgently needed
原子力防災 実効性ある対策作りを急げ(10月7日付・読売社説)

Lessons learned from the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. must be applied in nuclear disaster management measures in the future.

The newly established Nuclear Regulation Authority has revealed a draft of new guidelines on measures to protect local residents in the event of a nuclear accident. \

The authority plans to finalize the guidelines by the end of this month. The guidelines require municipalities concerned to draw up localized nuclear disaster management plans by March.

The most important point in the draft guidelines is that the area in which careful preparations must be made for a nuclear crisis is expanded to within a 30-kilometer radius of a nuclear plant from the current eight- to 10-kilometer radius.

The new requirement follows the nuclear disaster management guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

If the draft guidelines are officially endorsed, the number of municipalities required to draw up antidisaster plans will sharply rise to 135 from 45 at present. They will include areas that have never dreamed of preparing for a possible nuclear crisis.


Do not repeat confusion

In the Fukushima nuclear accident, the central government and municipalities concerned issued mixed and confusing evacuation instructions, forcing residents to move from place to place for a long time.

Residents in some areas were forced to stay indoors without food supplies for more than a week. Such a situation should never recur.

Affected municipalities and prefectures are expected to draw up useful emergency plans such as detailed instructions on evacuation routes in each area.

Especially, municipalities within a five-kilometer radius of a nuclear plant need carefully thought-out evacuation plans. According to the draft guidelines, residents in those areas must evacuate immediately in the face of a possibly imminent nuclear disaster. The municipalities will have to come up with measures to minimize confusion at the time of evacuation.

The draft guidelines also stipulate that iodine tablets will be distributed in advance to households within a 50-kilometer radius of nuclear facilities to protect thyroid glands of local residents from radiation exposure in case of a nuclear crisis.

This measure will be taken based on a fact that radioactive iodine from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was scattered over a wide range of areas.

Disaster-management requires close coordination between the central government and local governments concerned. The lack of such coordination at the time of the Fukushima nuclear accident has been severely criticized by the Diet and government commissions that investigated the accident.


Sharing info on nuclear crisis

Only the central government can grasp the actual situation arising from a nuclear accident and the resulting amount of radioactive contamination. It must build a system to quickly provide municipalities concerned with high-priority information.

Some of the municipal governments demand the central government seek their consent before reactivating idle nuclear power reactors because the municipalities are located in areas that require careful preparations against a nuclear crisis under the draft guidelines.

However, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said drawing up a nuclear accident management plan is not a required condition when the authority judges the safety of a nuclear plant.
"The regulation authority should not be involved," Tanaka said."It's an issue between power utilities and local governments."

We think this is a reasonable judgment. The regulation authority should focus its energy on consistently improving the safety of nuclear plants from a technological point of view.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 7, 2012)
(2012年10月7日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 7日 (日)

女性宮家案 皇室活動の安定へ議論深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 7, 2012)
Govt should deepen discussions to maintain Imperial activities
女性宮家案 皇室活動の安定へ議論深めよ(10月6日付・読売社説)

To ensure the smooth continuity of Imperial family activities, setting a direction on the issue is a step forward.

The government has released a summary review of its proposal for future Imperial family systems, based on experts' opinions. It states that consideration should be given to the idea of enabling female members to retain their Imperial status after marriage to commoners and to create their own Imperial branches.

We consider this idea reasonable. It is also understandable that the government would limit such retention of Imperial status only to naishinno princesses--daughters and granddaughters of the Emperor--to curb fiscal spending.

Currently, the Imperial family consists of the Emperor and 21 other members. Prince Hisahito, the eldest son of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, is the only male child in the Imperial family.

The Imperial House Law stipulates that female members of the Imperial family relinquish their Imperial status after marrying commoners.


Shrinking Imperial family

The summary review expresses strong concern that a decrease in the number of Imperial family members, as a result of female members losing their Imperial status after marriage, could make it difficult for the family to maintain its official activities.

Six of the eight unmarried female members of the Imperial family, including Princess Mako, the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, have already reached the age of majority.

If discussions over the status of Imperial women is prolonged, it could affect their marriage prospects.

In light of this, it is rational for the government to speed up work to consider creating female Imperial branches with the understanding that opinions of the female Imperial family members will be reflected.

In the latest discussion, the government made sure that no revisions would be made to Article 1 of the Imperial House Law, which says that only male descendants from the male line of Imperial ancestors can succeed to the throne.

The government stopped short of taking up the issue of Imperial succession probably because it gave top priority to moving the discussion forward without letting it stall over a controversial matter.

However, the proposed system of allowing female members of the Imperial family to establish their own Imperial branches after marriage poses a new question as to whether their husbands and children should be given Imperial status. The government did not elaborate on this issue in the proposal, only listing the options of giving or not giving Imperial status to them.


Opposition to female branches

During hearings from experts, some of them expressed strong opposition to the idea of creating female Imperial branches. They criticized the idea because creating such a system could make it possible for a member of a female line to succeed to the throne, and that would break Imperial traditions.

Apparently taking such a view into consideration, the summary review calls for female Imperial branches to exist for only one generation.

The government also proposed that female members participate in Imperial activities as national public servants after losing their royal status upon marriage.

However, this idea is unlikely to stave off the decline in the number of Imperial family members.

The government said it will ask for public comments on future Imperial family systems. It needs to continue discussions toward revising the Imperial House Law.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 6, 2012)
(2012年10月6日01時06分  読売新聞)

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秋の臨時国会 先送りは政権の責任放棄だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 7, 2012)
Govt must convene Diet swiftly and not abdicate responsibility
秋の臨時国会 先送りは政権の責任放棄だ(10月6日付・読売社説)

Moves are afoot that may lead to postponement of talks between the leaders of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the two major opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, as well as delay the convocation of an extraordinary Diet session that was scheduled for this autumn.

This undoubtedly runs contrary to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's stated goal of realizing "politics capable of making resolute decisions."

The LDP's new president, Shinzo Abe, met Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi on Friday, and they agreed to pressure Noda to dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election this year, based on the prime minister's pledge in August to do so "sometime soon."

In the meeting, Yamaguchi said voting and vote counting for a general election should be completed no later than Dec. 9, a date he considered a "commonsense" time limit.

The heads of the two major opposition parties also confirmed they would press the prime minister in a meeting of the three parties' chiefs to clearly explain how he would pass a bill submitted by the government to enable the issuance of deficit-covering bonds.


Govt, DPJ bear more blame

Noda's pledge to dissolve the lower house soon was part of the three-party agreement reached over comprehensive reform of the social security and tax systems. We see the demand made by the LDP and Komeito for this pledge to be fulfilled as reasonable.

A delay in passing the bond bill would force the government to cut back on spending called for in the state budget, which could adversely impact local government finances and people's lives. The opposition camp, therefore, should not make approval of the bond bill contingent on dissolving the lower house.

However, more problematic by far is how the government and the DPJ have dealt with these matters.

It should be noted that it was Noda's idea to hold a meeting of the leaders of the three parties, as he wanted to "reconfirm the three-party agreement" on social security and tax reform.

However, the prime minister and his party have failed even to sound out the LDP and Komeito about the feasibility of a meeting of the heads of the three parties, despite a full week having passed since Abe became LDP president. We feel the DPJ sorely lacks the sense of responsibility required of a ruling party.

Moves by DPJ lawmakers to leave the party have continued even after the party's leadership election last month. If eight more DPJ Diet members were to bolt, the ruling bloc would lose its majority in the lower house.

The party also fears that if an extraordinary Diet session were convened without an agreement in place with the LDP and Komeito on key issues, the ruling camp would be unable to defeat a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, thus forcing the prime minister to dissolve the lower house.


No excuse for procrastination

The revelation that a prefectural DPJ chapter headed by Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka received donations from a company run by a Taiwan national has dealt a fresh blow to the Noda administration.

Earlier, the DPJ faced two similar scandals where political donations from foreign nationals, which are banned by the Political Funds Control Law, were accepted by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Seiji Maehara, the current state minister in charge of national policy.

The fact that Tanaka was appointed to the Cabinet without sufficient investigation into whether he was free of such problems makes us question the DPJ's capacity to govern.

The government choosing not to convene a Diet session for fear of being brought to task by the opposition over these issues would be a grave mistake in terms of priorities.

No time must be wasted in passing the bill to allow deficit-covering bonds to be issued, as well as legislation to rectify vote-value disparities in lower house elections. These urgent political tasks must be accomplished through an extraordinary Diet session as early as possible.

The Noda Cabinet should not be allowed to put off convening the Diet while trying to shift the blame for being unable to issue deficit-covering bonds to the opposition and asserting the lower house cannot be dissolved because of the "state of unconstitutionality" of the electoral system.

It is questionable whether any administration that fails to address policy matters and attempts to delay dissolution of the lower house is fit to survive.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 6, 2012)
(2012年10月6日01時06分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 6日 (土)

原発再稼働判断 政府の責任回避は許されない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 6, 2012)
Govt must take responsibility on N-reactor reactivation
原発再稼働判断 政府の責任回避は許されない(10月5日付・読売社説)

Confusion within the government is evident over procedures to make judgments on whether to allow the restart of idled reactors at nuclear power stations. It is necessary to quickly establish a system to enable smooth reactivation of the reactors.

The government's Nuclear Regulation Authority has decided it will confirm the safety of nuclear reactors but will not be involved in making judgments on their reactivation.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said judgments on whether to restart nuclear reactors should be made by the ministry and agency in charge of energy affairs, and other NRA commissioners agreed to this stance.

The NRA, launched last month, is tasked with screening the safety of nuclear reactors from specialized and scientific viewpoints. Given the purpose of the law on establishing the NRA, the board's stance on the matter is largely understandable.

It is essential that the NRA explain the results of their safety screenings, as well as the grounds for their conclusions, to local governments and residents near reactors in an easy-to-understand manner. We hope the NRA will take thorough measures for that end.


Too much remains unclear

What is problematic is that it remains unclear how the Prime Minister's Office and other government bodies, including the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, will be involved in the reactor restart decision-making process.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said it had not been considered that the government would hold meetings of concerned Cabinet ministers or others to make such judgments. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano also has said it will be the utility companies that operate nuclear plants who will work to obtain local consent.

It cannot be helped if the government is seen as trying to shirk the most difficult task of persuading local governments and residents.

The government's official policy is to use nuclear plants as an important source of electricity, after their safety is confirmed. If the government leaves all processes concerning reactivation to electricity utilities, we would consider it irresponsible.


Officials must be at forefront

Local distrust in utility companies is deep-seated. In the process to decide the restart of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear plant this summer, relevant Cabinet ministers made persistent efforts to persuade local governments. The ministers also held consultations with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, and reactivation was realized at last.

Unless the government visibly takes on responsibilities, it will be hard for local governments to give consent to reactivation.

Regarding nuclear reactors whose safety is confirmed by the NRA, the government needs to make judgments on reactivation from comprehensive viewpoints with such aspects as the balance in supply and demand taken into account.

In fact, it was the administration of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan that abruptly brought up the idea of requiring stress tests to check the disaster-resistance of reactors, thus raising hurdles and failing to allow the restart of reactors whose regular inspections had been completed.

For the most part, the Noda administration has basically stuck to its predecessor's policy course.

However, Noda once said, "Giving consideration to impacts on the people's daily lives and the economy, the government will be responsible for making final judgments [on reactivation]."

He should not change this stance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 5, 2012)
(2012年10月5日01時15分  読売新聞)

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米大統領選討論 ロムニー善戦でオバマ守勢に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 6, 2012)
Romney's good fight put Obama on the defensive
米大統領選討論 ロムニー善戦でオバマ守勢に(10月5日付・読売社説)

Democratic incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had a face-to-face confrontation Wednesday in Denver in their first televised debate ahead of the U.S. presidential election to be held on Nov. 6.

Presidential debates, three of which will be held this year, are important events that give voters a chance to evaluate the candidates based on aspects of how they look on TV, such as their expressions and demeanor, as well as what they debate.

The debates are critical for Romney to turn the tables on his rival as he sees the voters' support for him remain sluggish partly due to his own verbal lapses. As his approval ratings have been plummeting in closely contested states, there will be no hope for Romney to win the race if he fails in the debates.

In polls taken right after the debate, Romney appeared to be viewed as the winner, probably because his going aggressively on the offensive proved effective. It can be said the ultimate outcome of the race has become uncertain again.


Romney was in his element

Economic and domestic issues, the focus of the first debate, were where Romney, who has succeeded as a corporate executive, is at his strongest.

The U.S. economy is in a critical state. It has been unable to pull itself out of its slowdown, and the jobless rate remains high. No president has ever been reelected since the end of World War II with the jobless rate hovering in the 8-percent range.

The first debate proved advantageous for Romney as he criticized Obama's misadministration in the past four years, while Obama, aiming to be reelected, was forced onto the defensive.

Both candidates are being tested as to how they would realize a robust economic recovery and whether each can present any effective prescriptions to that end. In the debate, the differences in their policies have come to light once again.

Obama's stance attaches great importance to the role of the federal government in creating jobs. He put forward his cherished ideas, such as tax cuts for middle-income taxpayers; the rehiring of former teachers; investment in schools, roads and other public infrastructure; and expanded use of renewable energy.

Romney criticized Obama's budget policies as fiscal expansion, while emphasizing the need to enhance the private sector's vitality by making sizable tax cuts, including ones for upper-income households, and deregulation. He also renewed his public pledges to promote the nation's energy independence and create 12 million jobs.


Details needed on both sides

How can financial resources be secured? Or how can such a large-scale job creation be realized without economic stimulus measures through more government spending? In the economic stimulus measures put forward by the two candidates, there are more than a few that need to be worked out in detail.

U.S. fiscal deficits have topped the 1 trillion dollars mark for four fiscal years in a row. The challenge of putting the fiscal house in order is an important task on which no time can be wasted.

In his budget-cutting plan to trim the deficit, Obama does not treat national defense spending as an exception. But Romney opposes cuts in such spending. How will fiscal rehabilitation affect future U.S. military strategy, which attaches importance to Asia? This is also an issue that is related to the national security of Japan.

Diplomatic issues will be one of the topics covered in the second and third debates. U.S. policy toward China will probably become a major issue. We would like to pay close attention to how the debates turn out, as they may decide which side will win in the closely contested presidential race.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 5, 2012)
(2012年10月5日01時15分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 5日 (金)

原子力大綱中止 政策迷走に拍車をかけないか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 5, 2012)
Atomic Energy Commission must remain active on nuclear policy
原子力大綱中止 政策迷走に拍車をかけないか(10月4日付・読売社説)

Won't the recent decision by the Cabinet Office's Atomic Energy Commission allow the nation's nuclear energy policy to veer even further off course? We cannot help but feel uneasy about this.

The commission has decided to halt work on revising the policy outline for nuclear energy, which serves as the basic policy for using nuclear power.

The commission said it made the decision because nuclear policy will be decided from now on mainly by the Energy and Environment Council, which is comprised of the prime minister and relevant Cabinet members.

Nuclear power experts and others concerned have been sidelined. We doubt that fruitful discussions to set nuclear energy policy will occur in the council.


End of a 56-year history?

The commission of nuclear energy experts and others was established in 1956 through the Atomic Energy Fundamental Law.

In its early years, the commission led the introduction of domestic nuclear power generation and reviewed the nation's basic policy on nuclear energy about every five years. In recent years, the commission has taken charge of international cooperation under the government policy of promoting the export of nuclear power plants.

The Energy and Environment Council views abolishing the commission as an option. The council was established last year by then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who supported breaking away from nuclear energy. The council's existence has no legal basis.

It is this council that has disrupted the nation's energy policy.

In September, it released the Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment--centered around achieving zero nuclear power by the 2030s--but the plan lacked concrete steps to ensure a stable supply of electricity.

Even while the council claims it supports the zero-nuclear option, it allowed construction of new nuclear plants to continue. It also said it will maintain the nuclear fuel cycle to reuse spent nuclear fuel.

These are contradictions--plain and simple. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has stopped working on a basic energy plan.


A collapse of policymaking

Since the commission stopped work on the nuclear policy outline, a blank spot in the nation's energy policy could be created. "Honestly, I can't see any prospects for the process of building up policies," said Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of the commission.

If nuclear energy policy continues to stray off course, the reactivation of the halted nuclear reactors across the country and their operations in the future will become uncertain. Also, local governments hosting nuclear plants could see a serious negative impact on their economies and employment situations.

Growing public distrust and anxiety could make it impossible to win support for the nation's nuclear energy policy.

Japan, a nation without nuclear weapons, is continually asked to explain its use of nuclear energy to the world. But how much can the world trust a nuclear energy policy that is contradictory?

For nuclear energy policy, it is indispensable to have a long-term strategy based on 100-year increments that encompasses every activity from the procurement of nuclear fuel to the final disposal of spent fuel.

Formulation of a firm nuclear energy policy based on the wisdom of experts is an imperative.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 4, 2012)
(2012年10月4日01時39分  読売新聞)

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生活保護改革 自立促す就労支援に本腰を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 5, 2012)
Govt must do more to help welfare recipients find jobs
生活保護改革 自立促す就労支援に本腰を(10月4日付・読売社説)

The number of people receiving welfare benefits in Japan has reached a new record of 2.11 million, and they are expected to receive a total of 3.7 trillion yen this fiscal year.

The government must knuckle down to help people who need financial help become self-reliant.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has drafted a set of measures to help people who need financial help. The measures--the first of their kind--focus on job assistance. The ministry plans to compile a livelihood support strategy by the end of this year and submit related bills during an ordinary Diet session next year.

About 300,000 welfare recipients are working-age people who have no jobs despite being capable of working. The proportion of such recipients has more than doubled over the past decade.

This is apparently the result of the nation's prolonged economic malaise. An increase in the number of nonregular employees who have no employment insurance has become a major contributing factor to this trend.

According to the draft, the ministry would provide welfare recipients with opportunities to try light work in collaboration with local governments, companies and other organizations. This aims to help them restore their life rhythm, thus encouraging them to secure stable jobs.


Rent assistance needed

The draft also proposes a scheme under which a portion of income a welfare recipient earns from work would be accumulated and given in a lump sum when they get off welfare.

It calls for establishing such a framework because welfare recipients have their benefits reduced if they have an income.

We believe it is crucial to introduce measures like this one that motivate welfare recipients to join the workforce.

It also is important to help them find places to live. The draft calls for providing in-kind benefits by having local governments pay their rent to landlords.

This would encourage landlords to rent rooms to welfare recipients because they would no longer have to worry about nonpayment of rent.

While encouraging welfare recipients to help themselves, it is also important to prevent low-income earners from reaching the point where they require welfare benefits.

There have been reports that 25 percent of welfare recipients had parents who also received benefits. They must be helped to break the chain of poverty being passed from parents to children.

Many of these recipients graduated only from middle school or dropped out of high school.
This clearly shows that people from families receiving welfare benefits often have fewer education opportunities than people from households not on welfare.

The nation's small public expenditure on education has been blamed as a major factor for this trend.


Families also have responsibility

The ministry draft calls for providing learning support to children from households receiving welfare benefits, such as collaborating with the private sector to offer remedial classes to meet the needs of their families and local communities.

It is natural that relatives should be asked to explain why they do not support a family member facing financial difficulties even though they have a duty to do so. Even the mother of a popular comedian was recently found to have received welfare benefits.

Of course, it is also necessary to ensure people do not illegally receive welfare benefits.

Nevertheless, the elderly are the fastest growing group among welfare recipients due to the rapid graying of society and an increasing number of senior citizens who receive low pensions.

People who receive only basic pension payments have to get by on just 49,000 yen per month on average.

Reforming the welfare system should be conducted comprehensively along with overhauls in other fields, including employment, education and pensions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 4, 2012)
(2012年10月4日01時39分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 4日 (木)

「尖閣」外交 領有の正当性示す広報戦略を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 4, 2012)
Govt should counter China's propaganda on Senkakus
「尖閣」外交 領有の正当性示す広報戦略を(10月3日付・読売社説)

China's propaganda campaign over the Senkaku Islands has run rampant, conveying false and improper messages to the world.

The Japanese government should counter China's campaign by demonstrating the legitimacy of Japan's territorial claim on the islands to the international community.

The newly reshuffled Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has approved the government's basic policy over the Senkaku Islands, which stipulated that the government will "fulfill its duties of defending the nation's land and territorial waters, including isolated islands, in accordance with international law."

The government should redouble its efforts to tell the world that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's territory.

This is necessary to cope with China's tactics over the islands--on top of flexing its muscles by sending surveillance ships to the waters around the islands, it has also been striving to control the direction of international public opinion. China has launched a propaganda campaign against Japan in the United States and Europe, such as by running ads in major U.S. newspapers claiming that the islands "belong to China."


Don't let China get the upper hand

Japan has maintained a consistent stance over the issue that "there is no territorial dispute over the islands" based on the facts that the nation's territorial rights over the islands have already been established under international law and Japan has effective control over the islands.

Of course, there is no need for the government to change this policy, but if the nation continues ignoring China's claims, those claims may spread across the world. At a recent press conference, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said, "The nation's stance [over the islands] will remain unchanged, but we need to present our stance to the international community in an easy-to-understand manner."
We regard Gemba's remarks as appropriate.

The home page of the Foreign Ministry's website has a new banner labeled "Japan-China relations: Current situation of the Senkaku Islands," which links directly to a page explaining its view on the islands. For next fiscal year, the ministry has requested about 600 million yen for public relations, investigation and research over the nation's territorial integrity, including such work for the Senkaku Islands.

It is essential for the nation to conduct public relations activities tenaciously and with a clear strategic vision.

It is also important to swiftly respond to China's actions at diplomatic events.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi recently made remarks on the Senkaku Islands at the U.N. General Assembly. He claimed that Japan "stole" the islands in 1895 at the end of the Sino-Japanese War, and forced the Chinese government to sign an unequal treaty to cede the islands.

Yang's remarks were a distortion of historical facts. It was totally appropriate for Kazuo Kodama, Japan's deputy U.N. ambassador, to exercise Japan's right to reply in General Assembly debate.


China's claims distort history

Based on international law, the Japanese government incorporated the Senkaku Islands into Japan's territory in January 1895 after confirming that the islands were not under Chinese control. The islands were thus clearly Japanese territory when the two nations signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the Sino-Japanese War, in April that year. Kodama explained the facts to the assembly and concluded that China's claims were untenable.

It was only since the 1970s that the Chinese government began claiming territorial sovereignty over the islands, after the existence of an oil deposit was confirmed beneath the nearby seafloor. Before then, Beijing had never objected to Japan's possession of the Senkaku Islands. This fact clearly supports Japan's claims.

The Chinese government has demanded that Japan admit the existence of a territorial dispute over the islands and settle it through dialogue.

It is important for Japan to have discussions with China to improve the strained relations with the country. However, efforts to advance discussions must never undermine Japan's stance over sovereignty.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 3, 2012)
(2012年10月3日01時17分  読売新聞)

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日銀短観悪化 景気腰折れ回避に全力挙げよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 4, 2012)
All-out efforts needed to avert economic downturn
日銀短観悪化 景気腰折れ回避に全力挙げよ(10月3日付・読売社説)

The national economy has taken another turn for the worse.

The government and the Bank of Japan must step up their vigilance and make all-out efforts to revive economic growth.

The short-term quarterly survey of business sentiment compiled by the Bank of Japan in September showed the diffusion index for large manufacturers' current business conditions deteriorated for the first time in three quarters.

The so-called Tankan survey showed the index for large nonmanufacturers leveled off and a bleak outlook is ahead.

About 70 percent of the more than 10,000 businesses surveyed had sent their responses by early September. Their answers did not fully factor in the effect of the recent chilling of Japan-China relations over the Senkaku Islands. If the survey was taken now, the results would probably have been even more grim.

Seiji Maehara, the new state minister for national policy, said at a news conference held after his appointment, "Fiscal and financial policy will be carried out steadily and seamlessly." The government must act quickly to prevent the economy from worsening.

The biggest concern is the stagnation of foreign demand. The European economic slowdown due to the sovereign debt crisis and slackening growth of China, which is a major exporter to Europe, have dealt a painful blow to Japan's exports and production.


Bold monetary easing vital

The government and the central bank have drawn up a scenario for economic growth recovery in which domestic demand is sustained by reconstruction projects from the March 11, 2011, disaster and subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles, among other factors, before growth is led by foreign demand. This scenario seems to be coming off the rails.

As part of additional monetary easing measures, the central bank on Sept. 19 decided to increase the amount in a reserve fund used to purchase government and corporate bonds by 10 trillion yen to 80 trillion yen. But it has already been proven that this step will not bring about such desired effects as a correction of the strong yen. Such a piecemeal policy approach is totally inadequate for dealing with the problem.

To prevent the yen from becoming even stronger and to underpin business activity, flexible market intervention depending on market trends and bold additional monetary easing measures will be required.

This week's Cabinet reshuffle is a prime chance for the government to rectify previous economic policy blunders.


Drop 'zero-nuclear' policy

To ensure a stable electricity supply, it is absolutely essential that nuclear reactors be restarted after they are confirmed to be safe to operate. It is indispensable that the government withdraw the policy of ending reliance on nuclear power generation--a policy that will accelerate the hollowing-out of industry and hamper nuclear power plant exports.

Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations have persisted with their avowed handout schemes, delaying the implementation of growth strategy policies for an exit from protracted deflation and low growth.

To enhance growth potential amid Japan's declining population, it will be necessary to create new jobs and make more use of women and senior citizens in the workforce.

Nursing care and medical treatment are promising fields where demand is expected to increase with the aging of the population. Regulations restricting new participation must be eased to encourage private business to enter these markets.

It is also essential to support research and development projects in such growth sectors as energy and the environment, and foster new industries that are internationally competitive.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 3, 2012)
(2012年10月3日01時17分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 3日 (水)

野田内閣改造 日本の再生を託し得る布陣か

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 3, 2012)
Can Noda's new Cabinet be entrusted to revive Japan?
野田内閣改造 日本の再生を託し得る布陣か(10月2日付・読売社説)


Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has given favorable treatment to lawmakers seeking cabinet posts and obviously wanted to prevent more members from leaving his party ahead of the upcoming House of Representatives election. The new lineup is characterized by such an inward-looking approach.

Noda launched his third reshuffled Cabinet on Monday. The purpose of the reshuffle, he said, was "to further deepen cooperation between the government and the ruling parties and to strengthen the Cabinet's functions."

The prime minister used a certain amount of ingenuity in the reshuffle by retaining core ministers, such as Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, and appointing lawmakers who held executive posts in the Democratic Party of Japan to key posts.

However, concern cannot be dispelled over whether the reshuffle will serve its purpose.


Rework nuclear plant policy

When considering future national strategy and revival of Japan's economy, we wonder, first of all, why Noda retained Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano, who was responsible for allowing the nation's nuclear power plant and energy policy to stray off course.

Edano played a central role when the government drew up its innovative energy and environmental strategy, which set a target of zero nuclear power plants operating in the 2030s.

Concerning this target, Edano was optimistic, saying, "As long as it's not done the wrong way, it will have a positive impact on the economy."

His remark seems to ignore the various issues that concern business circles, such as the impact mothballing nuclear power plants would have on the Japanese economy, job losses caused by the hollowing-out of industry and a decrease in the number of nuclear power engineers.

Under the circumstances, Edano can only be accused of irresponsibility as the economy, trade and industry minister has to ensure a stable supply of electricity as well as industrial development.

A wide range of cooperation from the business world is essential in developing technological innovations for renewable energy.

Former DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Seiji Maehara, who assumed the position of state minister for national policy, and economic and fiscal policy, pushed the government to decide on the zero nuclear power policy as head of the party's Energy and Environment Research Committee.

At a press conference after assuming his new post, Maehara said, "I'll promote a strategy to increase the nation's power, and work out plans for it." However, how will he overcome deflation and ensure the nation's growth while pushing for a zero nuclear power policy?

Mapping out a mid- and long-term basic energy plan will be a huge task.

In addition to opposition from the business community, the United States, which concluded a cooperation agreement on nuclear energy with Japan, has also expressed strong concern over Japan's nuclear power plant policy. It is crucial for Japan to improve its relationship with the United States.

Maehara, who once served as foreign minister, will find his ability to coordinate policy tested again.


Tanaka's appointment strange

The appointment of Makiko Tanaka as education, culture, sports, science and technology minister is mystifying.

Tanaka assumed the post of foreign minister during the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, but it soon became apparent she lacked even a fundamental knowledge of diplomacy. Her frequent aberrant behavior in dealing with the ministry's bureaucrats led to diplomacy becoming totally dysfunctional.

It is obvious she lacks what it takes to serve as a cabinet minister. Of great concern is that she will lose control again and cause national politics to become chaotic. Noda said he placed great expectations on her communication skills. But if Tanaka's appointment is intended to help the DPJ in its campaign for the next general election, it would be like treating the general public with derision.

An analysis of the list of Cabinet members who were named for the first time indicates their appointments were made as rewards for supporting Noda's reelection as DPJ president and aimed at promoting intraparty unity.

Keishu Tanaka, one of the party's vice presidents and a former member of the now defunct Democratic Socialist Party, was appointed justice minister, while Wakio Mitsui and Ikko Nakatsuka, who both had close connections with former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa, were named health, labor and welfare minister and state minister for financial services, respectively.

Noda's three rivals in the DPJ presidential election and their supporters received no cabinet posts. It seems likely that consideration will be given to their groups in appointing senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries.


Intraparty discord

However, intraparty discord shows no sign of dissipating, and Noda will continue to be pressured over his management of the party.

The prime minister stressed the need for cooperation between the government and ruling parties. His naming of former DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Koriki Jojima as finance minister is symbolic in this respect.

The appointment could serve as an indication that Jojima's connections with the opposition parties will be used to help pass through the Diet a special bill to enable the issuance of deficit-covering government bonds and steadily promote integrated reform of social security and tax systems.

Jojima's capabilities as finance minister will be put to the test during a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank scheduled in Tokyo next week.


Consistency important

It is natural for Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto to retain their posts given the rigorous international environment surrounding Japan.

Negotiations have just started with Russia to resolve the territorial dispute over four islands off Hokkaido. So have talks with North Korea over the abduction issue. It is also urgent to improve relations with China and South Korea, which have been strained over the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima island, respectively.

Six MV-22 Ospreys flew to the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture from the U.S. Iwakuni Air Station on Monday. It is natural that Gemba pointed out the tilt-rotor transport aircraft are "indispensable for security in Japan and East Asia as they are key equipment of the marine corps."

Gemba and Morimoto must make all-out efforts to promote the relocation of the Futenma Air Station and further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance. This will be necessary even as Japan rebuilds diplomatic ties vis-a-vis Beijing and Seoul.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 2, 2012)
(2012年10月2日01時25分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 2日 (火)

原発被害賠償 和解による早期救済が大切だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 2, 2012)
TEPCO must compensate nuclear accident victims quickly
原発被害賠償 和解による早期救済が大切だ(10月1日付・読売社説)

The government should further enhance its system to resolve disputes over compensation for damage caused by the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant so people suffering from the nuclear accident can be helped appropriately and quickly.

By late September, 940,000 compensation claims had been made against Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the nuclear plant, for damage caused by the crisis. The claimants and TEPCO have reached agreements in 860,000 cases. The total compensation has already reached 1.24 trillion yen and will increase further. This shows the seriousness of the accident, which has forced 160,000 local residents to evacuate.

Under a compensation scheme for the damage caused by the crisis, the government first pays evacuees the money and later requires TEPCO to repay it. Compensation is calculated based on criteria set by the government's Committee for Dispute Resolution for Compensating Damages from the Nuclear Power Plant Incident.

The criteria require TEPCO to pay compensation for such expenses as evacuation transportation fees and damage to farmers and other people who lost their businesses due to the crisis.

The agreement ratio has been high in initial compensation negotiations, but many crisis victims are still dissatisfied with the amount of reparations.


Mediation system in action

If their negotiations with TEPCO make little headway, victims can ask the Center for Dispute Resolution for Compensating Damages from the Nuclear Power Plant Incident to mediate. The center, which has a total of 150 lawyers and inspectors, is a subsidiary organization of the committee.

The center started its operations in September last year and has already resolved 560 cases in one year. One of its achievements is increasing the amount of consolation money for people who stayed in areas where evacuation was not officially required but from which many residents voluntarily evacuated.

In an initial compensation guideline, people who voluntarily left places not within the evacuation zones are paid 100,000 yen per person per month, the same amount of consolation money paid to those who evacuated from the zones where residency is prohibited for an extended period of time. But people who stay in areas where evacuation was not officially required but from which many residents voluntarily evacuated are paid about half this amount.

Some stayed alone at their homes in such areas due to their jobs and other reasons after other members of their families evacuated. They are victims of the nuclear accident who are forced to bear various inconveniences and pains. The center has studied such realities and reflected them in settlements.

It is necessary to carry out a relief plan based on the realities of the victims.


Compensation stage crucial

The compensation work will enter a crucial stage soon because negotiations will shift into full swing over compensation for damage to real estate such as land and buildings that evacuees have left behind in their hometowns and farm houses and commercial land that companies cannot use any longer.

An appraisal value used in levying a fixed asset tax is applied to calculate compensation. However, some evacuees took out housing loans when land prices were higher than now. If an evacuee has an old wooden house, its appraisal value will be low.

It is a matter of concern that evacuees who refuse to accept the estimated compensation might appear one after another. In that case, the role of the resolution center will become even more significant. To help victims of the nuclear accident as soon as possible, we hope settlements will be reached before civil suits--which take a lot of time before rulings--are filed.

TEPCO should not apply the committee's criteria automatically to compensation claims. Instead, it should maintain a flexible attitude. As the company that caused the nuclear crisis, TEPCO should not be allowed to cause unnecessary delays in helping the victims.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 1, 2012)
(2012年10月1日01時14分  読売新聞)

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人生90年時代 高齢者も社会の「支え手」に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 2, 2012)
Help elderly people support themselves, others
人生90年時代 高齢者も社会の「支え手」に(10月1日付・読売社説)

With many baby boomers turning 65 this year, the number of Japanese aged 65 or older has topped 30 million for the first time, accounting for 24 percent of the population.

Society as a whole must quickly make preparations to cope with the population's ever-accelerating pace of aging.

In 2050, the average life expectancy is projected to be 83 for men and 90 for women, up from 79 and 86, respectively, at present.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda recently decided on a new outline of measures to cope with the aging society, which took a hard look at the arrival of an era in which more people will live to the age of 90.

The outline's key feature was a call for elderly people, who have been "supported" under the social security system, to become more capable of "supporting" themselves and others if they are willing and able to do so.

Indeed, elderly people today look far more youthful than they once did.

Men aged 65 can expect to live an average of another 19 years, while women likely will live for 24 more years--both about twice as long as people that age shortly after the end of World War II.


Many want to keep working

In physical fitness tests conducted by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the physical strength of elderly people has been improving year after year.

It may be necessary to change conventional thinking that lumps all elderly people under the label of "weak."

Many people in their golden years are willing to work. A Cabinet Office survey found that more than 70 percent of men and women aged 60 or older want to work even after turning 65.

The new outline also set a target of creating "a society that ensures people have the opportunity to work and participate in society throughout their lives."

If elderly people can work and increase their income, consumption and tax revenues will increase. This would not only help rejuvenate the economy but also secure financial sources for social security programs.

To achieve this, more companies will have to employ people aged 70 or older. It is also necessary to provide places where elderly people can volunteer to help with child rearing or nursing care.


Next decade will be crucial

On the other hand, the number of elderly people requiring support from others also will increase. The demand for nursing care and medical care will continue rising sharply until about 2025, when baby boomers turn 75 or older. The coming decade or so will be crucial for determining how society can build a sustainable nursing care system for the elderly.

While the elderly population will increase, people of working age will continue decreasing in step with the declining birthrate. At present, there are about three people of working age to support each elderly person; this figure is forecast to fall to about one 50 years from now.

It is obvious that the current social security system will not be able to withstand such developments.

A national council for social security system reform, scheduled to be established in line with an accord reached among the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, must hold in-depth discussions on how to make the social security system sustainable.

Each and every member of Japanese society needs to consider how they should live a life lasting 90 years, so they can support themselves as much as possible even when they reach an advanced age.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 1, 2012)
(2012年10月1日01時14分  読売新聞)

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2012年10月 1日 (月)

国語世論調査 漢字書く力の低下が気になる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 1, 2012)
Decline in kanji writing ability disturbing
国語世論調査 漢字書く力の低下が気になる(9月30日付・読売社説)

The findings of a recent Cultural Affairs Agency opinion survey on the Japanese language has brought to the fore that people's ability to properly write kanji is deteriorating.

The poll was conducted on people aged 16 or older across the country. They were asked about what impacts electronic means of communication such as personal computers and mobile-phone text-messaging have had on their daily lives.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said their ability to write kanji correctly has weakened.

This figure is up as much as 25 percentage points from 10 years ago.

Undoubtedly, people write letters and other documents by hand less often than they used to. The 67 percent figure can be considered a reflection of this.

According to the survey, an increasing number of people find it cumbersome to write by hand, further proof of a growing tendency to eschew handwriting.


Handwriting essential

In the future, children who have yet to acquire sufficient Japanese language proficiency will communicate with other people more often using computers and cell phones. Under the circumstances, we cannot help but be concerned that children's ability to write kanji may erode further.

On the other hand, the number of kanji taught up until graduation from high schools has increased sharply.

Today, people can generate difficult kanji simply by pressing buttons on a keypad. In response to the changing times, the government revised the list of kanji in common use two years ago.

At that time, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry's Cultural Affairs Council, which played a leading role in updating the list, emphasized that handwriting "is indispensable for mastering kanji and formulating operational skills involving the characters." Attention should be paid anew to the importance of this point.

Repeatedly writing kanji by hand enhances the senses of sight and touch as well as motion perception, which stimulates brain functions, according to experts.

Parents and schools need to drill into children the importance of handwriting.

In addition, it is important that children have opportunities in daily life to get accustomed to kanji by reading literature and other written works. By doing so, children can acquire the skills to correctly use the Japanese language and develop a rich knowledge of expressions.


Afraid of friction?

The latest survey also showed that the number of people who thought it important to "use honorifics in accordance with the listener and context," and those who make it a rule to say "Excuse me" when getting off a train has increased remarkably.

About 80 percent of respondents said they were "careful" of their own choice of words. This tendency was particularly noticeable among young people.

Does this suggest people are increasingly concerned about their use of language because they are afraid of offending others?

The growing use of electronic media might have something to do with this.

It seems possible that the changes in how Japanese use the language offer a snapshot of Japanese society today.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2012)
(2012年9月30日01時36分  読売新聞)

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シャープ再建策 「液晶の雄」挫折は重い教訓だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 1, 2012)
Other firms must learn from Sharp's setback
シャープ再建策 「液晶の雄」挫折は重い教訓だ(9月30日付・読売社説)

Even a company with cutting-edge technology and a strong brand will founder if it makes a mistake in the selection and concentration of its business. The setback of Sharp Corp., dubbed a giant of liquid crystal display panels, is a warning for the Japanese manufacturing industry.

Amid a financial crisis, Sharp has compiled a rehabilitation plan centering on cutting more than 10,000 jobs and selling its television factories abroad. Highly evaluating the plan, Sharp's main financing banks have decided to extend a total of 360 billion yen in loans to the electrical appliance company.

This has temporarily settled Sharp's cash-flow concerns and helped it move a step closer to overcoming its management crisis.

Until several years ago, Sharp enjoyed outstanding business results because of the popularity of its LCD television sets manufactured at its Kameyama plant in Mie Prefecture, known as Kameyama models.

However, amid the yen's soaring appreciation and the weak won, South Korean companies have become more competitive and captured the global market of LCD panels and TV sets, displacing Sharp as the world's leading manufacturer of those products. The marked decline in prices of LCD panels and other products also hurt Sharp.


Overconfidence causes mistake

Sharp spent a huge amount of money three years ago on construction of a state-of-the-art factory in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, to manufacture large LCD panels. But sales did not grow as much as expected, and the factory only worsened earnings results.

The firm declared record losses in its consolidated financial settlement for the business year ending in March, and huge losses are expected in the current term, too.

Success of the Kameyama plant apparently led to overconfidence, causing Sharp to go astray in planning its business strategy.

This shows the grim reality that even a prestigious company with a history of 100 years can be forced to drastically restructure its business.

First, Sharp must quickly enhance areas of its speciality including small and midsize LCD panels for smartphones, the market of which is expected to grow, and home electric appliances and copying machines. Another key factor in profitability is whether the firm can capture markets in emerging economies.

Optimism is out of the question for Sharp, and speed will be a decisive factor in overhauling the company.

Attention will now turn to partnership negotiations between Sharp and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., a major contracted manufacturer in Taiwan. In March, Hon Hai agreed to maintain a ratio of investment in Sharp of 9.9 percent. After the price of Sharp's stock plunged, the companies began renegotiating the partnership, but the talks have made little headway.


Competition in global market

Sharp desperately needs measures to further enhance its financial foundation through a partnership with Hon Hai and boost global sales of small and midsize LCD panels and other products. We hope Sharp will sign an agreement with Hon Hai as soon as possible. However, Sharp must be very wary of the outflow of its most advanced technology.

Japan's manufacturing industry, including electrical appliance manufacturers, are facing the yen's soaring appreciation and intensified global competition. Japanese firms must learn a lesson from Sharp's case and strengthen their competitiveness by developing strategic products that anticipate changing market demand and exploiting growing markets.

The government also has an important role to play in supporting the nation's industry. The government must curb the yen's appreciation and try to secure a stable supply of electricity by reactivating nuclear power reactors around the country. It also must initiate active trade policies such as Japan's early participation in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2012)
(2012年9月30日01時36分  読売新聞)

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