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2013年8月31日 (土)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:不本意なUターン組 /東京

August 04, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Unwilling returnees
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:不本意なUターン組 /東京

Police arrested a man who is believed to have been involved in a murder-arson case in a remote village of Shunan, Yamaguchi Prefecture. He was reportedly hiding in the woods not very far from the crime scene.

It was a very extraordinary case, wherein five out of the village's total of 14 residents were killed. The suspect himself, however, seems to have lived an ordinary life.
The now 63-year-old was probably one of those young people who leave their hometown to go to the city, hoping to follow their dreams or find a better job.

Although once filled with hope, these people's lives become difficult if they have spent several years being unable to secure stable employment, or if they have been laid off. In this case, it becomes very difficult to get married or to stay in a marriage.

After these people hit their 40s, they can't work at any job like they used to because their physical strength has worn out. They also feel that they're too old to start a new career. By the time they are in their 50s, folks back home need somebody to take care of them, and ask their children to come back.

Feeling hopeless about living in the city, they decide to go home. There aren't many jobs available in their towns at all, however -- let alone ones that they want to do. Without friends to talk to, they feel insecure about what will happen to them in the future after their parents die.

I have seen many of my patients in their 40s and 50s leave the city to return to their hometown and live with their parents. I have also signed many medical certificates in case these people ever need to see a psychiatrist back home.

I often wonder about how such people are holding up. I worry about them not being able to fit back into the countryside after spending many years in cities, or becoming isolated after their parents are gone.

Of course, I believe that most of them have found a place where they belong, and that they are living peaceful lives. However, I also think that some people struggle, asking themselves, "what was my life all about?" I wonder what these people need in their lives. Is it family, friends, job, hobbies, money or health? Some of them probably don't have any of these things.

I've heard that an increasing number of people are returning to their homes even though they don't want to. Apart from the arson-murder suspect, I think there might be a new social problem with these people living by themselves in large houses in remote areas after their parents are gone.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年07月30日 地方版

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悪ふざけ投稿 ネット交流に潜む危険な誘惑

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 31, 2013
Prank Internet postings can have serious consequences
悪ふざけ投稿 ネット交流に潜む危険な誘惑(8月30日付・読売社説)

It is deplorable that young people are causing serious problems by taking photos of themselves playing pranks and posting them on Twitter and other social media.

At a convenience store in Kochi, a male employee took a photo of himself lying in a refrigerated case for ice cream and posted it online. The head office of the chain store was inundated with complaints such as “your education of employees is problematic” and “your management of sanitation is doubtful.” The store ended up having its franchise contract terminated.

At a ramen shop in Osaka where two female employees posted photos of one of them on Twitter with the shop’s frozen ingredients in her mouth, the shop was forced to dispose of the foodstuffs and suspend its business.

Due to rash acts by their employees, stores and franchise management companies lost the confidence of the public. It is not unreasonable for the shops to ask such employees to pay damages in addition to being fired.

This recent series of pranks includes one that developed into a criminal case. Two 19-year-old boys who posted a photo of themselves on the roof of a parked police car in Hokkaido were arrested on suspicion of damaging property.

Stern action against such malicious acts cannot be avoided.

Exhibitionism a factor

The young people who caused these problems seem to be exhibitionists who want to attract others’ attention in cyberspace. The boys involved in the Hokkaido incident posted a message saying, “We trampled a patrol car.”

Social media are tools for increasing social contacts by making connections through individuals. If the services are used well, it will be possible to communicate with many people. Some young people may want to show off to get others’ attention, but the problem is how they go about it.

If they had considered the consequences of their acts, the incidents would not have occurred.

Why have actions by young people displaying a considerable lack of common sense become rampant?

Some experts say that people immersed in the Internet world tend to lose normal judgment. They are preoccupied with what they should say and post on the Internet even at work and are tempted to do things that will attract the attention of friends on the Internet.

The incidents all happened within a short period, possibly because messages on the Internet encouraged others to follow suit. This could represent a facet of the situation underscored by the recent survey showing that 520,000 middle and high school students are addicted to the Internet.

With the rapid spread of smartphones, the number of users of social media and other Internet services is expected to continue rising. It is necessary to instruct people how to properly interact with the Internet world both at school and in employee training.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2013)
(2013年8月30日01時28分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月30日 (金)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:もっと「SOS」発信して /東京

August 25, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Elderly living alone should not hesitate to call for help
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:もっと「SOS」発信して /東京

There have been many people losing their lives to heatstroke recently, particularly elderly couples or elderly people living alone.

Once, an acquaintance of mine, an internal medicine doctor who made many visits to patients, told me something: "In the old, dense residential areas of the city nestled between office buildings, no matter which home you go to you will find an elderly couple or an elderly person living alone. Living at the base of state-of-the-art office buildings, their only friends are their television sets. When I think during my visits how there could be people spending their whole days sitting alone in hot rooms, not talking to anyone, it makes me feel down."

That acquaintance said that these elderly people make excuses, like "I like living where I'm used to," or "It's easier being alone," when the truth is that they don't want to impose on others. Even if they have children, they insist they are "fine" and don't let them come and take care of them. They do the same thing when social care workers come to check on them, all because of a deep-seated belief that "one takes care of themselves."

Whenever I hear about this kind of thing, I wonder, "Is borrowing the help of others really imposing on them?" After living and growing old, our bodies may not function like they used to and we may lose our spouses and become alone, but that is all normal and not a failure or something to be ashamed of.

When we reach such a stage, we should be upfront and say, "What should I do from here on? I leave the reigns for someone else to take," and society should respond by reaching out a helping hand. We should receive both physical care and as comfortable a living environment as possible. Plus, if people didn't have to worry about their wellbeing in their later years, they would be bolder in starting businesses and spending money in their younger years.

I once said angrily, "It's really awful that elderly people hole up in their homes and die of heatstroke. Isn't the truly shameful thing that news of these events spreads around the world?" A young acquaintance of mine replied, however, "If we make the services offered to the elderly even nicer than they are now, where will we get the money to pay for it?"

Always asking about "where the money will come from" and "cost performance" may be the current thing to do, but is that really the right attitude for us to have? Are there not things in the world that are more important than money? Many of those elderly holed up in their homes and not wanting to impose do not raise their voices, so I would like to raise a protest of anger in their place.
 なんでも「財源は? 原資は? 費用対効果は?」と発想するのがイマドキ風なのかもしれないが、果たしてそれは正しい態度なのか。世の中には「何をさておいても」ということがあるのではないか。「迷惑をかけたくない」と家へこもる高齢者の多くは、何も要求せず何も申し立てないので、その人たちに代わって、ここは私が大いに怒りの声をあげたいと思う。

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年08月20日 地方版

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全国学力テスト 苦手分野をどう克服するか

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 30, 2013
Use findings of achievement tests to correct students’ weaknesses
全国学力テスト 苦手分野をどう克服するか(8月29日付・読売社説)

It is important to determine where children are weak in each school subject, a task that must be complemented by efforts to reflect such findings in methods for guiding them in their studies.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has published the results of a nationwide achievement test conducted in April. The test, which covered sixth-grade primary school students and third-year middle school students, was intended to examine their basic knowledge about the Japanese language, arithmetic and mathematics, as well as their applied skills in these subjects.

The latest achievement test was the first to be administered on all such students in four years, and provided detailed data on the performance of students in each school and each city, town and village. Such data was not obtained from similar tests conducted under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, as the education ministry conducted achievement tests targeting only about 30 percent of schools chosen as samples during the DPJ’s rule.

The latest data can be used by local governments to improve education by, for example, preferentially assigning teachers to schools whose students performed poorly in the latest test. We hope the education ministry will continue to use the participation-by-all formula in administering nationwide achievement tests.

What is noteworthy about the findings is a welcome change in the results classified by prefecture. A sign of improvement was evident in the performance of prefectures that had fared poorly in the average percentage of correct answers given by students in previous achievement tests.

In some of these prefectures, improvements in this respect were achieved through a mix of measures, including after-school supplementary lessons and achievement tests administered by local education authorities.

All this can be seen as a sign that the nationwide achievement test, first conducted in 2007, has encouraged local governments to introduce measures to improve the academic standards of students in their areas.

Poor at expressing opinions

The results of the ministry’s achievement tests, including the latest one, clearly show where students are weak. For example, they fared poorly in writing their opinions about documents they were told to read in the test. They also did badly at logically explaining the reasons for the answers they gave.

Questions of this kind were incorporated into the latest test. Not surprisingly, the percentage of correct answers was low.

A major task that must be tackled by the authorities is to improve the academic ability of children in fields in which they have a problem answering questions. With this in mind, the education ministry is scheduled to produce documents designed to provide teachers with some innovative ideas, based on the findings from the latest test, while also distributing them to local boards of education and other institutions.

We hope teachers and school administrators will utilize these materials to improve the abilities of students to think and express themselves.

In administering April’s achievement test, the education ministry also conducted an awareness survey on children. The survey included a question about what they would do if they did not understand what was taught in class. Close to 10 percent of middle school students said they would not ask their teachers or friends to explain, leaving the points in doubt unanswered. This is worrying, given that the respondents are at a crucial time in the final stage of their compulsory education.

In dealing with middle school students who did not answer questions requiring written answers in the Japanese language exam and proof questions in the math test, the awareness survey asked them why. It was found that a considerable number of such children did not even try to answer the question.

Teachers need to pay meticulous care to such students through various means, including teaching methods based on the degree of their academic achievement.

Children’s learning at home is another important issue to be addressed in working to improve their academic abilities. The percentage of children who review their school lessons at home has been increasing since they were covered in an awareness survey for the first time. The latest survey shows about 50 percent of primary and middle school students review their school studies at home. This can be seen as a certain measure of progress in encouraging children to study at home.

It is important for school authorities and local governments to carefully explain the latest findings to parents while also sharing perceptions with them about what kind of problems need to be overcome to improve students’ academic abilities. Doing so will give parents a better understanding about what needs to be done and improve the quality of children’s home learning.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2013)
(2013年8月29日01時38分  読売新聞)

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「特別警報」 災害の被害軽減に生かしたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 30, 2013
New system must work to reduce disaster damage
「特別警報」 災害の被害軽減に生かしたい(8月29日付・読売社説)

The Japan Meteorological Agency will start operation of an emergency warning system Friday. Emergency warnings will be issued to alert people of the significant likelihood of catastrophes associated with natural phenomena of extraordinary magnitude, such as torrential rain.

Again this summer, there have been localized downpours of heavy rain in various areas. We hope the agency will make the new system function as a means to reduce damage from natural disasters as much as possible.

The agency has so far been issuing an “advisory” when there is a significant possibility of a disaster and a “warning” when there is a strong chance of a major disaster. The new emergency warning system is designed to inform people of danger that surpasses a warning, and will be the most dangerous level of warning that the agency issues.

In case of heavy rains, an emergency warning will be issued when the agency predicts heavy rainfall with a level of intensity observed only once about every 50 years. It will also be used for storms and tsunami. The agency will ask local governments involved to take appropriate actions and simultaneously ask residents in affected areas to “immediately take all steps to protect their lives” through the media.

The agency has decided to employ the new warning system because weather, climate and earthquake information for disaster management purposes issued by the agency has not been fully utilized by the public or local governments. As a result, residents continue to fail to evacuate quickly to safety in various disasters.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, the risk of gigantic tsunami was not sufficiently conveyed to residents. As a result, many people failed to evacuate. There are many cases of typhoons and heavy rains in which the weather situation worsened to levels at which residents could not evacuate when municipalities issued evacuation instructions.

Evacuate immediately

Advisories and warnings are issued slightly before a situation enters its worst stage. Because of this, city, town and village governments, as well as residents, tend to take a wait-and-see attitude because they think there is still time to go. However, when an emergency warning is issued, such a response is life-threatening.

Local governments should play an important role under the new system. The revised Meteorological Service Law obliges local governments that receive an emergency warning to swiftly and thoroughly disseminate information about the warning to residents. Municipalities must decide whether evacuation is necessary and where to go, and inform residents of their decisions.

There are many problems to be tackled even at normal times regarding disaster management measures and other issues, such as expanding the means by which information can be distributed and securing evacuation places. The central and local governments must closely cooperate to put such antidisaster meaures in place.

Current information distribution measures include using the disaster management radio communcation system and municipal vans with loudspeakers. In addition, the government needs to study as soon as possible new measures such as active utilization of the Internet.

The agency’s information for disaster management covers a wide range of subjects, from weather and climate-related areas such as heavy rains and storms to earthquake and volcanic eruptions. Some critics say they are too complicated, and with the addition of the special warning system, we fear they will be even more confusing.

It is important to remember that emergency messages should be accurately understood by the public. The meteorological agency is now examining the possibility of reviewing the overly segmented information. We think the agency should improve the situation as soon as possible.

Needless to say, it is important for the agency to improve its observation and forecast technologies for transmission of accurate information.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2013)
(2013年8月29日01時38分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月29日 (木)

シリア内戦 化学兵器疑惑の徹底解明を

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 29, 2013
Uncover the full truth about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria
シリア内戦 化学兵器疑惑の徹底解明を(8月28日付・読売社説)

The death toll in the Syrian civil war has already exceeded 100,000. With last week’s alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces in mind, it is all the more imperative that the country’s bloodshed be stopped without further delay.

President Bashar Assad’s regime forces fired rockets loaded with chemical gas on the suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday, killing and injuring a large number of civilians, according to the opposition Syrian National Coalition. Video footage of children injured in the attack has also been released on the Internet.

The Assad government adamantly denies using chemical weapons, and insists the attack in question was perpetrated by rebel forces.

Using chemical weapons is a clear violation of international law. If it is established that regime forces used chemical weapons, the Assad government must be sternly brought to task.

A U.N. investigation team in Syria has started trying to confirm whether chemical weapons were used. However, the U.N. team is experiencing difficulties in probing the incident. One of the mission’s vehicles was fired on by unidentified snipers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a visit to Kuwait, had every reason to say, “I hope the U.N. investigating commission’s on-site probe will be conducted without disruption, and that all the facts will be established at an early date.”

Results of the investigation will likely be referred to a session of the U.N. Security Council. The council should implement necessary measures toward Syria after establishing the facts about the alleged use of chemical weapons, based on the U.N. team’s findings.

Military response looming

The United States has started discussions with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including Britain and France, regarding whether to launch a military strike on Syrian government targets. Washington has concluded that Assad regime forces used chemical weapons during last week’s attack. Its talks with NATO allies over possible military action came before the U.N. team produces its report.

U.S. President Barack Obama had initially been cautious about becoming directly involved in the Syrian civil war. However, he is shifting to a hard-line approach.

This is presumably because the alleged chemical weapons attack took place despite his repeated warnings to the Assad government that the use of deadly gases would cross “a red line.” Overlooking the latest incident would tarnish the national prestige of the United States. It could also encourage the use of chemical weapons in other parts of the world.

However, it should be noted that the U.S. State Department has emphasized the importance of seeking “a political solution” to the Syrian problem. Needless to say, further diplomatic efforts must be made to resolve the armed conflict before the United States and NATO nations possibly decide to launch a military operation.

Another important task that must complement efforts to uncover the truth about the alleged chemical weapons use is to renew efforts to end the Syrian civil war, a challenge that will require shoring up international pressure on the Assad regime, which has relentlessly attacked the people of its own country.

This year’s Group of Eight summit meeting in June agreed that the Syrian government, rebel forces and nations with a stake in the problem would hold an international conference aimed at ending the civil war. Such a meeting would ideally be convened as early as possible.

We will be closely watching how the United Nations and the international community handle the Syrian situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2013)
(2013年8月28日02時13分  読売新聞)

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潘国連事務総長 資質問われる偏向「介入」発言

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 29, 2013
Ban’s bias on history issues incompatible with U.N. post
潘国連事務総長 資質問われる偏向「介入」発言(8月28日付・読売社説)

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s recent remarks are unbelievable.

“I think Japanese political leaders need to profoundly reflect on how to perceive history to maintain good-neighborly relations in a future-oriented way, and a vision to look ahead into the global future,” Ban said at a press conference at the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Monday.

He made the remarks in response to a question from a South Korean reporter who asked about the United Nations’ view and his own view as U.N. secretary general with regard to the confrontation between Japan and China and South Korea on the perception of history and territorial issues as well as Japan’s moves to revise the Constitution.

Ban is a veteran diplomat who served as foreign minister under the administration of former South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun. However, as U.N. secretary general, he is obliged to remain neutral and fair, refraining from siding with any particular country.

He did not refer to South Korean and Chinese politicians. By restricting his remarks to Japanese politicians, people around the world may believe Japan is the cause of frictions in Northeast Asia. It is obvious his remarks were one-sided and problematic.

Customarily, a U.N. secretary general speaks at a press conference in English or French, two of the United Nations’ official languages, but Ban spoke in Korean throughout most of the press conference. This is extremely unusual.

Ban implicitly demanded that Japan correct its view of history, saying a country only can earn respect and trust from other nations through a correct recognition of history.

Parroting Seoul’s stance

His remarks echo what South Korea has been saying. Seoul has relentlessly demanded that Japan face up to its prewar history by saying it should “have a correct recognition of history.” Ban’s comment therefore supports South Korea. The secretary general, who is supposed to mediate international disputes and conflicts, should not openly fan confrontation.

History cannot be neatly packaged under the term “correct recognition.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshi-hide Suga said, “I strongly wonder whether Secretary General Ban made the remarks while considering Japan’s position.” He cited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remark, “It’s necessary for leaders to exchange opinions to maintain regional peace and stability.” It was natural for him to raise objections.

The Japanese government needs to confirm Ban’s real intentions and to actively convey Japan’s position at such places as the United Nations so that its stance will not be misunderstood around the world.

For nearly 70 years since the end of World War II, Japan has consistently made efforts to promote world peace and prosperity. How does Ban evaluate Japan’s postwar history?

The Japan-South Korea Basic Relations Treaty of 1965 is an established international agreement that defines the bilateral relationship between the two countries after World War II. Even though the issue of compensation rights has been resolved, South Korea keeps raking over the issue of reparations for former forced laborers and on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Ban, as an official of the international organization, should inform Seoul that South Korea’s common sense is irrational in other parts of the world.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2013)
(2013年8月28日02時13分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月28日 (水)

薄煕来被告公判 中国権力闘争の危険な火種だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 28, 2013
Bo trial may become genesis of power struggle in China
薄煕来被告公判 中国権力闘争の危険な火種だ(8月27日付・読売社説)

The administration of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has faced a problem, the settlement of which can never be forgotten in consolidating Xi’s power base.

Of course, we are speaking of the case in which Bo Xilai, the former top official of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing and former member of the Communist Party’s Politburo, was charged with bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

In the public hearing of the case held in Shandong Province, Bo thoroughly dismissed all accusations, bringing the five-day trial to an end on Monday, and maintaining his showdown with the Xi administration.

The Xi administration, having made a crackdown on corruption a focus of its first year, appears to be attempting to condemn Bo as the embodiment of corruption.

In China’s one-party system the judiciary is controlled by the Communist Party.

The first public hearing of the Bo trial was set following a key conference this summer of party elders, following Xi’s official inauguration in March.

Apparently in a bid to emphasize the “fairness” of the trial, Beijing took the extraordinary step of allowing the court proceedings to be reported live on China’s Weibo microblogging service.

The trial, in the eyes of the Xi administration, should have been a scrupulously prepared “political show.”

In the public hearing, however, Bo, who had admitted his culpability on some of the charges during investigations by the Communist Party, changed his stance. A factor behind this may be the strong support for Bo that remains among left-wingers within the Communist Party.

The development may be a major miscalculation by Xi, who appeared to have intended to use the trial to unify different views in the party by making clear Bo’s malfeasance in going against the party leadership.

Indignation over disparity

Bo used to be an influential figure among the “princelings,” as high-ranking party officials’ offspring are known. When he was the party secretary in the top post in Chongqing, he achieved fame through such acts as cracking down on the city’s business leaders and branding them “crime syndicate members.” He also used public money to provide the poor with low-priced housing.

His apparent goal was to assume one of the seats on the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee. Bo’s political style is designed to appeal to the masses who are indignant at economic disparities between rich and poor and at how those with power are able to obtain spoils of office and wealth. His ideas however, came to be seen at odds with the government, resulting in a conflict with the then administration of Hu Jintao.

Bo himself is far from being called a person of integrity.

In the wake of an incident in which his close associate ran into the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu in February 2012 in a defection attempt, a case in which Bo’s wife allegedly murdered a British businessman was brought to light. The incidents demonstrated the corruption-prone propensities of the China’s ruling class.

However, people are supporting Bo on China’s Internet. This can be considered representing the reality of China, where discontent over disparities has been smoldering across the country.

Bo is almost certain to be subject to heavy punishment. The Xi administration, however, appears to fear public criticism if the punishment is deemed too lenient or too harsh. This is because the political style taken by Xi is similar to that of Bo.

A mistake in dealing with the situation could lead to a full-scale power struggle in China.

Confusion in China’s political arena could have major consequences and possibly destabilize the global economy. We are concerned the Xi administration, in an attempt at deflecting public dissatisfaction, might seek to strengthen its leadership by ratcheting up its intimidatory diplomatic approach to Japan.

We cannot help but keep a close watch on what consequences will eventually come from this trial.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2013)
(2013年8月27日02時03分  読売新聞)

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NISA 投資活性化の呼び水にしたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 28, 2013
Use NISA system as pump-priming step water to reinvigorate investment
NISA 投資活性化の呼び水にしたい(8月27日付・読売社説)

We hope the Nippon Individual Savings Account system, or NISA, will help move individual financial assets held in the form of cash and deposits into investment and revitalize the nation’s economy.

NISA, a new tax system that offers tax exemptions on capital gains and dividend income from stocks and other investments of up to ¥1 million a year, will be introduced in January next year.

Financial institutions, including securities companies and banks, have already put their efforts to win new customers into full gear.

We applaud that stock markets will be reinvigorated due to competition over services among financial institutions, but they should refrain from forceful solicitation.

It is essential to carefully foster NISA by listening to investors so that the new system will become a pump-priming measure to help individual investment take root in this country.

People aged 20 or older and living in Japan can open a NISA account at a financial institutions. The tax exemption period is five years and if ¥1 million is invested every year, the capital gains and dividends on ¥5 million worth of investments will be tax exempt.

The total amount of individual financial assets in Japan is estimated at a massive ¥1.6 quadrillion. However, more than half of those are in cash and deposits. The ratio of stocks and other investments used to fund corporate activity is only about 8 percent, which is far lower than the 34 percent in the United States and 15 percent in Europe.

If individual assets, encouraged by NISA, flow into stock markets, it would be beneficial to corporate growth. The spread of long-term investment by individuals for the purpose of asset building will help stabilize stock prices.

Under Britain’s Individual Savings Account system, which NISA is modeled after, 40 percent of the population opened an ISA account.

Careful explanation essential

To promote wide use of NISA in Japan, it is indispensable for financial institutions to give detailed explanations about the new system to their customers.

Rather than placing priority on sales quota or simply stressing NISA’s merits, they must explain risks associated with investments as well as the system’s flaws.

For example, if losses are incurred due to a drop in the value of stocks and investment trusts, investors are not eligible for tax exemptions. Another problem is that if investors open a NISA account at a financial institution that only handles investment trusts, they cannot invest in particular stocks.

We urge people considering a NISA account to think carefully about selecting the financial institution where they will open their NISA account.

One person can only open one NISA account in principle and in the first four years, the individual must keep investing at the same financial institution. This is inconvenient for investors and is believed to be one reason financial institutions are desperately trying to attract and keep customers.

It is said that the Financial Services Agency plans to change this regulation so people can switch their NISA accounts to a different financial institution every year. The government should discuss changes to NISA to encourage its use by more people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2013)
(2013年8月27日02時03分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月27日 (火)

首相中東訪問 資源確保へ戦略的協力深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 27, 2013
Deepen strategic ties with nations of GCC to ensure energy security
首相中東訪問 資源確保へ戦略的協力深めよ(8月26日付・読売社説)

To ensure stable supplies of energy resources to this country, it is crucial to deepen strategic cooperation with the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Bahrain, the chair of the GCC, and had talks with Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

The two leaders agreed to hold strategic ministerial dialogues between Japan and the GCC, while setting up a framework for working-level security talks. Signs are that the strategic dialogues may begin as early as September.

The GCC, a regional organization comprising six Middle East nations facing the Persian Gulf, groups Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

Abe, who visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE in spring this year, will also visit Qatar and Kuwait on the current trip.

Japan depends on GCC members for more than 70 percent of its annual crude oil imports amid the country’s stringent energy supply-demand situation caused by delays in the resumption of nuclear power plant operations after the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake.

The Persian Gulf’s maritime shipping lanes for transporting crude oil and other resources are vitally important to the Japanese economy. Continual consultations must be held on such issues as securing the sea lanes and preparing antipiracy countermeasures as part of the strategic Japan-GCC dialogues.

In January, Japanese nationals were taken hostage in Algeria. As part of the Japan-GCC dialogues, information about terrorist activities by extremists in the Middle East and Africa must be shared.

Conducive to ME peace

As chances of having summit talks with China and South Korea in the near future appear slim, Abe has focused his diplomatic efforts on the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Expediting efforts to strengthen ties with these regions’ mid-level countries will most likely earn Japan a precious diplomatic asset from the mid- and long-term points of view.

In the Mideast, the situations in Egypt and Syria have been deteriorating alarmingly amid discussions on the problems of Iran’s nuclear development programs and Middle East peace negotiations. Building up strategic relations between Japan and the GCC nations may indirectly help stabilize the Middle East as a whole.

In Saturday’s talks, Japan and Bahrain agreed to resume talks on a Japan-GCC free trade agreement and expand cooperation in such fields as agriculture, railways and medical services.

In the current tour of Middle East countries, Abe is accompanied by an economic mission comprising about 50 people, who represent mostly private-sector businesses. This is because a number of large-scale infrastructure development projects have been planned in the GCC countries, including some in Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament.

Economic cooperation between the two sides should be encouraged in a way reciprocally beneficial to Japan and the GCC.

The prime minister will visit Djibouti on Tuesday to encourage Maritime Self-Defense Force members engaged in antipiracy activities in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. The MSDF has been enhancing its presence in the region by dispatching destroyers and P-3C surveillance aircraft.

Abe’s words of encouragement will be sure to help improve the morale of the MSDF personnel. The prime minister has often expressed his appreciation of the roles of the Self-Defense Forces, frequently visiting SDF troops in various places. We hope the prime minister will continue this practice.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2013)
(2013年8月26日01時17分  読売新聞)

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「大阪都」構想 自治再生に心許ない制度設計

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 27, 2013
Osaka metropolis plan unlikely to revitalize local autonomy
「大阪都」構想 自治再生に心許ない制度設計(8月26日付・読売社説)

The overall picture of the planned Osaka metropolis is gradually becoming clear. Changing the form of local autonomy would be a huge task, and is considered the fundamental policy of Toru Hashimoto, coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party). How Hashimoto can bring his plan to fruition will put all his political skills to the test.

The plan for the Osaka metropolis, which was presented by Hashimoto and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, calls for abolition of the city of Osaka and reorganizing it into five or seven special administrative wards. If realized, there would be no Osaka mayor or city assembly. Instead, ward heads and assembly members would be elected in a way similar to those in Tokyo’s 23 wards.

The envisaged Osaka metropolis government was expected to handle a broader-based administration in such areas as the local economy and infrastructure improvement, while the special administrative wards would take charge of community-based policies and measures. The plan aims at a clear division of roles and enhanced administrative efficiency.

The Osaka prefectural government and the Osaka city government, which is an ordinance-designated city and has nearly the same authority as the prefectural government, have been undertaking similar tasks.

Hashimoto maintains that the harmful effects of “duplicated administration” would be eliminated by abolishing the Osaka city government and integrating the “control tower,” thereby improving the power of local governments to promote urban strategies.

But would this reform effectively revitalize the local autonomy? This is doubtful.

Cost will be massive

The cost of transforming the city into special administrative wards would be massive. The initial cost, such as expenses to renovate government offices and change computer systems, is projected to reach as much as ¥64 billion.

Other expenses include salaries for a large number of new ward assembly members. How to secure revenue sources would be a major problem.

There also would be gaps in tax revenues among the newly created special administrative wards, depending on the number of companies in the jurisdiction and other factors. Fiscal adjustments to reduce such gaps would be another issue. To pay for this, the plan counts on using tax grants from the central government. But it would not be easy to win the understanding of the central government.

A key problem in the Osaka metropolis plan is how to divide the city into wards. Four plans have been proposed, but a decision is a long way off, as the opinions of local residents and intentions of Osaka city assembly members are varied.

The Osaka prefectural and city governments aim to reach a formal agreement based on the final plan by around June next year. The accord would have to receive the green light from the assemblies of both governments. It also would need the approval of a majority of Osaka city residents in a referendum expected to be held in autumn next year.

Regardless, it would be a massive project to disassemble Osaka, which has a long history and traditional culture. It would be difficult to win approval from local residents unless the proponents of the plan carefully and concretely explain not only how administrative efficiency would improve but also the advantages to local residents’ daily lives and what form Osaka would eventually take.

The Osaka metropolis plan envisages that Sakai, an ordinance-designated city adjacent to the city of Osaka, would be transformed into a special administrative ward in the future.

In this respect, attention is focused on the Sakai mayoral election scheduled for Sept. 29.

The incumbent mayor, who opposes the Osaka metropolis idea, argues that the plan would result in Sakai city being split up, and runs counter to decentralization efforts that would grant more local autonomy. The local party, Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), is set to field its own candidate to realize the plan. The election’s outcome will certainly affect the fate of the Osaka metropolis scheme.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2013)
(2013年8月26日01時17分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月26日 (月)

医療事故調査 機能する制度へ課題は多い

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 26, 2013
Many problems remain to be solved in medical accident probe system
医療事故調査 機能する制度へ課題は多い(8月25日付・読売社説)

Will the new medical accident investigation system be able to prevent serious medical accidents? We believe many problems remain to be solved.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has decided to create the system to determine causes of death and prevent the recurrence of similar accidents if patients under treatment die.

Based on a report released by a panel of experts, the ministry plans to draft a bill to revise the Medical Service Law, which stipulates the outline of the new system. The ministry aims to implement the system in fiscal 2015.

It is very important to make it one that can be trusted by patients.

The number of patients who died because of medical accidents is estimated to be 1,300 to 2,000 a year.

Generally, if a medical accident happens, the patient’s side demands an investigation to determine the cause through judicial proceedings such as damage suits or a criminal complaint.

However, trials normally concentrate on judging whether a doctor or nurse in charge was responsible for the accident. This means lessons learned from the accident would not necessarily be used to prevent a recurrence of similar medical accidents.

The new system will oblige a medical institution where a fatal accident happens to conduct an internal investigation. The institution would explain the findings of the internal investigation to the patient’s side and report them to a third-party body to be created under the new system.

If the patient’s bereaved family is not satisfied with the results of the internal investigation, it could request the third-party body to reinvestigate the case.

The new system is expected to help medical institutions improve their medical services and ensure safety by obliging them to look into accidents and recognize their own mistakes.

Guarantee of objectivity

But this raises the question of how to ensure objectivity and transparency in internal investigations.

For example, the medical record of a patient was altered in a past medical accident case. Patients deeply distrust medical institutions that try to hide evidence.

The ministry’s panel of experts has proposed a rule that would in principle require the inclusion of an outside expert in an internal investigation to guarantee the neutrality of the probe. The panel also said the medical institution should ask a university hospital and a local medical association to help secure enough outside experts.

However, there are many medical institutions that have doctors dispatched from university hospitals, creating the possibility that a university hospital doctor with a connection to the medical institution may become an outside expert on an internal investigation team. We think the cooperation of lawyers specializing in medical accidents and patients’organizations is necessary to solve this problem.

There are also some problems concerning the third-party body. Since it will be a private entity without legal power, it cannot force a medical institution to cooperate with the request for a reinvestigation made by the patient’s side. The ministry should consider giving the body the legal authority to investigate medical accidents.

The body would basically depend on subsidies from the government, and a bereaved family seeking a reinvestigation would be required to shoulder a monetary burden. We are afraid some families may decide not to seek a reinvestigation for financial reasons.

The new system should be designed to share information on medical accidents gathered by the third-party body among medical institutions, with utmost consideration given to ensuring protection of personal information, so similar accidents can be prevented from happening again.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2013)
(2013年8月25日01時25分  読売新聞)

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「はだしのゲン」 教育上の配慮をどう考えるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 26, 2013
Should ‘Barefoot Gen’ be stricted from educational point of view?
「はだしのゲン」 教育上の配慮をどう考えるか(8月25日付・読売社説)

The ripples are spreading after the Matsue Municipal Board of Education requested that the city’s public primary and middle schools restrict student access to “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), the signature work by late manga author Keiji Nakazawa that depicts the horror of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Students in the capital of Shimane Prefecture are now unable to read freely this 10-volume manga series at most school libraries unless they get special permission from their teachers.

The education board judged that the manga’s graphic depictions of the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath were not a problem. However, it decided that some descriptions of actions involving Imperial Japanese Army soldiers in other Asian nations were extreme and inappropriate.

The problematic scenes in “Barefoot Gen” included beheadings of non-Japanese Asians just for fun, slicing open the abdomen of a pregnant woman to pull out her baby, and the brutal killing of other women.

The municipal board of education apparently limited access to the manga in consideration of the nature of libraries at primary and middle schools, where children become familiar with books as they grow up.

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, and states, “No censorship shall be maintained.”

Restricting access to books available at an ordinary public library open to citizens can never be permissible in light of the spirit of the Constitution.

However, it may not be fair to treat libraries at primary and middle schools in the same way as ordinary libraries. The possible impact books can have on children must be taken into account. There may be cases in which meticulous care must be taken in accordance with the stages of children’s physical and mental development.

Doubtful claims

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura said the board’s decision “should be considered as representing one way of thinking.” He added that “due consideration should be paid from an educational point of view” on the matter. We think his view is reasonable.

“Barefoot Gen” is based on Nakazawa’s own experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The story’s protagonist, Gen, is a boy who bravely overcomes a number of hardships in spite of losing relatives in the bombing.

The manga series started in 1973 in the Shukan Shonen Jump comic weekly and was carried in several magazines during a run that lasted more than 10 years. When published as an independent book, “Barefoot Gen” became a best seller. The story has been translated into about 20 languages and published in many countries.

Initially, some of the scenes depicting Hiroshima just after the atomic bombing were criticized as being excessively graphic, but there can be no doubt such descriptions conveyed the appalling reality of the bombing.

Given that survivors of the nuclear bombing are aging and passing on memories of the war has become a pressing task, “Barefoot Gen” is definitely a valuable work of literature.

On the other hand, the closing stages also make assertions apparently designed to favor a particular political standpoint, making flimsy claims including that the former Imperial Japanese Army “brutally killed more than 30 million people in other Asian countries such as China and Korea in the name of the Emperor.”

While it is, of course, essential to respect freedom of expression, due attention should be paid at the same time to the manga’s impact on children’s education.

The decision by the Matsue board of education has brought to the fore the question of where schools should draw the line in exposing children to items of literature as part of their education.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2013)
(2013年8月25日01時25分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月25日 (日)

大飯活断層調査 科学的な議論に徹するべきだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 25, 2013
Scientific discussions needed to handle Oi N-plant’s fault issue
大飯活断層調査 科学的な議論に徹するべきだ(8月24日付・読売社説)

A team of experts assembled by the Nuclear Regulation Authority has been discussing whether a fault that runs beneath Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture—which has the nation’s only reactors currently in operation—is active and at risk of causing an earthquake. But those discussions have fallen into disarray.

The investigation being conducted by the team will be critical in deciding whether the Oi plant can continue its operations. But the team members have been at odds. One declared, with little evidence, “I believe it is highly likely that the fault under the plant is active.”

Can we call such discussions scientific? We have serious doubts.

A scientific approach requires a hypothesis to be tested objectively based on the results of experiments and measurements data. It is outrageous for an NRA inspector to make such a groundless claim.

Amid lengthy discussions among the NRA inspectors, a KEPCO official who was responsible for delivering a presentation and fielding their questions said at the nuclear watchdog’s fifth assessment session: “We have been carrying out the investigation [ordered by the NRA] day and night. We hope that you can conclude the assessment as soon as possible.” We understand why the official made this unusual request.
The team consists of five experts, including Kunihiko Shimazaki, acting NRA chairman. Since November, it has carried out three on-site inspections and five assessment meetings.

Shimazaki, who heads the team, should proceed with discussions in line with the NRA’s policy of evaluating the safety of nuclear facilities scientifically.

The fault in question is known as F-6. While KEPCO has argued that its Oi plant would not be seriously affected by an earthquake, some researchers insisted in June last year that the fault running beneath key facilities at the plant is active, prompting the government to launch an investigation.

Excessive digging

Under guidance by the NRA’s predecessor, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, KEPCO carried out excavations at locations along the F-6 fault. One resulting hole, dug at the orders of Shimazaki, is 70 meters long, 50 meters wide and 40 meters deep.

However, the work did not provide evidence determining that F-6 is active.

One expert on the team strongly criticized the move as haphazard, saying, “Was such massive excavation really necessary?”

Shimazaki defended his decision, saying in a monthly magazine, “Utilities usually try to get around such problems without conducting [physical investigations].” He added, “If we reinvestigate thoroughly, we can determine [whether the fault is active].”
It seems the NRA has exhausted all possible ways to investigate the matter.

At the NRA’s fifth assessment meeting, one expert said the discussions “will go on forever unless we arrive at a conclusion at some point.”
The NRA team should not put off reaching a conclusion without good reason.

In May, the NRA compiled an assessment report showing that a reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga nuclear power plant sits on an active fault. But in July, the company submitted data to the NRA contradicting the regulator’s conclusion, calling on the body to conduct a reassessment. A scientific approach is likewise essential to deal with the fault issue at the Tsuruga plant.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2013)
(2013年8月24日01時11分  読売新聞)

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中国海洋強国化 地域の緊張高める覇権主義

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 25, 2013
China’s hegemonic ambition heightening regional tension
中国海洋強国化 地域の緊張高める覇権主義(8月24日付・読売社説)

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which has been stepping up efforts to make the country a great maritime power, seems to have more fully revealed its hard-line stance through a recent statement by the Chinese defense chief in the United States.

In a joint news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held after their meeting, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan warned that nobody should have the idea that China would ever relinquish its core interests.

This was a peremptory statement, as he clearly had in mind the confrontation with Japan over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and friction with Vietnam and the Philippines over sovereignty in the South China Sea. Chang went on to say that China’s determination to defend its territory, sovereignty and maritime interests should not be underestimated.

His statement echoes Xi’s remarks at a key conference in late July that “core interests cannot be sacrificed” and his resolve to build a “strong maritime state.”

Chang’s warning could be intended as a check on the Asia-focused military strategy of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. It was also likely meant to put pressure on Japan prior to the first anniversary of the Japanese government’s nationalization of the Senkakus in September.

On Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Chinese military conducted live-fire drills and other training with the aircraft carrier Liaoning. These might be intended as threats to Japan.

Xi has said that China will never seek to reign supreme. But backed by its strong military power, China has been trying to forcibly impound the sea, a common resource, thereby achieving hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region.

Accidental clashes feared

In light of the January incident in which Chinese Navy ships locked weapons-targeting radar onto a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel near the Senkakus, the Xi administration’s hard-line stance may provoke Chinese troops to engage in radical and provocative actions in the field.

Japan must tighten its guard around the Senkakus.

To prevent accidental military clashes involving ships and aircraft, it is necessary to accelerate the building of a “maritime communications mechanism” between Japanese and Chinese military authorties. The Xi administration must proceed with talks on the matter as long as it claims to seek “peaceful development.”

The situation is no less serious in the South China Sea. China last year took control of the Scarborough Shoal, over which the Philippines also claims sovereignty, and has its government ships patrol around the shoal.

The United States and the Philippines entered into negotiations in the middle of this month to conclude a new agreement that would increase the frequency and expand the scale of U.S. military patrols. This is a concrete step to push the new Asia-centered U.S. strategy and a laudable strengthening of deterrence against China.

Japan will provide 10 patrol boats to the Philippines. These ships will help improve the country’s maritime security capabilities. Cooperation must also be deepened in terms of personnel development.

It is crucial for Japan to emphasize the unjustness of China’s provocations in international forums, including the expanded defense ministerial conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held later this month.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2013)
(2013年8月24日01時11分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月24日 (土)

TPP交渉 米国のペースに惑わされるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 24, 2013
Japan must proceed with TPP talks without being chafed by U.S. intent
TPP交渉 米国のペースに惑わされるな(8月23日付・読売社説)

The current round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is the first in which Japan has taken full part. How will Japan demonstrate its presence to proceed with talks to its advantage? An aggressive stance is called for.

Japan and the 11 other countries that are participating in negotiations on the TPP free trade agreement, including the United States, Australia and Canada, kicked off two days of ministerial talks in Brunei on Thursday. A ministerial statement was scheduled to be announced Friday to confirm that the talks will be accelerated to conclude an agreement before the end of this year.

In line with this commitmment, working-level officials will hold negotiations by the end of the month.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who chairs the ministerial talks, has said that reaching an agreement this year is a top priority for President Barack Obama. With a TPP accord as a leverage, Obama seeks to expand U.S. exports and boost job opportunities.

The United States probably wants to reconfirm with other countries the policy of concluding the talks this year during the current round of negotiations in Brunei and use it as momentum to reach a broad accord in October.

But if the talks proceed in line with the U.S. scenario, there are fears Japan will not be able to secure sufficient time for negotiations because the country was only able to take part in the TPP talks from the latter half of the previous round of talks.

Secure chances for assertions

It is necessary to avoid a situation in which Japan will be deprived of opportunities to present its case if the negotiations are cut off early in line with the schedule as planned by the United States. We urge Japan’s negotiators to hold talks separately with other TPP nations in an effort to increase the number of member nations that support Japan’s stance.

Prior to the Brunei round of talks, Japan worked out proposals on tariff abolition and presented them to other participating nations to sound out their responses.

The proposals called for abolishing tariffs on about 80 percent of trade items and left pending five categories of farming products, including rice, wheat and dairy products, that the Liberal Democratic Party wants handled as exceptions.

This was based on the fact that Japan’s degree of trade liberalization has been held to 84 percent to 88 percent in the economic partnership agreements it has concluded with 13 countries and territories. Rice and other items were exempted from free trade.

In the case of TPP talks, the government opted to set lower liberalization targets in the first place, possibly in preparation for bargaining that is expected to become tougher.

Froman has said that Washington is aiming for a more ambitious agreement, so the United States is likely to call on Japan to carry out greater liberalization and further market opening.

Each participating country has crucial fields that they want to protect with high tariffs, including sugar for the United States and dairy products for Canada.

For Japan, protecting all of the five farming product categories would not necessarily serve its national interests.

The government needs to expedite coordination of domestic opinions by focusing discussions on which fields Japan should concede and on which it should win concessions. Concerning the formation of rules on intellectual property rights and investment, Japan should actively present its assertions.

In conjunction with such efforts, the government must earnestly study measures to boost the competitiveness of the agricultural field, as well as to assist sectors that are expected to suffer as a result of opening their markets.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2013)
(2013年8月23日01時31分  読売新聞)

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原発汚染水 原子力規制委は一層の関与を

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 24, 2013
NRA must boost involvement in combating irradiated waterirradiated water
原発汚染水 原子力規制委は一層の関与を(8月23日付・読売社説)

A major leak of water highly contaminated with radioactive substances has once again been discovered at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

One leak after another of radiation-polluted water has been found at the complex, and no resolution is in sight.

This is truly a grave situation. TEPCO must take every possible step in response.

The utility’s capability to cope with the crisis, however, is nearing its limits in terms of both financial and personnel resources. Under the circumstances, a wider range of assistance and cooperation from the government will certainly become more and more important to address the problem.

The latest leak has been detected from a storage tank of contaminated water, which includes highly toxic radioactive substances, on the premises of the crippled nuclear plant.The volume of the polluted water that leaked stands at about 300 metric tons, equivalent to a 25-meter swimming pool.

The water storage tank is a vertical cylindrical structure, comprising steel plates held together by bolts. It was designed to contain a maximum of 1,000 tons of contaminated water. Its weakness lies in the seam joints of the steel plates, which have not been welded. Similar leaks have occurred from the seams several times in the past.

Of the about 1,000 water storage tanks TEPCO has been using at the site, about 350 are the same type as the one that suffered the latest leak. The company must waste no time in conducting thorough inspections of all these tanks.

The utility’s inspection method has so far been to ascertain whether there are any traces of water having leaked into the ground close to the tanks. Workers in charge of the inspections, however, admit they tend to be unaware of small leaks. Water-level gauges should be installed in these storage tanks.

Highly radioactive water at the ruined nuclear plant has been increasing day after day. In its current situation, TEPCO can hardly be considered competent to ensure safe storage of the water. Safety checks by the Nuclear Regulation Authority are indispensable.

The Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law stipulates the Fukushima plant as a facility requiring special attention after its March 11, 2011, meltdowns, making it obligatory for the NRA to monitor steps for safety of the plant.

Stem inflow of groundwater

To undertake this task, 10 officials from the Secretariat of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, an agency under the NRA, have been assigned to the Fukushima No. 1 plant to be in charge of inspecting safety maintenance there. The agency inspectors are strongly urged to supervise and ascertain whether there is a problem with TEPCO’s safety maintenance plans and whether safety operations have been conducted adequately.

There were four major leaks of highly contaminated water prior to the latest incident.

Given that the storage capacity of contaminated water on the plant’s premises has its limits, the water storage arrangements there are bound to collapse sooner or later, unless effective measures are taken to curb the increase in irradiated water.

First of all, the inflow of groundwater into the plant’s damaged reactor buildings must be reduced. The groundwater inflow is the biggest cause of the increase in contaminated water.

To prevent the inflow, there is no other means than pumping up uncontaminated groundwater before it reaches the plant’s premises and releasing the water into the sea after ascertaining its safety.

Some members of local fisheries cooperative associations have expressed their support for this idea. The government should take a leading role in securing cooperation from the fisheries associations to get the pumping up of water started.

Purification equipment for reducing the radioactive substances in contaminated water should be put into operation as early as possible. Such treatment would lessen the risks of toxic water leaks as the storage volume of the water continues to increase.

In a meeting of the NRA this week, one major question on the agenda was how Japan should explain to foreign countries about matters involving the highly contaminated water.

Some in the meeting reportedly proposed that the severity of the leakage of the radioactive water be raised to Level 3 (serious accident) on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale of 0 to 7, with 7 the most severe. Discussions on this point were ultimately inconclusive, however.

Instead of discussing different views about the evaluation of the severity of the leakage, resolving the problem of the leaks itself is definitely of higher importance.

It will help alleviate concerns abroad over the contaminated water if the entire government buckles down on this challenge as one.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2013)
(2013年8月23日01時31分  読売新聞)

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กรุณาร่วมให้การเรียนคณิตศาสตร์และวิทยาศาสตร์ นี้คือสำหรับนักเรียนไทยชั้น ป.๓ (สุรชัย)

Let's join me to learn mathematics and science. It is for Thai elementary school students for grade 3. (srachai)

mathematics http://math.blog.wox.cc/ http://math2.blog.wox.cc/ http://math3.blog.wox.cc/ http://math4.blog.wox.cc/ http://math5.blog.wox.cc/ http://math6.blog.wox.cc/

science http://science.blog.wox.cc/ http://science2.blog.wox.cc/ http://science3.blog.wox.cc/

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2013年8月23日 (金)

10年ぶりにタイ語学習再開 タイの小学三年生用副読本です^^

บทที ๑
lesson 1
necklace flower very beautiful
บ่ายวันหนึ่ง คุณครูใจดีนั่งคุยกับเด็กๆ ใต้ร่มไม้
one day, teacher chaidii and children talk together under shade of tree
คุณครูพูดว่า "วันนี้แดดไม่ร้อน สมพัดเย็น
teacher tells "today, it is not so hot, cool wind's blowing
สบาย บนต้นไม้ก็มีนกน้อยมาอาศัย ฟังสิ...เสียง
comfortable, on the tree, there are birds living, listen...sound
นกร้องเพลงช่างไพเราะ เรามาร้องเพลงกันดีไหม"
birds sing elephant song very beautifully, shall we sing along with birds, ok?
เต็กๆ พากันยิ้มดีใจ รีบเข้ามาใกล้ รุมล้อม คุณครู
children are happy to get together, rapidely coming closeer to the teacher





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社会保障工程案 持続可能な制度へ必要な道筋

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 23, 2013
Social security reform bill must show path for sustainable system
社会保障工程案 持続可能な制度へ必要な道筋(8月22日付・読売社説)

Reforms to make the nation’s social security system sustainable must cover a wide variety of areas. It is important for the government to prioritize each area to steadily carry out reform measures.

The government has approved in a Cabinet meeting the gist of a bill on social security system reform measures, which outlines a schedule for reforms. The government will submit the bill to an extraordinary Diet session in autumn.

Based on a report compiled by the National Council on Social Security System Reform, the bill indicates plans and timetables for the reform of medical care, nursing care, the pension system and measures to deal with the low birthrate.

The main focus of the reforms is to change the current social security system, in which the younger, working generation bears most of the burden of supporting the elderly, to one in which all generations proportionately share the burden.

Given that the burden of the working generation will become heavier and heavier along with the low birthrate, it is unavoidable to ask elderly and high-income earners to bear more of the burden than they do now in order to maintain the social security system. In this sense we praise the stance of the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to tackle reform measures the previous administrations avoided.

One such measure is to raise the share of medical expenses paid by people aged 70 to 74. Law revisions made in 2008 stipulate that people in this age group pay 20 percent of medical costs, but the then administration of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito kept it at 10 percent as a special measure. The share has remained at 10 percent since then.

However, the gist of the bill gives a great deal of latitude over the timing of raising the percentage to the legally stipulated level: sometime between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2017. The measure should be reviewed as early as possible, taking into consideration that ¥200 billion of tax money is spent annually on the special measure.

Regarding the nursing care insurance program, the current across-the-board self-pay rate of paying 10 percent for nursing care services will be raised for high-income earners from fiscal 2015. On the other hand, the premiums for low-income elderly will be reduced.

Fairness among the elderly

There is a large disparity in incomes among the elderly. It is appropriate to increase the burden on high-income earners and reduce that of low-income earners as a way to seek fairness among the elderly.

Concerning pension reform, the bill lists some reform measures requiring further study, but only says, “Necessary measures will be carried out after studying these measures.” The government did not make clear when it will carry out pension reform, probably because it will take time to design concrete reform measures.

The report of the national council made clear the direction of social security reform, such as increasing tax on pensioners with high incomes and introducing a mechanism to hold down pension benefits in response to changes in wage levels even in a deflationary period.

People who live on pensions are subject to large tax deductions and can receive greater net incomes than salaried workers receiving the same gross income. To lessen young generations’ sense of being imposed on, it is necessary to impose a heavier tax on high-income earners.

It is indispensable to hold down the payments pensioners receive to stabilize the pension system.

If the government cannot even say when to carry out such important reform, we doubt the sustainability of the pension system.

To formulate concrete pension reform measures, the government must quickly study when to carry out pension reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2013)
(2013年8月22日01時22分  読売新聞)

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全柔連新体制 子供たちが胸を張れるように

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 23, 2013
editorial 2/ Judo circles must revamp so little judoka can learn pride
全柔連新体制 子供たちが胸を張れるように(8月22日付・読売社説)

A change of leadership appeared to have come too late for the All Japan Judo Federation, which must hasten its reforms and regain the public’s trust, which has been lost over a series of scandals.

On Wednesday, the federation’s 23 directors, including President Haruki Uemura, resigned en masse, and Shoji Muneoka, chairman and chief executive officer of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., succeeded Uemura.

It marks the first time that the federation’s president has been neither a descendant of Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, nor an Olympic medalist.

The judo world has witnessed a shocking series of scandals, including the alleged physical abuse of female judoka on a national team by a former head coach, misappropriation of a hefty sum of subsidies from the Japan Sports Council and sexual assault on a former female judoka by a director.

When a third-party panel that investigated the allegations of physical violence on the female judoka urged the federation’s top executives to resign to take responsibility over the spate of scandals, they refused to do so, showing an inability to reform themselves.

Uemura in particular lacked leadership ability as the head of the organization. Postponing his resignation, he said he would carry out the appropriate reforms as his mission, but failed to come up with any actual measures.

What seems most pathetic is that Uemura announced his intention to step down only after the Cabinet Office, which has jurisdiction over the federation and other public interest corporations, issued an ultimatum calling for the federation to revamp its entire organizational structure by the end of August.

Closed nature

At a press conference on Wednesday, incoming President Muneoka criticized the Uemura regime for having maintained “practices out of touch with common sense,” and said he would aim at creating a more transparent organization. He also indicated that he would establish a reform panel tasked with reinforcing governance.

It has been pointed out that the closed nature of the federation, where past achievements such as Olympic performance and even old school ties often hold sway, has served as a breeding ground for a self-serving logic greatly lacking in common sense.

We hope Muneoka wields a caliber of leadership cultivated through his business world experience and pushes through with reforms.

Yasuhiro Chikaishi, former chief of the Osaka prefectural police and Muneoka’s junior in the judo club at the University of Tokyo, their alma mater, has been appointed a senior director to serve as Muneoka’s right-hand man. It is also worth noting that Kaori Yamaguchi has been made an auditor, responsible for supervising the duties of directors. Yamaguchi, a former female judoka, has supported those female judoka who accused the former head coach of physical abuse.

We hope the judo world will become, as new Vice President Yasuhiro Yamashita put it, “one where those children practicing judo can hold their heads up high.”

There is also an issue of misappropriated subsidies totaling ¥60.55 million, which the sports council ordered the federation to return.

To make up for a shortfall in funds to cover the subsidies they were asked to return, the former leadership sought “donations” from coaches, including those responsible for training top athletes and having no connections whatsoever to the allegations of mishandled funds. This plan should be reviewed. Any measure that would obscure where true responsibilities lie should not be allowed. The federation must claim damage compensation from those who were actually involved in the illicit activities.

Also questionable is the fact that Uemura, despite his resignation from the federation’s presidency, will remain as the president of the Kodokan Judo Institute, which promotes the martial art by activities such as certifying judoka’s ranks.

The institute is an organization closely connected with the federation, tasked to train top judoka and send them to international competitions. Should Uemura retain his influence in the judo world, the public will continue to cast a critical eye on him.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2013)
(2013年8月22日01時22分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月22日 (木)

社説:靖国参拝 首相は見送り継続を

August 16, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: PM must steer clear of Yasukuni Shrine
社説:靖国参拝 首相は見送り継続を

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refrained from visiting Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined along with Japan's war dead, on the Aug. 15 war-end anniversary. Instead, in his role as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Abe contributed money to the shrine through the purchase of a branch of the sacred sakaki tree.

Visits to the shrine by the prime minister and Cabinet members can become major diplomatic stumbling blocks in Japan's relation with its Asian neighbors. As such, we commend Abe's decision to take the broad view and abandon visiting the controversial shrine on Aug. 15 this year.

The money for the sakaki branch was sent by an LDP legislator and special assistant to the party president on behalf of "Shinzo Abe, president of the Liberal Democratic Party." Since Abe used his own money to purchase the branch from the shrine, the donation will not stir controversy over whether it constitutes a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
玉串料は私費で、自民党総裁特別補佐の国会議員が代理で納め、「自民党総裁 安倍晋三」と記帳したという。私費であれば政教分離上の問題は生じない。

Abe made the donation out of apparent consideration for his conservative backers. These supporters are holding out hope the prime minister will visit Yasukuni Shrine in his official capacity, as Abe has stated that failing to visit during his previous one-year term in office in 2006-07 was "a matter of the greatest regret." We share their sense of gratitude and respect toward the war dead.

Many years have passed since visits by the prime minister and Cabinet members to Yasukuni became major diplomatic issues. Such visits have drawn fire from not only China and South Korea, victims of Japanese aggression and colonial rule, but United States officials have also expressed grave concerns over the potential for aggravating Tokyo's already strained ties with Beijing and Seoul.

Japan's postwar history began when the San Francisco Peace Treaty -- under which Japan accepted the results of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in which Class A war criminals were sentenced to death -- came into force in 1952. In the eyes of China, visits by the prime minister to Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined, would represent Japan's justification of its wartime actions. The U.S. could view such visits as a challenge to the San Francisco peace framework that was created on the initiative of Washington.

Yasukuni has become a highly complicated diplomatic problem as successive Japanese administrations failed to do anything to deal with the matter. As such, the government should exercise prudence in addressing the issue. In particular, Japan-China diplomatic relations are already deadlocked because of an intensifying dispute over sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and there is no prospect that a bilateral summit meeting will be held in the foreseeable future. Japan's relations with South Korea have also deteriorated to new lows over the interpretation of history, although the two countries share many of the same social and political values. In this sense, it is only natural that Prime Minister Abe abandoned visiting the shrine this summer.

The question is whether the prime minister will continue to forgo visiting the shrine. He will need to decide whether to pay a visit to the shrine during its autumn and spring festivals, as well as on the war-end anniversary on Aug. 15, 2014. He should make a clear decision if he hopes to stay in power for a long period.

Various measures to address the issue have been proposed. One such plan calls for separating the Class A war criminals from the war dead enshrined at Yasukuni, an idea that has been discussed since the government of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in the 1980s. There are testimonials stating that Emperor Hirohito, posthumously named Emperor Showa, eventually refrained from visiting Yasukuni because Class A war criminals were enshrined there. Some conservatives support the idea of separating such war criminals. During the tenure of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a plan to build a non-religious cenotaph for the war dead was considered.

What is the Yasukuni issue about in the first place? How did the enshrinement of Class A war criminals emerge as a point of contention between Japan and its Asian neighbors? Is there any solution to the problem? It is a good idea to set up a panel of experts to consider these matters, and the prime minister should refrain from visiting the shrine until after that panel proposes solutions.

China and South Korea should also watch over the Abe government's response to the issue from a long-term perspective. Japan and these neighbors should avoid intensifying their conflicts with narrow-minded nationalism.

毎日新聞 2013年08月16日 02時31分

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社説:はだしのゲン 戦争知る貴重な作品だ

August 20, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: 'Barefoot Gen' restrictions threaten vital peace education
社説:はだしのゲン 戦争知る貴重な作品だ

Schools are where the children of Japan, now so long at peace, learn about war, and about the atomic horror that marked the end of this country's last military conflict. In Matsue, capital of Shimane Prefecture, primary and junior high school students have been deprived of one major chance to learn these things, to understand the disaster of war.

We speak of course of the Matsue Municipal Board of Education's move in December last year to restrict student access to the 10-part manga series "Hadashi no Gen," or "Barefoot Gen," based on late author Keiji Nakazawa's own experience of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and its aftermath. At present, students at public primary and junior high schools in the city are not allowed to view or check out books from the series without special permission from their teachers.
The restrictions were imposed because the education board, or more specifically its superintendent, believed the manga's graphic depictions of death and violence -- including beheadings and rapes committed by former Imperial Japanese Army soldiers in other Asian nations -- were unsuitable for young students. Thirty-nine of Matsue's public primary and junior high schools have all 10 volumes of "Barefoot Gen."

When the access restrictions were revealed last week, the Matsue education board was flooded with protests from around the country. Many of Matsue's teachers, too, heaped scorn on the measure for violating children's right to know about the events depicted in the manga.

Teaching kids about the terror of war and the importance of peace is one of the school system's most important tasks. For a board of education, tasked with sustaining and promoting the study of peace, to close off one major avenue to do this is a serious problem that must be corrected. Moreover, the fact that the Matsue superintendent of education demanded the access restrictions without consulting her fellow education board members is a fact that must be discussed among the staff of every school, including their principals.

The event that prompted the education board to consider keeping "Barefoot Gen" out of the hands of its students was a petition submitted to the Matsue Municipal Assembly by a local citizen in August last year. The citizen demanded that "Barefoot Gen" be pulled from school library shelved because the series "plants mistaken historical views" in the minds of children. The municipal assembly agreed that the manga contained some extreme depictions, but that as "Barefoot Gen" was widely viewed as an important work for peace education, the assembly could not assent to the citizen's request.

The education board, however, decided separately that it was inappropriate to allow school children free access to the manga due to "scenes of former Imperial Japanese Army soldiers decapitating people of other Asian nations" and other depictions of extreme violence.

The first installment of "Barefoot Gen" was published in 1973 in a children's weekly manga magazine, and is now considered an invaluable work for its brutally honest portrayal of the horrors of war and how it snatches away our humanity. Now available in some 20 languages, "Barefoot Gen" has also brought the story of the A-bomb to readers the world over. The Matsue education board has said it recognizes the tremendous value of the series to peace education, and that there is no restriction on teachers using the manga in class.

The scenes of horrific cruelty portrayed in "Barefoot Gen" are there because war and the atomic bombings are themselves cruel. The Matsue education board's excessive restrictions don't just risk violating freedom of expression, but also stealing a chance for children to think about this admittedly shocking but very important subject matter. As such, these restrictions cannot be allowed to set a precedent.

"The theme of war and the A-bomb is very deep," author Nakazawa once said. "If 'Gen' spurs people to read more about the topic, helps them mature through seeking more information, then I'll be more than happy."

The survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs are growing older, their numbers thinning year by year. At the same time, the ranks of our people who have never known war continue to multiply. For this very reason, passing on first-hand accounts of war and the A-bombs is becoming all the more important, and nothing should be allowed to block this vital inheritance.

毎日新聞 2013年08月20日 02時33分

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The Asahi Shimbun, August 17, 2013
EDITORIAL: Clearer government role needed for Fukushima cleanup

The crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is far from over.

The government has yet to call off the state of nuclear emergency it declared on March 11, 2011, when the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami set off the nuclear accident.

Water contaminated with radioactive materials keeps leaking from the crippled plant, polluting underground soil and the sea in the area.

This fact clearly shows that the nuclear disaster is still going on.

Last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the continued leakage of contaminated water is “a pressing problem."
“The government will take effective measures to tackle the problem instead of leaving it entirely to Tokyo Electric Power," he said.

Abe made these remarks at a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, set up in line with the government's declaration of the state of nuclear emergency. Abe is head of the task force.

By clearly defining the respective responsibilities of the utility and the government organizations involved in responding to the situation, the government needs to make flat-out efforts to contain radiation and resolve the crisis.

The government has made a big mistake by leaving it entirely to TEPCO. As a result, measures to stop leaks of radioactive water have been ineffective, allowing environmental pollution to escalate. The government's move to step in and get involved in the efforts to sort out the problem came far too late.

Abe told industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi to give appropriate instructions to TEPCO as soon as possible. He also called on Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, to ensure that the nuclear regulatory body will direct all its efforts toward identifying the causes of the problem and take effective steps to secure safety.

Although TEPCO will remain in charge of cleanup work at the site, the government said it will now take concrete actions to support the efforts. The industry ministry has indicated it will cover part of the costs of implementing a plan to freeze soil around the nuclear facilities to prevent groundwater from flowing into the contaminated areas of the plant.

But the ministry will provide the money to partly finance the measure as research expenses. Given the urgency of the situation, the ministry's commitment to tackling the situation is far too weak.

The NRA is not showing an all-out commitment to the challenge, either.
“TEPCO and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy are playing a central role (in dealing with the problem)," Tanaka said. “Our role is to provide advice (for the efforts) as an observer."

It would be shameful if TEPCO, the industry ministry, which has been a champion of nuclear power generation, and the NRA, the nuclear regulator, try to shuffle off responsibility onto one another or make their responsibility vague, thereby causing delays in the implementation of necessary measures.

The NRA's role is crucial.

Ahead of receiving the request from Abe, the nuclear watchdog set up a task force to discuss measures to stop leaks of contaminated water.

The group has shown a willingness to provide guidance for TEPCO's efforts to deal with the situation by raising some specific questions that need to be answered, such as: “How effective will it be to pump up groundwater?" “How far has polluted water spread in power cable ducts?"
The NRA should demonstrate a stronger commitment to the challenge and offer useful ideas by using all its expertise and other intellectual resources.

The chief of the now defunct Nuclear Safety Commission was not even a member of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, but the NRA chairman is deputy chief of the headquarters. The entity should make the most of the powers vested in it according to lessons learned from the disaster.

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The Asahi Shimbun, August 21, 2013
EDITORIAL: Consumers must change way of thinking to reduce food losses

Of roughly 4 billion tons of food produced globally for human consumption per year, one-third is lost or wasted, according to estimates by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

In the estimates, food “losses” and food “waste” are separate categories. The former occurs during the production to retailing stages, while the latter concerns food that is discarded at the consumption stage.

Food losses in Japan are estimated at 5 million tons to 8 million tons annually, roughly equivalent to the amount of rice harvested in the country per year.

In an effort to scale back losses of processed foods--confectionery, seasonings, drinks, instant noodles and the like--a six-month experiment kicked off this month that involves 35 big companies, including food makers, wholesalers and retailers.

Customarily, retailers refuse to accept processed foods for which one-third of the period from production to best-before dates has passed. Thus, food makers are saddled with growing losses.

In the United States and Europe, food makers are able to ship their products until later days of the period. In the experiment, retailers accept processed foods for which up to half of the period from production to best-before dates has passed. This allows the companies to check the level of losses that can be reduced in this manner.

Individual businesses cannot easily change the way they operate in the face of customs that have taken root in the world of commerce. Thus, industry-wide collaboration is necessary.

Retailers refusing to accept processed foods for which one-third of the period from production to best-before dates has passed is one problem. But there are others, too. With regard to stocks kept in distribution centers, major retailers often return food items to makers if two-thirds of the period has passed.

When retailers change goods on their store shelves, they tend to delay placing orders until immediately before making the switch. Because of that, makers tend to hold excessive stocks, fearing they will be unable to supply goods on demand.

We hope the 35 companies involved in the experiment will try to solve those problems.

Food banks and other groups that distribute returned food to welfare organizations are becoming more active. We hope to see a transformation in our country's economic and social structures, so that food produced for human consumption is actually eaten as much as possible.

We also hope that the experiment will go beyond processed foods to items that have shorter periods until their best-before or expiration dates and are more susceptible to daily supply-demand fluctuations, such as tofu, milk, fresh vegetables, ready-to-eat deli offerings and "bento" box meals.

We understand that companies must do their best to satisfy consumer demand for freshness, convenience and variety. But it is also important for them to see the reality of the huge volume of farm produce and other food items that are being trashed to satisfy those demands.

Corporations are apparently bound by a sense that it is easier and less costly to discard food items than to create a system to prevent losses. For them to be freed from this spell, we consumers must first change our way of thinking.

In developing countries, there are many kinds of food that spoil at production sites because of inadequate transportation and storage facilities. To solve the problem, developed countries need to make investments or offer aid.

But more than anything, it is our responsibility as citizens of a developed nation to move away from our distribution and consumption structure that invites losses and waste of precious food resources.

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ネット依存 学校や家庭での予防が大切だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 22, 2013
Young people must be warned about dangers of Internet addiction
ネット依存 学校や家庭での予防が大切だ(8月21日付・読売社説)

An increasing number of young people are so obsessed with using smartphones and computers that their health and schoolwork are being undermined. Prompt measures should be taken at school and home to deal with this problem.

According to a recent survey by a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry research team, about 520,000 middle and high school students are addicted to the Internet, particularly for online gaming and e-mailing.

The survey shows that 9 percent of middle school students and 14 percent of high school students access the Internet more than five hours each weekday.

What should not be overlooked in the survey is that a significant percentage of students are believed to be so obsessed with going online that they cannot restrain themselves from accessing the Internet, as is evident from the irritation they express if they have to stop using it. The figure for middle school students stands at 6 percent, and high school students at 9 percent.

About 60 percent of those surveyed suffer from sleep dis-orders. Their days and nights tend to be reversed as a result of their absorption in the Internet late at night. In some cases, they skip school and confine themselves to their rooms.

The addiction of young people to the Internet during their growth period is ruining their minds and bodies. The situation is extremely serious.

Some young Internet addicts have nutritional disorders due to irregular eating habits. They also show symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, the formation of a blood clot due to long hours of retaining the same seated posture, a condition normally associated with economy-class passengers on airplanes. The deeper the addiction to the Internet, the greater likelihood they will feel depressed.

Specialized treatment sparse

Medical attention is needed for people who are seriously addicted to the Internet. Keeping a daily record of the number of hours spent using the Internet could make young addicts more aware of their problem. At some hospitals, doctors and clinical psychologists provide counseling.

However, only a few medical institutions have departments capable of providing such people with specialized treatment. It is necessary to nurture specialists with sufficient expertise to cure people hooked on the Internet and create centers to provide consultation services for addicts.

Internet users may feel tempted to gain recognition from or link themselves to others. One example is an online combat game that can be played by a certain number of people. The longer the gamers play, the more skillful they become. In many cases, young people play online games for an inordinate amount of time, hoping to earn praise from other players and experience a feeling of achievement and exaltation. They may find it extremely difficult to give up playing online games.

Another example is absorption in Line, an instant messaging system. Some users are unable to take their eyes off their smartphone and computer screens during their use of Line’s chat function, fearing they may be shunned by fellow Line users unless they immediately respond to their messages.

In this day and age, the Internet is an indispensable means of communication for work and daily life. Smartphones are spreading rapidly. There is a strong possibility the number of Internet addicts will increase.

In receiving computer-assisted lessons at school, students should not only be taught how to use electronic devices. They also should be encouraged to realize the danger of Internet addition while learning how to appropriately use smartphones.

In buying their children smartphones, parents should lay down rules on how many hours—and for what purpose—they should be allowed to use them each day.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 21, 2013)
(2013年8月21日01時29分  読売新聞)

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北方領土交渉 周到な対露戦略を立てて前に

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 22, 2013
Deliberate strategy required to advance northern territories talks
北方領土交渉 周到な対露戦略を立てて前に(8月21日付・読売社説)

Deadlocked negotiations over the northern territories off Hokkaido will soon make a fresh start. We urge Japanese and Russian leaders to finally resolve this longstanding issue.

Japanese and Russian deputy foreign ministers met in Moscow on Monday and affirmed their countries’ basic positions on the disputed islands.

They agreed that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold summit talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5.

This will be the third tete-a-tete between Abe and Putin this year. It is meaningful that they are meeting frequently to build up mutual confidence.

Russia insists that the four northern islands became the former Soviet Union’s territories as a result of World War II.

Japan’s position is that the Soviet Union seized the four islands by taking advantage of the chaos in the closing days of the war and they have been illegally occupied since then. If the four islands are acknowledged to belong to Japan, the government is prepared to respond flexibly to the timing and manner of their actual return.

These negotiations are likely to be anything but smooth because wide gaps remain between the two countries’ claims and recognition of the issue. The bottom line is that a solution needs to be found in accord with law and justice.

The question is what Putin really meant when he said both sides should be willing to accept a “hikiwake” (draw) over the issue.

Putin’s remark is utterly unacceptable for Japan if he thinks he wants to settle the dispute by returning only the Habomai group of islets and Shikotan Island to Japan based on the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956, which requires Russia to hand them to Japanese rule after a bilateral peace treaty is concluded.

Japan should move ahead with the negotiations while carefully watching the situations inside and around Russia, and work out a deliberate strategy.

Both sides can benefit

Russia wants Japan’s technologies and investment to help develop eastern Siberia and the Far East. Sales of Russia’s natural gas to Europe, its biggest customer, have dropped due to the shale gas revolution in the United States, so Moscow has high expectations Japan will import more of its natural gas.

Japan and Russia have common interests in dealing with North Korea, which is pressing ahead with its nuclear development, and putting pressure on China. Beijing has irritated Moscow by advancing into the Northern Sea Route, which is being developed as polar ice melts due to global warming.

Japan must draw up a blueprint that will convince Russia returning the northern territories will benefit both countries and help develop bilateral relations.

The “Russianization” of the northern territories has been steadily moving ahead. Last month, Putin visited Sakhalin State and expressed his intention to extend the development of the Chishima Islands, including the four northern islands, under “a program for the social and economic development of the Kuril Islands.” Japan should not just sit idly by.

Last month’s House of Councillors election handed Abe a stable political footing that could last up to three years. He must knuckle down on the negotiations and produce results in his talks with Putin.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 21, 2013)
(2013年8月21日01時29分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月21日 (水)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:どう防ぐ「感情の爆発」 /東京

July 28, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: How can we prevent emotional outbursts?
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:どう防ぐ「感情の爆発」 /東京

In the recent case of a teenage girl found dead in the mountains in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, a former classmate who turned herself in and her friends who were arrested were frequent users of a free messaging application.
When the former classmate, accompanied by her mother, turned herself in, she is said to have told her mother, "I got angry because (the dead teenage girl) wrote insulting things about me (through the application)."

Furthermore, before her arrest, the girl is said to have sent messages to her friends, saying, "Sorry for betraying you."

Compared to email, messages through these kinds of applications are even simpler to send. When even sending a message is too much trouble, one of limitless emoticons can be chosen and sent instead.

The appearance of such applications has drastically increased communication opportunities for young people. Without the need to put things in paragraphs and write and rewrite, one can easily send a message to someone the moment they feel something. Those who receive such messages, meanwhile, make short-phrased replies, almost like a conditioned response. The basis of this communication seems to be making things "as fast and short as possible," and when I listen to my students' conversations, I sometimes hear them say things like, "That person is slow in responding to messages," or "Those messages are so long I don't feel like reading them."

Rather than careful thought and revision, sending messages and replying are the priority.

As people continue with this kind of communication, I wonder whether they don't, before they even know it, lose some of the habits they had used to control their emotions beforehand. Until recently, even if a person got angry at someone else's comment, while keeping it out of their expression they would first let things stew in their head. While doing this their anger would slowly subside, and by the time they talked to someone else about what had happened, they were considerably calmed down.

But with devices that allow instantaneously messaging to many people, there is no longer a need to keep one's emotions in check. One can express themselves with over-the-top emoticons, and rather than things settling, emotions may fly even higher than they were at the beginning.

Letting the things we feel and think immediately show on our face or in our words is dangerous both to us and those we communicate with. It seems our age has presented us with yet another difficult problem -- how to enjoy our smartphone and messaging applications while also preventing emotional outbursts.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年07月23日 地方版

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The Asahi Shimbun, August 19, 2013
EDITORIAL: Japan, South Korea should work together to cut nuclear power

South Korea is suffering from a serious power crunch as it swelters under a powerful heat wave with daily highs topping 40 degrees in some parts of the nation.

The power shortage stems from the suspension of operations of five of the country’s 23 nuclear reactors partly due to revelations of improprieties in domestic nuclear power plants.

For years, the South Korean government has been steadily increasing the country’s dependence on nuclear power generation. But the government is now facing an unprecedentedly loud chorus of calls from citizens for reducing electricity production with nuclear energy amid criticism over the revelations.

The administration of President Park Geun-hye has said it will work out by year-end a basic plan for future energy supply that sets targets concerning the shares of nuclear power and renewable energy in the country’s electricity mix. We hope the Park administration will pay serious attention to the people’s wishes and embark on full-fledged efforts to scale down the nation’s nuclear power output.

The electricity crisis has generated angry whispers about a “nuclear power mafia” among South Koreans.

In May, it was revealed that parts used in nuclear power equipment had been supplied using fake performance certificates. Investigations into why the forgery had gone undetected uncovered the existence of a close-knit community of public utilities that operate nuclear power plants, related researchers and the regulatory agency.

Prosecutors have questioned a number of people concerned and made a series of arrests.

The administration of former President Lee Myung-bak promoted the construction of nuclear power plants and exports of nuclear technologies. It set a policy target of raising the share of nuclear power in overall electricity generation to about 60 percent in 2030, 60 percent higher than the current level. The Lee administration also promised to increase the share of renewable energy in power generation, which is among the lowest in the developed world, but didn’t pin much hope on natural energy.

The question facing the Park administration is whether it should follow the energy policy set by the previous government.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster has made many South Koreans realize that nuclear power generation is by no means cheap, prompting calls for a shift toward renewable energy sources. The number of lawmakers arguing for less dependency on nuclear power has been rising gradually.

There are already some campaigns for a cleaner energy future that could serve as a model. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon has announced a program to replace the electricity that can be supplied by one nuclear reactor with a combination of power generation using renewable energy and power savings by 2014. The goal is almost certain to be achieved.

Under the program, solar panels have been installed on the premises of water purifying plants and on the roofs of bus stops. People’s efforts to reduce power consumption are rewarded with increased points on their IC tickets for transportation means. Officials at many other local governments have taken inspection tours in Seoul to study how it is working.

President Park has proposed a “Northeast Asian peace and cooperation initiative” as a key item on her policy agenda. It would involve discussions for regional cooperation in efforts to ensure safety at nuclear power plants and effective responses to natural disasters.

If a major nuclear accident occurs in South Korea, Japan and other neighboring countries would also be affected. The risks of nuclear power generation know no borders. Final disposal of spent nuclear fuel is another tough common challenge for all countries with nuclear power plants.

This summer, both Japan and South Korea have been gripped by record heat waves. This is probably a good opportunity for the two countries to start talks for energy cooperation toward reduced dependence on nuclear power as well as for better nuclear safety.

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The Asahi Shimbun, August 20, 2013
EDITORIAL: All children should have free access to ‘Hadashi no Gen’

The Matsue municipal board of education has instructed public elementary and junior high schools in the city not to make a famous manga about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima freely available to children in school libraries. The board’s move to restrict children’s access to “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen) has drawn criticism from all over the nation.

In the final parts of the book, some atrocities committed by the former Japanese army, such as beheading Asian people, are depicted. In December last year, the municipal education board decided that these descriptions are “extreme expressions” and asked principals to make sure that students cannot read the manga in the libraries without obtaining permission from the schools. It has also been withdrawn from circulation.

“Hadashi no Gen” was created by manga artist Keiji Nakazawa, who died in December last year. In addition to the devastation of Hiroshima and people’s sufferings after the war, both of which he experienced himself, Nakazawa described, in shocking detail, various battlefield scenes he learned from historical records and materials. Due to its vivid descriptions of the frightful spectacles of war, the manga drew an immense response.

Many children became interested in the nuclear attacks against Japan in the closing days of World War II for the first time when they read “Hadashi no Gen,” one of the few manga books among the school library collection.

The education board’s decision could deprive children of a good opportunity to learn about the tragedy. Moreover, the board didn’t follow the rule that it must make any important decision in an open meeting of board members. The decision was made in an opaque manner by the secretariat of the board. The education board should immediately withdraw its directive concerning “Hadashi no Gen.”

The board’s move was made after a man submitted a written petition to the Matsue municipal assembly in August last year. The petition called for the removal of “Hadashi no Gen” from schools, claiming it described fictitious acts of barbarity by Japanese soldiers and had a harmful effect on the minds of children.

Although the man’s demands were not accepted, some assembly members argued that the manga should be designated as a “bad book” and asked the education board to take appropriate action. The request led to the board’s move to restrict access to the manga in school libraries.

Soon after Nakazawa started the manga series in the Weekly Shonen Jump comic magazine in 1973, his descriptions of the war were criticized as “brutal.” Nakazawa once said he had agonized over how to depict the war. Because it bitterly denounces the acts of the army and holds Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, responsible for the war, conservatives criticize the manga as “biased” and “anti-Japanese.”

Still, “Hadashi no Gen” has been widely accepted because Nakazawa’s anti-war message has obtained a favorable response from children. By using all of his skills as an artist to describe the cruelty of war he witnessed, Nakazawa tried to tell children that war must never be allowed to happen again.

Teachers, who generally had a negative stance toward manga, also embraced “Hadashi no Gen” and allocated part of the limited school library budget to add the manga to the library’s collection because of its power to send its anti-war message.

There are still various views and opinions about the wartime acts of the former Japanese army and Emperor Hirohito’s responsibility for the war. Nakazawa’s historical views about the war as expressed in the work are also open to criticism.

“Hadashi no Gen” is exactly the type of material that can be used for discussions among adults and children on these and other issues concerning the war. There is no need to keep children from accessing this material.

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日本語の普及 海外で知日派を育成するには

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 21, 2013
Greater effort needed to promote Japanese-language learning abroad
日本語の普及 海外で知日派を育成するには(8月20日付・読売社説)

A report compiled by a private panel of experts for the Foreign Ministry calls for promoting the Japanese language in other countries and enhancing Japan’s presence in the international community. The government plans to prepare a budget to propagate the language.

The report also wants to make it easier for young people abroad to learn Japanese.

The “Cool Japan” strategy, launched by the government to promote the Japanese culture of manga, anime and fashion overseas, is attracting the interest of young people around the world. Proactively concentrating on such trends is the correct thing to do.

Specifically, the report suggested setting up a Japanese-language course for beginners on the Internet. It is essential to utilize information technology to that end.

It also suggested expanding the program for the long-term dispatch of Japanese-language experts to foreign countries, which the Japan Foundation—the core organization for promoting the Japanese language abroad—has been implementing with the aim of increasing the number of foreigners teaching Japanese in their own countries.

If these policy measures prove effective in increasing the number of foreigners learning Japanese, their understanding of Japan will become deeper. This will increase the number of people who are pro-Japanese and knowledgeable about Japan.

Such measures also should prove useful for Japanese companies, which are increasingly launching overseas operations, to secure local Japanese-speaking staff.

Behind the ministry’s discussions to promote the Japanese language abroad is a declining global interest in learning Japanese.

While the number of foreigners learning or speaking Japanese totals about 3.98 million, a figure 30 times larger than the number 30-plus years ago, the growth in Japanese-language learners abroad has slowed recently.

Although the number of people learning Japanese in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries is rising, it is declining in such countries as South Korea, Britain and Canada.

Interest in Chinese growing

Half of those people studying Japanese overseas are middle and high school students learning it as a second foreign language, with English as their first foreign language. Lately there has been a sharp increase in the number students studying Chinese as their second foreign language.

It is true that interest has grown among non-Chinese because of China’s fast-growing economy. Yet there are other reasons.

China has established government-affiliated educational institutions, such as the Confucius Institute, around the world, made efforts to teach the Chinese language to foreigners, provided them with learning materials and fostered foreigners teaching Chinese in their own countries.

Particularly in the area of primary education, the Chinese government is proactively inviting to China foreign teaching staff and school officials.

In the United States, some universities, as wells as primary, middle and high schools, have ended Japanese language courses, apparently because of growing interest in the Chinese language.

The report stressed that the biggest impediment faced by institutions teaching Japanese overseas is securing a sufficient number of Japanese-language teachers. It also pointed out that Japan had failed to provide foreigners with such advantages as studying in this country or finding jobs in Japanese companies.

We hope the government, in light of the report’s suggestions, drastically rethinks its strategy in promoting the Japanese language overseas.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2013)
(2013年8月20日02時06分  読売新聞)

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デフレ状況 「なくなりつつある」は本物か

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 21, 2013
Too early to declare an end to the fight against deflation
デフレ状況 「なくなりつつある」は本物か(8月20日付・読売社説)

It would be too early to conclude that Japan is successfully combating deflation. It is essential to see whether the current price situation will lead to “a favorable price increase” to bring about stable growth.

In its monthly economic report for August, the government judged that “the state of deflation is about to end.”

The government reportedly attributed the favorable judgment to improvements in price-related indexes, including the fact that the consumer price index, excluding perishables, rose 0.4 percent in June compared with the same month last year.

Gasoline and food prices have increased in succession. Many people might have begun to feel the price increase.

Commenting on the extent of progress from deflation, Akira Amari, state minister for economic and fiscal policy, said, “Comparing it to climbing Mt. Fuji, we’re now at the Seventh Station,” showing confidence about the possibility of “reaching the summit.”

However, Mt. Fuji climbing becomes more difficult after climbers pass the Seventh Station. It is better not to naively think that approximately 15 years of deflation can be overcome easily.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must maintain an economy-first policy and take every possible measure to ensure that the country exits from deflation at this time.

Of concern is the fact that recent high prices are primarily caused by import price increases due to high crude oil bills and the weaker yen. Gasoline prices have topped ¥160 per liter on average nationwide and the prices of imported wine and processed foods are expected to soar.

The price of liquefied natural gas, the main fuel for thermal power generation, has skyrocketed, thereby accelerating power rate hikes.

Adverse side effects

Spikes in the prices of raw materials and utility rates have pushed up prices and created a serious side effect on business.

Businesses tend to refrain from hiking prices in an effort to prevent sales from declining, even if production and other costs soar.

If corporate performance deteriorates due to dwindling profit margins and wages do not increase, consumption will become sluggish and business performance will decline further. If “unfavorable price hikes” led by rising costs occur as a result, it will have a negative effect on economic revitalization.

Even if total salaries including bonuses have begun to improve, essential basic wages have continued to decline. If household income does not increase in line with price hikes, it will be impossible to expect sustainable economic growth.

It will be necessary to create a virtuous circle in which wages grow stably and prices rise slowly.

The government is urged to carry out its growth strategy steadily. It must step up efforts to enhance the vigor of the private sector by carrying out regulatory reforms aimed at fostering new types of industry and tax incentives for investment and lowering the corporate tax.

Companies’ internal reserves are said to top ¥200 trillion. It is vital for both the private and public sectors to redouble efforts to have corporate profits reflected smoothly in wage improvements.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2013)
(2013年8月20日02時06分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月20日 (火)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「撤回」簡単に言うけれど /東京

August 11, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Politician or private person, words can't easily be erased
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「撤回」簡単に言うけれど /東京

A Japanese politician yet again made some controversial remarks and quickly retracted them. Every time public figures "retract" what they have said, I wonder what it means. "Retraction" is defined as an act to take back one's comments or expression of the person's intention, and the Civil Code provides for such an act. But can words be retracted once they've been spoken?

Many patients come to my clinic because they have been hurt or become depressed because of something someone -- and sometimes that someone is themselves -- has said. For example, one woman started studying another language after she hit her 30s, but her mother told her it was "too late." The woman then started to question herself, thinking, "Is it really too late? When should I have started? Will I be 'too late' for everything I try in the future?" Her self-doubt grew until finally she couldn't even go to work.

When the woman came to see me, we decided to include her mother in counseling sessions. The mother explained she made the "too late" comment without thinking much, because her daughter never studied when she was young no matter how many times she told her to. The woman's mother said, "If my words hurt her so much, I'll take them back." The woman was, however, unconvinced, and continued to suffer from psychological pain for some time after that meeting.

Of course, we can't treat ill-conceived remarks by politicians in the same way as comments between family members. But I have always felt something was off about public figures taking back what they have said, while private individuals can't undo their words so easily. I imagine how peaceful people's minds could be if they were able to take back what they'd said to their friends, colleagues and families.

Nevertheless, not everyone can pretend like nothing happened after a politician retracts a silly or hurtful statement. The international community has been especially critical of the recent comments of that certain Japanese political figure. If people overlook or forgive these comments made by our leaders, the reputation of Japanese society as a whole could be in danger of declining internationally.

We oftentimes feel people shouldn't take careless comments too personally. However, I don't think we should let these remarks made by politicians pass so easily, even if they "retract" them. "Be soft on politicians, hard on ordinary people" is not the way a society should function.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年08月06日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:副作用の恐怖 /東京

August 18, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The fear of side effects
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:副作用の恐怖 /東京

I recently saw a horror movie titled "Side Effects." Well, it was a horror movie for this psychiatrist! The film was directed by Steven Soderbergh, who has also directed light-hearted entertaining movies such as "Ocean's Eleven."

The movie plot goes like this -- a woman suffering depression goes to see a psychiatrist. The doctor prescribes a new antidepressant to the woman, of which he had signed a contract with a pharmaceutical company for preferential use. The patient starts feeling better soon after she takes the medication until one day her husband's body is discovered in her house.

Police conclude that the woman stabbed her husband while sleepwalking, which was one of the drug's side effects. The doctor is publicly criticized for putting her on such dangerous medication and loses his reputation. In an attempt to clear his name after his family leaves him, the doctor starts an investigation into the case on his own.

The story then develops into a social thriller. I won't give away details here, but I was feeling blue seeing the greed of a giant drug company and the medical society, which destroyed an ordinary psychiatrist's life.

People who have watched the movie must be worried about side effects from antidepressants. My patients sometimes tell me they are scared of taking drugs I have prescribed as their terrible side effects were listed on the Internet.

Major side effects of antidepressants used to include dry mouth, faintness and tiredness. Meanwhile, recently developed drugs rarely cause these symptoms, but they may on occasion cause irritation and impulsive behavior. Certain sleeping pills can cause sleepwalking just like in the movie. These side effects don't happen frequently, but once they do, it's a shocking experience to patients.

Most people benefit from taking antidepressants without having to experience these side effects. We psychiatrists often recommend taking such medication, thinking it's such a waste not to take these drugs in fear of side effects that rarely occur. However, it's only natural for patients to resist taking such medication even if the chance of developing side effects is 1-in-10,000.

I want to tell people who watch this movie that most psychiatrists work for the benefit of their patients, not for pharmaceutical companies. However, psychiatrists should ask themselves if they really provide patient-centered treatment or understand patients' fears of side effects. I myself had to rethink about psychiatric treatment in order to make patients happy.
 この映画を見る人には、「ほとんどの精神科医は、製薬会社のためにではなく患者さんのために医療を行っているんです」と言いたい。しかし、その一方で精神科医はしっかり自分の胸に聞いてみるべきだろう。「私は本当に『患者さん本位』の医療をしているか? 患者さんの副作用の恐怖を理解しているか?」。「患者さんにとって、ハッピーな心の医療」のあるべき姿をもう一度考えてみたい。

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年08月13日 地方版

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The Asahi Shimbun, August 16, 2013
EDITORIAL: Abe should not look away from Japan's history of aggression

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eschewed visiting Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II.

Japan’s relations with China and South Korea remain chilly over problems concerning the Senkaku Islands, the Takeshima islets and perceptions of history. A visit to the war-related shrine at this juncture would put off the improvement of relations even further.

Thus, the decision not to visit the shrine was a realistic one.

How is the prime minister trying to face up to the past? Not only China and South Korea but also the United States and European countries are keeping a close watch. Visits to Yasukuni Shrine are not the only problem. Behind their misgivings is Abe’s comment earlier this year: “The definition of aggression has yet to be established,” which can be construed as denial of Japan’s war responsibility.

A wrong move could cause Japan to become isolated in the international community. The prime minister is urged to take this point to heart.

In that sense, there is something we find disturbing.

While Abe delivered a speech at the government-sponsored memorial service for the war dead on Aug. 15, the address made no reference to reflection on Japan’s responsibility for inflicting damage on Asian nations or any expression of condolences.

Starting with Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in 1993, successive Japanese leaders have mentioned the wartime devastation inflicted on Asian countries by Japan in their speeches for the annual ceremony.

In 2007, during Abe’s first tenure as prime minister, he also stated: “(Japan) caused considerable damage and suffering to the people of Asian countries. … I offer deep remorse and express my heartfelt condolences to those who were killed.”

This time, “a pledge not to make war” that had been expressed in the past was not mentioned, either.

Aides to the prime minister say the memorial address reflects his intention that the ceremony is for the war dead, and that he mentioned consideration toward Asian nations in his responses to questions in the Diet.

But such an expedient response is unacceptable. The ceremony also serves as an occasion to show Japan’s stance toward the war to the world. With the absence of wording about Japan’s responsibility for causing damage, Abe's speech could give the impression that Japan lacks consideration for the people of Asia.

Even though the prime minister declined to visit Yasukuni, wasn’t he sending a message to the opposite effect?

What we find disturbing is the fact that the words that were not mentioned in Abe’s speech overlap with Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's 1995 statement that Japan “through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”

For a long time, Abe has shown an inclination toward re-examining the Murayama statement. If his memorial address reflects such intentions, there is no way we can accept it.

Although the prime minister refrained from visiting Yasukuni Shrine, some members of his Cabinet, as well as a group of many lawmakers, visited the shrine.

Without looking away from history, Japan needs to use its imagination to understand the pain of other countries. Such an attitude is what Japanese politicians need now more than ever.

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原子力機構 信頼回復へ組織改革が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 20, 2013
JAEA's organizational reform key to regain trust in nuclear energy
原子力機構 信頼回復へ組織改革が急務だ(8月19日付・読売社説)

The nation’s nuclear research headquarters should no longer remain dysfunctional. It is a matter of urgency to rebuild the Japan Atomic Energy Agency to regain public trust.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has compiled a plan to reform the JAEA, which faces numerous problems—as experts have pointed out—including its stance on ensuring safety in the nuclear energy field.

The agency will work out a time schedule to implement concrete reform plans as early as this autumn, while aiming to impose necessary legal revisions. Drawing up an effective work schedule will test its competence.

The organization plays a central role in the nation’s nuclear energy field, conducting basic and safety research, and developing human resources in the field, in addition to operating the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.

Discussions on reforming the agency were prompted by faulty maintenance checks of the reactor that were disclosed in November. In May this year, radioactive substances leaked following an incident at a laboratory at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Maintenance and inspections are essential elements in ensuring the safety of nuclear power facilities. Containment of radioactive materials is the basic premise.

It is only reasonable, therefore, that the ministry’s reform plan has, first of all, called on all agency employees to keep this premise firmly in mind.

The ministry then hammered out the drastic reforms the agency needs.

The plan divides the agency’s work into four major sections: research and development of the nuclear fuel cycle, including the Monju reactor; dealing with the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant; enhancement of nuclear safety; and basic nuclear energy research. Other work will be transferred to other organizations, according to the plan.

Concentrate on key tasks

The agency is a huge organization, with an annual budget of ¥180 billion and 3,900 employees. Concentrating its work on key tasks will help strengthen its governance in these fields.

With regard to the Monju reactor, the ministry says the agency’s mixed tasks of carrying out both research and operation of the reactor may have been responsible for the faulty maintenance checks. The ministry has decided to have the agency concentrate on the operational management of the reactor, which will be tentatively renamed “Monju power station.”

The agency also plans to put a person who has served as head of a power station of an electric power company as an executive in charge of ensuring the reactor’s safety, while research related to the fast-breeder reactor will be assigned to a new organization.

Although about ¥1 trillion has been injected into the fast-breeder reactor, it has long remained idle because of a series of problems. We hope the agency will take full advantage of the organizational reform.

The agency’s responsibilities also have grown further in such areas as carrying out preparations to decommission the crippled reactors at the Fukushima power station. The agency also is expected to improve the safety of other nuclear power plants.

Yet as the government’s nuclear energy policy and nuclear fuel cycle policy remain in disarray, it is uncertain how to consider the Monju reactor in the overall scheme of things, a situation that may hinder rapid reform of the agency.

Some members of the Nuclear Regulation Authority have pointed out that having the agency operate the Monju reactor, while at the same time carrying out safety research undermines the reliability of that research. In discussing the work schedule, the agency should come up with a framework to ensure the independence of safety research.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2013)
(2013年8月19日02時06分  読売新聞)

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大学入試改革 混乱招かぬよう丁寧な議論を

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 20, 2013
University entrance test reforms must be thoroughly discussed
大学入試改革 混乱招かぬよう丁寧な議論を(8月19日付・読売社説)

Reforming the university entrance examination system is an important issue that can greatly affect applicants, teachers, schools and others. The issue should be thoroughly discussed from various perspectives.

The government’s Education Rebuilding Implementation Council earlier this month started discussions on reforms of the university entrance examination system, the crux of which is whether an achievement test should be introduced, as pledged by the Liberal Democratic Party during the July House of Councillors election campaign.

Under the plan being considered, an achievement test for high school students would be conducted several times a year. Students would submit the best score among the tests to the university of their choice. The university would use the score to determine the student’s basic scholastic ability and conduct its own screening test to gauge the student’s ability to think and find problems to solve.

The current examination system, which gives students virtually one chance to do well in order to get into the university department of their choice, is criticized for putting excessive burdens on university applicants.

Giving students more opportunities to take screening tests would make it easier for them to demonstrate their ability without being at the mercy of luck. This works for universities and colleges, too, as it would be an effective way to find excellent students.

Many have pointed out that more and more students are spending less time studying and fail to acquire the necessary scholastic ability, as a result of the growing practices of screening applicants mainly by interviews in the so-called AO (admission office) admission test and of admitting students based on recommendations by high schools.

The achievement test is aimed at motivating high school students to study and raise their academic ability by establishing a new goal.

Huge expense involved

We understand its aims, but how about its cost-effectiveness? As the achievement test is a totally new way to screen applicants, the costs of making examination questions that can appropriately gauge academic abilities and holding the examinations across the nation would be huge.

How difficult the test should be and how many subjects should be included in it are key issues that must be addressed.

Another issue that must be tackled is whether the current National Center Test for University Admissions should be kept.

The national center test, introduced in 1990, is a widely accepted unified test to gauge the scholastic achievement of high school students. It is used by all national and public universities and 90 percent of private institutions for screeing applicants.

Abolishing the national center test would inevitably cause tremendous confusion to students, teachers, schools and other parties.

As for holding one of several achievement tests early in the third year of high school, this may force schools to cram as schools advance their curriculum schedules to prepare students for the tests.

High school teachers and others concerned are worried that school events and club activities could be curbed as students would be busy preparing for the achievement tests. We believe their concerns are reasonable.

There is another issue that should not be forgotten: How can achievement tests be given to high school graduates trying to enter university after their previous attempts have failed or those wishing to study at an institution of higher learning after having worked some time?

The Education Rebuilding Implementation Council is scheduled to compile a set of proposals as early as autumn, but we believe it must not hastily reach conclusions. It is essential to review the nation’s university entrance examination system from the viewpoint of how we can raise the quality of education both at high schools and universities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2013)
(2013年8月19日02時06分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月19日 (月)

地銀再編 地域経済の再生へ役割果たせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 18, 2013
Regional banks must play role in revitalizing regional economies
地銀再編 地域経済の再生へ役割果たせ(8月17日付・読売社説)

To accelerate the revitalization of regional economies, it is vital to promote the realignment of regional banks, of which there are currently too many, and strengthen their financial functions.

The banking industry and the government must expedite their efforts to make regional finances firm and resilient.

Tokyo Tomin Bank, a regional bank with a business foothold in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures, and Yachiyo Bank, a second-tier regional bank, have been negotiating a plan to integrate their management in autumn next year.

If realized, the move would create the sixth-largest regional bank in the Kanto region with combined deposits of ¥4.4 trillion. The merger plan is believed to reflect the strategy of the two regional banks to invigorate their management and survive as a leading regional bank in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Since financial insecurity heightened in the 1990s, “relief-type” realignments have become prominent. But things are different in the case of Tokyo Tomin and Yachiyo banks. They have started moving toward realignment while they have surplus financial power.

Their case could become a model for the future realignment of regional banks. It is hoped that the two banks will successfully conclude their negotiations, thereby pioneering a new era of realignment of regional banks.

There are more than 100 regional banks, including those in the second tier, across the country. In many prefectures, three or more regional banks are battling to survive.

In fact, they have been competing continuously with credit unions and other rival banks, scrambling for shares of the “small pie” of various areas.

Gradual decline feared

Regional banks as a whole have been suffering as their profits from lending and fund management have dropped. If the situation is left unchanged, they will inevitably suffer a gradual decline.

The growth strategy crafted by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June calls for regional financial institutions to actively provide funds to revitalize regional business and foster new industries, with a view to reconstructing regional businesses that serve as the foundation for the national economy.

For the regional banks to play such roles, it is essential to bolster their financial bases, such as self-owned capital, thereby improving their capacity to fulfill loan requests. Management integration could be a leading option in this regard.

Under the Law on Special Measures for Strengthening Financial Functions, banks are able to receive public funds for capital reinforcement. If banks use this system at the time of realignment, their management vitality can be further augmented.

Of ¥12 trillion earmarked as public funds, a mere ¥0.6 trillion has been used. To facilitate use of the funds, we suggest the government look into the possibility of easing conditions for injection of public funds.

What matters is the management strategy of each financial institution. Some regional financial entities consider they cannot tie up with their rivals for now after long years of fierce competition among themselves.

But if regional economies become more sluggish, regional banks will find it more difficult to keep themselves afloat. Regional banks are urged to devise realignment strategies actively and play a role of financially sustaining the revival of regional economies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 17, 2013)
(2013年8月17日01時40分  読売新聞)

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学校の耐震化 つり天井の撤去を急ぎたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 18, 2013
Suspended ceilings should be removed to boost quake resistance at schools
学校の耐震化 つり天井の撤去を急ぎたい(8月17日付・読売社説)

Schools must be safe places that protect children at a time of disaster. They can also serve as shelters for local residents.

We call for the disaster prevention capability of schools to be strengthened.

A survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry showed that 89 percent of 120,460 school buildings and gymnasiums at public primary and middle schools across the nation met national earthquake-resistance standards as of April. The survey also found that 86 percent of structures at public high schools were quake-resistant.

These high percentages, which resulted from a push for reinforcement work and other antiseismic efforts in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, are laudable. But progress differs among regions. In some municipalities, the percentage of quake-resistant schools remains below 50 percent. Such municipalities should accelerate their efforts.

One major concern in this connnection is the delay in dealing with suspended ceilings, which experts have pointed out are at risk of collapsing in earthquakes.

Suspended ceilings made of gypsum wallboard are effective for noise and heat insulation, but their hanging frames make them vulnerable to movement. Even though the buildings themselves are resistant to quakes, their suspended ceilings could collapse. This requries attention.

In the March 2011 earthquake, many such ceilings fell in large facilities such as event halls. In school gymnasiums, falling ceilings injured students.

The survey, in which the ministry asked about suspended ceilings for the first time, showed that such ceilings were installed in about 8,500 structures, including gymnasiums and auditoriums, at public primary, middle and high schools. The survey found that 90 percent of the structures lacked measures to prevent ceilings from falling. This is a problem.

The collapse of a ceiling at a gymnasium where many students gather could be catastrophic. Even if a collapse happened when no one was there, it could prevent the gymnasium from being used as a shelter.

Safety checks urged

The ministry has drawn up a guide, which includes a list of safety check points, and urged municipal governments to carry out safety checks thoroughly. We believe suspended ceilings should be removed as soon as possible in light of public safety.

Meanwhile, many schools are not prepared to serve as local disaster-management centers. Among public schools designated by municipalities as emergency shelters, only 28 percent have in-house power generators, while 34 percent are equipped with water reservoirs and other useful devices.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake, many people were forced to take refuge amid prolonged power outages and cuts in water supply. We urge municipalities’ disaster-management sections and boards of education to work together to make necessary preprations.

It is also crucial to raise public awareness through education. Last year, public high schools in Tokyo began a project in which students stay at their schools overnight, prepare meals outdoors and receive training in conducting rescue activities.

If high school students gain experience such as taking care of the elderly through the training, they could play a key role in operating shelters in disasters. Regularly cultivating the spirit of volunteerism could prove to be useful in an emergency.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 17, 2013)
(2013年8月17日01時40分  読売新聞)

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外国人旅行客 日本の魅力高める知恵絞れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 19, 2013
Public, private sectors should do more to attract foreign tourists
外国人旅行客 日本の魅力高める知恵絞れ(8月18日付・読売社説)

A record number of foreign tourists are visiting Japan. We hope both the public and private sectors take measures to better accommodate them and give the nation’s economy a boost.

The number of foreign visitors increased by about 23 percent to about 4.96 million in the first half of this year, compared to the January-June period last year, a record high for a half-year period.

In recent years, the number of foreign tourists has remained around 6 million to 8 million. The government aims to increase the number to 10 million as part of its growth strategy. If the pace of tourism in the first half of the year continues, the number likely will reach this target for the first time ever.

A breakdown of data for the first half of the year shows about 1.32 million South Korean tourists—the largest number—visited Japan, followed by about 1.03 million from Taiwan and about 540,000 from China.

In terms of the rate of increase compared to the same period a year earlier, the number of tourists from Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia each jumped by more than 50 percent. Tourists from the United States and Europe also increased. In contrast, the number of Chinese tourists fell by 27 percent, probably because of a deterioration in Japan-China relations.

The primary reason for the increase in the overall number of foreign tourists is the yen’s depreciation, which reduces the cost of travel. It also is apparent that foreign tourism has been recovering after sharply declining due to fears of radiation in the wake of the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

To further increase the number of foreign tourists, the public and private sectors must join hands and use their ingenuity to enhance the appeal of this country.

Target Southeast Asia

The key in this regard is to target tourists from Southeast Asian countries, where overseas travel has become increasingly popular due to their growing economies.

From this summer, the government has exempted Thai and Malaysian tourists from the need to obtain visas. We hope the government will consider a range of measures to boost the number of foreign tourists, such as by increasing the number of visa-exempt nations and extending the length of stay from about 10 days in many cases to about a month.

There are many Muslims in Southeast Asia. Efforts should be made to carefully consider these people by, for example, listing restaurants that do not serve alcohol or pork, so that Muslims regard Japan as an attractive destination free from hassle.

It also is important to develop package tours to enable travelers from Southeast Asian nations to experience Japan’s natural features that change from season to season, such as life in snowy regions that they would not have experienced in their own countries, as well as cultural assets. Expanding low-cost carriers’ flight routes connecting Japan to other parts of Asia is a major challenge that should be addressed.

It also is indispensable for Japan to make a greater effort to publicize its tourism attributes around the world.

A number of Asian nations have directed their efforts to host international conferences to proudly display their attractiveness.The central government should strengthen its systems to gather information abroad and effectively bid for international events, jointly with local governments and other entities.

If more foreign tourists become interested in Japan, this nation would not only spread the popularity of its culture, such as traditional cuisine and anime, but also benefit from increases in overseas sales of Japanese-made products such as home appliances and cars.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2013)
(2013年8月18日01時43分  読売新聞)

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選挙制度改革 有識者の議論も聞いてみたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 19, 2013
Outside experts should be involved in reform of natl electoral system
選挙制度改革 有識者の議論も聞いてみたい(8月18日付・読売社説)

It is difficult for political parties to agree on the ideal structure of the electoral system through negotiations because the outcome directly affects their fate. The time has come to have outside experts draft a plan to reform the system.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party soon will call for other parties to resume discussions on electoral reform for the House of Representatives, which were suspended because of the recent House of Councillors election.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed the creation of a third-pary advisory panel on electoral reform under the lower house speaker. Attention is focused on whether the opposition parties will agree to the idea.

The ruling coalition parties are planning to negotiate with the Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), both of which have expressed support for drafting a reform plan by outside experts, with an eye to creating the advisory panel.

It is important to establish concensus among the parties in advance so recommendations submitted by the panel will be respected.

The three years left in the term of current lower house members is not enough time to implement reforms, considering the time needed for discussions among experts, legislative work based on the panel’s report and making the changes public.

Under the current election system mainly based on single-seat constituencies, a winning party can capture an overwhelming number of seats and produce many lawmakers with insufficient social experience, sometimes referred to as legislative “children.” Indeed, some observers have pointed out that the quality of Diet members has been declining in recent years.

Discussions between the ruling and opposition parties focused on the reduction of Diet seats, but the parties refused to make concessions on reductions in the number of seats they had proposed, preventing an agreement. Reduction of Diet seats has many harmful effects such as undermining scrutiny of bills by lawmakers. The issue of reducing parliamentary seats should be kept separate from discussions on electoral reform.

Vote value disparity

In lawsuits over the disparity in the value of votes in the 2012 lower house election, one high court after another ruled the disparity was unconstitutional. But electoral reform is more than just equalizing the value of votes.

Using only the proportional respresentation system in elections would resolve the disparity in vote value. But it would also make it easier for small and medium-sized parties to win seats, increasing the number of parties in the Diet. This would give small and mid-sized parties an initiative in policy decisions and lead to destabilization of Japanese politics.

And if the disparity in the value of votes were eliminated, the voices of people living in rural areas would be heard much less in the Diet because the population is declining rapidly in those areas.

The election system must be reformed with a view to better representing public opinion and realizing stable governance.

In light of court rulings and the need for political stabilitiy, the only options left are to either modify the current combination of single-seat constituencies and proportional representation or return to a multiple-seat constituency system.

The Supreme Court has also ruled that disparity of the value of votes in the upper house election was in “an unconstitutional state.” Observers also has pointed out that functions expected for the upper house, such as checking and supplementing the lower house, are undermined by the similarity between the upper house and lower house election systems.

Before considering the reform of the upper house election system, it is important to study the division of roles to be played by the upper and lower houses.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2013)
(2013年8月18日01時43分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月17日 (土)

韓国大統領演説 日本を重要な隣国と言うなら

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 17, 2013
Is Japan an important neighbor for S. Korea amid unresolved issues?
韓国大統領演説 日本を重要な隣国と言うなら(8月16日付・読売社説)

First, political leaders should make their own efforts to have a direct personal dialogue to restore a relationship of trust between their two nations.

For the first time since taking office, South Korean President Park Geun Hye made a speech marking the country’s day of independence from Japan’s colonial rule.

Park said in the speech that Japan is an important neighbor South Korea can work with to establish peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia, but she added that recent situation over historical issues is darkening the future of the two countries.

Her remark is apparently an expression of distrust toward Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, whose “rightward tilt” South Korea is wary of.

However, Park generally kept her criticism of Japan restrained in her independence day speech.

She moderated her expressions of emotion and avoided direct references to so-called comfort women and the territorial issue over the Takeshima islands. The president might have wanted to avoid further deterioration of South Korea’s relations with Japan.

Even so, Park demanded that Tokyo take tangible action. The Japanese government should take “responsible and sincere measures to alleviate the pain of those who live with suffering and wounds arisen from past history,” she said in the speech.

The comfort women issue is a thorn in the side of Japan-South Korea relations. It is unreasonable that South Korea has ignored the background of the issue and demanded that Japan alone resolve it.

Japan believes that Tokyo and Seoul agreed to resolve the comfort women compensation issue by signing a bilateral agreement on property claims and economic cooperation in 1965. Moreover, the Japanese government has made an effort to fulfill its moral responsibility on the matter.

The government collected donations totaling ¥600 million from the public and set up the Asian Women’s Fund, based on which a relief project for former comfort women was begun, including payments of atonement money.

However, the South Korean side criticized Japan’s effort as avoidance of responsibility. As a result, many of the former comfort women in South Korea did not accept the atonement money, and the fund was disbanded.

Abe, Park should have talks

South Korea has only demanded that Japan make concessions and has refused to have a dialogue or other exchanges. We hope Seoul will change such attitudes.

Meanwhile, Abe opted not to visit Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday but gave a donation from his own pocket to make an offering of a branch of a sacred tree. The prime minister showed a certain consideration for China and South Korea, which are trying to make visits to Yasukuni Shrine a diplomatic issue because Class-A war criminals are enshrined there together with many other war dead. Only three of the Abe Cabinet members visited the shrine.

As Park admitted, Japan and South Korea are important neighbors. However, abnormal situations have continued between them because no meeting of their top leaders has been held since the governments changed in both countries.

The two countries have many significant issues on which they share interests, including joint efforts to deal with North Korea, which persists in developing nuclear weapons, and enhancement of their economic partnership. It would be a problem if their leaders do not talk because Japan and South Korea cannot reach agreements over history and territorial issues. Their attitudes toward improving bilateral relations would be called into question.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2013)
(2013年8月16日01時27分  読売新聞)

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エジプト騒乱 流血の拡大をまず食い止めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 17, 2013
International pressure needed to stop bloodshed in Egypt
エジプト騒乱 流血の拡大をまず食い止めよ(8月16日付・読売社説)

Egypt has seen its bloodiest incident since the autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak ended in 2011.

An early end to the violence is to be hoped for, but a bumpy road lies ahead.

Egypt’s military-led interim government crushed sit-in protests by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Wednesday. His supporters clashed with government security forces across the country, resulting in a death toll that the Egyptian Health Ministry reported as more than 500.

The interim government declared a one-month state of emergency, but there is no prospect of the chaos subsiding. Eyewitnesses say security forces fired live bullets at rally participants. The government cannot escape condemnation for using excessive force.

Diplomatic efforts by the United States and the European Union to avoid clashes between the military-led government and Morsi’s supporters have come to nothing.

It was natural that the United States and the EU strongly condemned the interim government over its brutal crushing of the demonstrations. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed “strong concern and anxiety” about the bloody incident.

Secularist Mohamed ElBaradei, a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, resigned as Egypt’s vice president in protest, saying “there must have been a more peaceful choice.”

The military ousted and detained Morsi in a de facto coup in July. Even after the establishment of the interim government, the military increased pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s main support base, in such ways as seeking criminal charges against its leaders on suspicion of instigating riots.

Brotherhood also to blame

The Muslim Brotherhood is also to blame for the situation.

Despite the Morsi administration having made policy blunders that worsened the economy and reduced public safety, the Brotherhood clung to its demand for Morsi’s reinstatement after he was deposed. The Islamist organization rejected dialogue with the military-led provisional government, thereby intensifying confrontation.

The interim government has announced a road map for democratization that calls for revising the Constitution within this year, holding a parliamentary election early next year and then calling a new presidential election.

But without participation of the Brotherhood, the biggest political force in Egypt, in the process of reinstating a civilian government, it will hardly be possible to realize social and political stability. To help achieve a return to civilian rule, the interim government should take conciliatory steps such as releasing Morsi in preparation for resuming dialogue with its political adversaries.

The Brotherhood, for its part, should take a more flexible stance toward dialogue.

Arab Spring reforms still have a long way to go. If the chaos is protracted in Egypt, a great regional power, there is concern that the stabilization of the Middle East as a whole will be further delayed.

As long as the military-led interim government continues to use force against its opponents, the situation will only go from bad to worse. International pressure must be brought to bear in such ways as suspending military assistance by the United States, Egypt’s biggest aid donor, thereby forcing the interim government to refrain from bloodily quashing its political foes.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2013)
(2013年8月16日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月16日 (金)

終戦の日 中韓の「反日」傾斜を憂える

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 16, 2013
Increasing anti-Japan sentiment in China, S. Korea cause for concern
終戦の日 中韓の「反日」傾斜を憂える(8月15日付・読売社説)


Today marks the 68th anniversary of the end of World War II for Japan.

It is the day on which the nation commemorates its war dead and renews its pledge for peace so that the tremendous suffering caused by war will never be repeated.

This summer, an animated movie titled “Kaze Tachinu” (The wind has risen) has been attracting attention. Its protagonist is modeled after Jiro Horikoshi, a brilliant designer for the Imperial Japanese Navy who helped create Zero fighters.

Postwar steps applauded

The movie’s protagonist is drawn to the beauty of airplanes as a boy, but after the war breaks out, the Zero fighter planes he was involved in designing are used by suicide attack units. The movie’s last scene is impressive, as the saddened protagonist stands blankly in front of many badly damaged Zero fighters.

For many younger viewers, the movie will probably be a chance to think again about war. The experiences of World War II should never fade from memory.

Based on its reflections on the war in the Showa period, Japan made a fresh start after World War II and peacefully achieved high economic growth. It has also made extensive contributions to the international community, mainly through official development assistance and peacekeeping operations by the Self-Defense Forces.

These steps by Japan have been applauded by the United States and Southeast Asian nations.

In contrast, China and South Korea have been heightening their criticism of Japan regarding perceptions of history. We believe this is an extremely deplorable situation.

In the United States and elsewhere, South Korean President Park Geun Hye has said Japan should have a correct recognition of history. She has made the remark in connection with sovereignty over the Takeshima islands and the issue of so-called comfort women.

South Korean courts ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation for damages to South Koreans for being forced to work for the firms during wartime.

These rulings are unreasonable because they obviously violate the agreement on property claims and economic cooperation that was reached in 1965, which stated that the issue of property claims was “resolved completely and finally.”

The South Korean judicial authorities also have been taking advantage of the rising anti-Japan sentiment in their country and disregarding the agreement reached between the two countries. This is a mystifying attitude for a country ruled by law.

When it comes to the Senkaku Islands, China claims that Japan seized the islets from Taiwan during the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Beijing also insists that because Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, the islands should be returned to China.

Yet Japan incorporated the islands under the administration of Okinawa Prefecture shortly before the end of the Sino-Japanese War, after confirming that they did not belong to the Qing empire. Is China twisting this historical fact?

In some respect, the Chinese government is utilizing the anti-Japan sentiments of its people to maintain national unity, while the administration of South Korea is doing so to turn the domestic political situation to its advantage.

China and South Korea also oppose the prime minister and other state ministers visiting Yasukuni Shrine, where Class-A war criminals have been enshrined together with war dead, saying the shrine symbolizes Japan’s militarism.

War dead domestic issue

How we should pay tribute to the memory of our war dead is, in principle, a domestic affair of Japan, an issue in which other countries have no right to meddle.

Nor has Japan forgotten the responsibilities of the Japanese leaders who erred in handling the international situation, started a reckless war and caused suffering to people in neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once said that it was “extremely regrettable” that he did not pay a visit to the shrine during his first term as prime minister. Yet he said he would refrain from visiting the shrine on Thursday, the anniversary of the war’s end.

China and South Korea are intensifying their criticism that Japan is failing to reflect on its past militarism, and is instead leaning to the right and returning to the past.

They will probably not change their stance even if Abe refrains from visiting Yasukuni Shrine.

It is difficult to handle the issue of historical understanding, which cannot be dealt with separately from the international politics of today.

Abe made a controversial remark during a Diet meeting in April, saying that an academic and international definition of “invasion” had not been fixed.

It is true, as Abe said, that the definition of invasion has not been fixed. There is no war completely of aggression and no war completely of self-defense.

Yet Abe’s remark was interpreted, both at home and abroad, as rethinking a 1995 statement in which then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama expressed deep remorse for Japan having caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations, through its “colonial rule and wartime aggression.”

Wisdom needed

Abe recently said that discussing perceptions of history in the political arena would develop into a diplomatic issue. He then said such issues should be left up to historians and other experts to discuss. Discussion of such issues should be deepened at venues of experts.

On the other hand, it is imporant for Abe, as a politician, to tenaciously promote his views on national territory and sovereignty to the international community, including his understanding of history.

We should further ensure the peace and prosperity that we have strived to build since the end of the war. To do so, we must also explore ways to reconcile with our neighbors. Never has it been so necessary for us to be wise and work to build constructive relations with our neighbors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2013)
(2013年8月15日01時41分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月15日 (木)

減胎手術 生命倫理に関する議論深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 15, 2013
Multifetal reduction surgery problems must be addressed
減胎手術 生命倫理に関する議論深めよ(8月14日付・読売社説)

The dispute over multifetal reduction surgery at a maternity clinic in Nagano Prefecture poses a fundamental question regarding the screening of unborn babies. The controversy must not be left unaddressed.

Last Thursday, Yahiro Netsu, director of Suwa Maternity Clinic in Shimosuwa, revealed that he had performed 36 operations called multifetal pregnancy reduction. The surgery was aimed at aborting one or more fetuses found to have diseases and abnormalities in multifetal pregnancies.

A multiple pregnancy is liable to occur concomitantly with fertility treatment. These kinds of pregnancies increase the risk of health problems for mothers and babies, including the possibility of premature births.

Selective reduction surgery is the practice of aborting one or more fetuses through the use of a chemical substance, thereby reducing the number of fetuses in a multifetal pregnancy. Japan’s first selective reduction operation was performed by Netsu in 1986.

The key factor behind the controversy is the technological advancement in prenatal diagnosis used to examine the health of a fetus. The spread of the ultrasonic diagnostic method has made it easier to discover abnormalities. In April, the use of a new prenatal diagnostic method was launched, making it possible, with a good measure of certainty, to determine whether an unborn baby has a disorder such as Down syndrome through a blood test.

In June, the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology laid down a set of guidelines on the use of prenatal diagnosis. The guiding principles require diagnoses to be limited to cases in which chromosomal aberrations are likely to occur, including late-in-life pregnancy. They also state that such a diagnosis should be carried out only at facilities that can provide adequate counseling for pregnant women. However, the guidelines do not state how these principles should be applied in multifetal pregnancy reduction surgery.

In 2000, an advisory panel to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry compiled a report stating that selective reduction operations should not be performed “as a general rule.” At the same time, however, the report added that there were some cases in which such an operation must be performed to protect the health of pregnant women and their babies. “It is necessary to work out a set of rules,” it said.

Wide range of issues

However, it will not be easy to formulate such rules. It is not known whether a consensus can be reached through discussions on the pros and cons of performing selective reduction surgery. This is because the controversy over multifetal pregnancy reduction entails a wide range of issues, including an individual’s view of life, fundamental standpoints peculiar to different religions and ethics.

At present, each medical institution decides at its own discretion whether to conduct selective reduction surgery.

Before undergoing a selective reduction operation at Netsu’s clinic, one woman expecting a multiple birth reportedly visited another medical institution where she was urged to decide whether to give birth to all the babies or abort them. She was not given an explanation about what a multifetal reduction operation entailed. For pregnant women, deciding whether to undergo such an operation is extremely difficult.

They should be provided with essential information to make an appropriate decision.

It is also necessary to prevent multiple pregnancies.

In 2008, the obstetrics and gynecology society said only one fertilized egg should be placed in the uterus of a woman. This was in response to an increasing number of multiple pregnancies involving more than one fertilized egg being placed in the uterus during in vitro fertilization.

The society’s statement resulted in a decrease in the number of multiple pregnancies through in vitro fertilization. However, there still are a number of multiple pregnancies due to ovulation-inducing drugs. If prenatal diagnosis becomes more common, it will likely lead to a rise in the number of selective reduction operations in the future.

Making a decision about whether to perform such an operation should never be left to the medical profession, or medical institutions for that matter. It is time for the public as a whole to consider the problem of multifetal pregnancy reduction.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2013)
(2013年8月14日01時56分  読売新聞)

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中電の越境販売 「地域独占」の壁はなお厚い

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 15, 2013
Electric utilities monopolies show no sign of weakening
中電の越境販売 「地域独占」の壁はなお厚い(8月14日付・読売社説)

Chubu Electric Power Co.’s planned purchase of electricity retailer Diamond Power Corp. marks a step toward changing the status quo of the solid regional monopoly enjoyed by electric power companies, though thick barriers to overcome remain.

By purchasing Diamond Power, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp., Chubu Electric will start selling electricity in Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s service area.

Chubu Electric also plans to jointly build a new coal-fired power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture with Mitsubishi and others and start supplying electricity in TEPCO’s service area in 2016.

The sale of electricity to large-lot customers, including factories and offices, was liberalized in stages from 2000. However, Kyushu Electric Power Co. is the only major utility engaged in the “cross-border” sale of electricity. Kyushu Electric sells electricity in Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s service area.

This is probably because power companies place priority on providing electricity in their own service area, where they are responsible for power supply. However, it is undoubtedly the case that major power companies have avoided competing with each other as much as possible.

The government plans to resubmit to the Diet during its extraordinary session in autumn a bill for electricity system reform. The sale of electricity, including small contracts with households, as well as small and midsize stores, is expected to be fully liberalized as early as 2016.

Chubu Electric apparently aims to expand its revenue base by advancing into the Tokyo metropolitan area as it makes strategic preparations for the upcoming full liberalization of the electricity market.

If more power companies—encouraged by Chubu Electric’s move—enter each other’s turf in the electricity market, it will pave the way for consumers to have a choice among more than one power company. Greater convenience can also be expected amid increased competition over rates and services.

Ensure competition

So far, however, other power companies are reluctant to engage in cross-border sales of electricity.

Chubu Electric’s case is unique. As TEPCO has been mired in financial difficulties due to the crisis at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it has become difficult for TEPCO to build a power plant on its own. Chubu Electric’s idea of selling electricity beyond its territory was thus able to progress because TEPCO was willing to go along with it.

A worrisome factor is that the electricity market will be liberalized, and power generation and transmission will be separated through electricity system reform while major power firms’ regional monopolies are effectively maintained. It is feared this will have various negative effects.

If the current approval system for electricity rates is hastily abolished, there will be no means to restrain a rate hike under an “unregulated monopoly,” which would seriously undermine consumers’ interests. The government must carefully monitor progress in competition among power companies.

In the United States and other countries, intensified competition due to market liberalization resulted in cuts to budgets for repairing power lines and other equipment. In one case, defects at power facilities caused a massive blackout.

It is important to ensure a stable electricity supply to promote fair competition in the electricity market. To do so, nuclear reactors must be reactivated steadily once they have been confirmed safe to operate and efforts must be swiftly taken to resolve serious power shortages.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2013)
(2013年8月14日01時56分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月14日 (水)

日中条約35周年 「平和友好」の精神はどこへ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 14, 2013
On treaty anniversary, what became of Japan-China friendship?
日中条約35周年 「平和友好」の精神はどこへ(8月13日付・読売社説)

The 35th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty was observed Monday.

Although the day was supposed to be a milestone in the development of peaceful relations between the two countries, neither government held any commemorative events.

Even a meeting of private-sector experts, which would have been the ninth if held this year, was postponed at China’s request. Beijing probably intends to exert psychological pressure on Japan.

According to a public opinion survey conducted jointly by Japan and China, more than 90 percent of pollees in each country said they had a “bad” impression of the other. The findings symbolize the abnormal relationship between the two countries, which is at its worst level since diplomatic relations were normalized in 1972.

The biggest reason for deteriorating relations lies in the confrontation over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

The Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has continued to take provocative actions. Chinese government vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japanese waters, and a naval vessel locked fire-control radar onto a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer near the islands.

Beijing recently established the China Coast Guard to conduct maritime surveillance under the State Oceanic Administration. Vessels belonging to the coast guard intruded in Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands for a record 28 hours early this month.

With the Senkakus and other islands in the East China and South China seas in mind, Xi recently said his country “cannot sacrifice its core interests.” He is apparently planning to accelerate China’s development as a maritime power and reinforce its high-handed posture.

Japan mustn’t lower guard

Japan must not let its guard down. The government must continue to show it will strongly defend the Senkaku Islands with everything in its power.

The bilateral treaty says that in the event of a conflict, the two countries would try to “settle it by peaceful means” while “refraining from the use or threat of force.”

Any attempt to change the present status unilaterally and with the use of force will run counter to the spirit of the treaty. Does China have no intention of respecting the treaty?

As a prerequisite for holding Japan-China summit talks, which have not been held for some time, the Xi administration has called on Japan to first acknowledge the existence of a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands and that both would shelve the issue for the time being.

But the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan’s territory, so a territorial dispute does not exist. It is reasonable for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to comply with China’s demand. The government probably will have to continue to present Japan’s position and persistently seek the understanding of the international community on the issue.

Abe has told China, “The window for dialogue is always open.” Will the Xi administration continue to refuse to hold summit talks unless Japan bows to its wishes?

Both countries have strong economic links with each other. While both countries need to deal jointly with North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, there is also plenty of room for them to cooperate on environmental issues.

Bilateral relations between the two countries are supposed to be of “mutual benefit.” Should the conflict continue, however, “mutual losses” will become widespread.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 13, 2013)
(2013年8月13日01時29分  読売新聞)

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2.6%成長 消費増税に耐えられる体力か

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 14, 2013
Has the economy recovered enough to withstand consumption tax hike?
2.6%成長 消費増税に耐えられる体力か(8月13日付・読売社説)

Although Japan’s economy continued to grow in the April-June quarter, it is worrying that the improvement has begun to lose steam.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a final decision in autumn on whether to raise the consumption tax rate next April as scheduled. The tax increase would be in vain if it harms the economy and spoils an opportunity to escape deflation.

Abe will have to make a difficult judgment on whether the national economy has recovered enough to withstand a consumption tax hike.

The nation’s real-term gross domestic product for the April-June period, released by the Cabinet Office on Monday, improved 0.6 percent over the previous quarter, recording a third straight quarter of growth. The growth rate stood at 2.6 percent on an annualized basis, down from 3.8 percent registered in the January-March quarter.

Personal consumption and exports soared in the April-June quarter due to the effects of Abenomics, the economic policy put forth by the Abe administration. But plant and equipment investment, which had been expected to be a growth engine, declined for the sixth consecutive quarter and housing investment dropped unexpectedly.

The growth rate for the April-June period is an important indicator to judge whether the consumption tax rate should be increased from 5 percent to 8 percent as scheduled.

Private-led growth vital

Akira Amari, state minister for economic and fiscal policy, acknowledged the continued growth during a news conference Monday, noting that “favorable figures have continued to be recorded.” But the growth rate figure was far lower than the mid-3 percent level anticipated by economists.

Abe told reporters the government “will continue to take all possible economic measures.” The goal of ending deflation must be achieved by putting top priority on business revitalization.

It is important to achieve self-sustaining economic growth led by the private sector. The government must promptly carry out measures such as those to help boost capital investment by private firms. An extraordinary Diet session to be convened in autumn is expected to be a crucial stage for the promotion of the government’s growth strategy.

A tax rate increase of three percentage points is estimated to raise consumer prices by about 2 percent. If prices rise but household income does not, consumption will suffer a blow. The key here is whether corporate profits will be smoothly reflected in wages.

When the sales tax was increased from 3 percent to 5 percent in April 1997, households suffered additional burdens caused by, among other factors, the discontinuation of special tax reductions. This was accompanied by the Asian monetary crisis and serious financial uncertainties, thereby causing the national economy to slow down sharply. It must be remembered that these developments led to long years of deflation.

Consumption tax revenue climbed, but revenue from income and corporate taxes dropped, making it more difficult to achieve the key goal of fiscal rehabilitation.

To prevent a repetition of the past policy blunder, it is of utmost importance to analyze the economic situation from multiple perspectives.

It was reasonable that Abe has called for listening to the opinions of experts and corporate managers about the advisability of raising the consumption tax and the likely effects of a tax increase and using that input when making a policy judgment.

The government must lend an unprejudiced ear to voices from various sectors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug.13, 2013)
(2013年8月13日01時29分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月13日 (火)

ケネディ大使 新たな日米関係を構築したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 13, 2013
Appointment of new ambassador chance to build new Japan-U.S. ties
ケネディ大使 新たな日米関係を構築したい(8月11日付・読売社説)

We welcome the nomination of the incoming U.S. ambassador as indicating the great importance that President Barack Obama’s administration places on its relations with Japan. This should be used as a step forward to build more mature Japan-U.S. relations.

Obama has named Caroline Kennedy, a lawyer and the eldest daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, as ambassador to Japan. Kennedy, 55, will be the first female U.S. ambassador to this nation. She will assume the post as early as this autumn, upon her Senate confirmation.

Kennedy comes from one of the most distinguished families in the United States. Early in 2008, before the presidential election later that year, she gave her support to Obama, helping create the momentum that led to Obama’s selection as the Democratic nominee for president. She also contributed to Obama’s reelection in 2012. Hers is a political nomination, a reward for her outstanding contributions to the Obama administration.

People with various careers and backgrounds have been apppointed as U.S. ambassadors in the past. These include heavyweight politicians such as Mike Mansfield, scholars like Edwin Reischauer and diplomats such as Michael Armacost.

In recent years, the appointments have been based on strong personal relations with presidents, as in the cases of John Scheiffer and John Roos. Kennedy’s nomination can be said to be in this line.

Kennedy has no experience with diplomacy or politics, leaving her abilities as an ambassador unknown. On the other hand, she has strong connections with Obama and a close relationship with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kennedy brings big guns

A big-name ambassador is expected to be able to get the president on the phone and explore ways to solve problems when bilateral Japan-U.S. relations reach a critical point. In this sense, Kennedy is equipped with an important “weapon.”

Yet another of Kennedy’s strong points is her oustanding name recognition and popularity. As an iconic figure for stable Japan-U.S. relations, she will be asked to boost both Japanese and Americans’ interest in each other.

Both Japan and the United States are facing various important challenges.

How should they face China, which is becoming an economic and military power, and how should they confront North Korea, which is pursuing nuclear and missile development programs? How should Japan and the United States proceed with the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, and with bilateral defense cooperation? How should they promote free trade in Asia through such frameworks as the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord negotiations?

To solve these thorny issues, it is vital to reinforce intergovernmental relations, including those on the summit level. We hope Kennedy will make a contribution in this area.

Recently, the number of Japanese students studying in the United States has been on the decline, falling to No. 7 among all the nations that send students to the states and raising concerns that bilateral exchange between the two countries will dwindle.

If Japan weakens its presence in the United States, while China and South Korea are making ever-greater efforts to transmit information and expand exchanges there, it would harm Japan’s national interests.

Expansion in grass-roots exchanges, including exchanges among the next generation of young people, will serve as the foundation for promoting mutual understanding and confidence-building efforts. We hope Kennedy, with her strong ability to communicate, will contribute in this field as well.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 11, 2013)
(2013年8月11日01時17分  読売新聞)

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体罰最終報告 暴力根絶の意識を浸透させよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 13, 2013
Ending corporal punishment in schools requires greater awareness of issue
体罰最終報告 暴力根絶の意識を浸透させよ(8月11日付・読売社説)

The recent revelation of such a huge number of corporal punishment cases in schools across Japan must be taken gravely by school authorities and teachers. The disclosure must lead to better endeavors to effectively prevent such incidents from happening again.

A final report compiled by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry on surveys on physical punishment by schoolteachers, which was released Friday, showed there were 6,721 cases at national, municipal and private schools nationwide in which teachers physically punished students during the academic year to March 31. Cases of corporal punishment were confirmed at 4,152 schools, or about 10 percent of the total, and 14,208 students were subjected to it.

Previous surveys had been limited to publicly operated schools, and usually found about 400 cases of physical punishment each year.

The ministry report incorporated a far wider range of surveys, including questionnaires completed by students as well as parents and guardians, that were conducted for the first time in the wake of the suicide in December of a second-year student at Sakuranomiya High School, run by the Osaka municipal government, after he was physically punished by his basketball club coach. As a result, it exposed a much greater number of corporal punishment cases.

Notwithstanding the fact that public awareness of corporal punishment has surged after the Sakuranomiya case and efforts to uncover physical punishment have been beefed up, the difference in the findings of the latest and previous surveys is astounding. We cannot help but assume that previous efforts by boards of education and school authorities to gauge the true extent of the problem were terribly insufficient.

Schools and boards of education must establish arrangements to ensure cases of corporal punishment are detected as early as possible by such means as regular questionnaire surveys and creating a consultation service to accept reports from students subjected to such punishment.

Misguided ‘tough love’

Actions that inflict physical and emotional pain on students must never be permitted. Eliminating corporal punishment by instilling this awareness in every facet of school education is the most pressing task.

At primary schools, cases involving students being slapped in class stood out, according to the ministry.

About 40 percent of cases of corporal punishment at middle and high schools happened during extracurricular club activities, the survey found.

A mistaken belief that tolerates corporal punishment as “tough love” in the name of sports discipline remains entrenched among instructors of school sports clubs.

The superviser of a high school baseball club who was disciplined after it was revealed he had physically punished his students reportedly justified his behavior by saying he “wanted to make my club’s members stronger.”

The former Sakuranomiya High School basketball club coach, who also was a physical education teacher, has been indicted without arrest on charges of inflicting violence and injuring the student who committed suicide.

We urge all teachers to bear deeply in mind that corporal punishment is not only prohibited under the School Education Law, but that vicious cases could also result in them facing criminal charges.

It is also essential, however, to help teachers understand the proper distinction between corporal punishment and providing instruction. But if a teacher is softer than necessary when instructing students to the extent they become unable to strictly handle disruptive students, this also could be problematic from an educational point of view.

In March, the education ministry compiled a set of criteria spelling out what actions constitute corporal punishment. The guidelines say, for example, that teachers are within their rights to pin down a student who kicked a teacher’s leg in an act of defiance.

We hope boards of education and other relevant organs improve training courses for teachers so they can acquire the instruction capability needed to scold students properly and calmly, and without getting swayed by emotion.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 11, 2013)
(2013年8月11日01時17分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 9日 (金)

最低賃金アップ 消費拡大の呼び水になるか


The Yomiuri Shimbun August 9, 2013
Will higher minimum wage help increase consumption?
最低賃金アップ 消費拡大の呼び水になるか(8月8日付・読売社説)

The minimum hourly wage will be increased at the strong urging of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration. Could this be a trigger to bail the country out of deflation?

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s Central Minimum Wages Council has decided to set this fiscal year’s target for raising the minimum hourly wage at 14 yen on a national average--nearly 2 percent higher than the current minimum of 749 yen and the first increase of 10 yen or more in three years.

The minimum wage is the lowest possible rate that companies can pay their employees. After the revision, the average minimum hourly wage nationwide will be 763 yen. This means that a minimum-wage, full-time worker would take home about 120,000 to 130,000 yen per month, an increase of about 2,000 yen.

While this is still insufficient for maintaining family finances, it is the first step toward implementing increases in the basic wage table.

The issue of raising the minimum wage received a lot of attention this year in particular because it was associated with Abenomics, a set of economic policies set forth by the Abe administration that aims to lift this nation out of deflation.

In its Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform compiled in June, the government set a goal of hiking wages by more than 2 percent. The minimum wage increase corresponds almost exactly to the government’s wage hike target.

Business performance has been improving, mainly at major corporations, making the tone of recovery clearer. However, the general public is still complaining about Abenomics, saying it has yet to result in income increases.

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “The council held serious discussions in considering the Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform.” He welcomed the minimum wage hike, while emphasizing the necessity of creating a virtuous cycle that can build momentum and result in pay raises at each company.

Expand consumption

It is generally believed that a high percentage of low-income earners tend to use wage hikes for consumption. The government must utilize the minimum wage hike as a way to prime the pump of consumption and push up economic growth.

Currently, minimum wages are less than the livelihood protection benefits in Tokyo, Hokkaido and nine other prefectures--hardly a tool to stoke people’s zeal for work. We would like to applaud the panel’s proposal as its minimum wage review will finally resolve the “reversal phenomenon” between minimum wages and livelihood protection benefits in 10 prefectures, excluding Hokkaido.

Of course, if the minimum wage is increased, struggling small and midsize firms will have to shoulder a heavier burden. We are concerned about the side effects of raising the minimum wage. For instance, it could deprive young people of job opportunities if such firms decide to cut back on employment to secure the financial resources for pay hikes.

Most importantly, the government should prepare an environment for companies that will help them raise wages. The government must steadily promote its growth strategy, the pillars of which include revitalizing local economies and expanding business opportunities, to prompt small and midsize enterprises to improve productivity.

The labor ministry has been providing assistance to small and midsize firms that actually raised wages through measures such as extending subsidies for introduction costs of accounting systems. We hope the ministry will consider more measures that will create an environment in which companies can comfortably increase wages.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2013)
(2013年8月8日01時40分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 8日 (木)

社会保障会議 制度維持に全世代の負担必要

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 8, 2013
All generations must bear costs to maintain social security system
社会保障会議 制度維持に全世代の負担必要(8月7日付・読売社説)


How can a sustainable social security system be built? Part of a prescription has been presented to achieve this objective, but there is still much to be done.

The government’s National Council on Social Security System Reform compiled a final report and submitted it to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday. The government plans to submit a bill that sets forth a road map for the reform to the Diet during an extraordinary session this autumn.

The council discussed the direction of reform to the nation’s pension, medical care and nursing care systems in time for the planned consumption tax increase.

A notable feature of the report is that it calls on higher-earning elderly people to shoulder a greater burden of medical costs and taxes. The report called for a change of the current system in which costs are shouldered based on age to one in which costs will be borne based on financial ability.

Support from elderly needed

Due to the nation’s low birthrate and rapidly aging population, pension, medical care and nursing care benefits have increased, causing government debt to balloon. It is clear that the principle of the current social security system--according to which the working generation bears the financial burden of supporting the elderly--is no longer feasible.

The council naturally recommended that the nation’s social security system be changed to one in which such expenses are shouldered by all generations, including elderly people who can afford it.

It is a point of concern, however, whether the government can steadily carry out the reform.

One problem the government must work on is medical expenses that people aged 70 to 74 pay at hospitals. Medical expenses to be paid by people in this age bracket were set at 20 percent of hospital treatment fees under the Health Insurance Law and other laws revised in 2008. However, the then coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito kept this figure at 10 percent as a special measure, which is still in effect. As much as 200 billion yen in taxpayer money is spent every year to cover these costs.

It is only natural that the council called for raising this figure to 20 percent as stipulated by law by abolishing the special measure--a prime example of unfairness among generations.

The council also called on higher-income earners to shoulder a greater portion of nursing care expenses, which is currently set at a uniform rate of 10 percent. We think the proposed measure is realistic. The government should quickly review this rate of self-contribution.

The council proposed transferring the management of the national health insurance program, which is mainly used by self-employed people, from municipal to prefectural governments. It also called for raising contributions by health insurance unions of large companies and mutual aid associations for public servants, so they can be used as a resource to rehabilitate the finances of the national health insurance program.

However, many corporate health insurance unions have already fallen into the red due to such contributions. It would defeat the purpose if a sharp increase in their burden resulted in the collapse of these unions. It is necessary to design a national health insurance system that will not cause confusion.

Benefits must be curbed

To put this nation’s limited resources to effective use, an increase in social security benefits must be curbed.


The ballooning of medical expenses is partly attributable to bills incurred by people who suffer a variety of diseases due to their advanced age and visit more than one medical institution for examinations and treatment, according to observers.

To prevent this, the council proposed increasing the number of doctors known as general physicians who can diagnose a wide range of illnesses. However, the panel fell short of addressing a key question begged by its proposal--namely, how to train such doctors.

Among the issues covered by the council’s report is the starting age for benefit payments under the state-run pension system. However, the report only described the issue as a medium- and long-term task that should be discussed together with what mode of employment could be adopted by elderly people.

It is necessary to push back the starting age for receiving pension payments from the current age of 65, given the higher average life expectancy of Japanese and the deteriorating financial condition of the pension program. The United States and major European countries have already decided to push back their respective pensionable ages to 67 or 68. Japan is aging the fastest among advanced nations in the world. With this in mind, the government should begin considering implementing a similar reform as early as possible.

The national council also emphasized the need to transform the current social security system into one under which people of all generations would be entitled to benefit. For example, the panel insisted on proactively financing child-rearing support plans and other projects to address various problems arising from the chronically low birthrate.

Specific measures proposed by the panel include increasing the number of day care centers and improving the quality of their services. The council also suggested setting up centers that offer consultations to pregnant and nursing women.

This proposal is aimed at extending continuous assistance to such women, not only during their pregnancy but also during child-raising. In promoting this idea, the panel noted the fact that such women begin to worry about how to raise their children and provide other forms of parental care even while pregnant. An important task in this regard is to work out how to ensure such child care support centers help them realize their purposes.

Discussions at the national council coincided with a round of debates among three major parties--the LDP, Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan--over social security system reform.

However, the DPJ has decided to pull out of the talks.

The leading opposition party took this step because of the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition’s refusal to discuss such matters as a DPJ proposal to adopt a minimum guaranteed pension plan. The DPJ also cited the fact that its pension proposal had not been incorporated into the panel’s report.

All parties should help out

However, it would not be enough to raise the consumption tax rate to 10 percent if the DPJ-proposed minimum guaranteed pension program was translated into reality. The DPJ plan also requires a large tax increase besides the consumption tax hike.

The main opposition party has also insisted on scrapping the health care program for persons aged 75 and over, known as people in the latter stage of advanced age. However, there is little need to abolish the system, given that it has already taken root.

The pension reform plan trumpeted by the DPJ is unrealistic. The party has defended its decision to quit talks with the LDP and Komeito, citing the ruling parties’ refusal to discuss its pension proposal. The DPJ’s stance must be criticized as too self-righteous.

It should be noted that the national council was launched when DPJ senior leader Yoshihiko Noda held the reins of government as prime minister. The opposition party should not shirk its responsibilities.

The ruling and opposition parties should join hands in reforming the social security system--a linchpin of national welfare. Such reform is imperative to ensure that the system is not shaken from its foundations even in the event of a change in government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 7, 2013)
(2013年8月7日01時39分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 7日 (水)

警察白書 犯罪抑止は迅速な対応から

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 7, 2013
Police must respond promptly to prevent crimes
警察白書 犯罪抑止は迅速な対応から(8月6日付・読売社説)

An important duty of the police is to expose crimes. In the interest of maintaining public order, it also is essential for the police to do their utmost to prevent crimes from being committed.

Criminal offenses have been on the decline, with 1.38 million confirmed by police last year, less than half the number logged at their peak in 2002.

The decline has been chiefly due to a drop in the burglaries of empty houses and car break-ins, thanks to the spread of security cameras and alarm devices.

However, according to a Cabinet Office public opinion survey, 80 percent of respondents said, “The state of public security has deteriorated.”

In analyzing the perceptional gap between the actual decline in the number of crimes and public awareness of crimes, this year’s police white paper noted there had been marked increases in the number of crimes in which “children, women and the elderly” are victims. This kind of analysis is important.

There appears to be no end to child abuse. The police confirmed a record 472 cases of child abuse last year. They also reported about 44,000 cases of domestic violence, in which the victims were mostly women, and about 20,000 stalking cases. Both these figures are records.

Elderly people have been targeted in bank transfer scams and vicious business practices.

If the police act promptly, they probably could prevent the damage from such crimes from becoming serious. It is important for police to heighten their vigilance to prevent crimes.

Expand consultations

To improve such efforts, the white paper has proposed boosting the functions of consultation counters at police stations across the country. The aim would be to prevent crimes by utilizing such counters as a gauge to determine the state of local public safety.

For this idea to work, personnel capable of dealing with many kinds of inquiries and consultations need to be fostered. It also will be important for the police to work in close cooperation with related organizations, such as local boards of education, child consultation facilities and consumer centers.

In a case in which a stalker killed two women in Saikai, Nagasaki Prefecture, in 2011, the police failed to respond to repeated stalking complaints lodged earlier by the stalked victim and her relatives. The case ended up in the worst way possible.

The white paper emphasized, “Even if an action does not constitute a criminal offense or violate a law or ordinance, the police should provide guidance or issue warnings when deemed necessary.” This statement was stressed probably to remind police of the lesson that should be learned from such a blunder.

What is most important is for the police to sincerely listen to complaints made by those who believe their lives are in danger.

The police face a difficult task in improving consultation services, as there is a chronic manpower shortage. We hope they make an effort to offer consultation services efficiently, for example by publicizing a nationwide uniform telephone number for those services.

In regard to serious complaints lodged by possible victims, the Metropolitan Police Department, prefectural police headquarters and local police stations should share relevant information.

The police, which have been tainted by a spate of recent irregularities, must maintain public safety by responding promptly to complaints. Only by doing so will they be able to regain public trust.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 6, 2013)
(2013年8月6日01時28分  読売新聞)

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原爆忌 一段と高まる核兵器の脅威

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 7, 2013
Japan must take realistic option in face of increasing nuclear threat
原爆忌 一段と高まる核兵器の脅威(8月6日付・読売社説)

On Tuesday, Hiroshima marks the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. Nagasaki will do the same Friday.

As the only nation ever to have been attacked with atomic weapons, how will Japan pass on the accounts of the terrible devastation wrought by the bombings and entreat the world to prevent nuclear weapons, which are inhumane by themselves, from being used again? The average age of atomic-bomb survivors has already passed 78.

In a declaration of peace to be announced Tuesday at a peace memorial ceremony, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui will pledge his utmost efforts to work toward the elimination of nuclear arms by 2020.

But in light of the harsh realities of today’s world, high hurdles lie on the road to nuclear abolition.

The number of nuclear weapons, which totaled about 70,000 at the peak of the Cold War, has been cut significantly due to nuclear reduction talks between the United States and Russia. But more than 17,000 such weapons reportedly still remain.

In a speech he made in Berlin in June, U.S. President Barack Obama proposed cutting the respective number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the two nuclear superpowers by about one-third. We hope negotiations on this matter will proceed steadily.

Needless to say, nuclear disarmament is not an issue to be dealt with by Washington and Moscow alone. China and other nuclear powers should actively get involved in the issue.

The nuclear control system under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bans possession of nuclear arsenals by countries other than the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China, has been noticeably frayed for years.

N. Korea’s moves worrying

Of particular concern is North Korea’s attempt to make its possession of nuclear weapons a fait accompli. Following its test-firing of a long-range ballistic missile in December, North Korea charged ahead with its third nuclear test in February. It is accelerating efforts to develop nuclear warheads small enough to be mounted on a missile capable of reaching the continental United States.

All of Japan lies within range of Rodong intermediate-range ballistic missiles deployed by Pyongyang. If North Korea successfully develops nuclear warheads, it is highly likely Japan could become the target of its first nuclear strike.

This concern is behind the emergence of support in the Liberal Democratic Party and elsewhere for the view that Japan should possess the capabilty to attack missile bases and other enemy facilities in self-defense.

In cooperation with the United States and South Korea, as well as Beijing and Moscow, Japan must relentlessly urge Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The U.S. nuclear umbrella is the bedrock of Japan’s national security policy. We believe its importance is increasing all the more.

Since three years ago, Washington has been providing Tokyo with information on some nuclear facilities in the United States.

Promoting Japan-U.S. consultative talks on nuclear deterrence is essential for the bilateral alliance to function. This also will reinforce the deterrence policy.

Telling the world about the awful devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and using the U.S. nuclear umbrella to protect national security from nearby nuclear threats: This is the realistic option Japan can take as an atomic-bombed nation and a country without nuclear weapons.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 6, 2013)
(2013年8月6日01時28分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 6日 (火)

ネット銀行被害 ハッカー集団の解明が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 6, 2013
Crackdown of hackers urgently needed to stem on-line banking fraud
ネット銀行被害 ハッカー集団の解明が急務だ(8月5日付・読売社説)

Online banking fraud by hackers must be contained.

There appears to be no end to incidents in which hackers steal money after illicitly gaining access to other people’s bank accounts via the Internet.

According to the National Police Agency, money was illicitly transferred to perpetrators’ accounts in about 400 cases during the January-July period. The money involved was estimated at 360 million yen and 12 banks, including major ones, were compromised.

Illicit money transfers by hackers are reportedly occurring at a record pace.

The number of people using banking services via the Internet, which is convenient for shopping and tax payments, is said to be growing sharply. Many small and medium-sized companies also use Internet banking for settlement of funds. As Internet banking is becoming more widely used, the system has become a magnet for hackers.

To gain access to a victim’s bank account online, hackers use computer viruses, often surreptitiously inserted in e-mails sent by unknown originators or in free software available online. When a personal computer is infected with such a virus, the ID number and password of a user making an online banking transaction is leaked to the perpetrator.

People affected by perpetrators using forged cash cards are compensated through the deposit protection law. Banks also provide compensation when damage occurs via online banking services. However, there are cases where users are not compensated if they are found to be grossly negligent.

It is essential for users of online banking services to protect themselves on a regular basis by, for instance, refraining from downloading software from dubious sites and constantly updating antivirus software.

The banking industry and the police authorities must cooperate in taking effective measures against hackers.

Cooperation essential

Last year, the Japanese Bankers Association agreed to introduce passwords in which numeric combinations changed every time an online banking transaction was made.

However, there are already cases involving accounts at some of the banks in which a new type of virus has made such efforts ineffectual. A major task in the future will be working out how to deal with the extremely sophisticated and complex tactics employed by hackers.

According to an NPA analysis of the online banking damage wrought by hackers, 70 percent of bank accounts into which illicit money has been transferred are believed to be held by Chinese nationals.

The Kanagawa prefectural police headquarters last month arrested several Chinese on suspicion of computer fraud and abuse. All of them allegedly withdrew money, which had been transferred illicitly via hackers, from automated teller machines. According to their confessions and records of their cell phone communications, the arrested Chinese were found to have been in contact with hackers based in China.

As long as the ringleader of a hackers group can evade the long arm of the law, similar crimes will occur, as others will be used to withdraw money from the ATMs. Authorities must first identify the main perpetrators of the crime, including those responsible for creating viruses.

After that, the Japanese police authorities should seek assistance from their Chinese counterparts via the International Criminal Police Organization to crack down on such crime organizations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2013)
(2013年8月5日01時43分  読売新聞)

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公共事業予算 防災や成長分野に重点配分を

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 6, 2013
Use FY14 public works budget to repair aging infrastructure
公共事業予算 防災や成長分野に重点配分を(8月5日付・読売社説)

The nation’s roads and bridges must be improved and comprehensive disaster countermeasures developed without fail by utilizing the government’s limited sources of revenue.

To this end, efforts should be redoubled to enhance the efficiency of public works projects.

The government, in working out guidelines for estimated budget appropriation requests from ministries and agencies for fiscal 2014, is set to reduce their allocations for discretionary spending for policy implementation, including public works projects, by about 10 percent compared with the fiscal 2013 initial budget.

In the budget for this fiscal year, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has earmarked 5.3 trillion yen for public works spending, the first year-on-year increase in four years, with a view to realizing the Abenomics policy package for refloating the national economy.

Given that Japan’s government finances are in the worst shape of all industrially advanced economies, however, the government cannot simply continue to expand outlays for public works projects.

It is reasonable that the government plans to impose curbs on public works spending based on the stringent guidelines for budget appropriation requests for the next fiscal year.

But at the same time, the government is poised to create special, expensive budgetary allocations that will not be subject to the envisioned across-the-board spending cuts. Sufficient cost-benefit considerations are a must in scrutinizing what policy measures should be included in allocations not subject to budgetary curbs.

Such anti-disaster measures as boosting earthquake resistance of buildings and strengthening the aging infrastructure are indispensable for ensuring the public’s safety. The pace of projects aimed at recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, which have been delayed because of such factors as shortages of manpower and construction materials, must be swiftly accelerated.

‘Selection, concentration’

As part of the government’s growth strategy, it is essential to improve infrastructure, especially such things as arterial road networks in urban areas and airports that can serve as international hub airports.

To smoothly carry through these projects, the principle of “selection and concentration” should be thoroughly employed.

We want to see urgent anti-disaster projects and measures to improve infrastructure given high priority in budget allocations for fiscal 2014.

Costs for improving antiquated infrastructure will reach an estimated 190 trillion yen during the next 50 years, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. Under the circumstances, it is unrealistic to entirely rebuild aging infrastructure.

The idea of excluding low-use public facilities and bridges from repair and improvement projects is worthy of consideration.

It is worrying that the old-fashioned style of implementing public works projects may return. In this connection, the Liberal Democratic Party vowed in its election platform in the House of Councillors election in July to “promote projects for enhancing national land resilience.”

It should never be forgotten that previous construction of unneeded roads, airports and other projects touted under the banner of large-scale development programs ended up worsening government finances.

To cut back on costs, due constideration must be paid to ways public works projects are undertaken.

For example, information technologies should be used to enhance the efficiency of inspection and repair of such facilties as roads and bridges. To this end, automatic collection and analysis of data obtained through high-performance sensors could lead to cost reduction as well as longer life spans of such facilities.

It could also be effective to integrate such public facilities as schools and libraries into single entities, while expediting diversification of their functions.

In addition, sufficient attention should be given to the wisdom of making the best use of the private finance initiative formula of the central and local governments to entrust construction and management of public facilities to private businesses.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2013)
(2013年8月5日01時43分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 5日 (月)

ネット選挙解禁 功罪を検証し政治に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 5, 2013
Benefits of online campaigning should be closely examined
ネット選挙解禁 功罪を検証し政治に生かせ(8月4日付・読売社説)

The ban on the Internet’s use in election campaigning was lifted starting with the House of Councillors election in July. What were the advantages and disadvantages of using this campaign method?

All parties must examine these points and consider how to encourage the public to participate more in politics.

In the upper house election, political parties and candidates placed a great deal of emphasis on sending such information as election platforms, profile data, stumping photos and video messages to the electorate through websites, blogs and other means.

As for social networking services, which allow senders and recipients to communicate interactively, the Liberal Democratic Party mainly employed Facebook, while New Komeito and the Japanese Communist Party used LINE and Twitter, respectively, as new campaign tools.

The volume of information available to voters during the campaign period increased significantly.

However, online campaigning appeared to have had a limited effect on the election outcome.

In exit polls The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted on the polling day, those who said they checked online to decide who to vote for averaged only 11 percent of people who cast their ballots in the election. The corresponding figure for voters in their 20s was no more than 24 percent.

Voter turnout overall was lower than in the previous upper house election.

This means that the main aim of online campaigning--getting young people interested in politics and having them go to the polls--failed to materialize.

A major factor behind this may be that the parties and candidates were more or less working in the dark when they were campaigning online, mainly because they did not seem to have a good command of the Internet.

Meager information

Information posted online generally was limited to such items as time schedules of stumping tours and videos of speeches on the street, while information about policies and policy discussions among the parties was sparse.

The dearth of policy discussions in online campaigning might be due partly to fears that clarifying positions concerning policies on such issues as nuclear power generation over which voters’ views are divided sharply could have incurred what is called “flaming,” a flood of criticism and counterarguments.

There were no instances of such malicious cases as impersonating candidates or tampering with their websites, which had been feared with the introduction of online campaigning, according to the National Police Agency.

It also should be noted in this connection that a safety-first approach was taken in the online campaigning. Various restrictions were imposed, such as a ban on the use of e-mail for electioneering purposes by anyone except the parties and candidates.

To ensure fair campaigning, it is imperative to prevent illegal actions, so measures to that end must be implemented continuously.

However, there were some cases in which slanderous and defamatory messages were directed at certain candidates. More enlightened use of online campaign tools is indispensible.

It has been pointed out that the distinction between what is lawful and unlawful under the Public Offices Election Law is unclear in regard to online campaigning, making the system a bit of a mystery to many voters. Both the ruling and opposition camps should consider ways to resolve the ambiguity of online campaign methods from a legal point of view.

Use of the Internet in campaigning will most likely be expanded to local elections, bringing politics closer to voters than ever before.

All parties and candidates must use their ingenuity to determine how to use online campaigning in the best way possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2013)
(2013年8月4日01時22分  読売新聞)

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国民健康保険 都道府県移管は必要な方策だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 5, 2013
National health insurance program should be managed by prefectures
国民健康保険 都道府県移管は必要な方策だ(8月4日付・読売社説)

The financial condition of the national health insurance program, which was originally started as medical insurance for the self-employed, has taken a serious turn for the worse. The program must be rehabilitated as soon as possible.

The National Council on Social Security Reform will propose in an upcoming report that the national health insurance program, currently managed by cities, towns and villages, should be run by prefectures.

The biggest aim of the proposal is to enhance the financial foundation of the program. We think having prefectural governments, which are larger than city, town and village governments, manage the program is a necessary means to maintaining the program.

There are about 35 million subscribers to the national health insurance program. With a decrease of farming families and private shops, about 70 percent of the subscribers are now nonregular workers and the unemployed.

Because more and more low-income earners are joining the program, revenues from insurance premiums remain low. In fact, less than 30 percent of the more than 11 trillion yen in national health insurance payouts a year is covered by premiums.

To cover revenue shortages, the program must depend on financial assistance from employees’ insurance programs such as those operated by corporate health insurance unions and on public money from the national and prefectural governments. Nonetheless, this does not cover the deficits. To compensate for the deficits, 350 billion yen is allocated to the insurance program every year from the general accounts of municipal governments. The structure of the insurance program apparently ensures it will lose money.

Besides, small municipalities that operate the program easily find themselves in the red with high medical costs from advanced treatments. Depopulation worsens this situation.

Adjust insurance premiums

Another problem is that premiums have become a heavy burden on subscribers.

As a percentage of income, subscribers to national health insurance pay twice as much in premiums as do subscribers to health insurance programs run by corporate health insurance unions and mutual aid societies for public servants. And even among cities, towns and villages within the same prefecture, the difference between the most and least expensive national health insurance premiums is up to 2.8 times.

If management of the national health insurance program is transferred from cities, towns and villages to prefectures, its financial foundation would be improved by economy of scale.

And the difference in premiums among subscribers would become smaller if prefectural governments recalculated premiums necessary to sustain the national health insurance within their jurisdictions.

Of course, a reduction in medical spending is important to rehabilitate the finances of the national health insurance program.

If they run the programs, prefectural governments will be able to gather a great deal of information about medical treatment within their jurisdictions. Analysis of such information would enable them to monitor wasteful spending such as expenses for unnecessary medical tests and excessive administration of drugs.

This would eventually help prefectures exercise leadership in the operation of medical institutions after scrutinizing the contents of treatment.

However, there are still many problems in transferring management of the national health insurance program to prefectures.

For example, the National Governors’ Association demands the central government increase its financial assistance to them before they will agree to manage the program. But where is that money going to come from?

According to the proposal, cities, towns and villages will likely keep collecting premiums for the national health insurance program. However, it is doubtful that municipalities no longer running the national health insurance program will collect premiums in a responsible manner.

It will be necessary to create a system to prevent the rate of national health insurance premium payments from declining further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2013)
(2013年8月4日01時22分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 4日 (日)

輿石参院副議長 反省踏まえて国会改革進めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 4, 2013
Diet must be made more efficient with reforms based on experience
輿石参院副議長 反省踏まえて国会改革進めよ(8月3日付・読売社説)

Ruling and opposition parties should take advantage of the end to the divided Diet to embark on Diet reform to enhance the substance and efficiency of deliberations.

An extraordinary Diet session was convened Friday, the first parliamentary session held after the July 21 House of Councillors election. Masaaki Yamazaki of the Liberal Democratic Party, which became the biggest party in the upper house following the election, and Azuma Koshiishi of the Democratic Party of Japan, which saw its strength in the chamber fall behind that of the LDP, were elected president and vice president of the chamber, respectively.

In consultations before the election, the LDP was relectant to install Koshiishi as vice president in view of the fact that he had played a pivotal role when the DPJ hampered the LDP-led government by dint of its numerical superiority in the upper house.

Koshiishi reportedly said, “I’ll reflect on what should be reflected on.” It was inevitable that the LDP appreciated his remarks and accepted the DPJ’s bid to install him as vice president.

The installation of Koshiishi, who had been regarded as a symbol of the divided Diet, as vice president should be used as a chance to end futile confrontations between the ruling and opposition parties.

We call for both camps to work out rules to deal with situations in which different deicisons are made by the two Diet chambers.

The management of a joint committee of both houses, which has become dysfunctional, needs to be reexamined.

As for personnel appointments requiring approval by both chambers, there is room for improvement, such as narrowing the range of personnel matters that require bicameral endorsement.

Rules should be changed

There are many rules and customs concerning Diet management that should be rectified.

It has long been pointed out that the prime minister and cabinet ministers are excessively occupied with Diet deliberations, adversely affecting their diplomatic and internal political activities.

It is also necessary to reconsider the conventional practice of holding question-and-answer sessions with the prime minister and all cabinet ministers in attendance when the government’s budget is discussed at the House of Representatives Budget Committee. Some of the ministers have almost no chance to answer questions. Obviously, this is one of the negative results of formalism.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) insists, “[Rules on] Diet management should be changed to enable the prime minister to go overseas for up to 100 days a year.” To this end, the party proposes that debate sessions with opposition party leaders be used as the principal opportunity for the prime minister to answer opposition questions. It also calls for introducing a system that would allow senior vice ministers to answer questions on behalf of the prime minister and cabinet ministers.

Utilization of senior vice ministers for such purposes could lessen the burdens of the prime minister and cabinet members. The DPJ made a similar contention when it took office, so agreement on this issue can be hammered out by the ruling and oppositon parties.

Under current practices, opposition parties ask the government to explain many government-proposed bills in plenary Diet sessions, delaying the start of substantial discussions in Diet committees. Diet business must be managed more efficiently.

Many parties have experience in both ruling and oppositon roles through several government changes in the past and can be assumed to know sufficiently where problems lie. The parties are urged to formulate new rules on Diet management unconstrained by past practices.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 3, 2013)
(2013年8月3日01時49分  読売新聞)

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麻生財務相発言 ナチスにどう改憲を学ぶのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 4, 2013
How can we learn from Nazis about constitutional revision?
麻生財務相発言 ナチスにどう改憲を学ぶのか(8月3日付・読売社説)

Was this something a person who has held the prime minister’s post should say? We cannot help but doubt his qualification to be an important minister in the current administration.

Referring to the approach to constitutional revision taken by the former Nazi regime in Germany, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso made remarks to the effect that we should learn from its technique to amend the country’s Constitution.

Many people took this statement as expressing a positive view of Nazi Germany. Widespread revulsion was rapidly expressed, not only in Japan but also by parties including a Jewish human rights organization in the United States. China and South Korea have also criticized the statement, linking it to their existing disagreements with the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over recognition of history.

Aso retracted his statement, saying: “It was taken differently from my real intent. It is regrettable that I invited a misunderstanding.” However, the situation is so serious that it may even damage Japan’s national interests.

The statement came out on Monday during a speech Aso made in Tokyo, in the context of his attempt to describe how cool-headed discussions are necessary for constitutional revision.

He referred to the circumstance in which Adolf Hitler emerged under the Weimar Constitution and said: “The Weimar Constitution was changed to the Nazi Constitution before people realized it. Why don’t we learn from that technique?”

However, while the Weimar Constitution was rendered a dead letter, nothing called the “Nazi Constitution” ever existed.

Hitler seized the reins of government by legitimate means and built the foundation of his dictatorial regime through such things as the Enabling Act, by which the government was empowered to enact laws without parliamentary deliberation or approval. He sent Jewish people to concentration camps and caused the Holocaust.

Inappropriate expression

At his press conference Friday, Aso explained: “The Nazis emerged in the midst of an uproar before people realized it. I meant to say we have to learn from that as a bad example.” If it was his real intent, the expression “Learn from the technique” is totally inappropriate.

It is also not understandable at all why he picked the Nazi Germany case in relation to revision of the Constititution. In Japan a national referendum is needed to amend the Constitution, and that is only after an amendment has been initiated by both houses of the Diet. Therefore, it cannot be amended “before people realize it.”

Democratic Party of Japan President Banri Kaieda criticized Aso, saying: “Revision of the Constitution is an issue that should be debated in the most vigorous way. His remarks ignore democracy, as he said it’s OK to do it secretly.”

There is no doubt that Aso’s speech was a serious blow to the Abe administration, which aims at constitutional revision.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “Cabinet ministers must fully recognize their positions and should make statements carefully, so as not to be misunderstood.”

That is something which is too obvious. However, Aso repeatedly made gaffes and irresponsible remarks when he was foreign minister or prime minister such as, “Even people with Alzheimer’s can understand it,” or, “There are many doctors who lack common sense.”

Due to the Liberal Democratic Party’s landslide victory in the recent House of Councillors election, we suspect the the administration has let its hair down. Aso’s remarks also reveal the arrogance of a party winning big.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 3, 2013)
(2013年8月3日01時49分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 3日 (土)

大阪誤認逮捕 ずさんな捜査に驚かされる

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 3, 2013
Mistaken arrest by Osaka police apalling result of sloppy probe
大阪誤認逮捕 ずさんな捜査に驚かされる(8月2日付・読売社説)

Police and prosecutors are urged to seriously reflect on and make a thorough probe of their handling of a theft case that can only be described as extremely sloppy.

In connection with the theft that happened in January at a gas station in Sakai, the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office’s Sakai branch has nullified the indictment against a male company employee and apologized to him. Osaka prefectural police, for their part, have admitted it was a mistaken arrest.

The man was detained for 85 days--even though he did not have any connection with the case. He wound up suspended from work. During interrogations, investigators frequently addressed him harshly, without the customary honorific title after his name, and insulted him by saying, “You’re not normal.” This can be seen as a serious infringement of human rights.

The biggest reason for the mistaken arrest was simply an investigation based on the presumption that he was the perpetrator.

A credit card stolen from a parked car was used at the gas station. Osaka prefectural police checked security camera images and found that the man was shown at the gas station at the time when the card was used to buy gasoline. Police decided this image was sufficient evidence to arrest him.

However, an investigation by his lawyers found that the clock on the security camera was fast. Just one minute after the theft was committed, the man was found to have driven his car through a highway entrance about six kilometers away from the gas station.

This means that it was actually impossible for him to have committed the crime. He had an alibi that could prove his innocence. Osaka police neglected to conduct a corroborative probe that should be a basic part of an investigation. They reportedly failed to recognize their mistake until it was uncovered as a result of the lawyers’ investigation. This is truly outrageous.

A bitter lesson missed

Overreliance on a single piece of evidence led to the mistaken arrest. Osaka police committed the same mistake they made last year in connection with an incident in which threatening e-mails were sent from remotely controlled personal computers infected with viruses. An anime director was arrested for allegedly sending an e-mail threatening mass murder via his home computer. Police made the mistaken arrest because they attached too much importance to a single piece of evidence--the computer’s IP address. When dealing with the theft case, police showed they had failed to learn what should have been a bitter lesson.

What both cases have in common is that the Osaka police would not listen to the suspects’ denials of the allegations.

Prosecutors should also be strongly blamed. They indicted the man without closely examining the evidence offered by police. They failed to fulfill their function of checking police investigations.

They opposed the man’s request to be released and refused to let family members visit him. The man would have spent even more time being illegitimately detained if the lawyers had not proved his alibi.

The man persistently denied being involved in the crime. But there have been many instances in which suspects have admitted to crimes after being detained over a long period.

“Hostage justice,” the practice of not releasing defendants who deny the charges against them, is a big factor behind false charges.

How detention should work is under discussion at a special panel of the Justice Ministry’s Legislative Council that is promoting a review of the criminal justice system. This is because the existing detention rules have been called ambiguous. The latest incident must be used to reexamine the practice of hostage justice.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2013)
(2013年8月2日01時36分  読売新聞)

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米金融緩和策 縮小へ問われる「市場との対話」

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 3, 2013
Fed must cleverly pursue exit from quantitative easing policy
米金融緩和策 縮小へ問われる「市場との対話」(8月2日付・読売社説)

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board has been assessing the appropriate timing for an exit strategy to scale back the current phase three of its quantitative monetary easing policy, known as QE3.

What should the U.S. central bank do to begin tapering off the QE policies as soon as September without wreaking havoc on the market? The Fed is certain to tread a thorny path going forward in steering its monetary policy.

A two-day meeting of the Fed’s policy-making Federal Open Market Committee was held Tuesday and Wednesday. During the meeting, a decision was made to continue QE3, which entails purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $85 billion (about 8.3 trillion yen) a month and a near-zero interbank interest rate policy.

Chairman Ben Bernanke announced in June the central bank’s plan for an exit strategy to start slowing down the pace of bond purchases “later this year,” contingent upon ongoing positive economic data. Specifically, he said bond buying could wrap up “by mid-2014.”

Market players were closely watching the latest policy meeting to see whether the Fed would solidify further steps for scaling back the bond-buying program. The FOMC statement that was released on Wednesday, however, did not mention anything of the sort, instead saying the committee “is prepared to increase or reduce the pace” of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation. As for the commercial sector, the Fed slightly downgraded its economic outlook for the United States.

In response to heightened speculation that the central bank may start backing off of QE3 in September, Bernanke said “there is no preset course” for ending the Fed’s bond buying. He added, “Highly accommodative monetary policy for the foreseeable future is what’s needed” for the U.S. economy.

Caution promotes stability

Based on the latest FMOC statement and a series of remarks by the Fed chairman, it seems the U.S. central bank wants to prevent volatile market reactions yet maintain the flexibility to gradually curtail its ultraeasy monetary policy.

Stock prices on the New York exchange have been stable, with market players likely reacting favorably to the Fed’s cautious stance on implementing its exit strategy, which they see as conducive to stimulating business activity.

Given the circumstances, theories have begun emerging about the winding down of QE3 being postponed beyond the middle of next year.

The Fed’s decision on when to scale back quantitative monetary easing will largely depend on the near-term outlook for the U.S. economy, which is still short of achieving a full-scale recovery.

A preliminary report on the United States’ inflation-adjusted gross national product for the April to June period showed an annualized 1.7 percent rise from the previous quarter. The positive figure was due mainly to such factors as strengthening of the housing sector and corporate capital investment in addition to robust personal spending.

While the U.S. economy’s modest pace of expansion is encouraging, the national growth estimate for the January-March quarter was sharply revised downward to a 1.1 percent annual rate from the previously estimated 1.8 percent. It seems the economic prospects of the United States in and after the last half of 2013 remain uncertain.

The fact that the U.S. labor market is still strained is worrying, as a rise in personal consumption is a prerequisite for comprehensive economic recovery.

The Fed also takes issue with the country’s persistent annual inflation rate of about 1 percent, a rate significantly below the FOMC’s long-run objective of 2 percent inflation.

Foreign markets have become increasingly susceptible to developments in U.S. monetary policy. Some observers have expressed anxiety that the winding down of QE3 could cause an outflow of cash from emerging economies.

Now is the time for the Fed to exercise its ingenuity to help stabilize the global economy by exploring means of further communication with the market.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2013)
(2013年8月2日01時36分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 2日 (金)

「慰安婦」像設置 憂うべき米国での「反日」拡大

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 2, 2013
Refute recent moves in U.S. to distort comfort women issue
「慰安婦」像設置 憂うべき米国での「反日」拡大(8月1日付・読売社説)


A distorted view of historical facts involving Japan is starting to be spread in the United States. We believe the situation is extremely serious.

A statue of a girl symbolizing so-called comfort women was unveiled Tuesday in a ceremony in Glendale, Calif.

A private group of Korean-Americans led the move to erect the statue. It has the same design as a monument set up by an anti-Japan group in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in 2011.

The city of Glendale has designated the day, July 30, as “Korean Comfort Women Day.” The day’s origin is July 30, 2007, when the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling on Japan to apologize over the comfort women issue.

Overblown descriptions

A plaque beside the statue says, “In memory of more than 200,000 Asian and Dutch women who were removed from their homes...to be coerced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan between 1932 and 1945.”

The distorted and exaggerated phrases “sexual slavery” and “more than 200,000” are enough to significantly degrade the honor of Japan.

The private group plans to set up similar statues elsewhere in the United States.

It is clear that the group aims to disseminate false information that the former Imperial Japanese Army forcibly recruited young Korean women, even minors, as comfort women during World War II.

The move calls to mind the way Chinese-American author Iris Chang depicted the Nanjing Incident in her book as an act of genocide equivalent to the Holocaust perpetrated by the German Nazi regime.

The topic of comfort women became a diplomatic issue between Japan and South Korea in 1992. It was triggered by an Asahi Shimbun report that stated the Imperial Japanese Army controlled and supervised the establishment of so-called comfort stations as well as recruitment of comfort women.

No evidence confirmed

Another passage in the article suggested that “Joshi Teishin Tai,” a wartime labor mobilization system for women, served as a means of forcible recruitment of comfort women, arousing resentment in South Korea.

The government has conducted an intensive investigation on the issue, but found no documents backing up the claim that the Japanese military forcibly recruited comfort women.

In 1993, the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa approved a statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono to express “apologies and remorse” to former comfort women, apparently with the aim of politically settling the dispute between the two countries.

The statement said that “at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments.”

The statement included the sentence because when the government conducted interviews with 16 former comfort women, at the request of the South Korean government, there was testimony from one of them that police officers of the then Government-General of Korea took part in the recruitment of comfort women and intimidated them. Nobuo Ishihara, deputy chief cabinet secretary at the time, later revealed the finding.

However, no steps were taken to confirm the former comfort woman’s testimony. It cannot be denied that excessive diplomatic deference to South Korea was in the background.

The Kono statement became a source of misunderstanding. Countries like South Korea took it to mean the Japanese government had admitted the comfort women were recruited forcibly.

Issues of property and claims were settled under international law when the two countries normalized their relations in 1965. The Japanese government’s position is that compensation to former comfort women was also settled at that time as a matter of course.

The government later established the Asian Women’s Fund and provided 2 million yen in “atonement money” to 285 former comfort women in Taiwan, the Phillipines and South Korea. A letter of apology from then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto was also distributed to them.

However, the South Korean side reacted fiercely, saying this did not count as state compensation, and many former South Korean comfort women refused to receive the money.

It is also problematic that Japan’s atonement project was not accurately introduced to the public in South Korea and therefore went unappreciated.

On the problem of comfort women, which has grown ever more knotty, the government needs to reexamine the issue from its roots, including the Kono statement.

Review Kono statement

At the Glendale City Council on July 9, many Japanese-American residents and Japanese nationals in the United States participated in a public hearing on the installation of the statue. Some said the city must present evidence of forcible recruitment, if it has any. They thus opposed the installation of the statue as baseless.

The Korean-American residents of the city rebutted the opinions of the Japanese-American residents. The U.S. House of Representatives and the European Parliament adopted resolutions criticizing Japan on the comfort women issue, claiming the Japanese government itself had admitted forcible recruitment in the Kono statement.

After the residents’ opinions were heard, a vote among four council members and Glendale’s mayor came out 4-to-1 in favor of the installation of the comfort woman statue, it has been reported.

No doubt the ethnic Korean residents regard the Kono statement as the basis for their claims on the forcible recruitments of comfort women.

It is true there were actions by the Japanese government in wartime that injured the honor and dignity of many women. If the comfort women issue were to be judged under the standards of human rights awareness that exist today, there would be no chance for Japan to politically win the issue.

Even so, Japan must continue to transmit all accurate facts regarding whether there was forcible recruitment of comfort women or not.

There is no course open to the Japanese government other than explaining its handling of the comfort women issue carefully and tenaciously at home and abroad. It is especially important to transmit information in English.

To correct the distortion that the women were “sex slaves,” it is indispensable for the Japanese government to review the Kono statement of 20 years ago.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 1, 2013)
(2013年8月1日01時29分  読売新聞)

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2013年8月 1日 (木)

郵政保険提携 企業価値の向上占う試金石だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 1, 2013
Japan Post-Aflac deal a chance to revive postal sector profits
郵政保険提携 企業価値の向上占う試金石だ(7月31日付・読売社説)

The recent agreement by Japan Post Holdings Co. and Aflac Inc. to expand their business alliance should serve to improve the profitability of the nation’s postal services but not hamper fair competition in the domestic insurance market.

On Friday, the Japan Post Group’s holding company and the major U.S. insurance firm announced their decision to strengthen their partnership in the insurance business.

Aflac’s market share in Japan’s cancer insurance sector is currently 70 percent. The U.S. firm was firmly opposed to Japan Post Holding’s entry into the market, considering the Japanese government’s equity investment in the holding company.

In light of this, the recent deal seems unusual in that the two corporations will now fully cooperate in marketing their cancer insurance policies.

The agreement will result in an increase in the number of post offices selling Aflac cancer insurance to 20,000 from the current 1,000. This will be complemented by a similar marketing plan at shops directly managed by Japan Post Insurance Co., another arm of the holding company.

The accord also requires Aflac to develop a new cancer insurance instrument that will be marketed by Japan Post Holdings.

At a press conference Friday, Japan Post Holdings President Taizo Nishimuro emphasized the significance of the two corporations’ expanded business partnership. “It will both benefit customers and increase the value of the Japan Post Group,” he said. Nishimuro was named president of the holding company in June.

Going forward, it is important that Japan Post Holdings makes the most of the recent deal to further develop its insurance business. If it envisions the fortified partnership as a mere tool for boosting sales commissions, it will scarcely gain from the deal. To this end, Japan Post Holdings must continue fine-tuning the agreement.

In negotiations with Japan over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, the United States disapproved of an attempt by the holding company to expand the scope of its insurance services. This recent deal should nullify Washington’s concerns and remove a potential hindrance to progress in sideline TPP talks between the two nations. The move will likely prove advantageous in TPP negotiations as they shift into high gear.

Ensure fair competition

Meanwhile, the domestic life insurance industry is still apprehensive about what it sees as “a domineering partnership” between Japan Post Holdings and Aflac. Because the government owns shares in the holding company, some critics have called the arrangement a tacit government guarantee. Domestic life insurance firms fear the latest accord could eventually strain the private-sector insurance industry, just as the state-run postal business did before its privatization.

To invigorate the insurance market, it is essential to ensure fair competition. To achieve this, the government must keep a close watch on movements in the market.

The holding company hopes to list the government-held postal shares on the stock market in fiscal 2015. Profits from the sale of the listed shares will be used to help finance revitalization projects for areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Steady progress must be made in ensuring the shares are listed.

However, the shrinking scale of Japan Post Holdings’ operations is alarming, as the situation could impede the government’s efforts to list its postal stock.

Furthermore, Japan Post Insurance has seen an ongoing decline in its number of active contracts. There has also been a large drop in the quantity of mail, postcards and other related business handled by the Japan Post Group. To add insult to injury, the value of outstanding deposits at Japan Post Bank Co., another unit of the group, has steadily decreased in the wake of postal privatization.

Japan Post Holdings hopes to improve its profitability through such measures as an entry into the housing loan business. However, there are lingering concerns over its evaluation system for loan applications and supervision of internal operations.

Can Japan Post Holdings turn its business around to achieve tangible financial results? Nishimuro’s management skills will soon be tested.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 31, 2013)
(2013年7月31日02時10分  読売新聞)

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原子力委員会 司令塔の役割強化する改革を

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 1, 2013
Commission must become command center to rebuild N-energy policy
原子力委員会 司令塔の役割強化する改革を(7月31日付・読売社説)

Japan needs a robust, comprehensive command center within the government to reconstruct its nuclear energy policy, which has been mired in confusion since the Great East Japan Earthquake.

A government panel of experts has begun studying how to reform the Cabinet Office’s Japan Atomic Energy Commission, the structure and functions of which are now under the microscope.

The commission, which has been in charge of drawing up the nation’s nuclear energy policy and ensuring that this energy is used for peaceful purposes, is an administrative arm promoting and maintaining the use of atomic energy.

Together with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, launched last year to guarantee the safety of nuclear power plants, the commission plays an integral role in the nation’s nuclear energy policy.

However, the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, which championed a policy of phasing out nuclear energy, deprived the commission of its policy drafting authority. Instead, it transferred these functions to the Energy and Environment Council, comprising Cabinet ministers concerned, although this action was not backed by law.

Last October, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda established a panel to consider how to reform the commission. One option was abolition, but no conclusion was reached.

We believe it is appropriate for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which has distanced itself from a policy of ditching nuclear energy, to set up the new panel of experts with the aim of rebuilding the commission.

We hope the panel will conduct in-depth discussions on what responsibilities the commission should have within the government by clearly defining its administrative role.

Key role essential

Established in 1956, the commission was initially headed by the director general of the Science and Technology Agency--a cabinet member--and entrusted with overall nuclear energy policy from selecting the locations for nuclear power plants to regulating their safety.

Later, the safety regulation function was detached from the commission to deal with the increasing number of nuclear power plants and to strengthen the government’s ability to deal with problems at those plants. Since the 2001 reorganization of government ministries, the commission has been headed by an expert outside the government and its authority has been drastically reduced.

These days, however, it is more important than ever for the commission to play key roles in drafting and promoting nuclear energy policies, which require high levels of expertise.

At the first meeting of the new panel Tuesday, many members called for revitalizing the commission’s functions.  30日の初会合でも、メンバーから原子力委の機能を再活性化させる必要性を説く声が相次いだ。

With Japan’s efforts to export nuclear power plants in mind, some members said international cooperation was essential. They also suggested that the commission should have “accountability at home and abroad on the use of plutonium” and oversee the “decommissioning of nuclear reactors.”

These opinions are all reasonable, considering that Japan has one of the largest number of nuclear power plants in the world.

To ensure that the opinion of the commission is reflected within the government, it might be a good idea to have a Cabinet minister head the commission again and to clearly define its responsibility.

With the government aiming to map out a basic energy plan by the end of this year, where should Japan’s nuclear power plants figure in the plan?

To come up with a realistic strategy, it is indispensable to have experts at the commission examine Japan’s strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 31, 2013)
(2013年7月31日02時10分  読売新聞)

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