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2014年7月31日 (木)

軽減税率 家計と活字文化を支えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Consumption tax hike should not hurt household budgets, reading culture
軽減税率 家計と活字文化を支えたい

A planned increase in the consumption tax rate must not weigh too heavily on ordinary household budgets, which would lead to an economic slowdown.

We believe if the tax rate is raised to 10 percent in October 2015, as initially planned, a lower rate should be applied to daily necessities, such as food products and newspapers.

A council, comprising members of the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, is hearing the opinions of close to 50 organizations, including various industrial associations, regarding the pros and cons of adopting a lower rate.

The Japan Newspapers Publishers and Editors Association told the council that a consumption tax rate increase to 10 percent should be accompanied by a measure to lower the rate to 5 percent for newspapers, books and other essential commodities.

In its reasoning, the association told the LDP-Komeito panel, “Newspapers are not mere consumer items but public goods that can form the basis of people’s knowledge.” The association emphasized the need to “protect an environment in which low-income earners, residents of provincial areas and any other person can enjoy equality in affording to purchase [newspapers].”

Newspapers are tasked with reporting on a wide range of news while also conveying a diversity of opinions to the public. Therefore, newspapers can be described as an essential tool for nurturing a cultural climate for reading printed matter and preserving a cornerstone of a democratic society.

During the hearings, consumers and some organizations said they supported a proposal to adopt a consumption tax rate lower than 10 percent for daily necessities.

The National Liaison Committee of Consumers’ Organizations urged the ruling parties to implement measures aimed at easing the financial burdens to be shouldered by consumers when the tax rate is increased, including a lower rate for food products. “Though the economy is said to be recovering, consumers are finding it difficult to truly feel” a return to prosperity, the committee told the council.

This opinion was echoed by the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, which told the panel it would be desirable to introduce a lower rate for farm products and processed goods.

Objections to lower rate

Meanwhile, the Japan Business Federation and many distributor associations raised objections to the adoption of a lower tax rate, citing an anticipated increase in business procedures that will accrue from the introduction of a mitigated tax rate.

These organizations defended their stance in saying it would be difficult to form a consensus regarding what kind of item should be covered in a lower tax rate. They said the problem would be further complicated in keeping accounts and paying taxes if there is more than one consumption tax rate.

There is no doubt that the introduction of more than one tax rate will entail an increase in pertinent business procedures. In most European nations, however, lower rates have long been applied to food, newspapers and other daily necessities under their value-added tax systems, equivalent to our nation’s consumption tax.

We hope the government and private-sector organizations will study precedents overseas and then join hands to work out efficient procedures for consumption tax-related payments.

To ensure that the tax rate hike from 5 percent to 8 percent in April worked smoothly, the government decided to pay low-income earners benefits. However, there will be a limit to what one-time benefits can achieve in underpinning consumer spending.

We believe the introduction of a lower rate for daily necessities will lessen the impact of the tax hike on consumers, while also reducing the risk of a slump in consumption. Whenever consumers buy daily necessities, they may actually feel they are benefiting from such a tax plan.

The Finance Ministry has released an estimate regarding a loss of revenue to be accrued from a lower tax rate set on a certain category of commodities. If a reduction of one percentage point is applied to “all beverages and food products” at the time of the tax rate hike to 10 percent next year, it will likely result in a loss of ¥660 billion annually, according to the ministry.

Caution should be exercised in determining what kinds of items should be eligible for a lower tax rate, with due consideration given to a balance between the need to secure revenues for the social security system and to ease the burden on household finances.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 30, 2014)

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衆院選制度改革 有識者答申に拘束力が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Opinions of expert panel on electoral reform must have binding power
衆院選制度改革 有識者答申に拘束力が必要だ

As long as they have decided to entrust discussions on electoral system reform to experts, political parties must vow to accept the discussion result, no matter how it develops.

On Tuesday, 15 members of the committee to discuss the electoral system of the House of Representatives were announced. The committee is an advisory body to lower house speaker Bunmei Ibuki.

Members include university professors, representatives of the press and a prefectural governor. Takeshi Sasaki, former president of the University of Tokyo, is expected to assume the role of chairman. The panel’s first meeting is scheduled in early September.

It was in March that the ruling and opposition parties agreed to establish the expert panel. It is unbelievable that it will have taken half a year just to get to the first meeting. Discussions at the panel should be conducted in an expeditious manner.

One concern is the ambiguity on how the committee’s report on the issue will be treated.

In June, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to “respect” the report.

However, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba made a suggestive remark, saying, “The authority of the Diet could be questioned if the [committee’s] report instantly becomes a bill.” The remark can be interpreted as implying the possibility of modifying the bill depending on the contents of the report.

We want to remind both the ruling and opposition parties of the fact that they have failed to come up with a reform plan on the electoral system despite spending more than a year on discussions. We urge them to reconfirm that the report will have binding power.

The panel will discuss three issues: rectifying the disparity in the value of votes, reducing the number of Diet seats, and changing the electoral system for both houses of the Diet. It will decide the timing of submitting a report, considering the remaining length of the terms of the incumbent lower house members, which expire in December 2016.

Put priority on issues

There is not much time remaining considering the time it takes to prepare a bill after the submission of the report, followed by Diet deliberations and publicization of the bill. It is important for the panel to separate the reform plans that need to be implemented before the next lower house election from those that have to be addressed on a long-term basis, and discuss them individually.

The most urgent task is dealing with the vote-value disparity problem.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the 2012 lower house election, which had a maximum vote-value gap of 2.43-to-1, was “in a state of unconstitutionality.”

The maximum vote disparity was temporarily reduced to less than 2-to-1 after the Public Offices Election Law was revised last year to cut lower house seats by five in single-seat constituencies. However, under the latest simulation, the vote disparity rose again to exceed the 2-to-1 line.

The law for the establishment of the council on rezoning electoral districts of the lower house sets a basic principle that the maximum vote disparity should not exceed 2-to-1. We urge the expert panel to come up with a plan to further rectify vote-value disparities.

In reforming the electoral system, it is essential to appreciate the importance of avoiding the fragmentation of political parties and pursuing a stable political environment. To do so, the most realistic approach for reforming the electoral system will be to maintain the overall framework of the current system of combining the single-seat constituency system with proportional representation—at least for the time being—and rectify vote-value disparity under the framework.

Amid discussions between the ruling and opposition parties over electoral system reform, parties have raced to reveal their plans to drastically cut the number of Diet seats. We presume that the moves are aimed at impressing the public that they are willing to impose burdens on themselves, following the consumption tax hike in April—a fishy act of trying to appease voters.

In conclusion, trimming Diet seats should be decoupled from electoral system reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 30, 2014)

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(社説)子どもの貧困 ひとり親世帯を救おう

July 30, 2014
EDITORIAL: Labor reforms for single mothers needed to alleviate child poverty
(社説)子どもの貧困 ひとり親世帯を救おう

The government needs to first tackle the here-and-now problems of poverty if any improvements are to be made in the situation.

Japan’s child poverty rate hit a record high of 16.3 percent in 2012. This translates into one in six children living in households with incomes lower than half of the average.

The rate is among the worst in the developed world. In addition, Japan has been unable to curb the rise for nearly 30 years.

The government is working on establishing guidelines to combat child poverty, but the question is what to put in the guidelines.

A panel of experts recommends a broad range of measures, with special emphasis on providing education-related support.

Education, which gives youngsters the skills to be self-supportive, is a vital tool for severing the cycle of poverty from generation to generation.

But to save children who are struggling in poverty now, the poverty of their parents or guardians needs to be addressed first. And the gravest cases are single-parent families--especially single-mother families--half of which live below the poverty line.

About 80 percent of single mothers are working, but their average annual income is a measly 1.8 million yen ($17,600). About 10 percent of single mothers live on welfare. The root of the problems faced by these women lies deep; working does not get them out of poverty.

One major factor that keeps them in poverty is that half of these women are working unstable, part-time jobs. One bold step the government could consider to correct this situation would be to subsidize companies that hire low-income single mothers for full-time positions.

Basically, the problems stem from the nation’s employment structure. Unless efforts are made to enable part-time workers to switch to full-time jobs, the poor will always remain poor. And the working conditions of part-time workers need to be improved, too.

During a meeting of the experts panel, a demand was made for bigger child-support checks for low-income single-parent families. The demand came from such families themselves and their supporters. This should rate a high priority.

The elimination of poverty is a long-term challenge. This is obvious from the fact that Japan has been unable to curb its child poverty rate for decades. Obviously, the government must not think its work is done once it establishes the guidelines for combating child poverty.

In fact, to ensure that the efficacy of the recommended measures is closely examined down the road, the guidelines should spell out numerical targets for lowering the poverty rate and raising the rates of youngsters advancing to higher education and finding jobs afer graduation.

Private organizations around the nation provide teaching and food aid to children from poor families, and they are proving quite helpful. But the reality is that such organizations are struggling financially and must rely heavily on the goodwill of their dedicated members.

At the meeting of the experts panel, a proposal was made to create a fund, sponsored by both the public and private sectors, to finance the activities of those goodwill organizations.

We certainly support such a fund, as it is the responsibility of society at large to raise the next generation. We believe in individual citizens providing whatever help they can, not only to their own children and grandchildren.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 30

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2014年7月30日 (水)

危険ドラッグ 摘発の徹底で流通を阻止せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Distribution of dangerous drugs must be stemmed by thorough detection
危険ドラッグ 摘発の徹底で流通を阻止せよ

The control of illegal drugs must be tightened further, by seizing this occasion of the reclassification of the drugs.

“Quasi-legal drugs,” whose abusers have caused a succession of incidents and accidents recently, have been renamed “dangerous drugs.”

The designation “quasi-legal” may encourage people to casually use the drugs because they think they are not breaking the law. Based on this concern, the National Police Agency and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry publicly solicited suggestions for a new designation for the drugs.

We can understand that the government intended to emphasize the danger of taking these drugs. But doubt remains as to whether the new name can sufficiently convey the message that the drugs may contain illegal substances. The government needs to make both the danger and the illegality of taking these drugs widely known.

An estimated 400,000 people around the country have used these dangerous drugs.

When the health ministry investigated these cases, more than 40 percent of the users showed symptoms of hallucinations and delusions, whereas similar symptoms were seen among 30 percent of the stimulant drug users investigated. And nearly 60 percent of abusers of dangerous drugs also showed signs of dependency.

It is apparent that these dangerous drugs are extremely harmful to the body. There has been a sharp rise in the number of cases in which people with acute poisoning after taking the drugs were taken to hospitals by ambulance.

It is reasonable that the government has compiled emergency measures to prevent the spread of these dangerous drugs.

The central pillars of the measures include cooperation between police and regional welfare bureaus in making general, on-site investigations into sales outlets of these drugs, said to be operating at about 250 spots in the nation. To correct the situation in which people can obtain dangerous drugs easily, it is essential to tighten control on sales outlets.

Control of sales crucial

Based on the lesson that the arrests of sellers of dangerous drugs were usually one step behind the problem, the government, in the emergency measures, is authorized to control those dangerous drugs as “unapproved drug products,” sales of which are banned by the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, even before they are defined as designated illegal drugs.

With regard to those products that are suspected to contain such designated drugs, the government can order, under the measures, the sellers of the products to analyze the drug’s components and suspend sales until the analysis results become known. Violators of the order will be punished.

We hope the government will reinforce its surveillance of those business operators who are shifting their sales method to mobile sales from vehicles and orders via the Internet.

It is also important to grasp the real state of affairs of illegal manufacturing of drugs and their sales channels. Factories manufacturing such drugs have been discovered in Okinawa and Ishikawa prefectures. Substances used for the drugs are suspected to have been imported from China. Strengthening the checking systems at customs offices will be necessary to prevent such substances from being brought into Japan.

Some local governments are regulating, with their own ordinances, drugs that are not defined as illegal under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law but may cause harm to the body.

The Wakayama prefectural government has made such drugs subject to monitoring and control even if they are labeled as incense or aroma products and makes it mandatory for the sales outlet to notify the prefectural government of their sales. The Osaka prefectural government has included in its ordinance a provision authorizing an on-site investigation of sales shops by police officers. The Tokyo metropolitan government also plans to revise its ordinance to establish a similar provision.

Local governments should assume a large role in supplementing the efforts made by the central government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 29, 2014)

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国家公務員削減 人員再配置にメリハリが要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Reallocation of govt employees should be promoted flexibly
国家公務員削減 人員再配置にメリハリが要る

It is essential to strengthen the government’s policy-implementing capabilities by slimming down its organization and strategically reallocating its employees.

The government has adopted a new policy at a Cabinet meeting on the organization of national government employees and the management of fixed numbers of personnel.

The policy calls for reallocating or reducing at least 10 percent of around 300,000 employees in general administrative work, excluding the members of the Self-Defense Forces, over a five-year period starting in fiscal 2015. The target figure is the same as that set for fiscal 2010 to 2014.

The Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs, which was established in May, has set target numbers for reallocating and reducing personnel for all government ministries and agencies. Based on these targets, personnel will be reallocated to increase the number of officials at offices suffering from manpower shortages, including the Disaster Reconstruction Agency, the Japan Coast Guard, customs and immigration offices and quarantine stations.

Reconstruction from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami disaster has not met the expectations of people affected. The Japan Coast Guard has had difficulty in deploying personnel to protect Japan from such threats as repeated intrusions of Chinese government vessels into the Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.

It is reasonable to reallocate personnel flexibly by reducing the number of officials at government agencies with diminished administrative importance and increasing personnel for those with greater need.

Conventionally, the government relocates or reduces personnel mainly in local branches of the central government offices. In the fiscal 2007-10 period, the government ignored the boundaries of bureaucratic sectionalism by transferring a great number of officials in charge of statistics and food management at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry to offices dealing with prisons and regional taxation bureaus.

Target hard to attain

Given the current progress in reallocating and reducing the number of government officials, attaining the goal of “10 percent in five years” appears to be increasingly difficult.

For this reason, the government has come up with a policy of having individual government ministries and agencies reexamine their clerical work requirements at their own initiative to promote abolition and consolidation of offices and transfer clerical work to local governments and the private sector. To encourage ministries and agencies to streamline their work, the government makes it clear they would be able to transfer superfluous officials to other sections of their own offices.

Nevertheless, the government offices’ streamlining efforts have been strongly criticized as being halfhearted compared with those made by the private sector.

The Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs wants to realize efficient personnel cuts by utilizing information and communication technology. In cooperation with the Administrative Management Bureau of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, it is indispensable to strictly examine the streamlining programs of individual government ministries and agencies.

Since fiscal 2006, the government has achieved a net personnel reduction of 1,000 to 2,000 annually, excluding personnel transferred to independent administrative institutions. Such efforts must be continued.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government cut back on the hiring of national government employees by 30 percent to 40 percent in fiscal 2011-12 in line with the party’s campaign pledge for the 2009 general election to reduce “overall personnel costs by 20 percent.” That administration decided to reduce the hiring of new recruits by more than 50 percent in fiscal 2013, a target that faced a barrage of public criticism.

Extreme restraint on hiring, which is aimed at winning favor with the public, would not only distort the personnel composition of ministries and agencies but also narrow the door of opportunity for new university graduates facing difficulty in finding jobs and lead to talented people showing no interest in becoming government employees.

Recruitment of public servants must be promoted strategically from a mid- and long-term perspective.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 29, 2014)

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(社説)ミサイル発射 日朝協議でも説得を

July 29, 2014
EDITORIAL: Japan must tell North Korea that its provocations are pointless
(社説)ミサイル発射 日朝協議でも説得を

North Korea has kept up a series of provocative missile launches this year. In its latest test, apparently a political gesture, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan off its eastern coast on July 26.

North Korea's history of reckless tests of nuclear weapons and missiles caused the U.N. Security Council to tighten international sanctions against the secretive regime.

Even a short-range missile test is enough to antagonize the international community and deepen Pyongyang's diplomatic isolation. It's time that North Korea came to grips with the absurdity of its actions.

Politically, North Korea appears to be trying to exert pressure on the government of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

The Park administration has been beset by a string of serious accidents, crimes and scandals at home, and North Korea seems intent on gaining the upper hand ahead of talks it must have with South Korea sooner or later.

The Park administration has pledged to make efforts to improve the North-South relationship but maintained a hard-line stance toward Pyongyang. This policy has not gone down well in North Korea and blighted prospects for dialogue between the two countries.

North Korea has shown that its missiles can reach any part of South Korea. In the meantime, it has announced its intention to send athletes and cheerleaders to the Asian Games in September. The multisport event is slated to be held in South Korea's northwestern city of Incheon.

The North has said a “peaceful environment” needs to be created for its participation, implying that it wants scheduled joint military exercises involving the United States and South Korea in August to be called off. The North Korean regime is trying to put pressure on the Park administration by using both a hard and a soft approach.

As it is pursues this diplomatic strategy, North Korea may be seeking to make tactical use of its talks with Japan over Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese citizens and other issues.

Pyongyang’s recent missile tests should be considered also as a tactical move to achieve certain diplomatic objectives concerning relations among Tokyo, Washington and Seoul.

The Japanese government lodged a protest against the missile tests, but intends to continue holding talks with the North after concluding that they did not pose any immediate threat to Japanese territory or the general population.
But the North’s actions have different security implications for South Korea.

That is why both the United States and South Korea are casting a wary eye on Japan’s plan to continue talks with Pyongyang. At the same time, they have expressed their understanding of Tokyo’s motive.

The relationship between Japan and South Korea remains deeply strained mainly over differences in their views about history-related issues and a territorial dispute. If the two countries fail to put up a united front in dealing with North Korea, they risk playing right into Pyongyang’s hands.

Viewed from another angle, it can be said that Japan is currently the only country that is able to engage in direct, head-on diplomatic talks with the secluded regime in Pyongyang. In the bilateral talks on trying to resolve the abduction issue, Tokyo should keep urging Pyongyang to stop provocative acts like missile launches.

There is speculation that North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Su Yong, will attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar next month. The conference may offer a rare opportunity for Japan to communicate with a high-level official of North Korea.

Japan needs to use its official talks with North Korea wisely in its tenacious efforts to make the regime realize that military provocation is not in its best interest.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 29

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2014年7月29日 (火)

裁判員判決破棄 量刑の公平性重視した最高裁

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Supreme Court places importance on fairness in meting out sentences
裁判員判決破棄 量刑の公平性重視した最高裁

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in a child abuse case clearly indicated its position that precedents must be duly taken into consideration when deciding on the severity of punishment for the accused.

The top court drastically reduced the punishment meted out to two parents charged with inflicting bodily injury resulting in the death of their physically abused 20-month-old daughter.

The original ruling—decided with lay judges participating—ordered prison terms of 15 years for the parents, five years longer than the prosecution had demanded. This was subsequently upheld by the Osaka High Court.

The two courts’ decisions, however, were rejected by the Supreme Court, which instead handed down a 10-year prison term for the father and an eight-year sentence for the mother, who did not directly use violence against her daughter.

According to the top court, the 15-year prison terms were extremely unbalanced and too severe, and it changed for the first time a ruling made in a trial in which lay judges took part. “Even if the decision was made in a trial with lay judges, it must be equitable to those of other trials,” the ruling said.

If the severity of punishment in similar cases differs, it could adversely affect the public’s trust in the judiciary. It is understandable for the court of last resort to act as a check to emphasize fairness in assessing the culpability of suspects.

In the first trial at the Osaka District Court, professional and lay judges acknowledged the case revolved around the parents’ habitual abuse of their child and concluded that child abuse—one of the biggest social issues—should be dealt with by meting out punishments more rigorous than before.

Convincing grounds needed

The top court, however, stressed that “courts need to present convincing grounds when imposing heavier punishments than conventionally handed down.” This means the Osaka District Court’s ruling had not offered sufficient grounds for meting out such sentences.

The top court’s ruling also called for professional and lay judges to consider the severity of sentences based on accumulated data on punishments—an instruction that will have a major impact on lay judge trials in future.

However, it should be noted that the purpose of the lay judge system is to reflect the people’s perspectives and social common sense in criminal trials, which previously had been solely handled by legal experts.

If judges always have to decide on the severity of punishments based on precedent, the introduction of the lay judge system will lose its meaning.

It was predicted all along that the system’s introduction would result in certain deviations in the severity of sentences.

Generally heavier punishments have been handed down for sex offenders at lay judge trials, compared to those decided by professional judges alone. This is a manifestation of citizens’ abhorrence of despicable crimes.

It is important to factor in ordinary people’s feelings in court decisions, while maintaining fairness in punishments.

Professional judges should spare no efforts in explaining to lay judges how important it is to reach a judgment without basing decisions excessively on intuition and sympathy. They should then try to seek appropriate conclusions in trials.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 28, 2014)

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防衛装備の輸出 新3原則を効果的に適用せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Boost defense equipment exports in line with 3 new principles
防衛装備の輸出 新3原則を効果的に適用せよ

Encouraging cooperation in the development of defense equipment with the United States, European nations and other counties to enhance Japan’s security is a matter of great importance.

The government’s National Security Council has formally given the go-ahead to exporting to the United States components for the target detection and tracking systems of the Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2), an older model of the PAC ground-to-air missile interceptor system.

The NSC has also granted permission for the onward export of finished missile defense products using those components from the United States to countries such as Qatar. The NSC’s decision came after it decided that the United States’ systems for governing weapons exports and other relevant arrangements should be considered adequate.

This is the first time the NSC has granted such permission on the basis of the three new principles on the transfer of defense equipment and technology, which were adopted through Cabinet approval in April. The new three-point rules stipulate that permission for defense equipment exports will be granted only after strict screening to determine whether the transfer meets specific requirements, including being consistent with Japan’s contribution to world peace and cooperation with the international community.

The production of these missile components has ceased in the United States, and as a result the United States sought for Japan to export them. The NSC decision is definitely beneficial both to Japan and the United States, and it can safely be said that the new three-point defense equipment and technology export principles played a significant role in making this sort of smooth defense equipment cooperation possible.

The NSC also endorsed a joint research project with Britain to combine a British-made missile system with Japanese target detection technology. The government envisions the product of the joint Japan-Britain research being mounted on the next-generation F-35 fighters, which will be the mainstay of the Air Self-Defense Force.

This is Japan’s second joint development project for defense equipment with Britain, following an agreement in July last year to work on a chemical protection suit. These projects must proceed smoothly toward realization of their goals.

Forging new partnerships

The NSC has disclosed an outline of its deliberation process concerning Patriot-2 component transfers to the United States. There is no question that government efforts to ensure the disclosure of information in such matters are indispensable to enhance transparency.

In recent years, such projects for the joint development and production of defense equipment have moved forward mainly between the United States and European nations. Japan’s participation in this type of project will certainly be conducive to maintaining and upgrading the country’s defense technology, and at the same time help to rein in development expenditures. This country should take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to be part of such joint development schemes.

The government is set to promote joint defense equipment development projects not with only the United States and Britain but with Australia as well. Japan and Australia have reached an agreement to jointly engage in research in the near future involving the hydrodynamics of sea vessels, centering around Japanese technologies for submarine construction. Japan and France are also considering joint development of defense equipment, including autonomous underwater vehicles.

At the same time, consultations are under way with India on the advisability of exporting the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s US-2 search-and-rescue amphibian planes to the country. Security cooperation between Japan and India is of key importance in ensuring the safety of key sea lanes for the transport of crude oil and other energy sources to this country. Efforts to export defense equipment from Japan to India should also be promoted.

However, it is crucial in these undertakings to scrutinize with utmost care which kinds of joint study and development projects can be considered beneficial for both Japan and its partner nations.The government must work in tandem with the private sector to strategically address the task of collecting and analyzing relevant intelligence.

The Defense Ministry is poised to create in fiscal 2015 a “defense equipment agency” in charge of tasks ranging from research and development of defense equipment to procurement of defense systems in an integrated manner. In establishing the planned agency, the ministry should place great import on ensuring a high cost-benefit efficiency in its operations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 28, 2014)

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(社説)オスプレイ移転 選挙目当てで済ますな

July 26, 2014
EDITORIAL: Osprey redeployment plan should be more than a vote-grabbing ploy
(社説)オスプレイ移転 選挙目当てで済ますな

The Abe administration has revealed a plan to temporarily redeploy a fleet of MV-22 Osprey aircraft from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to Saga Airport, a commercial facility.

In Okinawa, U.S. military bases were built when the southern island prefecture was under U.S. administration. During this period, the United States transferred many of its military facilities on Japan’s mainland to Okinawa. Forty-two years after Okinawa was returned to Japan, the prefecture, which accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan’s total land area, is home to 74 percent of the U.S. military facilities in the nation.

Additional burdens should not be imposed on the people in Okinawa, who have long been suffering from accidents and noise of military aircraft and crimes and accidents involving U.S. servicemen.

So far, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has been claiming that moving the Futenma airbase to another location within the prefecture is the only realistic option for dealing with the risks posed by the base, currently located in the middle of a crowded city. In making its case, the administration has cited geographical and other factors.

It is significant that the administration has indicated the possibility of moving functions of the base outside the prefecture, albeit temporarily.

But the announced plan has raised many questions.

First, the fact that a gubernatorial election will be held in Okinawa in November raises the suspicion that the move is politically motivated.

It is expected that incumbent Hirokazu Nakaima, who has accepted the government’s proposal to relocate the Futenma base to another place in the prefecture, will face a tough challenge by Takeshi Onaga, the mayor of Naha, the prefecture’s capital, who is opposed to the proposal.

If Nakaima, who has decided to play ball with the central government on the Futenma issue, fails to be re-elected, the Abe administration’s plan to relocate the base to the Henoko district in Nago, a less crowded city in Okinawa, could fall through.

In order to placate Okinawans resentful over the heavy U.S. military presence, the administration is making desperate efforts to underscore its commitment to reducing their burden.

Other related proposals that have emerged include redeploying 15 airborne refueling aircraft from the Futenma base to the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture and providing state subsidies to prefectures that have agreed to accept U.S. military facilities for base realignment. These ideas also appear to be part of the government’s efforts to bolster Nakaima’s chances in the November poll.

The plan to transfer Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from Futenma to Saga, however, won’t really reduce the burden borne by Okinawa. The fleet will return to Okinawa when the new base has been built in Henoko.

The Ground Self-Defense Force has been considering the deployment of 17 Ospreys to Saga Airport, starting in 2015. The temporary redeployment plan is a stopgap measure taking advantage of the GSDF’s plan.

There is no guarantee that the GSDF will be able to deploy such a fleet of the aircraft to Saga Airport. Before the construction of the airport, the Saga prefectural government reached an agreement with local fishermen’s cooperatives on the prevention of related pollution. The pact states that the prefectural government has no intention of sharing Saga Airport with the SDF.

Moreover, there remain serious safety concerns about the Osprey, which has a troubled history of accidents. There are also concerns about low-frequency noise pollution. Many local residents around Saga Airport have reacted angrily to the redeployment plan.

Another big hurdle for this idea is the U.S. military’s unwillingness to move the Futenma airbase off Okinawa. Does the Japanese government have any workable plan to persuade the U.S. forces to accept the redeployment?

If the administration is serious about easing Okinawa’s burden of being host to so many U.S. military bases, it should scrap the plan to build a new base in Henoko.

If its proposal to transfer Ospreys from Futenma to Saga is not a vote-grabbing ploy, the Abe administration should declare that the redeployment will be a first step toward relocating the Futenma base outside Okinawa and then start serious negotiations with Saga Prefecture and the United States.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 26

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(社説)再エネと地域 「主権」育てる好機に

EDITORIAL: Renewable energy promotion a good opportunity to nurture local ‘sovereignty’
(社説)再エネと地域 「主権」育てる好機に

A recent survey jointly conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and Hitotsubashi University has found that 80 percent of municipalities throughout the country that responded to the questionnaire are willing to promote renewable energies for regional development.

More than three years have passed since the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. During the period, the local governments have been “deepening” their efforts from moves to review power sources to attempts to reconstruct their areas by themselves.

For example, some municipalities are using the revenue earned from the sale of electricity to electric power companies to operate welfare facilities. Others are increasing local employment by setting up companies to maintain power generation facilities. The number of power plants established by collecting funds from citizens and others in their local areas apparently exceeds 500.

If electricity sales are liberalized in the future, consumers will be able to choose their electric power company or sources of the electricity when they purchase it. To prepare for such a time, some producers in the agricultural, fishery or forestry industries are considering selling electricity directly to consumers in distant areas along with their products.

There are also some moves that go beyond conventional economic activities.

In Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, which was affected by the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, an organization is operating not only a solar power plant but also a vegetable farm using electricity from the plant. In addition, it is offering learning opportunities to children in those facilities.

The organization’s representative director, Eiju Hangai, is a former director of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Minami-Soma is his hometown. Reflecting on the nuclear accident, he started the project. His purpose is to nurture people who think and act for themselves through learning of the mechanism of electricity and how to use it.

So far, the development of electricity sources has tended to separate “people who generate electricity” from “those who use it.” In particular, nuclear power has been generated for urban areas where large amounts of electricity are consumed. Places that can serve as good locations to host nuclear power plants have been limited. Therefore, municipalities that can receive benefits from those plants have also been limited.

As for regional development, local governments have so far asked big companies to set up factories in their areas or implemented public works projects with subsidies. One of the typical cases was to ask for construction of nuclear power plants.

Renewable energies have a technical problem from the standpoint of a stable electricity supply. The feed-in-tariff system, in which electric power companies have to buy electricity from renewable energy producers at fixed prices, also has a defect because consumers have to pay higher electricity rates unless costs to develop electricity sources decline.

In spite of that, renewable energies that can be obtained easily in local areas will become catalysts to nurture “sovereignty” in those areas by changing the traditional way of thinking.

If municipalities promote renewable energy projects, they will face various problems and differences of opinions among residents. How will they overcome those difficulties and obtain understanding from them? It will be testing sites for “small democracies.”

A growing number of people are thinking about energies from the context of their areas and lives. We want to support such a move.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 27

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2014年7月28日 (月)







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ガザ流血拡大 本格停戦への道筋を探りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Concessions needed on both sides to secure durable Gaza ceasefire
ガザ流血拡大 本格停戦への道筋を探りたい

The United States, European countries and the United Nations should act in concert with Middle East nations capable of exercising influence over the warring parties to bring about a long-lasting cessation to ongoing hostilities.

The shedding of blood has been escalating in the conflict between Hamas, the militant Islamic group that dominates the Gaza Strip, which is part of the Palestine autonomous territories, and Israel. Although both sides temporarily reached a brief ceasefire in the fighting, there are no immediate prospects at all for an end to the conflict.

In addition to air strikes, Israeli troops have launched a ground offensive in Gaza. This operation is aimed at finding and destroying Hamas’ large number of underground tunnels crisscrossing the Gaza border. This is because the tunnel network has been exploited for firing rockets and across-the-border assaults by Hamas militants against Israel.

As many tunnels have been constructed beneath residential and other civilian facilities, a large number of civilians have been killed. This is a matter of grave concern. The number of people who have been killed on both sides since Israel began its offensive on July 8 has reportedly passed 1,000.

The United Nations has strongly condemned the Israeli offensive in which hospitals, schools and evacuation facilities have been attacked, as well as the despicable means Hamas has of employing civilians as human shields in the conflict, as both possibly “amounting to war crimes.”

Israel, which has a firepower overwhelmingly superior to that of Hamas, justifies its offensive as “exercising our right of self-defense.” This is hardly reasonable. At the very least, Israel must avoid attacking civilian facilities. Hamas, for its part, must promptly stop responses that treat human life lightly.

More efforts essential

Such figures as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon have continued to mediate the situation. On top of their efforts, cooperation not only from the two Arab countries with diplomatic relations with Israel—Egypt and Jordan—but also from countries with influence over Hamas, such as Qatar and Turkey, is indispensable for resolving the crisis.

With many regions in the Middle East being thrown into turmoil because of the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, countries in the environs of Israel and the Gaza Strip have been unable to unite in halting the Gaza conflict. The influence of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah-Sissi, who has regarded Hamas with hostility for years, is considered limited.

Prior to the latest 12-hour humanitarian truce, Kerry came out with a proposal for a seven-day lull in fighting so consultations could be held to realize a full-fledged accord on a prolonged ceasefire.

Both Israel and Hamas turned down the proposal, but the United States and other countries concerned should persevere. They should tenaciously consider ways to work out a plan acceptable to both Israel and Hamas.

To put a full-scale truce in place, concessions on both sides are essential, with a guarantee of Israel’s security on one hand and steps to help rebuild Gaza, a chronically impoverished region because of a seven-year-long economic blockade by Israel, on the other. The impasse can never be resolved by military power alone.

The fact that Israel and Hamas reached an accord on the truce from a humanitarian viewpoint is praiseworthy, even though it is only for 12 hours. The pause in fighting makes it possible for Gaza residents, including those who have been wounded, to evacuate to safer areas and stock up on such supplies as food and medicine.

Although there is little room for optimism over what lies ahead, the mutual concessions Israel and Hamas demonstrated this time should be made the first step toward a breakthrough for resolving the Gaza crisis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2014)

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概算要求基準 特別枠を「抜け道」に使うな

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Special fund should not be used as loophole in budget allocations
概算要求基準 特別枠を「抜け道」に使うな

Budgetary requests from each government ministry for fiscal 2015 need to be strictly assessed. This is essential for setting funding priorities in the next fiscal budget as a means of achieving two seemingly mutually exclusive goals pursued by the government: realizing economic growth and restoring health to the national finances.

The government has set guidelines for budget allocation requests for fiscal 2015, which will provide an overall framework for the next budget. A major feature of the appropriation criteria is a special ¥4 trillion fund. The fund is designed to preferentially finance key policies and projects devised by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, including those aimed at halting a population decrease and revitalizing communities outside major cities.

The budget appropriation guidelines also include a planned 10 percent cut in so-called discretionary expenses, including spending for public works projects. Funding in this category stood at about ¥15 trillion under the fiscal 2014 budget. The reduction is intended to come up with money for the special fund in the next budget.

It is reasonable for the government to adjust its policy on budgetary allocations so it can promote policies of higher priority.

However, questions must be raised about the advisability of making each government office’s budget requests eligible for allocations from the special fund only if the allocations are aimed at funding projects related to the government’s basic economic and fiscal policies or considered essential for the pursuit of its growth strategy.

This policy regarding the special fund could permit each ministry to demand appropriations for a wide range of projects, including diplomatic and national defense-related activities.

The government is also expected to come under even greater pressure for expenditures related to the development of regional communities, as it prepares for unified local elections next spring.

Fund leaves room for abuse

There is concern that the Cabinet Office and other government ministries may take advantage of the “loophole” created by the special fund to demand allocations for their projects. This could cause a flood of requests by each government office that only cite the pursuit of the growth strategy, for example.

We believe the government’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy should have narrowed the scope of projects eligible for allocations from the special fund. In doing so, the council would have been playing its primary role of issuing directives regarding our nation’s fiscal management.

At a meeting of the council, Abe emphasized that his administration would do all it could to make sure “priorities are set” in the next fiscal budget.

We hope the prime minister, who chairs the council, will play a leadership role in preventing each ministry from being allowed to request allocations for nonessential and nonurgent projects.

The focus of efforts by the government to screen budgetary requests will be whether it will be able to strictly curtail expenses for social security services, the largest item of spending under each fiscal budget.

Next fiscal year will see a natural increase in expenditures of close to ¥1 trillion for social security services due to the graying of society and other factors. The latest guidelines for budgetary requests include a plan to strictly screen allocation requests related to social security.

Steady progress needs to be made in reforming the social security systems. Measures to cut budgetary spending to this end will include promoting the use of inexpensive generic drugs and considering an increase in the age of eligibility for pension payments.

The government has said it will try to achieve primary balance at both the national and local government levels by the end of fiscal 2020. Currently, the national and local governments are registering a combined fiscal deficit of ¥30 trillion now.

According to a government estimate, the national and local governments would be left with ¥11 trillion in fiscal deficits each year even if the consumption tax rate was raised to 10 percent, as planned, and 2 percent annual economic growth in real terms was realized.

The lack of a solid base in the nation’s finances means the government will be unable to adopt flexible economic policies. This will make it difficult to return the economy to the path of full revitalization. Given this, the next fiscal budget must serve as an initial step in efforts to pave the way for fiscal reconstruction.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2014)

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2014年7月27日 (日)

熱中症予防 夜でも暑ければ冷房を使おう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
To prevent deadly heatstroke, don’t hesitate to use air conditioner at night
熱中症予防 夜でも暑ければ冷房を使おう

Heat waves have been hitting various parts of the country almost daily. As the number of heatstroke victims rises sharply at this time of the year, when people have not yet adjusted to the sweltering temperatures, it is vital to take precautions.

Heatstroke occurs when the body loses water and salt due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures, and consequently becomes unable to regulate its temperature.

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of days with a high temperature of 35 C or above, and in the number of nights with a low temperature of 25 C or above. The death toll from heatstroke has soared accordingly.

It is necessary to make a midsummer rule of such preventive measures as frequently consuming water and salt, refraining from going out during hours when temperatures are highest, and wearing a hat outdoors.

Heatstroke most often affects the elderly. Of 58,729 heatstroke victims who were transported by ambulance last year, 47 percent were aged 65 or older. As the elderly tend to be less sensitive to changes in skin temperature, they may not notice heat or sweat, thereby allowing heat to accumulate inside the body.

According to data compiled by the Tokyo Medical Examiner’s Office, 90 percent of heatstroke fatalities occurred indoors. Air conditioners were not used in 86 percent of the cases, and most victims were senior citizens.

The Nerima Ward office of Tokyo distributes devices to measure heatstroke risk, which gauge temperature and humidity, to elderly households. A buzzer sounds when the danger of heatstroke rises.

Some municipalities use such facilities as libraries and community centers as “heat-averting spots.” Community-based measures must be taken to protect the elderly living alone.

Extra care vital for kids

What is often overlooked is that more than a few heatstroke cases take place while victims are asleep. About 30 percent of those who have died from heatstroke developed symptoms at night. Therefore, it is necessary to use an air conditioner even at night, setting the temperature at about 28 C.

Extra care must be taken to protect babies and infants, who have not fully developed the ability to adapt to changes in temperature.

Small children, whose physical stature is much smaller than that of adults, can suffer exposure to the extreme heat released by roads paved with asphalt. The temperature is usually measured at a height of 1.5 meters above the ground surface, while the temperature for small children can be 3 to 4 C higher than the measurement at that height.

Parents and guardians must take such steps as making children wear well-ventilated clothing and drink water frequently. If children are sweating so much that their faces turn red, it is necessary to make them rest in the shade.

At school, heatstroke tends to occur during the activities of sports clubs. It is essential to take a break every 30 minutes. If such symptoms as dizziness, leg cramps, headaches and nausea appear, immediately cooling down the body is recommended.

With the progress of global warming, the number of people transported to hospitals due to heatstroke is expected to double by the end of the century. It is imperative to take such long-term measures as promoting afforestation and street tree-planting projects to alleviate the impact of the heat island phenomenon.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 26, 2014)

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朴・舛添会談 国民の心を遠ざけたのは誰か

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Who caused alienation in hearts of Japanese, South Korean people?
朴・舛添会談 国民の心を遠ざけたのは誰か

It was regrettable to see South Korean President Park Geun-hye continue her anti-Japan position of unilaterally criticizing this nation when she met Tokyo Gov.

Yoichi Masuzoe for talks in Seoul on Friday.

Park stressed that the deterioration in Japan-South Korean relations stemmed from the “words and acts of some politicians,” and added that it was necessary for the two nations to share a correct perception of history if they want their relationship to develop. These comments are a repetition of her pet opinion critical of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historical perception.

Park also indicated that she would put top priority on solving the issue of so-called comfort women, which she said was “a matter related to universal human rights.”

Ahead of Masuzoe’s talks with Park, Abe asked him to convey a message to the president. The message said, “The door for dialogue is always open,” indicating his desire to hold a bilateral summit meeting. Park’s comments, however, can be taken to show her continued determination to make the settlement of the comfort women issue and other issues a precondition for meeting with Abe.

Park did hail an exchange project under consideration between Tokyo and Seoul and supported a plan for parties concerned to cooperate in hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

But such exchanges will inevitably be limited under this abnormal situation, in which Park has been refusing to meet Abe ever since she was inaugurated nearly 1½ years ago.

Park part of the problem

“It’s regrettable that a difficult political situation seems to be alienating [Japanese and South Korean] people’s hearts from each other,” Park said during her talk with Masuzoe. We found it odd for her to speak as if she were not a party to this problem.

Her backbiting diplomacy of criticizing Japan in front of foreign dignitaries has provoked ire in Japan. What does she think about her own responsibility for this?

After the March summit meeting among Japan, the United States and South Korea, which was mediated by U.S. President Barack Obama, Tokyo and Seoul started talks by foreign affairs officials at the director general level.

The South Korean officials are seeking concessions from their Japanese counterparts over the comfort women issue, while the Japanese side took up the issue of lawsuits filed by South Koreans conscripted to work in factories in Japan during World War II. No progress has been made in their talks.

Early this month, a Seoul hotel abruptly refused to provide a venue for an event commemorating the inauguration of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, in response to a flood of protests it received after an influential South Korean newspaper blasted the event.

This was a result of Park spreading anti-Japanese sentiment throughout South Korean society.

What should not be overlooked is her stance of joining forces with China’s leadership over historical issues. During her talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Park and Xi jointly expressed alarm over recent progress in Japan-North Korean talks.

In addition to North Korean issues, there are many issues that require cooperation between Japan and South Korea, including the conclusion of a bilateral economic partnership agreement and the implementation of measures to deal with air pollution from China. We wonder if Park believes no efforts are necessary to break the impasse over bilateral relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 26, 2014)

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2014年7月26日 (土)

(社説)旅客機撃墜 ロシアに究明の責任

EDITORIAL: Russia must clarify cause of Malaysia Airlines jet crash
(社説)旅客機撃墜 ロシアに究明の責任
July 23, 2014

No attack against a commercial airliner can ever be condoned. When one occurs, the international community has a

duty to thoroughly investigate to help keep the skies safe.

On July 21, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the July 17 downing of Malaysia

Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine.

The resolution also demanded that armed groups in control of the region

provide international investigators with "unfettered access" to the crash site.

This unanimous vote was at least an improvement over the Security Council's pattern in recent years, which was to

split into the United States-Europe camp and the Russia-China camp.


Russia, a permanent Security Council member at the heart of global suspicions surrounding the airliner's crash, had

no choice this time but to approve the resolution. Russia now owes it to the world to answer questions and volunteer

to investigate the tragedy to get to the bottom of it.


But investigations are going anything but smoothly. There are strong suspicions that pro-Russian armed groups that

control the region were involved in downing the airliner. But even in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, these

separatist militants have shown an appalling disregard for the norms of proper behavior.


Right after the crash, they sabotaged the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Co-

operation in Europe by removing plane debris and bodies from the crash site.

Although the separatists finally handed over some bodies and the plane's black boxes on July 22, they may have

already destroyed or concealed vital evidence.


Their actions have fanned the ire of the international community and stoked anger at Russia, which is believed to be

backing them.

President Vladimir Putin should take the situation gravely.

The U.S. government is leaning toward the belief that the airliner was shot down by the separatists. Washington has

stated that the missile used for the attack had been brought from Russia.


Pieces of information are being presented that strengthen Washington's allegations. The materials being disclosed,

none of which are frivolous, include communication records in which the separatists are heard to confirm the attack

immediately after the plane went down, and photos claiming to be those of the missile vehicle in question being

transported to Russian territory after it launched a missile.


The Russian Defense Ministry is hinting at the possibility that Ukraine was responsible for the attack, but there is no

watertight evidence to corroborate the claim.

If Russia continues to obfuscate and evade responsibility, it will eventually have to pay a heavy price.

The European Union used to be more cautious than the United States whenever the issue of imposing sanctions

against Russia cropped up. This was in consideration of economic issues related to natural gas transactions and other

matters, but the European attitude toward Russia has now begun to harden because many of the victims of the

tragedy were Europeans.


Putin has tried to push Russia's national interests not only on the Crimean Peninsula, but also in eastern Ukraine. He

ought to understand that his hard-line policy will eventually drive Russia into isolation.


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 23

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(社説)インドネシア 民主主義の深化を

EDITORIAL: Indonesia's new president should push reforms to uphold democracy
(社説)インドネシア 民主主義の深化を
July 24, 2014

Voters in Indonesia have elected Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo as their new president. Joko will be a president who

is neither a former top military officer nor a man with a political pedigree.


Sixteen years have passed since the military dictatorship of strongman Suharto was toppled. We strongly hope that

Joko will push the nation further toward democracy and ensure that people will enjoy the benefits of change in all

parts of this southern fast-growing nation.


Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono restored law and order during his 10-year tenure by taking effective

steps to eradicate terrorism. He managed to reach a historic peace agreement in 2005 with separatists in the restive

province of Aceh, bringing an end to a bloody, 30-year conflict.

Yudhoyono also made serious efforts to crack down on endemic corruption. But he failed to prevent the widening of

the gap between rich and poor, even though the nation’s economy regained stability and growth momentum.

Joko was born to a poor family, but carved out an impressive career in politics. He first became mayor of Surakarta, a

city in central Java, and then successfully ran for the governor of Jakarta.

While serving as the governor of the capital, Joko adopted policies to improve the well-being of the weak, especially in

the areas of education and health care, and also worked hard to promote competition and transparency in


He gained popularity by frequently going to towns to talk to people and quickly emerged as a major candidate for the


Indonesia became infested with corruption, collusion and nepotism under the Suharto regime. Every sector of

Indonesian society is still plagued by these evils.

Joko’s main rival, Prabowo Subianto, who supported Suharto's dictatorial rule as an army general, surged after

campaigning began in early June, turning the election into a neck-and-neck race. His strong showing indicates that

many Indonesians are longing for a powerful leader.


But the election results mean that the president-elect, a non-elite politician with no inclination toward

authoritarianism, has won a public mandate to push through reforms to break down the vested interests.

Still, there are many reasons to be concerned about Joko’s leadership. He has no experience in national politics and

his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and other parties that supported him have less than 40 percent of the

seats in the nation’s parliament.

Joko’s failure to gain a good lead on his contender in the election may deny him a strong political standing. His

diplomatic prowess is also an unknown factor.

Indonesia has a population of 250 million people, the fourth largest in the world. With half of them below the age of

30, the country’s working population is expected to keep growing until around 2030.


Indonesia is an important recipient of Japanese aid and investment and a key growing market for Japanese


The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are seeking to form an economic and political union next


As political turmoil in Thailand continues, Indonesia’s leadership within the bloc will face a crucial test in ASEAN’s

quest to form the union.

Indonesia puts top priorities on ensuring unity among ASEAN members and maintaining a balance of power within

Asia. The country does not want to be dragged into the conflict between Japan and China.

Japan should be well aware of Indonesia’s position while providing as much support as possible for the Joko

administration’s efforts to push the country up the ladder of democracy and reform.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 24

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(社説)名簿ビジネス まず業者の登録制から

EDITORIAL: Japan needs registration system to regulate ‘name list’ businesses
(社説)名簿ビジネス まず業者の登録制から

No matter how many precautions you take, you cannot completely prevent wrongdoing and criminal activity.

We are living in a society where a broad array of personal data are exchanged daily in electronic form--the

convenience of information and telecommunications technology.

A suspect has been arrested in the case of a huge leak of private information about children who are customers of

Benesse Holdings Inc., a major provider of correspondence education. Now, the focus of public attention is on the

details about how the information leaked from Benesse and what kind of measures should be taken to prevent such

leaks in the future.


In particular, the scandal has cast the spotlight on various problems with the business of selling lists of names that

also contain personal information about individuals.

The personal data protection law regulates the sale and commercial use of such private customer data.

But companies that own private data about their customers can sell the data if they meet the condition that

information about specific individuals should be deleted if the individuals have so requested.


So-called name list vendors, who buy such compilations of personal data from businesses and sell them to other

businesses, are likely to avoid facing any criminal charges related to leaks of the data they have sold by simply

claiming that they did not know the information had been illegally obtained.


It is currently not known how many name list vendors exist in this country.

Some players in the industry operate their businesses on a large scale by using their own websites. Others work in

close cooperation with gangsters and other criminal organizations to buy and sell financial and other sensitive

information about individuals that has been illegally obtained.


The opaque nature of this business inevitably breeds anxiety among many Japanese who don’t know where their

personal data are being used and in what ways.

There is no doubt that the government should take steps as soon as possible to gather accurate information about

the actual operations of name list vendors.

One idea that merits serious consideration is the introduction of a registration system for these personal data vendors.

A registration system based on clearly defined business standards would help screen out dubious players.


If voluntary efforts by the industry alone are not enough to deal with the problems that have come to the fore, the

government may need to consider assigning a specific ministry or agency to the task of regulating and policing the

industry while establishing a new law governing the business.

The law would be better equipped if it contains a provision that allows authorities to carry out on-the-spot

investigations when it is clear that a list has been illegally obtained or in cases where criminal activity is suspected.

But tightening regulations alone will not solve all the problems with this business. In addition, the government should

refrain from any excessive intervention in private-sector businesses.

It should be noted that behind the proliferation of these vendors is the trend toward increasingly strict protection of

personal information.

As long as there are needs for private data, it is likely that unlawful attempts to obtain such data will be made by

players operating outside the boundaries of the law.

It is also necessary to make fresh efforts to build broad public consensus on such issues as the scope of personal

information that can be shared among businesses and where the line should be drawn to protect privacy.

Obviously, companies that possess private data have the obligation to make constant and maximum efforts to protect

them. But the Benesse scandal clearly shows that such efforts are not enough to prevent leaks and other troubles.


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 25

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今年の1月に東京銀座なんですが、銀座ショコラストリート という素敵な通りが開設されました。




ブログで口コミプロモーションならレビューブログ レビューブログからの情報

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中国期限切れ肉 外資企業にも及んだ背信行為

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Expired meat scandal in China a betrayal of Japan’s safety efforts
中国期限切れ肉 外資企業にも及んだ背信行為

Yet again, a problem that greatly damages the trustworthiness of Chinese-made food products has been exposed. This is a matter of enormous concern.

Shanghai Husi Food Co., a Shanghai-based subsidiary of a major U.S. food processing company, was revealed to have shipped meat products that had passed their expiration dates.

As a result, McDonald’s Co. (Japan) and leading convenience store chain FamilyMart Co., both of which had imported chicken meat from Husi Food, have been forced to suspend sales of some of their products.

Chinese police authorities have concluded that the selling of meat past its sell-by date was the result of illegal production led by Husi Food’s management. They detained five people, including the factory’s quality manager. The full scope of the situation must be elucidated promptly.

According to the Chinese TV reports that revealed the meat shipping irregularities, the Husi Food factory repackaged meat products that had been returned unsold by turning them into ground meat. The chicken meat, which investigators said required frozen storage, was handled in a warehouse at room temperature.

Regarding the mixing of out-of-date meat into ordinary ground meat, one factory employee was quoted as making the remarkable assertion, “People won’t die from consuming expired foods.” That sentiment is emblematic of the many words and deeds pointing to the total moral failure at food-processing facilities, where the safety of consumers should have been the absolute top priority.

In a 2008 incident in China, baby formula was tainted with a toxic chemical, affecting the health of about 300,000 babies and toddlers. There has been a seemingly uninterrupted stream of food-related problems in China, including the revelation last year of the distribution of rice contaminated with cadmium.

The tendency to disregard consumers’ health and put profits ahead of all else is likely behind this succession of problems.

Dependence on China foods

The Chinese public is extremely dissatisfied with this state of affairs, in which the need for safe food receives little scrutiny. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party administration, eager to ensure the stability of society, may have found it necessary to hurriedly launch law enforcement investigations into the latest food scandal, aiming to demonstrate the government’s intent to clamp down rigorously on such wrongdoing.

What cannot be ignored in the Husi Food case is that the illegal production occurred at the factory of a foreign-capitalized company—one generally believed to operate in a relatively safe manner compared to Chinese-run firms.

A deliberate poisoning incident in 2008, in which an employee at a Chinese food firm laced frozen gyoza dumplings with pesticide, spurred food processing companies affiliated with Japanese food firms and trading houses to redouble their efforts to enforce strong quality control and ensure the maintenance of a high standard of food safety. In recent years, food imports to Japan from China have been steadily growing.

This incident at Husi Food is an unmistakable betrayal of the work of many on the Japanese side and throws cold water on their food quality crusade.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has ordered the suspension of food imports from Shanghai Husi Food. Over the past year, Japan’s chicken meat imports from the company totaled 6,000 tons. Thorough probes must be conducted to determine whether the firm had previously shipped expired meat, to help alleviate customers’ anxiety.

The continued existence of Japan’s food industries relies on low-priced ingredients produced in China.

Companies importing Chinese goods must strengthen their inspection and supervision systems, working from the assumption that people should be deemed dishonest by nature when it comes to food processing in China. These companies may have to take such measures as arranging regular factory visits by officials from Japan for safety checks and installing security cameras in factories.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2014)

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インドネシア 「庶民派」は成長維持できるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Will new Indonesian president Widodo be able to maintain economic growth?
インドネシア 「庶民派」は成長維持できるか

A leader with an unprecedented image as a common man has won the presidential election in Indonesia, a great regional power that plays a leading role in Southeast Asia.

Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo defeated retired Gen. Prabowo Subianto by a small margin to win his first term. He will officially assume the post in October.

Prabowo has said he will file a complaint regarding the election results, saying there was massive fraud during the poll. Both sides must work toward reconciliation to avoid turmoil among the people.

The election was held to elect the successor of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. After serving two terms of five years each, Yudhoyono will step down due to the constitutional provision that bans a third term in office. Attention was focused on the advisability of carrying on “elite politics,” in which the six presidents since the nation’s first, President Sukarno, have been people like military leaders or members of prominent political families.

Born into the family of a carpenter, Widodo extended his support base especially among the poor through repeated dialogue with residents and by calling for the eradication of corruption. As governor, Widodo displayed his leadership in promoting administrative reform while also using such populist policies as providing free medical and education services for low-income families.

Prabowo is a typical member of the power elite. He was married to former President Suharto’s daughter and served as head of the country’s special military force.

He promoted himself as a “strong leader” and maintained support among highly educated voters and members of the business community.

Democracy taking root

Widodo’s victory gives the impression that Indonesia is steadily climbing the ladder of democracy after going through long years of autocracy.

The biggest challenge for Widodo is whether he will be able to maintain national stability and growth amid signs of economic slowdown.

To attain further economic growth, it is imperative to improve and expand the country’s poor social infrastructure, such as roads, ports and power plants. It is also indispensable to rectify the income gap that has been widening on the flip side of the rapid progress in recent years.

How will fiscal resources be secured to carry out such policies?

Widodo has expressed his intention to take over the Yudhoyono administration’s avowed policy of strengthening controls on exports of unprocessed resources such as nickel. Such an introverted economic policy is also a cause of concern.

To lure more investments from Japan and elsewhere and use them for economic growth, it would be unwise to resort to irresponsible protectionism.

Indonesia is the only major maritime power in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is also an important partner for Japan, as the two countries share fundamental values such as freedom of navigation and the rule of law.

Widodo’s diplomatic finesse is still unknown, but he has expressed his intention to attach importance to relations with Japan. Bolstering the bilateral strategic relationship would check China’s self-justified maritime advances and diplomacy vis-a-vis neighboring countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2014)

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2014年7月25日 (金)

女性管理職比率 無理なく高める環境整備急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Create a work environment in which more women can become managers
女性管理職比率 無理なく高める環境整備急げ

Now that Japan is a society with a declining population, it is essential for more women to be appointed to positions of leadership so the nation can achieve sustainable economic growth and increase its international competitiveness.

The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) recently announced voluntary action plans by 47 of its major member companies to increase their number of female managers and board directors. Of them, 27 have set concrete numerical targets for promoting female workers to managerial posts. Three companies, including Shiseido Co., plan to have women filling 30 percent of these roles within two to seven years.

Compared with firms in other developed nations, Japanese companies lag well behind when it comes to placing women in positions of responsibility. In the United States, 43 percent of managerial positions are held by women, while the figure in each nation in the European Union is 30 percent or higher. By contrast, Japan languishes at just 11 percent.

We think it is appropriate that Keidanren is calling on its member companies to give women more positions up the corporate ladder through policies like those espoused in the action plans.

Announcing the action plans could also be an opportunity to bring together talented human resources. Showing proactive efforts to promote women will appeal to female students hunting for jobs.

Some of the plans were vague on many details, with some not including numerical targets. We hope these companies will review their policies as needed and incorporate more specifics.

Of course, just setting targets for increasing the number of women in senior positions will not be enough. Preparing workplace environments that will enable the achievement of these targets will be vital.

Companies can do more

The Equal Employment Opportunity Law, which came into effect in 1986, has enabled women to choose major career tracks and seek promotions to managerial posts the same way as men. In 1992, the Child Care Leave Law took effect, which obligated companies to establish a maternity leave system for their employees. These and other steps have set up a legal framework that creates such workplace environments—to a point.

However, for women who get married and have children, the chronic shortage of day care centers and the lopsided burden of household chores and child care shouldered by women are obstacles to acquiring enough of the work experience necessary for handling managerial positions.

In addition to rethinking the practice of demanding long working hours, Japan needs to expand and make more widespread child care leave for male workers. It also will be important to steadily craft systems that make it easier for women to return to the office after they temporarily leave to give birth and look after a child.

Sometimes workers are transferred to other areas. Some companies have introduced a system that enables women who are taking care of a child but want to continue working to be transferred to the same area should their spouses be relocated. Perhaps other businesses should consider adopting such a system.

It also would be well worth considering setting up specialist training and education programs for women with the qualities to fill managerial positions.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a goal of raising the percentage of women filling leadership posts in all fields of society to 30 percent by the end of 2020.

Achieving this goal will not be simple. But we hope that society as a whole will support the efforts being made by the public and private sectors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2014)

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陸自オスプレイ 南西諸島防衛を強化したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Defense of Nansei Islands should be reinforced with Osprey deployment in Saga
陸自オスプレイ 南西諸島防衛を強化したい

Creating an environment for the new aircraft to show its high transport capabilities during emergencies is important for purposes such as disaster response and urgent medical transportation, let alone the defense of remote islands.

The Defense Ministry has asked the Saga prefectural government to accept its plan to deploy at Saga Airport the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft, which the Ground Self-Defense Force plans to introduce starting next fiscal year. The ministry plans to have all 17 Ospreys deployed at the airport from fiscal 2019.

To reinforce the defense of the Nansei Islands, including the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the GSDF plans to establish by fiscal 2018 an amphibious mobile unit modeled after the U.S. Marine Corps. The task force will be mainly comprised of an infantry regiment stationed in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, and tasked exclusively with defending remote islands. The Osprey will be assigned to transport the unit’s personnel.

Saga Airport, which is under the administration of the Saga prefectural government, is located about 60 kilometers from Sasebo and is on the sea. The deployment of the Ospreys is reasonable in terms of allowing for a prompt response to a contingency in the Nansei Islands.

The Osprey combines the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter and the high-speed flight of a fixed-wing aircraft. Compared to a U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter, the Osprey can fly about twice as fast and carry three times the load, boasting about four times the radius of action.

The aircraft, which can freely take off and land on a remote island with no runway, is expected to be highly effective in life-saving operations and transportation of supplies in the event of a disaster.

After a powerful typhoon wreaked havoc on the Philippines last November, Ospreys were promptly deployed by U.S. forces for a rescue operation.

Unfair reputation for danger

There has been widespread misunderstanding that the Osprey is an extremely unsafe aircraft. Yet its actual rate of accidents is lower than the average for U.S. military aircraft as a whole. It can be said that the Osprey is safer than other aircraft.

The Air Self-Defense Force’s Komaki Base, which uses a runway of Nagoya Airport, managed by the Aichi prefectural government, is an example of a civilian airport, under the administration of a local government, used jointly by the Self-Defense Forces. The ministry has earmarked in fiscal 2014 budget runway usage fees totaling about ¥940 million to be paid to the prefecture.

Saga Airport, which has not been used as originally expected, continues to struggle with expenditures about three times greater than its revenues. The shared use of the airport with the SDF, which will require coordination of opinions with such entities as local fisheries cooperatives, can be considered a realistic option.

The central government must provide a thorough explanation of the Osprey’s safety to win understanding of the Saga prefectural government and other organizations concerned.

The ministry has also told the Saga prefectural government that Saga Airport may temporarily host the U.S. Marine Corps’ Ospreys, currently deployed at Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.

The Japanese and U.S. governments plan to hold flight drills of the U.S. forces’ Ospreys at various locations in Japan, in a bid to reduce Okinawa Prefecture’s heavy burden of hosting U.S. bases.

Having local governments on Honshu and elsewhere share the burden of hosting the bases with Okinawa is quite important for making the Japan-U.S. alliance a more sustainable one and for having local governments assume the costs of maintaining the peace and security of the nation more fairly. We believe the Saga prefectural government is fully aware of that significance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2014)

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2014年7月24日 (木)

お友達の誕生日プレゼント は通販バースデープレスにお任せ


私のお気に入りは誕生日プレゼント などのプレゼントを通販してくれるサイトなんです。
お友達の誕生日プレゼント は通販バースデープレスにお任せというところでしょうか。

誕生日プレゼント に限らず、プレゼントをするときには大切なポイントがあります。


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西広ショータさん書き下ろしの新曲「ねむるりすのうた」をCM楽曲に。休息サプリメント「ネムリス」の新CMを発表。 株式会社ヴィジョンステイト

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早大博士論文 杜撰な審査がまかり通るのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Unsound methods for thesis screening should shock the public
早大博士論文 杜撰な審査がまかり通るのか

It has come to light that not only was Haruko Obokata’s Waseda University doctoral thesis grossly flawed—the school’s screening process itself was defective.

The thesis, about pluripotent cells, was submitted to Waseda in 2011 by Obokata, who was then a student at the university and is currently a scientist at the government-backed research institute RIKEN. Waseda’s investigative panel has concluded that her paper included plagiarism and other forms of misconduct and deemed it “extremely unreliable.”

The investigation committee also criticized Waseda’s method for reviewing Obokata’s thesis, saying the university’s instructions to Obokata on how to write it were extremely flawed, as was its screening of her paper.

However, in spite of these findings, the panel decided that the defects in Obokata’s thesis do not warrant the revocation of the doctorate granted to her. In offering this conclusion, the committee said that her paper’s faults did not constitute irregularities created by falsifying experimental results.

We find the panel’s decision unreasonable.

Earlier, Obokata had defended herself, insisting the thesis was a rough draft that she inadvertently submitted to the university three years and six months ago. In May, she submitted to the panel a paper she claimed to be “a complete version.”

We believe Obokata’s submission of the purported rough draft should not be dismissed as merely a careless error, given her pursuit of a career in science.

The complete version of the thesis was no less faulty. A significant part of the paper’s introduction, which emphasized the significance of her research, was a direct copy of text attributed to a U.S. research institution. There is every reason to question the originality of her paper.

Obokata’s professional shortcomings were also evident in her comments on her unauthorized use of images from other scientists’ works. She reportedly told the panel that she had “no awareness” as to whether doing so was inappropriate.

Shoddy supervision

A Waseda professor who served as an adviser for Obokata must be brought to task for failing to properly teach her the importance of research ethics and observing the basic rules for writing articles, though there is no need to speak of Obokata’s immaturity.

Despite his position as the chief examiner of Obokata’s paper, the professor did not inspect her thesis. Questions must be raised about his failure to realize that her so-called draft thesis had been submitted to Waseda’s in-house board responsible for judging whether submitted papers should be given passing marks.

It also should not be overlooked that the board’s screening process has been reduced to a mere formality. Members of the board spent only several minutes reading each submitted thesis. It would be impossible for them to fully examine the substance of each paper.

The ultimate authority to decide whether individual Waseda students should be awarded doctorates rests with the university’s president, Kaoru Kamata. After receiving a report from the investigation panel, he said, “I’ll carefully examine [the committee’s findings], and launch discussions within the university.”

If Waseda neglects to take appropriately stringent action in connection with the Obokata case, it could damage the international credibility of doctoral degrees awarded in Japan.

Doubts have also arisen over articles written by other students from the Waseda postgraduate course to which Obokata belonged. The university must uncover the whole truth of the matter.

The government has been implementing measures to greatly expand the number of people holding doctorates, with a view to improving our nation’s stature in science and technology. The number of people in Japan with doctorates has increased by 50 percent since the early 1990s.

Does the increase in quantity reflect the same quality of degree recipients? Other universities should also examine their systems for examining papers in the awarding of degrees.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 2014)

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撃墜非難決議 国際調査にはまだ障害がある

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Despite UNSC resolution, investigation of MH17 downing still faces obstacles
撃墜非難決議 国際調査にはまだ障害がある

To ensure that the truth behind this tragic incident can be quickly determined, all parties involved in the conflict and other nations that have a stake in the matter, including Russia, should positively cooperate with an international investigation team.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane over eastern Ukraine last week.

The resolution called on all states to cooperate fully with efforts to ensure that those responsible for this incident will be held to account. It demanded that pro-Russian militant groups that control the area where the plane came down immediately provide international investigators “safe, secure, full and unrestricted access to the site” and “refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site.”

In the days after the airliner was shot down, armed rebels brazenly interfered with investigators’ efforts to examine the crash site and removed bodies of the victims. Some of their actions appeared to constitute tampering with evidence, such as their quick retrieval of the black boxes that contain flight data and records of communications between the flight crew and others.

The Security Council’s adoption of a legally binding resolution demanding the correction of these actions is significant.

The militants accepted the resolution and have handed two black boxes to Malaysian authorities. They have also relented on their initial refusal to hand over the victims’ bodies. Although this has come far too late, they are steps in the right direction.

Ukraine and the United States have criticized the Russian military’s involvement in this incident, including its provision of surface-to-air missiles to the pro-Russian militants. Their accusations are backed by evidence, including satellite images of the missile launch and intercepted conversations and communications between the militants after the plane was shot down.

Onus on Moscow

As the main supporter of the rebels, Russia has an important role to play in the investigation.

Moscow supported the resolution in an apparent bid to avoid becoming internationally isolated at a time when Britain, France and Germany are considering tightening sanctions on Russia as anti-Russia sentiment grows in Europe, where most of the passengers on Flight MH17 came from.

However, there is no guarantee efforts to unravel the truth will progress smoothly. Russia continues to say one thing while it does another.

Although Moscow has indicated its willingness to cooperate with the investigation, it still denies involvement in the incident. It has lambasted Ukraine for permitting civilian aircraft to fly through airspace over a conflict zone as “criminal,” and also has been trying to shift the blame for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane.

We think Russian President Vladimir Putin has a responsibility to exercise the influence he wields over the armed groups and supply whatever information he possesses to ensure the international investigation team can get to the bottom of what really happened.

The investigation will clarify whether the claims made by Washington and Moscow have reason on their side. The International Civil Aviation Organization and nations caught up in this incident must ensure that a fair, transparent investigation can be conducted.

The Security Council resolution also demanded that all military activities immediately cease in the area surrounding the crash site. Using this opportunity, the Ukrainian military and the pro-Russian armed groups should refrain from hostilities and work toward an immediate ceasefire.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 2014)

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2014年7月23日 (水)

BRICS開銀 欧米主導への対抗軸となるか

What are the Bretton Woods Institutions?
The Bretton Woods Institutions are the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They were set up at a meeting of 43 countries in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, USA in July 1944.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Can BRICS bank be counterweight to current intl financial order?
BRICS開銀 欧米主導への対抗軸となるか

A recent announcement by the BRICS countries, which have grown in economic stature, can be considered a demonstration of a stance that rivals the international financial order led by the United States and European countries.

The BRICS emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—decided at a recent group summit to create a new development bank.

The new bank is intended to fund infrastructure projects in emerging economies and developing countries, with each of the five countries contributing $10 billion. The bank will be headquartered in Shanghai, and its first president will be from India.

In addition to the planned development bank, the BRICS countries have also agreed to create a joint foreign reserve fund of $100 billion. The fund will assist these countries, by providing a well of foreign currency at the time of a future financial crisis.

With their growing presence, the attempt by these economies to take on important roles in assisting developing countries and maintaining the international financial order warrants recognition.

Behind the creation of the new development bank lies a strong sense of discontent among emerging and developing countries over the current U.S.- and Europe-led international financial order.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have long contributed to the world’s economic system, such as by assisting developing countries and working to check financial crises.

Yet in crucial times, such as Asia’s currency crisis in the 1990s, the two institutions imposed fiscal austerity and other strict conditions on developing countries, which led these countries to feel strongly dissatisfied over the institutions’ lack of consideration for their particular circumstances.

Lack of weight

The BRICS powers have grown to account for about 20 percent of the global economy, and for around 40 percent of the world’s population. Yet their combined contributions to the IMF, which reflect the force of their voices in the institution, constitute only 11 percent of the IMF’s total funding. The BRICS have also expressed opposition to the lack of weight they carry in the IMF.

The IMF has compiled a reform plan to raise the contribution ratio of the BRICS to 14 percent, but, due to opposition from the United States and other countries, this plan has yet to be realized.

It is necessary to promote IMF reform from the viewpoint of allowing the emerging economies to assume responsibility proportional to their economic might.

It remains to be seen whether these two new multilateral institutions can function as the Bretton Woods institutions have been doing.

The BRICS countries have not specified when these institutions will be established, and uncertainty remains over the concrete frameworks through which they will extend financial assistance.

It would be troublesome if the new development bank were to attach importance solely to expanding the natural resource interests or corporate profits of contributing countries, and to extend financial assistance without careful consideration.

There is also a likelihood that lax screening on loans and investments by the bank could lead to a massive increase of irrecoverable loans and investments, which would upset the international financial system.

No assistance should be extended to countries beset with records of suppressing human rights and overdevelopment of natural resources. Highly transparent management is a must for the new bank.

The BRICS countries are by no means a monolithic group.
The territory dispute between China and India is just one example of their differences.

It is also questionable whether the members can deal with financial crises and other problems through close cooperation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 22, 2014)

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白ナンバー輸送 過疎地の足を確実に維持せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Utmost efforts a must to secure transport in underpopulated areas
白ナンバー輸送 過疎地の足を確実に維持せよ

Decentralization of administrative power must be promoted to help secure and maintain transportation essential for local communities.

Starting next April, the Infrastructure, Land, Transport and Tourism Ministry will transfer to municipalities clerical work on registration, guidance and supervision in connection with a system under which automobiles registered as private vehicles would be allowed to transport fare-paying passengers in underpopulated areas. This type of transportation would be provided depending on regional conditions.

The planned transfer of clerical work is in line with the fourth package of laws on decentralization of administrative power that was enacted in May. The ministry will hold explanatory meetings for municipalities this summer.

The system to permit the transportation of fare-paying passengers by private vehicles was introduced in line with the revised Road Transportation Law, which was enforced in 2006. The system calls for municipalities and nonprofit organizations to engage in the transportation business in sparsely populated communities where there are no bus and taxi services, and to transport wheelchair users and other disabled persons in areas without adequate transport service.

About 3,000 organizations have registered with the system, about 80 percent of them welfare-related. About 19,000 vehicles have been registered. Users of the system made about 26.84 million trips in fiscal 2011.

It is indispensable for the elderly and nondrivers to secure transportation to go shopping and visit hospitals. Municipalities are required to maintain so-called community transportation means, while making up any deficits and relying on the help of nonprofit organizations.

Transfer of clerical work on registration and other functions would not be carried out uniformly across the country, as it would only be possible for municipalities that apply.

For villages, towns or cities that do not apply, clerical work will be transferred to the relevant prefecture if it applies. 市町村が希望しない場合は、希望する都道府県に移す。

This “voluntary participation formula” is a new method of administrative decentralization adopted for the first time in the latest package of laws promoting decentralization.

Increased responsibility

The municipalities to which clerical work is transferred would not be required to deal with regional offices of the transport ministry, making it possible for them to respond swiftly to regional needs.

This would also leave room for municipalities to promote original and innovative projects, such as providing microbus services linked to town planning.

By taking over clerical work on guidance and supervision to ensure safety, municipalities would have to accept responsibility when accidents occur. Therefore, the motivation and determination of municipalities would be tested. The system could become a model for the transfer to local governments of clerical work and administrative power on other matters.

In a survey of local governments conducted by the transport ministry in autumn last year, a paltry 6 percent of respondents expressed a desire for such a transfer. The percentage did not exceed 17 percent even when government assistance and other conditions were attached. A 51 percent majority “do not wish for a transfer,” while another 43 percent said they “don’t know.”

The survey results indicate that municipalities are extremely worried about how much their clerical work would increase after such a transfer and what they would actually have to do.

To promote the transfer to local governments, it is imperative for the transport ministry’s regional offices to instruct municipalities on how to carry out the clerical work on guidance and supervision and support their personnel training programs.

Prefectural governments also must play major roles in this regard. In addition to undertaking clerical work on behalf of small municipalities, they will have to provide indirect support for establishing community-wide transportation networks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 22, 2014)

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2014年7月22日 (火)

エネルギー高騰 価格交渉力の強化も急ぎたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Urgent measures needed to counter adverse effects of high energy prices
エネルギー高騰 価格交渉力の強化も急ぎたい

With the prices of crude oil and other energy resources hovering at high levels, it is feared that their soaring costs will have an adverse effect on the nation’s economy.

If a surge in energy costs depresses corporate profits and scuttles efforts by companies to make capital investments and offer wage hikes, it will be difficult for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to achieve its goal of putting the Japanese economy onto a virtuous economic cycle.

The government, therefore, must do its utmost to secure a stable supply of energy and stop energy prices from soaring further.

Due to the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East, crude oil has been trading at around $100 per barrel, more than double the lowest figure posted after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Rising crude oil prices have pushed the nation’s average regular gasoline price upward for 12 consecutive weeks and they are now edging closer to a high of ¥170 per liter. Coupled with the April consumption tax hike, higher gasoline prices have surely dealt a heavy blow to household finances.

Accordingly, the prices of light and heavy oils have surged, raising costs for various sectors including the transportation and fisheries industries—both of which use a large volume of fuel—and the laundry industry, which uses organic solvents made from crude oil.

There have been significant ramifications from the steep increases in the volume of liquefied natural gas imported as fuel for thermal power plants substituting for the idled nuclear power plants. The additional fuel cost for thermal power generation is tagged at ¥3.6 trillion a year, draining a huge amount of national wealth out of Japan.

Compared with pre-disaster levels, when nuclear reactors were in operation, electricity charges for households have increased 20 percent, while those for businesses have risen 30 percent. If the situation remains unchanged, further hikes will be unavoidable. A possible acceleration of the hollowing-out of industry is worrisome as more companies could opt to move their production bases abroad due to high utility costs.

Nuclear energy vital

Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant, which has been deemed to have met new safety standards, should resume operations as soon as possible, while the Nuclear Regulation Authority should smoothly conduct safety screenings of other nuclear power plants so that they can be steadily restarted.

Simultaneously, Japan should make efforts to lower the prices of fuel it procures from abroad.

The prices of LNG that Japan imports from the Middle East and Russia are pegged to the price of crude oil, making them about four times higher than that from the United States, where exploration costs have plunged thanks to the so-called shale gas revolution.

The government and the private sector alike must strongly call on LNG-producing countries to change the way gas prices are set.

Major electric power and gas companies are jointly purchasing LNG in a bid to leverage their negotiating power. It is hoped that such a move will spread beyond such firms.

The nation’s self-sufficiency rate in the area of energy, including nuclear energy, has dropped from about 20 percent before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to about 6 percent, a level lower than that during the first oil shock in the 1970s. From the viewpoint of energy security, the nation is undeniably in a dangerous situation.

It is also urgent to diversify the countries from which the nation procures energy resources by linking up private businesses and the government’s energy diplomacy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 21, 2014)

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大陸棚延長 戦略的に海洋資源を開発せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tap Japan’s extended continental shelf for strategic development of resources
大陸棚延長 戦略的に海洋資源を開発せよ

A move has been taken that is highly important for further consolidating Japan’s status as a maritime nation.

The government has decided to lay down an ordinance to designate two sea areas, including the area north of the island of Okinotorishima, which constitutes the southern extremity of the country, as part of the nation’s continental shelf. The ordinance will cover further two areas, such as that in the vicinity of the Ogasawara Islands, after consulting with the United States on the matter.

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that each coastal state has sovereign rights over an area 200 nautical miles from the coastline as its continental shelf for exploring and developing resources, such as those on the seabed, and for other purposes. It is possible for a state under the convention to expand the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles if and when it can prove that the extended continental shelf can be construed as having formed naturally.

The government’s plans for designating the continental shelf this time are in the wake of the acknowledgement in April 2012 by the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) that the expansion of the limits of the nation’s continental shelf should be recognized as valid.

The total area to be covered by the expansion of the nation’s continental shelf will stand at an estimated 310,000 square kilometers, equivalent to about 80 percent of the nation’s entire land area. It is said precious resources exist on the continental shelf including methane hydrate, which contains natural gas. The expansion of the oceanic interests of Japan, a country poor in natural resources, is definitely of high significance.

Commenting on the continental shelf expansion, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed, “It is possible that the resources from the expanded sea areas will have a great impact on the future of Japan.” It is also important from the viewpoint of ensuring this country’s energy security.

Objections from China, ROK

Resource developmental projects on the seabed, however, are extremely expensive and many technological challenges exist. Long-term plans should be formulated at the initiative of the government.

The CLCS, meanwhile, has been postponing judgment of Japan’s application seeking the U.N. body’s acknowledgement of the nation’s expansion of the continental shelf of the Southern Kyushu-Palau Ridge Region located to the south of Okinotorishima. This is because China and South Korea have opposed Japan’s submission of the application, claiming that Okinotorishima should not be deemed an island but “rocks,” meaning that it should not be considered a base point for determining the limits of Japan’s continental shelf.

Under the circumstances, the government should appeal to the international community to support the legitimacy of Japan’s assertion about the continental shelf expansion.

Around Okinotorishima is a vast exclusive economic zone, providing Japan with a wealth of marine products and seabed resources. The government should forge ahead with the task of preserving the island by pushing ahead with such projects as port and harbor construction.

China’s heavy-handed maritime advances are not limited to the East China and South China seas, but have been spreading to the western Pacific region. It has been pointed out that there is a possibility Beijing, on the strength of extending support for construction projects of ports and harbors to island states in the region, might build naval bases there in the future. Through these moves, China most likely has taken into account the U.S. military base on Guam.

Beefing up Japan’s efforts to ensure adequate oceanic administration in the seas in the environs of Okinotorishima, as well as such islands as Minami-Torishima and the Ogasawara Islands, will certainly have strategic significance on holding China’s moves in check.

In April last year, the government laid down the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy that is intended to serve as the basis of maritime measures for a period of five years. The plan sets key policy goals, including development of maritime resources, preservation and administration of remote islands, and technological development projects for oceanic, renewable energy sources.

By working closely with the private sector, the government should address these objectives from a broad range of perspectives.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 21, 2014)

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2014年7月21日 (月)

トラック新免許 事故防止策の徹底を最優先に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Easing of truck driving licensing must come with accident prevention steps
トラック新免許 事故防止策の徹底を最優先に

Can the easing of requirements for driver licenses for small trucks effectively alleviate the shortage of drivers?

Expectations are high in the trucking industry for the planned new licensing system, but what is most important is to thoroughly ensure measures to prevent accidents.

A panel of experts of the National Police Agency has proposed the introduction of a new licensing category for small trucks. The agency is set to submit a bill to an ordinary Diet session next year for revising the Road Traffic Law to introduce the new system.

The current licensing system has three classes: ordinary, for vehicles whose gross vehicle weight (GVW), or the total weight of the vehicle including its cargo, is less than five tons; midsize, for those with a GVW with five tons or more but less than 11 tons; and heavy duty, with a GVW of 11 tons or more.

The pillar of the proposals by the NPA panel is to change the number of classes to four, creating a new class between the ordinary and midsize classes that would cover trucks with gross weights of 3.5 tons or more but less than 7.5 tons.

The current midsize truck driver licenses are limited to those aged 20 or older with at least two years of driving experience under an ordinary license. The envisioned new licensing category, by contrast, would make it possible for people aged 18 or older with an ordinary license to obtain the new license with no conditions attached.

The main factor behind the review of the licensing system is that the GVW of small trucks, such as those used for delivery to residences and convenience stores, have become heavier than before. The rise in the number of trucks equipped with devices such as refrigeration systems and tailgate loaders means more trucks weigh more than five tons.

Longer braking time

Given that trucks weighing five tons or more require midsize licenses, the number of drivers eligible for such vehicles has been limited under the current system. It is understandable to some degree that the NPA has considered it necessary to revise the licensing system flexibly and ease requirements for driver licenses in a way well suited to changes in the designs of trucks.

Trucking companies afflicted with driver shortages increasingly complain that, despite desiring to hire new high school graduates, they have to abandon their employment plans as the new graduates would not be of age to acquire the licenses for midsize trucks.

If the new licensing category is introduced as proposed, 18-year-olds would become eligible to drive small trucks with a GVW of five tons or more, bringing more personnel into the industry. The proposed law revision strongly reflects the wishes of the trucking industry.

What is worrisome in this connection is the fear of an increase in the number of accidents with an increase of young drivers lacking experience.

The heavier a vehicle becomes, the longer the distance needed for the vehicle to come to a halt after applying the brakes. A truck driver is also subjected to more blind spots than a passenger-car driver and is required to have higher skills when backing up and changing directions. Data indicate that fatal road accidents involving small trucks far outnumber those involving passenger cars.

It should never be forgotten that what triggered the 2007 introduction of the current midsize truck driver licensing system was a rise in the number of accidents caused by inexperienced drivers.

Drivers obtaining the licenses under the planned new category should, like those with midsize and heavy-duty truck licenses, be statutorily obliged to undergo training courses with the actual, relevant trucks to ensure a sufficient level of driving skills. Driving schools must assume heavy responsibility in this regard.

Trucking firms should also be called upon to redouble their efforts to prevent accidents through such means as strengthening the in-house training of drivers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 20, 2014)

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南シナ海情勢 掘削を中止させた対中包囲網

The Yomiuri Shimbun
International pressure forced China to stop oil drilling in South China Sea
南シナ海情勢 掘削を中止させた対中包囲網

In the face of fierce criticism from the international community, China perhaps had no choice but to suspend its attempt to “change the status quo by force” when it ended its operations to drill for oil near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

The operations were originally scheduled to continue through mid-August but ended earlier because “work proceeded smoothly,” according to China’s explanation. Undoubtedly, however, China bowed to the international pressures and curtailed the operations.

In early May, China unilaterally started drilling for oil in a sea zone also claimed by Vietnam, which strongly urged it to halt its operations. Chinese and Vietnamese vessels rammed into one another repeatedly, sinking a Vietnamese boat in one instance and escalating the tension to a dangerous level.

Large-scale anti-China demonstrations erupted in Vietnam one after another, while its government waged an international campaign denouncing China for its unjustness. Perhaps China had not expected that Vietnam—increasingly becoming economically dependent on China—would put up such fierce resistance.

Exposing a greater miscalculation by China was the fact that Japan, the United States and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations swiftly rallied behind Vietnam to strengthen their cooperation to counter China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized China for its self-righteousness at international conferences and on other occasions by repeatedly underscoring the importance of the rule of law in light of China’s territorial claims, which have no grounds in international law. His assertions were widely accepted in the international community.

Stronger Japan-U.S. ties backed

Strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance through the approval of the exercise of the right of collective self-defense has won the support of many countries concerned.

With its policy of focusing on Asia, the United States made it clear it is willing to actively engage in South China Sea issues. At a time when Beijing is trying to exclude the United States from building an Asian security order, it is significant that the United States is squarely challenging such Chinese endeavors.

At their foreign ministerial talks in May, ASEAN members—whose stances toward China usually differ—took the concerted action of expressing “serious concerns” about the dangerous situation in the South China Sea.

China’s isolation could not have been any clearer.

A series of international meetings awaits China. The ASEAN Regional Forum, which will be joined by Japan, the United States and China, will be held early next month, while China will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Beijing in November.

China apparently wants to avoid being the target of criticism in these forums. Some observers predict that the country will exercise self-restraint for the time being.

Even so, China will surely not change its strategy of expanding its territories and maritime interests in the South and East China seas.

Japan and the United States must brace themselves for a prolonged, hegemonic campaign by China.

It is notable, however, that accumulated efforts by the international community have borne some fruit this time around. Factoring this experience in, the nations concerned should try to persuade China to constructively participate in an initiative to build a new Asian order.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 20, 2014)

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2014年7月20日 (日)

地方創生本部 人口減克服へ総力を結集せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Coordinated, multifaceted efforts needed to stem population decline
地方創生本部 人口減克服へ総力を結集せよ

The sharp decline in the population is a far more serious problem for provincial areas than for big cities. Central and local governments must do their best together with the private sector to deal with this problem.

An office with dozens of staffers will be opened under the Cabinet Secretariat as early as the coming week to launch a “government task force to reinvent communities, people and jobs” in the nation. The task force is expected to play a central role in reinventing provincial areas, through dealing with issues such as population decline and revitalization of rural communities.

“The planning of measures to rejuvenate provincial areas, which is currently spread across ministries, will be consolidated [in the task force],” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at an informal meeting of Cabinet ministers. “We will try our best to help rural areas reinvent sustainable communities.”

The task force will be officially established when a state minister is appointed at the next Cabinet reshuffle to lead the unit. It is ultimately headed by the prime minister.

Population decline is a significant problem that affects Japan’s future. To counter it, the government must take a variety of measures such as helping young people marry, have babies and rear children; promoting the migration and settlement of people in rural areas; and creating new jobs there.

The Japan Policy Council, a private panel of experts chaired by Hiroya Masuda, former internal affairs and communications minister, forecast that about half of the municipalities in the nation are likely to disappear in the future due to a sharp decline in the number of young women.

Local governments have deep concerns about the issue. The Association of Prefectural Governors has adopted an “emergency declaration,” demanding that central government drastically boost countermeasures against the falling birth rate.

Comprehensive strategy needed

“Japan is stricken with a mortal illness,” said Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada, who chairs the association.

According to a survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun, 15 prefectures have established across-the-board sections for the promotion of measures to raise the birth rate and attract young families and companies to their areas from larger cities. Local governments should share their ideas and plans with each other, and proceed with measures by learning from other successful cases.

A long-term strategy is essential to reinvent rural areas and curb the population decline.

The task force will likely draft a comprehensive strategy for the years up to 2020, and create a longer-term vision. It should listen to a variety of opinions, and be unconstrained by conventional ideas.

The central government already has several polices in place to revitalize provincial areas. They are all plans to curb the population drain by creating a central hub in each rural area, such as the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s idea of central cities in provincial areas and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry’s idea of alliances between high-level rural cities.

The task force must coordinate such policies in a comprehensive manner, so that their implementation is not hindered by sectionalism between government offices.

The prime minister has also expressed his idea to triple to 3,000 the number of people living in depopulated municipalities and helping reinvent local communities. There is no magic bullet to stop depopulation. Straightforward and constant efforts in software and other fields are required to solve the problem.

Unified local elections will be held next spring. They should be used as an opportunity for not only political parties and their election candidates, but also the whole nation, to contemplate how population decline could be controlled.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2014)

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ウクライナ撃墜 真相究明の国際調査が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
International investigation critical to discovering truth in MH17 tragedy
ウクライナ撃墜 真相究明の国際調査が急務だ

Innocent civilians have been caught up in a terrible tragedy in conflict-torn Ukraine.

The international community must stand united and quickly get to the bottom of what happened.

In eastern Ukraine, an area effectively controlled by pro-Russian militants, a Malaysian Airlines jet that was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters crashed on Thursday. All 298 passengers and crew aboard the plane died.

Ukrainian authorities have determined that the pro-Russian insurgents launched a Soviet surface-to-air missile, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has condemned the incident as “an act of terrorism.” There are reportedly records of communications between the separatists and a Russian officer, which has fueled suspicions of Russian military involvement.

The insurgents and the Ukrainian military have frequently clashed in the region where the civilian airliner crashed. A Ukrainian military transport plane and a fighter jet also were shot down in the area recently. Observers have suggested that the militants possibly launched the missile after mistaking Flight MH17 for a Ukrainian military aircraft.

The rebels have claimed that Kiev’s armed forces shot down the airliner. However, the United States found the missile was fired from an area under rebel control. The United States detected the missile tracking toward the plane based on its satellite data and other information, and analyzed where it was launched from.

Poroshenko has decided to set up a commission to investigate the incident. Experts from Malaysia and the International Civil Aviation Organization will participate in the commission, and the United States has indicated it plans to cooperate.

Probe needs full support

Collection and analysis of fragments of the missile and the black boxes that recorded flight data of the airliner will provide major clues for determining the truth behind the attack.

U.S. President Barack Obama has urged Poroshenko to safeguard all the evidence at the crash site. This is an appropriate response, given the need to prevent interference with the investigation and destruction of the evidence.

It is essential that the investigation team and its experts are given access to the crash site area and are allowed to conduct their examination properly. The militants should heed calls for a ceasefire and guarantee the safety of the investigators.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and issued a statement calling for an “international investigation.” It is important that this investigation be transparent and independent. Nations affected by this incident, not least Russia, also will need to provide full cooperation to the investigation.

Political maneuvering is intensifying among nations affected by the crash. The United States and the European Union had only just tightened sanctions on Russia over its violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Shortly before the airliner crashed, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with Poroshenko and other officials, and pledged to continue Japan’s assistance to Ukraine. We hope Japan will cooperate to ensure the stability of Ukraine and help establish conditions that will ensure there is no repeat of the Flight MH17 tragedy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2014)

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2014年7月19日 (土)

ベネッセ流出 逮捕を情報管理徹底の契機に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Arrest in Benesse data breach case must lead to tighter info management
ベネッセ流出 逮捕を情報管理徹底の契機に

The leakage of personal information on children has developed into a criminal case.

The Metropolitan Police Department has arrested a systems engineer in charge of database management at education service provider Benesse Corp., on suspicion of copying customer information in violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law.

The man is suspected of abusing the ID he received from Benesse for logging into a customer database. He held a supervisory position among the staff in charge of maintenance and management of the database.

The suspect has reportedly admitted to police that he approached a name-list broker many times to sell customer information and received ¥2.5 million in total. He is said to have debts of several hundred thousand yen due to gambling and living expenses.

His conduct must be denounced as an extremely malicious act that took advantage of his position at work.

The Unfair Competition Prevention Law defines name lists and other useful information that have been handled as secret and not made public as “trade secrets,” and bans their copying and disclosure.

Following its revision in 2009, the law also began to be applied to cases in which such secrets are leaked by individuals to illegitimately obtain benefits. Police believe the engineer’s acts constitute illegal copying of trade secrets.

The revelation of the Benesse breach has heightened anxiety that children’s personal information will be abused. The MPD has decided to arrest the engineer, as it takes a serious view of his alleged crime.

Preventing further abuse

The MPD’s action may also be intended as an example to deter others from similar violations.

Benesse bears a heavy responsibility over its database management, which failed to prevent the exposure of personal information.

The compromised data has already been resold among name-list brokers and is believed to have been passed to more than 10 companies.

The Unfair Competition Prevention Law prohibits the purchase of trade secrets for the purpose of obtaining illegitimate profits.

It is problematic, however, that name-list brokers do not face charges if they obtain information without knowing it was illegally acquired.

In the Benesse case, a name-list broker reportedly said it obtained the information “without knowing that it had been illegally leaked.”

It is not clear which government offices are in charge of name-list companies. Even the number of such companies has yet to be confirmed.

The provisions of the Personal Information Protection Law are not particularly effective.

The law bans name-list brokers who handle personal information on more than 5,000 people from providing information to a third party without obtaining approval from the individuals to whom the information pertains. But the brokers are permitted to sell information if they disclose the titles of lists and other information at shops or on homepages.

In the wake of the leakage case at Benesse, calls have been growing louder for strengthening control of name-list agents.

It is imperative for the government to study measures to prevent the diffusion of illegally leaked personal information.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 18, 2014)

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DNA父子訴訟 民法の枠組み重視した最高裁

The Yomiuri Shimbun
‘Presumption of paternity’ an old rule; should it still apply in a DNA-test era?
DNA父子訴訟 民法の枠組み重視した最高裁

Even in cases in which blood relationships are disproved through DNA testing, legal paternity cannot be revoked. A ruling the Supreme Court handed down Thursday drew this conclusion.

This is a judicial decision that gives great weight to the framework regarding the paternity of a child as stipulated by the Civil Code.

A married woman had an affair with another man, becoming pregnant and having a baby. As a result of DNA analysis, it was subsequently determined that the child’s biological father is the man with whom the woman had the extramarital liaison. Under the circumstances, the litigation in this case was initiated by the wife, who demanded that the parental relationship between the child and her husband be revoked.

The Civil Code states that a child conceived during marriage “shall be presumed to be the child of the husband,” a stipulation known as the rule of the presumption of paternity for the legitimacy of children. This exists for the purpose of legally clarifying the child support obligations of a father.

The Supreme Court stated in its decision on this case and two others, “Even though it is evident that there exists no blood relationship, the necessity of retaining the stability of the child’s status in the eyes of the law never ceases.”

The verdict underscores the top court’s stance in favor of strictly applying the rule of the presumption of paternity concerning the legitimacy of children.

As for judicial precedent, exceptions to the presumption of paternity have been restricted to cases in which it is obvious that a married couple had no sexual relations during the relevant period, under such circumstances as the husband being in prison at the time of his wife’s pregnancy or the husband staying overseas and living separately from the wife for a long period of time.

Upholding the Civil Code

The Supreme Court’s verdict in these cases should be interpreted as its judgment that the results of DNA tests cannot lead to denying the rule of the presumption of paternity, in light of the spirit of the Civil Code.

The lower courts in these cases had acknowledged the annulment of the paternal relationship. The judgment by the top court is diametrically opposite the lower courts’ rulings.
However, the Supreme Court decision was a narrow one, with two of the five judges in charge of the cases supporting the lower courts’ verdicts.

The children in the cases reside with their biological fathers, living their lives in a new environment.

There is some merit to the dissenting view that allowing a man who has no genetic relationship to a child to have the legal relationship of paternity could have an adverse psychological and emotional impact on the child during the process of his or her development.

Another minority view noted that it is necessary to “harmonize the rule of presumption of paternity on the one hand and desires to have blood relations reflected in family registers on the other.”

It is worth noting that the presumption of paternity was established in the Meiji era, long before the advent of today’s DNA testing technology. The related legal system has failed to keep up with the progress of testing technology, becoming inadequate for the realities of fatherhood issues. It may be that the time has come to discuss the advisability of the rule of the presumption of paternity under the Civil Code.

In recent years, DNA testing has become less expensive, so that ordinary people can have tests done fairly easily. But at the same time, anxiety has been rising over the accuracy of the testing due to a sharp rise in the number of businesses entering the field of DNA testing.

There is a strong body of opinion that relations of mutual trust between parents and children can be built even in the absence of biological relations if the parents are affectionate with the children.

Discussions about the wisdom of redesigning a family system in connection with such paternity issues should be encouraged with top priority being placed on ensuring the happiness of the children involved.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 18, 2014)

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2014年7月18日 (金)

ガザ空爆 早期停戦へ国際仲介を強めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Intl community must step up to quickly bring about Gaza truce
ガザ空爆 早期停戦へ国際仲介を強めよ

To break the chain of violence and swiftly bring about a ceasefire, the international community should stand united and step up efforts to persuade all sides involved in the fighting to lay down their arms.

Rocket attacks by the Hamas Islamist group that effectively controls the Palestinian autonomous territory of Gaza and retaliatory air strikes by the Israeli military have intensified.

Egypt proposed a truce centering on talks between the top leaders of both sides and the easing of the economic blockade on Gaza. Israel initially accepted the truce plan. However, Hamas rejected the proposal and the ceasefire did not come into effect. Both sides have since launched a fresh barrage of attacks.

A handful of Israelis have been killed or injured by the Hamas rocket attacks, but the number of dead and wounded in Gaza has topped 1,600. There are fears that there could be even more bloodshed.

Over 70 percent of the more than 200 people killed have been civilians caught in the fighting. The U.N. Security Council quite rightly issued a statement that unanimously called for all sides to ensure the protection of civilians.

The flare-up in the fighting stems from the murder of three Israeli teenagers in mid-June, which was followed by the killing of a Palestinian teen. Skirmishes between Israeli forces and Palestinian people have developed into a military conflict.

Militant groups in Gaza have fired about 1,000 rockets into Israel. Daily Israeli air strikes have targeted Hamas-linked facilities and rocket launching sites.

Nations taking sides

Another cause for concern is that rockets have also been fired at Israel from Lebanon and Syria.

The Middle East is already trembling due to civil wars raging inside Syria and Iraq. If the Israel-Palestine fighting escalates and spreads, the region will plunge into an extremely serious crisis.

We think the United States should show strong leadership and urge its ally Israel to exert self-restraint.

We also hope the Palestinian Authority and Arab nations that wield some influence over Hamas will work closely with international organizations and other channels to seek ways to quickly bring about a solution to the current situation.

Hamas’ hard-line position of refusing to accept the state of Israel’s existence lies at the heart of the problem. Under the rule of Hamas, which has shown scant ability to govern, Gaza’s economy has collapsed and its people are losing hope.

However, if Hamas were to lose strength, it could open the door to the rise of even more dangerous Islamist organizations such as the Islamic Jihad extremist organization. This conflict complicates efforts to resolve the Gaza problem.

The Israeli government and the Palestinians halted Middle East peace talks at the end of April. The negotiations remain suspended.

When dialogue is cut off, the situation destabilizes and military conflict starts. Unless leaders on both sides share a resolve to eradicate this chronic disease afflicting the Middle East, it will be impossible to escape from the quagmire in which they are stuck.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2014)

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川内原発「合格」 再稼働への課題をこなそう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Steadily address tasks necessary for restarting nuclear power plants
川内原発「合格」 再稼働への課題をこなそう

Progress has been made toward restarting a nuclear power plant, but a number of challenges still lie ahead, making it important for the parties concerned to steadily prepare to resume operations through such efforts as winning the consent of local governments and communities.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday approved a draft safety screening report that concluded that safety measures for the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant “meet new safety standards.”

With the NRA’s approval, the Sendai plant has effectively passed the safety examination, a precondition for restarting. Kyushu Electric hopes to resume operating the power plant this autumn.

The new safety standards call for a nuclear power plant operator to take strict safety measures based on lessons from the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

It is significant that the Sendai plant has become the first nuclear power plant to clear the new safety standards and have its safety confirmed.

One focal point of the safety screening was the magnitude of earthquakes and the scale of tsunami the nuclear plant operator would assume for the plant.

Kyushu Electric has raised its assumptions for the maximum height of a tsunami by 50 percent and for the maximum impact of an earthquake on the reactors by 15 percent. On the basis of these assumptions, the utility will take measures against possible flooding and introduce quake-resistant reinforcement of the facilities and equipment.

Measures to prevent crisis

Another focal point was what sort of measures the plant operator would take to prevent such major accidents as those triggered by the loss of cooling functions for reactors, as happened at the Fukushima plant.

Kyushu Electric has won the NRA’s recognition of its countermeasures, such as the expansion of its emergency power sources and the reinforcement of intake pumps, and multiplexing pipework for cooling the reactors.

The NRA will examine the construction plan for the facilities and equipment, and its regulations for maintenance and safety checks. It is expected to take at least two to three months to complete all these screenings, including inspections following the completion of the work.

Winning the understanding of the local governments is also important. In addition to Kyushu Electric, the government must also responsibly explain to officials concerned about the safety of the Sendai nuclear power plant and the necessity of restarting it.

The evacuation plan to be followed in case of an accident at the plant also needs to be fully known among local residents.

It is also crucial for the screening conducted at the Sendai plant to be utilized to facilitate the checking of other nuclear power plants. In addition to the Sendai plant, applications for the NRA’s safety screening have been made for 17 reactors at 11 nuclear power plants. So far, however, there are no prospects for any of them to pass.

This is primarily because the NRA’s screening has been quite inefficient, with utility companies repeatedly asked to submit more data.

The NRA’s draft safety screening report gives a detailed account of how the safety measures against accidents have been screened by the authority. Power companies should do their utmost to prepare appropriately for the screening by referring to this account.

On the other hand, there was hardly any description of how the NRA made its judgment regarding the assumed impact of earthquakes and tsunami. We think the NRA has a responsibility to clearly specify the grounds for its decision.

The supply of electricity remains precarious, while soaring power rates have directly hit ordinary households and businesses. The NRA needs to accelerate its safety screenings and get the restart of nuclear power plants on track.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2014)

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2014年7月17日 (木)

社員発明の特許 「企業所有」で競争力高めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Corporate patent control essential to international competitiveness
社員発明の特許 「企業所有」で競争力高めたい

The government is faced with two parallel goals in developing and implementing new intellectual property policies—first, to encourage corporations to make better use of patent rights, and second, to motivate employees to create new inventions.

The government has assembled a plan for promoting greater utilization of patents and other intellectual property rights.

In revealing its new policy, the government has said that corporations will be able to receive rights to patents for employee inventions if they meet certain requirements.

Currently, companies must pay compensation to employees if they seek to obtain patents for their workers’ inventions.

The government’s new policy will rectify the status quo to grant corporations such patent rights when certain conditions are met.
For instance, companies will be required to ensure appropriate payments to employees for their inventions.

Japanese corporations must be able to fully utilize inventions and patents as vital tools to achieve growth.
Being able to do so is essential for reclaiming the upper hand over international competitors.

Domestic companies today are dedicating a great deal of time and financial resources to supporting employee efforts in creating new inventions.

These circumstances give the government good reason to try to adapt the current system so it can support intellectual property strategies within the corporate sector.

One driving factor behind the government’s latest policy is the seemingly endless number of disputes between corporations and employees over the size of fees paid for employee inventions made during work.

A scrap between Nichia Corp. and a former employee over his invention of a blue light-emitting diode serves as a strong illustration of the pattern. The two reached a compromise to settle the dispute in 2005, with the chemical firm paying the inventor a little over ¥800 million.

Even when corporations buy the patents for employee inventions, that does not necessarily mean that no dispute will erupt between the two sides. Inventors may choose to file lawsuits against the companies, asserting the payments received were not proportionate in light of the patents’ contributions to improved business performance, for example.

Balancing interests, incentives

If corporations still run the risk of being held responsible for massive payments for employees’ inventions, even after purchasing patent rights, there are potentially large hurdles to making progress. In fact, many companies have said, under such circumstances, it will be difficult to join hands with other companies in making new inventions and to sign licensing agreements with others.

If corporations are allowed to retain patent rights on new inventions from their employees, the number of disputes over the fees paid to inventors is likely to decrease. Companies will also have greater latitude in devising business strategies.

However, there is concern that the government’s new intellectual property policy could prevent individual employees from obtaining patents for their inventions, and thereby leave those employees less motivated to make new inventions. If the new policy undermines morale among corporate researchers and hampers technological innovation, it would be a complete loss for both corporations and their workers.

There is also fear that talented corporate researchers could be headhunted by companies in emerging economies that may offer to pay hefty sums. This could cause so-called “hollowing out” of technical experts.

Bearing this in mind, it is important that the envisaged system should be designed to sufficiently reward successful corporate inventors with payments, promotions and other work incentives.

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation called for patent-acquisition procedures to be implemented under the new policy to be studied in a manner satisfactory to employees, as they argue that “corporations have the upper hand over their employees.”

The government should listen to such voices and lay down standards for enabling companies to obtain rights to patents for employee inventions.

Some corporations have already adopted a system of monetary rewards for employee inventions based on sales, profits and royalties accrued from their accomplishments. Such systems are intended to avoid disputes with corporate researchers over their inventions.

We hope the government will work to design a new system acceptable to both corporations and employees, while studying and giving consideration to the measures already implemented in the private sector to reward corporate inventors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2014)

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沖縄「密約」判決 文書管理と原則公開の徹底を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Top court ruling must not impede information disclosure requests
沖縄「密約」判決 文書管理と原則公開の徹底を

Documents on a secret agreement may have existed, but that does not mean they were kept by the Foreign Ministry—this was the opinion expressed by the Supreme Court in a recent ruling regarding the disclosure of documents on a secret Japan-U.S. accord.

Former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Takichi Nishiyama and other plaintiffs have demanded the court order the government to disclose documents confirming the existence of a secret accord tied to the 1972 reversion of Okinawa Prefecture to Japan from U.S. control.

On Monday, the top court upheld a high court ruling which concluded that it was legitimate for the government to turn down an information disclosure request for the documents on the grounds that such documents “do not exist.”

Despite the ruling, the high court acknowledged that the secret agreement did exist between Tokyo and Washington, and referred to the possibility that the documents were secretly destroyed by the Foreign Ministry or other parties.

But Monday’s ruling did not go that far, and we believe the top court was duly careful to avoid making assumptions.

The papers in question include one showing that Japan, during the negotiation process with the United States for the 1972 reversion, has agreed to pay $4 million for the restoration of land occupied by the U.S. military.

Nishiyama obtained a copy of the relevant documents from a Foreign Ministry official. Based on the copy, an opposition party lawmaker questioned the government in the Diet.

Nishiyama was later convicted for violating the National Civil Service Law.

These series of events are now known as the “Nishiyama incident.”

The government denied the existence of the secret accord when suspicions were raised.

The decision was apparently not easy—we assume that the government decided to deny the suspicion so the reversion of Okinawa would smoothly proceed.

There are always secrets in diplomatic negotiations, which have a huge impact on national interests.

Govt’s irresponsible attitude

In 2000, an official document indicating the existence of the secret accord was discovered in the United States.  2000年になって、米国で密約の存在を示す公文書が発見された。

Later, a former director of the Foreign Ministry’s American Bureau who was in charge of negotiations with the United States for the handover admitted Japan’s payment for land restoration during a media interview.

However, the government continued to deny the existence of the secret accord.

There is no way to avoid criticisms that the government had dodged its responsibility to explain the incident.

Examination of the case took place under the Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations from 2009 to 2010, and a Foreign Ministry advisory panel admitted that Tokyo and Washington exchanged “a secret pact in a broad sense.”  民主党政権下の2009~10年に検証作業が行われ、外務省の有識者委員会は、日米間に「広義の密約」があったと認定した。

The ministry also conducted an in-house investigation but failed to find documents of the secret accord itself.

Considering the circumstances, the top court likely decided to cautiously approach the issue.

There is one concern over the ruling, however: The top court ruled that those requesting information disclosures bear the burden of proving the existence of the documents in question.

But it is extremely difficult for an ordinary citizen to know how administrative bodies handle the documents they are seeking.

We are afraid that Monday’s ruling may raise the bar for people wishing to access government documents through the freedom-of-information system.

The system is able to exist on the condition that administrative organs preserve their documents appropriately.

It is impermissible for such organs to arbitrarily destroy their documents to avoid them being disclosed to the public.

The principle must be reasserted once again that diplomatic documents should be disclosed to the public after a certain period of time to let posterity examine them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2014)

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2014年7月16日 (水)

都心の飛行制限 羽田強化につながる見直しを

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ease flight restrictions over Tokyo to give Haneda Airport extra wings
都心の飛行制限 羽田強化につながる見直しを

How can the functions of Haneda Airport be improved while ensuring nearby residents support the changes?

The government will need to hold sincere discussions with affected municipalities and residents on this issue.

The government is considering relaxing flight restrictions in the airspace over the Tokyo metropolitan area as it seeks to increase the number of arrival and departure slots at Haneda.

To help prevent noise pollution, commercial aircraft must, in principle, fly at an altitude of at least 6,000 feet (about 1,800 meters) over central Tokyo. Consequently, most flights that land at and depart from Haneda use routes over Tokyo Bay and Chiba Prefecture.

Each year, Haneda has 450,000 arrival and departure slots. Many airlines want extra slots allocated to them so they can capitalize on the airport’s convenient location.

However, the airport’s current flight routes are already overcrowded. It will be extremely difficult to increase the number of flights Haneda can handle solely by squeezing even further the time between arrivals and takeoffs.

If the rules were eased to enable planes to fly lower over central Tokyo, air traffic control would have a wider range of options available, such as being able to simultaneously use runways that run in different directions. This would apparently enable enough leeway to raise the number of arrival and departure slots at Haneda.

The government estimates that relaxing these restrictions could enable about 25,000 more flights to take off and land at Haneda annually by the time the flame is lit for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan from Asia and other growing regions is expected to continue increasing. Adding slots at Haneda to accommodate the ensuing rising demand for flights also will likely contribute to boosting growth in the Japanese economy.

Address noise concerns

The government says it wants to establish new routes that would fly over Tokyo wards including Shinagawa and Ota.

The biggest challenges will be figuring out how much noise pollution will be generated in areas where aircraft are permitted to fly lower and coming up with effective steps to counteract this noise.

Takeshi Hamano, the mayor of Shinagawa Ward, was quite justified in saying, “I won’t oppose increasing the number of flights, but I want thought to be given to the height they fly and the times they fly.”

The government is planning a proposal that would allow flights in airspace over central Tokyo only between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and restrict flights to small and midsize aircraft that do not produce a lot of noise.

The government will need to provide clear data on the noise levels that will arise and what effects the extra flights will have on nearby areas, and to explain it to the public in simple terms. It should also present concrete proposals for details including how expenses for soundproofing work will be met.

Not to be forgotten in this matter is Narita Airport. At present, about 40,000 of Narita’s annual 270,000 arrival and departure slots are not being used. This is apparently because transport links to central Tokyo late at night or very early in the morning are inconvenient.

Improving transport access to and from Narita will be essential for boosting the number of flights in time slots currently underutilized.

It also will be important to make it easier for Haneda and Narita airports to operate in an integrated manner so they can both serve as key airports for the Tokyo metropolitan area. We hope the public and private sectors will together examine whether it will be possible to improve rail and other facilities that directly link the two airports.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2014)

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集団的自衛権 国会の論議をさらに深めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Diet debate must be deepened on collective self-defense right
集団的自衛権 国会の論議をさらに深めたい

Diet debate must be intensified further on what can or cannot be done under the government’s new interpretation of the Constitution that would enable a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

The first Diet discussions on the matter since the Cabinet approval of the new interpretation were held at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Monday. Banri Kaieda, president of major opposition party the Democratic Party of Japan, expressed strong opposition to the Cabinet’s decision on the new interpretation, arguing: “The government has made an about-face in constitutional interpretation without holding Diet discussions. Is it all right to make a decision without listening to the people’s opinions?”

Countering that 70 lawmakers had been involved in question-and-answer sessions, including intensive deliberations, in addition to discussions by an expert panel and consultative talks between the ruling parties, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brushed aside the criticism that the Cabinet decision was made “with more haste than caution.”

Abe’s contention is reasonable because the government and ruling parties went through adequate procedures before making the Cabinet decision.

Diet deliberations will be conducted on bills related to a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. We hope to see that the planned sessions will serve as forums to hold intensive discussions about specific cases in which the right will be exercised, so as to win over a greater number of the people on the new constitutional interpretation.

It is also indispensable to hold discussions on the security environment around Japan, which has been growing more severe due to such factors as North Korea’s recent series of ballistic missile launches.

Referring to the three conditions newly set for exercise of the right of collective self-defense, including “there is a clear danger that the people’s rights will be fundamentally undermined,” Abe presented criteria for judgment on whether to approve an exercise of the right.

Abe said the government will make judgments by “comprehensively considering” such factors as “the intention and capability of a country threatening to attack, and the location, scale and situation of a contingency,” and in light of “the seriousness and graveness of damage anticipated to be suffered by the people.”

Too many constraints harmful

The DPJ’s Katsuya Okada, a former deputy prime minister, criticized the government, saying, “The criteria for judgment are ambiguous, and this leaves much room for [the government’s] discretion.”

Limiting the exercise of the right of collective self-defense is unavoidable to maintain the legal consistency of constitutional interpretation. However, if too much emphasis is placed on restraints for their own sake, it would lead to excessively restricting the scope of Self-Defense Forces activities and the effectiveness of their operations would be lost.

Giving the government a certain level of discretionary power is a realistic option to make it possible to deal with various situations effectively.

While stressing that the SDF will not take part in international military operations such as those during the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, Abe showed an interest in the SDF’s participation in minesweeping operations, saying that they are “passive and limited and different in nature [in terms of the use of force].”

The idea of differentiating between attacks on other countries and minesweeping operations is understandable. We hope to see the government provide more detailed and comprehensible explanations on the matter.

The DPJ is opposed to the government resorting to changing the constitutional interpretation to approve the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, but has yet to reach a conclusion of its own on whether to approve a limited use of the right. This is because the party has avoided internal discussions of national security due to intraparty differences of opinion. The party should present a unified view of national security as soon as possible.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party have already decided to endorse the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. The government and ruling parties must make steady efforts to compile relevant bills that would enable the limited use of the right.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2014)

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2014年7月15日 (火)



そこで、運転時の腰痛 を軽減するエルゴテラという座席シートカバーが開発されました。



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滋賀県知事選 与党の緊張感欠如も響いた

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shiga election results highlight complacency in ruling parties
滋賀県知事選 与党の緊張感欠如も響いた

A government and a Liberal Democratic Party that had grown overconfident were apparently handed a rebuke when a former Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker defeated a candidate supported by the two ruling parties in Sunday’s Shiga gubernatorial election.

Taizo Mikazuki, an independent candidate and a former member of the House of Representatives with the DPJ, was elected to his first term in a poll contested by two other independents, including Takashi Koyari, who had the backing of the LDP and New Komeito.

Mikazuki’s victory owes much to his election tactic of positioning himself clearly as the successor to Gov. Yukiko Kada, who served two terms, and criticizing the political stances of the government and the LDP.

Mikazuki was also supported by a timely tailwind, especially after criticism mounted against Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara for his comments last month that “money will be what matters most after all” in negotiations between the central and local governments over selecting locations for the construction of temporary storage facilities for contaminated soil in Fukushima Prefecture.
Much criticism has also been directed toward LDP members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and the lower house Committee on Internal Affairs and Communications who made sexist jeers.

Voters apparently felt that these words and deeds, which lacked respect for women, and residents seriously affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, demonstrated the arrogance and complacency of the ruling parties.

The LDP is the sole powerful party in the Diet, occupying an overwhelming majority of seats, and the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe still enjoys a high approval rating. Nonetheless, the government and the LDP should be more humble and take every necessary step to carry out policies.

Taking national politics local

A gubernatorial election is generally expected to hinge on the capabilities of the candidates, and their stances on important issues facing the prefecture. LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said, “[The election] was influenced by some factors other than those directly connected to the candidates and prefectural administration.” It is regrettable that the race unfolded the way he described.

Mikazuki’s move to call for a phaseout of nuclear power, as Kada did, is questionable, because nuclear policies should be left to the government to decide from a broader perspective. Governors have no legal authority over decisions to resume operations at nuclear power plants.

There are no nuclear power plants currently operating in Japan, which has led to higher fuel costs for thermal power plants and higher electricity charges.

The government must expedite efforts to restart nuclear reactors by persuading relevant municipal governments to give their consent.

Koyari, a former official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, pledged to revitalize the Shiga prefectural economy, while stressing the achievements of the Abe administration’s economic policies, known collectively as Abenomics.

He failed to garner wide support, however, as the effects of Abenomics remain limited in communities away from the country’s major urban centers—a reminder of the government’s need to revitalize local communities in earnest.

The Shiga race came on the heels of the Cabinet’s approval of the government’s new constitutional interpretation allowing for limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

Given the recent deterioration in Japan’s security environment, strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and international cooperation by making it possible for the nation to exercise this right is a significant development.

The Mikazuki election camp criticized the new interpretation as part of its attacks on the Abe administration, dragging the campaign fight “outside the ring.”

The government and ruling parties should not dwell on the outcome of this election, but instead try to win wider acceptance among the public for the right of collective self-defense by sparing no efforts to explain why it is necessary to permit its exercise.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2014)

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研究不正対策 新指針で科学の信頼取り戻せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Restore credibility of science through new guidelines for research integrity
研究不正対策 新指針で科学の信頼取り戻せ

The act of concocting research results is called fabrication, while the alteration of data is referred to as falsification and stealing papers written by other researchers is plagiarism.

Reforms are being urgently sought to prevent research misconduct from destroying the credibility of science.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has drafted a revised version of guidelines on dealing with research irregularities. Since last summer, the ministry has pushed ahead with the task of reviewing its current guidelines, as there are no signs misconduct has been halted since the guidelines were worked out in 2006.

During the review, the alleged malfeasance involving papers on stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells was brought to light at the RIKEN government-affiliated research institute. In light of this, problematic points in connection with the STAP fiasco have been reflected in the draft of the revised guidelines.

The current guidelines attribute the responsibility for research misconduct exclusively to individual researchers. The draft guidelines are laudable for clearly making reference to the oversight responsibility of the people in charge of administering research institutions. To eliminate research misconduct, it is critical for each institution to work as one in making thorough efforts to address this problem.

The draft calls for research bodies to implement such measures as ethical education for researchers, preservation of data on experiments and making provisions to conduct investigations of suspected research misconduct. A stipulation has also been incorporated into the draft stating that research institutions would be subject to cuts in funding for research activities if they are negligent in preventing research irregularities.

Lessons from RIKEN

It is of utmost importance that preventive steps against dishonesty in research prove effective.

Following the revelation in 2004 of research misconduct at RIKEN, the research institute stipulated in its internal regulations that data in experiments must be recorded and preserved. The regulations also made it obligatory for RIKEN researchers to undergo training courses aimed at preventing research misconduct, but its stipulations lack teeth.

The lack of governance, or organizational control, that led to the de facto emasculation of internal regulations is one of the major factors behind the STAP problem. All research organizations should draw valuable lessons from the serious situation RIKEN is currently embroiled in.

In line with the new guidelines, the education ministry plans from fiscal 2015 to regularly check the efforts of research institutions to put arrangements in place to ensure scientific integrity. If a case of research misconduct is discovered, the ministry will make public the names of the organizations involved, and describe the malfeasance. The ministry should be resolute in tackling this task.

The draft of the new guidelines also suggests that accusations regarding possible research misconduct on the Internet could prompt research institutes to embark on investigations.

Although many slanderous and groundless remarks are made on the Internet about research papers, it should be remembered that accusations by experts online did serve to reveal misconduct concerning the STAP cell research. Research institutions, for their part, must be ready to act swiftly and rigorously when dealing with any research misconduct.

Research misconduct has become a major problem in many countries. As huge amounts of taxpayers’ money are spent on science and technology projects, and competition has intensified among researchers, some researchers will go to any lengths to achieve results, even if it means committing misconduct.

The result of scientific research is subject to unceasing verification among researchers. Research misconduct not backed up by relevant data will always be exposed. It is essential for individual researchers to take to heart the pursuit of truth.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2014)

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2014年7月14日 (月)

精神医療改革 社会的入院の解消を図りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mental health care reform urgently needed for ‘deinstitutionalization’
精神医療改革 社会的入院の解消を図りたい

It is a matter of urgency to transform the nation’s mental health care system to shift away from the current hospital-centered treatment to making arrangements for encouraging care at the homes of the mentally ill.

A report recently produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has pointed out that the number of psychiatric care beds in hospitals in Japan is four times the average of OECD member countries. While treatment of the mentally ill at their homes has been increasingly spreading in industrially advanced countries, Japan trails other nations in “deinstitutionalization,” the shifting of care away from hospitals and toward patients’ homes or in the community, the report noted.

About 320,000 of the nation’s 340,000 psychiatric beds at hospitals are occupied by patients, 200,000 of whom are long-stay patients having been hospitalized for one year or longer, according to the report. Psychiatric patients in this country are hospitalized for about 300 days on average, far longer than the approximately two weeks in other developed countries, it said.

Many patients stay for a long period at hospitals even though the need for their hospitalization is low, only because they have nowhere to go after being discharged. In many cases, people with mental illnesses suffer further declines in their living competence due to long-term hospitalization, finding it all the more difficult to get out of the hospital. It is imperative to resolve the problem of such patients in long-stay beds, a situation often referred to as “social hospitalization,” or socially unavoidable hospital admissions.

In Japan after the end of World War II, the government adopted a psychiatric medical treatment policy of largely separating the mentally ill from society, encouraging establishment of private-sector psychiatric hospitals through the introduction of a subsidy system. Special steps have also been taken to relax staffing requirements to allow a relatively small number of medical doctors to take care of many psychiatric inpatients. The increases in the number of social hospitalizations were partly due to these steps.

‘Social hospitalization’

In 2004, the government hammered out a policy changeover in favor of “shifting from hospitalization to the community” in mental health care, setting a goal of reducing the number of psychiatric beds at hospitals by 70,000 during a period of 10 years. The actual number of reduced beds in the 10-year program, however, is considered to be no more than around 10,000, primarily because hospitals are not keen on the cuts in beds as they mean less revenue.

In April this year, the government announced a set of guidelines for psychiatric treatment aimed at having patients discharged from hospitals within a period of one year after their first-time hospitalization and improving support measures for treatment of patients at their homes.

The guidelines should be considered proper in seeking to limit hospitalization to those patients with serious disorders, while having those with mild and moderate problems taken care of in communities where they are accustomed to living.

A key task in this connection is how to expedite the discharges from hospitals of social hospitalization patients, the long-stay inpatients.

A study panel of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has created a report in favor of the idea of converting part of the hospitals with such long-stay beds into residential facilities for the patients. The idea is designed to proceed with the reduction of hospital beds in consideration of the desires of inpatients reluctant to be discharged from hospitals, while also taking into account the need to prevent hospitals from suffering declines in revenue.

However, the proposed conversion into residential facilities has been strongly criticized for being only a change in name. In addition, anxieties on the part of patients and their families over the possibility of being enclosed in the compounds of hospitals are understandable.

The ministry panel’s report said the planned conversion should be contingent on the choice of the patients themselves, while stipulating the length of the periods of accommodation at the envisioned facilities. It also came up with an idea of limiting the users of the facilities to currently long-staying patients.

The envisaged facilities should certainly be used as temporary measures, placing priority without fail on creating a system to enable patients to return to their communities.

To ensure sufficient support for the patients’ life in their communities, it is indispensable to help them manage such pecuniary affairs as those relating to public assistance benefits, as well as improving counseling services for them.

It is also important to ensure the provision of housing or group homes for them. To accomplish these objectives, coordination of efforts is essential between municipal governments and medical and welfare service organizations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 13, 2014)

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日米防衛相会談 同盟強化へ画期的な新指針に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
New Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines must mark start of new era
日米防衛相会談 同盟強化へ画期的な新指針に

Enhancing the efficacy of the Japan-U.S. alliance is essential if Japan wants to effectively deal with a new security environment facing the nation and other parts of Asia.

During their meeting in Washington, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed that the two nations will reflect the Japanese government’s new constitutional interpretation approving the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense in the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, to be revised by year-end.

Onodera and Hagel also agreed to issue an interim report on the new guidelines at an early date. At the press conference, Hagel expressed U.S. support for the new interpretation, which he referred to as “this bold, historic, landmark decision.”

It is important that the new guidelines will incorporate as many specific ways as possible to expand cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military on the premise that Japan can exercise its right of collective self-defense.

The guidelines—made in 1978 to deal with emergencies Japan may face—were revised in 1997 to clearly state that the SDF will provide a certain level of logistic support to the U.S. military in emergencies that threaten the peace and stability surrounding Japan, including the Korean Peninsula.

It is worth mentioning that the range of SDF logistic support provided to the U.S. military had been largely restricted because of the constitutional interpretation banning the exercise of the right of collective self-defense as well as kinds of logistic support that are “integrated with the use of force.”

But developments in areas surrounding Japan have raised serious concerns: North Korea has been continuing its nuclear and missile development programs, while China has been escalating its provocative activities in the East and South China seas. It is, therefore, indispensable for Japan and the United States to have new guidelines capable of dealing with the current security situation, which came into being after drastic changes over the last 17 years.

Joint plans crucial

Joint operation plans for the SDF and the U.S. military to act seamlessly in transitions from peacetime to emergencies must be urgently compiled with various scenarios in mind.

In its reinterpretations, the government approved the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense and defined logistic support that “integrated with the use of force” as activities in areas “where combat is taking place.” These changes in the constitutional interpretations enable the SDF to guard U.S. ships and to provide a wider range of logistic support to the U.S. military, such as supplying U.S. forces and providing transportation support.

The new guidelines should offer two-way cooperation: The SDF should be able to provide the aforementioned support to the U.S. military in case of emergencies surrounding Japan, while the U.S. military should be able to swiftly cooperate with the SDF in response to gray-zone situations, such as the occupation of remote islands by armed groups.

Hagel cited missile defense, measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, antipiracy steps and disaster relief as the areas of cooperation Japan and the United States will deepen. The government should steadily push forward with building a domestic legal framework to accommodate expansion in the two nations’ cooperation in these fields.

During their meeting, Onodera and Hagel agreed to beef up cooperation in the areas of defense equipment and their technologies in light of the Cabinet’s approval in April of the nation’s three principles on transferring defense equipment.

While in the United States, Onodera indicated that Japan will seek to host an international hub for maintenance of the state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighters, which the Air Self-Defense Force will deploy. Japan should make this a reality if it wants to maintain and expand its defense-related production and technologies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 13, 2014)

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2014年7月13日 (日)

県議政務活動費 泣かずに説明責任を果たせ


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bawling Hyogo assemblyman should come clean on expenses
県議政務活動費 泣かずに説明責任を果たせ

Funds for local assembly members’ political activities come from tax money, so any improper use of this money on expenses is unpardonable. Local assemblies must thoroughly improve the transparency of their members’ expenditures, and ensure this money is being spent appropriately.

A recent case in which a Hyogo Prefectural Assembly member allegedly used political funds for dubious purposes has caused quite a stir.

According to an income and expenditure report submitted to the assembly, the assemblyman in question claimed he made 345 day trips to locations including Tokyo and hot spring resorts in Hyogo Prefecture from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2013, spending about ¥8 million of political funds on transportation for these trips.

However, the report contained absolutely no mention of the names of people he visited, or the purpose of these trips. He did not attach any receipts. One trip was reportedly on a day when most of the limited express trains to the destination he claimed to have visited were canceled due to heavy rain.

Was this assemblyman really conducting political activities? The suspicion swirling around him will not go away.

At a press conference on July 1, the assembly member sobbed and wailed loudly as he tried to explain his side of the story. He refrained from naming the locations he had supposedly visited or providing other details. It is utterly inconceivable that such a performance will earn the support of residents of the prefecture. The Hyogo Prefectural Assembly has been inundated with complaints.

It has also been revealed that the assemblyman received a considerable sum of money that he said was used for postage stamps in fiscal 2013.

The assembly chairman has quite rightly demanded the assemblyman return any funds confirmed to have been misused, and quickly resign if he cannot fulfill his responsibility to explain what actually happened.

Assembly also at fault

The assemblyman is reportedly considering quitting, but if he is indeed confirmed to have illegally spent political funds, it could constitute fraud. His resignation would not be sufficient to bring an end to this matter.

In addition to their regular pay, local assembly members are provided with funds to meet political expenses for research, study and other activities.

In the past, this money was called “policy research expenses.” However, a revision to the Local Autonomy Law in 2012 changed the name, and it became possible for assembly members to seek such funds for expenses incurred in activities such as petitions and lobbying. Even tighter monitoring of this expenditure is required.

The lax response of the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly to this case cannot be simply shrugged off.

Assembly members are obligated, in principle, to attach receipts to their income and expenditure reports. However, the assembly approved expenditures based solely on a “certificate” produced by its members. The assemblyman in question did not attach any receipts for three years, yet the response of the assembly’s secretariat was merely to bring the matter to his attention.

The prefectural assembly reportedly plans to review its procedures regarding political fund expenditures, but this step is long overdue.

It is indeed true that political activities require a significant amount of money, so expenditures for genuine activities by lawmakers and assembly members should be approved. These representatives of the public must keep firmly in mind that they are using public funds, and ensure that this money is spent effectively.

Local assemblies will need to craft rules that allow no wrongdoing by their members. Having a third-party body monitor how such money is being spent would probably be effective in this regard. We urge local assemblies to increase the transparency of their members’ activities through such steps as displaying income and expenditure reports on their websites.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2014)

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日豪首脳会談 「特別な関係」築く安保協力を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan-Australia partnership crucial to improve defense of Asia-Pacific
日豪首脳会談 「特別な関係」築く安保協力を

Japan and Australia are strategic partners that share the responsibility of fostering peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. We urge the two countries to deepen their mutual relationship on the occasion of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Australia.

In his talks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday, Abe explained Japan’s reinterpretation of the Constitution to allow limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

Abe stressed that the aim of the reinterpretation was to “protect the lives and peaceful livelihood of the people and let Japan play a more proactive role in the international community.”

Abbott welcomed Japan’s move and credited Japan as being a peace-loving country, saying that “Japan has been...an exemplary international citizen in the postwar era.”

The reinterpretation enables Japan to exercise its collective self-defense right and order the Self-Defense Forces to protect Australian vessels when an emergency occurs on the Korean Peninsula or elsewhere.

During a speech to the Australian Parliament, Abe said, “Australia and Japan have now freed ourselves from one old layer and are now moving towards a new ‘special relationship.’” We concur with Abe’s view.

Abe and Abbott signed an accord on the joint development of defense equipment. Australia is interested in Japan’s submarine technology, and the two countries are scheduled to conduct a joint study on the fluid mechanics of ships. We urge the two nations to steadily continue cooperation in this respect.

Trilateral cooperation

It also is essential to expand joint exercises between the SDF and the armed forces of Australia and the United States, an ally of both Japan and Australia.

China has been trying to change the status quo in the East and South China seas by force. Australia has strong economic ties with China, but like Japan and the United States it places emphasis on the rule of law. It is important for the three nations to join hands and tenaciously press China to exercise restraint.

Abe and Abbott also signed an economic partnership agreement. Japan will reduce tariffs on Australian beef, while Australia’s tariffs on Japan’s medium-sized cars will be removed. The two nations will work for early enforcement of the agreement.

The two leaders also agreed to cooperate to bring about the early conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade negotiations.

Prior to his visit to Australia, Abe held talks in New Zealand with Prime Minister John Key. Abe and Key confirmed that they will work proactively for a conclusion of the TPP talks.

Promotion of free trade is one of the main pillars of the Abe administration’s growth strategy. It is imperative that the administration work hard on opening up its market on farm produce and other products and play an active role in concluding the TPP talks as early as possible.

Abe will next head for Papua New Guinea. It will be the first time in 29 years for a Japanese prime minister to visit the island nation. In talks with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, the two leaders are expected to reach an agreement to cooperate on natural gas development.

In the western Pacific, China is increasing its influence over the Pacific Islands by supporting the building and renovation of harbors and ports. It therefore is important for Japan to build trust in the region through cooperation in such fields as disaster prevention and human resources development.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2014)

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SIMロック 「囲い込み商法」をやめる時だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mobile phone carriers must stop corralling customers with SIM cards
SIMロック 「囲い込み商法」をやめる時だ

If cell phone subscribers can receive services from other mobile phone carriers without changing their actual phones, the convenience of using mobile phones will be greatly improved.

In using mobile phones, including smartphones, customers insert a subscriber identity module (SIM) card containing their subscription information into the phone before using it.

Each mobile phone company puts “SIM locks” on the handsets so that subscribers cannot use their cell phones with other firms’ SIM cards, with the aim of preventing customers from switching to other companies. If customers transfer to other companies, they have to buy new phones from the companies to which they want to switch.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry intends to oblige mobile phone carriers to remove SIM locks for handsets from fiscal 2015 as corralling customers with the locks narrows the range of customers’ choices for phones and service providers.

Each time customers change to other mobile phone companies, they have to also stop using phones which they had long used, a situation with which many mobile phone users may not be satisfied. It is natural that mobile phone carriers are being ordered to remove the SIM locks.

The three major mobile phone carriers—NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank—have monopolized the market with an almost uniform set of services and rates.

In other countries, such as the United States and European nations, mobile phone carriers, in many cases, are obliged to remove SIM locks after a certain period of time after a subscription begins.

Voluntary action lacking

In 2010, the communications ministry asked mobile phone firms on a voluntary basis to remove their SIM locks, but there has been limited success. It can be said that the mobile phone industry has not changed its negative approach to the ministry’s request, resulting in the ministry resorting to ordering them to do so.

Mobile virtual network operators, which offer communication services at a low rate, have recently appeared, but they hold only a 4 percent share in the market.

In taking advantage of the removal of SIM locks, it is expected that the number of new entrants into the market will increase, which will lead to the diversification of rates and communication services.

If mobile phone companies do not take a user-unfriendly approach to the order, such as by setting a high fee for removing the locks, the effectiveness of having the locks removed will not be seen. We hope each mobile phone company will respond actively to the ministry’s move.

In some cases, voice telephone communication did not work well when customers changed to other companies’ SIM cards. Mobile phone companies are required to explain the possibility of such trouble to customers in an earnest manner.

It cannot be denied that corralling customers with SIM locks has fostered a fruitless competition for customers.

In the mobile phone industry, a business practice continues wherein mobile phone companies pay sales agents an incentive so that the agents can largely discount the smartphones, which are originally priced at tens of thousands of yen, and entice customers of other companies’ phones to change to their subscription.

The business practice is beneficial for those who often change their smartphones. However, the incentive money is covered by communication fees paid by users.

If long-time subscribers are ignored in such a manner, many of them will express their discontent. Mobile phone companies need to become aware of the stern look coming from their customers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2014)

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刑事司法改革 国民の信頼を取り戻す制度に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Investigators should use new methods to regain public trust
刑事司法改革 国民の信頼を取り戻す制度に

The proposals compiled by a Legislative Council committee present investigative authorities with an opportunity to pick up steam in their efforts to win back some of the public trust they lost through the recent spate of scandals involving public prosecutors.

The government council’s special committee was tasked with examining reforms of the criminal justice system, and has compiled a set of proposals for the justice minister, one of which would require investigative authorities to record the entire interrogation process, in certain cases.

The Justice Ministry plans to submit relevant bills to the ordinary Diet session next year.

The proposals are intended to prevent false accusations through the adoption of video recordings of interrogations and to enhance investigative capabilities by expanding the scope of cases subject to wiretapping as well as by introducing a system for plea bargaining.

The most contentious issue has been designating which categories of crimes are to be subject to mandatory recording of interrogations. Those cases have narrowed down to crimes tried by lay judges and those subject to independent investigations by prosecutors’ offices.

Recording would be required in only about 3 percent of criminal cases. In many such cases, however, the credibility and voluntariness of confessions made during interrogations wind up being contested in public trials.

Recording interactions between investigators and suspects during questioning is of great significance, in that it will enable an after-the-fact examination of the case to determine whether there was an induced confession or compelled testimony.

Prosecutors have been introducing recorded interrogations through a process of trial and error in cases handled by lay judges. From October onward, prosecutors will begin voluntary interrogation recording in cases where written statements based on such questioning appears likely to become a focal issue at trial, irrespective of the category of crime.

Becoming more common

Prosecutors have shifted to a more proactive stance on video recording as the courts have moved toward stricter appraisals of the admissibility as evidence of such statements compiled without recording.

The proposals also call for reviews of cases subject to recording when deemed necessary. Lawmakers should examine how police and prosecutors’ offices are carrying out recorded interrogations and should consider possible impacts of recordings on investigations before any conclusions are made regarding a potential expansion in the scope of cases subject to recording.

Another facet of the proposals is the addition of nine new categories of crimes to the list of investigations subject to wiretapping of phone and e-mail communications.

The range of wiretapping targets has conventionally been limited to four categories of crimes, with a very limited number of actual cases, including those involving drugs or firearms.

Also planned for introduction is a plea bargaining system, which would permit prosecutors to refrain from indicting a suspect in return for his or her cooperation, such as providing information on crimes committed by an accomplice.

It is hoped that the expansion and improvement of these investigative methods will help authorities unravel increasingly sophisticated crimes. Abuse of wiretapping, however, could infringe on people’s privacy. There is also the risk of a deceptive statement obtained through the plea bargaining system leading to false accusations against people who have nothing to do with the crime.

Both police and prosecutors are required to apply the proposed investigative methods in a circumspect and discreet manner.

The proposals also contain a new rule requiring prosecutors to reveal to the defense counsel a list of the evidence they hold prior to a public trial.

Evidence collected with the use of taxpayer money is not to be monopolized by prosecutors, but is rather public property which should be utilized to reveal the truth of cases being investigated. Fair trials must be ensured by securing the right to a fair defense for the accused person.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2014)

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ふるさと納税 利用促して地域振興図りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Donations to local governments needed to support regional revitalization
ふるさと納税 利用促して地域振興図りたい

The government is considering augmenting a system for encouraging individual donations to hometowns or municipalities the individual wants to support by offering tax deductions of an amount similar to the donation.

Under the system, if taxpayers donate money to municipalities where they do not reside, almost the same amount is deducted from their resident and income taxes. This is tantamount to paying part of their individual taxes to the municipalities of their choice.

The system was established in 2008 to realize the wishes of people who hail from less urban areas and want to contribute part of their taxes to their hometowns.

To help push for “regional revitalization” that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has touted as a pillar of his growth strategy, we hope to see the system more actively utilized.

Donations made under the system amounted to ¥65 billion in 2011, or nearly 10 times the figure recorded the previous year, as such donations to disaster-affected areas increased in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami disaster that occurred in that year. But the sum plunged to ¥13 billion the following year.

The amount of a tax cut to be offered under the system is set according to donors’ annual income and family composition, with the ceiling set at ¥30,000, for example, for a household of a married couple with an annual income of ¥5 million.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has indicated a plan to double the amount of the tax deduction. The plan is worth studying as a measure to break the current stagnation of such donations.

Simplify procedures

Also problematic are the complicated procedures that must be taken to utilize the tax deduction system.

To receive a tax deduction in return for donations, even salaried workers whose income tax is deducted from their salary every month are required to file tax returns.

Many people are said to have second thoughts about using the system as they consider the procedures bothersome. The government should do its utmost to simplify the procedures needed for utilizing the system.

Regional endeavors are essential as well. More and more municipalities have been utilizing the system to emphasize the attractive points of their areas by implementing projects such as delivering local specialties to people who made donations under the system. We sympathize with local governments’ attempts to utilize the system for promoting regional industries and tourism.

But it is questionable whether presents alone will be able to appeal to the hearts of people who might want to contribute to regional areas.

Individual municipalities are urged to take a positive stance toward seeking supporters of the system by explaining how they will use the donations in a comprehensible manner.

The municipal government for the town of Miyashiro in Saitama Prefecture, for example, has called for donations for such projects as the conservation of rural village forests and releasing fireflies into the wild. It was reportedly successful in collecting donation money.

Such efforts could be used as a reference for other municipalities.

The municipal government for the town of Nishi-Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture, has started offering a hands-on diving program in local waters as a special gift for donors.

Providing chances for visits to regional areas by utilizing the tax deduction-for-local donation system is an effective way for municipalities to increase their supporters and promote regional development.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 11, 2014)

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ベネッセ漏洩 不安に陥れた責任は重大だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Benesse must be held accountable for leakage of children’s data
ベネッセ漏洩 不安に陥れた責任は重大だ

We must condemn the apparent lack of responsibility shown by a corporation entrusted with huge amounts of children’s personal information.

Benesse Holdings Inc. has announced that personal information of up to 20.7 million customers may have been leaked from group company Benesse Corp. The leaks comprise data on children learning through the firm’s correspondence courses, including Shinkenzemi for preschool children and schoolchildren, and the company-run prep schools, as well as data on their parents.

This is one of the largest customer information leakage incidents in the nation’s history. The Metropolitan Police Department has begun investigations of the data leaks as a potential violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law, which prohibits disclosure of trade secrets. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is taking the incident very seriously, and has issued instructions to Benesse to submit a report based on the Personal Information Protection Law about how the information leaks occurred, and related details.

In a news conference Wednesday, Benesse Holdings executives emphasized someone from outside the company with access rights to the firm’s customer database is believed to have secretly taken the data and sold it illegally to name list traders.

Even though there may have been no involvement of any Benesse employees in the leaks, the company bears a heavy responsibility for the outcome due to its failure to prevent the massive information leaks.

Among the leaked data are children’s names, birth dates, addresses and phone numbers. Ages of the victims vary widely from infants to high school students.

There are reports that the leaked data has already been traded among name list traders and used to send direct mail advertising from correspondence course providers.

Info leaks endless

As the number of children in Japan continues to dwindle, competition has grown ever sharper among businesses targeting children. Information on children is said to be in high demand, as a means for promoting products for children and soliciting by education-related firms.

Many people have likely had the experience of receiving pamphlets mailed from formal wear rental companies or other companies around the time of their children’s Shichigosan festivals for 3-, 5- and 7-year-olds, and Seijinshiki coming-of-age ceremonies.

In the event of the data being abused, there would arise fears of children being victimized in criminal offenses. The data must obviously be handled with utmost scrupulousness.

Benesse has reportedly been inundated with inquiries and complaints, including demands to know whether personal data of the inquirers’ children was included in the leaked information. It is only natural for parents and guardians to feel worried about the data leaks.

The leakage issue will inevitably impact Benesse’s business operations negatively. But the company must do its best to make every possible effort to prevent a recurrence of such problems and to restore public confidence in the company. This is a test for Eiko Harada, who was installed as chairman and chief executive officer of Benesse Holdings in June. His reputation for competence is at stake in steering the company through this challenge.

There has been an unending succession of leaks of personal information held by businesses.

The number of customer data and related information leaks from credit card firms and others stood at 319 in fiscal 2012, according to the Consumer Affairs Agency. Up to 70 percent of the affected companies had failed to take such measures as encrypting data and imposing access restrictions, the agency said.

Businesses are of course obliged to administer their customer data with utmost caution. Every company should reconfirm whether its information management and security systems are sufficiently reliable.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 11, 2014)

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台風8号被害 的確な警報発令で人命守ろう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Precise warning advisories critical to protecting lives from disasters
台風8号被害 的確な警報発令で人命守ろう

Utmost caution was taken against Typhoon No. 8, but damage occurred in unexpected areas.

This revealed anew the difficulty in taking measures against natural disasters.

Said to belong to the most powerful level of typhoon to hit in July, Typhoon No. 8 wreaked havoc on various parts of the country this week. Many buildings, roads and bridges were damaged as they were hit by strong winds and heavy rains. A number of debris flows and landslides also occurred.

The town of Nagiso in Nagano Prefecture was particularly caught off guard. An avalanche of debris was caused by heavy rains Wednesday evening when the eye of the typhoon was still located off the western coast of Kyushu. The avalanche directly hit a residential home, killing a middle school student.

The anticlockwise atmospheric flow caused by the typhoon brought offshore wet air as far as Nagano Prefecture. This appears to have resulted in heavy rain.

Hit by the sudden torrential rain, the Nagiso municipal government issued an evacuation advisory, but it came 10 minutes after the debris flow. The mayor said this “couldn’t be anticipated,” but there is no denying that the town’s actions fell behind.

A caution against heavy rain was issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency, but it came immediately after the debris avalanche had happened.

Debris flows had occurred many times before in Nagiso. The site of the latest occurrence was designated as a warning area against debris flow disasters, and the town had prepared a detailed hazard map and taken various disaster prevention measures.

Catch early signs

Two debris barriers existed in the upper reach of the site of the latest disaster and another barrier was near completion. Measures had therefore been taken on the premise that the area was at risk, but the loss of life could not be prevented.

How early premonitory signs of something unusual can be detected could be key to preventing disasters.

“The precision of radar rain gauges has been enhanced. We’ll look into the possibility of developing a method to disseminate pinpoint information in detail,” said Keiji Furuya, state minister for disaster management.

It is essential to apply the very latest technology to the issuance of effective warnings.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a “special warning” in a district of Okinawa Prefecture over Typhoon No. 8, the first of its kind to be put out against a typhoon. The issuance came on Monday, the day before the supertyphoon came closest to the district. It was appropriate for the agency to have alerted residents early, without fearing that the warning would ultimately be unnecessary.

The fact remains, however, that the district was hit by heavy rain after the special warning was lifted, causing the agency to issue a special warning again.

Some residents might have thought the danger was over because the special warning was lifted once. Isn’t there any room for improving the way the warning is removed?

As global warming progresses, typhoons are said to be growing gigantic in size. This is because the heat caused by increases in sea-surface temperatures become an energy source for typhoons. Typhoon No. 8 could be a typical example of this.

Sea-surface temperatures have remained at high levels this year. With the arrival of the full-scale typhoon season, more powerful storms are feared to hit this country. Every possible countermeasure must be taken to protect people’s lives.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2014)

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米中戦略対話 同床異夢の「新しい大国関係」

The Yomiuri Shimbun
U.S., China have different dreams about new ‘great-power relations’
米中戦略対話 同床異夢の「新しい大国関係」

The differences in U.S. and China strategies for the Asia region have become pronounced. Their struggle for leadership in building the regional order seems poised to intensify further.

The sixth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue has been held in Beijing. Cabinet member-level representatives from both sides discussed a wide range of issues at the two-day meeting.

For many observers, the major focus of the meeting was how both sides would handle Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call to U.S. President Barack Obama last year for a “new type of great-power relations.”

Xi has a vision of a Pacific Ocean divided into U.S. and Chinese spheres of influence, in which Beijing can protect its “core interests” such as its territories. In his speech at the opening ceremony of the strategic dialogue, Xi also called for building such a major-power relationship. He has previously raised an “Asian security concept” that would remove the United States from the Asian regional security order.

In a statement regarding the dialogue, Obama said the United States remains committed to “increased practical cooperation and constructive management of differences” with China. While Washington is willing to cooperate with Beijing, Obama also clearly indicated his nation is determined to continue its involvement in Asia. While the United States and China might be in the same bed, they are clearly having different dreams.

We applaud Obama for adhering to the “pivot to Asia” line embodied by his visit to the region in April.

In a reference to China’s pushy maritime expansion in the East China Sea and South China Sea, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at the dialogue that nations cannot “be permitted simply to act unilaterally to advance territorial claims or interests.” He urged China to abide by international rules.

Patchy progress at talks

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi expressed opposition to U.S. support for Japan and Southeast Asian nations in disputes with China. He urged the United States not to take sides but to adopt a “just and objective position.” However, China’s line of argument trying to justify its attempts to change the status quo through force will never win the support of nations affected by its maneuvers.

The U.S. side also demanded the Chinese military halt its cyberattacks on the United States, and called for the restart of a working group on cybersecurity. China rejected accusations it is involved in cyberattacks, and showed no sign of ending its refusal to resume the working group talks.

China’s cyberattacks are a concern shared by the international community. If China wishes to proclaim itself to be a major power, then it has a responsibility to engage properly in such talks.

In the economic field, the United States and China confirmed they would accelerate bilateral cooperation toward crafting a new framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. China is the world’s biggest emitter of such gases, and the United States is the second largest. For any such framework to be effective, it will require the active participation of both these nations.

The U.S. side again prodded China to move more toward a market-based exchange rate for the yuan. However, China remained reluctant on this issue, and they were unable to narrow their differences much.

Before the latest round of talks, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Kerry held talks over the telephone, and Japan and the United States used other channels to exchange opinions in detail.

Many of the United States’ assertions are shared by Japan and its interests. It is essential that Japan strengthen solidarity with the United States in its policies toward China.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2014)

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2014年7月 8日 (火)

「富士山」山開き 世界遺産にふさわしい保全を

Mr. Fuji → Mt. Fuji

The Yomiuri Shimbun
With start of year’s climbing season, Mt. Fuji’s beauty must be preserved
「富士山」山開き 世界遺産にふさわしい保全を

Now that this year’s summer climbing season for Mt. Fuji has started, many people will aim to ascend Japan’s tallest mountain, which has observed the first anniversary of its registration as a World Cultural Heritage site.

As the number of climbers increases, there are heightened concerns that the mountain’s rich natural environment will be damaged.

When it registered Mr. Fuji on its heritage list, UNESCO—in a rare move—assigned “homework” to the government to submit a report on the environmental preservation of Mt. Fuji by the end of February 2016.

If its worth as a World Heritage site is compromised, the mountain could be designated as an endangered site. UNESCO has gone as far as delisting a heritage site: Dresden Elbe Valley’s listing was nullified after Germany built a new bridge there, significantly changing its scenic view.

The Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectural governments as well as relevant municipalities have set up the Mt. Fuji World Cultural Heritage council, which is tasked with making a report to UNESCO.

Efforts must be made to preserve the environment of Mt. Fuji so the mountain can keep a status the nation can be proud of.

Above all, climbers must improve their etiquette. There is no end to littering by climbers despite the fact they are required to take all trash with them, a phenomenon that has resulted in a massive volume of garbage on the mountainsides.

Hold down numbers

It is unavoidable to restrict the number of climbers, expected to reach 300,000 during the season, which runs through mid-September. Environment-friendly toilets are installed at about 50 locations above the mountain’s fifth station, but they are capable of handling only about 250,000 people.

The Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures set a voluntary ¥1,000 fee for people to climb the mountain starting this season. It is reasonable for climbers who put a burden on nature to shoulder some of the preservation costs, a system used widely elsewhere in the world.

Some critics say paying ¥1,000 or so will not discourage people from climbing the mountain. We believe, however, it is a realistic approach to start with a fee that most people will easily accept. It is an important step toward strengthening measures to preserve the environment.

Noncommercial vehicles have been banned from the Fuji Subaru Line connecting to a trail at the fifth station and other roads for a certain period for the past 20 years. This year, the period was extended further.

To effectively curb the number of climbers, various measures like these should be combined.

Local communities concerned are still pinning high hopes on a tourism boost with the heritage listing. But it will be utterly meaningless if a steep rise in the number of tourists and climbers to Mt. Fuji irreparably damages its nature.

Stopping disorderly developments to ensure Mt. Fuji remains close to its original state can only enhance the worth of this mountain.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2014)

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中枢拠点都市 「地方創生」へ戦略が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun
‘Regional pivotal city’ idea must lead to reinvigoration of local economies
中枢拠点都市 「地方創生」へ戦略が問われる

The rapid shrinking of the population, the graying of society and the widening economic disparity between big cities and other regions of the country have been progressing alarmingly. Many municipalities are facing the daunting challenge of what must be done to revitalize local economies and maintain the quality of administrative services for their residents.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry is set to designate “regional pivotal municipalities” from among the country’s 61 cities with a population of 200,000 or more, with the exception of those in the nation’s three major metropolitan areas, including Tokyo. It aims to launch a system in which the designated cities will act as a driving force for economic growth in the respective regions.

The envisioned midsize regional pivotal cities are to enter into “cooperative pacts” with cities, towns and villages surrounding them on the basis of the Local Government Law, which was revised in May. They are expected to allocate roles among the entities involved and mutually decide on a direction for bringing about the rebirth of the localities. The municipalities are to work out regional versions of the nationwide growth strategy comprising a range of programs, including those for the promotion of local industries and tourism.

The central government will provide each regional pivotal city with hundreds of millions of yen in additional local tax grants each year. Pilot projects under this concept are scheduled to be implemented in nine cities this fiscal year, prior to full-scale implementation from fiscal 2015.

The local growth strategies should adequately reflect local characteristics and the area’s current situations. It is essential for the municipalities to make the best possible use of private-sector ideas and vitality through discussions with local businesses, universities and others about what the future of the regions should be.

Japan’s population has been shrinking since it peaked at about 128 million in 2008, and is projected to fall below 100 million in 2048. The aging rate of the population—the percentage of people aged 65 or older out of the country’s total population—is forecast to reach 40 percent in 2050, compared to 20 percent in 2004.

Population declines in areas outside big cities are especially serious. It will certainly become difficult for each municipality to maintain various public facilities and provide wide-ranging administrative services all by itself.

Follow good examples

The blueprint of the scheme calls for integration of high-level urban functions into the regional pivotal cities. Surrounding municipalities are supposed to share roles in such fields as industrial production and medical services, in a way conducive to maintaining the quality of livelihoods of local residents. These objectives are quite understandable.

The realignment of aging public facilities is important in this connection, to ensure their optimum reallocation in the integrated municipalities in a way well suited to desires of their users, instead of simply rebuilding them in the same places as they are currently located.

The city of Fukuoka has been proceeding actively with projects to attract international conferences and exhibitions, forging ahead to promote tourism and restaurant businesses in tandem with surrounding local governments. In another example, the municipal government of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, has developed an endoscope in collaboration with a local medical university and small and midsize businesses.

The city government of Kumamoto has been working on a project aimed at turning the farming sector of the city and its environs into what is known as the “sixth industry,” by having local companies process farming products in the region and seeking to spread their marketing routes nationwide.

Other municipalities are well-advised to exercise wisdom in fleshing out their own industrial promotion measures by referring to these good examples.

Besides the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, government offices including the secretariat of the Cabinet Office; the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry; the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry; and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry have separately appropriated budgets for regional revitalization purposes and worked to establish necessary legislation. This a typical example of vertically segmented bureaucratic administration devoid of coordination.

The government will soon set up a “regional reinvigoration promotion headquarters” headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. All ministries concerned must take this opportunity to coordinate more closely with each other to adjust and consolidate their efforts to ensure the government policy produces synergistic effects.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2014)

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2014年7月 7日 (月)



デジタルサイネージと連動した、スマホアプリ活用O2Oプロモーションを開始 グッドプランニング株式会社

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「無関心」という不幸 /東京

June 15, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The tragedy of apathy
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「無関心」という不幸 /東京

Cases of unidentified elderly men and women with dementia and other conditions taken into and kept under protective custody for long periods of time have recently come to the public's attention, thanks to stories run by the Mainichi Shimbun and other media outlets. Just the other day, a man with dementia who's been staying at a nursing home was finally identified by family members 18 years after he went missing.

Sharing the spotlight with these stories of men and women are those of children whose whereabouts and well-being are unknown. According to the education ministry, there were at least 705 elementary school and junior high school students whose whereabouts were unknown for at least one year as of last year. Meanwhile, the government does not yet have a grasp on the number of younger children who do not attend baby and toddler medical checkups and have not been located otherwise.

Municipal governments are required to make home visits in cooperation with child welfare offices and schools, but not all children can be located, for example, if the children's parents move repeatedly. Just recently, the body of a boy who had been abandoned in an apartment in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, was found years after his death. The municipal staff that visited the home had assumed the boy had moved and stopped following the case.

On the one hand, we have elderly people who are alive and well, but whose identities we do not know. On the other hand, we have children who we know were born, but we have no idea where they are and what they are up to. The reasons for these unknowns may differ -- one explained by dementia, and the other by irresponsible parents -- but both are emblematic of a tragic state that we humans can find ourselves.

During my consultations with patients, though, I realized that while the extent may differ, we can find ourselves in similar states in our everyday lives. One man told me that although he worked for years at the same small company, his boss refused to learn his name. A high school student in a family leading separate lives said that even after a few days away from home, the mother hadn't notice the student's absence. "Oh, were you gone?" she'd asked.

A Twitter response to a tweet can be uplifting, an acknowledgement of your existence. Conversely, when no one responds, it can fill you with anxiety that no one cares. To exist for years without having one's identity or whereabouts known is to live in a continuous state of others' apathy. Everyone born into this world has the desire to be recognized and cared about. All I can wish for is a speedy resolution to the problem of unidentified men, women and children.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年06月10日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:彼らのルールは妥当? /東京

June 22, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Are youth rules on smartphone use appropriate?
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:彼らのルールは妥当? /東京

Some 450 million people worldwide are believed to be users of the free communication app "Line." I recently asked some 100 university students in my classes if they used Line, and all of them said they did.

Recently, people have become victims of crimes through the use of Line, and I asked my students what they thought were problems surrounding the application. But most students said they can't think of any problems. As I was not convinced by their answers, I asked some students to talk about incidents related to the use of Line, and a student said, "I was asked to go out on a date for money by a complete stranger via Line." Another student said, "I was in a group chat, but forgot who was in the group and talked ill about a person who was actually a group member."

So, how come some people can enjoy conversations via Line while avoiding problems, while others are dragged into crimes using the same application?

Students told me that they are cautious when using the app. They said they don't respond to Line messages unless they are absolutely sure who the sender is, and they block any unknown users.

I told my students that I politely ask senders who they are when I receive Line messages from people who only use their usernames. "Unbelievable!" "That's too dangerous!" the students said to me. Under their own rules, it is okay to ignore messages sent by users who don't use their real names.

Young people who have been raised with communication tools like the Line app avoid risks carefully and sometimes boldly. From an adult perspective, however, their techniques while using such communication tools may endanger relationships with their friends and families. They may also misunderstand and think that they are close to someone they have never met.

I think these types of communication apps will continue to grow, and by no means am I protesting against them. But, I am not sure if rules created by young people when using those apps are appropriate. When I heard a student say, "I can't live without this app," I thought maybe we the adults need to review such rules among young users.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年06月17日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:もう少しラクになれば /東京

June 29, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Be easier on yourself
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:もう少しラクになれば /東京

We all live through life with our own preferences. Some people like to eat in the open air, while others dislike it because they think it's dirty. When these preferences grow to the size that they interfere with work or private life, however, that is called "obsessive-compulsive disorder" (OCD).

OCD is a common psychological disorder, like depression. A common obsession amongst those with OCD is repeated washing of hands or clothing because of worry that they or their surroundings are covered with germs. Another is repeatedly "checking" on something, like that doors or windows are closed or that gas valves are shut. Sometimes the obsession is an arbitrary rule like "start walking with the right foot" or doing anything to avoid using a particular number. OCD is much more severe than just having strong preferences or believing in good luck charms. In many cases, the person with OCD agonizes because they know what they are doing is unreasonable but they cannot stop.

These days, it is thought that OCD is caused not just by personality or stress, but by problems with the distribution of brain hormones. Often medicine to correct this distribution is used in the treatment of OCD, and behavioral treatment that involves gradually gaining control over the problem behavior is also said to be effective.

OCD often occurs in children. For a child who insists on bowing 100 times before they go to sleep, often the reason is that they think that if they don't follow that rule, something bad will happen to their family. Even if it seems ridiculous to adults, children often believe such things.

Family members should not scold such a child but instead be accepting while inviting them to do something more fun. For example: "Thanks for doing that for everyone, but you can stop partway. Now let's eat." If the family members get annoyed by the behavior, it will only escalate.

For children as well as adults, those with OCD tend to be serious, hard workers who are dependable at their jobs. I'd like them to calmly validate themselves, saying, "These preferences make up a unique part of who I am, but if I relax a little I can enjoy life more."

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年06月24日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:使用一瞬、依存一生 /東京

July 06, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Addiction recovery can take a lifetime
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:使用一瞬、依存一生 /東京

A man recently drove his SUV onto a sidewalk in Tokyo's Ikebukuro area, leaving a woman dead and seven others injured. The man has admitted to purchasing and smoking a so-called "legal loophole herb," and it is believed that he was under its influence when he caused the crash. What he did is unforgivable.

Although the substance is called an herb, it is no simple plant concoction. These drugs, which are not technically illegal, are made of leaves processed with chemicals, resulting in a product with effects similar to those of stimulants and marijuana. Most of these chemicals were first developed for medical uses including as pain killers for people with cancer or other diseases.

Some people try them out thinking they are made of natural ingredients and that they are simply relaxing, but the chemicals with which these leaves are laced are strong. Examples of these drugs' symptoms include hyperactivity, hallucinations, tremors, nausea and disorientation. Repeated use may cause chronic psychological illnesses, and those who become addicted to the substances oftentimes end up destroying their lives. The strength of these loophole drugs and the horror they can cause are incompatible with the deceptively innocuous term "herb."

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has designated over 1,300 chemicals as harmful drugs and bans the use and possession of such substances like marijuana and stimulants. However, the ministry is having a hard time keeping up with new chemicals that evade existing regulations and controlling the circulation of new substances.

There used to be a road safety ad that went, "It only takes a moment to pay attention, but it takes a whole lifetime to recover from a car accident." When I see patients suffering from the aftereffects of addiction to these "herbs," I'm reminded of that ad and always think, "It only takes a moment to take a drug, but it takes whole lifetime to recover from addiction."

They might have used the hallucinatory herb for only a short time in their lives, but addiction patients must use a lot of energy trying to beat their dependence on the drug. They must pay the price for abusing these loophole drugs, including but not limited to quitting their job due to the substance's aftereffects. In other words, by the time a user regrets taking the drug, it's already too late.

You may come across pills and drinks that are labeled as "herbs," "aromatherapy goods" or "supplements." Some people take these substances without thinking very much about it, especially when they come from friends or significant others, possibly worrying that to refuse would endanger these relationships.

That one sip or one pill may be the beginning of the end of the person's life. I want readers to refuse to take these substances. Make excuses if you have to. Say you have an allergy. If the person offering the pill takes offense, that person does not care about you in the first place. We have to do whatever it takes to prevent "loophole" drugs from spreading throughout our society.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年07月01日 地方版

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2014年7月 6日 (日)

土砂災害対策 警戒区域指定で住民守りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Designating warning zones vital for protection against landslides
土砂災害対策 警戒区域指定で住民守りたい

The seasonal rains have intensified, bringing heavy downpours to various parts of the country, with Nagasaki Prefecture recording its heaviest rainfall in 50 years.

Keen vigilance against landslide disasters is now a must. To ensure the safety of residents, municipalities must reexamine their disaster prevention measures.

It is worrying that the designation of warning zones based on the landslide disaster prevention law, which was enforced in 2001, has been delayed.

The landslide disaster prevention law makes it mandatory for prefectural governments to designate warning zones—and special warning zones requiring greater caution—after conducting on-the-spot investigations of slopes in danger of collapsing.

As for the designated zones, municipalities are obliged to establish an evacuation system for residents and make hazard maps to fully alert residents. If facilities for the elderly or disabled exist within such zones, it is mandatory for municipalities to set a communication system to disseminate disaster information.

Prefectural governments’ designation of warning zones could play an important part in preventing regional landslide disasters.

However, of the 520,000 spots listed as dangerous by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry based on topographical maps available until fiscal 2002 and other data, slightly more than 170,000 spots have yet to be designated as warning zones.

Persuasion efforts crucial

A factor behind the delay in the designation is the difficulty prefectural governments experience in winning over residents around such zones. In many cases, residents showed reluctance to approve designations, saying that, among other reasons, a designation would reduce the real estate value of their houses.

If a landslide occurs before scrupulous evacuation plans have been worked out, residents could face even worse devastation. In meetings to be held with residents before a designation, prefectural governments must explain the intent and purpose of the landslide disaster prevention law in minute detail.

The Fukuoka prefectural government has almost completed the designation of about 17,000 locations as warning zones. In explanation meetings with local residents, the prefectural government presented video footage of landslide disasters and conveyed to the residents the need for warning-zone designation in cooperation with officials of the municipalities concerned.

Such an endeavor could be used as a reference for other prefectural governments.

A lack of prefectural government officials in charge is also a source of concern. Izu Oshima island of Tokyo, where 39 people were killed or went missing after a debris flow disaster last fall, had not been designated as a warning zone. This is because the metropolitan government had put the designation of island areas on the back burner, citing a manpower shortage as its reason.

Prefectural governments are urged to enhance their work efficiency by giving priority to the designation of areas with a high degree of danger, among other measures.

The landslide disaster prevention law makes it mandatory to review a list of zones for designation every five years. There may be zones where there is new danger of collapse due to residential land development. It is imperative to reflect the up-to-the-minute information meticulously in devising measures against landslide disasters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 5, 2014)

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中韓首脳会談 地域の安定損なう「反日共闘」

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China-ROK anti-Japanese campaign threatens to bring regional instability
中韓首脳会談 地域の安定損なう「反日共闘」

China’s intention to drive a wedge into cooperative ties among Japan, the United States and South Korea by wooing Seoul to its side has become more clear than ever.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited Seoul for talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and the two leaders confirmed their nations’ “firm opposition” to the development of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula in connection with their policies toward North Korea.

It was the first time that a top Chinese leader has visited South Korea ahead of North Korea, a traditional friend of the communist state. Xi played up the impression that China was placing importance on South Korea and that the two nations were forging a cooperative relationship.

In an article he contributed to South Korean newspapers just before his visit, Xi said it was essential for the two nations to take joint steps for the security of Asia. The proposal is based on his “Asian security concept,” in which “Asian security must be protected by Asian people.” It is a clear indication that China is trying to exclude the United States from the security framework of Asia.

Japan, the United States and Southeast Asian nations are sharply criticizing China for its unilateral attempts to change the status quo in Asia, which have increasingly isolated the nation. Given the situation, Bejing apparently wants to gain Seoul’s cooperation in creating a China-led Asian order through strengthened relations with South Korea, whose economy increasingly depends on that of China.

Limited results

But a joint statement merely said the two nations will regularly hold high-level strategic dialogue on security and diplomatic issues. As South Korea naturally sought to avoid causing cracks in its relations with its ally, the United States, Xi’s diplomatic strategy was not fruitful.

As for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that Xi is proposing, the joint statement only said the two nations will continue talks on the matter. China will not easily realize its ambitions to lead efforts to build a financial order in Asia to counter the Asian Development Bank, which is led by Japan and the United States.

Above all, Japan should be alarmed by the fact that China and South Korea agreed to conduct joint research on materials related to so-called comfort women as spelled out in a supplementary note to their joint statement.

China has already submitted an application to register materials related to comfort women with UNESCO’s Memory of the World. South Korea is also preparing to make a similar application.

Of serious concern is the fact that China and South Korea are expanding their joint anti-Japanese campaigns by using historical issues—which they have interpreted for their own convenience—in their efforts to sway international opinion to their sides.

During his speech at Seoul University, Xi called on the South Korean people to join anti-Japanese campaigns by saying, “Japanese militarists carried out barbarous wars of aggression against China and Korea.”

Park was cautious about China’s maneuver to scuttle ties among Japan, the United States and South Korea in the areas of security and finance, but actively responded to China’s calls to bash Japan over historical issues.

Park apparently intends to use her anti-Japanese stance to buoy her approval rating, which has dropped due mainly to her administration’s poor handling of the sinking of a ferry in April. Park’s irresponsible move in becoming closer to China has been met with unveiled expressions of concern from the United States.

This is a good time for Park to rethink how important coopera-tive ties are among Japan, the United States and South Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 5, 2014)

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2014年7月 5日 (土)

6・3制見直し 小中一貫で教育効果高まるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Can proposed integrated primary-middle school system produce educational effect?
6・3制見直し 小中一貫で教育効果高まるか

Could a review of the so-called 6-3 system that breaks compulsory education into six years of primary school and three years of middle school work to enhance education?

The Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, a government advisory panel tasked with discussing reform of the country’s educational system, has put together recommendations that center on a shift toward combining primary- and middle-school-level education.

The proposed reform calls for flexible division of the nine years of compulsory education, for example, breaking them into “four, three and two years” or “five and four years” based on the judgments of each municipality.

Recent years have seen the emergence of problems due to newly entering first-year students at middle schools finding it difficult to adjust to changes in the educational environment.

In addition, some have suggested that it is more effective, in the upper levels of primary school where subjects become more difficult to understand, for teachers to be responsible for individual subjects, as in middle schools, rather than leaving most instruction to homeroom teachers.

It is sensible for the panel to pursue instruction in line with students’ levels of comprehension based on the nine-year curriculum set by each municipality’s education board.

Integrated primary and middle school education has been already implemented in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, and in some other municipalities designated by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. In some cases, problematic behaviors such as truancy have decreased and scholastic test results have improved.

The education ministry aims to introduce integrated primary and middle school education in fiscal 2016 at the earliest. It is essential to consider the efforts that have already been made as a reference, while moving forward with institutional design.

A host of challenges

But the challenges remaining to be addressed are many. One is finding a way to deal with cases in which students are unable to adjust to new educational environments after moving to new schools, when teaching methods and pace differ greatly in some municipalities and schools. There is also the question of how to link newly integrated primary and middle schools with existing integrated middle and high schools already in place.

Reexamination of the teacher licensing system would also be an indispensable project. It is necessary to establish new licenses whereby teachers can teach at both primary and middle schools, thereby encouraging exchanges of teachers across the primary-middle school boundary.

Teachers themselves would be urged to work toward improving and deepening their knowledge of their specialty subjects and honing their teaching skills.

With the introduction of integrated primary and middle schools, some existing schools may be abolished or merged. Heads of municipal governments and municipal boards of education must study the advisability of introducing the proposed system, taking the needs of the parents and guardians of students into consideration.

The implementation council also examined the possibility of beginning compulsory education from age 5 as a measure to further develop children’s abilities. But in its report of recommendations, it was listed as a matter for future study. That decision was perhaps inevitable, given the prospect that securing the ¥260 billion needed yearly to provide free education to 5-year-olds is likely to be impossible.

Another noteworthy proposal from the panel is the systematization of organizations of higher learning that specialize in vocational training. The change would aim at helping graduates of specialized technical and commercial schools acquire higher levels of expertise and skills.

The education ministry should study measures to help such schools develop as educational institutions that will foster work-ready professionals.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 4, 2014)

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対「北」制裁緩和 「行動対行動」の原則を貫け

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Adhere firmly to ‘action for action’ principle over N. Korea sanctions
対「北」制裁緩和 「行動対行動」の原則を貫け

The more North Korea acts positively to resolve the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens, the more Japan should offer encouragement suited to that end. This country should adhere strictly and consistently to the principle of “action for action.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed Japan’s intention to lift some of the country’s unilateral sanctions against North Korea. This is because the Japanese government has put a high value on the framework of the “Special Investigation Committee” Pyongyang has committed to setting up on Friday for the reinvestigation of the Japanese abductees and related issues.

The National Defense Commission, headed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, concurrently the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has given the investigative body the mandate to conduct probes into any of North Korea’s government organizations. The body will reportedly be headed by So Tae Ha, vice minister of the State Security Ministry, who doubles as a counselor in charge of security at the National Defense Commission.

Abe said at a press conference on Thursday that an “unprecedented framework capable of making decisions at the state level will come to the fore” in Pyongyang. If this framework actually works, it will likely be possible to attain the goal of completing the investigations “within a period of one year” as pledged by North Korea.

In response to Pyongyang’s commitments, Japan will lift restrictions on travel between the two countries and ease restrictions on cash taken from Japan into North Korea as well as remittances to the country. While allowing the entry of North Korean-registered vessels into Japanese ports only for humanitarian purposes, the Japanese government will keep in place the ban on the entry of the Mangyongbong-92 cargo-passenger ship.

This step is expected to be effective in prompting North Korea to take further constructive measures to handle the pending issues.

In addition to known abduction victims and missing Japanese suspected of being abducted by North Korean agents, the investigations will cover Japanese women who remained in the country as wives of North Korean men after going there as part of the North’s movement to repatriate its citizens living in Japan from the 1950s to the 1980s. It has been reported the investigation committee will comprise four subpanels in accordance with the categories of the probe’s multiple objectives.

Following through on deal

As Abe has said this is “only the start” on a road to a comprehensive resolution of the issues, it is indispensable for the government to scrutinize progress as needed to ascertain whether North Korea is sincere in its efforts to undertake the investigations.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the prospect Thursday that Japan will receive the first report on the probes from North Korea sometime from the end of summer to the beginning of autumn this year. It will be necessary for Japan to examine the contents of the report, while taking when necessary such measures as sending an investigation team from Tokyo to Pyongyang and asking North Korea to conduct additional investigations.

Further easing of Japan’s sanctions must of course be contingent on whether North Korea’s investigation activities are deemed successful in producing tangible results. In the event that North Korea fails to act sincerely, the option of Japan rescinding the easing of the sanctions should not be ruled out.

What cannot be overlooked in connection with this is North Korea’s launching of ballistic missiles on June 29 into the Sea of Japan just ahead of the latest Tokyo-Pyongyang consultations. The missile firing is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions over the matter, and it is only natural that the Japanese government lodged a protest with North Korea over the test launches.

While some analysts have argued that the missile launch may have been primarily aimed at discouraging closer ties between China and South Korea, the military provocation by the North will only serve to further deepen the international isolation of Pyongyang.

The abduction problem is undoubtedly a problem that must fundamentally be resolved through Japan’s own efforts to negotiate with North Korea. The Japanese government, however, should inform adequately both the United States and South Korea of the negotiation process to ensure the three countries’ current containment strategy of the North’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs is not adversely affected.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 4, 2014)

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2014年7月 4日 (金)

核廃棄物処分 「針路なき航海」から脱しよう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nuclear waste disposal plans must not remain ‘aimlessly adrift’
核廃棄物処分 「針路なき航海」から脱しよう

Deciding on disposal sites for “high-level radioactive waste” that comes from spent nuclear fuel at nuclear power plants is a pressing matter.

Shunsuke Kondo has been appointed president of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), the entity overseeing the selection of the sites and the construction of the disposal facilities. Kondo was previously chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. Eight of NUMO’s top 10 executives were replaced at the start of this month, including the previous president, who left his position before his tenure was up.

In a report compiled in May, an expert committee of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry detailed problems in the lack of progress made in the drawn-out process of selecting candidate sites for disposal facilities since NUMO was established in 2000. The report blasted the process as being “aimlessly adrift on the ocean.”

Bringing new faces to the executive lineup was a response to this criticism. For all intents and purposes, the move marks a fresh start. This reborn NUMO must work closely with the government to deepen public understanding of the disposal issue and make progress in selecting sites to host these facilities.

As a professor at the University of Tokyo, Kondo researched nuclear safety topics. When he was head of the Atomic Energy Commission, he visited many parts of the nation to hold talks with residents and local authorities to broaden his knowledge of the disposal facility construction problem.

At a press conference after being appointed to his NUMO post, Kondo indicated he planned to speed up efforts to make progress on this matter. “The nuclear waste problem should be resolved by the generation that created it and has responsibility for it. I won’t leave it for future generations to deal with,” he said. We have high expectations for Kondo’s leadership on this matter.

Lessons from abroad

Other nations have compiled plans to bury spent nuclear fuel and the high-level radioactive waste generated when it is disposed about 500 meters underground. By isolating this waste deep underground, its strong radiation can be blocked off for a very long time.

Finland and Sweden have already decided on their proposed disposal sites for nuclear waste. The business entities that will handle the disposal have earned the trust of residents in these areas by frequently explaining what the process entails. The governments in these nations also have carefully explained that the disposal sites will be safe and have taken other steps to reassure the public. This proactive support by these governments has been instrumental in getting the wheels turning on this issue.

The lack of such efforts by the government in Japan is the cause of the long delay in selecting disposal sites here.

Based on the law regarding final disposal of radioactive waste, Japan employs a method of selecting disposal sites from cities, towns and villages that have offered to host such facilities.

In 2007, the town of Toyo in Kochi Prefecture came forward as a candidate site to host a disposal facility, but it eventually withdrew its application as opposition to the plan spread among local residents. NUMO and the government were unable to come up with effective support for the town.

In its basic energy plan released in April, the government said the state “will take leadership and strengthen its effort to find proper solutions for final disposal of high-level radioactive waste.”

From now on, the government will narrow down the list of possible sites based on geological conditions and other criteria, and revise its method for encouraging municipalities to apply to host disposal facilities.

Many nuclear plants in Japan already have no more room to store spent nuclear fuel.

The government should quickly put a framework in place for selecting candidate sites to host final disposal facilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2014)

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日銀短観悪化 増税ショックを軽視するな

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt should not underestimate impact of consumption tax hike
日銀短観悪化 増税ショックを軽視するな

The findings of the latest business survey suggest that we should keep a cautious and close watch on economic prospects in the days ahead.

The Bank of Japan’s Tankan quarterly survey for June showed that business sentiment among both large manufacturers and nonmanufacturers deteriorated for the first time in six quarters. The diffusion index for large manufacturers’ current business confidence stood at plus 12, and that of large nonmanufacturers at plus 19, both down from the previous survey in March.

Business sentiment deteriorated particularly among automakers and retailers, the sectors hit hard by a drop in demand after the last-minute surge prior to April’s consumption tax rate hike.

The leading index reflecting business outlook toward September among large manufacturers came to plus 15, a modest three-point improvement over the June outlook, while the same leading sentiment index among nonmanufacturers remained flat.

Finance Minister Taro Aso said the nation’s economy “continues to be in a moderate trend of recovery, while keeping the impact of the consumption tax hike to a minimum,” showing the government’s confidence that the economy will weather the tax hike’s effects.

However, the momentum of the recovery is not so strong that we can allow our guard to fall.

Worrisome economic indicators have also emerged, including a marked decline in household consumption. The key to pushing consumption upward is an increase in household income.

Partly due the urging of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, the pace of wage hikes, negotiated through annual labor-management talks, rose to around 2 percent, which has been a boon for Japanese households.

The consumption tax hike has been passed on to consumers through the prices of goods and services since April, and as a result, prices have risen by around 3 percent. The reality is that the wage hike has not kept pace with the price increase.

Wages must grow

The government needs to use policy measures to support the momentum toward an “economy in a virtuous cycle,” in which companies with strong business performance give part of their profits back to employees in the form of wage hikes and increased bonuses, helping to drive overall consumption.

The government must steadily implement measures included in the new growth strategy recently adopted by the Cabinet, including a reduction in the effective corporate tax rate and regulatory reforms.

One cause of concern is the increasingly serious labor scarcity in the construction, restaurant and other industries, forcing construction firms to stop accepting new orders and chain restaurants to temporarily close outlets, among other adverse effects. As reality stands now, this development may put a damper on the recovering economy.

We should also expedite other efforts such as eliminating the labor market “mismatch,” in which the needs and desires of businesses seeking manpower fail to match those of people looking for jobs.

Labor scarcity is bound to spread through a wide range of sectors of the Japanese economy, parallel to the declining population.

The public and private sectors should cooperate on earnest efforts to secure a sufficient labor pool over the medium and long term, for instance by better incorporating more women, elderly people and foreigners into the workforce.

In order to steer a private-sector-led economic recovery on a steady track, it is also essential for businesses to make full-fledged investments in plants and capital equipment. We would urge businesses to invest proactively in growing sectors, taking advantage of such measures as the law concerning the strengthening of industrial competitiveness.

The steady resumption of operations at nuclear power plants whose safety has been confirmed, and restoring a secure and stable supply of electricity are essential conditions to establish a firm foundation for sustainable economic growth.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2014)

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2014年7月 3日 (木)

集団的自衛権 抑止力向上へ意義深い「容認」

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Constitutional reinterpretation enhances Japan’s deterrent power
集団的自衛権 抑止力向上へ意義深い「容認」

The government has made a historic decision that will reinforce our coordination with the United States and other members of the international community. It is also likely that the decision will contribute to solidifying Japan’s peace and security.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved the government’s reinterpretation of the Constitution to allow limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

At a press conference that day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his resolve to “consolidate Japan’s path as a peace-seeking nation.” He also pledged to establish “a seamless legal framework on national security to protect the lives and daily livelihood of the people.”

There have been gaps between the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito over the issue. While the LDP has supported permitting Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defense, Komeito held onto a cautious approach. We would like to praise both parties’ efforts to find middle ground and reach an agreement.

Baseless accusations

It is safe to say that Abe’s fiery devotion to the cause, as well as his persistent and unyielding position on the reinterpretation of the Constitution, has made it possible for the ruling parties to overcome difficulties and reach an agreement.

Komeito had to take time in building a consensus, including holding talks with its regional organizations, but in the end it was able to reach a responsible decision. We believe Komeito’s experience as a member of the ruling coalition has greatly helped the party reach such untiy.

Under the government’s reinterpretation of the Constitution, Japan will be permitted to use the minimum necessary force when an armed attack takes place against a foreign country with which Japan has close relations, and there is a clear danger that the basic rights of the people of Japan will be fundamentally undermined.

The interpretation that Japan “possesses, but cannot exercise” the right of collective self-defense has long stood. Allowing Japan to exercise the right is a major sea change, as it means Japan has overcome a national security problem that has long loomed over the nation.

The reinterpretation does not touch on specific issues, but it will likely enable Japan to deal with all eight example scenarios cited by the government as cases in which the nation should be able to exercise its collective self-defense right. Those scenarios include protecting U.S. vessels under armed attack, minesweeping operations and missile defense.

The reinterpretation has also left rooms for Japan to participate in minesweeping operations authorized by a U.N. resolution under a collective security framework. If the government goes too far in narrowing the scope of the nation’s permissible exercise of the collective self-defense right, it would restrain the activities of the Self-Defense Forces and hollow out the significance of changing the interpretation of the Constitution.

The reinterpretation follows the core principle of the 1972 government view on the right of collective self-defense and is logically consistent with previous interpretations. It is clear that this reinterpretation was made within a reasonable range.

This is not a case of using constitutional reinterpretation where actual amendments to the Constitution are required, and it differs fundamentally from such cases. This case is more a matter of the government making necessary adjustments to previous interpretations that were overly self-restrictive due to conditions in the Diet.

The reinterpretation is made based on the Cabinet’s right to an official interpretation of the Constitution. The Diet will play a role in this issue through deliberation of bills related to the reinterpretation, and when the government asks the Diet for approval of plans to exercise the right of collective self-defense. The judiciary also has a voice in the issue through the power of judicial review.

Thus the issue will be handled consistently with the Constitution’s principle of separation of powers among the administrative, legislative and judicial branches. It is difficult to understand criticisms asserting that the reinterpretation is “counter to constitutionalism.”

It is similarly off base to argue that the latest Cabinet decision would pave the way for war, a line of argument propagated by left-leaning and liberal voices. Exercising our nation’s right of collective self-defense does not mean using force to protect any other nation in a situation unrelated to our own defense. The government’s new stance on the right has categorically ruled out our nation’s involvement in military situations such as the Iraq War.

Permanent dispatch law needed

The government’s revised view on the right has also expanded the range of cooperative international peace activities the SDF will be able to conduct.

For instance, the revised interpretation has narrowed the scope of a constitutional ban on SDF actions inseparable from the use of force by another country. The Cabinet decision has limited the ban to “activities in combat zones.”

The decision has also made it possible for the SDF to conduct armed rescue operations during their involvement in U.N. peacekeeping missions and other overseas missions.

If civilians or foreign troops face an armed attack in areas distant from but accessible to SDF members engaged in such overseas tasks, these personnel will be able to go to their rescue. In such cases, they would be permitted to use weapons in their execution of such duties, under the latest Cabinet decision.

We believe these changes will enable the SDF to better accomplish international missions such as supply, transport and medical support activities along with U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The Cabinet decision also addresses some issues regarding SDF actions to be taken in what have been described as gray-zone situations, including a potential scenario in which foreign armed groups take control of remote Japanese islands. It expedites procedures for invoking SDF maritime patrol operations and other activities aimed at addressing such situations.

We suggest the government consider expanding the list of SDF duties to include territorial patrols, thereby enabling our country to carry out “seamless activities” in the event that the nation’s peaceful situation is subverted by a military contingency.

The government and the ruling parties are set to begin implementing legislative measures to complement the Cabinet decision during this autumn’s extraordinary Diet session. Among those measures are amendments to the Self-Defense Forces Law and the Armed Attack Situations Response Law. It is important to create and refine laws to respond flexibly to a variety of situations.

It is also worthwhile to consider establishing a permanent law on SDF dispatch for overseas missions—not only for U.N. peacekeeping missions, as sanctioned under the current legislation.

At the end of the year, Tokyo and Washington are scheduled to revise the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. The Japanese and U.S. governments must ensure the planned changes to the defense cooperation guidelines properly incorporate changes made to our nation’s defense policies as a result of the latest Cabinet decision. These changes include the newly granted approval for exercise of the right of collective self-defense and the reconsideration of the ban on SDF actions that are inseparable from the use of force by other nations.

Public support essential

We hope Japan and the United States will work together to deepen their defense cooperation. Japan should increase SDF support for U.S. forces, and U.S. forces should be more significantly involved in the defense of remote islands and other parts of our country.

Drafting plans for military emergencies and repeating joint military exercises under the new defense cooperation guidelines will also function to shore up the Japan-U.S. alliance and increase the two nations’ combined deterrent potential.

Abe’s efforts to lift the self-imposed ban on our nation exercising its collective self-defense right has garnered support not only from the ruling parties, but from opposition lawmakers as well. The idea is endorsed by such opposition members as Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Your Party and some members of the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan. However, the DPJ’s top cadre remains noncommittal about whether to approve the exercise of the right, and has criticized Abe’s initiative in reinterpreting the nation’s fundamental law.

With the Cabinet’s decision completed, Abe should take every opportunity—ad-hoc parliamentary sessions that can be convened even during the the Diet’s recess, for example—to explain the significance of ending the ban on the collective self-defense right. It is crucial for the prime minister to make every effort to ensure that the public better understands the true meaning of revising the government’s official stance on the right.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 2, 2014)

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夜景評論家丸々もとおプロデュース・名古屋テレビ塔60周年記念イベント『光の万華鏡』開催! 一般社団法人夜景観光コンベンション・ビューロー

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2014年7月 2日 (水)

驚きました、ライブチャットでこんなものまで 不動産オンライン内見



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オウム菊地被告 テロ関与を重く見た実刑判決

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Lay judges carefully considered role of ex-Aum member in terrorist act
オウム菊地被告 テロ関与を重く見た実刑判決

The lay judges deemed that the defendant bore heavy responsibility for her involvement in a heinous terrorist act.

On Monday, the Tokyo District Court sentenced former Aum Supreme Truth cult member Naoko Kikuchi to five years in prison for her role in the cult’s mail bomb attack on the Tokyo metropolitan government headquarters in May 1995. She had faced charges of assisting attempted murder and violations of the Explosives Control Law.

This attack came two months after Aum members released deadly sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system. Senior members of the cult sent the bomb to the Tokyo government to disrupt the investigation into Aum’s activities. The bomb was intended to thwart the arrest of cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto, who has since been sentenced to death for his role in crimes committed by Aum. The mail bomb exploded and seriously injured a metropolitan government official who opened it.

The ruling quite rightly criticized the attack as “self-righteous and inexcusable.”

The case hinged on whether Kikuchi was aware her actions 19 years ago were part of the bomb plot.

Kikuchi has admitted transporting chemicals from an Aum facility in Yamanashi Prefecture to a hideout in central Tokyo. However, she maintained her innocence in this case and claimed she “didn’t think the chemicals would be used to make a bomb.”

The material evidence used to substantiate that the defendant was aware she was taking part in a terrorist act was scant. The memories of those involved in the incident are fading, so prosecutors accumulated testimony given by Aum members including Yoshihiro Inoue, who orchestrated the bomb attack and is now on death row. Prosecutors faced a grueling challenge in proving the facts in this case.

Aum still exists

After examining the testimony of Aum’s death row inmates and others together with Kikuchi’s actions and the circumstances inside the cult at the time of the attack, the court found her guilty of assisting attempted murder, but concluded she was not guilty of assisting with the violation of the explosives law.

In its decision, the court said, “Although we cannot say [the defendant] was aware the chemicals would be used to manufacture explosives, she was aware of the possibility they could be used in an incident that could kill and injure people to protect the cult.” This indicates the lay judges were very careful in determining the facts in this case.

Kikuchi was arrested in 2012 after living for 17 years on the run. Kikuchi told the court she refused to turn herself in because she thought she would be “unfairly arrested because of religious oppression.” It appears Kikuchi was unable to completely break free from the cult’s mind control even while she was on the lam.

Aum lives on today after changing its name and splitting into two groups, “Aleph” and “Hikari no Wa.” According to the Public Security Intelligence Agency, these groups have a combined 1,600 followers.

In recent years, the groups have increasingly tried to actively recruit new members through social media and by masquerading as university club activities. Residents living near their facilities in Tokyo and elsewhere feel ill at ease even today.

The appalling crimes committed by Aum stood out because they were committed by many young people who joined the group without feeling any shred of doubt about its activities. Authorities will need to closely watch the cult’s movements and ensure its crimes never happen again.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2014)

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自衛隊発足60年 時代に合った法整備が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Legal arrangements needed for SDF to fully perform changing missions
自衛隊発足60年 時代に合った法整備が必要だ

Tuesday marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Self-Defense Forces. It is imperative to step up the preparation of legal arrangements that would enable them to perform their roles fully according to the changes of the times.

The past 60 years saw major changes in the government’s interpretation of the Constitution and the nation’s legal system on national security.

In 1946, one year after the end of World War II, then Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida rejected rearmament by interpreting Paragraph 2, Article 9 of the Constitution—which prohibits possession of land, sea and air forces as well as other war potential—as “renouncing war for self-defense as well as the right of belligerency.”

However, following the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the government established the SDF in 1954, a move that the United States also requested, following the formation of the National Police Reserve and National Safety Forces. The government established the SDF by presenting a new interpretation of the Constitution that the right of self-defense and the existence of the SDF are recognized by the supreme law. This was a proper decision as an independent state.

Amid the ensuing confrontation between conservative and progressive elements in the Diet, the SDF continued to be criticized as “unconstitutional” and was not highly regarded.

A turning point was the end of the Cold War between Eastern and Western blocs. The SDF began to take on a new mission of international peace cooperation activities against the backdrop of frequent eruptions of regional conflicts.

After sending minesweepers to the Persian Gulf for the first time in 1991, the SDF took part in U.N. peacekeeping operations in Cambodia and elsewhere. They also engaged in refueling missions in the Indian Ocean and reconstruction assistance in Iraq following the enactment of the special antiterrorism law.

We appreciate the SDF’s steadily accumulated international contributions.

Stumbling block

Serving as a constant constraint on the SDF’s international activities was concern over whether they would amount to “an integration of the use of force,” which is banned by the Constitution. The government managed to realize the SDF activities in the Indian Ocean and Iraq by asserting that they would be limited to “noncombat zones,” a piece of last-resort logic that could be understood only domestically.

After the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the significance of SDF relief activities in disaster-affected areas was recognized.

Given North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and China’s continued provocative acts around the Senkaku Islands, the SDF’s peacetime warning and surveillance mission has become even more important.

The government and ruling parties have been reviewing the constitutional interpretation to make it possible to allow a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. This is an indispensable step to buttress the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The range of SDF activities that would be regarded as “integration of the use of force” would be limited to action in battlegrounds, thus likely allowing “an urgent rescue mission” to help foreign troops. This will significantly contribute to expanding the SDF’s international activities.

In addition to the change in constitutional interpretation, establishment of relevant laws is essential to define SDF activities.

The government and ruling parties will tackle legislative steps in an extraordinary Diet session in autumn and onward. 政府・与党は秋の臨時国会以降、着実に取り組むべきだ。

It must be taken to heart that the Constitution will have to be revised in the near future to mention the existence of the SDF explicitly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2014)

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2014年7月 1日 (火)

国際教員調査 時短は事務作業の見直しから

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Schools should find ways to ease demands on overburdened teachers
国際教員調査 時短は事務作業の見直しから

Japanese teachers work long hours, but have little confidence in their ability to effectively teach students. How can we improve this state of affairs facing teachers?

According to the Teaching and Learning International Survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Japanese middle school teachers work an average of 53.9 hours per week—the longest among the 33 nations and regions surveyed and 40 percent more than the overall average.

Yet the hours Japanese teachers spend teaching classes are short. On average teachers taught for just 17.7 hours, lower than the international average of 19.3 hours.

The survey results make many of us fear that the crucial task of teaching lessons is being compromised. Earnest efforts are necessary to make teachers work more efficiently and become more skilled in instructing students.

Two major factors contributing to these long working hours are the administrative work demanded of teachers at school and time spent on coaching students in club activities. Japanese teachers spend more than half of their hours at school on tasks other than teaching and preparing for lessons—far longer than their counterparts in other nations.

Japanese teachers spend time working on a wide range of tasks, including but not limited to answering surveys from various organizations, collecting unpaid school meal fees and dealing directly with parents. As a result, many teachers are forced to report to work early in the morning or during holidays to deal with work that has piled up.

Time-saving measures

As a first step, teachers’ clerical duties are in urgent need of review. Some schools have been able to reduce administrative workloads considerably by unifying surveys that had been conducted separately by prefectural and municipal governments and introducing uniform document formats. Schools should study these examples.

It is also possible to lighten teachers’ workloads by encouraging teachers to exchange information via e-mails and by sharing information on computers. Schools should consider increased use of school clerks.

Efforts should also be made to lighten the burdens of overseeing extracurricular activities by hiring coaches from outside the school.

The fact that only a minority of teachers had confidence in their teaching ability is a matter of real concern.

While more than 80 percent of teachers surveyed globally responded that they were able to make students confident in their academic achievements, slightly under 20 percent of Japanese teachers felt the same way.

Veteran teachers, who were hired in large numbers in the 1970s and 1980s, are now nearing retirement. The current challenge for schools is to find ways to improve the teaching ability of younger teachers, who will be playing major school roles.

Many teachers have complained that their busy schedules prevent them from participating in seminars that could help them. Boards of education and schools alike should give consideration to teachers’ working schedules.

Another troubling statistic is the percentage of female principals at Japanese schools—a mere 6 percent, the lowest among all nations surveyed.

In line with the government’s target of raising the ratio of managerial positions held by women to 30 percent by the end of 2020, schools must work to promote more women to leadership positions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2014)

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社会福祉法人 地域貢献で存在意義を示せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Social welfare service corporations must step up role as local entities
社会福祉法人 地域貢献で存在意義を示せ

Criticism has surged recently against social welfare service corporations for failing to sufficiently fulfill their roles, despite having an easier time engaging in almost the same services as ordinary private-sector companies as a result of such measures as preferential tax treatment.

To reform social welfare service corporations that run such facilities as nursing homes for the elderly and child care centers, an expert panel of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has worked out a draft report containing a set of recommendations. The proposed report should be seen as a good opportunity to enhance the quality of their services.

Social welfare service corporations are nonprofit private-sector organizations based on the Social Welfare Law. They number about 20,000 nationwide. While being subject to strict regulations and supervision by administrative authorities, the corporations are entitled to receive preferential treatment in various areas, such as exemption from corporate tax and other public dues, and eligibility for subsidies to improve their facilities.

Bodies authorized as social welfare service corporations have played pivotal roles in the nation’s social welfare programs since the 1950s, but recently an increasing number of businesses and nonprofit bodies from various fields have been entering the field of social welfare services. The environment surrounding social welfare service corporations has been changing drastically.

Because of such phenomena as the rapidly aging society and the instability of employment, tasks that cannot be fully handled through the existing government-run social welfare programs have been brought to the fore, such as the need to provide care for elderly citizens living alone and supporting hikikomori youths who have withdrawn from society.

As things stand, however, few social welfare service corporations have actually been meeting these new challenges in local communities.

Reexamine mission

The draft report by the health ministry panel has rightly pointed out the need to make it obligatory for social welfare service corporations to engage in activities for the benefit of local communities. It is undoubtedly one of the principal duties of such corporations to address tasks in their fields that cannot be undertaken by profit-pursuing businesses.

The draft has also deemed it problematic that tokuyo homes, which are operated by social welfare service corporations for elderly people who require around-the-clock nursing care, have amassed as much as ¥300 million on average in profits.

It was quite reasonable for the draft report to stress as it did that the raison d’etre of the corporations would be called into question if they fail to make good use of such funds to provide their localities with better welfare services.

To make their activities more effective for the good of local communities, it is necessary to take such steps as expanding the scale of the corporations and facilitating joint operations by a larger number of corporations.

Worthy of note in this respect are social welfare service corporations in Osaka Prefecture, which have been cooperating with each other by pooling funds to jointly offer counseling support services for people in need. They have also provided people in straitened circumstances with livelihood expenses and food. Their activities can serve as a positive model for other social welfare service corporations.

Effective from fiscal 2015, the administration of some publicly run nursing care insurance services will be transferred to city, town and village entities. The law for helping disadvantaged people become self-reliant will also be put into force at the beginning of the next fiscal year, with city, town and village governments taking charge of providing the low-income residents with livelihood counseling and helping them find employment.

Social welfare service corporations are expected to be major bodies to be entrusted with such operations. This means that corporations must play even larger roles.

Some chief executives’ practice of treating social welfare service corporations like their exclusive property has become an issue. To ensure public trust, it is essential to enhance the transparency of their operations.

Only half of such corporations have disclosed their financial statements. As stated in the draft report, it is imperative to make it obligatory for the corporations to make them public.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2014)

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