ロシア次期政権 不安も伴うプーチン氏再登板

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 29, 2011)
Putin's expected return to Kremlin worrisome
ロシア次期政権 不安も伴うプーチン氏再登板(9月28日付・読売社説)

At a recent congress of the ruling United Russia party, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed his intention to run in the presidential election to be held next March.

Putin served as president for two terms spanning eight years until 2008. If he regains the presidency, he likely will hold the reigns of power for an exceptionally long time.

Incumbent President Dmitry Medvedev will reportedly become prime minister.

This transfer of power, widely believed to be based on an agreement the two made earlier, is hard to understand.

Medvedev has called for the need to establish judicial independence and promote economic reforms, including the development of cutting-edge industries.

However, he has not achieved these goals.

His expected exit from office likely will disappoint reform-minded intellectuals who had hoped he would stay on as president.


Resurgence of tight rule?

There are concerns over the new administration's style of governance.

While Putin was president, he strengthened law and order and achieved economic growth, successfully ending the chaos inherited from the previous administration of President Boris Yeltsin, under whom Russia's gross domestic product declined continuously.

This is a factor behind Putin's relatively high popularity among Russian people.

On the other side of the coin, Putin put principal industries under state control and placed his right-hand men as executives at key corporations.

He had no qualms about shutting down businesses that did not operate as he wished by resorting to extralegal means.

Media organizations were strictly controlled, and a reporter who wrote antigovernment articles was shot dead.

Rule over minority ethnic groups in the North Caucasus region was tightened.

If Putin merely adheres to similar governance methods after returning to office, he will not be able to resolve the knotty issues facing Russian society.

As for the crucial issue of the economy, Russia has not broken free from its reliance on natural gas and other resources.

The sudden dismissal recently of the country's reformist deputy prime minister, who had called for fiscal discipline, has created uncertainty about the future.

An increasing number of Russian people are reportedly thinking about getting out of the country.

The new administration will get bogged down sooner or later if it fails to promote democratization and economic structural reform.


Territorial issue still pending

Japan, for its part, will be watching closely to see whether Putin's return to the Kremlin will help find a resolution to the territorial dispute with Russia.

Last November, Medvedev visited Kunashiri, one of four disputed islands off Hokkaido, becoming the first Russian or Soviet head to do so.

His visit, timed to take advantage of the disarray embroiling the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, poured cold water on Japan's demands that the four northern territories be returned.

Putin has gone no further than admitting the validity of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956, which pledged "the return of Habomai and Shikotan islands to Japan after the conclusion of a peace treaty."

But some observers point out that Putin could begin to attach greater weight to Russia's ties with Tokyo as a check against China's rise.

Japan must develop strategic diplomacy vis-a-vis Moscow to advance negotiations on the territorial dispute.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 28, 2011)
(2011年9月28日01時31分 読売新聞)




It is unbelievable how time flies!

วัน ワン(平声3-3) wan  日
เวลา  ウェーラー(平声3-3) wee(i)laa  時間
ช่าง チャーン(下降声5-1) ch>aang  職人(ここでは職人の意味ではなくって、直前のเวลาを修飾する。あえて日本語に翻訳すると、時間ちゃん^^)
ผ่าง パーン(低声1-1) ph,aang  通る、通過する
ไป パイ(平声3-3) pai  行く
ไว ワイ(平声3-3)  wai  (速度や動作が)素早く、機敏に
เหลือเกิน ルア(上昇声1-5)カーン (平声3-3)  l<u(i)a kaa(*)n  過度に









ปลา プラー(平声3-3)plaa 魚
ป  頭子音 p
ล  頭子音  l
า  母音 aa



(Mainichi Japan) September 28, 2011
Rich Japanese should not receive tax breaks despite signs of fleeing overseas

A growing number of Japanese people are reportedly moving to Singapore where income and corporate tax rates are far lower than their home country.

A friend of mine who previously worked as a bureaucrat said celebrities were among those who have moved to Singapore.

I will withhold their names as it doesn't matter if they have chosen to live away from Japan.

However, the friend fears that higher tax rates will certainly prompt companies and human resources that are indispensable for Japan's growth to flee abroad sooner or later.

To prevent the outflow of key businesses and human resources, it is necessary to lower tax rates.

Corporate tax rates and the maximum rate for income taxes in Singapore and Hong Kong are less than half those in Japan, and these two territories levy no inheritance tax. In terms of tax rates, Japan cannot compete with them.

The friend warns that Japan will hollow out unless it substantially cuts taxes even though such a measure could stir criticism that Japan gives favorable treatment to businesses and wealthy people.

I share the rich exodus fears of my friend, but if Japan gives excessively favorable treatment to major companies and rich people, it will have harmful effects on society.

An article that Warren Buffet recently contributed to The New York Times has drawn worldwide attention.

In his article Buffet said he paid 17.4 percent of his taxable income as taxes, below the 20 percent that one of his secretaries paid, because most of his income is earnings from investments.

Buffet then called for higher tax rates for wealthy people.

Buffet was ranked second in U.S. magazine Forbes' list of the richest people in the country, while the Koch brothers, who own a petrochemical conglomerate, were ranked fourth.

(この部分英訳抜けです^^ by srachai)

Thanks to a rise in the prices of resources, the value of the brothers' combined assets has risen from 34 billion dollars four years ago to 50 billion dollars today.

However, it is notable that the number of employees at the company that the brothers run decreased from 80,000 to 67,000 even though they have become wealthier -- a fact that dismisses U.S. conservatives' claims that if the rich are given preferential treatment, less wealthy people will also get a small share of their benefits, eventually making everyone happy.

As the next U.S. presidential election approaches, President Barack Obama has ended his conciliatory stance toward the Republican Party and has become confrontational.

The liberal president has gone back to his principle of raising taxes for the rich and using increased tax revenue to finance public works projects.

The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is also regarded as a liberal, has adopted three basic principles of not saying anything unnecessary, not showing off and not standing out.

Can he overcome Japan's various crises with such simple principles? No doubt, Japan is set to hollow out.

(By Michio Ushioda, Expert Senior Writer)
毎日新聞 2011年9月28日 東京朝刊


医療情報電子化 被災地から全国へ展開したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 27, 2011)
Computerizing medical records will save lives
医療情報電子化 被災地から全国へ展開したい(9月26日付・読売社説)

The March 11 disaster has thrown into sharp relief the importance of making medical information such as clinical records digitally available.

The lesson must be reflected in future medical reforms.

Medical records at many hospitals along the Tohoku coast were lost in the huge tsunami.

Even when their patients were taken in by other hospitals, it took some time for doctors to determine the most effective treatments because there was little information on hand about the patients' ailments, such as high blood pressure, and prescription drug records.

Such a lack of medical information was also one of the major difficulties faced by doctors from across the country when they gathered at evacuation centers.

The lives of more disaster victims could have been saved if records of their examinations and treatments had been quickly confirmed online.

In its own disaster reconstruction plan, Miyagi Prefecture put forth "a medical integration plan utilizing information and communication technology."

The prefecture is divided into seven medical regions, each with its own core hospital, but the plan calls for making information about clinical records, prescriptions and nursing care electronically available and administering it in a streamlined fashion for all regions through a data center.

Authorized medical institutions and nursing care facilities would be able to access the information online via an Internet service.


Govt support vital

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry is considering subsidizing the application of cloud computing to medical records.
This would be a move in the right direction, and we urge the ministry to give it sufficient support.

Electronically available medical information is useful not only in times of disaster but also in ordinary times.

For example, cooperation between major hospitals and nearby clinics and between home-visit nurses and nursing care services could be made easier.

Superfluous medical examinations and inconsistent drug prescriptions could be averted.

Patients taken to hospitals for emergency treatment could receive the most appropriate treatment more quickly.

Computerization of medical information would also be helpful in regions suffering from a shortage of doctors.  医師不足に苦しむ地域医療の現状を、改善する方向にもつながるはずだ。

More integrated record-keeping among medical institutions would make it less necessary for local governments to maintain major central hospitals, thus facilitating a more efficient dispersal of personnel.


A medical reform drive

The shortage of doctors is most serious in disaster-damaged areas.

This is one of the reasons behind Miyagi Prefecture's call for computerization of medical treatment information in its rebuilding plan.

Iwate and Fukushima prefectures must make similar efforts.

Computerization of medical information had been called for since before the March 11 disaster.
The government's IT Strategic Headquarters, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, among others, have been trying to achieve such a system.

But actual progress so far has been limited to trailblazing hospitals and local governments.

Of course, sufficient measures must be taken to protect personal information.

High costs and other challenges must be overcome. But the creation of an online medical information on a prefectural basis would be a significant achievement.

We hope reforms in medical record-keeping, beginning in disaster-devastated areas, will spread throughout the country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2011)
(2011年9月26日01時04分 読売新聞)


パレスチナ 国家樹立と和平に近道はない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 26, 2011)
No shortcut to statehood for Palestinians
パレスチナ 国家樹立と和平に近道はない(9月25日付・読売社説)

For Palestinians to achieve the status of a true independent state, they have no choice but to negotiate with Israel.

They should bear in mind that quick resumption of negotiations is the key to achieving this goal.

The Palestinian Authority on Friday submitted a letter to the United Nations asking to join the international body, an attempt to shelve efforts to establish a state through negotiations and instead directly seek recognition of Palestinian statehood from U.N. members.

With this move, the Palestinians effectively thrust a letter of no confidence at the United States, which has been working as a mediator between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

For a state to join the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council must advise the General Assembly to accept it.  国連加盟には、安全保障理事会による総会への加盟勧告が必要だ。

The council plans to meet soon to discuss how to handle the Palestinians' request.

The United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, has expressed its intention to veto any council move to recognize Palestinian statehood.

But there are concerns the situation will become even more complicated if the council actually votes on the issue.

If the United States uses its veto, it will inevitably heighten anti-U.S. sentiment, destabilizing the situation in the Middle East even more.


Resume talks quickly

To avoid such a development, the international community must seek ways to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table as soon as possible.

The international powers known as the Quartet on the Middle East--the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations--presented a new road map to both sides Friday, under which Israel and the Palestinians will decide on an agenda for negotiations within a month and reach an agreement by the end of next year.

The international community, including Japan, must do its utmost to realize the road map.

The Palestinian Authority is acting hastily to obtain recognition as a state apparently because its people are increasingly disillusioned by the lack of prospects for building a Palestinian state 20 years after the start of the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinians managed to win autonomy under an agreement with Israel.

However, subsequent negotiations for a Palestinian state remain stalled.

In the meantime, Israel has built one settlement after another in occupied land Palestinians consider part of their territory for a future state, effectively turning it into Israeli territory.


U.N. application a last resort

The Palestinian Authority apparently filed its statehood application with the United Nations as a last resort to escape a dead end.

However, as U.S. President Barack Obama said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, it will be impossible to establish a Palestinian state or achieve the peaceful coexistence of two states without an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

There are no shortcuts to that goal.

The Palestinian Authority has a problem that needs to be resolved: Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist group that does not recognize the existence of Israel, rules the Gaza Strip.

As an initial step, the Palestinians need to settle their internal divisions.

In the increasingly volatile Middle East, Israel is about to lose its stable relationships with Turkey and Egypt, which have served as cornerstones for its security in the region.

To prevent itself from being further isolated, Israel must freeze its settlements in the occupied land, as requested by the Palestinian side, and resume negotiations for peace.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2011)
(2011年9月25日01時09分 読売新聞)


香山リカのココロの万華鏡:甘い言葉にご用心 /東京

(Mainichi Japan) September 25, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Don't be fooled by spiritual fraudsters
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:甘い言葉にご用心 /東京

Recently, the head of a religious group called "Shinsekai" (World of God) was arrested for tricking customers into paying for expensive "prayers" and "spiritual items." The transactions didn't happen at a cult hall somewhere, but at around 200 "healing salons" around the country. It's said that over the course of seven years, the salons received almost 18 billion yen from their customers.

I once saw on television an interview with a woman who went to a similar salon and paid over one million yen after the staff there tricked her with words like, "A prayer is necessary to improve your fortune." The woman was living in Tokyo alone and trying to make a career for herself, but she started to feel discouraged, that her efforts were not being rewarded. That was when the salon's advertisement of a "detox of mind and body" drew her in. The salon had seemed nice to the woman and had given her hope that she could maybe change her life for the better.

The kinds of people who fall victim to this kind of fraud are generally hard working, sincere types who are troubled by work, health, or love. They wonder why, even though they have worked so hard, they are not better rewarded. Before they know it, they are pulled in by fraudsters' claims that "the key to solving your problems is here." and they put themselves under the control of fraudsters.

Of course, the people most at blame here are the fraudsters, who try to make profit off of other people's problems.

Still, we who can become their victims need to keep something in mind: be careful of help or goodwill that comes with strings attached.

We have a tendency to think we mustn't depend on others and therefore push ourselves too hard. I think that it would be OK for us to show more weakness to others and let them know when we need help.

However, when we ask for help and those who approach ask for large sums of money or conversion to a religion, we should be on guard.

There is a saying in Japanese that "a drowning person will clutch at even a straw," and I can understand such feelings well. However, these days there is help on offer besides fraudsters and religious cults. There are NPOs and government-run counseling services for a variety of problems that trouble us. Though it may take some work to discover the one we need, it is a much better option than being drawn into a spiritual healing salon that promises on its signboard to solve all of our problems.

Almost all the things that bother us can be solved. However, it takes a little time and effort. Please be wary of tempting claims that a single prayer or a single item can instantly solve your problems.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2011年9月20日 地方版



--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 23
EDITORIAL: Summit a starting point for rebuilding Japan-U.S. ties

Japan's diplomacy is back at the starting line -- again.

During his visit to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with U.S. President Barack Obama.

They agreed to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Noda said proudly after the summit, "I got off to a good start in forging a personal relationship of trust (with him)."

Good. Obama has been in office for less than three years, but he already has met four Japanese prime ministers--Taro Aso, Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan and now Noda.

In this age when summits figure prominently in world affairs, such frequent changes of leadership cannot be conducive to the development of strategic diplomacy.

Nor could any true relationship of trust be forged between leaders in just one brief meeting.

Building mutual trust requires giving due consideration to each other's brief agenda while keeping one's word, and working together to meet various challenges.

Steady collaboration, backed by constant effort, is the key.

Noda has only just got to the starting line.

The biggest obstacle in Japan-U.S. relations is the relocation issue concerning the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.

Even though Obama was meeting with Noda for the first time, he made no bones about wanting tangible results.  大統領は初顔合わせにもかかわらず、具体的な結果を明確に求めてきた。

Noda responded that he would "do his utmost to win the understanding of the people of Okinawa" to act on the current Japan-U.S. agreement.

Washington's irritation with the absence of progress on the Japanese side is quite understandable.

But it is now obvious to anyone that "winning the understanding of the people of Okinawa," as Noda put it, is a pipe dream.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima recently spoke in the United States and demanded in no unclear terms that the Futenma airfield be relocated to outside his prefecture.

Should Tokyo and Washington forcibly implement their agreement, Nakaima warned, "There will be a vehement anti-base movement throughout the prefecture, and this could negatively impact the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty."

Nakaima's message, conveyed directly to people in the United States, carries tremendous weight.

If the security treaty is to be maintained in a stable fashion, Tokyo and Washington have no choice but to explore workable plans.

The practicability and resilience of the alliance are being tested.

In his foreign policy debut, Noda confirmed the Japan-U.S. alliance as the basis of Japanese diplomacy.

Noda is now required to confirm Japan's position in the multipolar world of international politics and pursue sincere but tough diplomacy.

For that, he must help create a stable order in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region based on a strong Japan-U.S. relationship.

In particular, he must attempt to mend relations with China, which derailed after a row over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea last year.

Noda is scheduled to visit China in October, and then he will participate in multilateral diplomacy through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in the United States and the East Asia Summit in Indonesia, both in November.

We hope he will use these occasions to produce a rounded picture of Japanese diplomacy.


政策決定過程 機能するシステムを構築せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 23, 2011)
Establish policy-making system that gets job done
政策決定過程 機能するシステムを構築せよ(9月22日付・読売社説)

The government and the Democratic Party of Japan are broadly rethinking their policy-making process.

The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his ruling party should establish a policy-making framework that can function effectively, drawing on the bitter lesson learned from the turmoil experienced under the governments of his predecessors, Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan.

The Noda administration has created a council of representatives from the government and the ruling parties in preparation for the compilation of the next fiscal budget.
The council comprises the prime minister, relevant Cabinet members, and chief policymakers and other senior officials from the DPJ and its junior coalition partner, the People's New Party.

The move is intended to clearly show the government and the ruling parties are ready and willing to act as one in putting together the new budget.

Noda has already said government policies will be finalized only after obtaining consent from the chairman of the DPJ Policy Research Committee.

He has also reinstated the DPJ Tax Research Commission, which the party scrapped when it came into power two years ago.

In addition, the prime minister has established a six-member council that will grant final approval for major government policies.
The new organ includes the prime minister, the DPJ secretary general and other representatives from the party's top three organs.


Party more prominent

Taken as a whole, the ruling parties are more strongly represented in the new policy-making framework than in the past.

This shows the DPJ has, in effect, retracted its pledge to ensure the government assumes the sole responsibility for policy-making--a promise that was trumpeted in the party's manifesto for the 2009 general election--instead of sharing that task with the ruling party.

The DPJ Policy Research Committee was scrapped by Hatoyama's administration, but this hampered efforts to smoothly coordinate policy, leaving many DPJ members strongly dissatisfied with their lack of involvement in the process.

Kan's government reinstated the DPJ's policy research panel, but only as an organ tasked with advancing policy proposals. Ultimately, the committee was merely used as a tool for party members to vent their frustration.

It is safe to say the attempts by the Hatoyama and Kan governments to better promote policy coordination ended up as idealistic but unrealistic slogans, due to the lack of experience and ability displayed in that undertaking by senior officials of the government and the ruling coalition.

We find it reasonable for Noda to reconsider relations between the government and the DPJ, apparently hoping to avoid going the same way as Hatoyama and Kan.

The current divided Diet--the opposition-controlled House of Councillors and the ruling coalition-dominated House of Representatives--can pose a dilemma for the government. In many instances, it will be impossible to translate government policies into action unless a consensus is formed between the ruling and opposition camps through negotiations.

Given this, greater policy-making power vested in the DPJ-PNP ruling coalition would benefit the parties when it comes to policy negotiations with the opposition camp.


Doubts remain

However, we have some misgivings about the new policy-making structure.

The ruling parties could come to hold more power than the government, leaving important government policies at the mercy of the ruling coalition.

The fortunes of the Noda administration depend on whether it will be able to properly deal with immediate tasks, including plans to temporarily increase taxes for post-quake reconstruction and raise the consumption tax rate to help rework the social security system.
Key issues also include whether the nation will join negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade pact.

Efforts by Noda to tackle these challenges at his initiative should not be frustrated as a result of resistance from DPJ officials and members.

The DPJ's top cadre, including party Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi and Policy Research Committee Chairman Seiji Maehara, should work together in harmony with the Cabinet to exercise sufficient leadership over their party.

The top echelon will be tested over whether it can make the DPJ shed its existing image as "a ruling party that cannot make decisions."

The Noda administration is also considering a plan to create an organ tentatively called the "national policy council" that will lead economic and fiscal management.

We hope the government will make clear-cut decisions about what kind of role will be played by which government organ.

If the policy-making system used by the government and the ruling coalition is vested with greater transparency and functions properly, we believe the opposition parties will find it easier to join negotiations with the ruling camp.

The prime minister must strive to set up a framework that would facilitate consensus between the ruling and opposition camps over policy issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 22, 2011)
(2011年9月22日01時55分 読売新聞)


サイバー攻撃 防衛産業狙った“戦争行為”だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 22, 2011)
Cyber-attacks on defense contractor are 'acts of war'
サイバー攻撃 防衛産業狙った“戦争行為”だ(9月21日付・読売社説)

The recent cyber-attacks on a leading Japanese defense contactor must be taken extremely seriously.

About 80 servers and personal computers of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. were found to have been infected with computer viruses after being penetrated from outside the company.

The hacked machines were at MHI's 11 key manufacturing plants across the country, including factories that produce submarines, destroyers and nuclear power plants.

The viruses are considered dangerous because they are designed to remotely operate infected PCs from outside to steal information.

IHI Corp., another heavy electric machinery maker, has suffered similar cyber-attacks.


A national security threat

At present, there has been no confirmation that MHI's product information has been leaked. But if defense secrets are stolen, it will have a grave impact on public safety and national security.

After being contacted by MHI, the Metropolitan Police Department has launched an investigation into the incident as a case of suspected espionage.

All-out efforts must be made to identify the perpetrator or perpetrators.

There is a high possibility the attacks on MHI were launched overseas.

The records of the infected servers showed they were connected with Web sites in China and Hong Kong.

An analysis of the viruses showed text in Chinese appeared on a screen for a hacker to remotely control the infected PCs.

When the National Police Agency Web site was inundated with a massive amount of data last September and July this year, 90 percent of the data was found to have originated in China.

Cyber-attacks on government organizations and businesses have occurred frequently in recent years.

The United States unveiled a policy in July that would allow the country to take rigorous measures against cyber-attacks, which it considers acts of war.

It is urgent to build an international system for jointly investigating cyber-attacks.


International cooperation network

The United States and major European nations have signed the Convention on Cybercrime to cooperate in such fields as the provision of investigative information.

In June, Japan at long last finished the domestic legal process needed to join the pact.

To deter cyber-attacks, it is crucial that affected parties share information about the damage incurred and use this data so damage can be prevented from expanding and security measures can be improved.

Questions have been raised about why MHI did not report the virus infection to the Defense Ministry immediately after it realized in mid-August that it had been attacked.

If information about contracts for equipment involving defense secrets is thought to have been leaked, contractors are required to inform the ministry immediately.

How will the government offices concerned--including the Defense Ministry, the NPA and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry--handle this case in which companies involved in defense and advanced technologies are targeted by cyber-attacks?

Their systems for working together need to be reexamined and strengthened.

In August, the NPA and 4,000 domestic firms inaugurated a network system to share information on cyber-attacks.

The public and private sectors should bolster their cooperation in such fields as fostering personnel with the skills to combat computer viruses.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2011)
(2011年9月21日01時27分 読売新聞)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 20
EDITORIAL: U.S. must play role of fair mediator in the Middle East.

Violence begets violence.

A series of wars, conflicts and other acts of violence that have occurred during the 10 years since the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the United States in 2001 have forced all of us to confront this grim truth.

The United States responded to the terror attacks by launching wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. During that time, the Palestinian conflict intensified while strife among religious sects in Iraq deepened.

Terrorists staged large-scale attacks in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

After the bloodshed of the past decade, the revolutions that unfolded in Tunisia and Egypt, where peaceful demonstrations by citizens toppled dictatorships, were all the more striking and amazing events.

The wave of democratization in the Middle East, which has come to be called the "Arab Spring," has brought a ray of hope to the region by showing that the cycle of destruction can now be replaced by the process of construction.

The former U.S. administration of President George W. Bush started the war in Iraq, saying it was determined to advance the cause of democratization of the Middle East.

As a result, elections went ahead in various parts of the region, including Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian territory.

Saudi Arabia held its first local assembly votes.

But no real progress toward democracy was achieved.

The elections resulted in increased political strength and influence of anti-America, anti-Israel groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and Hamas of the Palestinian Authority. After these developments, the United States stopped talking about democratization of the region.

--People standing up--

Autocratic governments in the Middle East took advantage of America's silence to roll back the movement toward democracy.

During Egypt's parliamentary elections last November, the authorities manipulated the vote to eliminate opposition forces.

As their authoritarian governments refused to embrace change, people in the Arab world became aware of their power to move their nations toward democracy and stood up against the dictatorships.

Libya, where protests against the regime boiled over into civil war, has started moving toward establishing an interim government.

The people are gaining political power not only in the countries where the old autocratic governments have already collapsed, but also elsewhere in the region.

Syria has been caught up in protests for the past seven months despite a ferocious government crackdown.

In another sign of the sea change occurring in the region, a growing number of women in Saudi Arabia are beginning to drive cars in open defiance of an official ban on female drivers. And women have been posting images and videos of themselves behind the wheel on the Internet.

There are also some troubling moves.

In Egypt, angry protests provoked by the recent killing of Egyptian soldiers by Israeli forces led to the storming of a building housing the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

There is strong criticism among Egyptians against such violent actions.

Demonstrations, when they spiral out of control, can lead to xenophobia, upsetting the balance of peace.

The country is susceptible to disturbances partly because elections have been delayed and there is not yet a legitimate parliament or government in place.

It is clearly necessary to quicken the process of democratization.

If elections are held, it is certain that Islamic groups will sharply increase their parliamentary strength.

We hope these groups will transform themselves from the opposing forces that they have been until now into responsible political entities that can play constructive roles in nation-building.

Egypt is facing a raft of formidable challenges, such as administrative reform to stamp out the corruption and cronyism that infested the authoritarian government. It must also tackle serious unemployment and housing problems among young people, who account for more than half of the population.

The Islamic groups need to grapple with these tough challenges by proposing specific plans to promote economic and social development.

There are concerns in the United States and Europe about the implications of increased political influence and power of Islamic groups.

But leaders in the West should regard the Arab Spring as an opportunity to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between their countries and Islamic forces.
They need to support the Arab people's efforts to establish democracy and build new nations.

--Despite anti-American sentiment, U.S. must serve as a fair mediator--

In May, U.S. President Barack Obama declared, "It will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy."

That being the case, the United States needs to brace itself for likely manifestations through elections of the antagonism and hatred toward Americans that have grown among people in the Middle East over the past 10 years.

People across the Islamic world saw the Iraq War, which Washington cast as a fight for "liberalization," as an act of "invasion."

While the Bush administration claimed it was fighting a "war against terrorism," many Arab people supported attacks against the United States as "jihad."

Under pro-American dictatorships in the region, anti-American feelings among people were suppressed for decades.

But such public sentiment can no longer be kept in check.

It is vital for the United States to start serious efforts to build from scratch relations based on mutual trust with people in the Middle East.
The country's ties with the region have been seriously damaged through the flawed war against terror.

Washington should insist that Persian Gulf states which still maintain iron-fisted rule to start moving toward democracy.

It should also make all-out efforts to solve the Palestinian problem, which is at the heart of the caldron of violence in the Middle East.

The U.S. administration's Middle East policy will face an important test soon when the Palestine Liberation Organization submits an application for recognition of Palestinian statehood to the U.N. Security Council.

The Obama administration has vowed to veto the request for Palestinian statehood.

But it must remember that Obama, in a speech delivered in September last year to the U.N. General Assembly, said, "When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that can lead to a new member of the United Nations--an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."

The Middle East peace process was disrupted mainly by Israel's move to restart settlement construction.

Washington could trigger a fresh wave of anti-American protests in the region if it only vetoes the Palestinian bid to become a member state of the United Nations without making any effort to urge Israel to take positive steps to revive peace talks.

The United States needs to convince people in the Middle East of its commitment to playing the role of fair peace mediator. This can only be achieved through explanations and actions.

Its role is vital for the future of the peace process.

--Opening a new era in the Middle East--

The "Arab Spring" also requires Japan to start building new relations with those in the Middle East who have become the leading power in politics.

The region's efforts to seek cooperative ties with the United States, Europe and Japan and receive intellectual and technological support from these countries for their nation-building will help lay the foundations of democracy in the region.

We hope mutual understanding between the Middle East and the industrialized world will open up a new era of peace and prosperity in the region.


敬老の日 住民が見守り合う地域社会に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 20, 2011)
Disaster proves value of neighborly ties
敬老の日 住民が見守り合う地域社会に(9月19日付・読売社説)

The Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit hardest in regions where the ratio of elderly residents is relatively high compared with the national average.

There are many elderly people among those who have taken shelter in temporary housing units in neighboring areas or moved to other parts of the country.

Respect-for-the-Aged Day is a time to reflect on this.

Efforts to help the disaster-affected elderly rebuild their daily lives will give important hints for improving administrative services for the elderly nationwide in the months ahead.

Japanese society is graying year after year at an ever-accelerating pace.

People aged 65 or older now make up 23 percent of the total population.

Over the next 10 years, the ratio will rise to about 30 percent.

About one in every six elderly people, or 4.6 million individuals, lives alone.

This number has increased by more than 1.5 million over the past 10 years, and 10 years from now, the number is projected to reach 6.3 million.

According to a Cabinet Office survey, 20 percent of elderly men living alone and nearly 10 percent of elderly women living alone said they have "no one to turn to in time of need."

We should foster new bonds to make up for the ever-weakening ties within regions and among blood relations.


A prototype for tomorrow

In this sense, the challenge of rebuilding disaster-affected communities in ways that do not leave elderly residents feeling lonely may help us find ways to better deal with the rapid graying of society as a whole.

For instance, in disaster-affected areas, attempts are now under way to provide people with housing that harks back to life in row-house neighborhoods where residents would keep a kindly eye on each other.

The city government of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, in cooperation with the Institute of Gerontology of the University of Tokyo, has built temporary housing units designed to help residents foster neighborly contact.

With the entrances of the houses facing each other and a roofed wooden deck linking them, these homes were arranged so residents would be able to visit each other with ease.

The residents are also provided with nursing care service for the elderly and play space for children. It is the sort of community where various generations of people, not only the elderly but also families with children, can help each other.

This is a concept that can be utilized not merely in temporary housing units but also for town planning in the future.


Visitors provide human touch

In Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, city workers called "shopping and lifestyle supporters" visit temporary housing units and sell food and daily goods out of a bicycle trailer.

The service is primarily designed to offer everyday living support for elderly or disabled evacuees who are disadvantaged in doing their daily shopping. But the workers are also hearing how people are doing, learning what they need and watching over them.

The program is also a welfare-oriented, job-creating measure.

Such efforts in disaster-affected areas serve as important models for measures to be taken more widely in the months ahead.

Local governments that have accepted evacuees into their public housing units across the country are also making efforts to build up regular contact by making door-to-door visits, so as to avoid such tragic situations as elderly people dying unattended.

We should use these experiences to create more communities that the elderly will find livable.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 19, 2011)
(2011年9月19日01時33分 読売新聞)


ホームドア 転落事故防止へ着実な整備を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 19, 2011)
Speed up installation of railway platform doors
ホームドア 転落事故防止へ着実な整備を(9月18日付・読売社説)

Little progress has been made in the installation of platform doors at railway stations to prevent passengers from falling onto the tracks.

Despite strong calls from people including the visually impaired to install the doors, railway operators have been slow to respond because of such hurdles as the high costs involved.

A study panel of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry recently proposed that railway companies preferentially install the doors at stations used by at least 100,000 passengers a day. This proposal should be used as a springboard for encouraging installation of platform doors, also known as platform gates.

For train users, safety at railway stations is a major concern. Railway operators must prioritize passenger safety over concerns about delaying train schedules. Every railway company must steadily boost efforts to install platform doors at as many stations as possible.


Mere 5% have doors

The government and municipalities have been subsidizing part of the costs for installing the doors. Such subsidies should be increased to encourage more stations to equip platforms with the systems.

A platform door is a barrier, usually about 1.2 meters high, between passengers and the train and tracks. The doors are designed to open and close automatically in sync with the train doors.

Railway companies are obliged to install platform doors when they build new stations, but their installation at existing stations has been left up to the companies' discretion as a nonbinding goal. Only 500 of the nation's approximately 9,500 railway stations, or 5 percent, are equipped with platform doors.

Although the ministry's study panel has called for priority installation of the doors at the 239 stations with 100,000 or more passengers a day, only 26 of the stations now have them.

Installation of the doors can cost several billions of yen per station if complete renovation of platforms is necessary.

In addition, there are a number of lines on which the locations and numbers of train doors differ depending on trains, such as limited expresses, commuter expresses and local trains, making it hard for railway firms to install platform doors that fit all doors of every kind of train.

There were 1,253 accidents across the country from 2002 to 2009 involving falls of passengers from platforms and passenger contact with trains.

In January this year, a blind man was killed in Tokyo when he fell off a platform at Mejiro Station on JR East's Yamanote Line, and another blind man was killed in July after falling off a platform at Tsukushino Station on the Tokyu Denentoshi Line in western Tokyo. A brush with death on railway platforms can happen to people with various degrees of visual impairments, not only those who are blind.

But there have been almost no accidental falls at railway stations equipped with platform doors.


Users set to bear cost

JR East has been installing the doors at all stations on the Yamanote Line with a budget of 50 billion yen, probably because the railway operator concluded the doors are highly effective in preventing platform accidents.

In a questionnaire given to train users recently by the transport ministry, about 60 percent of the respondents replied it is inevitable the public will have to bear part of the installation costs of platform doors in such forms as higher fares and taxes. A majority of people want railway station's safety enhanced even if it increases their financial burdens.

To prevent the misery of railway accidents, it is very important not only to improve railway station facilities but also for railway firms and related organizations to make such day-to-day efforts as calling for disabled people to be heedful of possible dangers at railway stations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 18, 2011)
(2011年9月18日01時11分 読売新聞)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 17
EDITORIAL: Tax increase plan 1st acid test of Noda's political leadership

The government has proposed options for a temporary tax increase to finance measures to rebuild areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The government Tax Commission came up with three different plans: increasing income and corporate taxes; raising the tobacco tax and some other levies in addition to raising income and corporate taxes; increasing the consumption tax rate. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda then narrowed the choice to two by taking the consumption tax increase off the table.

The government has estimated that about 16 trillion yen of new money will have to be raised over the next five years. The figure doesn't include the 6 trillion yen that has been secured for the second supplementary budget, but includes the amount diverted into financing the extra budget from some revenue sources earmarked for basic pension benefit payouts.

The government will first issue special reconstruction bonds. The money needed to pay back the debt will be raised through a combination of the proposed temporary tax increase, spending cuts and sales of state assets and other measures to obtain nontax revenues. The expected increases in national and local taxes will total about 11 trillion yen.

We have been urging the government to focus mainly on income and corporate taxes in the tax increase plan. We believe an additional income from a consumption tax increase should be used to pay for social security spending, which is bound to keep growing in coming years. We support Noda's decision.

As for the period of the income tax increase, the government's tax panel proposed two options--five years and 10 years. Noda has chosen the 10-year option.

If an increase in the tobacco tax is not included in the package, tax payments by individual taxpayers will increase by 5.5 percent.

Tax payments by companies will grow by 10 percent for three years. The 5-percent corporate tax cut and special tax breaks that were slated to be implemented this fiscal year will be curtailed.
The period was limited to three years in order to prevent the increased tax burden on businesses from causing negative effects on the economy or accelerating the hollowing-out of industries due to a growing trend among companies to shift production overseas.

Now the debate on the tax increase will move to the tax system council of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. After the party came to power two years ago, the DPJ abolished the council under its policy of promoting centralized and integrated policymaking at the government. But the Noda administration has revived the panel in response to complaints among party members that they don't have enough opportunities to get involved in the policymaking process.

There are still many DPJ lawmakers who are opposed to or are skeptical about raising taxes, including executive members of the tax council.

It is important for the government to make serious efforts to minimize the tax increase.

The measures that can be taken to do so are clearly not limited to the cuts in childcare allowances and the suspension of the plan to make expressways toll-free included in the DPJ's policy agreement with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. There must be other ways to trim government spending.

The government's assets that have been cited as candidates for sale include the government's stakes in Japan Tobacco Inc. and Tokyo Metro Co. The government's asset portfolio should be scrutinized closely to determine other salable assets.

If, however, the government, in a desperate attempt to avoid a big tax increase, tries to sell assets for which the conditions for sales are not good or borrow money from special accounts, it would be adopting a wrong-headed approach to tackling the challenge.

The principle that the burden of reconstruction from the disaster should not be shifted to future generations has already been confirmed in the recently enacted basic law for the rebuilding work and the three-party policy agreement among the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito.

In line with this principle, the government should be straightforward with the public about the need of a tax increase and try to seek public support for the step while making flat-out efforts to eliminate unnecessary expenditures.

The tax increase initiative will sorely test the political mettle and prowess of the Noda administration.


日本版GPS 宇宙開発の先導役目指したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 17, 2011)
Japanese GPS the next step in space development
日本版GPS 宇宙開発の先導役目指したい(9月16日付・読売社説)

The government's Strategy Headquarters for Space Development has finalized a plan to construct a Japanese version of the Global Positioning System.

The envisaged system is expected to stimulate various industries in Japan. The United States, operator of the existing GPS network, welcomes the idea of linking up with a Japanese counterpart from a security point of view. We expect the government to decide the details of the plan quickly, realizing it as the vanguard of Japan's space development.

The GPS, which is used in devices such as car navigation systems, analyzes radio waves received from U.S. satellites, using them to calculate the receiver's precise location on Earth. The GPS, originally developed by the U.S. military, covers the whole world.

The envisaged Japanese system would cover mainly the Japanese archipelago and surrounding areas. Four to seven quasi-zenith satellites would be launched for the system, which would fly above Japan and Australia in figure-eight loops.

This system has a few advantages. For instance, since at least one satellite would be above Japan at all times, there should be no blind spots. Also the accuracy of positioning would be improved, with the margin of error reduced to one meter or less.


GPS for various uses

In the case of the U.S. system, the benefits of space development have been utilized in many aspects of daily life, such as mobile phones. We hope more such benefits will be realized as a result of the establishment of the Japanese system.

For instance, the network would be useful in automobile collision-avoidance systems, navigation systems to assist aged or handicapped people and precise management of mechanized fertilization on large farms.

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, another possible use of the satellite system for disaster management has been attracting attention. Even if a disaster severs ground communication networks, the satellite system could obtain a broad array of information to assess damage. With the system, it will also become possible to proceed efficiently with the remote-controlled work of cleaning up radioactive contamination at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

China and European countries are also working actively on construction of their own GPS networks.

The Beidou navigation system, the Chinese version of the GPS, is expected to go into service soon. Japan cannot sit passively by and watch China's moves as it increases its influence in economic and military fields. If the Japanese GPS is promoted in other Asian countries, Japan can enhance its partnerships with them. The system would thus become significant in terms of security.


Problems for space project

However, there are more than a few problems.

First, it would cost a huge amount of money. Launching four to seven satellites would cost 170 billion yen to 290 billion yen in total. The government must find a way to give this plan a higher priority than other space projects that are currently deemed equally important.

Japan's space industry must overcome several hurdles before it is able to manufacture and launch satellites on its own.

In 1990, Tokyo and Washington agreed to procure commercial satellites by public tender to alleviate trade friction between the two countries.

However, if a U.S. company succeeds in accepting orders for quasi-zenith satellites to be used in this project, the Japanese space industry will get into a business jam. The government must ask the United States to consider this project as an exception to the 1990 agreement.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has expressed his ambitions for space development. He should exercise his leadership to solve this difficult problem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 16, 2011)
(2011年9月16日01時14分 読売新聞)


代表質問 与野党協調の国会へ転換せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 16, 2011)
Ruling, opposition parties need to cooperate in Diet
代表質問 与野党協調の国会へ転換せよ(9月15日付・読売社説)

The public is watching the ruling and opposition parties closely, to see whether they can do away with unproductive confrontation and cooperate with each other.

Representatives of political parties have begun to ask questions about the policy speech Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda delivered at the Diet.

Noda has been responding in a detached tone, similar to what he used when delivering his policy speech. Perhaps having learned from the bad example of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Noda did not get riled up at provocative questions. We understand his humble attitude in requesting cooperation from opposition parties.

Concerning the three-party policy agreement between the Democratic Party of Japan, Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki said, "I can't help but have serious doubts whether the agreement will be kept."

A key premise of the agreement was a review of the DPJ's 2009 House of Representatives election manifesto.
Tanigaki made this statement because Noda prioritized intraparty conciliation and appointed people who are reluctant to review the manifesto to key posts in the Cabinet and the DPJ.


3-party policy agreement

Noda emphasized again he would implement policies based on the three-party agreement. Concerning a review of the child-rearing allowance system in particular, Noda said, "I hope the three parties will sufficiently discuss the matter to work out a new system by the end of the year."
His remark appears to indicate that he respects the process of cooperation among the three parties.

However, concerning the resignation of Yoshio Hachiro as economy, trade and industry minister, Noda only said, "It is quite regrettable" and did not talk about his own responsibility in appointing Hachiro.

Noda previously said he put "the right people in the right posts," and we regret he did not explain his choices.

Tanigaki criticized the ruling parties for the fact that the current extraordinary Diet session will last only four days, saying they were "taking Diet business extremely lightly."

If Noda attaches importance to "thorough debate and dialogue" with opposition parties, he must acquiesce to all seven opposition parties' request that the Diet session be extended.


Realistic stance from Noda

Noda generally took a realistic stance toward immediate policy issues.

For instance, he denied "a dichotomy between zero nuclear power and promotion" of nuclear power generation, and sought to achieve the best combination of safe, stable energy sources.

He clearly stated the government will restart operations at nuclear power stations following regular inspections, once their safety has been thoroughly verified and confirmed.

It is a matter of course for him not to continue Kan's irresponsible "zero nuclear power" initiative.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational trade framework, Noda said only, "We will strategically pursue a conclusion of a high-level economic partnership agreement." He must swiftly decide that Japan will participate in negotiations on the TPP.

At this juncture, when the divided Diet has coincided with a national crisis, opposition parties also bear a heavy responsibility.

Tanigaki acknowledged recovery and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake as "a responsibility beyond party boundaries" and declared his party would cooperate fully with the administration.

In that case, Tanigaki should participate in discussions between the ruling and opposition sides aimed at early passage of a third supplementary budget for this fiscal year to finance full-fledged restoration programs.

The LDP is scheduled to shuffle its lineup of major party posts shortly. The party needs to have an appropriate executive lineup to conduct discussions with the DPJ.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2011)
(2011年9月15日01時13分 読売新聞)


所信表明演説 日本再生へ具体的な行動を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 15, 2011)
To rebuild Tohoku, first rebuild trust
所信表明演説 日本再生へ具体的な行動を(9月14日付・読売社説)

The Democratic Party of Japan-led administration and the nation's politics as a whole are now on the very edge. It is essential for the government to do its utmost to carry out important policies with urgency and seriousness.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda delivered his first policy speech at the Diet since taking office.

The stagnant state of Japanese politics has come under scrutiny by other countries. Noda said the trust that Japan has accumulated over the years is now at risk. He also said the government and the Diet should fulfill their roles "to restore hope and pride to Japan."

We have no objection to Noda's view of the current situation. The problem is how to take concrete action to restore trust and revitalize the nation.

In his policy speech, Noda said restoration of social infrastructure and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake are among his Cabinet's top priorities, and emphasized that the government will speed up the compilation of a third supplementary budget.

Six months have passed since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but restoration of social infrastructure and reconstruction of areas affected by the disaster have been significantly delayed. This is because politicians failed to exercise leadership and bureaucrats simply put the problem off.


Show respect for bureaucrats

An urgent task is to rebuild the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats. Noda needs to thoroughly instill among ministers, senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries a mind-set in which politicians and bureaucrats work on tasks together. The Noda administration can be praised for its decision to reinstate administrative vice ministers' meetings, which is a positive step.

It is important for politicians to set policy priorities themselves and take responsibility for the results, but it is also essential for them to humbly listen to bureaucrats' technical opinions, to motivate them and to elicit and utilize their abilities to the maximum extent.

Noda also announced in his policy speech that the government will establish a new body tentatively called the "national strategy council" that will gather wisdom from academia, government and the private sector to achieve economic growth and restore fiscal soundness. He will charge the council with drawing up by the end of this year a strategy to revitalize Japan.

It is proper and appropriate for the government to cooperate with the business sector to effectively deal with the hollowing-out of industry and the yen's surge after the March 11 disaster.


Undo damage done by Kan

Economic policy went astray under the administration of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan due to his impromptu responses, and trust between the government and business groups was damaged. It is vital for Japan to work as one to overcome the current national crisis.

Noda also announced that the government will submit to the ordinary Diet session next year bills related to integrated social security and tax reforms that include a consumption tax rate hike. He called for discussions between the ruling and opposition parties on the matter as quickly as possible.

To pass those bills under the current divided Diet, it is imperative for the government and ruling parties to approach discussions with the opposition with "seishin seii" (sincere spirit and just intent), a Japanese term used by Noda.

Yet, the ruling parties decided to hold the extraordinary Diet session for a mere four days, the better to dodge questioning by the opposition. This is unreasonable. The ruling parties must repair strained ties with the opposition by holding examinations at the Budget Committee during a Diet recess as soon as possible.

The Liberal Democratic Party and other opposition parties also should be aware of their responsibility to revitalize Japan as they enter discussions with the ruling parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 14, 2011)
(2011年9月14日01時09分 読売新聞)



(Mainichi Japan) September 13, 2011
Children's watchful eyes see though prejudice

There is a traffic light for pedestrians just outside one of the exits at Jimbocho Station on the Tokyo Metro subway system.

Even if no cars are seen nearby, most pedestrians strictly observe the signal because of a nearby signboard that says, "Children are watching your behavior." The notice appears to be effective.


It is painful to cover accidents and incidents in which children are victimized.

It would be horrifying to imagine what would happen if children saw adults ignore the traffic lights and themselves did the same thing.

It is important to feel children's watchful eyes in considering the government's slow response to the ongoing crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, as well as over groundless rumors about radiation contamination and some adults' insensitive behavior, such as the former economy, trade and industry minister's nuclear gaffe, which forced him to step down.

The minister's remark reminded me of another gaffe during a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly session in July 1976 when a medical expenses subsidy system for the offspring of hibakusha, or atomic-bombing victims, was up for deliberation.

A member of the assembly asked the metropolitan government if there was any way to "exterminate" hibakusha, which created a stir in the chamber.

A representative from the executive branch of the metropolitan government answered, "We'll continue to work seriously to extend relief to survivors," before closing the session.

In response to questions by reporters, the assembly member said, "If the number of hibakusha continues to increase, it may include those who took over the disease from their parents through heredity or those who falsely reported they are hibakusha," according to news articles at the time.

"For now, hibakusha should be allowed to receive treatment but they should be advised through administrative directives to refrain from having children until they have recovered completely," he said. He explained that such a measure would be good for the fiscal health of the nation.

The number of those who held hibakusha certificates actually increased in the 1970s and 1980s after applicants increased over that period. It has been pointed out that hibakusha became less worried about prejudice because they retired from jobs, their children found jobs or married and overall social prejudice against hibakusha had declined.

I'm the son of a Hiroshima hibakusha and started my career the year before the gaffe at the metropolitan assembly. I was surprised at his remarks, which reminded me that people who thought that way still existed.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki hibakusha had been forced to live in a gutter between longstanding information control during the U.S.-led post-war occupation and social prejudice.

There had been no organized campaign demanding relief for hibakusha until anti-atomic and hydrogen bomb movements began after crewmembers of the tuna fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5) were exposed to nuclear fallout from U.S. hydrogen bomb testing.

There was deep-rooted prejudice that radiation could be infectious. Many hibakusha have been denied entry into public baths because of that prejudice.

The former economy, trade and industry minister apparently did not use the phrase "radiation infection" to that effect. However, his insensitive gaffe has reminded many people of their sad experiences, even if they do not speak out about that.

Simply replacing the minister will not lead to any fundamental solution to the issue. The mental capacity of politicians is being tested.

(By Kenji Tamaki, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2011年9月13日 東京朝刊


鉢呂経産相 無神経発言での辞任は当然だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 13, 2011)
His insensitive remarks meant Hachiro had to go
鉢呂経産相 無神経発言での辞任は当然だ(9月11日付・読売社説)

The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda started with high approval ratings, only to suffer an immediate setback.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yoshio Hachiro resigned Saturday over careless remarks he made on his recent inspection tour to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the surrounding area.

While the nuclear crisis has yet to be controlled, Hachiro repeatedly made remarks that appeared to ride roughshod over the feelings of those affected. His qualification as the minister in charge of nuclear power policy was cast into doubt.

A chorus of calls for his resignation arose from members of the ruling parties plus members of opposition parties.

His resignation is quite reasonable. Noda himself shares in the blame for having appointed Hachiro as a Cabinet member.


'Here's some radiation'

Accompanying Noda, Hachiro made an inspection tour to the nuclear plant in question and neighboring municipalities Thursday.

After he returned from the tour and was questioned by a reporter at a housing facility for Diet members, Hachiro reportedly gestured as if to press the sleeve of his jacket against the reporter, saying, "Here's some radiation."

"I don't remember exactly what I said," Hachiro explained later. But as a politician who is supposed to prevent radiation-related rumors and misinformation from causing harm, such remarks and behavior are insensitive.

At a press conference Friday morning, he called the areas he visited near the nuclear plant "towns of death."  9日の記者会見では、視察した原発の周辺市町村を「死のまち」と表現した。

Those affected by the crisis must have been dismayed to hear their hometowns called "towns of death" by a member of the Cabinet, which should be doing its utmost to tackle the crisis.

At a press conference later the same day, he apologized for his remark and withdrew it.

Even regarding trade and industrial policies, Hachiro made faltering remarks.

Concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord, he said, "It is difficult to reconcile the elimination of tariffs and revitalization of the nation's agriculture," thus showing his backward-looking stance on the issue.

On nuclear power policy, he expressed his view that nuclear plants will, in principle, be eliminated in the long run, showing little understanding of the need for a stable energy supply.


Noda tries damage control

Noda tried to put an early end to the matter, probably because of his judgment that, with an extraordinary Diet session--his administration's first--scheduled to start on Tuesday, he might face a hard time steering Diet proceedings with the opposition raising questions concerning Hachiro's gaffe.

The situation whereby a key minister has resigned just nine days into the job is, indeed, a heavy blow to the Noda administration.

In another resignation related to the Great East Japan Earthquake, Ryu Matsumoto resigned as minister in charge of rebuilding areas ravaged by the March 11 disaster after making offensive remarks in July.

Public distrust in politics thus continues to grow.

In addition to Hachiro's gaffes, inappropriate remarks have been made by members of the Cabinet and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa has described himself as an "amateur" on national security issues.

Hirofumi Hirano, the DPJ's Diet Affairs Committee chairman, told his opposition party counterparts his idea of not holding a Budget Committee meeting during the extra Diet session, saying, "As the [newly launched] Cabinet remains in an incomplete condition, we cannot properly reply to interpellations."

The Noda administration has many policy issues waiting to be handled, including post-disaster reconstruction efforts, ways to deal with the rapid rise of the yen, and diplomatic issues.

Noda must rebuild his Cabinet quickly and make doubly sure that he is fully prepared to manage the administration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 11, 2011)
(2011年9月11日01時16分 読売新聞)


3・11から半年 復興へ政府は目に見える支援を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 11, 2011)
Govt must offer visible support for reconstruction
3・11から半年 復興へ政府は目に見える支援を(9月10日付・読売社説)

Six months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11.

Recovery and reconstruction efforts have been continuing in disaster-hit areas.

But the scars left by the massive earthquake and tsunami are so profound that many affected municipalities have yet to draw up blueprints to rebuild their areas.

In areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where evacuation orders have been issued, municipal government offices and residents were uprooted en masse. No prospect is in sight for their return home.

In his first news conference after taking office, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said recovery and reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas and measures to end the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant are at the top of his administration's agenda.

After inspecting the crippled plant Thursday, Noda pledged to Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato his government's commitment to swiftly decontaminate areas affected by radioactive material released by the nuclear power plant.

People in disaster-hit areas became increasingly impatient with the slow response to the disaster by the previous Kan administration.

The current administration must provide swift, strong and visible support for recovery and reconstruction of the devastated areas.


Debris disposal key issue

Nearly 4,000 residents died or went missing in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which had a pre-disaster population of 160,000.

With debris removal completed in the city center, shops have resumed business there.

Residential streets and principal roads have also been cleared of debris.

But in suburban areas, debris lies scattered on farmland and elsewhere and has been piled up in temporary storage locations.

Painstaking efforts were reportedly made to eradicate the swarms of flies infesting the garbage.

The dismantling of wrecked houses and office buildings will add to the heaps of debris, overwhelming the capacity of temporary storage places.

Through consultations with the prefectural government, the municipal government is accelerating efforts to build a new incinerator and select a final debris disposal center.

Disposal of the huge amount of debris hampers reconstruction.

The central government must do everything it can to reduce the financial burdens of local governments.

The reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture cannot be completed without ending the nuclear crisis.

Stable cooling of the reactors is under way and almost no new radioactive substances are reportedly being released.

By January without fail, the reactors must be cooled so their inner temperatures are stabilized at less than 100 C.

Decontamination is indispensable to bring about the day when evacuated residents can return home.

Even in areas not subject to evacuation, there are places where radioactive contamination is high enough to cause health concerns among residents.

Soil improvement must be carried out immediately at school grounds and on agricultural land.

Removing the surface soil up to a depth of five centimeters will reduce radioactive cesium levels to just one-tenth, experts say.

By replacing this soil with untainted earth, radioactive cesium contamination will be reduced to one-hundredth, they say.

The government should take the lead in promoting decontamination work without farming it out to local governments.


Disaster victims need jobs

Although production at factories and related facilities has begun to recover, the employment situation in the disaster-hit areas remains severe.

More than 70,000 people are estimated to have lost their jobs in the three disaster-hit Tohoku prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima.

Job offers have been on the rise as workers are being sought for reconstruction projects.

Many people, however, cannot find work to suit the job skills they acquired before the disaster.

As unemployment benefit payments for many of them will expire soon, it is vital to create new full-fledged jobs through a wide variety of reconstruction projects.

Hospitals and nursing care facilities sustained tremendous damage in the disaster.

Even before the disaster, the affected regions have long suffered a serious shortage of doctors, and the region's residents have continued to age.

Although a number of medical and nursing care professionals have provided emergency support over the past six months, this cannot continue for much longer.

Making the best possible use of such information technologies as electronic patient files and deploying medical personnel efficiently would make medical and nursing care services more effective.

The government should take speedy legislative steps and extend financial assistance to set up a medical and nursing service special zone to provide advanced services by an adequate number of medical professionals.

Construction of temporary housing has made considerable progress, allowing many disaster victims to move out of evacuation centers.

However, it is important to provide the victims with a proper range of care after they move into temporary housing or other publicly operated housing facilities.

After the Great Hanshin Earthquake, many elderly persons died after being left unattended in temporary housing. 阪神大震災では仮設や「復興住宅」で高齢者の孤独死が相次いだ。

This should never be repeated.


Preparedness essential

As of Friday, the number of deaths in the Great East Japan Earthquake stood at 15,780, while 4,122 remain missing.

We sincerely pray for the souls of those who perished in the disaster and hope that those still missing will be found as soon as possible.

In Japan, which can be called a "disaster archipelago," Typhoon No. 12 left more than 100 people dead or missing earlier this month.

We are sure many people in the past six months have felt anew the horror of natural disasters and the importance of preparing such calamities.

On Sept. 1, Disaster Prevention Day, about 510,000 people took part in disaster drills in 35 prefectures, including Tokyo and Hokkaido.

Some companies and public organizations carried out such practical exercises as confirming the safety of all personnel, as well as drills conducted on the assumption that many of their personnel were unable to return home in the aftermath of a massive disaster.

In its most recent opinion survey, The Yomiuri Shimbun asked people what measures they had taken after the March 11 disaster. Allowed multiple answers, many respondents cited "stockpiling of drinking water and food" and "confirmation of how family members can keep in touch with each other" in the event of a disaster.

Asked what they wanted the central and local governments to do in the event of a disaster, more than 50 percent of the respondents replied--again allowed multiple answers--they wanted "safety measures taken at nuclear power plants" and "ensuring safe evacuation routes and evacuation facilities."

We believe the lessons learned from the March 11 disaster should better prepare people in the future to swiftly and safely evacuate in the event of a disaster and to cooperate more closely with each other to deal with any hardships they might encounter.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 10, 2011)
(2011年9月10日01時28分 読売新聞)