(Sep. 27, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan's message should be clearly transmitted
首相国連演説 日本の「言葉」を発信せよ(9月27日付・読売社説)

Taro Aso has made his diplomatic debut as prime minister. We hope he will play a leading role in sending a clear message to domestic and foreign audiences concerning what Japan attaches importance to and what it will try to accomplish in the international community.

Aso delivered a speech at the 63rd U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, becoming the first Japanese prime minister to address the meeting since 2005.

"Peace and happiness are most certainly within our grasp through the pursuit of economic prosperity and democracy," Aso said. "I am determined to work in solidarity with countries holding fundamental values in common and to share Japan's experiences with nations strongly needing such support."

Aso's remarks reflect the basic stance of Japan's diplomacy: The country will actively support the growth of developing countries' economies and institutions, and contribute to rooting out poverty and terrorism.

The fact that it is the world's second-largest economy enables Japan to have its voice heard in the international community. But the country slipped to fifth place among official development assistance donors in 2007, mainly due to its deteriorating fiscal condition. If Aso is to strengthen foreign aid, as he has said he wants to do, it is indispensable to ensure Japan's economic growth first.


Reform of UNSC needed

As foreign minister under the administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Aso spelled out his diplomatic policy, which upholds universal values, including freedom, democracy and human rights, and supports the economic development and democratization of Eastern Europe and central Asia.

Imposing one's values on another country is bound to draw opposition from that country. Diplomacy needs width and depth.

But Aso's willingness to spell out Japan's diplomatic philosophy is important.

Reform of the U.N. Security Council, including Japan's bid to gain permanent membership, is important for the national interest. Fresh intergovernmental negotiations on expanding the Security Council will start by the end of February. Japan urgently needs to evolve a strategy centering on "an expansion of both permanent and nonpermanent membership," which Aso stressed in his speech.
1 〈論理・意見・計画などを〉徐々に発展[展開]させる;〈結論・法則などを〉導き出す
~ a new plan from a casual remark  ふとした発言から新計画を発展させる.
2 〈におい・蒸気などを〉発する,放出する.
3 〔生〕…を進化させる.
━ 昿[Ⅰ(慱)]
1 発展[進化]する;〈作品の筋が〉進展する
The balloon ~d into the airship. [=The airship ~d from [out of] the balloon.]  気球が発展して飛行船ができた.
2 〔生〕進化する.
語源 ラテン語Ivolvere (I-外に+volvere回転する=回転して解く→展開する)

If Japan is elected as one of the 10 new nonpermanent members of the Security Council in October, it would serve a two-year term, starting from January.


Refueling job must continue

Aso also declared in his speech, "Japan will continue into the future to stand side by side with the international community and participate proactively in the fight against terrorism."

To conduct its active U.N. diplomacy, Japan should continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. Japan must shoulder a fair burden if it is to contribute to international peace cooperation activities and maintain the Japan-U.S. security alliance, which Aso clarified in his speech as an "unchangeable cornerstone" of Japan's diplomacy.

Referring to the government's interpretation of the Constitution, which bans the country from exercising the right of the collective self-defense, Aso told reporters in New York on Thursday, "Basically, it should be changed."

In June, a panel of experts discussing the right of the collective self-defense, which was set up by Abe, submitted a proposal to then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda calling for a change in the government's current interpretation. The government should tackle this issue seriously.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 27, 2008)
(2008年9月27日01時52分 読売新聞)

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-27 10:27 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) September 25, 2008
Which politician will be the next cartoon hero?

Former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida was looking for the house of an acquaintance while visiting Kamakura when a child playing baseball on a vacant lot saw him, and shouted, "The prime minister's here!"

One of his playmates, not taking him seriously, shouted back, "Why would the prime minister come here?" But the child who had seen Yoshida said, "But he looks just like the cartoon character." Yoshida himself was fond of retelling this story.

Indeed, Yoshida was caricatured in countless cartoons, and when he retired, one cartoonist came out with a cartoon in which cartoonists express their gratitude to the prime minister.

His grandson, Liberal Democratic Party President and Prime Minister Taro Aso, who is himself a cartoon fan, has finally acquired the throne that allows him to become the hero of a political cartoon. In a crowded field of five, Aso won two-thirds of the votes cast in the LDP presidential election, and cruised to a landslide victory.

Aso takes the helm of a party that has been peering over the precipice because its two previous leaders abandoned the reins of government. But the new prime minister's plans for opposing Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa, who on the previous day had unveiled his own platform, are falling into place. Without a doubt, the LDP is reading from a playbook that calls for the selection of a new party president to jumpstart the party's sagging approval ratings, and the pumping up of the new leader's popularity as he heads into the general election.

But in the interim, the U.S. financial crisis and the tainted rice scandal have snowballed. Holding the party presidential election in the midst of these events left people with the impression that Japanese politics was incapable of mustering a response.

Shigeru Yoshida hated election campaigns. When his campaign strategists urged him to deliver speeches on the street, he refused, saying, "How can I speak on affairs of state where there is constant horse and car traffic!" But today, the LDP's popularity depends on the constant traffic of new party presidents. It just so happens that Ozawa's father, Saeki Ozawa, a masterful politician, was a close associate of Yoshida's. So of these two party leaders with a connection to Yoshida, who will survive to become the hero of a political cartoon? ("Yoroku," a front page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-26 13:30 | 英字速報


(Sep. 26, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aircraft carrier to aid stability in Asia
米原子力空母 アジア安定に役立つ日本配備(9月26日付・読売社説)

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrived Thursday at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, a deployment expected to contribute not only to the defense of Japan but also to peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region.

The carrier replaces the conventional aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, which was deployed at the base in 1998, but is to be decommissioned due to its age. Its replacement marks the first U.S. nuclear-powered military vessel deployed to Japan.

Commissioned in 1992, the George Washington is the fourth youngest of the U.S. Navy's 11 aircraft carriers. The ship has 75 planes on board and about 6,000 crew members, including pilots.

It is capable of engaging in military operations longer than conventional carriers as its power is generated by nuclear reactors. Its acceleration when setting sail also is much faster than that of conventional carriers.


A powerful deterrent

The deployment in Japan of an aircraft carrier with better capabilities strengthens the deterrent potential of the U.S. military. The presence of the U.S. military in Japan is a cornerstone of the Japan-U.S. security alliance, and an aircraft carrier plays a pivotal role.

When a presidential election was held in Taiwan in March, the Kitty Hawk and another U.S. aircraft carrier conducted an exercise in waters east of Taiwan as a show of force. The drill was believed to be aimed at preventing China from taking any action similar to a missile drill it conducted in the Taiwan Strait in 1996 to demonstrate its power when Taiwan held its first presidential election.

Meanwhile, it is necessary to ensure safety regarding the nuclear-powered vessel.

In May, unauthorized smoking by a crew member aboard the George Washington sparked a fire, which resulted in the demotions of the captain and the executive officer. Due to necessary repair work, the carrier's deployment to Yokosuka was delayed by more than a month. Though the nuclear reactors were not damaged, it shows that an accident can be caused by simple misdeeds.


Easing public concerns

It was revealed in August that the nuclear-powered submarine USS Houston had leaked small amounts of radioactive substances from a water valve for more than two years, during which the submarine made Japanese port calls on 11 occasions.

The concentration of leaked radioactive substance was said to be about the same as what exists naturally in the ocean. The total amount of radiation leaked during the Japanese port calls is said to be far less than the amount released during one X-ray of the chest.

Even if this is so, the Japanese government must continue to urge the United States to take the utmost care in safety management of the aircraft carrier if it wants to dispel the anxieties of local residents and other people concerned. It also should proactively respond to requests to disclose information about accidents and other matters of public interest.

The Yokosuka city government approved in June 2006 the deployment of a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier and later signed a memorandum on disaster management with the U.S. military stationed in Japan. Last November, Japan and the United States conducted a joint disaster management drill.

A high-ranking U.S. Navy officer says that the navy's philosophy is to swiftly deal with any matter while it is still small to prevent it from developing into a major problem. To accomplish this, the two nations should make further efforts to establish a relationship of trust through joint drills and candid exchanges of opinions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2008)
(2008年9月26日01時45分 読売新聞)

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-26 09:12 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) September 25, 2008
Poor political reportage promotes poor politics and politicians

Taro Aso, who was elected prime minister on Wednesday, shares his deep feelings with a close friend: "I don't think ordinary people understand the anguish of extremely rich people."

Even though Aso occasionally assumes a persona where he "pretends" to be a bad guy, it appears that this is actually his true nature.

The way he considers himself to be someone born to a special fate, and his confidence that he has experienced hardships that nobody else knows reveal a deep psychological condition.
How he will control the government appears likely to depend on this warped self-confidence.

I talk about such a thing because I wondered why Yasuo Fukuda, who resigned as prime minister on Wednesday, had decided to dump his government in an irresponsible manner and later acted selfishly. It all leads to the conclusion that he was not qualified to be prime minister. Many political reporters realized this fact, but did they clearly report it?

After Fukuda announced his decision to resign, the Mainichi Shimbun reported that as early as April he was tired of being prime minister. Nevertheless, the Mainichi Shimbun at the same time carried other articles saying that the prime minister was enthusiastic about his work.
Even though Fukuda displayed a mixture of aggressive and feeble attitudes, I cannot help but admit that these reports were incorrect. This is because the reporters failed to get to the bottom of Fukuda's real intentions and simply believed what his aides said.

Since Junichiro Koizumi was in office, brief interviews with the prime ministers at their office, which were limited to twice a day, had continued for seven years. This set a bad precedent for political reporters who have now come to believe that such brief interviews are enough to write articles.
Reporters were criticized for failing to ask tough questions during the news conference at which Fukuda announced his decision to resign because they were asking questions as if the news conference was just another one of the brief interviews at the prime minister's office.
People often talk about the political crisis, but it's largely because of the crisis of political news coverage. (By Tomonaga Ito, Political News Writer, Mainichi Shimbun)

毎日新聞 2008年9月24日 東京朝刊

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-25 14:09 | 英字速報


(Sep. 25, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aso must outline plan for 'radiant, strong' state
麻生内閣発足 「明るく強い国」をどう造る(9月25日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Taro Aso's new Cabinet was inaugurated Wednesday night. But it sets out under unusual circumstances, with the dissolution of the House of Representatives and a subsequent general election just around the corner.

The question now is what Aso--the 59th man to serve as prime minister--should do to maintain the nation's vigor.

To ensure he can do so, he must present a blueprint mapping out the nation's politics and diplomacy as quickly as possible.
(麻生首相はこれから先の国内政策と外交政策につき明確な青写真を国民に示さなければならない by srachai)

Announcing the lineup of his Cabinet himself at a press conference, Aso stressed that he is determined to make Japan a "radiant and strong country." He apparently believed it was important to deliver such a message directly to the public rather than leaving it to the chief cabinet secretary.


3 principles for governance

On appointing his Cabinet ministers, Aso instructed them "to promote policies for the benefit of the people," "to make the best use of bureaucrats" and "to devote efforts to the national interest rather than that of government ministries." These are apparently being dubbed "Aso's three principles" and he said he will make them the cornerstone of his policies.

Aso named former Education, Science and Technology Minister Takeo Kawamura as chief cabinet secretary, a pivotal role in the Cabinet. As with the appointment of Hiroyuki Hosoda as Liberal Democratic Party secretary general, picking Kawamura indicates that Aso took into account his practical skills, which are highly thought of within the party.

Aso retained Kaoru Yosano, who was a contender in Monday's LDP presidential election, as state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy and named former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba as agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister. These appointments suggest Aso also hopes to build a united party by ensuring ministers are matched with positions suited to their policymaking abilities.

In addition, Aso gave Cabinet posts to many of those who contributed to his victory in the party presidential race. Shoichi Nakagawa, finance minister and state minister in charge of financial services; Kunio Hatoyama, internal affairs and communications minister; and Akira Amari, state minister in charge of administrative reform, all supported Aso and contributed to his winning the presidential election.

Meanwhile, the prime minister named Yuko Obuchi, 34, who is in her third term in the lower house, as state minister in charge of the declining birthrate. She becomes the youngest ever postwar cabinet member.


Management in crisis

Since former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's abrupt resignation announcement on Sept. 1, there have been serious problems to contend with at home and abroad. The new Cabinet must check the government's crisis management system and try to perfect the management of affairs of state.

The financial crisis that originated in the United States is developing into a cross-border realignment of the financial industry that involves Japanese financial institutions. Meanwhile, the Japanese economy itself is slowing.

Given these difficult circumstances, agile management that unifies fiscal and financial considerations is going to be indispensable in guiding the country's economic policies.

Aso also has asked Finance Minister Nakagawa to serve as state minister in charge of financial services. He says, quite reasonably, that the dual appointment ensures Japan has a state minister responsible for financial services in attendance at meetings of the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors.

Meanwhile, police on Wednesday searched the headquarters of Osaka-based rice processing and sales firm Mikasa Foods on suspicion of selling tainted rice meant for industrial use as edible rice. The latest incident revealed government administrative processes are not functioning properly.

Incoming agriculture minister Ishiba should exercise leadership in cooperation with Seiko Noda, who retained her post as state minister in charge of consumer affairs, to ensure the safety of the nation's food and to regain the public's trust in the ministry.

Recent reports of the deteriorating health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il have caused confusion over the future direction of this autocratic state's decision-making.

Against this backdrop, North Korea recently began work restoring its Yongbyon nuclear facility that it had previously agreed to disable.

Meanwhile, there is currently no prospect of Pyongyang resuming its reinvestigation into Japanese abducted by North Korean agents.

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada need to reaffirm coordination with the United States and other countries concerned and give full attention to North Korea's actions.

Meanwhile, an agreement reached between the LDP and its coalition partner New Komeito on Tuesday incorporates economic stimulus measures, including fixed-amount income and residential tax cuts that were demanded by New Komeito. The two parties also agreed to review an unpopular health care insurance program for people aged 75 or older.

However, the agreement does not call for the financial burden the nation faces to be shouldered by the public, including through a consumption tax rate hike. And as for securing financial resources to fund ballooning social security costs, it simply refers to administrative reforms, including abolishing and consolidating local offices of the central government and ensuring budgetary allocations are not squandered.


Tackling economic challenges

Having said, "The Japanese economy needs three years to recover," Aso has accepted the government's fiscal stimulus measures to turn around the flagging economy. He also has suggested he will push back the target of achieving a surplus in the primary balance, originally eyed for fiscal 2011, saying, "Conditions have changed."

A review of the health care insurance program for people aged 75 or older was unexpectedly floated during the closing stages of the LDP presidential election. But this raises the question of how the LDP and New Komeito will remain consistent with their previous insistence that the scheme is necessary. Aso and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe should explain this properly to ensure there is no confusion among the public.

At his first press conference on assuming the premiership Wednesday night, Aso clarified that the government would raise its share of the burden for the basic pension to half from the current one-third from fiscal 2009. However, he did not present details on the financial resources available for doing so.

The new Cabinet should urgently discuss concrete measures for securing such resources.

If Aso's administration is to achieve the goals it has laid out, the LDP clearly must prevail in its upcoming electoral battle with the Democratic Party of Japan, headed by Ichiro Ozawa.

Aso is responsible for presenting clearly defined principles for the country's rejuvenation and outlining concrete policies for the public in his policy speech scheduled to be delivered at the Diet on Monday.

We hope Aso will engage in lively and constructive debates with Ozawa and other opposition parties leaders during their interpellation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2008)
(2008年9月25日02時24分 読売新聞)

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-25 09:53 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) September 24, 2008
Environmental challenges ahead for Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine world heritage site

Shimane -- In July 2007, Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine in Oda, Shimane Prefecture, became the first Japanese industrial site to be registered as a world heritage site. It gained high appraisal during the World Heritage Committee investigation for its "coexistence with nature" and "harmony with the environment."
However, environmental problems subsequently arose due to an increase in the number of tourists to the area. In response, local residents have made the bold decision to abolish a local bus service, which has been a precious means of transportation for them.
From this autumn, the people of Oda will make a fresh start with an even greater respect for the environment.

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine is valued for three main features: The remains of the silver mine, the town itself, and the routes to the port. The core zone of the heritage area covers 442 hectares, encompassing the towns of Omori, Nima, and Yunotsu. The most popular site is Omori, where people can see the shaft of the silver mine and areas of the residential town that remain from the Edo period. Most tours planned by travel agencies focus on this town. An amazing 714,000 tourists visited the site in 2007 when it was registered as a world heritage site, almost double the number of the previous year. This year, the number of visitors reached 560,000 by the end of August, which is equivalent to a 1.7-fold increase on the previous year.

The town of Omori is home to 390 people among 170 families. These people requested a "Park and Ride" system to Iwami Kotsu (headquarters in Masuda) last April to reduce the number of tourists' cars entering the town. People park their cars in a new free parking lot (with a capacity of 400 cars and 11 buses) 2.5 kilometers south of the area, and take a shuttle bus to the town. People are also discouraged from visiting the most popular site, the "Ryugenji Mabu (Mine Shaft)" at the foot of the mine by car. Instead, public buses (with a capacity 43 people) shuttle to and from the town area. Due to the increase in the number of tourists, the original nine round trips were increased to 18 roundtrips for weekdays and 35 for weekends and holidays. Along the narrow road where even passenger cars can barely pass, residents and visitors alike are suffering from exhaust fumes from the buses.

During the autumn tourist season, people flood into the town. "Weekday overcrowding turns into weekend chaos," sighs a community association official.
Although it is only 30 minutes on foot from the town to the mine shaft, many tourists choose to wait for the bus. Many full buses go by until we can get on," the official added.


Responding to the complaints, the bus company has increased the service, resulting in nearly 100 shuttles on weekdays. The buses are always overcrowded and the residents can't use them. Moreover, the residents have to put up with exhaust fumes, noise, vibrations, etc.
"It's not a local bus anymore -- it's turned into a tourist bus," complains the official.
It didn't take long before the residents called for action.
いつも満員のバスには住民も乗れない。「もはや路線バスじゃない。 観光バスだ」。加えて排ガス、騒音、振動。住民が悲鳴を上げるまで時間はかからなかった。

In December last year, Omori Community Council decided to petition the city of Oda to abolish the running of the local bus.

One week after the petition, a 110 cm by 50 cm rock weighing 80 kg rolled down the slope alongside the bus route, right in front of the mine shaft. It was midnight, and luckily no one was injured, but the falling rock was exactly what the petitioners had predicted might occur as a result of the vibrations from the buses. An investigation confirmed that work to prevent falling rocks would take about two years to complete, which added pressure to do away with the local bus.

So it was decided that the local bus service that shuttles people between the mine shaft and the town would be abolished. Although there were pros and cons to the decision, one resident stated flatly, "If we get rid of the buses, tourists and physically challenged people may be (negatively) affected. Still, we residents live here all our lives. We can't live with such anxiety."

On the second autumn after its registration as a world heritage site, Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine will switch its policy to promoting sightseeing on foot. It has plans to introduce two hybrid buses that use both electric motors and conventional combustion engines along the "Park and Ride" routes from next fiscal year.

There are also plans to introduce emission-free electric buses, although not as a replacement for the lost local buses. Instead, they will cruise around the world heritage sites, limited to a walking speed of 5 km/hour and yielding to pedestrians. On Sept. 21, the "ultimate eco-car" was launched at the site, too. Three velotaxis (motorized tricycle taxis) with the capacity for two adults and one child were introduced. The driver also acts as a tour guide.

The decision of this small town in the Sanin area was heard throughout the nation. The aim for "coexistence of a world heritage site with the environment" has also been included in the residents' charter of Omori town: "Our residents have to live here every day of their lives. We are committed to serving the people and Iwami Ginzan. We dedicate ourselves to conserving our history, relics and nature for future generations."

Yukio Nishimura, a professor at Tokyo University specializing in city planning, cites an example from 1995 when another travel spot, Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, had to build a parking lot over paddy fields following a rapid increase in the number of tourists after its registration as a world heritage site. "I hope that Iwami Ginzan will study the 'good' of various areas while avoiding the 'bad,' and become a place where people from across the nation can visit and learn."

毎日新聞 2008年9月22日 東京朝刊

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-24 18:28 | 英字速報


(Sep. 24, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tighten inspections on China-made food
メラミン牛乳 中国産食品の検疫を厳格に(9月24日付・読売社説)

It is hard to believe that a mildly toxic chemical could get mixed in with milk. But this is exactly what happened in yet another food scandal in China.

Several babies died, and tens of thousands of children reportedly have been sickened in the country, after consuming powdered milk tainted with melamine.

Adding melamine to milk can make it appear to be richer in protein, and Chinese dairy producers allegedly "supplemented" protein levels in milk by adding melamine to it after the milk was diluted with water.

This latest tainted food scandal has not been confined to China's shores.

Although barely any fresh milk or other dairy products are imported from China, a substantial volume of processed foods made using Chinese milk already have entered the Japanese market.

Marudai Food Co., a leading manufacturer of ham and sausages based in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, voluntarily announced Saturday that some of its products contained milk contaminated with melamine, and started recalling items already on the market.

According to the company, the amount of tainted milk used in the products was extremely small, and so far there have not been any reports of people being sickened after consuming them. It does not appear the widespread health problems in China will be replicated in Japan.

However, concerns among consumers will continue to grow as long as they are not able to distinguish between products that contain milk tainted with the chemical and those that do not.


Time to tighten up checks

It is important that all of the concerned food production companies quickly grasp what is going on and announce the results of these investigations as soon as possible.

It also is necessary to review the way in which imported foods are dealt with at quarantine stations. At present, inspectors look only for pesticide residues and bacteria, not chemical contamination.

Many cats and dogs died last year in the United States after eating pet food containing ingredients made in China. The culprit was found to be melamine. Yet Japanese quarantine authorities have not added melamine to their list of substances to be inspected for. This relaxed attitude toward potential chemical contamination must be abandoned and the possibility of such contamination must be assumed when checking imported foods.


China withholding information?

The latest food contamination scandal only surfaced after the Beijing Olympics had finished. Suspicions have been raised that the Chinese government might have suppressed revelations about the damage done, even though the effects were known about for quite some time, out of concern over the possible impact the scandal might have had on the Games.

The World Health Organization also said somebody obviously withheld information on the scandal. It is interesting to note that a major dairy products manufacturer that sold milk powder containing melamine was one of the sponsors of the Beijing Olympics.

In addition, the truth about the problem of tainted Chinese-made frozen gyoza in Japan has not yet been clarified. The government should urge China more strongly to improve the safety of Chinese-made foods and to disclose information on food contamination quickly.

Meanwhile, a series of food safety scandals also have been occurring in Japan, including pesticide- and mold-tainted rice designated by the government as suitable only for industrial use being sold for human consumption.

Concerned ministries, agencies and the food industry must thoroughly investigate these problems originating in our own country. Failure to do so will undermine Japan's ability to blame China for shortcomings on food safety.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 24, 2008)
(2008年9月24日02時11分 読売新聞)

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-24 12:14 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) September 23, 2008
Regulator tip-offs defeat purpose of safety inspections

Some baffling facts are emerging over how the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries conducts its inspections -- specifically, giving companies warning in advance.

Giving advance warning of inspections is like a pitcher warning a runner on base that he's going to throw a pickoff. He has no chance of getting the runner out; no, it's as if the pitcher doesn't even want to get him out.

Think back 40 years. In the Kanemi-oil PCB poisoning scandal, where polychlorinated biphenyls were mixed in with rice bran oil, there were vast numbers of chickens dying on poultry farms months before reports of humans falling ill.

When it was discovered that cooking oil used to create their feed was the cause, the ministry went down to their factory in Kitakyushu to perform an inspection, since animal feed is part of their jurisdiction. But after the operator told them the oil was "OK," they simply left it at that.

If, at the time, the Farm Ministry had contacted the then-Ministry of Health and Welfare, which was in charge of food hygiene, asked it to have a look -- just to be on the safe side -- the contamination could have been confirmed, and the damage to humans limited. However, they say that they were just staying within their jurisdiction.

In Akira Kurosawa's "Ikiru," the protagonist is a local bureaucrat hopelessly dedicated to his job yet stricken with an incurable disease. Making a fresh start, he vows to "stand first for the people, and go the extra mile as a bureaucrat, working beyond his jurisdiction."

At his funeral, his boss remarks smugly: "That's the kind of thing someone who knows nothing about local government would say." His fellow desk jockeys nod their assent.

The film was made in 1952. So much time has passed, yet the reality has not lost its color, because nothing much has changed. (Column by Kenji Tamaki, Expert Senior Writer, Mainichi Shimbun Editorial Board)

毎日新聞 2008年9月23日 2時32分

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-23 20:09 | 英字速報


(Mainichi Japan) September 15, 2008
Japanese diners enjoy 'Table for Two' with African children
知りたい!:広がるTFT ランチから20円、アフリカの子供に

Masahisa KogureWorried about metabolic syndrome? Why not curb your calories at lunch while subsidizing food aid for children in Africa?
社員食堂でカロリー控えめのランチを取って食事代の一部をアフリカの子供への給食支援に充てる「テーブル・フォー・ツー(TABLE FOR TWO=TFT)」運動が広まっている。

Such a fantastic idea has been made reality through a scheme called "Table for Two (TFT)." The movement, initiated in Japan, has been adopted in India and has prompted the United States and Britain to follow suit.
Through the program, diners at cafeterias of companies and other establishments participating in the project donate 20 yen each time they have lunch, which becomes food aid for African children. Why 20 yen? That is about what it costs to provide one meal in Africa.
So far, 61 companies and organizations in Japan are participating in the program, which is expected to improve their employees' health while making an international contribution.

While about 850 million people are suffering from starvation in developing countries, approximately 1.6 billion people around the world are overweight, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In order to balance such a disparity, Masaakira James Kondo, associate professor at the University of Tokyo, and other young leaders from political and business circles in Japan hatched the idea for the campaign. They named it "Table for Two," with the image in their mind of sharing a dining table with children in developing countries.

The donations are collected by the TFT secretariat and are then distributed to Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi by way of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and other international organizations.

Masahisa Kogure, 35, chief of the TFT secretariat, visited Uganda in early June. Driving for five hours from the country's capital, he reached a poor village in a mountainous area, where the only way to make a living is by growing bananas and corn.

At a primary and secondary school he visited, porridge was being distributed to children for breakfast. Their lunch was corn flour paste with soup of beans and vegetables.

Because children in the village are an important labor force for fetching water and taking care of goats, enrollment at the schools had been poor. However, the number of students sharply increased from about 380 to about 630 two years ago after the school started to provide meals to children.

"Our students started to talk about their future jobs and dreams," the principal of the school told Kogure, referring to the change that was brought about by providing school meals to children.

In 2000, the United Nations set the Millennium Development Goals, which are aimed at reducing poverty in developing countries. Seventy-nine villages in 10 African countries were designated as model regions called "Millennium Villages." The village that Kogure visited is one of them.

The recent rising food prices, however, appears to pose a threat to the U.N. program. Instead of using costly corn, the school started to reduce the amount of school meals and serve biscuits instead.

The school also started growing saplings of vegetables in the schoolyard in order to relieve the adverse effect from the rising grain market. The school also gives out saplings to local residents and asks them to bring in part of the harvested vegetables to the school as ingredients for school meals. Parents of the students also participate in cooking school meals.

"School meals prompted local residents to form a new community centered around the school. I strongly felt the importance of school meal aid," said Kogure.

Sumitomo Chemical Co., one of the participants of the TFT campaign, has donated about 600,000 yen through the program since the company joined the drive in May this year.

The TFT secretariat has so far made about 185,000 meals worth of donations to Africa, according to the organization. For more information, call the TFT secretariat at: 03-5771-4117.

毎日新聞 2008年9月13日 東京夕刊

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-23 11:01 | 英字速報


(Sep. 23, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aso must speak out, seize political spotlight
麻生自民党総裁 「何をなすか」明確に発信せよ(9月23日付・読売社説)

Now is a critical time for the Liberal Democratic Party. Taro Aso, the newly elected party president, needs to get serious and face up to important issues in a speedy and bold manner.

Aso scored an overwhelming victory in Monday's party leadership election to become the 23rd LDP president, defeating four other candidates--Kaoru Yosano, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy; Yuriko Koike, former defense minister; Nobuteru Ishihara, former chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council; and Shigeru Ishiba, former defense minister.

Aso is set to be named prime minister at an extraordinary Diet session that convenes Wednesday.

Aso's grandfather is Shigeru Yoshida, who served as prime minister for a number of years just after World War II.

The prime minister's post has most recently been held by scions of political dynasties, Yasuo Fukuda and Shinzo Abe, both of whom abruptly resigned. Aso needs to demonstrate his strong sense of responsibility and staying power.

Why did Aso defeat the other four candidates by such a big margin?

This was the fourth time for Aso to run for party president. Having his own small faction as a stronghold, Aso gained support from members of all of the party's factions as he went through three campaigns for the party's top post since 2006.

His upbeat and unique character attracted popular support. In recent opinion polls, Aso was ranked as the person most suitable for the prime minister's post.

Party members are pinning their hopes on Aso as the face of the party with the dissolution of the House of Representatives and a general election expected soon.

Unlike Fukuda, who lacked the ability to convey strong messages, Aso was evaluated highly for his communication skills.

Many LDP Diet members and local chapter representatives decided to support Aso in hopes of being on the winning side. As the cases of Abe and Fukuda showed, however, an overwhelming victory in a party race does not necessarily mean the winner can expect stable support from party members.


Face of party

In appointing four main party executives, Aso retained incumbents in three of the four posts. For the post of party secretary general that he previously occupied, Aso picked Hiroyuki Hosoda, acting secretary general of the party. By retaining the previous executive lineup, Aso appears to be trying to ensure a smooth transition.

Having elected Aso as party president, LDP lawmakers have a responsibility to support the new leader by building party unity.

The relationship with the LDP's junior coalition partner New Komeito is also important. The ruling parties' relationship soured in the final days of the Fukuda administration over such issues as a bill to revise the new Antiterrorism Law to allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force to continue its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and envisaged fixed-sum tax breaks.

It is necessary to strengthen the relationship with New Komeito to foster cooperation in the next lower house election. Reconfirming the two parties' ties is an urgent task for Aso.

Aso faces mounting problems. In the midst of the LDP presidential election, U.S. financial giant Lehman Brothers Inc. failed and stock prices violently fluctuated worldwide. Uncertainty over the economy has been growing due to commodity price hikes pushed by surging prices for raw materials.

There were news reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was facing health problems. Ahead of the news, North Korea halted its denuclearization process, which had been based on agreements reached in the six-party talks. It also postponed a reinvestigation into the abduction of Japanese nationals to North Korea by its agents.

The problem of illegal trade in agricultural chemical- and mold-tainted rice has expanded and developed to the point that the agriculture minister and the administrative vice farm minister resigned.

All of these are serious problems.


Political priorities

Aso, after he is named prime minister on Wednesday, has to pick people who are trustworthy and immediately respond to such difficult issues in forming his cabinet.

Yet, to fulfill his responsibility as LDP president, Aso's most basic task is to lead the LDP to victory over Ichiro Ozawa's Democratic Party of Japan in the next lower house election.

Aso had been labeling the LDP presidential race as an election to choose a "warrior" to face off against Ozawa. Immediately after he was elected the new LDP head, he emphasized, "I'll be able to say I fulfilled my destiny when we win in the next [lower house] election."

The lower house election, termed the Aso vs Ozawa election, will be a battle to determine the next ruling party. It will be fought on the basis of which party's policies are real and which are false.

In the LDP presidential race the five candidates debated various issues, which in some ways served as preparation for policy debate with the DPJ in the election.

However, there are quite a few issues that were not satisfactorily discussed.

For instance, how should the government fund its plan to take on a greater portion of the burden of paying basic pension benefits from fiscal 2009?

Raising the consumption tax rate may not be possible for the next fiscal year, but is it acceptable for the ruling party not to discuss the issue at all for now?

Doesn't the LDP have to show at least a blueprint for drastic reform of the pension, health care and nursing care systems to cope with the declining birth rate, graying society and declining population?

What should be done to pass a bill to revise the new Antiterrorism Law to fulfill Japan's responsibility to the international community?

As LDP president, Aso must provide a concrete and comprehensible answer for each of these questions.

Aso's unique characteristics will not shine if he repeats mealy-mouthed remarks out of an excessive fear of being nailed down on undesirable pledges.

As a national leader he needs to elucidate his policy goals and explain how he will achieve them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 23, 2008)
(2008年9月23日01時54分 読売新聞)

# by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-23 10:54 | 英字新聞