(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