Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ospreys Over Tokyo?

Soon, it may be that we have those US Marines flying Osprey helicopters not only on Okinawa but also from Yokota, right next to Tokyo. Or so we are told. Of course they are just "studying" this at the moment.

I wonder where they would fly. East and over the capital of Japan? Or north, over
Saitama? And then? What would they be doing here, if not to cause a lot of anguish and trouble.

Or, perhaps, just straight up, and then down again...

Elevator flights bringing young recruits up and down again and again over that old US base, LOL.

NHK World:

US Air Force studying Osprey deployment in Yokota
The US Air Force is studying the deployment of the Osprey transport aircraft at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, in addition to a US base in Okinawa.
Commander of the US Pacific Air Forces, General Herbert Carlisle, revealed this in Washington on Monday.

The US Air Force is considering the CV-22 Osprey as a successor to its special operations helicopter now based at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.

Carlisle said Yokota was a leading candidate for Osprey deployment in Japan, in addition to Kadena.

If deployed, the tilt-rotor Ospreys will likely be used to transport the US Army's special operation troops.
The US Marine Corps already have 12 Ospreys deployed at the Futenma Air Station in Okinawa, with another 12 to be added in August.

The deployment has drawn local objections, due to concerns over the aircraft's safety record.

An Air Force Osprey crashed during training at a base in Florida in June last year.

Considerations of local sentiment in Okinawa are apparently behind the Air Force's studies of Yokota as a possible deployment site.

Jul. 30, 2013

There is not much secret I suppose about Yokota Air Base, they have a proper website.

That website however, has no comment about the news that maybe they will be hosting Ospreys near Tokyo. Where would one get such news?

Can you, good people living in Tokyo, even locate Yokota on a map? I don't think so. If you ever venture out west, it is in Fussa, in Tachikawa. Just 30 minutes or so west of Shinjuku, Shibuya... Never heard of places like Yokota, Fussa, Tachikawa? Well, time to learn about the history of Tokyo, Japan.

Meanwhile Okinawa is talking with Hawaii about the transfer of US Marines to US soil.

Not sure US citizens want them in Hawaii or anywhere else. Is that why they stay in Okinawa?

Okinawa's government has sent senior officials to Hawaii to discuss a transfer of US Marines from the Japanese southwestern prefecture.
The official in charge of the US base issue, Susumu Matayoshi, and 2 others left for Hawaii on Tuesday.

They plan to meet Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie, who proposed in March that most US Marines in Okinawa and their families should be transferred to Hawaii. The officials also plan to inspect US military bases in Hawaii.

Japan and the United States agree that the US military will move about 9,000 marines out of Okinawa. 2,700 are to go to Hawaii over 2 years from 2025.

Before leaving, Matayoshi told reporters that he will study how the governor's remarks relate to the Japan-US agreement. He also said he will see if the governor's plan would ease the burden of Okinawa's people.

The prefecture hosts about 74 percent of US military facilities in Japan.

Jul. 30, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Brutus: About Organic Farming

Surprise, surprise. Brutus goes organic and introduces farms in Denmark and Canada that do without agro-chemicals, be it herbicides or pesticides or any other man-made poison.

This is a glossy Magazine House men's style magazine with a long history here, that usually carries ads for expensive watches and hand-made leather shoes, so I was glad to see they devote quite some space to Yoshikazu Kawaguchi, a great guy in Nara I met some time ago, who practices natural farming in the tradition of Masanobu Fukuoka (and many others in the old days).

Et tu, Brutus, har har. Has it come to this? When more people care about food and the environment, I guess it will ultimately become trendy even among the people with more money than sense. Hope it is not another case of too little, too late. I like the 26 summer salad recipes, yummy. I'll label this as "progress" nevertheless.

Brutus # 759 (J)



Taro Yamamoto And Some Thoughts On The Election Results

Great to see Taro Yamamoto get enough votes as an independent candidate in Sunday's election. He has worked hard for it since 2011 to get into Parliament, when he had to split with his record company due to his anti-nuclear comments on the Internet. Good for him.

He paints a picture of someone like himself punching small holes in the huge concrete dam that is the current political situation, very inflexible and difficult to change. But even tiny holes can create a powerful leverage to crush that state of mind...

Not so great that the two green party candidates - while getting a lot of votes - did not make it. Also, not so great that Finland-born Marutei Tsurunen, a supporter of organic farming and generally a great guy, who spoke out against racism and took a great interest in the disaster prevention measures after the earthquake and tsunami, did not get re-elected. I wish him well, I have met him and Japan's parliament could need a lot more people of his ilk. Kiitos!

Blogger Temple Valley Times noted something I had missed - major newspaper Asahi's front page image of a great gathering of people is in fact from Yohei Miyake's rally at Shibuya Station in central Tokyo. Never heard of him? Seems there may have been something of a media blackout against this green party candidate. Says Temple Valley Times:

In the aftermath of Japan's recent national elections, some disappointed supporters of musician and Green Party candidate, Yohei Miyake, have blamed the loss of the progressive campaigner on what they believe was a virtual media blackout. This week Twitter was aflutter with folks decrying the lack of media coverage on Miyake and as evidence more than one sharp-eyed observer has pointed to this photo accompanying an election story in one of Japan's three largest dailies, the Asahi Shimbun.
The front page of the paper features a photo of  Miyake giving an electioneering campaign performance to a huge crowd in front of the entrance to Tokyo's Shibuya Train Station. While the article mentions every other political party, it spares no ink on the Green Party nor its main candidate who is pictured on stage in the photo. 
Despite any obstacles he may have faced in getting his message across, Miyake didn't do too bad a job for a minor party candidate in an electoral system that is geared toward the big party machines. In fact he actually garnered more votes than a couple of his winning opponents and if that sounds a little fuzzy, take a closer look at that photo again. 
On closer inspection it would seem that the paper has digitally erased the words on the Green Party banner in the lower left hand corner. I don't know if I'd call it a news "blackout" but it does seem to have been a bit of a blur.

Related post: Fanning Flames of Hope

But we have Youtube and other means to find out about these people and candidates, and while I can't vote, you may know someone who can. Yes, it may be a couple of years down the line.

Top image from J Huffington Post.

And here is a much better take on things, as they stand, from Ten Thousand Things:

Monday, July 22, 2013


Nuclear-free activist Taro Yamamoto wins; Yohei Miyake via YouTube & Twitter: "Keep the Motivation"...









YOHEI MIYAKE Melodious Campaign Speech (Greens Japan) 

Nuclear-free candidate Taro Yamamoto won an Upper House seat after losing a bid for a Lower House seat in last December's election. The actor also opposed Tokyo's entry into  TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) negotiations.

Short news documentary on Yamamoto at Shingetsu News here on YouTube:


Beautiful Energy's Jacinta Hin's translation and comment on Greens candidate Yohei Miyake's concession via Twitter:

"I/we lost, but I/we gained so much". He also mentions the need for international collaboration for world peace. He got a lot of votes. He is a winner for me. This is just the start of his new journey.
三宅洋平 / Yohei Miyake @MIYAKE_YOHEI


やれる事はすべてやった。 もっとうまくやれる方法も沢山分かった。 負けたが、得
たものは大きい。 伸び代しかない。 次は強い党を作らないと、だね。 そして国際平和のための世界的な連帯作り。 おし、まずは走り込みだ! ‪#‎176970票‬



Ah, democracy. But, we prefer that to any other system of government. Right...?

(Thanks to the people who put English subtitles on these videos)









Sunday, July 21, 2013

Temple Stay: Lower Stress In Your Mind, Reduce Antibiotics In Your Body

Dr. Greger has a great website, Nutrition Facts, with numerous videos and information about diet and health. He promotes a plant-based diet, full stop. Not a semi-vegetarian, not a Meat-Free Mondays, no fooling around diet. But, as he points out, most diseases are caused by bad diet.

His advice is strictly based on recent scientific studies. Here is why I like him - there is no way I can keep up with all that is published in peer reviewed specialized journals. He does. Subscribe, and I promise it will be eye-opening and life-changing.



Here is a video that caught my eye - Dr. Greger talks about a group of South Korean researchers who looked at what happens to people who join one of the popular Temple Stay programs. This was a way for many people to enjoy the World Cup in Japan/South Korea back in 2002. Since South Korea didn't have so many hotels near their different new arenas, Buddhist temples in rural areas were invited, and encouraged, to let football fans from around the world enjoy a couple of days at a local temple. The campaign continued after 2002 and is still popular.

Now, what these researchers found, was that after just a week or so at a temple, eating a strict Buddhist diet (no meat, no fish, no eggs) participants significantly reduced the levels of antibiotics and phthalates in their bodies. Just by not eating meat contaminated with these substances, what they already had in their bodies, was able to escape. Note that none of the people participating in the study were actually on antibiotics, the drugs were found flowing through their bodies, as Dr. Greger puts it.

The present study demonstrated clearly that even short-term dietary changes could reduce the frequency of detection and levels of major antibiotics. Simply put, stop eating meat from animals that have been raised with these drugs.

Follow-up studies also found that the antibiotics and phthalates most likely came from diet. And I liked that they were able to show that the Temple Stay helped reduce stress, measured as "oxidative stress levels."

More about the Korean Temple Stay experience on the A Couple Travelers blog, from where I borrowed the great image of Korean monks preparing kimchi. They note:

As for temple dining the monks always eat vegan. With dinner, breakfast and lunch we got a pretty good feel for the dining options and can say there isn’t much variety. Rice and a simple soup is present at every meal, along with an assortment of pickled or fermented Korean kimchi veggies. Sometimes beans or what resembles marinated prunes is also available. Though the food was pretty good and we even got to see the female monks preparing the kimchi by hand the next day, the lack of variety must be difficult...

For many people around the world, especially in the so-called "first world" it seems incredibly hard to even consider changing their unhealthy meat-based diet, until it is too late, and something like cancer or heart disease happen. Temples in East Asia as well as in India of course, are all vegetarian. Here in Japan, they inspired a range of soy beans-based protein sources like tofu and using fermentation in the form of miso, soy sauce/tamari and natto, while in Korea, the fermented foods are mostly based on white cabbage and red peppers, in the form of kimchi.

A daily bowl of miso soup in particular seems to be great for health, especially if you add some seaweed.

Pandabonium (hat tip!) has a nice post about staying at a temple shukubo at Koya-san in Japan:

Of the 117 temples in Koyasan, 53 offer lodgings to visitors. These are called "shukubo" and may include two meals a day and morning sutra chanting. Food is strictly vegetarian. This way of cooking is called Shōjin Ryori, and was brought to Japan with Buddhism. Much more than just vegetarian cooking, it literally means to cook in a way that leads one to enlightenment.

Sources Cited in Dr. Greger's video:

Ji K, Kho Y, Park C, Paek D, Ryu P, Paek D, Kim M, Kim P, Choi K. Influence of water and food consumption on inadvertent antibiotics intake among general population. Environ Res. 2010 Oct;110(7):641-9.

Ji K, Lim Kho Y, Park Y, Choi K. Influence of a five-day vegetarian diet on urinary levels of antibiotics and phthalate metabolites

Friday, July 12, 2013

Oliver Stone To Visit Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa In August

This could get interesting.

In an event that celebrates the 120th anniversary of the establishment of the Ryukyu Shimpo, the newspaper will invite two-time Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, professor of History at American University to Okinawa.

The event will feature a lecture by Stone with a panel discussion. Stone will also get to observe the U.S. military bases in Okinawa for the first time. With Satoko Norimatsu from the Peace Philosophy Centre as interpreter, the discussion will cover the excessive burden on Okinawa of hosting bases and U.S. military strategy. Some of the works of Stone and some digest footage of his visit to the prefecture will also be shown.

Venue: Theater building of the Okinawa Convention Center in Ginowan

On August 6 Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick will take part in a symposium in Hiroshima, and on August 8 they will visit Nagasaki. Their documentary The Untold History of the United States is currently being shown on NHK BS1.

More details on the Peace Philosophy Center website.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Earth Garden Tokyo Tataku

Big event this weekend - a festival for the future, with Taiko drumming in Tokyo (thus the tataku, hitting theme) Don Don!

Do visit www.earth-garden.jp with info about artists, music, food and talk show presentations. Plus the unexpected. We are so lucky to live in a peaceful part of the world. Let's make sure it stays that way. Project Fukushima is attending too, very unhappy with how they are being treated. But this weekend the focus is on bringing the message to people.

This is all about people who have been doing a lot to make this happen.

https://www.facebook.com/earthgarden.jp (J)

http://fes.fukushima.jp/ (J)

http://beco-fukushima.com/ (J)

Festival for Future connects central Tokyo with Tohoku and Fukushima; this is another great event at Yoyogi Park near Shibuya, Tokyo. Visit the market and  the Stage for the Future.

Image of Rina Katahira from Fukushima Fair Mini Performace news.

7/6sat 片平里菜の出演が決定しました!
http://www.katahirarina.com/



Thursday, July 04, 2013

How To Stop A Road That Will Destroy Your Local Park?

Kodaira, western Tokyo, is one of those towns that need more greenery, not less. It also has plenty of train lines to connect, as well as buses. And don't think there are no roads for cars, already...

I was approached by some people with great concern for their local park, the Central Park of Kodaira, it is just next to a couple of universities and colleges, clearly a green lung with a lot of support from the local community. They have several NGOs bringing kids in, such as the Donburi no Kai (Acorn Group) to teach values of nature. Now that entire park may be destroyed by the construction of a road initially planned back just before the Tokyo Olympics in 1964... Talk about irony as Tokyo is once again trying to get the Olympics for 2020...

If you live in the area, time to do something. Join the groups and NGOs that protest this useless "development" and get Tokyo to move away from cars that pollute and cause climate change. We know better. We ought to know better.

But there is more to this story.

The Japan Times had this great article by Chris Burgess at Kodaira College:

On Sunday, May 26, something quite remarkable happened in Kodaira city, western Tokyo: Over 50,000 citizens voted in Tokyo’s very first local referendum (jūmin tōhyō) on the issue of whether a 50-year-old plan to construct a road should be reviewed or not.
Unfortunately, the ballot papers will never be opened — 90 days on, the votes will be discarded, and with them the opinions of 51,010 Kodaira citizens. And so will end an extraordinary story of grass-roots democracy, public works spending and political obstruction.
The story starts some 50 years ago, against the background of a booming population and economy. In 1963, the Tokyo metropolitan government put forward a plan for a four-lane, 1.4 km road, part of a 13.6 km stretch linking Fuchu and Higashimurayama. This road was to run through Kodaira Chuo Park, bisecting the historical Tamagawa Aqueduct (Tamagawa Jōsui) and the Green Road, a popular 21 km circular walking path.
Soon after, the plan dropped off the political radar. But 18 years ago it was revived. Aside from the economic benefits arising from transport improvements, emphasis was also put on its role in times of disaster. The revived plan was to cost ¥250 billion — most of which would be used to compensate the 220 households who were to be evicted. Almost half of 1.3 hectares of woodland was scheduled to be cleared and 481 trees chopped down.
The revival of the old plan prompted a number of local groups to band together and form a coalition — Kodaira-toshi Keikaku-Doro ni Jumin no Ishi o Han’ei Saseru Kai — asking for citizens’ wishes to be reflected in the decision-making process.

Photo and map from the Donburi no Kai website.



Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Pensions...? You Think GPIF Will Pay You Your Pension?

I beg your pardon. But if you thought you are paying into a cleverly thought-out pension scheme. Well, think again.

Link (E) Government Pension Investment Fund

As of April 1, 2006, the new Government Pension Investment Fund (new GPIF) was established as an independent administrative institution with the mission of managing and investing the Reserve Funds of the Employees' Pension Insurance and the National Pension , taking over the responsibilities of the old Government Pension Investment Fund, which was dissolved in March 31 2006.



Propaganda: Dream within a dream - Outside World Tour 1985
 
Needless to say, the Reserve Funds entrusted to the new GPIF are one of the precious sources of revenue financing the payment of future pension benefits. We, the new GPIF, are determined to make every effort to manage and invest the Reserve Funds safely and efficiently, sticking to the principle of diversified investment from the long term perspective, and implementing appropriate risk management, to fulfill our fiduciary responsibilities.
We also pursue efficient activity administration as an independent administrative institution and disclose relevant information to the public as much as possible.
We shall strive to gain the public trust by becoming an organization that steadfastly achieves its mission through contributing to the fiscal stability of the nation's public pension schemes, thereby better securing people's life. All of us at the GPIF are determined to make every effort to see that this goal is met. In this endeavor, we respectfully ask for your understanding and support.

Video here...



Before that, I'd like to mention Seetell.jp


Japan bond market may not survive Japan’s troubled pension system

...And by that, we mean all of those household and corporate savings tied up in JGBs might not survive either.  Time is growing short for Japan to reform its welfare system and its massive debt.  But the recent disaster in Japan has altered the course of needed reform (and by disaster, we mean the Kan administration).  The March 11 disaster has given Kan an excuse to change the concept of reform from that of increasing revenue and cutting payouts to actually increasing the benefits to a wider range of heretofore unqualified persons.  As Societe Generale’s Takuji Okubo explains, this puts not only the pension system, but the JGB market, at risk.

OK, and if that did not make you read any further, here is this:

Abe reforms take aim at Japan's $1 trillion pension fund


TOKYO, July 2 | Mon Jul 1, 2013 5:55pm EDT
(Reuters) - Visitors to Japan's public pension fund can't miss signs of the low-cost, low-return culture that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems determined to change with a review of its operations that kicked off on Monday.
There is no receptionist at the dimly lit, 40-year-old Tokyo building where the headquarters of the http://youtu.be/-YneOrQt1lI, occupies the second floor.

The waiting area consists of two mismatched couches. Behind a single closed door, over $1 trillion - equivalent to the annual economic output of South Korea - is run almost on autopilot and invested largely in government bonds issued across the street by Japan's Finance Ministry.
Equally worrying for critics, including members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the fund has no independent board for oversight, no ability to hire in-house fund managers and no record of success during a period of economic growth of the kind Abe has pledged to deliver to voters and markets.
Officials led by chairman Takahiro Mitani say the fund, known as GPIF and which employs less than 80 people, has performed according to the mandate set by its supervisor, the Ministry of Health and Welfare: keep costs down and risks in check.
What happens next, they say, will depend on the reforms the Abe administration enacts in the coming months as it looks to mobilise public savings to help drive Japan out of two decades of deflation and sluggish growth.
"We are the target of a review," Tokihiko Shimizu, the director-general of GPIF's research department told a hedge fund seminar last week, explaining crucial decisions would now be made by others. "We are like the carp on the chopping block."
On Monday, an advisory panel to Abe met for the first time to consider wide-ranging reforms that could see GPIF shift more money into stocks, foreign assets and less conventional investments such as infrastructure funds, as well as emerge as a more independent fund with deeper expertise.
"All we can do right now is calmly wait for the outcome of the panel," Mitani told Reuters in an interview late last month. "We'll obey the government's decision if it decides to change the law or the framework for us to be more aggressive."

"LOW PROFILE, LOW COST, LOW RISKS"

In 2010, a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said GPIF was being run as a "low profile, low cost and seemingly low risk institution".
The Paris-based think tank recommended a shake-up that would give GPIF full independence from the Health and Welfare Ministry, which was given oversight of the fund in 2001.
Until then, funds had been entrusted to the Finance Ministry. But in the wake of criticism that money was being used to bankroll public sector entities and local government projects, control shifted.
"Almost all the fund management is outsourced and just left up to others. That is no good," said Yasuhisa Shiozaki, an LDP lawmaker and a former official at the Bank of Japan. "It's also crazy that at the top of the structure is the health minister, who has no expertise in fund management."
A prime example of GPIF's conservative approach is asset allocation - changes last month to its portfolio strategy were the first since 2006.
Under those changes, GPIF cut its target allocation of Japanese government bonds to 60 percent from 67 percent and raised its allocation of Japanese stocks to 12 percent from 11 percent. The changes reflected where its portfolio stood and kept it from having to sell stocks and buy more bonds to stay within mandated ranges.
Allocation shifts can be made with the approval of the GPIF chairman and the health minister.

REFORMS BEEN RECOMMENDED BEFORE

GPIF has been the target of reform efforts before.
Two government-led panels, one in 2008 and the other in 2009-2010, recommended changes including splitting the massive pool of money into smaller funds.
The earlier calls for change went nowhere, but officials involved in the effort say this time is more serious because of Abe's determination to see through a popular economic agenda.
A more aggressive investment portfolio weighted toward stocks -- including foreign assets -- could help bolster sentiment in Japan. It could also weaken the yen, which would help exports.

"It's one of the few levers Abe has," said Itay Tuchman, head of foreign exchange at Citigroup in Tokyo.
GPIF has a target of returning just over 1 percentage point above average wage increases. Wages have dropped by almost 1 percent per year over the past nine years. GPIF's return over the same period averaged 2.4 percent a year.
If the fund's returns falter, the cost of supporting public pensions could rise for taxpayers, payouts could fall or it could be a combination of both as Japan's working population ages and retires, analysts have said.
By one projection, 20 percent of Japan's population will be pensioners over 75 years old by 2030. The share over 65 could be as high as one third of the population.
An economist from the University of Tokyo, Takatoshi Ito, headed the 2008 panel and will lead the latest one. The review would focus on both the fund's investment policy and governance, Ito told Reuters.
"I'm open minded about the types of issues we should discuss," he said on Friday.
The panel has a deadline of the third quarter to reach its conclusions so changes to GPIF and other public pensions that control another $1 trillion can be put in place by April 2015, in line with the government's growth strategy plan.


I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden... Classic hit by Lynn Anderson, 1973.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

TPP In The News

Trade negotiations are going to be really big news in July. Prepare yourself. It may be like the Battle of Seattle all over again, except this time Japan can only join the real show, if Washington agrees, at a very late date. Akira Amari, Japanese Economic Revitalization Minister, thinks this "represents the core for Japan's economic growth."

Democracy? Sovereignty? You be the judge.

As NHK World notes:

The Japanese government has increased its negotiating team for the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks. Japan will join the negotiations for the first time. The talks are already in their fourth year. The next round of multinational negotiations will be in Malaysia starting July 15th. Japan is to take part in the 10-day talks starting on the 23rd.


Well? The US has not yet decided if Japan may join or not. Once the United States of America decides, Japan may or may not join the TPP talks starting on the 23rd (not when everyone else starts). And until then, Japan has no access to the documents, and which square brackets are about to be deleted as a favour for agreeing to Japan or anyone else agreeing to delete square brackets in the text, that may be favourable to people here or there. I would say? Japan getting in at all, at the mercy of some US congressman or -woman having a good day or not. What a rotten deal.

NHK World does not save its old stories, but if you want to follow important news developments like this, you have to save to your own computer. Here is the story from May 24, 2013.



Japan to join TPP talks in July

Japanese government officials will be taking part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks for the first time in July. Government officials from 11 Asia-Pacific countries ended the latest round of TPP talks in Lima, Peru on Friday. They have agreed to hold their next meeting in Malaysia from July 15th to the 25th.

Japan will not be able to take part in the negotiations until it clears formalities in the United States on July 23rd. This means Japan can only participate in the next round for up to 3 days.

In a joint press conference after the talks, Peru's chief negotiator Edgar Vasquez said that "member nations are aware that Japan wants to participate in the next round of talks in a meaningful way, and they believe that can be arranged". Before becoming a full TPP member, Japan has no access to documents relating to past negotiations. Given limited time at the negotiating table, Japanese government plans to step up its information gathering on market access rules and other areas of the agreement by sending officials to other participating countries.


May 24, 2013 - Updated 21:14 UTC


http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20130525_03.html
 
(Link no longer available)

Link however is available to a very interesting article where Nobel Prize-winning Joseph Stiglitz says, Thailand should not join the TPP:

Emerging markets including Thailand, other ASEAN countries and China should "decouple themselves from Western markets", Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz said during a speech in Bangkok yesterday.

To be able to grow, emerging markets must be less dependent on exports, boost domestic consumption and find their own model of sustainable economic growth, the US economist said.

Stiglitz said the most serious questions facing the global and regional economies were whether the euro zone would survive; whether the European Union would drop the austerity policies that have caused recession and switch to a policy of growth; and whether the US will be able to move beyond its current gridlock. Stiglitz expected not more than 3 per cent growth in the US in the near future, adding that the country needs to reduce its significant unemployment level. But full employment was not in sight this decade, he said.

"It's going to be a long time before we can get back to what I may call normal," he said.

He also expected emerging markets, China in particular, to be able to decouple their economies from Western economies and develop in a sustainable way.

Stiglitz was speaking during an on-stage interview with Nation Multimedia Group chairman Suthichai Yoon. He earlier gave a lecture on the global economic outlook as part of an international academic seminar at Dhurakij Pundit University.

The Nobel laureate opposes austerity measures, saying they had proven to lead to recession and depression. To avoid repeating developed countries' mistakes, newly emerging economies should invest in education, technology, the environment and public health and find a sustainable model of economic growth, he said.

"Focus on quality of growth, environment, living standards and how the benefits are shared," he said.

US innovations had contributed in part to the country's current economic instability. The innovations were created to save labour costs, but now unemployment rates are problematic, he said.

The US and European countries, as well as Japan, also need structural and educational reforms, but implementing them was difficult now that they were facing economic problems, Stiglitz said.

"From the point of view of the region and from the point of view of the planet, it's going to be very important for China to develop a new model of economic growth, because if it imitates the economic growth of the United States based on [unchecked] consumption and material goods, our planet won't survive," he said.

Discussing the problems in the euro zone, he voiced opposition to the idea of a common currency - a direction in which ASEAN might be heading.

"If you go down the common currency [route], that is a bad idea. You need to talk about Asian cooperation," he said. "Sharing a currency takes away the ability to adapt, to adjust," he said.

"A common market is a good idea; while the issues of the market are relatively small, they can still benefit from economy of scale."

Stiglitz said corporations' lobbying of politicians was standing in the way of resolving economic problems.

He also warned that the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) that the US is trying to reach with other countries is dangerous.

"While negotiations are behind closed doors, cooperation is on the table," he said.

Drug companies, for example, are among the corporations lobbying politicians in secret negotiations, he said.

"The objective [of drug companies] is to make profit. The way they do this is to make you pay high prices even though the basic research is paid for by the American government," he said.

"They are very bad for the development of generic drug industries. Thailand is one of the good countries in this area. It would be a mistake for you to give up on that. And if you join the TPP, you will have to," he said.



From the NGO sector:

CUJ: No To TPP Participation!

Japan has a large number of consumer organizations, both on the national level and local level. Several, including Shufuren, Parc, Seikatsu Club, Pal System Coop, Dai-ichi Mamoru Kai, Shin Nihon Fujin Kai, have joined CUJ in protesting against the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). Here is the latest statement from CUJ:
 
February 25, 2013
 
To: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
 
Statement of Protest against the Japan-US Joint Statement Regarding TPP
According to the Japanese government’s communique about TPP after the talks between Prime Minister Abe and President Obama on February 23, 2013, that “it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations.”
 
However, in a news conference in response to this, Prime Minister Abe mentioned that there was no explicit promise regarding tariff sanctions during his meeting with President Obama. Meanwhile, the governing coalition of LDP and New Komeito is leaning towards announcing that Japan will participate in the TPP negotiations as early as possible.
 
Prime Minister Abe has then gone on to talk about formally announcing participation in TPP negotiations during speeches in the Upper and Lower House Parliament sessions on February 28, 2013.
 
This is in sharp contrast to the LDP election promises during last December’s general election, to oppose Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations if abolishing tariffs without restriction becomes a precondition. Five conditions were included in LDP’s election manifesto, including protecting the country’s health insurance system, which covers all citizens, and food safety standards, as well as not accepting numerical targets for imports of cars and other manufactured products. LDP also promised it would not liberalize financial services or rules regarding public procurement. The TPP also stipulates a new type of dispute resolution system, known as Investor-state Dispute System (ISD) that will allow foreign corporations or financial investors to sue governments in other countries. The comment by the Prime Minister only five days after his meeting with the US President can only be construed as an absurd violation of LDP’s election promises in key areas.
 
We regard it as unacceptable that such infringements of the rights of people can be proposed, that will infringe on our lives and all aspects of society. This is related to governance and Japan’s national structure, its politics, and issues related to important national policy-making.
We strongly protest against your actions.
Consumers Union of Japan