Given that seniors now account for more than a quarter of the Japanese electorate, this might not have been the shrewdest political move:
Taro Aso, the finance minister, said on Monday that the elderly
should be allowed to "hurry up and die" to relieve pressure on the state
to pay for their medical care.
"Heaven forbid if you are forced
to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly
bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government,"
he said during a meeting of the national council on social security
reforms. "The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and
The comments on the Guardian's story are full of Logan's Run and Soylent Green jokes, but in partial defense of Aso (who is no spring chicken himself at 72), there are valid questions to be raised in an era of advanced medicine and aging populations over how long its practical, or even ethical, to patients alive in their final months of life. On the other hand, referring to them as "tube people" as Aso did later in his remarks, is probably not the best way to start that conversation.
The politician who once vowed to make Japan so successful that even "the richest Jews would want to live" there, isn't exactly known for tact, though he has apologized for his latest remarks.
More than 800,000 Americans packed the National Mall in
Washington, D.C. on Monday to listen to President Obama deliver his second
inaugural address, but many more were listening around the world. Here are a few interesting global reactions:
In the Chinese media, Obama's promise to "try and resolve our differences
with other nations peacefully" and argument that "engagement can more durably
lift suspicion and fear" than military force was taken as a sign that
the U.S.-China relationship will be at the top of his foreign policy agenda for
the next four years. Of course, as the state-run Global Times notes,
there's a bit of skepticism that the president will live up to his words:
"If the president really lives his words, he would agree that for the sake of
the world's peace and prosperity, it is important for the United States and
China to foster mutual trust, for trust is the cornerstone for every
relationship, no matter between people or between nations...The words also show
that he agrees that the two nations should properly solve their disputes,
either economic or political."
News agency Xinhua
was a little more positive, describing the overall approach Obama outlined in
his Monday address as "balanced" and "decidedly progressive."
writer described Obama's speech as "urg[ing] Americans to reclaim from
conservatives the spirit of the founding fathers" and as "more inspirational
than 2009," praising Obama's strong support of climate
change and gay rights. Another
was more cautious in hispraise, maintaining that Obama's speech was less of
a populist manifesto and more of a "to-do list [covering] what he has
still to do to make good on the economic promises of his first term."
Peter Foster of the more conservative Telegraph granted that Obama's speech was well-received
by the spectators on the Mall, he reminded readers just how deeply divided the United States still is: "It was apparent," writes Foster, "that only half of the nation had showed up to listen
to [Obama's] call...Overwhelmingly, the crowd of 800,000 people was filled with
the faces of the young, female, urban, African-American coalition that ensuredMr. Obama'sre-election for a second term last November. They were Obama's people, and they
were there to celebrate their victory."
his article for the Australian, Troy
Bramston praised Obama's rhetoric, but argued that Obama cannot rank amongst
the truly great American presidents until he "translate[s] a presidency of promise
into a presidency of action."
may be hard to do, claims Janet Hook in another article for the Australian, in which she points out that
Obama's speech made little effort to readch out to the GOP.
After the inaugural address, the headline of
Saudi-owned, pan-Arab daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat
read "The decade of war is over," referencing a line from Obama's speech. Yet in an op-ed for
the same paper, Abdul Rahman
Rashed, though praising Obama's experience in Middle Eastern affairs, was not
so sure about peace in the coming decade. "Obama's
second term will possibly be reconciliatory, particularly after John Kerry and
Chuck Hagel join his administration...but who can tell if the region will be in a
In his article
for Palestinian-run, London based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi (translated into English by the
Times of Israel), Abdel Al-Bari Atwan writes that Obama "completely shut the
door on any military intervention, stressing that a decade of wars has ended
and that the only way to peace is dialogue." "President Obama's
message is very clear," the article continued. "In short, he said that he does
not intend to militarily intervene in Syria; will not wage a war on Iran,
succumbing to Israeli pressure; and will focus on rescuing his country from its
crippling economic crisis."
Atwan continues: "Obama disappointed many of his allies in
the Middle East by neglecting to mention any of them in his speech." (Obama
didn't mention any foreign countries by name in his address.)
Obama's equal opportunity rhetoric made news in
Mexico. In its coverage of the inaugural address, El Universal highlighted Obama's
commitment to immigrants, women, and gays. The article quoted Obama's statement
promising immigration reform:
trip (as a nation) will not be complete until we find a better way to welcome
the hopeful, striving immigrants in the U.S. are still the land of opportunity,
until the brightest students and engineers are listed on our strengths work instead
of being expelled from our country."
The headline of the article read, in Spanish, "Obama
calls for welcoming immigrants."
The president's inaugural address was a chance
for Canadians to pat themselves on the back, the Ottowa Citizen snarkily reports:
"On the key issues that President Barack Obama
pledged to dedicate his second term to in his inaugural address, Canada has already
made substantive progress: on supporting democracy around the world; on
providing equal rights to gays and lesbians; on creating an aspirational
It doesn't stop there either. The column went to
on say that Canada has also beat Obama to the punch in securing a budget deal and
repairing its economy.
When Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird hosted
a largely American gathering at the Canadian embassy on Monday, he was more
tactful. "This is not a time for long speeches," he said. "We have very
different systems, so we don't exactly want to be bragging," a Canadian embassy