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from Reuters Investigates:

Battling meltdowns, nuclear and fiscal, in Japan

JAPAN-QUAKE/Check out two special reports out of Tokyo today.

The first examines what has happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant since Friday's massive quake: "Mistakes, misfortune, meltdown: Japan's quake" (PDF version here)

 Here's how one expert sums up the situation:

"They might have been prepared for an earthquake. They might have been prepared for a tsunami. They might have been prepared for a nuclear emergency, but it was unlikely that they were prepared for all three," said Ellen Vancko, an electric power expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Global Economics correspondent Alan Wheatley looks at the outlook for Japanese debt as the nation rebuilds in his special report: "Why Japan will avert a fiscal meltdown"

Masaru Hamasaki, a senior strategist at Toyota Asset Management in Tokyo, said the severity of the challenge facing Japan should not be underestimated.

from George Chen:

Dairy and property: How Japan’s crisis is affecting China

Chinese moms While the rest of the world is trying to help Japan deal with the aftermath of its earthquake and tsunami, some parents in China and Hong Kong are on a single-minded quest to buy up as much made-in-Japan baby formula as they can. On my way to work on Monday morning, I saw a long queue of anxious-looking people in front of a grocery store. Over the following three days, the queue got longer and longer and more and more anxious. They were all after the same thing – baby formula from Japan. This is simply because some Chinese parents believe their babies are accustomed to drinking Japanese milk and they are concerned that radiation may affect the quality of exports from Japan in coming months Hong Kong media reported that retail prices for some Japanese baby formula have risen more than 30 percent this week. At present, the market price is about HK$250 (US$32) for a standard container and some retailers are reportedly limiting purchases to six per person to avoid angering latecomers. In this case, parents called on relatives, even elderly grandparents, to join the queue on their behalf (which works if you have many relatives and friends who are willing to help). Of course, Hong Kong parents are not alone in this concern. A fast-growing number of parents in mainland China are on a similar quest and they don’t mind paying HK$2,000 (US$256) for a round-trip ticket from major mainland cities to Hong Kong to buy made-in-Japan products. People in Hong Kong, may soon face a bigger disappointment as a result of Japan’s earthquake – the possibility of property prices rising even further and faster. Local property agents say they have noticed some landlords want to increase rents, especially in downtown areas such as Admiralty and the Mid-levels, which are within minutes of Hong Kong’s Central financial and business district, where many international banks have their regional headquarters. Global financial firms including Blackstone, BNP Paribas and Royal Bank of Scotland are relocating foreign staff, especially senior executives, from Tokyo to neighboring bases to avoid the possibility of radiation exposure. These executive typically head to Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing, with most apparently happier to choose Hong Kong, if not Singapore. Rents in Hong Kong are already a social problem, making the city one of the most expensive places in the world in which to live. The government has been trying to cool prices since late last year. With more rich but timorous bankers being relocating to Hong Kong from Tokyo and so far no indication of when they might return to Japan, the outlook for the property market in Hong Kong looks bullish. I’m not saying this isn’t a positive  trend, but given what is happening to the lives of ordinary people in Hong Kong and China, the crisis in Japan is becoming a crisis for Asia, if not the rest of the world. If the nuclear crisis cannot be contained and people lose confidence in crisis management and post-crisis protection, a chain reaction may be seen in many areas beyond dairy and property prices.

Japan

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

While the rest of the world is trying to help Japan deal with the aftermath of its earthquake and tsunami, some parents in China and Hong Kong are on a single-minded quest to buy up as much made-in-Japan baby formula as they can.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Fear factor

This was definitely an Ides of March to beware of.

NUCLEAR-USA/Japan faced a potential nuclear catastrophe after explosions at three reactors at a nuclear power plant sent radiation toward Tokyo. The fear factor sent shivers through world stock markets which tumbled.

Fear also reportedly prompted some Americans to buy potassium iodide tablets and Geiger counters. Good idea?

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Sticky situations

It is a natural instinct to review one's own situation when a friend or neighbor is hit by a crisis.

NUCLEAR-USA/So the risk of a nuclear disaster in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami prompted the United States to look inward. The upshot is that President Barack Obama is committed to nuclear power, and "it remains a part of the president's overall energy plan," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Merlot on the go?

BELARUS/

Blog Guy, like many of your readers I'm looking for a new and interesting career. I like to drive, I like retail work, and I enjoy making people happy. Any ideas?

I may have just the thing. How would you like to drive a van around and stop to sell wine to people?

from Reuters Investigates:

ElBaradei: From nuclear diplomat to Cairo politics

EGYPT/ELBARADEI-SQUAREWho is Mohamed ElBaradei, the professional Egyptian opposition figure who joined the ranks of disaffected Eypgtians to topple President Hosni Mubarak after thirty years in power?  Does the 68-year-old diplomat and lawyer have what it takes to become Egypt's next president if it holds free and fair elections? 

Louis Charbonneau's special report takes a close look at ElBaradei's performance while at the helm of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where he stood toe-to-toe with the Bush administration over Iraq and Iran. It tells how he survived a plot by hawkish U.S. politician John Bolton to oust him and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 jointly with the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.  It looks into his questionable record as a manager while showing that he may have what it takes to lead Egypt -- if he wants the job. 

from Afghan Journal:

India, Pakistan and their growing nuclear arsenal

nuke

India and Pakistan exchanged a list of each other's nuclear installations on Saturday like they have done at the start of each year under a 1988 pact in which the two sides agreed not to attack these facilities. That is the main confidence building measure in the area of nuclear security between the two countries, even though their nuclear weapons  programmes  have expanded significantly since then.   Indeed for some years now there is a  growing body of international opinion that holds that Pakistan has stepped up production of fissile material, and may just possibly hold more nuclear weapons than its much larger rival, India.  

Which is remarkable given that the Indian nuclear programme is driven by the need for deterrence against much bigger armed-China, the third element in the South Asian nuclear tangle. The Indians who conducted a nuclear test as early as 1974, thus,may be behind not just the Chinese, but also Pakistan in terms of the number of warheads, fissile material and delivery systems.

from Afghan Journal:

Denuclearising Pakistan

A woman walks past a Pakistan national flag on display at a sidewalk in Lahore August 13, 2010. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/Files

At about the time WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, including one related to a secret attempt to remove enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor, a top Pakistani military official held a briefing for journalists that focused on U.S.-Pakistan ties.

Dawn's Cyril Almeida has written a piece based on the officer's comments made on the condition of anonymity, and they offer the closest glimpse you can possibly get of the troubled ties between the allies.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Wikileaks on Pakistan

iran pakistanIn the State Department cables released by Wikileaks and so far reported, the most eye-catching as far as Pakistan is concerned is a row with Washington over nuclear fuel.

According to the New York Times, the cables show:

"A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”

from India Insight:

India’s Iran stance will be crucial at the U.N.

India took its deserved place at the world's most powerful table on Tuesday, winning a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council with the resounding support of 187 of the assembly's 192 countries. India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L) speaks with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an official meeting in Tehran. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Immediately, the country's U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri began talking of his intent to use the tenure to push for reform, with an eye on a permanent berth for the Asian giant.

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