Archive

Reuters blog archive

from Global News Journal:

What’s really behind Merkel’s nuclear U-turn?

(German Chancellor Angela Merkel promises a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources during a speech in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on March 17)

(German Chancellor Angela Merkel promises a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources during a speech in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on March 17)

The consensus view in Germany is that Angela Merkel's abrupt reversal on nuclear energy after Fukushima was a transparent ploy to shore up support in an important state election in Baden-Wuerttemberg. If indeed that was her intention (she denies any political motive) then she miscalculated horribly. Her party was ousted from government in B-W on Sunday after running the prosperous southern region for 58 straight years. But what if Merkel was really thinking longer-term -- ie beyond the state vote to the next federal election in 2013? After the Japan catastrophe she may well have realised that her chances of getting elected to a third term were next-to-nil if she didn't pivot quickly on nuclear. There are two good reasons why that is probably a safe assumption. First is the extent of anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany. A recent poll for Stern magazine showed nearly two in three Germans would like to see the country's 17 nuclear power plants shut down within 5 years.  The nuclear issue was the decisive factor in the B-W election. And you can bet it will play an important role in the next national vote -- even if it is 2-1/2 years away. The second reason why the reversal looks like a good strategic decision from a political point of view is the dire state of Merkel's junior partner in government -- the Free Democrats. It was the strength of the FDP which vaulted her to a second term in September 2009. But now it looks like their weakness could be her undoing in 2013.  Merkel probably needs the FDP to score at least 10 percent in the next vote to give her a chance of renewing her "black-yellow" coalition. Right now the FDP is hovering at a meagre 5 percent and it is difficult to see how they double that anytime soon. The nuclear shift widens Merkel's options in one fell swoop. Suddenly the issue that made a coalition between Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Greens unthinkable at the federal level has vanished. Her party set a precedent by hooking up with the Greens in the city-state of Hamburg in 2008. Now she has more than two years to lay the foundations for a similar partnership in Berlin. By then voters may see Merkel's nuclear U-turn in a different light. And only then will it be truly clear if it was a huge political mistake, as the Baden-Wuerttemberg vote suggests, or a prescient strategic coup.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures, March 27, 2011

Japan continues to dominate the file from Asia with new photograhers rotating in to cover the twists and turns of this complex and tragic  story.  In a country were the nation rarely buries its dead, the site of mass graves is quite a shocking scene to behold. Holes the length of football pitches are dug in the ground with mechanical digggers and divided into individual plots by the military and are then filled with the coffins of the victims of the tsunami. Family members come to weep and pray over the graves. Some are namless and marked only with DNA details, others bear the names of the victims. There is not enough power or fuel to cremate the thousands of bodies that are being recovered from the disaster zone. 

JAPAN-QUAKE/

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force carry a coffin of a victim of the earthquake and tsunami to be buried at a temporary mass grave site in Higashi-Matsushima, in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in Pictures March 20, 2011

Japan - after four days of editing pictures from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan I took an hour break to buy some food and get some money in a small shopping centre near the office. As I walked through the busy street, the thought that stuck me was that everything around me is so temporary. The people along the coast of the Miyagi Prefecture were probably going about their daily business, just like I was, when the wall of water swept through their towns wiping their very existence off the face of the earth. Reports of a nuclear cloud heading towards Tokyo where 13 million people live, added to my sense of fear. In my mind,  the world had changed forever. I cannot begin to imagine what the people in Miyagi, the rescue workers and the photographers taking the picture are feeling. From our team of photographers covering the story, I have chosen three pictures from each photographer, not an easy task when there are so many great images. Respect to all the teams covering the story and my condolences to the people of Japan. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

JAPAN-QUAKE/

A survivor pushes his bicycle through remains of devastated town of Otsuchi March 14, 2011. In the town of Otsuchi in Iwate prefecture, 12,000 out of a population of 15,000 have disappeared following Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

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.

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.

  •