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Japan's meltdown is a tourist's delight?

TOKYO — Even the government is inviting people over for free.

Reports Iranian nuclear scientist assasinated

An Iranian scientist linked to the country's nuclear program has been assasinated outside his home in Tehran, some reports in the Iranian media say. Iran blamed that attack on Israeli secret service Mossad, according to the BBC. Israel has held long-time fears about Iran's nuclear program. Isna news agency named the victims as Daryoush Rezaei, 35. Witnesses say he was shot in the neck by assailants who fled on motorbikes. His wife was wounded and was rushed to hospital.

Haruki Murakami takes the Japanese to task

It isn't just TEPCO who is to blame, it's the people who let TEPCO operate freely.
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Japanese writer Haruki Murakami in Prague, where he received the 2006 Franz Kafka Award. (Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

You might expect Haruki Murakami, author of bestselling novels "Norwegian Wood" and "Wind-up Bird Chronicle" among others, to condemn TEPCO for its misconduct in the wake of the tsunami.

But what you might be surprised to hear is that he is no less strict with the Japanese people in general.

In a recent speech in Barcelona, where Murakami accepted the International Catalunya Prize for his contribution to literature, the Japanese author said that the real tragedy in Japan has been the public's tacit acceptance of a culture of efficiency.

How could something like this happen? That strong rejection of nuclear technology that we embraced for so many years after the war … where did it go? What was it that so completely undermined and distorted the peaceful and prosperous society that previously we had sought for so consistently?

The cause is simple: “efficiency.”

(GlobalPost in Iwaki-Yumoto: Meet Japan's "nuclear gypsies")

Nuclear power is an incredibly efficient way to generate electricity, which means it is an incredibly efficient way to make money. And before they knew it, a country frequented by earthquakes was third in the world for consuming electricity from nuclear power.

But it isn't just the companies making the profits who are to blame, says Murakami, it's also the people who allowed those companies to operate freely.

... we Japanese are the ones who allowed such a distorted system to operate until now. Maybe we will have to take ourselves to task for tacitly permitting such behavior. This state of affairs is closely linked to our own sense of morals and our personal standards.

It's tough love from Murakami.

Click here for a translation of the whole speech.

More Japan tsunami coverage.

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Japan's nuclear gypsies: a day in the life

IWAKI-YUMOTO — With Japan now well into the hottest months of summer, it is the heat, not contamination, that Fukushima contract workers say they fear most.

Japan a few Molotovs short of revolution

Protest songs are becoming popular in Japan, even if the demonstrations themselves are a bit tame.
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A man holds his cat clad in a headband with anti-nuclear slogans during a demonstration in Tokyo on June 11, 2011. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images)

Four months on, and the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is still leaking. 

And Japanese people are still angry. A protest culture of sorts has arisen from the destruction.

Not that it's an entirely new development (from what we hear, the peasants didn't so much like the shogunate, and folks haven't always been demure in the face of U.S. military bases).

But protests haven't been a particularly fervent mainstay of modern-day Japan, either. 

Until now. 1,200 people demonstrated outside TEPCO's headquarters in Tokyo back in March and just last Saturday several rallies rolled into one in Shinjuku-ku, accounting for more than 20,000 people. That's a lot for Japan.

(GlobalPost in Kyoto: Anti-government criticism on the rise)

Now, these gatherings aren't exactly raucous (Vice has a good parody here), but they are a new development, as noted by The Diplomat — even if they are a few Molotov cocktails short of a revolution.

GlobalVoices has rounded up a selection of anti-nuke songs that have become popular in Japan since the quake. Here are a few:

  • "You Can't See It, and You Can't Smell It Either," produced by Rankin Taxi, who is considered one of the forefathers of hip-hop in Japan, and the Dub Ainu Band.

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Analysis: Brazil goes nuclear

Brazil could impose its own version of the U.S. Monroe Doctrine on the region’s waters — in effect, demanding that foreign powers simply steer clear of its backyard.

Radioactive meat on the market in Japan

Meat from six Fukushima cows was delivered to Japanese markets and has probably been ingested.
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A sign warns motorists of possible cattle in the road in the Cheshire countryside in Knutsford, England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

It started as a game of follow the radioactive cow.

It did not end well.

On Saturday, Tokyo officials discovered that the meat of 11 cows from a Fukushima farm, which was about to be delivered, contained high levels of radiation.

As a precaution, they traced the meat of six other cows from the same farm and realized that not only was it radioactive, but it was also on the market.

Not just in Tokyo, but all over Japan.

The meat, which had radiation levels three to six times the legal limit, has likely been ingested, according to a CNN report.

Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge of consumer affairs and food-safety, has downplayed health concerns, saying that there are no immdiate concerns from eating radioactive beef one time. The legal radiation limits are set according to long-term consumption.

But the finding suggests gaps in food monitoring that have raised further fears. 

Previously, tap water was deemed unfit for babies to drink, which caused a run on bottled water. That warning was later lifted.

Shipments of certain vegetables and green tea leaves from areas near the plant have also been halted due to high radiation levels, while the sushi industry has also taken a blow.

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Canada boycotts nuclear talks over North Korea leadership role

"North Korea is simply not a credible chair of a [nuclear] disarmament body," the Canadian foreign minister said.

Another earthquake strikes Japan's northeast, and tsunami alerts are issued, then canceled

Officials said there were no reports of further damage to the Fukushima plant resulting from the earthquake that hit northeastern Japan on Sunday, and though a tsunami alert was issued and residents in coastal areas were urged to evacuate, the alert was canceled later and a wave of only about four inches was recorded in Ofunato.

Hold up. North Korea is the head of what?

North Korea has been named the new leader of the UN's nuclear disarmament mission.
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A North Korean soldier looks at the South side at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas on January 19, 2011. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

To be fair, the presidency of the conference rotates. It wasn't like everyone put their heads down and raised a hand for North Korea.

But still. North Korea as the head of a disarmament mission?

It's preposterous.

North Korea is, as Brett D. Schaefer points out in the National Review, one of "the foremost facilitators of nuclear proliferation, a promiscuous peddler of nuclear technology."

It has detonated two nuclear devices in the last five years and is striving to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Recent satellite images, reported on by David Case in GlobalPost, show an expansion at the Yongbyon nuclear site between the years of 2009 and 2011.

All this despite repeated international calls for them to quit it. The Security Council has again and again ordered them to halt the development of their nuclear program and just recently — as in, a few weeks ago — they reimposed sanctions.

What about that laundry list of violations makes them a good leader?

The irony is not lost on critics.

This from Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch:

Bare months after the U.N. finally suspended Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi from its Human Rights Council, North Korea wins the propaganda coup of heading the world’s disarmament agency. It’s asking the fox to guard the chickens, and damages the U.N.’s credibility.

It is a rather irefutable argument, you have to admit.

A better question to ask at this point is about the United Nations more generally. How backward has the U.N. become that this passes for business as usual?

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