Chatter: Fukushima nuclear disaster was 'man-made'




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Need to know:
Japanese lawmakers say that last year's accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant was a "man-made" disaster.

It may have been triggered by natural events – to wit, a devastating earthquake and tsunami – but a parliamentary panel has ruled that the government, regulators and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco, were to blame. Their failure to make sure the plant was properly resistant and the public properly protected, the panel says, constitutes "willful negligence."

The report recommends that regulators get rid of their "insular attitude of ignoring international safety standards" to avoid such a disaster ever happening again.

Want to know:
NATO trucks have crossed the Pakistani border into Afghanistan for the first time in seven months.

The key supply route reopened this morning, and hundreds of trucks are reportedly waiting to take it. Islamabad agreed to the move two days ago, after receiving an apology from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the deaths of Pakistani soldiers in American air strikes.

Before the closure in late November, NATO transported up to 80 percent of its non-lethal supplies through Pakistan. In the months since then, it's been forced to rely on more expensive routes through Central Asia and even, according to reports, smugglers

The reopening is expected to save the US hundreds of millions of dollars as it prepares to pull its troops out of Afghanistan.

Dull but important:
Mexico is set to recount more than half the votes from Sunday's presidential poll, after runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador cried foul.

Left-winger Lopez Obrador, who made similar claims upon losing in 2006, was demanding a full recount of the ballot. He says it was "plagued by irregularities." 

Electoral authorities took the allegations seriously enough to grant him half his wish, announcing that 54.5 percent of the votes for president and more than 60 percent of votes for members of congress and the senate would be recounted.

As things stand, center-left Enrique Peña Nieto has about 38 percent of ballots, to Lopez Obrador's 32 percent.

Just because:
South Korea is to follow Japan and begin "scientific whaling," according to reports.

The country has told the International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual conference that it wants to conduct research "for the proper assessment of whale stocks." By killing minke whales.

Seoul does not need international approval to go ahead with the plan, which has already been described by New Zealand as "reckless."

Earlier this week, the IWC narrowly agreed to extend whaling rights for indigenous populations in the US, Russia and the Caribbean, giving them permission to hunt hundreds of the animals over the next six years. It's a bad week to be a whale.

Strange but true:
How do you like your city? A little less than you might like Hong Kong, according to The Economist's annual Liveability Index

The city took the top spot in this year's ranking, followed by Amsterdam, Osaka, Paris and Sydney. No US city appears on the list until number 14, where Washington DC is representin'.

What makes a city more "liveable" than any other, you might wonder. The judges have been asking themselves the same thing, and overhauled their criteria for 2012 to give weight to factors like green space, sprawl, connectivity and pollution as well as social stability, infrastructure, etc., etc. 

Word to The Economist: how about a ranking based on "quality of local bands" and "relative availability of vegetarian Mexican food"? Much obliged.