The week at a glance...International


Fukushima, Japan

Radioactive spill: As tons of radioactive water poured from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, Japanese regulators this week upgraded the threat level for the first time since the plant’s catastrophic meltdown after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Some 80,000 gallons of highly radioactive water has seeped out of a steel tank, and the utility, TEPCO, hasn’t located the leak. The spilled water emits as much radiation in a single hour as plant workers can legally be exposed to over five years. Two weeks ago, the regulator cited TEPCO for failing to contain less-contaminated groundwater, which has been flowing directly into the ocean at a rate of hundreds of tons a day. “It’s like a haunted house,” said Shunichi Tanaka, head of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority. “Mishaps keep happening one after another.”


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Grim tales from the North: North Korean defectors have begun telling their horror stories of life in the Stalinist country’s prison camps to a U.N. human rights inquiry in Seoul. The inquiry opened this week with testimony from a former camp inmate who said she saw guards force a mother to drown her newborn baby. “The mother begged the guard to spare her, but he kept beating her,” said Jee Heon-a. “So the mother, her hands shaking, put the baby face down in the water.” Another defector told of guards clubbing a 7-year-old girl to death because she stole some food.


Inundated: Half of Manila was under waist-high water this week after a typhoon dumped two feet of rain in a single day. The Philippine capital of 12 million people was completely paralyzed, and tens of thousands of families fled their homes. “The people have no choice but to wade through the water to look for food, but stores are either closed or have run out of supplies,” said Lino Ibadlit, an official in the nearby province of Cavite. Flooding has become more frequent in the capital because the surrounding mountains have been deforested by loggers and huge squatter communities on the outskirts have clogged the waterways.

Pune, India

Superstition foe murdered: The murder of India’s most famous rationalist, Narendra Dabholkar, has prompted the government of Maharashtra state to adopt the anti-superstition law he had championed. Dabholkar sought to outlaw the sale of charms, potions, and “magical” rituals, saying they were just ways for self-styled holy men to prey on the poor and gullible. His activism made him a target for right-wing extremists, who called him “anti-Hindu.” The 71-year-old was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle while walking near a temple this week. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan compared the killing to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and said he would bring the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance to a vote this session.


Murder charge for Musharraf: Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former army chief and dictator of Pakistan, has been charged with the 2007 murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf is alleged to have called off security forces that were supposed to be protecting Bhutto, who was shot in the head—purportedly by the Pakistani Taliban—while campaigning. Musharraf stepped down in 2008 and went into exile after widespread protests over his interference with the courts, but he returned to Pakistan this year to run for office and was promptly put under house arrest pending trial for corruption and abuse of office. Some Pakistani analysts say the charges are political retribution by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was booted from office by Musharraf in a 1999 coup and returned to power this year.

Ghouta, Syria

Poison gas alleged: Hundreds of people, many of them children, were killed in a Damascus suburb this week in what Syrian rebels say was a chemical attack by government forces. Videos showed scores of dead bodies, as well as people convulsing and foaming at the mouth, and doctors said victims had blue lips and pink splotches on their skin. Syrian state media denied the reports, and experts said the injuries could have been caused by concentrated tear gas or by firebombs that sucked all the oxygen out of the area. The U.S. began supplying the rebels with weapons in June, after concluding that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had crossed a “red line” by using sarin gas against rebel forces.

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