The List

Fukushima's Hidden Fallout

Four ripple effects from Japan's disaster. 

Global Supply Chain

The Japanese government estimates that the damage from the March 11 earthquake alone will top $300 billion, already making it the costliest natural disaster in history. But its broader impact on the global economy may prove even more profound.

Since the 1980s, more and more companies, particularly in high-tech industries, have come to rely on Japanese-pioneered "just-in-time" manufacturing, maintaining low inventories and bringing in components as needed, thanks to cheaper shipping and modern tracking software. More often than not, those high-tech components are manufactured in Japan: The country produces 89 percent of the world's aluminum capacitors, 46 percent of lithium-ion batteries, and 87 percent of gaming software. One factory 40 miles west of the Fukushima plant accounts for 20 percent of the world's silicon wafers -- vital for computer memory. The factory is now shuttered, and high-tech firms like Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo are bracing for shortages.

With factories still recovering from earthquake and tsunami damage, manufacturers have warned that products ranging from Apple's iPad to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner will face disruptions and possible shortage. The effects of the quake are evident in the popular Toyota Prius, manufactured entirely in Japan: In California dealerships, the car was selling for an average of $300 below invoice price before the quake. It's now up to $1,000 above invoice.

Following disruptions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and last year's Icelandic volcano eruption, many industry experts are beginning to question the practicality of just-in-time manufacturing. Ironically, it has also reinforced Japan's centrality to the global supply chain, even after two "lost decades" of economic stagnation. But a similar crisis in China's heavily industrialized Guangdong region, for example, could have even more wide-reaching effects.



Japan's fishing industry, which accounts for nearly half of the $3 billion per year Japan takes in from food exports, is still reeling from the double blow of an earthquake that devastated its fleet and radiation warnings that have consumers around the world anxious about its famous seafood. The earthquake and tsunami destroyed some 18,500 fishing vessels. In some parts of the country, nearly 90 percent of the fleet was knocked out.

Now the industry is coping with the effects of the radiation leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was, for a time, being dumped directly into the ocean. While the Japanese government insists that fish from the country's coastal waters is still safe to eat, fish-lovers remain jittery, and many sushi restaurants worldwide have stopped importing Japanese fish as a precaution. Countries including the United States and China have banned the import of food from the Fukushima area, and India has banned all Japanese food for up to three months. Tokyo's famous Tsukiji fish market, the largest in the world and normally packed with tourists, is still a fraction of what it used to be. Daily sales at the market are down 60 percent.


Natural Gas

Tepco, the Japanese utility that operates the Fukushima nuclear plant, is the largest power company in Asia and the fourth-largest in the world; it sold more electricity in 2009 than the entire country of Spain uses in a year. A disruption in the company's power generation, accordingly, can have an impact far beyond Japan's shores, particularly in the market for natural gas, which is often used as fallback for electricity generation when nuclear and other alternative energy systems fail. As Baker Institute energy expert Amy Myers Jaffe has noted, when Tepco temporarily shut down five nuclear power plants in 2002, it pushed natural gas prices up substantially at trading hubs as far away as Louisiana. Another Japanese nuclear plant shutdown in 2007 raised gas prices worldwide for several years.

Last month's earthquake knocked a quarter of Japan's nuclear power generation offline, and the Fukushima reactors alone make up a full half of Tepco's nuclear capacity. Barclays Capital analysts initially forecasted that this would cause Japan to gobble up an additional 3 percent of the global supply of natural gas. As of the end of last week, liquefied natural gas prices had risen in both Asia and Europe since the Fukushima disaster -- and with Japan chary about building new nuclear plants, higher prices may be here to stay. "Fukushima's never coming back online -- and you have to replace it with something," Jaffe says. But Americans can rest easier; the shale gas boom of recent years has left the United States with an excess of natural gas.


Nuclear Power

The disaster at Fukushima has put a premature end to the Europe-based "nuclear renaissance," a post-post-Chernobyl movement toward expanding nuclear energy that had the International Energy Agency predicting nuclear would grow from 6 percent of total global energy supply to more than 11 percent by 2035.

Now those growth rates are being called into question. The European Union (whose energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, has declared the situation at Fukushima a nuclear "apocalypse") has called for "stress tests" for its 143 reactors. Meanwhile, Germany -- the EU's biggest economy -- has suspended plans to prolong the life of its nuclear plants.

Elsewhere in the world, U.S. President Barack Obama, while expressing support for nuclear power, has requested a comprehensive review of the safety of domestic plants. And China, which has plans for a massive expansion of nuclear energy, has said it will hold off on approving new nuclear plants to allow for a revision in safety standards.

The governments of France and Britain have each remained steady in the face of the global panic. British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he still plans to have new plants up and running by 2025. And French Energy Minister Éric Besson, whose country gets up to 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, insisted last week it was his "profound conviction that nuclear energy will stay in Europe and the world and be one of the core energies in the 21st century." French state-owned nuclear group Areva has emphasized to potential customers around the world that its new advanced EPR nuclear reactors are built with much higher safety standards than those at Fukushima. Of course, it helps that France and Britain aren't in earthquake-prone regions.


The List

What Not to Wear

Five countries where the term "fashion police" is meant literally.


Sartorial offense: The niqab and the burqa

The debate: With France's forceful response to the events in Libya, President Nicolas Sarkozy may have cast himself as a defender of freedom in the Islamic world, but a controversial new law back home is unlikely to win him many points among Muslims. Under a regulation that was passed by Parliament last October and went into effect on April 11, women will no longer be able to appear in public wearing traditional Islamic garments including the niqab -- a full face covering -- and the burqa, a full body covering. Anyone caught wearing the niqab can be fined over $200 or required to take courses on French citizenship. Fines are much higher -- over $20,000 or jail time -- for men who force their wives to wear the burqa.

Police made the first two arrests under the new law on the day it went into effect, taking two women into custody at a rally in front of Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral. Under the rules, police are forbidden from asking women to remove their veils in public, but must escort them back to a police station where they will be forced to remove it.

France's discomfort with public displays of religion is nothing new: The wearing of headscarves in state schools has been banned since 2004. But the new law comes at a particularly fraught time for France's Muslim community. Sarkozy's UMP party recently hosted a controversial national debate on the role of Islam in society, and the president has made comments describing multiculturalism as a failure. French Muslims claim the ban is a symbolic, discriminatory response to a problem that doesn't exist: Fewer than 2,000 women in France are believed to wear full face coverings. 



Sartorial offense: Bare skin, cross-dressing

The debate: Restrictions on clothing make up just one category of Saudi Arabia's strict social laws, dictating separation between the sexes in most arenas of life. Women typically conform to a firm dress code while in public -- a black cloak known as an abaya and the niqab. There is some room for personal expression, however: Abayas are now available trimmed with sparkles or leopard print.

Men face their own restrictions, though these are mostly related to women's dress as well. In 2009, the Saudi government arrested 67 men on accusations of cross-dressing at a private party in Riyadh celebrating Filipino Independence Day. This follows a similar incident in March 2005, when over 100 men were detained for imitating women at another private party in the city of Jeddah. A government newspaper said that the men were dancing and "behaving like women." While they initially were sentenced to imprisonment and flogging, they were later pardoned and released.



Sartorial offense: Western clothing

The debate: Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was so eager to put Buddhist teachings into action that he promoted the metric of "gross national happiness" as an alternative to traditional economic development measures. He also, however, found some less warm and fuzzy ways of preserving traditional Bhutanese culture from what he saw as corrupting outside influences -- among them, draconian restrictions on clothing.

Since 1990, Bhutanese have been required by law to follow the official national dress code, known as Driglam Namzha, in public. For men, that involves a knee-length robe known as a gho. For women, it's a type of ankle-length kimono called a kira. Those caught wearing anything else can be subject to a $3.30 fine, which amounts to three days' wages. The rules are even more specific for civil servants, who must wear sashes of various colors and designs depending on their office. Bhutanese have evolved some bizarre fashion responses to the law, including the briefly in vogue practice of wearing jeans under the gho.

Driglam Namzha is just one of the cultural laws resented by the Hindu Nepalese community in southern Bhutan, which has been persecuted for years by the Bhutanese government.   

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images



Sartorial offense: Long hair or pants

The debate: In North Korea, where daily life is a parade of regulations, clothing is no exception. In 2005, North Korean state TV showed a five-part series on personal grooming titled, "Let's trim our hair in accordance with the socialist lifestyle." It instructed men to pick one of several officially sanctioned haircuts. Options included the crew cut and the "high, middle, and low" styles. Hair should be trimmed every 15 days, the show advised, and men over 50 were permitted to grow their hair up to 2.75 inches in order to hide bald spots. Unfortunately, Dear Leader Kim Jong Il's signature pouf was not on the menu of options.

Proper dress in North Korea is considered vital to the country's health. According to the Guardian, a radio broadcast in 2005 titled, "Dressing in accordance with our people's emotion and taste" informed North Koreans that looking tidy would keep the capitalists away and would promote "the socialist lifestyle of the military-first era."

The consequences for not dressing in accordance with the people's emotion are dire. North Korean women face hard labor if they are caught wearing trousers instead of skirts. In 1986, Kim Jong Il issued a decree urging women to wear traditional Korean attire. "The Dear Leader has said national character shows up not only in language, etiquette and morals but in attire as well," official North Korean website Uriminzokkiri said in 2009. According to the site, Kim said that the country's traditional garb is a "source of [national] pride."

FENG LI/Getty Images


Sartorial offense: Trousers on women, makeup on men

The debate: Lubna Hussein became known among international journalists as the "Sudan trouser woman" after she incited a media frenzy to draw attention to Sudan's practice of flogging women who are "indecently attired." But despite the attention attracted by Hussein's arrest and subsequent trial, she wasn't able to change Sudanese public decency laws. Thousands of Sudanese women are still arrested each year for "public order" offenses, a vague category that can be interpreted to prohibit everything from short skirts to dancing between women and men.

In July 2009, Hussein was one of a dozen pants-wearing women arrested in a restaurant in Khartoum. Ten of the women pleaded guilty immediately to charges of "indecent" attire and were punished with 10 lashes and a fine of 250 Sudanese pounds. Hussein, a former U.N. official who left her job so she could not receive diplomatic immunity, took her case to trial in an attempt to publicize Sudan's harsh interpretation of sharia law. Hussein was spared the 40 lashes that she was initially supposed to receive and instead stayed in jail until a Sudanese journalists' union paid a fine on her behalf.

Although the international attention over Hussein's case has died down, cases like hers still happen on a regular basis. In December, Sudanese police arrested dozens of women protesting against Islamic decency laws after a video of a woman being publicly flogged appeared on the Internet. Also in December, a Sudanese court convicted seven men of indecency. The men, all amateur models in the "Sudanese Next Top Model Fashion Show" in Khartoum in June 2010, were accused of wearing makeup. They were fined 200 Sudanese pounds each, as was their makeup artist, a woman.