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The earthquake off the coast of Japan and the resulting tsunami has proven, yet again, how the Internet offers an information lifeline to the world in a time of crisis. The Internet was designed so that US military communications could withstand a nuclear war, but is proving equally resilient in the face of natural disasters and even seismic shifts in global politics.


 
 
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The prospect of extended supply disruption caused by Japan's devastating earthquake drove prices for key technology parts higher on Tuesday. If the supply chain is broken for even a few weeks, the impact could be felt in higher prices or shortages of gadgets such as tablets, smartphones and computers for months to come. Japan is a dominant chip industry player, with around one-fifth of the world's semiconductor production.


 
 
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As Japan reels in the aftermath of the most powerful earthquake in its history and worries grow about a nuclear reactor meltdown, some economists wonder whether the disaster will push the country closer to a sovereign debt crisis, too. There's a tug of war happening right now between investors who are buying Japanese government bonds (JGBs) as a safer alternative to the sinking stock market, and investors who are buying credit default swaps on JGBs because they believe the country is will soon default on its debt.

 
 
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Panic over the radiation from the quake-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan is sparking a sudden surge in sales of iodine pills around the world -- even as health experts warn that the pills may be of little use. Since word emerged that Japan has begun distributing potassium iodide tablets to residents near the Fukushima facility, other global regions have noted a spike in sales of the pills.


 
 
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Photos are everything for Yuka Obara, a well-known Japanese blogger who insists anything showing her online be picture-perfect -- especially because it's hard these days to delete poor-quality photos once on the web. The 20-year-old Obara, known by her online profile Yunkoro, has honed her art for four years in line with Japan's cult of the "kawaii" or cute, which has given rise to creative profile picture-taking.


 
 
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When first-time visitors arrive in Japan, a few things they may notice right off the bat include the juxtaposition of the high-tech and the ancient, the unfailing politeness of locals, and a curious fixation with cuteness — to wit, all the cute mascots that promote regions, historic sites, local specialties and events, the police, you name it.


 
 
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As the retailing landscape in Japan becomes increasingly competitive, U.S. clothing retailer Gap Inc. is gearing up to launch its long-awaited e-commerce site there and plans to bring its lower-priced Old Navy chain to the market, according to a company executive. The moves come as the U.S. apparel giant ramps up its presence in Asia, its next frontier for growth.