A Whole Lot at Steak

TOSHIYUKI AIZAWA/REUTERS

Japanese Health Minister Chikara Sakaguchi, left, and Agriculture Minister Tsutomu Takebe sample local beef in a bid to ease fears over mad cow disease

Tsutomu Takebe, Japan's Agriculture Minister, jabs at a juicy slab of grilled steak, waves it in the air with chopsticks and pops it in his mouth. "I've never tasted such good beef!" he crows to a crowd of TV cameras and reporters at a hastily arranged press conference. Then Takebe motions to a fellow Cabinet member, Health Minister Chikara Sakaguchi, and announces: "He is a doctor, and he is going to eat it. So see, there are absolutely no problems with Japan's beef!" Sakaguchi dutifully chews and swallows. "Ah, I see now the beef is safe," he proclaims. "It's been sucked...

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