IAEA completing stationing of missions at Ukraine's nuclear plants

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is finalizing the stationing of permanent missions at Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs), the Ukrainian government press service reported Wednesday.Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi (L) visits the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Kyiv region, central Ukriaine, January 18, 2023. (Photo: CFP)While speaking at a joint briefing with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the mission at Khmelnytsky NPP in western Ukraine is to start working in the coming days."Today, I heard from Director General Rafael Grossi assurances of full support from the IAEA for our efforts to ensure nuclear safety, including at the Zaporizhzhia NPP," Shmyhal said."We are working on the issue of organizing a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia NPP, and we are making progress on this matter," Grossi was quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency as saying.According to an IAEA statement issued on Tuesday, the experts will monitor key nuclear safety and security systems, provide technical assistance, assess the plants needs and report to the IAEA headquarters."With IAEA teams permanently present at all of Ukraines NPPs and the Chornobyl site, the Agency will have around 11-12 staff simultaneously on the ground in the country, an unprecedented undertaking by the organization," the international nuclear watchdog said in the statement.On January 16, the IAEA established its mission at the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.There are five nuclear power plants in Ukraine, four of which are functioning. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which witnessed a nuclear disaster on April 26, 1988, was completely shut down on December 15, 2000.In August 2022, the IAEA sent its monitoring mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which Russian forces have controlled since March...

S.Korea's deaths from fatal industrial accidents fall in 2022

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- The number of worker deaths in South Korea from fatal industrial accidents fell last year, labor ministry data showed Thursday.A total of 644 workers died in 611 cases of serious industrial accidents in 2022, down 5.7 percent from 683 deaths in 665 industrial accidents in the previous year, according to the Ministry of Employment and Labor.The number of on-duty deaths from serious industrial accidents at workplaces with less than 50 regular employees decreased to 388 in 381 cases in 2022 from 435 in 431 cases in 2021.However, the number of deaths at workplaces hiring over 50 employees increased to 256 in 230 cases in 2022 from 248 in 234 cases in the previous year.The workplaces with over 50 employees are subject to the Serious Accidents Punishment Act which was enforced in January 2022 to punish owners or chief executives of businesses failing to take safety measures to prevent fatal industrial accidents.Under the act, those who fail to fulfill their safety duties would be punishable by at least one year in prison or up to 1 billion won (about 810,000 U.S. dollars) in fines.The act was applied to 229 industrial accidents in 2022, and the labor ministry referred 34 of them to the prosecutors office for indictment, indicating that the strict enforcement of the law would be necessary to reduce worker deaths at workplaces with over 50 employees.

One dead, dozens injured in stampede before Iraq Gulf Cup final: medics

One person was killed and dozens injured Thursday when a stampede broke out outside a football stadium in Iraq hours before the Gulf Cup final, medical and security sources said.Iraqs supporters take their seats early in the day for the evenings final match of the Arabian Gulf Cup between Iraq and Oman at the Basra International Stadium in Iraqs eponymous southern city on January 19, 2023. (Photo: AFP)Thousands of fans without tickets had gathered outside the stadium in Iraqs main southern city of Basra since dawn in the hope of watching the final between Iraq and Oman, which was due to kick off at 7:00 pm (1600 GMT)."There has been one death and dozens of slight injuries," a medic said.An interior ministry official gave the same toll. "A large number of fans, many of them without tickets, had gathered since first light to try to get in," the official said.An AFP photographer inside the stadium said the turnstiles were still closed when the stampede broke out. Sirens blared as ambulances arrived to ferry the injured to hospital.Images posted on social media showed a sea of people outside the stadium.

Flavored cannabis marketing in US is criticized for targeting kids

When New Yorks first licensed recreational marijuana outlet opened last month, the chief of the states Office of Cannabis Management, Chris Alexander, proudly hoisted a tin of watermelon-flavored gummies above the crowd.Cannabis vaping products are showcased at Housing Works, New Yorks first legal cannabis dispensary, Thursday Dec. 29, 2022, in New York. (File photo: AP)Outside the Manhattan shop, he displayed another purchase — a jar containing dried flowers of a cannabis strain called Banana Runtz, which some aficionados say has overtones of “fresh, fruity banana and sour candy.”Inside the store run by the nonprofit Housing Works, shelves brimmed with vape cartridges suggesting flavors of pineapple, grapefruit and “cereal milk," written in rainbow bubble letter print.For decades, health advocates have chided the tobacco industry for marketing harmful nicotine products to children, resulting in more cities and states, like New York, outlawing flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.Now as cannabis shops proliferate across the country, the same concerns are growing over the packaging and marketing of flavored cannabis that critics say could entice children to partake of products labeled “mad mango,” “loud lemon” and “peach dream.”“We should learn from the nicotine space, and I certainly would advocate that we should place similar concern on cannabis products in terms of their appealability to youth,” said Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University who has written extensively about the rise in marijuana use among young people.“If you go through a cannabis dispensary right now,” she said, “it’s almost absurd how youth oriented a lot of the packaging and the products are.”Keyes added that public health policymakers — and researchers like her — are trying to catch up with an industry and marketplace that is rapidly expanding and evolving.New York, which legalized recreational marijuana in March 2021, forbids marketi...

Palestine says Israeli forces kill 2, wound 3 in Jenin

Two Palestinians were killed and three others wounded by Israeli forces in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, the Palestine News Agency WAFA reported on Thursday.Israel has not responded to the claim yet.

Nationwide strike in France against Macron's pension reform

Trains will grind to a halt in France on Thursday, classrooms will be shut and businesses disrupted as workers walk off their jobs in an attempt to derail a planned pension reform that would see the retirement age pushed up by two years to 64.Protesters take part in a torch-lit march called by the CGT workers union to protest the French governments pensions reform plan, on the Canebiere in Marseille, southeastern France, January 17, 2023. (Photo: CFP)The nationwide day of strikes and protests is a major test for President Emmanuel Macron, but also for the unions.Opinion polls show French voters overwhelmingly reject a reform that the government says is vital to ensure the pension system does not go bust.The challenge for unions, which are far less powerful in France than they used to be, is whether they can transform that opposition to the reform - and anger with a cost-of-living crisis - into a mass social protest that would last beyond Thursday and eventually get the government to back-track."Inflation, working conditions, pensions ... (people) are fed up with all this and thats why we think many will join us," said Simone Legendre, a member of the CFE-CGC union that represents white-collar workers.For Macron, what is at stake is his reformist credentials, both at home and with his European Union peers, as well as keeping public spending in check.Pushing back the retirement age by two years and extending the pay-in period would yield an additional 17.7 billion euros ($19.1 billion) in annual pension contributions, allowing the system to break even by 2027, according to Labor Ministry estimates. Unions argue there are other ways to ensure the viability of the pension system.The reform still needs to go through parliament, where Macron has lost his majority but is hoping to get it adopted with the support of conservatives.Unions have described the day as a starting point, with more strikes and protests to follow.Public transport will be seve...

Mass graves found in DR Congo's eastern Ituri Province: UN

UN peacekeepers have discovered mass graves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) containing the bodies of 42 civilians, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.The victims, including 12 women and six children, were discovered in the village of Nyamamba in the countrys eastern Ituri Province, said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Peacekeepers found another grave with the bodies of seven men in the village of Mbogi.Both locations are about 30 kilometerseast of Bunia, capital city of Ituri Province.The spokesman said the UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, received reports that CODECO militias attacked civilians in the area over the weekend and launched a patrol to investigate."This is when they made the gruesome discoveries," he said.The mission is supporting the Congolese judicial system to investigate the attacks, Haq said, and it called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice."These incidents occurred amidst a significant deterioration of the security situation in Djugu and Mahagi territories," he said, adding that since December 2022, the UN mission reports that at least 195 civilians have been killed, 68 injured and 84 others abducted during several incidents attributed to CODECO and Zaire armed groups.Haq said the recent attacks have increased the number of displaced people to more than 1.5 million in Ituri and reduced access for humanitarians to those in need of assistance.The acronym CODECO describes a loose coalition of armed, ethnic militias, which is regarded as one of the most deadly militias operating in the mineral-rich eastern DRC.

Türkiye set to bring forward election date

Erdogans AKP is facing competition from a six-party alliance of secularist and nationalist opponents. /Presidential Press Office/ReutersTürkiyes leader has indicated that presidential and parliamentary elections could be brought forward by a month. Speaking in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to confirm widely held speculation that the most significant poll since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power will be held a month earlier than planned.Erdogan told lawmakers that the country could go to polls on the same date as the Republics second ever multi-party elections, which were held on May 14, 1950."On the same day, 73 years later, our nation will say enough to these coup pranksters and incompetent aspirants that face us. I call on our parliament to do what is necessary," said Erdogan.Support for the ruling AKP has fallen to around a third in polls, as Turkish citizens grapple with an official inflation rate of over 80 percent and a currency crisis that has seen the lira more than halve in value since 2021. AKP insiders have grown uneasy that the planned election, slated for June 18, would affect turnout among the partys core conservative base, as it will be held too close to the annual Kurban Bayrami religious holiday.Creating chaos in the oppositionErdogans AKP is facing competition from a six-party alliance of secularist and nationalist opponents, which has yet to choose a candidate to run against him. One favorite, Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoglu, is facing a ban from politics after being convicted last month of insulting public officials. His appeal is pending.Meanwhile, Türkiyes third biggest political group, the pro-Kurdish HDP has had its bank accounts frozen and is facing a bid by prosecutors to close it down completely ahead of voting, over its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party. Speaking from jail where he has served five years on terrorism ch...

15 servicemen killed in fire in Armenia

MOSCOW, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Fifteen servicemen were killed, and three others are in serious condition as a result of a fire in the barracks, Armenias defense ministry was quoted on Thursday by Russian state news network Russia Today.

Japan logs record trade deficit in 2022 amid soaring energy prices, weak yen

File photo: APTOKYO, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Japan posted its biggest annual trade deficit since record keeping began in 2022, as soaring prices for energy and raw material prices were further inflated by a weaker yen, the government said in a report on Thursday.According to the Finance Ministry, the country logged a 19.97 trillion yen (155.29 billion U.S. dollars) deficit for 2022, marking the largest amount of red ink for a year since comparable data became available in 1979.Imports in the recording period leaped 39.2 percent to a record 118.16 trillion yen (918.88 billion U.S. dollars), while exports were up a record 8.2 percent to 98.19 trillion yen (763.58 billion U.S. dollars), the ministrys preliminary reports showed.The yens plunge to a more than three-decade low versus the U.S. dollar during 2022 punctuated the trade deficit and the fact that resource-poor Japan is at the mercy of imports for the countrys core needs.As for December alone, Japan booked a trade deficit of 1.45 trillion yen (11.27 billion U.S. dollars), the ministry said.In the month, imports climbed 20.6 percent to 10.24 trillion yen (79.63 billion U.S. dollars), while exports rose 11.5 percent at 8.79 trillion yen (68.35 billion U.S. dollars), the ministrys data also showed.

Fukushima water disposal by no means Japan's own business


New Zealand PM Ardern announces she will resign next month

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday she will resign next month."For me its time," she said at a meeting of members of her Labour Party. "I just dont have enough in the tank for another four years."Ardern, who became prime minister in a coalition government in 2017, then led her centre-left Labour Party to a comprehensive victory in an election three years later, has seen her party and personal popularity drop in recent polls.In her first public appearance since parliament went into its summer recess a month ago, she told Labours annual caucus retreat that during the break she had hoped to find the energy to continue as leader, "but I have not been able to do that".Ardern said the next general election will be held on Saturday, October 14 and she would continue as an electorate MP until then."I am not leaving, because I believe we cannot win the next election, but because I believe we can and will," she said.Ardern said her resignation would take effect no later than February 7, adding that the Labour caucus would vote on a new leader on January 22.Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said he would not be putting his name forward.Ardern said there was no secret behind her resignation."I am human. We give as much as we can for as long as we can and then its time. And for me, its time."I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead -- and also when youre not."

EU to counter US climate game changer with own green deal

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, delivers an address on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2023. /CFPThe European Union responded on Tuesday to U.S. moves to boost its energy transition with its own plans to make life easier for the green industry, saying it would mobilize state aid and a sovereignty fund to keep firms from moving to the United States.European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos that the moves would be part of the EUs Green Deal industrial plan to make Europe a center for clean technology and innovation."The aim will be to focus investment on strategic projects along the entire supply chain. We will especially look at how to simplify and fast-track permitting for new clean tech production sites," she said in a speech at the meeting."To keep European industry attractive, there is a need to be competitive with the offers and incentives that are currently available outside the EU," von der Leyen added.Earlier, International Energy Agency (IEA) executive director Fatih Birol told a WEF panel that energy security was now the biggest driver of climate investment.Birol said the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed by President Joe Biden last year, would drive investment in cleaner energy and represented the most significant climate deal since the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.This view was echoed by Larry Fink, chief executive of the worlds biggest asset manager BlackRock, who told an event on the sidelines of the WEF meeting that the move by the U.S. government to finance a faster shift in the worlds biggest economy through the IRA was a "game changer."

UN wants to increase aid to frontline areas of Ukraine

File photoUNITED NATIONS, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations said Wednesday it aims to increase convoys carrying aid to parts of Ukraine "close to the frontlines," supporting local volunteers and organizations.The UN humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, said in a press release that a seven-truck convoy had reached Vovchansk in the Kharkiv region, just five kilometers from the Russian border."This community has been heavily impacted by months of hostilities and the 4,500 people who remain there depend on humanitarian aid to meet their needs," said the release.The convoy supplied hygiene kits, blankets, solar lamps, sleeping bags and emergency shelter kits to more than 1,000 families, provided by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Childrens Fund.Among the participants in the convoy was the World Food Programme, which conducted a rapid assessment of markets.The UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative signed last July along with a Memorandum of Understanding, aimed at suppling markets with food and fertilizer amid global shortages and rising prices exacerbated by the Ukraine crisis, has now allowed 17.8 million tons to reach millions in need worldwide.The critical food supplies, mostly from farms in Ukraine, have reached 43 countries since August, more than 40 percent of them low and middle-income nations, the initiatives Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) said in a note to correspondents on Wednesday.In December, exports through Ukraines Black Sea ports rose to 3.7 million metric tons, up from 2.6 million in November, and over the last two weeks, nearly 1.2 million metric tons have left port.Nearly 44 percent of the wheat exported has been shipped to low and lower-middle income countries, the JCC reported.In support of its humanitarian operations in hunger-stricken countries, the World Food Programme purchased 8 percent of wheat exported last year.The JCC team, which includes offici...

At least 120 injured in 5.4-magnitude quake in NW Iran

At least 120 people have been injured in a 5.4-magnitude earthquake that jolted northwestern Iran on Wednesday, according to Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA).The quake hit Khoy County in the province of West Azerbaijan at 1:38 p.m. (GMT 1008) at a depth of 12 kilometers, Morteza Moradipour, deputy head for operations at Irans Relief and Rescue Organization, was quoted by ISNA as saying.

Iran says UK's reactions to Akbari's execution prove 'maliciousness' against Iranians

TEHRAN, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Iranian judiciary spokesman said on Wednesday that Britains "hasty" reactions to the execution of one of its "prominent spies" is indicative of its "malicious actions" against the Iranians.Masoud Setayeshi made the remarks in an address to a weekly press conference, commenting on the execution of former Iranian deputy Defense Minister Alireza Akbari on charges of espionage on behalf of Britain, and Britains reactions to the move, according to the Mizan news agency of the Iranian judiciary.Setayeshi gave the assurance that the entire processes for Akbaris trial and execution were gone through by the Iranian judicial apparatus "accurately and with full legal dominance."He added the Iranian judicial apparatus is determined to continue pursuing the case in domestic and international courts until the Iranian peoples rights are fully protected.Mizan on Saturday reported the execution of Akbari, who held dual Iranian-British nationality, on charges of "espionage on behalf of Britain," "corruption on earth" -- a term used by Iranian authorities to refer to a range of offenses including those related to violating Islamic codes -- and "acting against the countrys internal and external security."According to the indictment issued against him, Akbari had "acted against Irans national security through spying on behalf of and cooperating with the United Kingdoms Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)," also known as MI6, and "had held numerous meetings with enemies intelligence officers in different countries."In reaction to Irans hanging of Akbari, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned in a Saturday tweet that the execution will not "stand unchallenged."In another tweet, Cleverly said Britain had imposed sanctions on Irans Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri following Akbaris execution.

South African president extends Lunar New Year wishes to Chinese government, people

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the announcement of South Africas local elections results in Pretoria, South Africa, Nov. 4, 2021. (File photo: Xinhua)JOHANNESBURG, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa Wednesday extended his best wishes to the government and people of China on the occasion of the Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival."My dear brothers and sisters from China and all Chinese communities around the world: I wish you all a happy Lunar New Year and a prosperous Spring Festival 2023," Ramaphosa said in a statement posted on the website of the Presidency.South Africa values the vibrant economic relations and political cooperation that characterize its partnership with China, he said."On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, I wish the government and the people of China, including here in South Africa, a happy and fulfilling time of goodwill, celebration and friendship, as you renew the bonds between friends or reunite with family during this period," Ramaphosa said."As we enter the new year, we are also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of South Africa and the Peoples Republic of China in 1998," he added.The Year of the Rabbit falls on Sunday this year.

Media worldwide bullish on China's economic prospects after COVID-19 measure adjustment

Chinas optimized COVID-19 response policies have garnered widespread praise from media and observers worldwide, who are bullish on Chinas economic prospects.A night view of east Chinas Shanghai, November 4, 2020. (Photo: CFP)In a recent Bloomberg article, Hao Hong, chief economist at Grow Investment Group, was quoted as saying that Chinas recent changes are "breathtaking," and there were "policy pivots in just about every single sector.""Chinas economy is now forecast to expand by 4.8 percent this year, compared with little growth in the United States and a potential contraction in the eurozone, according to data compiled by Bloomberg," said the article, adding that some institutions, such as Morgan Stanley, which has raised Chinas 2023 GDP growth target by another 0.3 percentage point to 5.7 percent, are more optimistic."We believe the market is under-appreciating the far-reaching ramifications of reopening (of China) and the possibility that a robust cyclical recovery can occur," the article said, citing a note recently written by economists at Morgan Stanley as saying.Describing the Chinese stock market as "taking off," The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported that UBS Global Wealth Management upgraded Chinese equities to "most preferred" in Asia.UBS analysts said in the Chinese market, "select companies in the consumer, internet, pharmaceutical, medical equipment, transportation, capital goods and materials sectors are likely to see more front-loaded returns," according to the report."Global asset managers are starting the year with a stronger foothold in Chinas 26 trillion yuan (about $3.8 trillion) mutual fund industry" as Chinas COVID response shift and focus on the economy have brightened prospects for investors, Bloomberg said on its website on Wednesday."By summer and into the second half of the year, expect China to be a top pr...

Vo Thi Anh Xuan named as Vietnamese acting president

HANOI, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Vietnamese Vice President Vo Thi Anh Xuan was named as the acting president on Wednesday, a day after former President Nguyen Xuan Phuc resigned, local media reported.Vuong Dinh Hue, chairman of Vietnams National Assembly (NA), signed an announcement on behalf of the NAs Standing Committee about the new position of Xuan on Wednesday, local online newspaper VnExpress reported.Xuan, born in 1970, has been the vice president since April 2021. She will serve as the acting president till the top legislature elects a new president.Cover photo: A man sits by the window looking down at a street in Hanoi on October 5, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

UK nurses stage new walkout as strike wave intensifies

Thousands of nurses in Britain walked out Wednesday in a new protest over pay, with no end in sight to a wave of strikes that has piled pressure on the U.K.‘s overburdened public health system.A member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) holds a dog on the picket line outside Kings College Hospital, London, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 as nurses take industrial action over pay. (Photo: PA via AP)Two 12-hour strikes on Wednesday and Thursday affect about a quarter of hospitals and clinics in England. Emergency care and cancer treatment will continue, but thousands of appointments and procedures are likely to be postponed.Nurses, ambulance crews, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors, bus drivers and postal workers have all walked off their jobs in recent months to demand higher pay amid a cost-of-living crisis.Inflation in the U.K. hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October, driven by sharply rising energy and food costs, before easing slightly to 10.5% in December.The nurses’ union has been seeking a pay raise of 5% above inflation, though it has said it will accept a lower offer. The Conservative government argues that double-digit public sector pay increases will drive inflation even higher.“Unaffordable pay hikes will mean cutting patient care and stoking the inflation that would make us all poorer,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote in the Independent newspaper.The government also has angered unions by introducing a bill that will make it harder for key workers to strike by setting ”minimum safety levels” for firefighters, ambulance services and railways that must be maintained during a walkout.The Royal College of Nurses union has announced two more strike days next month, when disruption across the economy looks set to intensify. Feb. 1 is shaping up to be the most disruptive day yet, with walkouts by teachers, train drivers, civil servants and university staff. Ambulance staff are due to announce more strike dates later ...

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