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China pollution: Survey finds 70% of firms break regulations

An inspection of companies based around Beijing found more than 70% were violating air pollution regulations, Chinese state media says.

Firms pumped out more emissions than allowed, operated without licences or had insufficient pollution control equipment, Xinhua news agency reported.

Checks were carried out at thousands of companies at 28 cities in and around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

Air pollution in Chinese cities is notoriously bad.

The findings appear to confirm suspicions that companies ignore strict environmental protection policies and that officials do not enforce them, correspondents say.

Inspections found that more than 13,000 companies had failed to meet environmental standards, the ministry of environmental protection said in a statement.

The ministry ordered local officials to investigate the firms and rectify the problems, the statement said.

China's government is under pressure to do more to address the sources of smog, including reducing reliance on coal-fired power plants, the country's primary source of electricity.

Earlier this year, Beijing's mayor said a new team of environmental police would try to reduce smog levels by tackling local sources of air pollution, including open-air barbecues and dusty roads.

The mayor also promised to reduce coal consumption by 30% this year.

Japan holds evacuation drills as North Korea presses on with missile tests
by Teppei Kasai | ABU, JAPAN

About 100 school children and their parents are holding a clean-up on the field of the local elementary school in this small fishing and farming town, when an alarm warns of an impending missile attack and they run for the school gymnasium.

The siren "rang all of a sudden while we were picking grass, so that scared me," said Taison Ito, a 10-year-old fifth grader.

"It's something close to our daily lives," said parent Kanako Ono, adding that news about North Korea and missile tests is always in newspapers and on TV.

Sunday's evacuation drill in this town of 3,500 people some 760 km (475 miles) west of Tokyo involved a simulated North Korean missile attack as more Japanese towns and cities take steps to brace for what they hope will never happen.

North Korea has been increasing the number of its missile test launches in recent months, launching 12 so far this year and three last month, with many splashing into the Sea of Japan, some inside Japan's exclusive economic zone, which extends up to 200 miles from its shores.

Tokyo has repeatedly condemned the test launches, which are in violation of U.N. resolutions. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government earlier this year instructed municipalities to hold evacuation drills, heightening a sense of urgency among the public.

Security experts say the drills won't necessarily protect everyone from ballistic missiles, but going through the evacuation procedure in a simulated situation will help people survive in an actual attack.

"It's hard to say how many people will be saved and how much effect it will have. But, with awareness raised and basic procedure understood, the survival rate will definitely be higher," retired Vice Admiral Yoji Koda said.

To help the public prepare, the government has put on its website a list of tips in case a missile lands in Japanese territory, such as "take shelter in a robust building nearby" and "move away from windows or, if possible, move to a room without windows."

It is estimated that it would take about 10 minutes for a North Korean missile to reach Japan, but it would take a few minutes for the government to alert local authorities and the public about the launch.

At Abu, school officials told the children they were able to evacuate into the gymnasium in around three minutes.

"It was a good way to understand how to evacuate," said parent Ono. "But again it didn't feel very realistic."

(Reporting by Teppei Kasai; Writing and additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Japanese parliament passes bill on Emperor Akihito’s abdication

The bill will be applied only to the current emperor and will set no precedents

TOKYO, June 9. /TASS/. The upper chamber of the Japanese parliament unanimously passed a bill paving the way for the abdication of Emperor Akihito and the ascension of his son Crown Prince Naruhito.

A total of 235 out of 242 lawmakers took part in the vote, all of them supported the bill.

Under the document, the emperor may abdicate within three years after the adoption of the bill. The date of the future abdication has never been officially announced, however, according to media reports, it may take place in December 2018.

The special law outlines the conditions and procedures for the abdication of 83-year-old Emperor Akihito. It will be applied only to the current emperor and will set no precedents, in order to rule out possible pressure by the parliament on future emperors.

In early August 2016, Emperor Akihito, who is now 83, said in a televised address he was thinking about abdication over his old age. Public opinion polls demonstrate that the majority of the Japanese are not against his abdication.

His successor is Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, who is expected to ascend the throne on January 1, 2019.

After his abdication, Emperor Akihito will retain his privileges and will get the historical title of Daijo Tenno, often shortened to Joko, which can roughly be translated as retired sovereign.

The title of Joko was widely used in the feudal period when emperors’ abdications were rather a frequent thing, with 62 Japanese abdicating emperors.
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