News from around the World

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on April 19, 2011

FINLAND – Finns back euroskeptics

HELSINKI — Finnish voters dealt a blow Sunday to Europe’s plans to rescue Portugal and other debt-ridden economies, ousting the pro-bailout government and giving a major boost to a euroskeptic nationalist party.

The anti-immigration and staunchly euroskeptic True Finns don’t see why Finland should rescue Europe’s “squanderers,” while the Social Democrats have called for changes to how they are funded.

[The True Finns say Finnish taxpayers are being unjustly burdened by “squanderers” in the 17-nation eurozone*, noting that no one rushed to [Finland’s] aid during its own financial crisis in the 1990s. Finland is now among the most fiscally prudent in the group.

Finland’s voice matters for Europe: any bailout requires the unanimous support of all eurozone members. And unlike other countries, where the government decides whether to approve rescue funds, it’s Parliament that makes the call in Finland. (from]

The outcome raises questions about Finland’s support for rescue packages that need unanimous approval in the 17-member eurozone.

If any single country pulls out, the system will crash, leading to a worsening of the debt crisis.

JAPAN – Japan taps US robots to help cleanup at nuclear reactors

TOKYO — …Nuclear cleanup crews on the tsunami-ravaged northern coast [of Japan] are depending on U.S.-made robots to enter damaged reactor units where it is still too dangerous for humans to tread.

Utility workers seeking to regain control of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are deploying robots from Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot to measure radiation levels, temperatures and other conditions inside the reactors. …..

Takeshi Makigami, an official with Tokyo Electric Power [TEPCO], which is the operator of the crippled nuclear plant, said humans must still do the sophisticated engineering needed to stem the radiation, but robots can go in first to monitor when it will be safe for people to enter.

“We have to check where to go and what to do,” he said.

TEPCO spokesman Shogo Fukuda said the company has only now begun using the robots because it took several weeks for crews to learn how to operate the complex devices.

Although Japan has a sophisticated robotics capability, most of its development is in household applications rather than disaster recovery. …

UKRAINE – Thousands protest Chernobyl benefit cuts

KIEV — About 2,000 veterans of the Chernobyl cleanup operation rallied Sunday in Ukraine’s capital to protest cuts in the benefits and pensions they receive to compensate them for their exposure to radiation.

Days before the 25th anniversary of the explosion at the nuclear power plant that sent clouds of radiation over much of Europe, protesters in Kiev expressed their anger at the government over drastically reduced pensions and the rising cost of health care, with more cutbacks to come.

Leonid Lytvynenko, 48, said his monthly pension has been cut from $212 to $150 since January, and he spends more than half of it buying medicine that until this year was free. He gave no details about his illness, saying only that it stemmed from his work in Chernobyl in 1986.

“I was 23 then and performed my national duty,” said Mr. Lytvynenko, a small, thin man whose face is deeply wrinkled. “Now I am disabled and my country has thrown me overboard.”

He was among about 600,000 so-called “liquidators” who were sent from all over the Soviet Union to the Chernobyl plant after the April 26, 1986, explosion and fire.

In 1991, Soviet authorities offered a generous package of benefits to Chernobyl cleanup workers. But over time, the benefits have been cut back, and requirements to prove a connection between Chernobyl service and illness have become tougher.

The current government under President Viktor Yanukovych said it has been forced to make further cuts this year because of the lingering effects of the global financial crisis, which hit Ukraine hard. Mr. Yanukovych said recently that fulfilling the past promises to Chernobyl workers is “beyond the government’s strength.”

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at: on April 17th and Pittsburgh and San Jose on April 18th.)



(From  True Finns' leader Timo Soini [explained his party's position]: "We are against any new contributions to bailouts. This is not the way to do it. Banks have to be made responsible for lending money too freely and countries in trouble should sell their assets."

Some 60 percent of Finns responding to a survey earlier this month said they opposed bailouts, while 31 percent approved.

Henri Nylund, a 23-year-old jobseeker said of the bailouts:  "I don't think Finnish taxpayers should cough up any money for Portugal. Bailouts are just wasted money - like throwing cash into a bottomless pit. Countries that overspend should not be helped but punished for their stupidity."

*Eurozone: (from wikipedia)

The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) is a special purpose vehicle agreed by the 27 member states of the European Union in May 2010, aiming at preserving financial stability in Europe by providing financial assistance to eurozone states in economic difficulty.

In March 2010, the European Council agreed on a bailout mechanism for Greece and, with the approval of the [eurozone], for any other country in need of it.

The majority of the €22 billion [U.S. $31.4 billion] loan funds came from contributions from eurozone members, with substantial extra contributions from the IMF [International Monetary Fund].


JAPAN: (from