IAEA: Japan nuclear regulation should improve skills, law

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's nuclear safety regulation has improved since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, but it still needs to strengthen inspections and staff competency, a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

It was the first IAEA review for the authority since it was established in 2012. Japan adopted stricter safety requirements for plant operators, but the law stipulating on-site inspections remained unchanged.

The 17-member team, which concluded a 12-day inspection that included the wrecked Fukushima plant, said Friday that Japan's regulatory body demonstrated independence and transparency — crucial elements lacking before the disaster, when a separate agency was in charge.

France, India to focus talks on defense deal, clean energy

NEW DELHI (AP) — Amid the pomp of a military parade, the leaders of France and India are planning ambitious discussions next week in New Delhi that could end with a multibillion-dollar deal for combat airplanes and closer cooperation on counterterrorism and clean energy.

French President Francois Hollande arrives Sunday to tour the northern city of Chandigarh before traveling to the Indian capital for meetings with officials and a place as guest of honor on Tuesday at India's Republic Day parade, celebrating 66 years since the country adopted its constitution.

High on the agenda will be India's desire to purchase 36 Rafale combat planes for its air force, which Modi had announced during a visit to Paris in April, touching off several rounds of negotiations over pricing, offsets and servicing.


Sudan's president orders change to oil deal with South Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan's state-run news agency says the Sudanese President Omar Bashir has ordered revisions to the economic agreements struck with South Sudan in a positive gesture to the breakaway southern state.

SUNA said that the changes come after a visit by South Sudan's foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin in January when he requested a reduction in the fees Khartoum charges for processing and transporting oil from South Sudan to its northern neighbor.

The pipeline between the two countries is operated by Khartoum's government.

FERC's Clark won't seek reappointment when term ends

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Tony Clark says he won't seek reappointment when his term ends June 30.

The Republican made the announcement on his Twitter account Thursday, and his staff confirmed his intention. The federal agency regulates utilities, power generators and pipelines.

Clark was a member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission before President Barack Obama nominated him for one of two GOP spots on the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Clark joined the federal agency in Washington in 2012.

Appeals court: Clean Power Plan can proceed pending review

WASHINGTON (AP) — In what environmentalists hailed as a victory for efforts to curb climate change, an appeals panel in Washington on Thursday rebuffed efforts to delay enforcement of President Barack Obama's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions until legal challenges are resolved.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order denying requests for a stay that would have barred the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the Clean Power Plan.

The plan has been challenged by more than two dozen mostly Republican-led states and allied business and industry groups tied to fossil fuels. The states deride the carbon-cutting plan as an "unlawful power grab" that will kill coal-mining jobs and drive up electricity costs.

California governor outlines push for road funding in speech

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown took a muted tone Thursday as he delivered his State of the State address to the California Legislature, urging fiscal restraint and reinforcing policy positions he has already articulated rather than proposing expensive new programs.

In a recurring theme that sets the stage for upcoming legislative debates, he called on lawmakers to find a permanent revenue source to maintain roads, bridges and other infrastructure that he said now need $77 billion in repairs.

Brown convened a special session on transportation last year and has called for a $65 annual fee on all vehicles and for higher gas and diesel fuel taxes.

Obama says budget includes more money for water systems

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government is investing more money this year to help local governments improve their water systems, and about $80 million will go to Michigan next week, President Barack Obama told the nation's mayors on Thursday.

The city of Flint, Michigan, has generated national attention because of high levels of lead in the water supply. The city's water source had been changed from Detroit's water system to the Flint River in a cost-cutting move and the water was not properly treated to keep lead from leaching into the supply.

Obama said the additional money for cities came as a result of the bipartisan budget agreement that Congress passed in December. The White House said the administration moved to make sure the money is available to Michigan much more quickly than normal, though it is unclear how much, if any, of the money would go to Flint. States use the federal funding to make low-cost loans to local governments for drinking water and wastewater construction projects and have significant freedom in how they prioritize the projects.

EPA regional chief resigns in connection with Flint crisis

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A regional director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency resigned Thursday in connection with the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and EPA chief Gina McCarthy issued an emergency order directing state and city officials to take actions to protect public health.

EPA said in a statement that Susan Hedman, head of the agency's regional office in Chicago whose jurisdiction includes Michigan, was stepping down Feb. 1 so it could focus "solely on the restoration of Flint's drinking water."

High levels of lead have been detected in the impoverished city's water since officials switched from the Detroit municipal system and began drawing from the Flint River as a cost-saving measure in April 2014. Some children's blood has tested positive for lead, a potent neurotoxin linked to learning disabilities, lower IQ and behavioral problems.

Would Flint crisis happen in wealthier, whiter community?

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Ever since the full extent of the Flint water crisis emerged, one question has persisted: Would this have happened in a wealthier, whiter community?

Residents in the former auto-making hub — a poor, largely minority city — feel their complaints about lead-tainted water flowing through their taps have been slighted by the government or ignored altogether. For many, it echoes the lackluster federal response to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Our voices were not heard, and that's part of the problem," Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said this week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C., where she also met with President Barack Obama to make her case for federal help for her city.

Leader of armed group at wildlife refuge is speaking to FBI

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The leader of an armed group that for nearly three weeks has occupied a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon has begun speaking with the FBI.

Standing outside the municipal airport in Burns, Oregon, Ammon Bundy spoke by phone Thursday to an unnamed FBI negotiator. The federal agency has used the airport, about 30 miles from the refuge, as a staging ground during the occupation.

The FBI did not comment on the conversation, though Bundy's conversation was streamed live online by someone from his group.


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