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News in Brief: Quake Hits Japan After Workers in Nuclear Plant Fend Off Explosion, and More

Quake Hits Japan After Workers in Nuclear Plant Fend Off Explosion

Quake Hits Japan After Workers in Nuclear Plant Fend Off Explosion

A strong undersea earthquake hit off the northeastern coast of Japan today nearly a month after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeastern coast of the island nation, according to NPR. A tsunami alert was issued after the 7.1-magnitude quake for the same coastal area devastated by a massive tsunami last month, but the alert was lifted just hours later. Officials at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said that the earthquake did not cause any new problems at the plant, which has been leaking radiation for weeks after being damaged by a tsunami. Yesterday, workers began pumping nitrogen into the containment vessel in the Fukushima plant's reactor to prevent hydrogen gas from exploding inside the reactor and potentially triggering a meltdown, according to the Environment New Service. Nuclear fuel rods inside the reactor are still partially exposed despite the massive amounts of coolant water that has been pumped in from the sea. The coolant systems for the plant's six reactors failed after being damaged by the March 11 earthquake that rocked Japan.

Ideological Lines Drawn in Congress as Shutdown Looms

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said on Thursday that Congressional negotiators failed to reach agreement on a budget to fund the federal government because of ideological disputes between Democrats and Republicans over issues surrounding abortion and the environment, increasing the chance of a government shutdown beginning this weekend, according to The Washington Post. “It's not realistic to shut down the government on a debate dealing with abortion,” Reid said. “It's not fair to the American people. We haven't solved the issue in 40 years. We're not going to solve it in the next 38 hours. We should not be distracted by ideology. This is a bill that funds the government.” Reid said negotiators are getting close to identifying numbers for proposed spending cuts that both parties can agree on, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently disputed that claim and said no agreement has been made yet.

Biofuels Drive Up Food Prices

The demand for biofuels processed from crops traditionally grown for food is driving up food prices across the world, according to a New York Times report. More and more of the world's food is being diverted into the biofuel market as big countries like China seek alternatives to fossil fuels, and last year, the United Nations reported that its food price index hit its highest point in 20 years. Rising food prices have forced more people into poverty and ignited riots in developing nations across the globe.

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