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South Korea: Fire in hospital housing elderly people kills at least 37

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fire broke out on Friday morning and destroyed the bottom two floors of a six-story hospital in Miryang, South Korea, killing at least 37 people, most of them elderly. More than a hundred injuries were reported, with eighteen people in critical condition. This is the highest death toll from fire in South Korea in almost a decade.

The fire is believed to have started at about 7:30 local time, according to fire chief Choi Man-woo. It originated on the ground floor in the emergency room as per various officials. The hospital has 98 beds and a medical staff of about 35, and specializes in long-term care of elderly patients. It adjoins a nursing home, all of whose 94 residents were evacuated. Staff carried some patients out of the hospital on their backs.

One patient, Jang Yeong-jae, who told his story to JoongAng Ilbo, said he escaped by removing a screen from a window to get to a ladder placed by firefighters. He described people “running around in panic, falling over and screaming as smoke filled the rooms”. The majority of the victims died from smoke inhalation and are believed to be elderly, said the head of the city’s public hospital, Chun Jae-kyung. A doctor, a nurse, and a nursing assistant have died, according to the fire service; it took three hours to put out the fire.

In a press briefing, Seok Gyeong-sik, the director of the hospital, apologized to patients and their families. Son Kyung-chul, its chairman, stated that there were no sprinklers because the facility was small. Sprinklers are being installed in the nursing home, where a new law requires them by June 30.

Last month, 29 people died in a fire in a gym in Jecheon; the owner and the manager were arrested for safety violations. In 2014, a blaze in a nursing home in Jangseong left 21 dead. The President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, responded to the Friday fire by calling an emergency meeting of his staff, and promised that the cause would be found rapidly “to prevent the recurrence of the fire in the future”.

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US Federal Reserve Chairman gives first news conference

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Wednesday, at the first live public news conference ever given by the Federal Reserve (Fed), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke explained the US central bank’s recent policy to a small group of reporters and answered some questions.

The conference was conducted two hours after the release of a report by the Fed’s policymaking committee, the Federal Open Market Committee outlining its policies decided the day before. Until 1994 the Fed gave no information about the policy decisions made in its meetings pertaining to short-term interest rates and other policies. The public was left to guess what decisions were. In 1994 the Fed began issuing brief reports.

Unlike the US, the central banks in Europe, Japan, Canada and other countries have regularly meetings with the press after making such policy decisions.

The public has increasingly been aware of the secretive practices of the Fed, especially after its unprecedented intervention with massive bailouts of large financial institutions during the recent financial crises.

At Wednesday’s meeting, it was decided that the Fed would maintain near-zero interest rates to stimulate the economy. It announced that it plans to end its program of buying back treasury bonds by the end of June, a program receiving criticism from Republicans concerned about the budget deficit.

Bernanke’s exchange with reporters, called “historic” by the Los Angeles Times, was the first of a series of regular news conferences planned to be held quarterly by Bernanke to provided the Fed with more transparency. He was cautious in his remarks. He made no news but explained in general terms the Fed’s policy.

He said the Fed is attempting to revive the US economy by creating jobs and keeping inflation low.

“The trade-offs are getting less attractive at this point,” Bernanke said. “Inflation has gotten higher … it’s not clear we can get substantial improvements in payrolls without some additional inflation risk.”

Unfortunately, the reason we use this vaguer terminology is we don’t know with certainty how quickly response will be required.

During the conference, Bernanke said he recognized that the average American was unhappy with the increasing inflation and the slow job growth, but said the Fed projected that long-term inflation will remain stable while he acknowledged the effects of the short-term price increases which he said were driven largely by the increase in the price of oil.

“There’s not much the Federal Reserve can do about gas prices, per se, at least not without derailing growth entirely, which certainly is not the right way to go,” Bernanke said. “After all, the Fed can’t create more oil.”

When asked by reporters to explain his vague answers, he gave general replies. For example, when asked to clarify the Fed’s intention to maintain near-zero interest rates for an “extended period” he said the wording suggested this period would probably continue through a couple more policymaking meetings at least.

“Unfortunately, the reason we use this vaguer terminology is we don’t know with certainty how quickly response will be required,” he said.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, said of Bernanke’s performance at the press conference, “He was well-prepared and did exactly what he wanted to do – do no harm.”

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Calls for corporate tax reform in Australia goes unheeded

Friday, May 12, 2006

Peter Costello’s budget announcement has led to rejoicing for small businesses, but the lack of joy for those pushing for radical corporate taxation reform has led to many businesses asking “what about us?”

Personal taxation and small business have been the big winners after this year’s federal budget. Although dampened by the twin economic threats of rising interest rates and petrol prices, there should be a reasonable amount of real income savings for both low and high income earners, with those receiving Medicare, or a superannuation benefit, privy to an even lower level of taxation (0% for those on super benefits).

Small business also has benefited from the Howard government’s 11th annual budget, with them receiving a higher level of reducing depreciation, leading to a higher level of deductions in the years following the uptake of new technology or other capital. They are also privy to a AU$435 million dollar tax cut to compensate for their changing accounting requirements under the government’s new AIFRS reporting standards, as well as increasing the uptake of both the small business tax relief scheme and CGT (Capital Gains tax) Concessions.

The budget was not a complete loss for big business however, as superannuation laws have been tweaked to streamline contribution and payment rules previously impeding those with multitudes of staff.

But this is not enough, says Big 4 accounting firm Ernst & Young. In their newly published paper “Taxation of Investment in Australia: the need for ongoing reform”. In it they lead the charge for a greater streamlining and organization of the corporate tax system in Australia, submitting that it will lead to reductions in “disincentives to work save and invest in Australia [as well as improving] the international competitiveness of Australian businesses.” This follows from a recent report brought out by Mr. Costello himself about the need for tax reform in Australia.

A budget night Mr. Costello was notably coy about any future reform of corporate tax in Australia. He alluded to the report by his ministers but kept from outlining the government’s plan precisely.

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British box office record set for UK films

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The UK Film Council has said British films claimed a record one-third share of UK cinema takings last year.

The council has also revealed that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was Britain’s top-grossing film in 2005 after taking £435m ($808m) at the Box Office worldwide. It was one of eight British films to be included in the top 20 list of the world’s biggest grossing movies. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Batman Begins, Kingdom of Heaven, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Nanny McPhee and Pride and Prejudice took £1.8bn ($3.3) in total globally and were seen by 600 million people.

John Woodward, the chief executive officer of the UK Film Council, said: “The figures show that the public love British films and 2005 was a great year for British films at the cinema with the largest slice of Box Office takings since records began.”

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell|, who has exposed tax incentives aimed at luring filmmakers to the UK, said: “Harry Potter, Nanny McPhee and Willy Wonka have all been hits at home and abroad – helping us achieve great success at the Box Office. I hope that next year, buoyed by the new tax incentive, the UK film industry will be in even better health.”

The amount of British people viewing foreign language films also increased. More than 200 foreign language films in 32 different languages were shown at cinemas across the UK. Downfall, a German-produced movie depicting the final days of Adolf Hitler, was the most popular, according to the council.

Movies are classed as being UK-made if they are filmed in the country, star UK personalities, and invest money in the UK or on British staff and services.

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Category:May 24, 2010

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News briefs:July 20, 2010

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UK chancellor raises national insurance payments for self employed in new budget

Friday, March 10, 2017

UK chancellor Philip Hammond announced his 2017 budget on Wednesday, which included a £2 billion pledge to social care and a tax hike on the self-employed. It was accused of breaking Conservative Party manifesto promises.

It was announced there will be a 2% increase in national insurance contributions for the self-employed, with chancellor Philip Hammond citing worries that people were choosing to become self-employed in order to pay lower taxes and his perception of unfairness in the different rates paid by employees and self-employees. There were accusations this change in policy goes against the manifesto promises the Conservative Party ran on in 2015, which promised four times that there would be no increase in national insurance rates. Conservative MP Anna Soubry tweeted saying she believed these new measures would be unpopular as many would see them as unfair. The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, claimed the new measures will not clamp down on people whose self-employment is just for tax benefits, instead causing problems for those legitimately self-employed, arguing that if they are to start paying similar tax rates to the employed then they should get rights such as statutory maternity pay. The think tank Resolution claimed, however, this increase is outweighed by other government policies and is, therefore, a good move.

In addition to this, the chancellor announced a £2 billion pledge to social care over the next three years, saying he was aware of the stress the ageing population is having on the NHS and social care. Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb described the amount as “wholly inadequate”, saying much more is needed to pay for an increase in care demands due to the ageing population. The lowest threshold at which shareholders pay dividend taxes is to be lowered from £5,000 to £2,000 claiming that the taxes for dividends provided “an extremely generous tax break for investors with substantial share portfolios”. Other budget announcements include an additional £325 million for the NHS, £90 million transport spending for the North of England, £20 million to support campaigning against violence against girls and women and a slight increase in funding for the devolved governments.

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Marble slab falls off skyscraper in Toronto

Thursday, May 17, 2007

On Wednesday, it was raining rocks in Toronto. A 115 Kilogram marble panel fell 51 stories from the side of First Canadian Place, 100 King Street West, which is the heart of Toronto’s Business district. The panel was one of many that were identified as a risk during an inspection.

The rock fell onto a third story roof, where its fall was broken.

There were no reports of injuries, but the event snarled traffic in Toronto, as many major roads were closed. It also backed up street car traffic along King Street. King St. W. from York St. E. to Bay St. is expected to be closed for several days. Traffic continues normally now along all other previously closed streets.

As investigations continue, an expert has commented that there is no need for alarm. David Bowick, a professor of architecture at the University of Toronto, says such incidents are rare, given the improvements to architectural technology over the years. Several experts, Bowick included, have commented that the incident was probably caused by a major storm which occurred Tuesday night.

Bowick added that natural materials like marble have inherent flaws which are susceptible to such destruction.

According to the official website, First Canadian Place, constructed in 1975, is 2.8 million square ft., has 72 stories, and is still today Canada’s tallest office building (tallest skyscraper) measuring 298 metres in height. It has 3-levels of over 120 offices, banks, restaurants, and stores.

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Iran unveils part of its nuclear program

Friday, August 31, 2007

On August 27, Iran published public information report about its nuclear program, thus unveiling a part of outstanding issues still in discussion with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In this document, Tehran provide clarifications about plutonium experiments and shows signs of cooperation in clearing up questions about its efforts to acquire nuclear technology. The IAEA issued a new report on August 30, and distributed copies of its report ahead of a September 10 meeting of the organization’s 35-member board.

This report also reflects findings about a work plan concluded on August 21. The United Nations nuclear watchdog report praised Iran for agreeing to a new work plan and planning to resolve numerous questions about its nuclear program.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director general, said in reaction to these reports: “This is the first time Iran is ready to discuss all the outstanding issues which triggered the crisis in confidence. It’s a significant step.”

The assessment of Iran nuclear cooperation could make it more difficult for the United States and its allies to win tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran.

In Iran, the Deputy Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) for International Affairs, Mohammad Saeedi, said that the IAEA report « put an end to all US baseless allegations on Iran’s separation activities and reprocessing plutonium.»

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Category:August 2, 2010

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