Tensions with North Korea have reached a critical level after the UN Security Council unanimously passed new sanctions over the weekend in response to Pyongyang’s recent long-range ballistic missile tests. The sanctions are set to reduce the regime’s annual export revenue of $3bn (€2.5bn) by a third, targeting major areas such as coal and seafood. They also forbid China, Russia and other nations to hire North Korean workers or invest in business partnerships. Following the announcement, Pyongyang threatened to take “righteous action”, calling the sanctions a “crime” for which the US would pay “thousands of times”. As the single largest economic sanctions package against North Korea, only time will tell how Kim Jong-un will react – nuclear warfare hasn’t seemed such a tangible risk since the Cold War.
Air pollution is on the up: in China alone more than one million people succumb to it every year. But there’s good news for the smoggy nation. In cities all around China you can now buy bottles of oxygen, imported from Canada by the Edmonton-based business Vitality Air. Initially sold as a souvenir, Vitality’s canned air is now flying off the shelves to help residents cope with deteriorating air quality. Each 10-litre bottle – priced at about €21 – is good for up to 200 inhalations. And it isn’t just any old oxygen: the air is marketed like a vintage wine. Flasks from Banff National Park in Canada’s Rocky Mountains are particularly popular. Every two weeks Vitality Air bottles several hundred thousand litres of air in the Rockies for export to China, India and Vietnam.
Should countries make it harder to buy booze? Many governments are trying to tackle the rising levels of alcohol consumption and the methods are manifold. Even the liberal Nordic nations have been known to be rather strict: while serving doubles was forbidden in Finland until very recently, wine in Norway is only sold until 15.00 on Saturdays. The newest attempts to clamp down may come from New Zealand. Yesterday the country’s medical association called to ban alcohol from supermarkets, arguing that displaying bottles next to groceries normalises it and makes it too easy to access. In light of Finland and Australia’s efforts to scale back their historically strict drinking laws, New Zealand’s ambitions seem somewhat out of step.
Since the late 19th century Japan has had a fixed idea of adulthood: you reach it once you’ve turned 20. But the Justice Ministry is planning to submit a bill in autumn that would lower the legal adult age to 18 and standardise the marriageable age for men and women (it’s now 18 for men and 16 for women). The move comes two years after Japan’s parliament revamped electoral laws to let 18-year-olds vote but the debate about whether to relax alcohol and smoking restrictions continues. Adulthood also doesn’t guarantee independence: 46 per cent of Japanese between the ages of 20 to 34 – roughly 9 million – are unmarried and live with their parents.
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