TOKYO

Nuke plant to launch system that treats radioactive water

The operator of Japan’s tsunami-hit nuclear plant made final preparations Thursday to launch a crucial system to treat highly radioactive water that has hampered efforts to achieve the primary goal of cooling and stabilizing the damaged reactors.

More than 100,000 tons of radioactive water have pooled across the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, and it could overflow within a couple of weeks if action is not taken.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said workers Thursday made final tests on a treatment system ahead of full operation planned for today. In test runs earlier this week using highly radioactive water kept temporarily in tanks, the machines successfully reduced cesium to about one-10,000th of the earlier levels, TEPCO said.

Three reactor cores had melted after the March 11 tsunami destroyed both power and backup generators, knocking out critical cooling systems.

Fresh water pumped into the reactors becomes contaminated and goes right through the damaged cores, seeping into reactor and turbine basements, utility pits and other parts of the plant.

GUVECCI, Turkey

Syria makes random arrests, targeting males over age 16

Syrian security forces made sweeping arrests Thursday, randomly detaining males above the age of 16 in a northwestern province that has been under military siege for a week, a Syrian human rights activist said.

Mustafa Osso said the arrests were mainly concentrated in the Jisr al-Shughour area, the town of Maaret al-Numan and nearby villages, where the army has been massing troops for days in what appears to be a preparation for a fresh military operation.

Osso added that troops opened fire early Thursday in the outskirts of Maaret al-Numan, a town of 100,000 on the highway linking Damascus with Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo. No casualties were reported.

PARIS

Food shortages, instability likely to return, expert warns

The world could see a repeat of the 2008 price crisis that spawned deadly riots on three continents, the U.N.’s top food security expert warned Thursday.

David Nabarro, the U.N. special representative on food security and nutrition, told The Associated Press that shortages of food, water and power are bound to create social anxiety and political instability in the future.

“Anybody who thinks that 2008 represented some kind of peak is dreaming,” Nabarro said on the sidelines of an international conference on food security.

At the meeting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on the world’s 20 rich industrial nations and major emerging markets to contain farm price volatility sparked by commodity speculators.

TAMPA, Fla.

Romney chided for saying that he is ‘also unemployed’

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a group of out-of-work Floridians Thursday that “I’m also unemployed,” quickly drawing criticism from Democrats who said it showed the former Massachusetts governor and multimillionaire was out of touch.

Romney made the comment while criticizing President Obama’s economic plan to a small group of business owners and unemployed workers at a Tampa coffee shop.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom called the Democratic criticism an “absurd distortion” of statement that what was clearly made in jest.