Taiwan golf ball maker fined for storing 30 times limit for hazardous material

Taiwan golf ball maker fined for storing 30 times limit for hazardous material
People watch a fire at a factory of golf ball manufacturer Launch Technologies Co. in the southern county of Pingtung in Taiwan on Friday. (AP)
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Updated 26 September 2023
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Taiwan golf ball maker fined for storing 30 times limit for hazardous material

Taiwan golf ball maker fined for storing 30 times limit for hazardous material

TAIPEI: Taiwan authorities fined a golf ball manufacturer $75,000 on Monday and warned of criminal charges for storing 30 times the legal limit of hazardous material and other violations after a major factory fire killed nine people and left one other missing.

The mayor of Pingtung county said at a news conference that Launch Technologies Co. had 3,000 tons of organic peroxides on site, far more than the 100 tons of hazardous material that is permitted, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.

Those responsible would be held accountable for public endangerment and negligent manslaughter, Mayor Chou Chun-mi said.

Company officials could not be reached for comment.

It’s unclear what caused the fire on Friday, but two explosions in the already burning building trapped firefighters and workers under rubble. Four firefighters were among the nine who died. More than 100 other people were injured.

Organic peroxides, which are highly flammable, are used in a variety of rubber products including golf ball cores. Launch Technologies is one of the world’s major golf ball makers, producing 20 percent of the global supply last year.

Taiwanese law requires organic peroxides to be stored in a separate warehouse building, but Launch Technologies kept the material on the first floor of the factory building, Chou said.

Larger fines were assessed for failing to designate a point person to help fight the fire and failing to give a complete inventory of the organic peroxides on site when firefighters arrived, she said.

Launch Technologies, which was founded in 2006, has been fined before.

Since 2018, the company has been fined $6,200 for safety and health violations and another $9,300 over labor conditions, according to Taiwan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The company was also fined $9,300 for air pollution violations in 2020, according to its 2021 annual report.

In 2011, a court ordered Launch Technologies to pay compensation to five workers who had sued the company for working overtime beyond the legal limit and in polluted conditions harmful to their health. Company general manager Lu Ying-cheng said at a news conference on Sunday that Launch Technologies has made improvements to the work environment in recent years.


Debris from North Korean missile in Ukraine could expose procurement networks

Debris from North Korean missile in Ukraine could expose procurement networks
Updated 8 sec ago
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Debris from North Korean missile in Ukraine could expose procurement networks

Debris from North Korean missile in Ukraine could expose procurement networks
  • Conflict Armament Research examined the remnants of a North Korean ballistic missile used by Russia against Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv on Jan. 2
  • In its report, CAR found date codes on the components indicated more than three quarters were produced between 2021 and 2023

WASHINGTON: Revelations that a North Korean missile fired by Russia in Ukraine contained a large number of components linked to US-based companies underline the difficulty of enforcing sanctions against Pyongyang, but could help uncover illicit procurement networks, experts say.

Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a UK-based organization that tracks the origins of weapons used in conflicts, examined the remnants of a North Korean ballistic missile used by Russia against Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv on Jan. 2.
In a report released this week, it said it examined electronic components, including for the missile’s navigation system, and found many were recently manufactured and bore the marks of companies based in the United States.
It said 75 percent of the components documented were “linked to companies incorporated in the United States,” 16 percent to companies in Europe, and 11 percent to companies in Asia.
Date codes on the components indicated more than three quarters were produced between 2021 and 2023 and that the missile could not have been assembled before March last year, the report said.
Sanctions experts said the findings were not surprising even though for years the United States has led international efforts to restrict North Korea’s ability to obtain parts and funding for its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.
CAR said its findings showed both how difficult it is to control the export of commercial electronic components, and how reliant countries such as North Korea, Russia and Iran are on imported technology.
“North Korea (and Russia and Iran) are experts in avoiding UN and US sanctions through front companies and other efforts,” said Anthony Ruggiero of Washington’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, who directed North Korea sanctions efforts in the Trump administration.
“While US sanctions are robust on paper, sanctions must be enforced to be effective,” he said, stressing the need for Washington and it allies to continually update sanctions lists and spend on enforcement.
“We are not doing either one on North Korea sanctions,” he said, adding that the Biden administration particularly needed to do more to target Chinese companies, individuals, and banks aiding sanctions evasion.
CAR said it was working with industry to trace the missile components and identify the entities responsible for their diversion to North Korea, so would not identify the companies linked to their production. It also did not identify specific components.
Martyn Williams of 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea project, said many components made by US firms were easily available online or from electronics markets around the world.
“That North Korea can get these is not surprising at all, and I don’t think anyone imagined the sanctions regime would be able to stop the flow of common components,” he said.
“There are however much more specialized components in missiles and some of those are not a click away on the Internet. Those are also the type of thing that sanctions are meant to stop, so the presence of more specialized components would be more worrying.”
Katsu Furukawa, a former member of the UN Panel of Experts in charge of monitoring UN sanctions against North Korea, said the bulk of the components shown in a photo in the CAR report appeared to be widely available commercial items.
However, in past UN investigations, he said, there were usually a few specific items such as pressure transmitters and flight control computers that enabled investigators to track procurement routes and identify the perpetrators.
38 North director Jenny Town said such specialized items could only be obtained from a small number of vendors and should have more of a procurement paper trail.
The US State Department said Washington uses export controls, sanctions, and law enforcement actions to prevent North Korea from acquiring technology for its weapons programs and to prevent Russia from acquiring such weapons.
“We work closely with the US private sector, as well as foreign allied and partner states, in these efforts,” a spokesperson said.


Commercial US spaceship lands on Moon, a first for private industry

Commercial US spaceship lands on Moon, a first for private industry
Updated 58 sec ago
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Commercial US spaceship lands on Moon, a first for private industry

Commercial US spaceship lands on Moon, a first for private industry

WASHINGTON: A Houston-based company has landed America’s first spaceship on the Moon in more than 50 years, part of a new fleet of NASA-funded, uncrewed commercial robots intended to pave the way for astronaut missions later this decade.

But while flight controllers confirmed they had received a faint signal, it was not immediately clear whether Odysseus, the lander built by Intuitive Machines, was fully functional, with announcers on a live stream suggesting it may have come down off-kilter.

The hexagon-shaped vessel touched down near the lunar south pole at 2323 GMT, having slowed from 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) per hour.

Images from an external “EagleCam” that was supposed to shoot out from the spacecraft during its final seconds of descent could be released.

For the time being, however, nothing is certain.

“Without a doubt our equipment is on the surface of the Moon and we are transmitting,” said Tim Crain, the company’s chief technology officer. “So congratulations IM team, we’ll see how much more we can get from that.”

A previous moonshot by another American company last month ended in failure, raising the stakes to demonstrate that private industry has what it takes to repeat a feat last achieved by US space agency NASA during its manned Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

The current mission “will be one of the first forays into the south pole to actually look at the environmental conditions to a place we’re going to be sending our astronauts in the future,” said senior NASA official Joel Kearns.

“What type of dust or dirt is there, how hot or cold does it get, what’s the radiation environment? These are all things you’d really like to know before you send the first human explorers.”

Odysseus launched February 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and boasts a new type of supercooled liquid oxygen, liquid methane propulsion system that allowed it to race through space in quick time.

Its landing site, Malapert A, is an impact crater 300 kilometers (180 miles) from the lunar south pole.

NASA hopes to eventually build a long-term presence and harvest ice there for both drinking water and rocket fuel under Artemis, its flagship Moon-to-Mars program.

Instruments carried on Odysseus include cameras to investigate how the lunar surface changes as a result of the engine plume from a spaceship, and a device to analyze clouds of charged dust particles that hang over the surface at twilight as a result of solar radiation.

It also carries a NASA landing system that fires laser pulses, measuring the time taken for the signal to return and its change in frequency to precisely judge the spacecraft’s velocity and distance from the surface, to avoid a catastrophic impact.

This instrument was meant to run as a demonstration only, but Odysseus eventually had to rely on it for the entire descent phase of its journey, after its own navigation system stopped working — forcing controllers to upload a software patch to make the switch.

The rest of the cargo was paid for by Intuitive Machines’ private clients, and includes 125 stainless steel mini Moons by the artist Jeff Koons.

There’s also an archive created by a nonprofit whose goal is to leave backups of human knowledge across the solar system.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship its hardware under a new initiative called Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), which it created to delegate cargo services to the private sector to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.

The first CLPS mission, by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic, launched in January, but its Peregrine spacecraft sprung a fuel leak and was eventually brought back to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Spaceships landing on the Moon must navigate treacherous boulders and craters and, absent an atmosphere to support parachutes, must rely on thrusters to control their descent. Roughly half of the more than 50 attempts have failed.

Until now, only the space agencies of the Soviet Union, United States, China, India and Japan have accomplished the feat, making for an exclusive club.


US to sanction over 500 targets involved in Russia ‘war machine’

US to sanction over 500 targets involved in Russia ‘war machine’
Updated 18 min 28 sec ago
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US to sanction over 500 targets involved in Russia ‘war machine’

US to sanction over 500 targets involved in Russia ‘war machine’

WASHINGTON: The United States plans to impose sanctions on more than 500 targets involved in Russia’s war in Ukraine, as fighting continues to rage two years after Moscow’s invasion, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

The action to be rolled out on Friday will hit “Russia, its enablers, and its war machine,” a Treasury spokesperson told AFP.

The official added that the sanctions will be imposed by both the Treasury and State Department.

This will be the “largest single tranche since the start of Putin’s further invasion of Ukraine,” the Treasury said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine in February 2022, Washington and its allies have imposed a host of sanctions, targeting Moscow’s revenue and military industrial complex.

Among the efforts was a price ceiling enacted by the United States and allies, aimed at cutting down Moscow’s revenues from exports of oil and petroleum products.

To reduce revenues while ensuring supplies to the global market, a coalition involving the Group of Seven leading economies, the European Union and Australia had set a price cap of $60 per barrel of Russian crude.

Due to the price cap, Russia had the option to either sell discounted oil to coalition countries or invest in building an alternative ecosystem.

In recent months, the coalition announced plans to tighten compliance for the price ceiling.

The fresh sanctions on Friday come after Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny died last week in a Russian prison.

US President Joe Biden earlier reaffirmed plans to unveil sanctions, saying they would be “against Putin, who is responsible for his death.”

The US government also marked the upcoming two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of pro-Western Ukraine by unsealing charges against a series of wealthy Russians to help cut the “flow of illegal funds that are fueling” Moscow’s war.


Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons
Updated 23 February 2024
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Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

WASHINGTON: Four men have been charged after the US Navy interdicted a vessel in the Arabian Sea last month that was transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.

Two US Navy Seals died during the interdiction, which happened in international waters near the coast of Somalia.

In a statement following the seizure of the vessel, the US Central Command said the seized contraband consisted of both "Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missiles components."

"Seized items include propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), as well as air defense associated components,"  CENTCOM said.

"Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea," it said.

The weapons parts were seized from a dhow — a traditional masted sailing vessel — which was deemed unsafe and sunk. Fourteen crewmembers were taken into custody.

The seizure of the weapons came after US and British forces hit scores of rebel targets across Yemen, a move triggered by the rebels' repeated attacks on shipping.

Attacks by and against the Huthis, part of the "axis of resistance" of Iran-aligned groups, have raised concerns about violence spreading in the region from the Gaza war.

The Houthis say their attacks on Red Sea shipping are in solidarity with Gaza, where Iran-backed Hamas militants have been at war with Israel for more than three months.


France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister

France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister
Updated 23 February 2024
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France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister

France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister
  • “The radical Imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi has just been expelled from the national territory,” Darmanin said

PARIS: France has expelled a Tunisian imam for “radicalism” and “unacceptable remarks,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a statement on X.
“The radical Imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi has just been expelled from the national territory, less than 12 hours after his arrest. We will not let people get away with anything,” Darmanin said in a statement on X.