Protecting Workers with a Digital Safety Net

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Ukraine war: Stories of torture emerging out of Kherson

The BBC speaks to residents from a Russian-occupied region who say they were kidnapped and tortured.

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Stock futures rise slightly ahead of first day of June

Stock futures moved slightly higher on Tuesday evening as Wall Street turned the page to another month.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 102 points, or 0.2%. Those for the S&P 500 ticked up about 0.2%. Nasdaq 100 futures gained roughly 0.3%.

The move in futures came after a down day for stocks, with the Dow falling 222.8 points, or 0.7% in a choppy trading session. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.6% and 0.4%, respectively.

For the month of May, the Dow and S&P 500 finished little changed, after last week’s strong rally chipped away at long losing streaks for the indexes. The Nasdaq Composite underperformed, shedding more than 2%.

With the first-quarter earnings season nearly complete and the Federal Reserve having strongly signaled its rate hike intentions for its next two meetings, stocks could struggle for direction over the summer.

“It’s best to wait and see how the next quarter shakes out. When we get into late July, we’ll have a better picture. Until then, I think we’re going to see very much a choppy market with a bias towards falling further into a bear market,” said Max Gokhman, chief investment officer at AlphaTrAI.

One potential source of optimism for markets overnight is Salesforce, whose first-quarter results topped expectations. The stock rose more than 7% in extended trading.

On Wednesday, investors will get an updated look at manufacturing and construction spending data. The first day of June also marks the start of the Fed’s plan to reduce its balance sheet, which ballooned to nearly $9 trillion during the Covid pandemic.

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UN had ‘constructive’ talks in Moscow on Russian grain exports | United Nations News

Talks took place on facilitating Russian grain and fertiliser exports to global markets, UN spokesman says.

A senior UN official had “constructive discussions” in Moscow with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov on facilitating Russian grain and fertiliser exports to global markets, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said.

The UN official, Rebecca Grynspan, is now in Washington for talks on the same issue “with the key aim of addressing growing global food insecurity”, Dujarric said on Tuesday.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States was prepared to give “comfort letters” to shipping and insurance companies to help facilitate exports of Russian grain and fertiliser.

She noted that Russian grain and fertiliser were not directly sanctioned by the United States but that “companies are a little nervous and we’re prepared to give them comfort letters if that will help to encourage them”.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has fueled a global food crisis with prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser soaring. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key fertiliser exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.

Since Russia invaded on February 24, Ukrainian grain shipments from its Black Sea ports have stalled and more than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in silos, while Moscow says the chilling effect of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the war has disrupted its fertiliser and grain exports.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who visited Moscow and Kyiv last month, is trying to broker what he calls a “package deal” to resume both Ukrainian food exports and Russian food and fertiliser exports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia was ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey, according to a Kremlin readout of talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The secretary-general is extremely grateful for the support that Turkey is giving in addressing the situation in the Black Sea and supporting the secretary-general’s own efforts,” Dujarric said.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped that in the next days and weeks agreement could be reached with Russia to allow more exports of food from Ukraine.

He said recent talks on the matter between the Russian and Turkish presidents had produced “positive conclusions”.

“I hope that the next few days or weeks will make it possible to resolve this situation,” Macron added.

During his last conversation with Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Macron said he had made an offer to Putin to draft a UN Security Council resolution providing a framework for the release of grain from Ukraine’s blocked seaports.

“Security guarantees must be given to the Ukrainians so their ships are not attacked,” Macron said. “We are now waiting for a reply from Russia on this point and are liaising with the UN secretary-general.”

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Leah Williamson: This England team is 'pretty sturdy', says captain

Leah Williamson, who will captain England at the 2022 European Championship, talks to BBC Sport before this summer’s tournament.

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‘Behind closed doors’ Hungary vs England to have 30,000 crowd despite UEFA ban for racist abuse | Football News

England’s game against Hungary in Budapest on Saturday, which was scheduled to be played behind closed doors, will now have a crowd in excess of 30,000, Sky Sports News has confirmed.

The three-match spectator ban was issued by UEFA in June 2021 as punishment for racist abuse from fans during Euro 2020.

While Hungary was waiting to serve that UEFA ban, they were handed a separate two-game ban by FIFA, after further racist abuse was directed towards England’s players from the stands in the Puskas Arena, when the two teams met in a World Cup Qualifier in September.

But a loophole in UEFA’s rules allows for children to attend a closed game such as this, with every 10 children allowed to be accompanied by one adult.

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Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett says the punishment given to Hungary for the racial abuse directed towards England players in Budapest is ‘unacceptable’.

Page 41 of UEFA’s Disciplinary Procedures dictates that only 55 people from each team delegation can attend, including the players, along with 120 special guests and VIPs from the visiting team.

But the procedures also state that “children under the age of 14 from schools and/or football academies can be invited to the match free of charge.” There is no limit to the number who can attend under UEFA’s rules.

The Hungarian FA has told SSN that they have so far received more than 30,000 registrations for the complimentary tickets, from children and their guardians from all over the country.

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Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol says it was ‘another shameful night for Hungarian football’ after their fans fought with police during a World Cup qualifier against England at Wembley last October.

They expect to receive more applications for tickets before the Nations League match kicks off on Saturday afternoon.

In September, Rangers’ Glen Kamara was routinely booed by a crowd of 10,000 Sparta Prague fans – also largely made up of school children – during a Europa League group stage clash in the Czech capital.

That game was intended to be played behind closed doors as another punishment for a racial abuse charge the previous season, but fell into the same loophole.

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Russia-Ukraine live news: US readying new aid package for Kyiv | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • Ukrainian forces have seen some success near the southern city of Kherson and are advancing in parts of the Kharkiv region, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says.
  • Ukraine’s foreign minister calls on French President Emmanuel Macron to visit the country before the end of June.
  • Russia has taken control of most of the eastern industrial city of Severodonetsk, Luhansk regional governor says.
  • Washington will not provide Kyiv with long-range rockets capable of reaching beyond the battlefield in Ukraine, the White House has said.
  • The US hails a European Union decision to scale back Russian oil imports, urging more long-term efforts to reduce dependence on Moscow.
INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Ukraine Day 97
(Al Jazeera)

Here are all the latest updates:

European centre-right’s new leader backs Ukraine EU membership

German politician Manfred Weber has said EU membership for war-torn Ukraine was a priority as he was elected leader of Europe’s struggling main group of conservative parties.

The Bavarian lawmaker, 49, was the sole candidate to be the new president of the European People’s Party (EPP) at a group meeting in Rotterdam.

“The first message we have to give in this moment is that we as EPP family, we say, ‘Yes you are welcomed, yes it’s worth to fight, yes you can become a member of the European Union,’” Weber said in a speech after he was elected. “The EPP supports the candidate status for our Ukraine friends.”


Ukraine football star Zinchenko in tears ahead of World Cup playoff

Ukrainian football star Oleksandr Zinchenko couldn’t hold back tears as he tried to explain what it means to represent his country’s national team at this moment, with a spot at the World Cup within reach.

Ukraine is two games away from qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar, starting with a match against Scotland in Glasgow on Wednesday — which was postponed in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The winner at Hampden Park will play against Wales on Sunday in the decisive playoff.

“We want to give incredible emotions to the Ukrainian people because Ukrainians deserve it so much at this very moment,” Zinchenko said at a news conference. “Our mood, I would describe as a fighting mood, because everyone understands what is going on in Ukraine these days.”

Oleksandr Zinchenko
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zinchenko reacts during the press conference [Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters]

Zelenskyy thanks EU for Russian oil ban

Zelenskyy has thanked the European Union for banning most oil from Russia and urged Ukraine’s allies to give the country more weapons.

Speaking in a video address, Zelenskyy said the EU’s decision to cut the bulk of Russian oil imports means Moscow “won’t be able to spend tens of billions of euros to finance terror”.

He added that Ukraine will be pressing for more sanctions, saying that “there should be no significant economic ties left between the free world and the terrorist state”.

Zelenskyy also urged Ukraine’s Western allies to provide more heavy weapons, saying that the situation in eastern Ukraine where Russia has been pressing its offensive remains “very difficult”.


US warns against formalising Russian control in Kherson

Washington has warned against attempts by Russia to “institutionalise” its control over “sovereign Ukrainian territory”, particularly in the Kherson region.

Price, the State Department spokesman, said Russia could announce an independent region in the area in an effort to eventually annex it.

“It’s a predictable part of the Russian playbook, which is why we are continuing to sound the alarm now, particularly following Russian President Putin’s unilateral decree that would fast-track the issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens,” he said.


Ukrainian reports ‘shutdown of all communications’ in Kherson region

Ukrainian officials have reported a “shutdown of all communications” in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson.

Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection said in a statement that an unspecified intrusion “by the occupation regime” had taken place and that equipment had been powered down and cables disconnected.

“The residents of the region are currently left without Ukrainian mobile communication and Internet access, as well as with no means to make national and international phone calls using landline phone devices,” the agency said.


US to announce new Ukraine aid package ‘before too long’

The US State Department has suggested that Washington is readying another aid package for Kyiv, after Congress approved an additional $40bn in military and humanitarian assistance earlier this month.

“Now that we have significant additional financial resources for security assistance, I imagine you’ll be hearing from us before too long about additional security assistance as those conversations with senior levels of the Ukrainian government have been ongoing,” spokesperson Ned Price said.


Russia captures most of Severodonetsk city in eastern Ukraine: Governor

Russia has taken control of most of the eastern industrial city of Severodonetsk, the regional governor has said.

Russia’s all-out assault on the city in Ukraine’s Luhansk province has been met by tough resistance from Ukrainian forces. Russian-backed separatists in Luhansk acknowledged that capturing the city was taking longer than hoped, despite one of the biggest ground attacks of the three-month-long war.

Luhansk’s regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said nearly all critical infrastructure in Severodonetsk had been destroyed and 60 percent of residential property has been damaged beyond repair.

“Most of Severodonetsk is under the control of the Russians. The town is not surrounded and the prerequisites for it to be are not in place,” Gaidai said, adding that Russian shelling had made it impossible to deliver aid or evacuate people.


Ukrainian forces having some success near Kherson, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian forces have had some success near the southern city of Kherson and are advancing in parts of the Kharkiv region to the east of Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

“Our defenders are showing the utmost courage and remain masters of the situation at the front despite the fact the Russian army has a significant advantage in terms of equipment and numbers,” he said in a late-night address.


Ukraine FM calls for French president to visit before end of June

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on French President Emmanuel Macron to visit the country before the end of France’s EU presidency on June 30.

“It would be good that Macron came during the French EU presidency, and the best thing would be that he comes with more weapons deliveries for Ukraine,” Kuleba told French news channel LCI.

“That’s the most precious aid we can receive from France.”


US hails EU decision to scale back Russian oil imports

The US has hailed a European Union decision to scale back Russian oil imports and called for long-term efforts to further reduce dependence on Moscow.

“We applaud the steps by our European allies and partners to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and natural gas,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. He added that there was “broad support” among US allies for “cutting off the strength of Russia’s war machine, and that is Russia’s energy market”.

“The EU took an important step on that near-term path, but then there’s also a longer-term path that has less to do with the day to day and more to do with trends over time and the broader need to lessen our reliance on Russian energy,” Price told reporters.


US will not send long-range rockets for use beyond Ukraine: White House

The Biden administration is still considering sending rocket systems to Kyiv, the White House press secretary has said, but Washington will not send long-range rockets for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine.

Karine Jean-Pierre’s comments echoed those of US President Joe Biden, who said earlier this week that his administration would not send Ukraine any rockets capable of reaching Russia.


Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Read all the updates from Tuesday, May 31 here.

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The world has been trying to master this limitless clean energy source since the 1930s. We’re now closer than ever

ITER’s fusion energy experiments will take place inside the vacuum vessel of a donut-shaped machine called a tokamak.

Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France — From a small hill in the southern French region of Provence, you can see two suns. One has been blazing for four-and-a-half billion years and is setting. The other is being built by thousands of human minds and hands, and is — far more slowly — rising. The last of the real sun’s evening rays cast a magical glow over the other — an enormous construction site that could solve the biggest existential crisis in human history.

It is here, in the tiny commune of Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, that 35 countries have come together to try and master nuclear fusion, a process that occurs naturally in the sun — and all stars — but is painfully difficult to replicate on Earth.

Fusion promises a virtually limitless form of energy that, unlike fossil fuels, emits zero greenhouse gases and, unlike the nuclear fission power used today, produces no long-life radioactive waste.

Mastering it could literally save humanity from climate change, a crisis of our own making.


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Workers inspecting superconductors at ITER.

If it is mastered, fusion energy will undoubtedly power much of the world. Just 1 gram of fuel as input can create the equivalent of eight tons of oil in fusion power. That’s an astonishing yield of 8 million to 1.

Atomic experts rarely like to estimate when fusion energy may be widely available, often joking that, no matter when you ask, it’s always 30 years away.

But for the first time in history, that may actually be true.

In February, scientists in the English village of Culham, near Oxford, announced a major breakthrough: they generated and sustained a record 59 megajoules of fusion energy for five seconds in a giant donut-shaped machine called a tokamak.

It was only enough to power one house for a day, and more energy went into the process than came out of it. Yet it was a truly historic moment. It proved that nuclear fusion was indeed possible to sustain on Earth.


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A view from the top of the tokamak chamber. The tokamak will ultimately weigh 23,000 tons, the combined weight of three Eiffel Towers.

This was excellent news for the project in France, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, better known as ITER. Its main objective is to prove fusion can be utilized commercially. If it can, the world will have no use for fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, the main drivers of the human-made climate crisis.

There has been a huge sense of momentum at ITER since the success in the UK, but the people working on the project are also undergoing a major change. Their director general, Bernard Bigot (pronounced bi-GOH in French), died from illness on May 14 after leading ITER for seven years.

Before his death, Bigot shared his infectious optimism for fusion energy from his sunny office, which overlooked the shell of ITER’s own tokamak, a sci-fi like structure still under construction.

“Energy is life,” Bigot said. “Biologically, socially, economically.”


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Workers carry exhaust pipes away from the assembly hall. These pipes are used to expel exhaust from trucks that deliver the large components to the clean facility.

When the Earth was populated by less than a billion people, there were enough renewable sources to meet demand, Bigot said.

“Not anymore. Not since the Industrial Revolution and the following population explosion. So we embraced fossil fuels and did a lot of harm to our environment. And here we are now, 8 billion strong and in the middle of a drastic climate crisis,” he said.

“There is no alternative but to wean ourselves off our current main power source,” he said. “And the best option seems to be the one the universe has been utilizing for billions of years.”

Mimicking the sun

Fusion energy is created by forcing together two particles that, by nature, repel. After a small amount of fuel is injected into the tokamak, giant magnets are activated to create a plasma, the fourth state of matter, which is a bit like a gas or soup that is electrically charged.

By raising temperatures inside the tokamak to unfathomably high levels, the particles from the fuel are forced to fuse into one. The process creates helium and neutrons — which are lighter in mass than the parts they were originally made of.

The missing mass converts to an enormous amount of energy. The neutrons, which are able to escape the plasma, then hit a “blanket” lining the walls of the tokamak, and their kinetic energy transfers as heat. That heat can be used to warm water, create steam and turn turbines to generate power.

This all requires the tokamak to contain serious heat. The plasma needs to reach at least 150 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than the core of the sun. It begs the question: How can anything on Earth hold such high temperatures?

It’s one of many hurdles that generations of fusion energy seekers have managed to overcome. Scientists and engineers designed giant magnets to create a strong magnetic field to keep the heat bottled up. Anything else would simply melt.

What those working on fusion have been trying to do inside their machines is essentially replicate the sun. The sun is a perpetual fusion factory, made up of a gigantic burning ball of plasma. It fuses several hundred tons of hydrogen into helium each second.

Plasma is the stuff 99.9% of the universe is made of, including the stars, our sun and all interstellar matter. Down here on Earth, for instance, it’s used in televisions and neon lights, and we can see it in lightning and the aurora.

As awesome as that all sounds, generating fusion energy in itself isn’t actually the hard part, several experts at ITER said. Humanity has been pulling off nuclear fusion reaction ever since the invention of the H-bomb, after all. The main challenge is sustaining it. The tokamak in the UK — called the Joint European Torus, or JET — held fusion energy for five seconds, but that’s simply the longest that machine will go for. Its magnets were made of copper and were built in the 1970s. Any more than five seconds under such heat would cause them to melt.

ITER uses newer magnets that can last much longer, and the project aims to produce a 10-fold return on energy, generating 500 megawatts from an input of 50 megawatts.


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Workers assembling some of the four poloidal field coils, which will make up part of the magnetic field cage necessary to contain the plasma. Each measures between 22 and 24 meters in diameter.

But ITER’s goal isn’t to actually use the energy for power but to prove that it can sustain fusion energy for much longer than JET was able to. Success here will mean commercial-scale machines can start generating fusion in the future.

While the sun fuses hydrogen atoms to create helium, the JET project used two hydrogen isotopes called deuterium and tritium, which ITER will also use. These isotopes behave almost identically to hydrogen, in terms of their chemical makeup and reactions.

Both deuterium and tritium are found in nature. Deuterium is abundant in both fresh and saltwater — the deuterium from just 500 milliliters of water, with a little tritium, could power a house for a year. Tritium is rare, but it can be synthetically produced. At the moment, only 20 kilograms of it exist in the world, and demand amounts to no more than 400 grams per year. But at a yield of 8 million to 1, only tiny amounts of both elements are required to generate a lot of fusion energy.

Tritium is an exceptionally pricey substance: a single gram is currently worth around $30,000. Should nuclear fusion take off, demand will go through the roof, presenting the world’s fusion masters with yet another challenge.


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Workers preforming precision welding on superconductors during construction.

A 10 million-part project

From afar, ITER looks like a project ready to go. From up close, it’s clear it’s still a ways off.

The construction — across 39 building sites — is incredibly complex. The main worksite is a markedly sterile environment, where tremendous components are being put into place with the help of 750-ton cranes. Workers have already put together the shell of the tokamak, but they are still awaiting some parts, including a giant magnet from Russia that will sit at the top of the machine.

The dimensions are mind-blowing. The tokamak will ultimately weigh 23,000 tons. That’s the combined weight of three Eiffel towers. It will comprise a million components, further differing into no fewer than 10 million smaller parts.

This powerful behemoth will be surrounded by some of the largest magnets ever created. Their staggering size — some of them have diameters of up to 24 meters — means they are are too large to transport and must be assembled on site in a giant hall.

Given the huge number of parts involved, there’s simply no room for error.

Even the digital design of this enormous machine sits across 3D computer files that take up more than two terabytes of drive space. That’s the same amount of space you could save more than 160 million one-page Word documents on.


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One of nine sectors of the vacuum vessel, which will soon be hoisted onto giant cranes for assembly.

Wartime nuclear fusion

Behind hundreds of workers putting the ITER project together are around 4,500 companies with 15,000 employees from all over the globe.

Thirty-five countries are collaborating on ITER, which is run by seven main members — China, the United States, the European Union, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea. It looks a little like the UN Security Council, though the late Bigot, among others, have tried hard to keep geopolitics out of ITER entirely.

But as Russia seeks to redraw Europe’s map with its war in Ukraine, and even challenge the post-war world order, there are concerns over the country’s continued role in ITER, and just as many over its potential exclusion.

Russia has been cut out of a number of other international scientific projects in the fallout of its war, but the European Commission has explicitly made an exception for ITER in its sanctions.

Part of this is because Russia is inextricably linked with not only the project but fusion energy historically.


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The black platform in the lower part of the frame is the tokamak complex, a 400,000-ton edifice that brings together the tokamak, diagnostics and tritium buildings. The concrete structure behind it is the diagnostic building.

Countries began seeking fusion energy in the 1930s, building all sorts of machines over decades. But it was the tokamak, created in the Soviet Union, that proved most successful. In 1968, Soviet researchers made a huge fusion breakthrough — they were able to achieve the high temperatures required and contain the plasma for a sustained period, which had never been done before.

The tokamak became the machine to replicate. Even the word tokamak — a portmanteau for “toroidal magnetic confinement” — is from the Russian language.

Russia has also provided some of the most critical elements of the ITER project and is one of its main funders. The magnet for the top of the tokamak, for example, was made in St. Petersburg and waits there, ready to be sent to France, said ITER’s head of communications, Laban Coblentz.

So far, Russia’s involvement in the project hasn’t changed in any way, he said.

“ITER is really a child of the Cold War,” Coblentz said. “It’s a deliberate collaboration by countries that are ideologically unaligned who simply share a common goal for a better future.”

He pointed out that the seven main members have been through many tense events since ITER’s conception in 1985.

“Before anything around the latest Russia circumstances, that has to date never affected the collaborative spirit. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that ITER is a project of peace,” he said.


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Inside the tokamak pit, a worker measures the connection between a cylindrical passage known as a feeder stub and the cryostat base, which helps keep the tokamak’s vacuum cool.

But Coblentz conceded that the war in Ukraine was “unprecedented” and that he couldn’t predict what it might mean for Russia’s future in ITER — something that will be a delicate issue for the next director general. Part of Bigot’s job was to coordinate the seven main members and their often-differing views on the handling of various political, ideological and economic issues.

When asked, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, whether managing these differences got challenging, Bigot gave a wry smile.

“Now, that is truly no small feat,” he said.

“But our joint commitment remains as strong as ever. I can say that, from the beginning of my involvement with the project, daily politics has had virtually no impact on our endeavors,” he said.

“Each of the partners seems quite aware dropping the ball could easily mean the demise of the entire project. This, of course, is a tremendous responsibility.”


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A winding stair case behind ITER’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in its 60-meter high assembly hall.

Geopolitics has always played a role in ITER. Just finding the right location for it took years and involved more than a decade of technical studies, political bargaining and diplomatic fine-tuning. France’s Saint-Paul-lez-Durance was finally made the official site in 2005 at a meeting in Moscow, and the agreement on construction was signed in Paris a year after.

As the diplomacy and technology fell in step, building began. In 2010, the foundations were laid, and in 2014, the first construction machines were switched on.

Time is running out

The scale and ambition of the ITER project may seem enormous, but it is, at the very least, a proportional response to the mess humans have made of the planet. Since 1973, global energy usage has more than doubled. By the end of the century, it might actually triple. Seventy percent of all carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are created through humans’ energy consumption. And 80% of all the energy we consume is derived from fossil fuels.

Now, the Earth is barreling toward levels of warming that translate into more frequent and deadly heat waves, famine-inducing droughts, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels. The impacts of the climate crisis are getting harder and harder to reverse as entire ecosystems reach tipping points and more human lives are put on the line.


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A welder stands behind a protective shield at the lowest level of the ITER cryostat base.

The world is now scrambling to rapidly decarbonize and speed up its transition from planet-baking fossil fuels to renewable energy like solar, wind and hydropower. Some countries are banking on nuclear fission energy, which is low-carbon but comes with a small, but not negligible, risk of disaster, storage problems for radioactive waste and a high cost.

But there are serious questions about whether the world can make this green transition fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change.

That’s where fusion could be an 11th-hour hero — if the world masters it in time.

When the late physicist Stephen Hawking was asked by Time in 2010 which scientific discovery he would like to see in his lifetime, he pointed to exactly this process.

“I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source,” he said. “It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.”


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Part of the vacuum vessel, a hermetically sealed steel container that will house the fusion reactions and acts as a first safety containment barrier.

A new era

The experts working on nuclear fusion have overcome enormous challenges already, and so many, including Bigot, dedicated their entire careers to it and never saw it come into practical use.

Now commercial businesses are preparing to generate and sell fusion energy, so optimistic they are that this energy of the future could come online by mid-century.

But as ever with nuclear fusion, as one challenge is overcome another seems to crop up. The limited stocks and price of tritium is one, so ITER is trying to produce its own. On that front, the outlook isn’t bad. The blanket within the tokamak will be coated with lithium, and as escaped plasma neutrons reach it, they will react with the lithium to create more tritium fuel.

Time and money are always concerns for big projects, but “big” doesn’t even begin to describe the scale of ITER, which is truly one of the world’s largest and most ambitious international energy collaborations in history.

One day’s delay costs about a million euros, Bigot said.

The European Union is footing 45% of the project’s ever-mounting construction costs. All the other participant countries are contributing a little over 9% each, by rough estimations. Initially, the entire construction was estimated at around 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion). Right now, the total has more than tripled to around 20 billion euros.


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Part of the cryostat for testing the poloidal field coils. The cryostat will help confine the plasma.

The 2001 predictions envisioned the first batch of plasma being produced in 2016, another missed goal. Some observers had considered the project dead in the water, but after Bigot took the helm, the project was streamlined and got back on track. Bigot had a reputation as a micromanager, Coblentz said, but that’s exactly what was needed to get this complicated project in order.

“When you got here, his car was in place at 7 a.m., and often here until 9 or 10 p.m. at night,” Coblentz said. “So you always had the impression that no detail was too large or too small for him to take seriously and be involved in.”

Though under his leadership, expectations and deadlines were also revised to be more realistic. First plasma is now expected in 2025, and the first deuterium-tritium experiments are hoped to take place in 2035, though even those are now under review — delayed, in part, by the pandemic and persistent supply chain issues.

Yet with one of the world’s biggest projects running behind time on his lap, Bigot remained passionate and optimistic about ITER’s potential until his last breath.

“Hydrogen fusion is a million times more efficient than burning up fossil fuels. What we are trying to do here is actually, really very much like creating a small artificial sun on Earth,” he said. “This fusion power plant will be in operation all the time. This sun, so to speak, will never set.”


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Dusk falls over the ITER complex in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France.

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Shanghai to begin easing COVID restrictions after two months | Coronavirus pandemic News

Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps on Wednesday towards reopening China’s largest city after a two-month COVID-19 lockdown that has set back the national economy and confined millions of people to their homes.

Already, a steady stream of people strolled in the Bund, the city’s historic waterfront park, on a pleasant Tuesday night, some taking selfies against the bright lights of the Pudong financial district on the other side of the river. Elsewhere, people gathered outside to eat and drink under the watch of police deployed to discourage large crowds from forming.

Vice Mayor Zong Ming announced that full bus and subway service will be restored on Wednesday, as will basic rail connections with the rest of China. Schools will partially reopen on a voluntary basis, and shopping malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and drug stores will reopen gradually at no more than 75 percent of their total capacity. Cinemas and gyms will remain closed.

“The epidemic has been effectively controlled,” Zong said. She added that the city will enter the phase of fully restoring work and life on Wednesday.

Officials, who set June 1 as the target date for reopening earlier in May, appear ready to accelerate what has been a gradual easing in recent days. A few malls and markets have reopened, and some residents have been given passes allowing them out for a few hours at a time.

In online chat groups, some expressed excitement about the prospect of being able to move about freely in the city for the first time since the end of March, while others remained cautious given the slow pace and stop-and-go nature of opening up so far.

Workers took down some of the barriers that had been erected along sidewalks during the lockdown. A few people walked or biked on the still mostly empty streets. One man got his hair cut on the sidewalk, a common sight in recent days, as a worker or volunteer in full protective clothing looked on.

More than half a million people in the city of 25 million won’t be allowed out Wednesday – 190,000 are still in lockdown areas and another 450,000 are in control zones because they live near recent cases.

Shanghai recorded 29 new cases on Monday, continuing a steady decline from more than 20,000 a day in April.

Li Qiang, the top official from China’s ruling Communist Party in Shanghai, was quoted as saying at a meeting Monday that the city had made considerable achievements in fighting the outbreak through continuous struggle.

The success came at a price. Authorities imposed a suffocating citywide lockdown under China’s “zero-COVID” strategy that aims to snuff out any outbreak with mass testing and isolation at centralized facilities of anyone who is infected.

Huge temporary facilities were set up in exhibition centers and other venues to house thousands of people who had tested positive. Teams of health care and other workers flew in from around the country to help run the enormous undertaking.

Factories were shuttered, or were allowed to operate only if workers slept on site to prevent the spread of the virus. Reduced production at semiconductor plants added to the global chip shortage. Containers backed up at the port of Shanghai because of a shortage of truck drivers to deliver them to their destinations.

Through it all, leaders of the ruling Communist Party repeatedly expressed a determination to stick to the “zero-COVID” policy even as other countries have opened their borders and are trying to “live with the virus.” Outside economists widely expect China to fall short of its 5.5 percent growth target for this year.

However, the latest economic data showed that Chinese manufacturing activity started to rebound in May as the government rolled back some containment measures.

Schools will reopen for the final two years of high school and the third year of middle school, but students can decide whether to attend in person. Other grades and kindergarten remain closed.

Outdoor tourist sites will start reopening on Wednesday, with indoor sites set to follow in late June, the Shanghai tourism authority said. Group tours from other provinces will be allowed again when the city has eliminated all high- and medium-risk pandemic zones.

Beijing, the nation’s capital, further eased restrictions on Tuesday in some districts. The city imposed limited lockdowns, but nothing near a citywide level, in a much smaller outbreak that appears to be on the wane. Beijing recorded 18 new cases on Monday.

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What’s Hot in Restaurant Franchising Right Now? Two Industry Experts Weigh In

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The past two years have triggered some radical changes to how food and beverage franchises operate and have brought significant shifts in consumer behavior when it comes to dining. The franchises that have been most successful were able to quickly adapt and thrive with ongoing changes by tapping into what’s hot — and not — in the current food and beverage industry.

QSR

Currently, the leading business model in restaurants is QSR — otherwise known as quick service restaurants or fast food, like McDonald’s or Taco Bell. QSR restaurants were generally successful at pivoting during the pandemic, and most picked up significant market share as a result. “They were able to move into delivery channels that weren’t there; they were able to expand on third-party carry-out— they just got the model better than anyone else,” says We Sell Restaurants co-founder Robin Gagnon. “So coming out of the pandemic, we’re really seeing all QSR models pricing at the highest multiples and selling at the fastest rate, and the turnover associated with that is in the best range.”

QSRs were able to adapt their models faster than full-service restaurants, and they embraced more in terms of technology and flexibility to meet shifting consumer demand. “They were able to drive sales and improve upon their labor models and their food costs in the moment with agility, and for that reason they have been the most successful — through the pandemic, outside the pandemic and today,” Gagnon says.

Related: A Billionaire Who Operates More Than 2,400 Franchises Knows These Types of Franchisees Make the Most Money

Technology

There’s no getting around it — the big buzz in restaurants right now is tech in varying degrees. Though the industry’s current hottest technology has been available for years, demand has spiked in the past two years as online ordering, optional contact and need for alternative labor has increased. “I have worked with brands where there was no online ordering, but you no longer can get away with ignoring technology in restaurants,” says Lauren Fernandez, founder and CEO of Full Course. “Franchisors are having to invest in that tech stack, and not only is that an additional expense for franchisors, but for franchisees too.”

However, it’s not just online ordering and delivery that restaurants need to adapt to — increasingly, it’s lack of labor. Several franchises are adopting technology alternatives to mitigate the recent labor shortage affecting their operations. Whether it be in the kitchen through automation or out in the streets with robotic delivery, franchises are finding ways to incorporate a new wave of technology to minimize costs, increase efficiency and boost profitability.

Still, Fernandez cautions franchisors and franchisees alike to be intentional and strategic when entering the tech space. “You have to make sure you’re pushing out technology for the right reasons and not just technology’s sake,” Fernandez says. “Be careful and diligent in testing technology. When you get a flood of tech into any industry, you get a lot of stuff that’s fly-by-night, or not properly vetted, or makes a lot of promises it can’t deliver, so it’s very important for franchisors to test the tech before they push it out into a system.”

Related: Square Makes it Easy to Add Online Ordering to Your Restaurant

Tread lightly with fads

When looking at thriving restaurant trends, it can be tempting to take the leap into spiking demand for concepts that focus on niches like poke, fried chicken or the recent stuffed cookie craze. Still, be wary of jumping in too soon — or late — as it takes time for the market to reveal if these concepts are fads or lasting industries that eventually become their own category. “There’s a lot of saturation in the market really fast, and there’s buzz and everyone gets in, but then it’s oversaturated,” Fernandez says. “We’re seeing brands testing out chicken to steal market share, but I would predict we’ll see some consolidation. I don’t think it’s going away, but there’s not enough for all of them.”

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