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Forest fire rages near Chernobyl nuclear site

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A forest fire broke out Tuesday near the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, scene of the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster in 1986, but posed no danger to the site, officials said.

“The fire is at a distance of 15 to 20 kilometres (9 to 12 miles) from Chernobyl,” Maya Rudenko, a spokeswoman for the plant, told AFP by telephone, adding there was “no problem” there.

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Interior Minister Arsen Avakov warned however that “the high flames and sudden gusts of wind mean there is a serious risk that the fire could spread.”

The area around Chernobyl was evacuated after the 1986 blast and the last reactor there shut down in 2000 but some personnel still operate in the exclusion zone, where work is underway to lay a new seal over the reactor site.

Avakov said the fire had spread over some 400 hectares near the plant, which lies around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Around 200 firefighters with scores of vehicles were battling the inferno and aircraft were dumping water on the flames, the state emergency services said.

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They said the fire started shortly after noon (around 0915 GMT).

– Radiation level unchanged –

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk visited the area on Tuesday afternoon and met with emergency workers.

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“The situation is under control,” he told reporters at an air base where firefighting craft were taking off from.

“Our emergency services are actively working to stop the fire spreading.”

A state nuclear inspection official told AFP that “the level of radiation at the Chernobyl plant has not changed”.

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The fire comes just two days after Ukrainians marked 29 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The explosion of reactor number four on April 26, 1986, spewed poisonous radiation over large parts of Europe, particularly Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

The human toll of the disaster is still disputed.

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United Nations experts officially recognised 31 deaths among plant workers and firefighters directly linked to the blast.

But environmental group Greenpeace has suggested there could be around 100,000 additional deaths from cancer caused by the disaster.

The Soviet authorities of the time dispatched hundreds of thousands of people to put out the fire and clean the site, without proper protection.

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They hastily laid over the reactor site a concrete cover dubbed “the sarcophagus”, which is now cracking and must be replaced.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday inspected ongoing work on a new 20,000-tonne steel cover — a project estimated to cost more than two billion euros ($2.2 billion).

It is financed by international donations managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

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The structure will contain technology that will act beneath the cover to decontaminate the area once the steel layer is in place. Officials say the new cover will last for 100 years.

The work is being done by Novarka, a joint venture by French companies Vinci and Bouygues.

The project had been scheduled for completion by the end of this year but the EBRD said last year technical problems would delay it until late 2017.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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2020 Election

Scientist who correctly predicted 2018 midterms says Democrats can win 18 more seats in 2020

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The political scientist who correctly predicted the 2018 elections says Democrats left seats on the table in the midterms -- and can win them in 2020.

Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, was interviewed by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word."

"Could you explain to the viewers how it is you determine what it was that actually did win a given congressional district?" O'Donnell asked. "When there is this common belief that, oh, well, the Democrats ran because the Republicans threatened their health care and so some swing voters switched over from Republican voting to democratic voting."

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2020 Election

Maddow reveals how Chinese group Falun Gong went from disrupting events to running a shadow campaign for Trump

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Tuesday detailed the remarkable journey of the group Falun Gong shifting from disrupting White House events to dominating the conversation on Facebook.

Maddow hilariously recounted the "major embarrassment" for the George W. Bush White House when a protester interrupted remarks by President of China Hu Jintao.

The protester was credentialed to cover the event for the Epoch Times, which is controlled by Falun Gong.

"Well, NBC News has a scoop out today about that group, about how that paper, the Epoch Times has transformed itself a lot in the Trump era. It’s a real revelation, this reporting from NBC News," Maddow said. "I mean, Epoch Times and its media group, they’ve made themselves into a whole new thing entirely and in a very big way."

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CNN

Trump’s failed Federal Reserve nominee doesn’t even know what the interest rate was 10 years ago

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On Tuesday, CNN's Chris Cuomo invited on Stephen Moore, supply-side economist and President Donald Trump's failed pick for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, to discuss the state of the administration — and Moore made a hilariously wrong remark about interest rates that suggests the country was better off without him.

"There's no greatest economy ever," said Cuomo. "You know these things ... he's doing well. He's not doing better than we've ever seen before, and you guys got the benefits of juicing the economy with this tax cut. Fair point?"

"Let me say this, I think it's a pretty darn good economy," said Moore. "I'll cite a few statistics. It's a pretty darn good one. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years ... and for blacks and Hispanics and women."

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