Japan’s newly installed Prime Minister has visited the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, site of the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Shinzo Abe’s visit yesterday to the plant comes amid pledges from his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to review the country’s plans to phase out nuclear power.

A massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, swamped parts of the Fukushima plant, disabling back-up systems and triggering radiation-spewing meltdowns that forced tens of thousands of people to flee.

The disaster triggered massive protests against atomic energy.

The LDP regained power in elections this month and plans to spend 10 years studying the best energy mix for Japan. Mr Abe has said he may reconsider the previous government’s decision to stop building reactors.

Cough syrup kills 33 in Pakistan

Authorities are investigating a cough syrup believed to have killed 33 people in eastern Pakistan in the past three days.

Government official Abdul Jabbar Shaheen said that 54 other people are being treated at hospitals in the city of Gujranwala who are also believed to have consumed the syrup.

He said those involved are thought to be labourers or drug addicts who drank the syrup to get high.

Mr Shaheen said chemical samples collected from the victims’ stomachs contained dextromethorphan, a synthetic morphine derivative used in cough syrup that can have mind-altering effects if consumed in large quantities.

Mr Shaheen said it is being investigated whether the people affected by the syrup in Gujranwala drank too much of it, or whether there was a problem with the medicine itself.

Gay couples tie the knot in Maine

After waiting years and seeing marriage rights nearly awarded and then retracted, gay couples in Maine’s largest city did not have to wait a moment longer than necessary to wed, with licences issued at the stroke of midnight as the law went into effect.

Among them were Steven Bridges and Michael Snell (pictured), who held a commitment ceremony six years ago but wanted to make their marriage official under state law.

“It’s historic. We’ve waited our entire lives for this,” said Mr Bridges, a retail manager, who’s been in a relationship with Mr Snell, a massage therapist, for nine years.

Mr Bridges, 42, and Mr Snell, 53, wore lavender and purple carnations on black T-shirts with the words Love is Love.

More than a dozen couples stood in line to get marriage licences at Portland City Hall early yesterday. There were free carnation boutonnieres, and a jazz trio played.

With Mr Snell’s two adult daughters looking on, they exchanged their vows in the city clerk’s office after getting the first marriage licence issued to a same-sex couple in Portland.

They said they will hold another ceremony with friends this summer, after the weather warms up.

Military intervention plan agreed

Central African Republic’s neighbours say they have agreed to dispatch a contingent of soldiers to intervene in the troubled country.

Representatives from the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States meeting in Gabon, though, did not specify how many troops they could contribute.

The announcement also did not outline how quickly the military assistance would arrive in the country where rebels are threatening to overthrow the President of nearly a decade.

President François Bozize had pleaded for international help as fears grew that the rebels would attack the capital.

Former colonial power France already has said that its forces in the country are there to protect French interests and not Mr Bozize’s Government.

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