Frankfort, Ky. – The number of miners killed on the job in the United States fell for a second straight year to 34, the fewest since officials began keeping records nearly a century ago.
That was down from the previous low of 52 in 2008.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration documents show 18 of the deaths occurred in coal mines, down from 29 in 2008; and 16 were in gold, copper and other types of mines, down from 22 in 2008.
Most involved aboveground truck accidents on mine property, though some of the deaths resulted from rock falls and being struck by machinery.
Obama administration mine safety czar Joe Main credits the decrease in deaths over the past year to beefed-up enforcement and stricter regulations in the wake of a series of mining disasters over the past four years in Kentucky, Utah and West Virginia.
Stimulus boosts Chinese production
Beijing – An index of China’s manufacturing rose in December, expanding at its fastest rate in 20 months amid heavy government economic stimulus, an industry group reported Friday.
The state-sanctioned China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said its monthly purchasing managers index, or PMI, rose to 56.6 on a 100-point scale, compared with 55.2 in November. Numbers above 50 show manufacturing activity expanding.
The rising index “shows the situation of China’s economy is stable and the recovery has been further consolidated,” a government economist, Zhang Liqun, said in a statement issued by the federation.
Beijing’s $586 billion stimulus program has helped boost growth by pumping money into the economy through spending on public works projects.
Russia increases price of vodka
Moscow – The price of the cheapest vodka on the Russian market more than doubled Friday as the government set a minimum price in an effort to fight rampant alcoholism.
Drinking causes an extraordinary number of deaths in Russia, where male life expectancy is about 60 years, and it contributes to an array of economic and social problems.
The minimum price of $3 for 17 ounces of vodka went into effect at the start of the 12-day New Year’s and Orthodox Christmas holiday, when alcohol consumption is at its highest.
Russia has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world, the equivalent of 4.8 gallons of pure alcohol for every man, woman and child per year.