News 360°-Brief

Published: Thursday 15 April 2010

oil exploration
Argentine veterans cry war

As diplomatic tensions between the UK and Argentina escalate following oil drilling plan near the Falklands, Argentine war veterans have threatened to invade the South Atlantic archipelago controlled by the UK. A war vets’ association in Bruenos Aires demonstrated in front of the British Embassy on March 19 and warned of a return of the 1982 Falklands war unless the UK gives up sovereignty. The group also called for a national boycott of British products.

Bruenos Aires is considering a bill to economically isolate the Falklands by forcing its firms to wind up their businesses in the islands.


It has tabled a resolution at the UN to resolve the decade-long dispute over the Falklands.

Chevron to take Quito to court

A US court has allowed Chevron, the country’s second-largest oil company, to go ahead with an international arbitration against Ecuador. Chevron claims Quito is interfering in a US $27 billion environmental lawsuit brought against it by the Amazonian indigenous people.

In 1993, about 30,000 Amazonians had filed the lawsuit against Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001. They claimed years of dumping toxic waste from oil-drilling operations in the Amazon rainforest has damaged their health and cases of cancer are increasing. It holds Chevron liable for the damages. Chevron has been denying the liability. To pressure the company, President Rafael Correa last year expressed his support for the plaintiffs and said Chevron would lose any case involving allegations by the government. Reacting to this, Chevron sought an international arbitration claim against Quito citing violations of the bilateral investment treaty. Ecuador had asked the US court to prevent Chevron from taking the case to arbitration.

life-saving drugs
Uganda’s patent sell-out

The EU funded the drafting of Uganda’s Counterfeit Goods Bill, which analysts say, threatens people’s access to life-saving generic medicines in the low-income country. Uganda imports about 90 per cent of its medicines, of which 93 per cent is generic. Part of the US $6.7 million that Uganda’s ministry of trade and industry received from EU in a financing agreement last year was to finance the drafting of the bill, news agency Inter Press Service reported quoting the state minister for industry. The bill is before the cabinet for discussion.

Activists say the bill makes no difference between generic medicines and counterfeits, criminalizing the sale of generic drugs. Legal experts say Uganda has the necessary laws in place to criminalize the sale of counterfeits. Since funding of the bill comes through the trade ministry instead of the health ministry, analysts fear the move could be to favour European pharma industries that promote patented drugs.

medical endorsement
Coca-Cola joins health drive

The American Academy of Family Physicians, one of the largest medical organizations in the country, came under fire for partnering with Coca-Cola in an awareness campaign about the health risks of soda consumption. Several doctors have resigned in protest. The academy claims its message will not be compromised by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from Coca-Cola. It also stated the goal of the programme is “to develop educational materials to help consumers make informed decisions so that they can include the products they love in a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle”. In 2005, the academy partnered with McDonald's to produce a fitness programme.

The Mekong is dammed

The Mekong River is flowing at its lowest level in half a century, affecting 65 million people in the lower basin who rely on the river for food, transport and economic activity. Green groups and governments of lower Mekong countries-Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam-are blaming China for shrinking the river by building dams; eight exist or are planned on the river in China where it originates. Beijing insists that the parched state of the river is due to a severe drought in southwest china. The Mekong River Commission, a body that brings together Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, has endorsed China's defence. "We have no direct evidence that the drop in water levels is caused by Chinese dams," said the commission. Thailand, however, believes the change in the water levels began since China started operating three dams two years ago. As Bangkok readies to meet Beijing for release of more water from the dams, conservationists have cautioned it against the dams it plans with Myanmar on the already shrunk Mekong river.

carbon sink
Sea volcano protects climate

A network of undersea volcanoes spews nutrient-rich water in the Southern Ocean and creates phytoplankton bloom that eventually soaks up a large amount of CO2. This inhibits global warming, said a group of Australian and French scientists. They have shown for the first time that hydrothermal vents around undersea volcanoes are a major source of iron needed for planktons. The Southern Ocean is the largest ocean carbon sink due to planktons, they said.

electric vehicles
Firms to unify recharge points

Four Japanese automakers have teamed up with the country’s biggest power utility to set a unified standard for electric vehicle recharging stations. Standar-dization would require all makers to agree on the kind of plug, power sockets and the voltage, which currently differ among firms. This would prompt consumers to switch to electric cars, said the coalition of Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Fuji Heavy Industries. The coalition is also developing a rapid charger to reduce recharging time to 15 minutes.

us cotton subsidies
Brazil hikes tariff on US goods

Brazil has announced it will increase tariffs on 102 US products in retaliation to US cotton subsidies. In August last year it won an eight-year-long case at the World Trade Organization (wto) against usa after arguing that Brazilian cotton producers had been unfairly hurt by illegal subsidies offered by the US to its cotton growers.

wto had authorized Brasilia to impose additional duties on US goods, called cross-retaliation. Brazil says it is entitled to impose retaliatory measures worth US $829.3 million a year till the US resolves the matter; the measures announced so far are worth US $591million. To cover the rest, it plans to raise duties on cars—a sensitive product in the US—to 50 per cent and threatens to disregard patent rights in sectors like technology, entertainment and pharmaceuticals. wto has previously allowed such retaliation, but nobody has followed through with such steps.

Bluefin tuna ban rejected

Efforts to ban trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna were defeated by a Japanese diplomatic offensive at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (cites) in Doha, Qatar. The fish was the biggest issue at the convention because stocks have dropped by 85 per cent since commercial fishing began. Conservationists argue a trading ban by the 175-nation cites would have protected the fish, which is in high demand for Japanese dish, sushi. The EU, despite powerful fishing interests, had agreed to back the ban after months of internal debate. The US, Monaco and Norway also supported the ban. But the effort was foiled after Libya called for a vote and the proposal failed to garner requisite support. Conservationists blame the defeat on the fierce lobbying from the fishing industry.


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