bully power: A World Trade Organisation panel will examine the US claim that a tax imposed by Mexico on American soft drinks that use corn sweeteners violates international trade rules. Mexico's 20 per cent tax on soft drinks and syrups using high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) have almost halted the US exports of HFCS to the country. A 20 per cent tax also exists on distribution and other services linked to drinks using HFCS. Mexico's tax is aimed at protecting its sick sugar industry and also at getting even with the US, which curbed its imports of Mexican sugar.
ponds' popularity: Following the tremendous popularity of harvesting rainwater through pits in fields, the zilla panchayat of Bidar in Karnataka has decided to treble the number of farm ponds to be constructed in the district to 1,500. Announcing this, Arvind Patil, the zilla panchayat's vice-president, recently asked the officials concerned to prepare a Rs 15-crore proposal for the programme. Experts believe farm ponds provide an economical way of storing rainwater in the district, where heavy rainfall for 40-50 days every year produces a huge amount of run-off that can be used later.
witchcraft victim: Sorcerers in Gujarat's Vadodara district are hunting the Indian great horned owl to extinction for rituals. Two owls were recently rescued by a non-governmental organisation. As many as 30 owls were rescued last year from Nadiad, Bharuch and Godhra, besides Vadodara, according to H S Singh, chief conservator of forest, Vadodara range. Of the 26 owl species found in the sub-continent, 11 are used in black magic. Owls are not protected under schedule-1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. These sorcerers get bail even if nabbed.
fluoride danger: The fluoride content in the water of 18 Karnataka districts has increased due to dipping groundwater levels, endangering people's health. This was revealed by M Basappa Reddy, director, mining and geology department, at a recent workshop at Bapuji Engineering and Technological Institute, Davangere. Reddy stressed the need to adopt artificial water recharging methods. He pointed out that tubewell water was responsible for the widespread kidney problems plaguing people in the affected districts. There are around 1.2 million tubewells in the state as farmers depend heavily on groundwater.
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