Published: Wednesday 30 June 2004

An outbreak of Ebola virus in southern Sudan infected at least 15 people, killing four of them. The World Health Organization has traced the occurrence to the town of Yambio near the Kenyan border. Swift action may avert an outcome similar to recent epidemics in Uganda and Congo. Early Ebola diagnosis is difficult as its initial symptoms are similar to those of malaria.

The World Bank has pledged to double monetary aid for rehabilitating radioactive waste sites in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. The Soviet nuclear industry left the country with several radioactive dumps and uranium waste sites (See: 'Stemming the rot', Down To Earth , March 31, 2004). These sites threaten one of Central Asia's most densely populated areas -- the Fergana Valley. The total funding for the purpose will be to the tune of US $11.8 million.

The US Defense Contract Audit Agency has recommended that the Pentagon suspend a payment worth nearly US $ 160 million to construction giant Halliburton for allegedly overcharging for meals in Iraq in 2003. The US company's subsidiary KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, supplied the meals to the military. The company claims that the allegations were not justified, adding that it believes the firm will ultimately be reimbursed for these costs because its contractual position is strong". Halliburton stands accused of war-profiteering and corporate cronyism.

The Liberal government of Canada's Premier, Dalton McGuinty, will impose premiums costing individuals US $220-660 a year in new payroll deductions to generate billions in revenue for Ontario province's deteriorating healthcare system. The healthcare premium is expected to generate us $1.1 billion this year. The amount is expected to increase each year until it hits us $1.9 billion in 2008. The additional amount will be used to finance new healthcare spending.

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