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Friday, February 15, 2008

Central America News - Panama

This case again demonstrates how interconnected all of us are - and how fragile is the system of checks and balances in place for health care.
clipped from news.yahoo.com

Panama relatives say hundreds poisoned

Panama's government has vastly underestimated the number of people who died from taking medications tainted with a chemical commonly found in antifreeze and brake fluid, family members and a lawyer for the victims said Thursday.

Pascual, who estimates that more than 300 people died from poisoning and more than 100 survived, contends the official investigation was fraught with contradictions. In some cases, investigators initially recognized that a victim had taken the tainted medicine but later said the cases were inconclusive.

By JUAN ZAMORANO, Associated Press Writer

In mid-2006, people in Panama began dying after using cough syrup, antihistamine tablets, calamine lotion and rash ointment made at a government laboratory. Investigations found that the medicines were contaminated with diethylene glycol, commonly used in brake fluid and antifreeze.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


Costa Rica voted to join CAFTA, but now President Arias is having trouble getting the Assemblea to rewrite the country's laws to make it comply with CAFTA requirements. NAFTA isn't working for the good of the majority, so why should CAFTA be any different?
clipped from adsfree01.mail.com
Mexicans Say: Integrate

By Katie Kohlstedt
As part of a broadened alliance of Mexican civil society groups
demanding the renegotiation of the
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexicans from all parts of the
country occupied Mexico City's
Zocalo and surroundings on Jan. 31.
The hot subjects of immigration, subsidies, and corporate manipulation
with disregard for
the public are making people angry in all parts of North America. As
divergent as the march was, at least
Mexicans were motivated to hit the streets. If only the injustices of NAFTA
made enough people angry
enough to push their governments to do something.
Katie Kohlstedt (kkohlstedt(a)ciponline.org) is Program Associate at
the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org)
in Mexico City.
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Spy Satellite May Used Unconstitutionally

Read the entire story at http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gM4mwPQcU0j446qIew8P7ZmifwNgD8UP4GG03.
Time to join the ACLU? Will they report how many people are in your bedroom?
clipped from ap.google.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — A plan to use U.S. spy satellites for domestic security and law-enforcement missions is moving forward after being delayed for months because of privacy and civil liberties concerns.

It is possible that in the future an agency might request infrared imaging of what is inside a house, for instance a methamphetamine laboratory, and this could raise constitutional issues. In these instances, law enforcement agencies would still have to go through the normal process of obtaining a warrant and satisfying all the legal requirements. The National Applications Office also would require that all the laws are observed when using new imaging technology.

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Spin Doctors Explain Big Monsanto Estimated Profits

Monsanto recently released updated reports of expected earnings in 2008 with a conclusion the both its genetically modified seed (to which it hold the patent) and its herbicide, Roundup, appear to be exceeding previous expectations in sales. Monsanto is happy. Environmental and consumer groups are not happy.

The widening adoption of genetically engineered crops by farmers around the world is reducing global pesticide use, increasing agricultural yields and bringing unprecedented prosperity and food security to millions of the world's poorest citizens.

Or, it is fueling greater use of pesticides, putting crop yields at risk, driving small farmers out of business and decreasing global food security by giving a single company control over much of the world's seed supply.

Dueling reports released yesterday -- one by a consortium largely funded by the biotech industry and the other by a pair of environmental and consumer groups -- came to those diametrically different conclusions.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Georgia Loses Federal Case in a Dispute


Published: February 6, 2008

ATLANTA — Georgia lost a major court fight in the Southern battle over water rights on Tuesday when a federal appellate-court panel said the state could not withdraw as much water as it had planned from an Atlanta-area reservoir.

The victory went to Alabama and Florida, which had contended that Georgia’s plan would siphon off water that should flow downstream to their consumers. The two states had brought the appellate suit to undo an agreement between Georgia and the Army Corps of Engineers that would have given Georgia rights to use nearly a quarter of the water in Lake Sidney Lanier, which supplies drinking water to much of northern Georgia.

In the ruling, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the agreement was void because the two parties had not first obtained Congressional approval. Under federal law, the corps must obtain such approval before making “major structural or operational” changes to the management of its federal reservoirs.

“I simply do not see how we can conclude this is not a major change,” Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote for the panel.

Under the 2003 pact with the Army Corps, Georgia was allowed to increase its share of the reservoir allocated for water storage to 22.9 percent from 13.9 percent.

Florida and Alabama have been in contentious negotiations with Georgia over the right to use water from Lake Lanier for almost two decades.

Governors from the three states have been in water-sharing talks brokered by Dirk Kempthorne, the interior secretary, and had pledged to reach an agreement by Feb. 15.

Now experts say those talks will almost certainly be prolonged or postponed.

“Right now, the states of Florida and Alabama have certainly drawn a pair of aces to their pair of jacks and they’re holding a pretty strong hand,” said Mark Crisp, an engineering consultant for several power companies that had originally brought the suit against the corps.

Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama hailed the decision as “the most consequential legal ruling in the 18-year history of the water war, and one of the most important in the history of the State of Alabama.”

He said the ruling “invalidates the massive water grab that Georgia tried to pull off.”

Alabama and Florida, which depend on water from Lake Lanier for power generation, industry, recreation and commercial fishing, argued Georgia had no legal right to the reservoir, which was originally built for hydropower.

It was unclear late Tuesday whether Georgia would appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. Calls to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Though the fast-growing Atlanta area relies on the reservoir, the other states have argued that Georgia has done little water planning over the decades and has not tied growth and development to water resources.

On Wednesday, Mr. Perdue is scheduled to sign into law Georgia’s first comprehensive water management plan, which was hastily approved by both houses of the General Assembly last month in the opening days of the 2008 legislative session. Environmental groups have already criticized the plan as ineffectual in the face of a record drought, which could threaten the drinking water for four million people.

Gil Rogers, a staff lawyer for the Southern Center for Environmental Law in Atlanta, said that the ruling could force lawmakers to consider tougher water restrictions for the state.

“It’s certainly going to make Atlanta justify how it’s using the water now,” Mr. Rogers said. “It’s going to raise the bar as far as what Atlanta is doing with what it already has.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

More Bad News for GM Crops

Scientists Find Evidence Of Pest Resistance To GMO Crops

2/8/2008 11:04:00 AM

Scientists Find Evidence Of Pest Resistance To GMO Crops

Scientists say they have found the first confirmation insects have developed resistance to genetically-modified crops.

University of Arizona entomologists looked at data from six experiments to monitor pests in fields sown with transgenic cotton and corn in Australia, China, Spain and the U.S.

They found evidence of genetic mutation among bollworms in a dozen cotton fields sown in Mississippi and Arkansas between 2003 and 2006. But no such evidence was found among five other major pests monitored elsewhere.

The mutation entails a slight change in the bollworm's DNA to help it resist a toxin the cotton plant exudes thanks to a gene inserted by biotechnologists.

These GM toxins are produced in nature by a widespread bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, which goes by the abbreviation Bt. The type of Bt toxin to which these bollworms have become resistant is called Cry1Ac.

"What we're seeing is evolution in action," said lead researcher Bruce Tabashnik. "This is the first documented case of field-evolved resistance to a Bt crop."

Tabashnik said a new variety of Bt cotton was successfully combatting the resistant bollworms as it combined a second toxin, Cry2Ab, with Cry1Ac.

Green groups, who are fierce opponents of GMO technology in agriculture, have long predicted pests would become resistant to transgenic toxins, as happens frequently in the case of chemical insecticides.

To overcome the resistance, scientists would have to use higher levels of toxins or different kinds, they say.

On the other hand, the paper, published Thursday in the U.K. journal Nature Biotechnology, found no evidence of resistance among the other insect pests being monitored. They remained susceptible to Bt toxin.

Worst-case scenarios sketched by critics of GM crops have predicted pests would become resistant to Bt crops in as little as three years, said Tabashnik.

"The resistance occurred in one particular pest in one part of the U.S.," Tabashnik said. "The other major pests attacking Bt crops have not evolved resistance. And even most bollworm populations have not evolved resistance."

Bt cotton and Bt corn, introduced by U.S. agri-giant Monsanto Co. (MON) in 1996, have been grown on more than 162 million hectares worldwide, "generating one of the largest selections for insect resistance ever known," notes the paper.

Resistance among the bollworms developed faster in places where there was little or no "refuges," the term for areas where there are non-BT crops, the review found.

The idea behind refuges is to provide a haven for pests that don't have the genetic mutations.

This boosts the probability a resistant pest will mate with a non-resistant pest, creating a hybrid that would still be susceptible to the toxin. In most pests, offspring are resistant to the novel toxins only if both parents are resistant.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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