- - Sunday, June 12, 2011

GREECE

Leader pushes austerity to avoid ‘catastrophic’ default

ATHENS — Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, buffeted by negative polls and continuing protests at economic austerity measures, said Sunday that he will continue with policies aimed at drastically cutting the country’s debt and that the alternative — a default — would be a catastrophe.

“We have taken a decision, that no Greeks should live through the consequences of a default and to change the country radically so that it is no longer under anyone’s supervision and can stand on its own feet,” Mr. Papandreou said in an interview with Sunday newspaper To Vima.

“Never in my life did I imagine that we would need to slash pensions in order for the state to continue to pay any pensions at all,” he added. “We chose the least painful of two options: one [is] difficult, the other — defaulting — is catastrophic.”

On Friday, the government announced an austerity program that runs through 2015 and aims to save more than $40 billion. The measures will slap a host of new taxes on austerity-weary Greeks — in spite of pledges to avoid more blanket tax increases.

WINE

Vintners push plan to clear redwoods

ANNAPOLIS, Calif. — Two proposed “timberland-to-vineyard” conversion projects that would clear almost 2,000 acres of redwoods and firs in California’s Sonoma County have some residents saying enough is enough.

Despite declines in high-end wine sales and a glut of grape production in Sonoma County, the winemakers are investing millions of dollars in environmental studies for the projects.

Napa Valley’s Artesa Vineyards wants to plant on 151 acres on a site containing redwoods and artifacts from ancient Kashaya Pomo villages. Premier Pacific Vineyards wants to put grapes on about 1,800 acres of the 20,000 it owns in a project called Preservation Ranch that also will include residential housing.

Annapolis residents say the county has enough wine grapes and that the tribal artifacts and environmental concerns are being thrust upon the community because just so two large winemakers can grow “vanity vineyards” that yield small amounts of expensive wines.

“The watershed’s on its heels as far as fish goes, which is why it’s important to keep the flow. If you put all these straws in the watershed drawing water out, you might as well kiss it goodbye,” said Chris Poehlmann, a museum exhibit designer who lives in Annapolis and heads a local conservation group.

FCC

Court upholds decision to close TV access loophole

A federal court on Friday upheld a decision by government regulators to close a loophole that allowed cable TV operators to withhold sporting events and other popular programming from satellite TV providers and other rivals.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed most of a recent Federal Communications Commission decision to close the so-called “terrestrial loophole” in a 1992 cable law.

Under that law, a cable TV provider must let competitors carry any channel it owns if it uses satellite connections to transmit the channel to individual cable systems across the country. But until the FCC closed the loophole in January 2010, the provision didn’t apply when cable operators sent programming over land-based networks instead.

Satellite providers and phone companies that offer subscription TV services long complained that big cable operators were exploiting that quirk in the law to deny them access to popular programming, particularly regional sports networks.

HEALTH

Drug labels revised to cut dispensing errors

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — Drugmaker Merck & Co. soon will be shipping many of its top medications to pharmacies in containers with labels redesigned to prevent dispensing errors.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved the revamped container labels. They have a new standardized format to make them easier to read and give better information about the drug inside and the dosage strength.

Merck spent about three years working with several FDA divisions to revamp the layout and content of the medicine containers shipped to pharmacies. Individual prescriptions are dispensed from those into small bottles for patients.

The revised labels will go on 16 oral medications, including diabetes pills Januvia and Janumet, asthma and allergy drug Singulair and Isentress for HIV.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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