Economy Briefs: Panama repeals plan to privatize land along Canal

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PANAMA CITY, Panama — Panama's government has repealed a measure to sell state-owned land in a duty-free zone along the Panama Canal after a week of sometimes violent protests.

Government spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho says the government backtracked “to overcome intranquility” — a reference to protests that spread from the Atlantic port of Colon to Panama City on the Pacific. President Ricardo Martinelli signed the repeal decree Sunday.

The government argued the land sales would create revenue for social projects in Colon. Protesters feared what might happen if private owners take over the area and complained about loss of revenue from the current lease system.

AUTO

Toyota widens global lead in car sales over GM

DETROIT — Toyota has widened its global sales lead over GM after bouncing back from a series of natural disasters.

The company said Friday that it sold 7.4 million vehicles globally in the first nine months of this year — 450,000 more than GM. While Toyota Motor Corp.’s sales rose 28 percent in that period, General Motors Co.’s rose 2.5 percent, to 6.95 million cars and light-duty trucks.

Toyota’s factories were hobbled by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in early 2011, leaving it short of cars in the U.S. and other regions. But now the company has recovered, and is building and selling more vehicles globally.

Executives concede privately that the crown is a matter of corporate pride for both companies. GM was the top-selling automaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008.

HEALTH

FDA: Steroid firm didn’t act against known contamination

Federal health inspectors say staffers at a pharmacy linked to the deadly meningitis outbreak in the past year documented dozens of cases of mold and bacteria growing in rooms that were supposed to be sterile.

In a preliminary report on conditions at the pharmacy, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday that even when the contamination at New England Compounding Center exceeded the company’s own safety levels, there is no evidence that staffers investigated or corrected the problem.

The report comes from an FDA inspection of the Framingham, Mass.-based company earlier this month after steroid injections made by the company were tied to an outbreak of fungal meningitis that has killed 25 people across the U.S.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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