- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Health minister quits in frustration

BUENOS AIRES | Argentina’s health minister has resigned amid the growing swine flu epidemic, reportedly after failing to persuade the government to declare a health emergency.

Graciela Ocana also failed to persuade President Cristina Fernandez to declare an emergency over the spread of dengue fever this year and had lost battles with unions for control of social funds.

The two diseases have exposed shortcomings in Argentina’s public health system. Twenty-six people have died from swine flu, the most deaths of any country in South America.

The president’s Cabinet chief refused to explain why the minister quit Monday. But La Nacion newspaper reports that she was frustrated by a lack of support from Mrs. Fernandez and waited until after Sunday’s elections to quit to avoid disrupting the campaigns.


Controversial land law approved

BRASILIA | President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has approved a law that could legalize landholdings by about 1 million squatters occupying a Texas-sized chunk of the Amazon rain forest, despite environmentalist fears that it will accelerate deforestation.

The law, approved late Thursday night, affects 260,233 square miles of federally owned land that for decades has been illegally occupied - mostly by small farmers, but also by large property holders and loggers.

The government says the law will help it curb deforestation and land conflicts, but environmentalists say it will lure more people into the region and lead to more devastation.

The government hopes that legalizing Amazon landholdings will let it better monitor landownership, which it says is key to the region’s sustainable development and survival.


Judge says boy must stay with stepfather

SAO PAULO | A federal judge has ruled that a 9-year-old boy at the center of an international custody battle must remain with his Brazilian stepfather until a final ruling is issued on the boy’s permanent custody, local news media reported Saturday.

The ruling would overturn a separate judge’s order earlier this month that Sean’s biological father, U.S. citizen David Goldman, should have custody of his son six days a week whenever Mr. Goldman is in Brazil.

In 2004, Sean’s mother, Bruna Bianchi, took him for a vacation to her native Brazil and never returned. She later married Rio de Janeiro lawyer Joao Paulo Lins e Silva and died last year giving birth to a daughter.

The boy is now living with Mr. Lins e Silva, who wants to retain custody.

Mr. Goldman, who lives in Tinton Falls, N.J., has been seeking custody of Sean under The Hague Convention on International Child Abductions, which requires that participating countries return abducted or wrongfully retained children to the country of their “habitual residence.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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