- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Sanctions on U.S. in cotton subsidy row

GENEVA | Brazil announced trade sanctions on a range of American goods Monday in retaliation for the United States’ failure to eliminate billions in illegal cotton subsidies.

The higher tariffs affecting dozens of products from fresh fruit to sunglasses comes after the World Trade Organization authorized Brazil last year to set $829.3 million in annual penalties against U.S. economic interests for years of anticompetitive subsidies paid to American cotton growers.

Brazil says the ruling allows $238 million worth of penalties on U.S. trademarks, patents and commercial services, which will be announced later this month. Monday’s first part deals with $591 million in penalties on goods, which will remain in place as long as the U.S. continues to break international trade rules, the Latin American country said.

The list of goods was delivered to the WTO in Geneva on Monday, with a notice that the sanctions will start next month.


Government calls hunger strike ‘blackmail’

HAVANA | Cuba, trying to deflect international criticism over the recent hunger strike death of a political prisoner, said Monday it would not be “blackmailed” by another dissident hunger striker, whom it accused of being a convicted criminal.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma, which reflects government policy, said in an article that Guillermo Farinas, who began his hunger strike last month, had served prison terms after being jailed in 1995 for beating a woman and in 2002 for beating an old man who was trying to stop “a terrorist act.”

Granma said Farinas, who is now at home and has vowed to starve himself to death if necessary in his stated aim to gain the release of 26 ailing political prisoners, became a dissident only to “evade justice.”


Budget cuts to shrink federal bureaucracy

OTTAWA | Canada’s federal bureaucracy will shrink over the coming years as a result of budget curbs, the government said Monday, prompting one opposition party to predict a major fight over the civil service’s future.

The minority Conservative government said last week it would freeze the overall operating budgets of Canada’s federal ministries for two years after the 2010-11 fiscal year.

The measure, announced in the federal budget, is designed to help cut a record budget deficit. Opponents say the right-leaning government is using the crisis as an excuse to cut the size of the bureaucracy on ideological grounds.

Stockwell Day, secretary of the Treasury Board, said the freeze gives ministries some leeway to decide how to make cuts. He also cited the fact that around 13,000 employees a year leave the bureaucracy, which according to official data employed 263,000 people in 2008.

Mr. Day spoke after announcing that he was cutting 245 of the 2,700 positions on boards of directors at federal agencies, tribunals and commissions — a 9 percent reduction.


Parliament to serve seal meat at lunch

TORONTO | The Canadian Parliament’s restaurant will be serving seal meat this week as a gesture of support for hunters battling a European Union ban on seal products.

Liberal Sen. Celine Hervieux-Payette said Monday that Wednesday’s lunch menu will offer seal meat hors-d’oeuvres and main courses. She says the fare will allow politicians to demonstrate their backing for the hunt.

The EU ban on seal imports was imposed last July on the grounds that the annual hunt off Canada’s East Coast was cruel and inhumane.

Canada has requested consultations with the EU at the World Trade Organization, which is the first step before launching an official trade challenge.


Zelaya to pen book about 2009 coup

CARACAS, Venezuela | Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya blamed Honduras’ business elite for last June’s military-backed coup that sent him into exile, and said he plans to write a book describing his ouster within three months.

In a television interview broadcast in Venezuela Sunday, Mr. Zelaya said the business leaders feared he planned to copy Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s socialist policies and some were upset over his decision to seize control of fuel terminals used by store imported oil.

Honduran officials say Mr. Zelaya was ousted for refusing to drop a campaign for a referendum on changing the constitution, which the Supreme Court had ruled illegal.


Mexico City cuts cops’ calories

MEXICO CITY | Mexico City’s police department has introduced a new lower-calorie menu in cafeterias serving its 70,000-member force after finding out that almost three-quarters of officers are overweight.

Hungry cops will now get 2,495 calories per day, 500 fewer than in previous servings, along with a healthy portion of vegetables.

The three-meal-a-day menu announced Sunday comes after a study found that at least 70 percent of officers are overweight.

However, authorities face a big challenge in slimming down the force.

Mexico City cops are famous for soliciting small bribes from motorists, often with the phrase: “Give me something for a soft drink.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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