- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2011


Cuba abolishes Ministry of Sugar

HAVANA — Cuba announced the elimination of its Ministry of Sugar on Thursday in a sign of how far the symbolic crop has fallen since its heyday when much of the population was mobilized to the countryside at harvest time to help cut cane.

President Raul Castro’s government determined that the ministry “currently serves no state function” and therefore will replace it with an entity called Grupo Empresarial de la Agroindustria Azucarera, the Communist Party daily newspaper Granma reported.

The goal is to “create a business system capable of turning its exports into hard currency to finance its own expenses,” Granma said. There was no mention of any private or foreign investment.

Like coffee and tobacco, sugar is a highly emblematic crop on the Caribbean island. Cuba used to be a world leader in sugar, annually producing 6 million to 7 million tons.


Lawyer: Appeals court may acquit pastor

TEHRAN — The U.S. called for the release of a pastor sentenced to death in Iran for apostasy, while his lawyer said Thursday he is hopeful an appeals court will acquit his client.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said 32-year-old Yusuf Naderkhani, who converted to Christianity when he was 19, has done nothing more than stay devoted to his faith.

Mr. Carney said Iran’s attempt to force Mr. Naderkhani to renounce the faith “crosses all bounds of decency” and breaches Iran’s international obligations.

Meanwhile, Germany summoned Iran’s top diplomat in Berlin to protest the planned execution.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said Germany “urges Iran to lift the death sentence against pastor Yusuf Naderkhani,” and said “an execution would be inhuman and a gross violation of human rights.”

Attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told the Associated Press on Thursday he believes in a “95 percent chance” of acquittal for Naderkhani.

He said neither Iranian law nor clerics have ever stipulated the death penalty as punishment for converting from Islam to Christianity.


Judge stops construction of Amazon dam

SAO PAULO — A Brazilian judge has suspended work on a massive hydroelectric dam in the Amazon jungle state of Para.

Judge Carlos Eduardo Martins said he halted construction of the $11 billion dam because it would harm fishing activities on the Xingu River where it is being built.

His ruling was posted Thursday on a court website.

The Norte Energia consortium that is building the Belo Monte dam said it had not been informed of the ruling, which will likely be appealed.

The dam would be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric energy producer. The government says it will provide clean, renewable energy, but environmentalists fear the project will lead to more dams in the Amazon, creating development and faster deforestation.


Gunmen block bridge ahead of election

DOUALA — Gunmen wearing military uniforms and carrying signs opposing Cameroon’s longtime ruler blockaded a major bridge early Thursday, shooting at police for several hours in an attack less than two weeks before the presidential election.

Relative calm has returned to Douala after deployed troops arrested at least nine of the gunmen who were calling for President Paul Biya to quit, a military official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press.

Mr. Biya, who has been in power since 1982, faces 22 challengers in the Oct. 9 vote.


U.S., Spain, Chad share “alternative Nobel”

STOCKHOLM — Solar power technology and efforts to protect the rights of birthing mothers, victims of dictatorship and farming communities were rewarded Thursday with the Right Livelihood Awards, sometimes referred to as the alternative Nobel Prizes.

Human rights activist Jacqueline Moudeina of Chad, Spanish-based nonprofit Grain, and American midwifery educator Ina May Gaskin will share the $205,000 cash award.

Chinese solar power pioneer Huang Ming received an honorary award for developing “cutting-edge technologies.”

The awards were founded by Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull in 1980 to recognize work he felt was being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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