June 25, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 25


Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“We don’t look at it through the prism of Democrats and Republicans. We look at it in terms of those who support free market policies and those who don’t.”

— A pharmaceutical industry spokesman on record-breaking lobbying expenses aimed at Congressional Democrats (see “Top Stories,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Big year for (Democratic) drug deals
U.K. jouralist gets some source protection
Australia’s billion-dollar land grab

*Transportation*
Who resurrected the electric car?

*Refugees*
Somali refugees: Out of the frying pan, into the fire


TOP STORIES

* Big Year for (Democratic) Drug Deals

The pharmaceutical industry spent $168 million lobbying Congress in 2007 — a record sum that helped influence legislation and prevented new restrictions on drug advertisements, the Center for Public Integrity reports.

Industry spending on lobbying has tripled since 1998, adding up to more than a $1 billion total in that time.

CIR reports that 90 percent of the spending was by 40 companies and three industry groups, including Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the Advanced Medical Technology Association.

The big spending in 2007 may have been spurred in part by the Democratic takeover of Congress in November 2006, which saw industry critics, such as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ascend to leadership positions formerly occupied by Republicans.

However, Ken Johnson, a spokesman for PhRMA, told CIR that a “difficult political environment” in Washington was not a result of partisanship.

“We don’t look at it through the prism of Democrats and Republicans. We look at it in terms of those who support free market policies and those who don’t,” he said.

The CIR report found that pharmaceutical lobbying targeted at Democrats has “dramatically” increased, and in 2008, “for the first time on record,” has exceeded spending on Republicans.

Source:

“A Record Year for the Pharmaceutical Lobby in ’07” Center for Public Integrity,
June 24, 2008

* U.K. Journalist Gets Some Source Protection

A freelance journalist in Manchester, England, may reveal some, but not necessarily all, of his source material on a book about al-Qaida terrorists to police, a panel of judges said today.

The panel ruled the police order for Shiv Malik to hand over all materials, including an interview with a suspected British operative, was too broad.

Malik said the decision was a “victory for common sense” that protects journalists everywhere, The Guardian reports.

He will return to court on June 26 to hear specific terms on what he must divulge under Britain’s Terrorism Act.

— T.J. Johnston/Newsdesk.org

Source:

“Shiv Malik: Journalist claims victory in terrorism sources case”
The Guardian, June 19, 2008

* Australia’s Billion-Dollar Land Grab

Never mind the aboriginal land battles that followed the colonial era — turf wars in today’s Australia are for billionaires.

The richest man Down Under, Andrew Forrest, is squaring off against the nation’s wealthiest woman, Gina Rinehart, in an epic conflict over access to the iron-rich Rhodes Ridge territory in Western Australia, Bloomberg News reports.

Forrest’s Perth-based Fortalescu Metals Group is claiming improper lease renewals by Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, and according to The Australian is also favored by a “use it or lose it” policy that places public interest over tenancy.

The legal battle is driven by China’s voracious appetite for iron ore, and whomever wins the mining and export rights will reap vast rewards.

Rinehart may be personally enriched by A$500 million if she comes out on top, while Forrest’s company and partners stand to gain A$1.65 billion in royalties if they can take control of the Rhodes Ridge ore.

Sources:

“Australia’s Richest Man, Woman in Iron Ore Mine Fight”
Bloomberg, June 18, 2008

“Cazaly May Earn A$1.65 Billion in Royalties From Rhodes Ridge”
Bloomberg, June 22, 2008

“‘Use it or lose it’, mining project sitters told”
The Australian, June 19, 2008


TRANSPORTATION

* Who Resurrected the Electric Car?

With gasoline prices climbing ever higher, private companies and government agencies are giving the electric car another look.

Even Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is getting in on the act, telling supporters this week he would offer a $300 million government prize to whoever invents a better battery for electric vehicles.

More timely are plans by the city of Paris for a 4,000-car fleet of electric vehicles to drive a new car-share program.

Modeled on a popular Parisian bicycle rental service, the new Autolib program is expected to launch early next year, according to the Web site Inhabitat.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times painted a glowing picture of the Think City, an electric car manufactured by a Norwegian company.

Unlike most electric cars to date, the compact City will reach highway speeds and meet both European and American collision standards.

Part of the reason for that is that the City was largely designed by Ford Motor Co., which put $150 million into Think before abruptly dumping the project in 2003.

Think went bankrupt three years later, but was resurrected by a group of Norwegian investors, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But lately, even the famously conservative automakers of Detroit are declaring their excitement about electric cars.

The Kansas City Star recently reported on General Motors’ big push for the plug-in gas-electric hybrid Volt, which is expected to go into production in 2010.

The Star quotes an article on GM’s Web site that tries to explain why the company abruptly discontinued its previous electric car, the EV1, in 1996: “When GM launched the EV1 gas was cheap, there wasn’t a war in Iraq, and there was less discussion about global warming … We didn’t kill the electric car; electric vehicle technology is far from dead.”

— Will Crain / Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“John McCain’s $300 million car battery”
Chicagotribune.com, June 23, 2008

“Electric Car Share Program for Paris”
Inhabitat.com, June 25, 2008

“The Think City: In Norway, they’re building your first electric car”
Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2008

“Fuel of the future looks more promising”
Kansas City Star, June 24, 2008

“Electric Car Roundup”
Earth2Tech.com, June 24, 2008


REFUGEES

* Somali Refugees: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Several new reports reveal that Somali and Ethiopian refugees, fleeing drought and violence at home, often face renewed danger crossing the ocean to Yemen and in South African refugee camps.

According to the aid group Doctors Without Borders, 20,000 such refugees crowded into overloaded boats during the first five months of 2008.

They endure beatings and abuse by smugglers, and at least 400 died en route.

Once the refugees reach their final destination, their troubles often deepen.

A post the Boston Globe Web site noted that a group of Somalis in a South African refugee camp threatened to commit suicide en masse last week to protest their living conditions.

The camp was one of several set up by the South African government after a wave of anti-foreigner riots raged through the nation’s slums a few weeks ago.

According to the report, which was written by a Yale law student in South Africa on an internship, 14 other refugees were arrested over plans for a protest.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that some foreigners seeking shelter in these camps have complained that, after escaping angry mobs, they are now assaulted by the South African authorities who are supposed to be protecting them.

— Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Somali and Ethiopian Migrants Face Violence in Waters Off Yemen”
Doctors Without Borders, June 19, 2008

“South Africa’s president calls attacks on immigrants shameful”
Christian Science Monitor, June 18, 2008

“Refugee crisis created in South Africa”
Boston Globe, June 18, 2008


Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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