EU begins sanctions on U.S. exports

BRUSSELS, Belgium- The European Union yesterday started imposing
millions of dollars in sanctions on American goods but said it
would stop the measure immediately if the U.S. Congress repeals its
export tax break legislation.

The U.S. legislation was ruled illegal by the World Trade
Organization two years ago and it authorized the EU to impose
sanctions last year.

“The U.S. has not brought its legislation in line with WTO
rules. We are therefore left with no choice but to impose
countermeasures,” EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said in a

Although the WTO has authorized $4 billion in sanctions —
the biggest amount ever — the EU is taking a graduated
approach, hoping to pressure. Congress to change the Foreign Sales
Corporation legislation while limiting the impact on European
companies and consumers.

If the sanctions run on, they would cost U.S. industry some $300
million this year and about double that next year, the EU said.
Lamy was already trying to look beyond the sanctions. “The
name of the game is not retaliation but compliance: countermeasures
will be lifted the day the FSC is repealed,” he said.


Catholic charity must provide birth control

SAN FRANCISCO- In a precedent-setting decision, the California
Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a Roman Catholic charity must
offer birth-control coverage to its employees even though the
church considers contraception a sin.

The 6 to 1 decision marked the first such ruling by a
state’s highest court. Experts said the ruling could affect
thousands of workers at Catholic hospitals and other church-backed
institutions in California and prompt other states to fashion
similar laws.

California is one of 20 states to require that all
company-provided health plans must include contraception coverage
if the plans have prescription drug benefits.

The high court said that Catholic Charities is no different from
other businesses in California, where “religious
employers” such as churches are exempt from the requirement.
Catholic Charities argued that it, too, should be exempt.

But the court ruled that the charity is not a religious employer
because it offers such secular services as counseling, low-income
housing and immigration services to people of all faiths, without
directly preaching Catholic values.


Arafat adviser killed by gunmen in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip- Gunmen shot and killed a well-known
adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City early
today, security officials said.

Khalid al-Zaben was the best-known Palestinian to be killed in
what appears to be growing power struggles in Gaza City. There is
concern that with the weakening of Arafat’s Palestinian
Authority and a planned Israeli pullout from most of the Gaza
Strip, a chaotic situation might result, with Islamic militant
groups angling for power there.

Al-Zaben, 59, was hit by 12 bullets as he left his office in the
Sabra neighborhood, hospital and security officials said.

In other recent internal strife, rival groups opened fire on
each other after an armed man slapped the police chief. A policeman
was killed in the exchange that followed.


Putin nominates technocrat as PM

MOSCOW- President Vladimir Putin nominated a low-profile
technocrat to the post of prime minister yesterday, signalling he
wanted a politically unambitious head of government to push through
sensitive economic reforms.

The choice of Mikhail Fradkov — who also could become a
scapegoat if the reforms fail — was announced six days after
Putin’s unexpected dismissal of Prime Minister Mikhail
Kasyanov and his cabinet in advance of this month’s
presidential election.

“If Putin wanted to surprise people, he definitely
succeeded,” said analyst Masha Lipman of the Carnegie
Endowment. Lipman said the move likely reflected Putin’s
desire to improve relations with Western Europe.

Others saw Fradkov, 53, as a man who would do Putin’s


Most distant galaxy in universe discovered

PARIS- French and Swiss astronomers say they have detected the
farthest galaxy ever observed, a glimmer that dates back to when
the universe was still in its infancy.

The galaxy, dubbed Abell 1835 IR1916, is 13.23 billion
light-years from Earth — beating by a chunk another galaxy
that until now was believed to be the farthest known object, said
France’s state-funded National Center for Scientific
Research, a major European research organization.

Because light from the new find took 13.23 billion years to
reach us across the vastness of space, astronomers are seeing the
galaxy as it was back then.

— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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