The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded it must adopt a new standard for the amount of naturally occurring arsenic allowed in the nation’s drinking water that is at least as tough as the one proposed by the Clinton administration. EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman decided to recommend a stringent new limit after receiving a report from the National Academy of Sciences that found that the health risks posed by arsenic are much greater than previously assumed by the EPA. The decision addresses one of the most controversial environmental decisions the Bush administration has made since coming into office. In March, the administration set aside a Clinton administration regulation tightening the fifty-year federal standard for arsenic levels in drinking water from fifty parts-per-billion to ten parts-per-billion. The move touched off criticism from Democrats, environmentalists and moderate Republicans and prompted a House vote seeking to reverse the action. After receipt of the report, an agency official said that in no case would the EPA propose a standard any weaker than the Clinton administration’s ten parts-per-billion, while hinting the final standard might be even tougher.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to lift a three-year-old arms embargo in Yugoslavia, ending the last in a series of military and economic sanctions imposed against the Belgrade government over the past decade. The action marks the UN’s formal recognition that Yugoslavia has embraced democratic rule and cooperated by surrendering former president Slobodan Milosevic in June to a UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague. France and Russia, a close ally of Serbia, Yugoslavia’s dominant republic, led the campaign to end the arms embargo imposed in 1998 to protest Serbia’s military campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
And Iraq said yesterday eight civilians were killed, three wounded, when Western planes attacked farms 105 miles southeast of Baghdad on Sunday with missiles and cluster bombs. A Defense Ministry spokesperson in London said the aircraft had attacked military targets, and the dead and wounded were Iraqi soldiers. But the official Iraqi news agency, citing witnesses, said the US and British warplanes launched their attack when some people in the farming district were about to say midday prayers and others were shopping in a local market, leading to civilian casualties.
And Iraq claimed this morning to have shot down a second US spy plane in less than a month. A US military spokesperson said an unmanned plane is missing, and its loss is being investigated. Major Brett Morris, spokesperson for a US-British military task force in the Persian Gulf, said the coalition force had lost an unmanned aircraft today similar to US spy plane lost last month.
This news from Oklahoma: a state appeals court has ordered an indefinite halt to the execution of a Mexican man whose case drew appeals from Mexican President Vicente Fox. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals said the latest appeal by the prisoner, Gerardo Valdez, raised questions about whether his rights were violated under an international treaty that guarantees foreigners the right to contact their consul after an arrest. The panel said the order would remain in effect until the further order of the court. Lawyers for Valdez are seeking a new trial.
And this news from Atlanta: Delta Air Lines’s 20,000 flight attendants have filed enough authorization cards to call an election for union representation with the Association of Flight Attendants. The unionization effort is one of the largest US organizing drives in decades. The union says it’s the largest-ever union election in the airline industry. Last week, the union filed a complaint against Delta with the NMB, the National Mediation Board, accusing the airline of intimidating and harassing workers trying to organize the flight attendants.
Anti-globalization activists are planning for protesters to land at Qatar in a flotilla during the World Trade Organization meetings in an effort to halt the launch of a new trade round. In what’s shaping up as one of the most ambitious anti-globalization protests to date, organizers are also preparing for demonstrations against stock exchanges and multinational corporations as part of a global day of action on November 9. This weekend, protest organizers are flying into London from San Francisco, Washington, D.C,. Southern India, and Honduras, to put together funding arrangements and logistical plans for the small convoy of ships, which will head for Qatar.
The World Trade Organization yesterday approved the establishment of dispute panels on five separate complaints attacking US trade measures involving steel imports, as WTO members demonstrated their exasperation with what they believe are illegal moves by Washington to protect the troubled US steel industry. The US has already lost four WTO steel disputes brought by the European Union, Japan and South Korea, as well as a steel-related dispute by the European Union and Japan concerning a 1916 anti-dumping law.