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Global Updates: Americas & Caribbean

Written By David D'Angelo on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 | 6/18/2008

Belize

UN crisis officials are working with local authorities in Belize to coordinate relief efforts in the wake of flooding across the Central American country caused by the first storm of the annual Atlantic hurricane season. Staff from the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have been providing logistical and technical support over the past week to authorities, according to a UNDP news release issued June 9. (UN News Service)

Brazil

More than eight percent of Brazil's Amazon rainforest region, totaling some 42 million hectares, is not legally owned, according to a study released in the Brazilian press. According to the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (Imazon), a non-governmental organization which carried out the study at the request of the World Bank, the owners of these areas hold informal titles to property have acquired false documents or simply have taken over unoccupied land. (Xinhua)

Canada

Canada is to apologize for forcing more than 100,000 aboriginal children to attend state-funded Christian boarding schools aimed at assimilating them. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make the apology in parliament in Ottawa, in front of hundreds of ex-schoolchildren. The schools operated from the late 19th Century until the 1990s, although most of them shut in the 1970s. Accounts of physical and sexual abuse at the institutions, known as residential schools, have also emerged. The churches that ran the schools apologized in the 1980s and 1990s. (BBC)

Cuba

The egalitarian wage system Fidel Castro spent decades building in Cuba is no longer viable, plagued by low pay, corruption and waste that can be eased by paying workers more for better work, a top labor official said in an interview published June 11.Carlos Mateu, a vice minister of labor and social security, said many government companies have already eliminated caps on salaries for productive workers and the rest must do so by August. (AP)

Ecuador

The UN refugee agency is calling for a “full and speedy resolution" to investigations into allegations that Colombian refugees in Ecuador have endured forced disappearances, torture, attempted rape, and death threats. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), three Colombians, including one refugee and one asylum-seeker, disappeared at the end of last month from the village of San Martin in northern Ecuador, just across the border from Colombia. (UN News Service)

United States

Private US company Algenol plans to make ethanol from a primordial green soup that won't raise food costs compared to other biofuel feedstocks, like corn and sugar cane. The company has signed an USD 850 million deal with a Mexican company BioFields to grow algae, one of the planet's first life forms, which has been trained to convert water, sunlight, and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into motor fuel. Paul Woods, Algenol's chief executive, said he's known the technology for decades but that today's record oil prices and rising alarm about global warming make it time to produce the fuel. (Reuters)

Uruguay

Dead and oil-soaked penguins continue to wash ashore near Uruguay's capital a week after fuel spilled during a boat collision. A least a dozen dead, oil-soaked penguins and a dead sea lion appeared June 11 at the Piriopolis beach outside Montevideo, where workers scraped oil from the sand. Richard Tessore of SOS Rescate Fauna Marina said June 11 that wildlife rescuers already are attending to 70 animals injured by contact with oil, and more continue to wash ashore. (AP)

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