Jim Kim: Obama makes surprise pick for World Bank

Posted March 23, 2012, at 8:59 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Passing over better-known candidates, President Barack Obama on Friday nominated global health expert and Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank. It was a surprise pick aimed in part at fending off challenges from developing nations eager to end the U.S. monopoly of the top job at the international institution.

Obama’s appointment all but guarantees that Kim, a 52-year-old physician and pioneer in treating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in the developing world, will take over at the helm of the World Bank. Though he was born in South Korea, he will extend a tradition of American presidents dating back to the organization’s founding in 1944.

The 187-nation World Bank focuses on fighting poverty and promoting development. It is a leading source of development loans for countries seeking financing to build dams, roads and other infrastructure projects.

U.S. intelligence: Looming water woes will add to global instability

WASHINGTON — Floods and water shortages in the next 30 years will make it hard for many countries to keep up with growing demand for fresh water, particularly in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, the U.S. intelligence community reported Thursday.

Water problems in the next decade will add to instability in countries that are important to U.S. national security, the report said. Floods and shortages also will make it hard for some countries to grow enough food or produce enough energy, creating risk for global food markets and slowing economic growth.

“I think it’s fair to say the intelligence community’s findings are sobering,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who requested the report last year. “These threats are real and they do raise serious security concerns.”

Clinton, speaking at an event to mark World Water Day, announced a new U.S. Water Partnership, made up of private companies, philanthropy and advocacy groups, academics and government. The group will coordinate efforts to solve water problems and make U.S. expertise more accessible.

“We believe this will help map out our route to a more water-secure world,” Clinton said.

The intelligence assessment, drafted by the Defense Intelligence Agency with contributions from the CIA and other agencies, was aimed at answering how water problems will affect U.S. national security interests. The classified version, finished in October, named specific countries expected to have water problems, but they weren’t identified in the unclassified version. The public version said only that analysts focused on “strategically important countries” along major rivers in the Middle East, Central and South Asia and North Africa.

Calif. exec pleads guilty to tomato price-fixing

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A former California food company owner pleaded guilty to racketeering Thursday in a tomato price-fixing plot that authorities said drove up costs to consumers across the nation.

Frederick Scott Salyer, 56, was charged with bribing purchasing managers at food giants including Kraft Foods Inc. and Frito-Lay to buy tomato products from his company, Monterey-based SK Foods. Prosecutors said he and his co-conspirators fixed prices and rigged bids for the sale of tomato products to McCain Foods USA Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc. and Kraft.

Salyer pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento to two charges: racketeering and price fixing. Racketeering carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and price-fixing 10 years, although under a plea agreement Salyer is expected to face four to seven years behind bars. He remains under house arrest at his Pebble Beach estate on $6 million bail until his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 10.

Salyer was accused of being at the center of price-fixing ring that helped SK Foods capture 14 percent of the processed tomato market and rise to the second largest tomato processor in the state before investigators raided the company in 2008.

He also admitted that SK Foods routinely falsified lab test results for its tomato paste and that he ordered former employees to falsify information including the product’s mold content, production date and whether it qualified as “organic,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

California produces more than 90 percent of tomato products in the U.S., and SK Foods was one of the largest producers of tomato products in the nation, Wagner said.

Tens of thousands in Syria call for fall of regime

BEIRUT — Tens of thousands of Syrians braved tear gas and gunfire to protest across the country Friday, vowing to storm the capital Damascus to oust President Bashar Assad as the European Union ramped up pressure on the regime by imposing sanctions on his wife and other close relatives.

Security forces deployed in many cities to disperse protests, but opposition groups reported fewer protester deaths than in past weeks. Activists said more than 20 people were killed nationwide in army attacks on opposition areas or clashes with armed rebels.

International condemnation and high-level diplomacy have failed to stop the year-old Syria crisis, which the U.N. says has killed more than 8,000 people, many of them civilian protesters.

Friday’s sanctions bring to 13 the sets imposed by the EU to try to compel the regime to halt its violent crackdown on dissent. The U.S. and others have also imposed sanctions. Previous measures were aimed at Syrian companies and Assad himself.

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