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A judge ordered Chevron, the second largest oil company in the U.S., to pay at least $8.6 billion in damages after it was found responsible for polluting stretches of the Ecuadoran jungle. While appeals are expected from both Chevron and Amazonian tribes who believe the award was not large enough, it is still one of the largest punitive judgments ever issued for causing environmental harm. Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001, allegedly dumped 18 billion gal. (68 billion L)of toxic wastewater and spilled 17 million gal. (64 million L)of crude oil that caused an estimated $27 billion in damages over three decades and triggered health problems like cancer and skin disease. Chevron could be ordered to pay double the amount awarded if it does not publicly apologize for its actions within 15 days of the Feb. 14 verdict. Legal experts, however, suspect that Ecuador will be unable to force the company to pay up, and Chevron says it won't abide by the ruling. The case lasted 17 years.
Now No. 2, Could China Become No. 1?
The world's most populous nation officially became its second largest economy after Japan released its final GDP figures for 2010, showing a fourth-quarter dip in growth that left it lagging behind its East Asian neighbor for the first time in the postwar era. China's ascension to the second spot behind the U.S. comes after decades of rapid growth that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But the same fiscal woes that hobbled Japan's once soaring economy in the 1990s may catch up to China, which uses a similar model of state capitalism; China may also be vulnerable to the sort of asset bubbles that derailed Japan. Ruling a vast population with few political freedoms, China's leaders know that unrelenting growth is key to national stability.
China's economy has eclipsed Japan's ...
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... but its people remain much poorer
2010 GDP PER CAPITA
Some forecasters estimate that China's GDP may almost double that of the U.S. by 2030
SOURCES: XINHUA; IMF; STANDARD CHARTERED
Throwing a Curveball at The Iraq War
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, the Iraqi defector code-named Curveball by the CIA, confirmed in an interview with the U.K.'s Guardian that he lied about the existence of a secret biological-weapons program in Iraq to instigate regime change. The false information the chemical engineer gave intelligence officials in Germany--where he fled in 1995--found its way into a Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the U.N. by then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, which detailed mobile bioweapons labs and covert factories that produced WMD. Those falsehoods buttressed the U.S.'s case for invading Iraq the next month.