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GREECE

Leader pushes austerity to avoid ‘catastrophic’ default

ATHENS — Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, buffeted by negative polls and continuing protests at economic austerity measures, said Sunday that he will continue with policies aimed at drastically cutting the country’s debt and that the alternative — a default — would be a catastrophe.

“We have taken a decision, that no Greeks should live through the consequences of a default and to change the country radically so that it is no longer under anyone’s supervision and can stand on its own feet,” Mr. Papandreou said in an interview with Sunday newspaper To Vima.

“Never in my life did I imagine that we would need to slash pensions in order for the state to continue to pay any pensions at all,” he added. “We chose the least painful of two options: one [is] difficult, the other — defaulting — is catastrophic.”

On Friday, the government announced an austerity program that runs through 2015 and aims to save more than $40 billion. The measures will slap a host of new taxes on austerity-weary Greeks — in spite of pledges to avoid more blanket tax increases.

WINE

Vintners push plan to clear redwoods

ANNAPOLIS, Calif. — Two proposed “timberland-to-vineyard” conversion projects that would clear almost 2,000 acres of redwoods and firs in California’s Sonoma County have some residents saying enough is enough.

Despite declines in high-end wine sales and a glut of grape production in Sonoma County, the winemakers are investing millions of dollars in environmental studies for the projects.

Napa Valley’s Artesa Vineyards wants to plant on 151 acres on a site containing redwoods and artifacts from ancient Kashaya Pomo villages. Premier Pacific Vineyards wants to put grapes on about 1,800 acres of the 20,000 it owns in a project called Preservation Ranch that also will include residential housing.

Annapolis residents say the county has enough wine grapes and that the tribal artifacts and environmental concerns are being thrust upon the community because just so two large winemakers can grow “vanity vineyards” that yield small amounts of expensive wines.

“The watershed’s on its heels as far as fish goes, which is why it’s important to keep the flow. If you put all these straws in the watershed drawing water out, you might as well kiss it goodbye,” said Chris Poehlmann, a museum exhibit designer who lives in Annapolis and heads a local conservation group.

FCC

Court upholds decision to close TV access loophole

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