- - Sunday, October 7, 2012

MADRID — Thousands of people marched Sunday in 56 Spanish cities to protest punishing austerity cuts that they say will only increase unemployment and job insecurity in a country suffering from its second recession in three years and record-high unemployment.

A gathering called by 150 organizations marched in Madrid behind a banner saying, “They want to ruin the country. We have to stop them.”

Protesters chanted slogans against cuts and waved placards reading, “Youths without jobs, society with no future.” That is a reference to the higher than 50 percent youth unemployment rate. Spain’s overall jobless rate is nearly 25 percent, and social unrest is on the rise.

The government has implemented tough austerity measures over its nine months in office.

Ships stuck aground on vulnerable beach

MADRID — Officials said Sunday that they were struggling to free two ships that ran ashore on a stretch of ecologically valuable coastline in eastern Spain.

The cargo ships Sunrise and Celia were run aground by powerful wind on Sept. 28 south of the port city of Valencia.

The ships are carrying 180 metric tons of fuel, and officials were worried about oil and cargo spills. One of the ships is carrying empty containers, and the other massive steel pipes.

The country’s maritime authority said large dredgers arrived Sunday to begin trying to clear a channel to sea after other attempts failed.

Just yards inland is Albufera Natural Park, wetlands used by many of Europe’s migrating birds. Around the rim of the park, farmers for centuries have cultivated rice prized for use in paella.

RUSSIA

Putin’s 60th birthday celebrated with fanfare

MOSCOW — Kremlin officials liked to insist that President Vladimir Putin does not care for big birthday bashes and that he would spend his 60th on Sunday quietly celebrating with close friends and family in his home city, St. Petersburg.

However, the president’s supporters didn’t appear to have received the memo, so the day was filled with an unprecedented exhibition of Putin-idolatry reminiscent of some of the world’s oddest cults of personality.

Much of it, like the fawning, up-close-and-personal profile on Kremlin-friendly television channel NTV, looked like propaganda.

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