Monday, December 15, 2008

GREECE

Calm returns to riot-hit streets

ATHENS | Athens was calm Sunday after eight days of the worst riots Greece has seen in decades, sparked by the police killing of a teenager.

Traffic returned to normal in the center of town and double-decker buses carried tourists around the city’s main sights. The cafes in the Thissio area under the Acropolis were busy, and couples took their children for Sunday walks.

But Greek youths who have protested daily since the boy’s death have vowed to remain on the streets until their concerns are addressed. Protesters are angry not just at police, but at a government already on the defensive over a series of financial scandals and economic issues.



A newspaper poll published Sunday showed the governing conservatives’ popularity at 20.6 percent, 5.6 percent below that of the main opposition Socialists. However, 55 percent said neither party seemed competent to handle the situation.

Violence has racked Greece since the death of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Dec. 6. It spread to more than a dozen other cities. At least 70 people have been injured, hundreds of stores have been looted and more than 200 people have been arrested.

RUSSIA

Police block protest of Kremlin

MOSCOW | Police thwarted a protest against the Kremlin organized by Garry Kasparov‘s opposition group Sunday, seizing demonstrators and shoving them into trucks. They detained at least 25 people, including the group’s co-leader.

About 10 protesters also were detained in St. Petersburg, Russian media reported.

There was no sign of former chess champion Mr. Kasparov at the chaotic downtown Moscow square, where he had vowed to hold a demonstration despite being denied permission.

Mr. Kasparov and his allies in the group Other Russia want to draw attention to Russia’s economic troubles and to protest Kremlin plans to extend the presidential term from four years to six. Kremlin critics said the planned constitutional change is the latest step in a retreat from democracy and is intended to further increase the grip of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his allies.

POLAND

U.S. labor joins climate change effort

POZNAN | Some U.S. labor groups that have long feared environmental campaigns as a threat to jobs are starting to see advantages in going green.

This evolution was clear at last week’s U.N. climate talks in Poland, where several American labor groups and environmental activists made joint appeals for policies that would promote high-tech renewable energy as the answer to climate change and job losses.

About 25 representatives of U.S. unions were in Poznan - about twice the number at last year’s talks in Indonesia.

SWITZERLAND

Foreigners come to commit suicide

SCHWERZENBACH | Twice a week, on average, in a nondescript building by the railroad tracks, a foreigner comes to die.

Drawn by Switzerland‘s reputation as a trouble-free place to end their lives, more than 100 Germans, Britons, French, Americans and others come to this small commuter town just east of Zurich each year to lie down on a bed in an industrial park building and drink a lethal dose of barbiturates.

The country’s suicide practices are under the spotlight after British television last week showed Craig Ewert, a 59-year-old Chicago man with a severe form of motor neuron disease, killing himself in Switzerland two years ago.

A Swiss law dating to 1942 permits foreigners to kill themselves, placing few restrictions on the how, when and why.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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