- - Sunday, August 14, 2011


Union threatens strike over new austerity

ROME — The leader of Italy’s largest union is threatening a general strike against an austerity package that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government hastily pushed through to balance the budget by 2013 and avoid financial collapse.

The threat came amid mounting criticism Sunday of the $64.8 billion package passed Friday in response to demands by the European Central Bank.

Critics say the package - a mix of spending cuts, job cuts and tax increases, including a “solidarity tax” for high earners - will strangle Italy’s stagnant economy, which now is expected to grow by only about 1 percent this year.

Other critics, including nine members of Mr. Berlusconi’s own coalition, say it unfairly targets the middle class and fails to tackle Italy’s massive tax-evasion problem.

Susanna Camusso, leader of the CGIL labor union, criticized measures aimed at liberalizing Italy’s labor market and targeting its pension system, saying a strike is the only way to “change the inequity of this package.” She told the La Repubblica newspaper that union officials will meet Aug. 23 to set a strike date and invited other unions to join.

At least one other union, CISL, said it will not take part in the protest, although it said the package needed to be improved.

The new measures include $28.5 billion in cuts and tax hikes for 2012 and $36.3 billion for 2013.

They abolish some local government layers and gradually eliminate some 50,000 elected jobs - leading to fierce protests by local officials. Citizens face a 5 percent additional tax on income above $128,250 and a 10 percent additional tax on income above $213,750 for the next three years.


Oslo attacker returns to massacre site

OSLO — Restrained by a police harness, the Norwegian man who confessed to killing 69 people at an island youth camp reconstructed his actions for police in a secret daylong trip back to the crime scene.

Police said Sunday they took Anders Behring Breivik back to the island of Utoya for a Saturday hearing about the July 22 terror attacks, when Mr. Breivik fatally shot the victims on the lake island near Oslo after killing another eight people in the capital with a bomb.

The 32-year-old described the killings in close detail during an eight-hour tour on the island with up to a dozen police, prosecutor Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby told a press conference in Oslo.

The hearing took place amid a massive security operation that aimed to avoid escape attempts by Mr. Breivik and protect him against potential avengers.

Mr. Breivik walked roughly the same route as the one he took during the shooting spree and explained what happened with as little interference as possible from police, Mr. Hjort Kraby said.

The entire hearing was filmed by police and may later be used in court, he added.


Police disperse opposition protest

MOSCOW — Russian police quickly broke up a protest of a few dozen opposition activists and detained about 30 participants on Friday.

The action, dubbed the “Day of Wrath,” was organized by the Left Front, whose leader Sergei Udaltsov is serving a 15-day jail sentence for taking part in an unsanctioned rally on July 31.

A few dozen protesters gathered Friday outside a subway station near the Kremlin, chanting “Free Sergei Udaltsov!” and some of them lay down on the ground. Police dispersed the demonstrators within minutes.

Amnesty International has declared Mr. Udaltsov a prisoner of conscience and demanded his immediate release.

Russia’s beleaguered opposition has made regular attempts to hold protests, but authorities have banned their rallies and police move quickly to break them up.

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