- - Thursday, July 28, 2011


Labor reforms sought to secure bailout funds

LISBON | Portugal’s five-week-old government took its first major proposal for labor reform to parliament on Thursday, seeking approval for a reduction in compensation entitlements for laid-off workers.

The proposal is part of a long list of measures Portugal pledged to adopt in return for a $112 billion bailout that spared it from bankruptcy and was part of European efforts to contain the continent’s debt crisis.

Portugal’s European partners and the International Monetary Fund granted the bailout on the condition that the nation cuts public debt and takes steps to make its ailing economy more competitive.

Lisbon is committed to a strict calendar of measures subject to quarterly reviews by outside monitors. Bailout funds could be withheld if targets are not met.

Employers say the cut in compensation will help reduce unemployment, currently at a record 12.4 percent, by allowing companies to recruit workers without committing to potentially large future payouts.


U.S., North Korea hold nuclear arms discussions

The United States opened discussions Thursday with North Korea, in a move testing Pyongyang’s willingness to negotiate giving up its nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, greeted North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, Kim Kye Gwan, at the entrance to the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York before the talks got under way.

Neither side had any comment before the meetings, which were expected to continue Friday.

The United States has stressed, however, that these are “exploratory talks” to determine whether the Pyongyang regime is serious about living up to past commitments on its nuclear program.

The United States considers progress on disarmament to be key to any hope of improving six decades of hostile U.S.-North Korean ties.

It marks the first talks since Mr. Bosworth visited Pyongyang in December 2009. The invitation to New York was made after a meeting between nuclear-talks envoys from North and South Korea at an Asian security forum in Indonesia last week.


Security chief: Attacks work of lone wolf

OSLO | The Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed at least 76 people in a bombing and youth camp massacre appears to be a lone-wolf sociopath who kept his plans to himself for more than a decade, a top security official said Thursday.

“It’s a unique case. It’s unique person. He is total evil,” Janne Kristiansen, the director of the Norwegian Police Security Service told the Associated Press.

Anders Behring Breivik claims he carried out the July 22 attacks as part of a network of modern-day crusaders plotting a revolution against a multicultural Europe, and there are other cells ready to strike.

But investigators have found no signs - before or after the attacks - of a larger conspiracy, though it’s too early to rule it out completely, Ms. Kristiansen said.


250,000 gold miners go on strike for income

JOHANNESBURG | More than 250,000 South African gold miners went on strike Thursday seeking higher wages and a share of profits from soaring gold prices, a union representative said.

The National Union of Mineworkers said they expect the industrial action to halt operations at four companies including Anglogold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Goldfields.

The miners want a 14 percent raise, Union General Secretary Frans Baleni said, because they want to see their share of the profits from high gold prices.

“Many of the commodities are doing very well, especially gold and platinum, and that is not reflected in the compensation and remuneration of these workers,” he said. “And one of the biggest challenges our members have indicated to us is the inequalities we have between the top and the bottom.”

The union said the striking gold miners would join more than 150,000 other miners from the coal and diamond sectors, who began striking within the last week.

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