Greece

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ATHENS, Greece — Protesters forced their way into a government building in Greece’s latest anti-austerity protests Wednesday, reaching just outside a minister’s office before being expelled and clashing with riot police outside.

Police detained more than 30 protesters, most union heads, sparking clashes with about 200 demonstrators gathered outside the Labor Ministry in central Athens. Police used pepper spray, batons and tear gas to repel them.

The government said the demonstrators caused damage inside the building and threatened the minister — an accusation the protesters adamantly denied.

UT alumnus and former Daily Texan staff member Vernon Lee, who was instrumental in the marketing of the F-16 fighter jet, died Monday at the age of 80 following a short illness and complications from surgery.

Lee worked for 43 years at General Dynamics in Fort Worth, which became Lockheed Martin, an engineering firm that worked with the U.S. military to create the F-16 fighter jet. The F-16 would become key in military forces around the world because production was relatively easy and low cost.

Lee was director of the F-16 programs for Israel and Greece, two of the biggest buyers of the F-16, which is still being produced. 

Lee’s daughter, Megan Endres, said her father was excellent in engineering and business, inspiring her to go into the business field herself. Endres is an associate professor of management at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

“A lot of people said he was their best negotiator,” Endres said.

Lee was born Aug. 11, 1932 in San Antonio and graduated from Brackenridge High School. He graduated from UT in 1957 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aeronautical engineering. While at UT, Lee worked as a photographer for The Daily Texan and the Cactus Yearbook.

Lee was also a devout Longhorn football fan while at UT and remained one his entire life, creating a friendly rivalry with his wife Carol, a Texas Christian
University graduate.

Lee later went back to UT in the 1960s and received a doctorate degree in aerospace engineering.

During his career, Lee also worked as an engineer and dealt with space systems, aircraft performance and aerothermodynamics engineering. He was the vice president in charge of the FSX program in Japan, a program that helped Japan develop the F-2 fighter jet. He retired from Lockheed Martin in 1998.

Lee’s son, Vernon Lee Jr., said his father was talented in many ways.

“Everyone [me and my sister] talked to always said he was very smart and he was a great listener,” Vernon Lee Jr. said. “I think those are two of his key attributes and very gentle. So, it’s an interesting combination, to be able to get things done and still have people say that you are gentle and you listen well.” 

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Carol Ann Lee; two sons, Vernon Lee Jr. and Kenneth Lee; a daughter, Megan Endres and six grandchildren.

Funeral and burial services for Vernon Lee were held over the weekend in Fort Worth.

Printed on Monday, November 26, 2012 as: UT alumnus remembered for work on F-16 fighter jet

ATHENS, Greece — Greek lawmakers approved the country’s 2013 austerity budget early Monday, an essential step in Greece’s efforts to persuade its international creditors to unblock a vital rescue loan installment without which the country will go bankrupt.

The budget passed by a 167-128 vote in the 300-member Parliament. It came days after a separate bill of deep spending cuts and tax hikes for the next two years squeaked through with a narrow majority following severe disagreements among the three parties in the governing coalition.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pledged that the spending cuts will be the last Greeks have to endure.

ATHENS, Greece — The leaders of the three parties in Greece’s coalition government failed to agree Sunday on a package of spending cuts worth €11.5 billion ($14.7 billion), a raft of measures the prime minister had said is crucial to restoring the country’s financial credibility and sustaining its bailout funding.

Conservative Premier Antonis Samaras and the other two leaders — socialist Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of the Democratic Left — disagreed on across-the-board cuts in pensions and wages. The latter two insisted that Greece’s international creditors give the country more time to implement the spending cuts.

The three agreed to meet again Wednesday evening. The cuts are required for the release of a long-delayed €31 billion ($39.7 billion) loan installment from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Dzagoev, Krohn-Dehli, Mandzukic and Shevchenko are names even some of the greatest soccer fans will struggle to pronounce, but as the lights dim on the first round of group play in the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, they will be the names remembered for their opening round performances.

The tournament, comprised of 16 of Europe’s best footballing nations, kicked off at National Stadium in Warsaw as Poland, co-hosts of the tournament, took on defensive-minded Greece this past Friday.

Poland’s substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton was called into action after Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off for bringing down Greek goalscorer Dimitris Salpingidis in a last-ditch effort to prevent a goal.

Tyton performed admirably when called upon and saved the penalty to hold ten-man Greece to a 1-1 draw and ensure a dramatic start to Euro 2012.

Following the draw, Russia, a semi-finalist at Euro 2008, dominated a Czech side found lacking in attack.

Alan Dzagoev, Russian wunderkind, scored two goals in a 4-1 win that further justifies the transfer rumors linking him to Manchester United and Real Madrid. Russian captain Andrey Arshavin also picked up two assists in the match.

Group B started off with a giant upset. Denmark shocked tournament favorite Netherlands after Brondby winger Michael Krohn-Dehli struck a precise, low-angled shot through the legs of Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg for a 24th minute goal. From there on, Daniel Agger and the rest of the Danish defense played well, frustrating the Dutch attack and not giving up any goals for a 1-0 victory.

At Arena Lviv in Ukraine, Germany and Portugal faced off in a timid affair excluding a Mario Gomez header in the 72nd minute that broke the silence. Portugal left the game noticeably frustrated with the 1-0 loss after hitting the woodwork twice. Portugal would earn three points in their second match against Denmark, thanks to a screaming strike from Silvestre Varela in the 87th minute of a 2-2 game. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo failed to connect on multiple chances inside the 18-yard box, and critics worldwide have begun to question his work ethic with the national team.

In a battle of past World Cup champions, Spain and Italy drew 1-1 as goals by Antonio Di Natale and Cesc Fabregas cancelled each other out. Italy played a disciplined game utilizing a three-man defense that troubled Spain. Elsewhere, Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic sent Croatia to the top of Group C after scoring a brace in a 3-1 victory over Ireland.

The opening game of group D then kicked off on Monday with two strong sides looking to impose themselves in the tournament. Joleon Lescott rose highest to head in a curling free kick courtesy of Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard and gave the three lions a lead. Samir Nasri then leveled the score for France with a low, fast shot just out of the reach of keeper Joe Hart. Both sides left happy with a point gained from the 1-1 draw.

As the first weekend of play came to an end, few could predict the performance of 35 year-old Andriy Shevchenko. Shevchenko, whose first international game was in 1995, turned back the years and silenced the critics who called his selection nostalgic with two well struck headers that took co-hosts Ukraine to a 2-1 win over Sweden.

As Euro 2012 continues, the next batch of games holds some rather enticing matchups. Spain will face Ireland on June 14 to try to get their title defense back on track. A group D grudge match then follows on the 15th as England takes on Sweden, who have yet to lose in a competitive fixture to England in a record lasting more than 40 years.

People protest during a May Day rally in Barcelona, Spain on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of workers marked May Day in European cities with a mix of anger and gloom over imposed austerity measures.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

MADRID — On the front lines of the world’s May Day protests this year, along with the traditional chants, banners and marches, a gamut of emotions flowed through the crowds: Anger. Fear. Elation. Despair.

With Europe’s unemployed denouncing austerity measures, Asia’s laborers demanding higher salaries and U.S. protesters condemning Wall Street, Tuesday’s demonstrations by hundreds of thousands were less a celebration of workers’ rights than a furious venting over spending cuts, tax hikes and soaring unemployment.

The protests came just days ahead of key elections in Greece and France, whose leaders have acutely felt popular anger over policies many feel are strangling any hopes of economic recovery. The rallies reflected deep pessimism in Spain, dealing with a fragile economy is in the cross-hairs of the European debt crisis.

Yet optimism and national pride emerged too. Over 100,000 turned out in Russia for May Day rallies that celebrated Vladimir Putin’s government. And tens of thousands of workers rallied with joy in France, hoping this would be the last week of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative leadership.

In the U.S., protesters lined major financial institutions in the country’s most high-profile Occupy Wall Street rallies since the encampments protesting the gap between the superrich and poor came down in the fall. Crowds blocked intersections in Oakland, Calif., trying to force businesses to shut down for not observing calls for a “general strike.” Police in riot gear faced dozens of Occupy activists marching in front of a Bank of America in New York City, chanting “Bank of America. Bad for America.”

Under a gray Madrid sky that reflected the dark national mood, 25-year Adriana Jaime turned out to march. Jaime speaks three languages and has a masters degree as a translator, but works for what she derided as peanuts in a university research project that has been cut from three years to three months due to a lack of funds.

“I am here because there is no future for the young people of this country,” Jaime said as many marchers carried black-and-white placards with the word NO and a pair of red scissors.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is trying desperately to cut a bloated deficit, restore investor confidence in Spain’s public finances, lower its 24.4 percent jobless rate, and fend off fears the country will soon need a bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

But Ana Lopez, a 44-year-old civil servant, argued the government is doing nothing to help workers and that the economic crisis is only benefiting banks.

“Money does not just disappear. It does not fly away. It just changes hands, and now it is with the banks,” Lopez said. “And the politicians are puppets of the banks.”

In France, tens of thousands of workers, leftists and union leaders marked May Day with glee, hoping that a presidential runoff vote Sunday will put a Socialist at the helm for the first time since 1988.

Protests took place all over the globe, in places such as Germany Russia; Chile; Argentina, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Taiwan and Cuba. Also known as International Workers’ Day, it is a commemoration of those killed striking during the Haymarket Riots of 1886.Many voters fear Sarkozy will erode France’s welfare and worker protections, and see him as too friendly with the rich.

“Sarkozy has allowed himself for too long to manhandle the lower classes,” said Dante Leonardi, a 24-year-old in Paris. “Today we must show ... that we want him to leave.”

Hollande has promised high taxes on the rich.

“We are going to choose Hollande because we want something else for France. We want to keep our jobs, we want to keep our industrial jobs, we want a new economy,” said protester Serge Tanguy.

Even in Germany, where the economy is churning and unemployment is at a record low, unions estimated that 400,000 people showed up at over 400 May Day rallies. The DGB union group sharply criticized Europe’s treaty enshrining fiscal discipline and the austerity measures across the continent, calling instead for a stimulus program to revive the 17-nation eurozone’s depressed economies.

In debt-crippled Greece, more than 2,000 people marched through central Athens in subdued May Day protests centered on the country’s harsh austerity program.

“(We need) new policies that will satisfy the needs of workers and not of bosses and banks,” said Ilias Vrettakos of the ADEDY union.

In Moscow, the mood was resolutely pro-government, as 100,000 people — including President Dmitry Medvedev and President-elect Putin — took part in the main May Day march.

The two leaders happily chatted with participants as many banners criticized the Russian opposition movement. One read “Spring has come, the swamp has dried up,” referring to Bolotnaya (Swampy) Square, the site of some of the largest opposition demonstrations.

Communists and leftists held a separate May Day rally in Moscow that attracted about 3,000. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov decried international economic troubles, saying that “without socialism, without respect for the working people who create all the main value in this land, it is not possible to get out of this crisis.”

Police arrested 22 people at the rally, and violence was largely contained at the protests.

After a workers’ day march in Santiago, Chile, some protesters threw objects at closed businesses, breaking the windows of several banks and pulling out furniture to build a bonfire in the street. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, and arrested an undetermined number of people. In Argentina, small explosion went off outside the EU headquarters in Buenos Aires before dawn, breaking a few windows, but there were no injuries and no one was arrested.

Earlier, thousands of workers protested in the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and other Asian nations, demanding wage hikes. They said their take-home pay could not keep up with rising food, energy and housing prices and school fees.

An unemployed father of six set himself on fire in southern Pakistan in an apparent attempt to kill himself because he was mired in poverty, according to police officer Nek Mohammed. Abdul Razzaq Ansari, 45, suffered burns on 40 percent of his body but survived.

In Manila, capital of the Philippines, more than 8,000 union members clad in red shirts and waving red streamers marched under a brutal sun to a heavily barricaded bridge near the Malacanang presidential palace, which teemed with thousands of riot police.

Another group of left-wing workers later burned a huge effigy of President Benigno Aquino III, depicting him as a lackey of the United States and big business. Aquino has rejected their calls for a $3 daily pay hike, which he warned could worsen inflation and spark layoffs.

In Indonesia, thousands of protesters demanding higher wages paraded through traffic-clogged streets in the capital, Jakarta, where 16,000 police and soldiers were deployed. Protests were also held in Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

In Havana, Cubans marked May Day not with protest but with a mass demonstration dedicated to “preserving and perfecting socialism,” the slogan on a huge banner carried by medical workers who led the march.

Thousands filed through the capital’s Plaza of the Revolution in front of President Raul Castro and Cabinet officials, waving red, white and blue Cuban flags.

“Country, revolution and socialism are inextricably fused together,” said Salvador Valdes Mesa, head of Cuba’s central labor union.

Printed on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 as: May Day protesters focus economic rage

ATHENS, Greece — Greek state hospital services faced disruptions Wednesday as staff held work stoppages and protests over government austerity measures and pay delays.

Doctors and staff at public hospitals in the greater Athens area were walking off the job for three hours Wednesday, and planned a demonstration at the health ministry at noon.

Hospital doctors were also holding a go-slow protest, demanding the payment of overtime they say has not been paid for four months.

Health spending was affected by new cuts this year to ensure Greece can continue receiving rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. Facing a mountainous debt and gaping budget deficit resulting from years of fiscal laxity and overspending, the country has been relying on billions in bailout loans since May 2010 to prevent it from defaulting on its mountain of debt.

Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: Doctors, staff in Greece protest after government pay delays

ATHENS, Greece — Greece's Parliament late on Tuesday approved new cuts in public sector pensions and government spending required to secure a second package of international rescue loans.

Lawmakers voted 202-80 in favor of cutbacks worth a total $4.31 billion and aimed at bringing the 2012 budget back in line with targets. Lawmakers from both parties in Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' coalition, the majority Socialists and the conservatives, backed the legislation.

The newly approved legislation imposes nearly $538 million in cuts to already depleted pensions.

Health and education spending will be reduced by more than $229 million, subsidies to the state health care system will be cut by $673 million, and health care spending on medicine will fall by $767 million.

Furthermore, some $538 million will be lopped off defense spending — three quarters of which will come from purchases.

Limits also are being imposed on collective wage agreements and the process of labor arbitration, with some measures to remain in effect until overall unemployment falls below 10 percent.

The new wave of austerity measures have sparked widespread anger among a public that has seen its income and living standards drop with no clear end to the crisis in sight.

Printed on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 as: Greece Parliament approves cuts to most government services

NEW YORK — It came and went in a flash, a number on a board for seconds at a time, but its symbolic power couldn’t be dismissed.

The Dow Jones industrial average, powered higher all year by optimism that the economic recovery is finally for real, crossed 13,000 on Tuesday for the first time since May 2008.

The last time the Dow occupied such rarefied territory, unemployment was a healthy 5.4 percent, and Lehman Brothers was a solvent investment bank. Financial crises happened in other countries, or the history books.

The milestone Tuesday came about two hours into the trading day. The Dow was above 13,000 for about 30 seconds, and for slightly longer at about noon and 1:30 p.m., but couldn’t hold its gains. It finished up 15.82 points at 12,965.69.

Still, Wall Street took note of the marker.

It was just last summer that the Dow unburdened itself of 2,000 points in three terrifying weeks. S&P downgraded the United States credit rating, Washington was fighting over the federal borrowing limit, and the European debt crisis was raging.

A second recession in the United States was a real fear. But the economy grew faster every quarter last year, and gains in the job market have been impressive, including 243,000 jobs added in January alone.

“Essentially over the last couple of months you’ve taken the two biggest fears off the table, that Europe is going to melt down and that we’re going to have another recession here,” said Scott Brown, chief economist for Raymond James.

The tumult of last summer and fall left the Dow as low as 10,655. Its close Tuesday put it 22 percent above that low. The Dow is 1,199 points from an all-time high, a 9 percent rally from here.

A long-awaited deal to cut the debt of Greece and prevent a potentially catastrophic default, announced before dawn in Europe after 12 hours of talks, helped the Dow clear 13,000.

Under the bailout deal, Greece will get €130 billion, or about $172 billion, from other European nations and the International Monetary Fund. In a separate deal, investors in Greek bonds will forgive €107 billion in debt.

After months in which talks crawled along and vague headlines yanked the market up and down, the conclusion was almost anticlimactic because the markets were already expecting an agreement.

European markets didn’t take the news as well. Stocks closed down 3.5 percent in Greece, where stocks have lost 80 percent of their value since 2007. Stocks declined less than 1 percent Tuesday in Germany, France and Britain.

Investors noted that Greece remains in deep recession. Its bond investors will take a 53.5 percent loss on the face value of their bonds, which could discourage future investment.

In the U.S., investors were cheered by earnings from Home Depot, watched closely as a barometer of American spending on homes, and Macy’s. Wal-Mart missed Wall Street expectations, and its stock lost 4 percent, worst among the 30 stocks in the Dow.

The Dow has climbed 6 percent this year and has not lost 100 points on any day. The Greek debt crisis may be receding, but high gasoline prices are emerging as a threat to the economic recovery, and thus the stock market.

A gallon of regular gas costs $3.57 on average, the highest on record for this time of year. With tension building over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Iran has halted oil exports to Britain and France and threatened to stop shipping to other European countries.

The price of oil settled at $106.25, up $2.65 for the day and its highest level since last May. The price jumped more than $1 in about 20 minutes after Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that a U.N. team visiting Iran has no plans to inspect the country’s nuclear facilities and will only hold talks with Iranian officials.

“That was the olive branch the market was holding onto,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst for the brokerage PFGBest. “If they’re not going to discuss the nuclear program, then we’re a lot closer to a conflict than further away,” he said.

Airline stocks got clobbered. United Continental lost 9 percent, Delta Air Lines 7 percent. The Dow transportation average lost 1.5 percent.

Materials, telecommunications and energy companies led the industries gaining ground. Health care companies, makers of consumer staples and utilities, traditionally stocks to own in more cautious times, were lower.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index surpassed 1,363, its peak from April 2011, but closed at 1,362.21, up 0.98 point. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavy with technology stocks and trading at levels not seen since December 2000, closed down 3.21 points at 2,948.57.

Metals prices jumped because of expectations that demand may improve after the Greek bailout package was approved and China took another step to stimulate economic growth. Silver finished up 3.7 percent, and platinum, copper and palladium all rose 3 percent or more. Gold ended up 1.9 percent.

The Dow industrials last closed above 13,000 on May 19, 2008. The next day, they crossed under 13,000, not to return for almost four years. They fell as low as 6,547 on March 9, 2009. A reading of 13,094 would double that.

Dan McMahon, director of equity trading at Raymond James, called the 13,000 mark “just a big round number” as a matter of market fundamentals. But he added: “Psychologically, it matters.”

The milestone could motivate cautious investors to pump more money back into the stock market. The yield on the government’s benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.06 percent from 2.01 percent Friday, a sign that fewer investors wanted the bonds and were instead willing to buy riskier stocks.

“You need notches along the way to measure things,” and Dow 13,000 is as good as any, said John Manley, chief equity strategist for Wells Fargo’s funds group. “Is 50 older than 49 and a half? Yes, by six months. Do those six months really make a difference? Probably not. But it does give us a fixed point, something we can look at.”

The Dow is also an imperfect measure of the economy’s health. It is made up of just 30 companies, and it’s weighted so that the few with the highest stock prices carry the most heft.

A tiny percentage change in the stock of IBM, which is trading around $193, sways the index much more than a giant change in the stock of Bank of America, which is trading around $8.

Last year, the Dow rose 5.5 percent. But strip out IBM and McDonald’s, the two stocks with the highest prices last year, and it rose just 1.8 percent, according to calculations by Birinyi Associates.

Dow Jones, which decides which 30 companies are the best barometer, says the index can accurately represent the economy because the Dow 30 make up 25 to 30 percent of the market value of all U.S. public companies.

Among the big movers:

— Barnes & Noble fell 4 percent after missing expectations. Rising costs offset higher sales of both traditional books and digital books. Investors seemed encouraged that the bookstore chain, a survivor in an era that has felled competitors like Borders and Waldenbooks, plans to introduce a cheaper Nook to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

— J.C. Penney, which is trying to reinvent itself and just brought in an Apple veteran as CEO and changed its logo, fell 3 percent after Fitch Ratings dropped its credit grade to junk status.

— Wal-Mart fell 4 percent after missing analysts’ expectations for revenue and per-share earnings.

— High-end department store Saks rose 3 percent after beating analysts’ expectations.