A wave of labor protests swept across Europe today, their target austerity plans that have cut public spending and pensions and raised taxes.
In Spain, the first general strike in eight years gathered force beforthe sun was even up. Protesters worried about preserving jobs and wages tried to stop buses from leaving the main depot in Madrid.
ROBERT TORMAMIRA, director, General Union of Workers (through translator): This general strike is against making firing people easy and cheap. In the last three years, two million jobs have been destroyed.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The main Spanish trade unions claimed 10 million people, more than half the work force, were striking. But the labor minister said only 7 percent of civil servants and 20 percent of transport workers took part.
As the day wore on, chaos erupted in the streets of Barcelona. A police car burned as riot police tried to curb the mayhem. In Brussels, Belgium, as horns sounded, some protesters tussled with police. Organizers estimated turnout at 100,000, and, overall, the marches were peaceful.
Amid the protests, the European Commission met in Brussels, and called for penalizing nations that run up too much debt. The penalties could total billions of dollars.
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, president, European Commission: I see it as a way of reinforcing the mechanisms of democracy in Europe, because what happens very often is that politicians escape some of the obligations they have towards their own public or their own parliaments or even sometimes the legislation.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But labor leaders warned the result will be even deeper pay and pension cuts. And they argued big banks should be the ones to pay.
JEAN-CLAUDE MAILLY, Workers' Force (through translator): With regards to what the commission has just announced on sanctions, it proves that the European Commission, as well as states, have not understood anything. It just proves to the workers that the national governments and the commission are just at the beck and call of the financial markets.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The protests against existing austerity measures extended as far south as Greece, where transportation ground to a virtual halt, and as far north as Ireland, where one man blockaded the entrance to the Irish Parliament with a cement truck. Workers in Portugal, Italy and Lithuania also took part in strikes.
The protests in Europe raised new concerns on Wall Street. It was enough to force a pause in the stock market's September rally. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 22 points to close at 10835. The Nasdaq fell three points to close at 2376.
China has won a major trade fight with the United States. The World Trade organization ruled today that an American ban on Chinese poultry parts is illegal. The ban was imposed five years ago after an outbreak of bird flu in China. The WTO ruling is subject to appeal.
The U.S. placed eight Iranian officials on a financial blacklist today. They're accused of severe human rights abuses following the disputed presidential election in Iran last year. The regime cracked down after the opposition charged that the outcome was rigged.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today the eight officials presided over beatings, torture, rape, and murder.
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: We will serve as a
voice for the voiceless, and we will hold abusive governments and individuals accountable for their actions.
This is the first time the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran based on human rights abuses. We would like to be able to tell you that it might be the last, but we fear not.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The financial blacklist includes the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, among others.
Jury selection began today in New York for the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a federal civilian court. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was allegedly an aide to Osama bin Laden. The Tanzanian man is charged with plotting to kill Americans in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa 224 people died in the 1998 attacks, including 12 Americans. If convicted of the charges, Ghailani could face life in prison.
Nineteen people in Britain are accused of stealing more than $9 million by hacking into online bank accounts. Scotland Yard took the 15 men and four women into custody on Tuesday. They're suspected of infecting thousands of personal computers with viruses that collected customers' account log-in information. Police said the total amount of stolen funds could keep rising as the investigation intensifies.
Former President Jimmy Carter will spend a second night hospitalized in Cleveland. He was admitted for stomach problems on Tuesday, after taking ill on a flight from Atlanta. Hospital officials wouldn't discuss his condition today. Instead, they said doctors wanted to keep him under observation for another 24 hours.
Those are some of the day's major stories.<-->