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World in brief: Many workers ignore call to strike

Wed., April 16, 2008

Opposition attempts to stage a nationwide strike to demand the release of election results largely fizzled Tuesday as many of the few Zimbabweans with jobs reported to work in this economically ravaged nation.

The failure underscored the difficulty opposition leaders have had harnessing popular anger against President Robert Mugabe’s regime to try to force the release of the official vote count from the March 29 presidential ballot.

Some workers said they were not even aware of the strike call, a fact the opposition blamed on the government’s media monopoly. The strike had little impact in Harare’s factory districts, since many plants already had closed because of acute shortages of fuel and raw materials.

Caracas, Venezuela

Tax hike in works for foreign oil firms

Venezuela moved Tuesday to take a greater cut of windfall oil profits, approving a 50 percent tax on foreign oil companies when crude tops $70 a barrel.

The tax rate would rise to 60 percent when the average monthly price for benchmark Brent crude exceeds $100, according to the bill approved by Venezuela’s National Assembly. The legislation will take effect as soon as it is published in the official gazette. Revenues from the tax could reach $9 billion annually.

The new legislation will let President Hugo Chavez further extend state control over foreign oil companies operating in Venezuela as he steers the nation toward what he calls “21st-century socialism.”

Wellington, New Zealand

Flash flood kills six on school outing

A high school hiking group was caught in a flash flood at a wilderness gorge in New Zealand, sweeping six teenagers and a teacher to their deaths in a tragedy that shocked the country.

Five other students were plucked to safety from the torrent in the Mangatepopo River that trapped the hikers on Tuesday in the Tongariro National Park on New Zealand’s North Island.

Officials said there was no apparent warning to the group when the river rose to about four times its normal water level in the narrow gorge within half an hour.

The teenagers from Elim Christian High School were part of a group of 40 students attending a weeklong course at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Center.


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