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In brief: Greeks protest moves to boost economy

Thessaloniki, Greece – Greece’s prime minister promised Saturday to lower corporate taxes to help revive the debt-plagued country’s shrinking economy, while thousands of protesters marched – mostly peacefully – against the government’s harsh austerity measures.

Greece narrowly avoided bankruptcy in May when European countries and the International Monetary Fund gave it $140 billion through 2012 in emergency loans. The money came on condition Athens make deep cutbacks – moves that have angered unions.

Prime Minister George Papandreou said the tax rate on companies’ retained profits would be cut from 24 to 20 percent next year, providing what he called “a strong incentive for investments and competitiveness.”

He also pledged to open up restricted professions – including truck drivers, notaries, taxi drivers and pharmacists – deregulate the energy market, settle on privatization targets, facilitate major investments and simplify business licensing procedures by the end of this year.

Some 20,000 people gathered in three separate protests in the northern port city of Thessaloniki ahead of Papandreou’s speech. They were accompanied by some 4,500 police on security duty.

Minor clashes broke out as scores of youths attacked riot police with sticks, and were repelled with tear gas. No arrests or injuries were immediately reported.

Harare, Zimbabwe – Five Americans who worked with AIDS orphans and patients in Zimbabwe have been arrested in the southern African country and accused of operating without proper medical licenses, their lawyer said Saturday.

Attorney Jonathan Samukange identified one as Gloria Cox Crowell, who is chairwoman of an AIDS program run by the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif.

According to its website, the church supports the Mother of Peace Orphanage in Zimbabwe, a home outside Harare for children who have lost parents to AIDS, and runs an AIDS clinic there.

Samukange said Cox Crowell and the four other Americans were arrested late Friday along with a Zimbabwean doctor.

He said the six are accused of practicing medicine in Zimbabwe without proper licenses and of running a pharmacy without a pharmacist’s supervision or a pharmacist’s license. He said they have proper licenses and were only supervising a pharmacy that mainly gave out AIDS medications.

A court appearance is expected Monday.


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