Greece’s unions protest cuts with rallies, work stoppages

ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s largest unions held protests and a work stoppage Wednesday, as the crisis-hit country’s coalition government pressed ahead with wage cuts and other painful austerity measures.

The stoppage disrupted services at tax offices and other public agencies, and a protest was held outside the EU representation building in central Athens.

Greece is in its fifth year of recession, and unemployment has roughly doubled since the start of the financial crisis, reaching 21 percent after more than two years of punishing savings reforms.

But the country is still running high deficits and is obliged to adopt a new series of cuts before it can receive funds from a new bailout package approved by eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

Several hundred people took part in a protest in Syntagma Square outside Parliament, called by the GSEE and other unions as part of Europe-wide anti-austerity protests. The demonstration quickly fizzled out amid heavy rain, which also forced the cancellation of a concert organized by unions in the square.

Parliament late Tuesday approved new cuts in public sector pensions and government spending required to secure the package of international rescue loans, the country’s second in two years, while the Cabinet formally imposed deep cuts to the minimum wage.

Nasdaq briefly tops 3,000 to cap off a robust February

The Nasdaq composite index briefly broke through 3,000 on Wednesday for the first time since the collapse in dot-com stocks more than a decade ago. Stocks ended lower, but it was still the best February on Wall Street in 14 years.

The milestone for the Nasdaq, heavy with technology stocks, came a day after the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 13,000 for the first time since May 2008.

The Nasdaq last hit 3,000 on Dec. 13, 2000. Its last close above 3,000 was two days earlier. It was only above 3,000 for seconds on Wednesday before closing down 19.87 points at 2,966.89.

The Dow lost 53.05 to close at 10,952.07. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 6.50 points to close at 2,966.89.

Target pulls greeting card that pokes fun at Houston

NEW YORK – Target is pulling a greeting card that makes fun of the late singer Whitney Houston’s penchant for bad boys.

The discounter said Wednesday that the card was sold in its stores before Houston’s death Feb. 11, and as soon as it was brought to the retailer’s attention, Target Corp. began “the process of removing the card.”

The card reads: “Next time you think of dating the bad boy, consider Whitney Houston.”

The text refers to Houston’s rocky relationship with ex-husband and singer Bobby Brown. Brown has been blamed by some for Houston’s reported drug use.

“It is never our intent to offend guests with the products we offer, and we take feedback from guests very seriously,” Target said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

Houston, 48, was found dead hours before she was to attend a pre-Grammy Awards party. No cause of death has been determined.

– From news service reports