Crowds protest living costs
Tens of thousands of people gathered across the country on Saturday to call for lower living costs in an effort to show the government their protest movement has countrywide support. The gatherings followed a rally last weekend in Tel Aviv, in which more than 250,000 demonstrators called for economic reform. It was the biggest socio-economic protest the country of 7.7 million has ever seen. Past demonstrations on such a scale in the country have usually been over issues of war and peace, but on Saturday rallies from Haifa and Afula in the north of the country to the resort town of Eilat in the far south all focused on “social justice.” The protests have put pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last week named a panel of 14 experts led by economist Manuel Trajtenberg to deliver proposals for changes within a month.
Soros proffers advice
George Soros, the US speculator turned billionaire philanthropist, has suggested both Greece and Portugal quit the EU and the eurozone because of their massive debts. “One has so mishandled the Greek problem that the best way forward at present might be an orderly exit,” with Greece leaving both the EU and the euro common currency, he said in an interview yesterday in the German magazine Der Spiegel. He suggested the same might go for Portugal. “The EU and the euro would survive it,” he added. Soros also suggested the time had come for eurozone members to accept the introduction of euro bonds. “Whether you like it or not, the euro exists. And for it to function properly, countries sharing the currency must be able to refinance part of their debt under the same conditions,” he said.
BMW agrees to extension
Luxury automaker BMW said on Saturday it had agreed to a contract extension for employees at a California warehouse following a union dispute that had threatened to go national. The Teamsters, a nationwide union with about 1.4 million members, had said the company planned to lay off the workers at the end of this month before re-opening the facility with a lower-paid workforce. “Many of these employees have worked at BMW for decades,” said Bob Lennox of Teamsters Local 495, which represented the 68 workers. “They were facing foreclosures on their homes and the loss of their health insurance at a time of record unemployment in southern California.”
ICBC executive found guilty
A former senior executive of Chinese banking giant ICBC (中國工商銀行) has been found guilty of accepting hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong dollars, bottles of wine and a watch as bribes, Hong Kong’s anti-graft watchdog said. Chan Yick-yiu (陳翊耀), former head of real estate and finance of the bank’s Hong Kong unit, was convicted over the handling of loan applications, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said in a statement late on Saturday. The 44-year-old was found guilty by a district court on Saturday over nine counts of charges, including accepting HK$2.5 million (US$321,000) in cash, five bottles of red wine and a luxury watch from a businessman. The ICAC said the judge ruled that the prosecution had “proved beyond reasonable doubt” on all charges against Chan, who was accused of helping the businessman and his firms to prepare credit proposals for loan applications. The former banker will be sentenced tomorrow.