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Voice of America, 00-02-01

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: France's new 35-hour workweek goes into effect today (Tuesday). Some labor unions in France are marking the occasion with protests over pay and working conditions. As Paul Miller reports from Paris, protesting truckers who have disrupted road traffic have been joined by public transit workers in the French capital.

    TEXT: Some of those offered the chance to work less have responded by not working at all -- at least for a day or two. Enough transit authority drivers joined the strike in Paris that only about one-half the normal number of trains ran on the Metro and on lines to the suburbs. Some Metro lines stopped completely. It was a similar story on the bus routes. Commuters drove or even walked to work. Some companies took the unusual step of asking employees to car pool. The relationship between companies and their workers is very much at the heart of the protests. The transit authority drivers want a better deal on pay and they want rest breaks and other changes in their hours in addition to a reduction to 35 hours. The government offered changes in work rules as an incentive to employers to accept the 35-hour week. The argument was made that improvements in productivity would eliminate the need for companies to hire extra workers under a 35-hour week. But that is really the point of what the government is doing -- trying to reduce unemployment, which is still above 10 percent. The difficulties of implementing the plan, which now applies to companies with more than 20 workers, can be seen in the truckers' protests. Two weeks ago, trucking companies blockaded roads and border crossings and won concessions from the government, allowing them to have drivers work more hours in a given week, so they can compete for long-haul business. Now the drivers have blocked ports, border crossings, and major highways -- to protest the hours they have to work. The labor unrest will continue this week with other groups holding protest marches. And it may not end anytime soon. It is estimated that only about 20 percent of the companies that are supposed to be on the 35-hour workweek have actually made the switch. (Signed) NEB/PM/JWH/ENE/KL 01-Feb-2000 10:25 AM EDT (01-Feb-2000 1525 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Northern Ireland's peace process is again under threat. Unionist-leader David Trimble says he expects the province's newly formed political institutions to be suspended due to the findings of a report on Irish Republican Army disarmament. The contents have not been made public, but Lourdes Navarro reports from London that Mr. Trimble says the report shows the I-R-A has not begun to hand in its weapons.

    TEXT: The independent commission headed by former Canadian General John de Chastelain has delivered its verdict on the crucial question of whether the I-R-A has started handing in weapons. The disarmament, which is also called decommissioning, is called for in the Northern Ireland peace accords. Mr. Trimble said he has been briefed on the report's contents and it shows there has been no progress on disarmament.

    /// ACT TRIMBLE ///

    We know that there has been no act of decommissioning. No decommissioning act has occurred. And while there may be some other language in the report, that cannot change the simple fact that de Chastelain has confirmed what by last night everybody expected. Namely that no act of decommissioning had taken place. Now that obviously means as far as we are concerned that there has been a default.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. Trimble accused Sinn Fein, the political wing of the I-R-A, of not complying with the terms of the Good Friday agreement. Disarmament by the I-R-A is the last unfulfilled key element of those 1998 peace accords. The Ulster Unionist Party - which favors British rule voted to enter into a power-sharing arrangement with Sinn Fein on the basis that the I-R-A would begin to disarm. The two parties have been governing in Northern Ireland's assembly since the British government handed over control late last year. Mr. Trimble again made clear that his party will not sit in power with a party linked to an armed terrorist group. He said the British government would have to take back power and suspend the assembly.

    /// ACT 2 TRIMBLE // OPT ACT ///

    My expectation is that we will be moving fairly soon to the suspension of the agreement. I think that is inevitable. It is regrettable that it is so, but it is also inevitable because the basis on which we formed the administration has now been falsified and we will then consequently move back into a review.

    /// END ACT // END OPT ///

    Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams denied the charge that his party was not in compliance with the peace accord. He blamed Mr. Trimble's party for the impasse.

    /// ACT ADAMS ///

    That is the Good Friday Agreement. That is what people voted for. You show me in this where our party have defaulted. You show me in this at any point, where a unilateral decision by one party that decommissioning had to be done on their terms by yesterday is contained in that document.

    /// END ACT ///

    The British and Irish governments are deciding how to respond to the contents of the report. The I-R-A says that it is committed to peace and its guns will remain silent. It has not said when it will hand them in, leaving Northern Ireland's peace process stalled again. (SIGNED)
    NEB/LN/RAE 01-Feb-2000 12:37 PM EDT (01-Feb-2000 1737 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: The United States has joined European Union officials in expressing concern that the far-right Freedom Party might join the government in Austria. As V-O-A's Kyle King reports, officials are worried about Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider and comments he has made that appear to play down the crimes of the Nazis.

    TEXT: U-S officials say the inclusion of Mr. Haider's Freedom Party in a new coalition government in Austria will have an impact on bilateral relations. The anti-immigrant Freedom Party, which won about one- third of the votes in Austria's last election, recently opened talks with the Conservatives on forming a coalition government. The move came after the collapse of talks between the Conservatives and the Social Democrats. European Union member states have threatened to downgrade relations with Austria if the Freedom Party is included in Austria's next coalition. Mr. Haider and his party have been surrounded by controversy over a series of what appear to be pro- Nazi remarks, including one statement that praised the employment policies of Adolph Hitler. Mr. Haider has apologized for the remarks and said he does not intend to seek a cabinet post if his party does enter the new government. A U-S State Department spokesman, James Foley, says the United States remains concerned about Mr. Haider's remarks. Asked if anything could be done to ease those concerns, Mr. Foley said it was difficult to say.

    /// Foley Act ///

    That is hard to answer, because certain statements have been made that are very disturbing, that do, or can be interpreted as expressing sympathy for the Nazi regime and as explaining away the holocaust. These are simply unacceptable in a democratic context.

    /// End Act ///

    Despite the expressions of concern, U-S officials say the issue remains hypothetical, because the final negotiations on a new coalition have not been completed. But officials say if the Freedom Party does enter the Austrian government, the United States will carefully examine the range and depth of relations with Vienna. (signed)
    NEB/KBK/JP 01-Feb-2000 15:51 PM EDT (01-Feb-2000 2051 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Stock prices in the United States rallied today (Tuesday), as investors await the expected outcome of a two-day meeting on interest rates. V-O-A correspondent Elaine Johanson reports from New York.

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average is back up over the 11-thousand mark. It gained 100 points, nearly one percent, closing at 11-thousand-41. The Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 14 points - over one percent. And the Nasdaq composite went up over two and one-half percent, adding to Monday's solid gains. Wall Street anticipates an increase in short-term interest rates, as the Federal Reserve Board works out a formula to slow the pace of U-S economic growth. An announcement is due Wednesday. However, investor confidence was unshaken and trading strengthened throughout the day. The latest report on the U-S economy shows the industrial sector grew in January for the 12th consecutive month, although at a slower pace. Still, the cost of raw materials has climbed, fueling concern about inflation.


    Investment strategist Richard Hoey says the Federal Reserve Board has virtually no choice but to tighten credit:

    /// HOEY ACT ///

    If you have to answer the question, "what's the bigger risk - higher inflation or disappointingly weak economic growth?" - guess what any rational student of the numbers is going to say: Higher inflation is the bigger risk. They're (the "Fed") forced into what I think will be a very hawkish statement by the facts of inflation evidence and strong real growth evidence.

    /// END ACT ///

    Tuesday marked the longest period of economic expansion in U-S history - nine years without a recession. Some experts believe interest rate increases, by preventing the economy from overheating, will help preserve the economic boom. U-S corporate earnings reports continue coming in on the positive side. More than one-half of the 500 companies in the Standard and Poor's index have exceeded analysts' expectations. Profit has grown, on average, nearly 21 percent. Qualcomm shares climbed again, adding to Monday's 15- percent gain, after the U-S telecommunications company confirmed that it signed a deal with China. The agreement will open up China's huge market to Qualcomm wireless technology. (Signed) NEB/NY/EJ/LSF/gm 01-Feb-2000 16:47 PM EDT (01-Feb-2000 2147 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Editorial pages across the United States this first day of February are full of comment on what is being called the nation's economic miracle, a 106- month-long succession of economic progress, unmatched in the country's history. A close second in popularity is the New Hampshire presidential primary, the nation's first, underway today. Other topics include: the rise of a right-wing political leader in Austria and the European Union's reaction to him; fears of potential breakdown in the Northern Ireland peace process; and an artist in Chile gives meaning to the old adage that "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." Now, here is _______ with a closer look and a few examples, in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: The U-S economy continues roaring ahead, prompting the Chicago Tribune to comment:

    VOICE: Never before in the 224-year history of the United States has the cumulative output of goods and services grown continuously for so long - - 107 months. The previous record was 106 months in the 1960s, a period that included massive military spending as the nation expanded its involvement in the Vietnam War. ... The [current] expansion seemed to broaden and gather strength as the months and years passed. And there is no sign this record-breaker will end anytime soon.

    TEXT: But the Detroit News registers a word of caution:

    VOICE: ... the belief that we now live in a "new economy," as President Bill Clinton and others have phrased it, is overblown - - even dangerous. There is no sign that the basic laws of economics have been repealed. It was just such an illusion that helped bring the prior record booms of the 1920s and the 1960s to an end. If policymakers in Washington forget the lessons of the past, American's economic miracle could easily be stifled.

    /// OPT ///

    TEXT: And why has the economy kept growing? The Dallas [Texas] Morning News addresses that point:

    VOICE: A lot of the credit for the sustained growth goes to the new economy, an information, technology- and services-intensive marketplace that has made the United States the world's most productive nation. Credit also must be given to a sensible interest rate policy that has encouraged investment and growth.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Turning to domestic politics, today's first-in- the nation primary election in the New England state of New Hampshire draws considerable editorial comment. In neighboring Maine, the Portland Press Herald points out the lightly populated state's early vote does serve a purpose.

    VOICE: ... it is here that presidential candidates must come if they expect to have any chance at winning the White House. Only Bill Clinton - - a man who seems to have a special talent for winning elections when others would have been ridden out of town - - has become president in modern times without winning the New Hampshire primary. ... Retail politics still count in New Hampshire, and that's a blessing. ... if [Arizona Senator John] McCain or [former New Jersey Senator Bill] Bradley win today, as polls suggest they might ... they will become the clear challengers to the clear leaders. A close race for the nomination may yet develop in either party. If that happens ... it'll be because one candidate worked harder, listened more closely or had better ideas.

    ///OPT ///

    TEXT: Lastly, New Hampshire's largest daily, the Manchester Union Leader is strongly for businessman and magazine publisher Steve Forbes, noting in this final pre-election editorial:

    VOICE: A vote for [Mr.] Forbes today ensures the party will have a nominee who is a strong, committed tax cutter and reformer - - not like [Governor Bush ... A vote for [Mr.] Forbes today also ensured the party will have a nominee who is committed to ending abortion - - not like [Governor] Bush ... the crisis of America's morality and loss of freedom will be more forcefully addressed by a Forbes administration than by a Bush or McCain administration.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Internationally, the emergence of a right wing political leader in Austria, Joerg Haider, and his Freedom Party, is causing concern in the U-S press. The Los Angeles Times writes:

    VOICE: The European Union has taken the extraordinary step of threatening to politically isolate Austria, one of its members, if the far-right Freedom Party joins a coalition government. ... Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Guterres summed up the E-U view: "If a party which has expressed xenophobic views and which does not abide by the essential values of the European family comes to power, naturally we won't be able to continue the same relations as in the past..." ... The E-U's unprecedented response reflects its anxiety over Austria's earlier history of anti-Semitism and partnership with Nazi Germany...

    TEXT: However, the Wall Street Journal says the worries about Mr. Haider are "perhaps a bit overblown."

    VOICE: Wolfgang Schuessel, the intelligent and moderate leader of the People's party, would become chancellor in any such coalition, with Mr. Haider taking some secondary role. But still, a politician who has made gains with xenophobic rhetoric and hints of sympathy toward some aspects of Austria's Nazi past offers reason for alarm.

    TEXT: Turning to Northern Europe, there is more alarm at the prospect that because the Irish Republican Army is so far refusing to disarm, the Northern Ireland peace accord may be coming apart. Or so says the New York Times:

    VOICE: Less than four months before the Irish Republican Army is supposed to disarm completely, a monitoring panel is expected to report that the I-R-A has yet to turn in a single gun or bomb. By failing to take that modest but symbolically important first step, the I-R-A has pushed Northern Ireland's mainstream Catholic and Protestant parties, along with the Irish and British governments, into an extremely difficult position and jeopardized the progress that has been made toward... peace ...

    TEXT: And lastly, in Santiago, Chile, a female artist, Daniella Tobar, is living life in a completely glass house in downtown drawing crowds of mostly men as she reads, telephones others, and even showers. Her showers seem to be the most popular daily event, notes The [Bergen County, New Jersey] Record which notes:

    VOICE: The Chilean government's arts agency is partially funding the project, which was devised by two architects who are friends of Ms. Tobar's. "We are taking the notion of art to the limit in the sense that life can be an artistic work," said Arturo Torres, one of the architects. ... News reports ... say that a mostly male crowd has gathered outside the house to greet Ms. Tobar's morning shower with cheers and calls for a repeat performance. The men may not know much about life as art, but they know what they like.

    TEXT: And on that note we conclude this sampling of comment from the editorial pages of U-S newspapers on Tuesday.
    NEB/ANG/KL 01-Feb-2000 12:06 PM EDT (01-Feb-2000 1706 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America

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