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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil awoke Friday to city centers still smoldering after a night that shocked the nation: 1 million anti-government protesters took to the streets in scores of cities, with clusters battling police and destroying swaths of storefronts and government buildings.

President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting about the protest with top Cabinet members Friday, after a largely silent and much criticized response to some of the biggest demonstrations seen in this 192 million-person country in decades.

There were also growing calls on social media and in mass emails for a general strike next week. If it materializes, the action could bring in unions and other organized groups to what has so far been an amorphous explosion of discontent over everything from high crime to poor education.

Brazilian media have mercilessly called out Rousseff and other leaders for their confused response to the protests.

"Dilma Rousseff and (Brasilia Gov.) Agnelo Queiroz are the epitome of Brazilian rulers," wrote political commentator Fernando Rodrigues in the country's biggest newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo.

"They embody the perplexity and the lack of leadership capabilities of several parties' politicians vis-a-vis the new phenomena of protests without leaders or defined proposals. ... It seems they are just waiting and hoping the tsunami will end."

To be sure, the lack of any organization or concrete demands behind the protests has made a unified government response nearly impossible. Several cities have cancelled the transit fare hikes that had originally sparked the demonstrations a week ago, but the outrage has only grown more intense.

Gilberto Carvalho, the secretary general of the presidency, provided little direction Friday after a meeting to discuss Pope Francis' planned July visit to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day.

"We can't anticipate the future," Carvalho said. "We don't know what it's going to be like. Perhaps things will not be so intense (as the recent protests) but we have to be prepared for anything."

Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, for one, hit back at protesters the morning after his modernist ministry building was attacked by a boisterous crowd. At one point, smoke billowed from the building, and windows were shattered along its perimeter.

Standing before the battered ministry, he told reporters Friday he "was very angry" that protesters attacked a structure "that represents the search for understanding through dialogue." Patriota called for protesters "to convey their demands peacefully"

"I believe that the great majority of the protesters are not taking part in this violence and are instead looking to improve Brazil's democracy via legitimate forms of protest," Patriota said.

The majority of protesters have been peaceful, and crowds have taken to chanting "No violence! No violence!" when small groups have prepared to burn and smash. The more violent demonstrators have taken over once night has fallen.

Protesters and police clashed in several cities into the early hours Friday.

At least one protester was killed in Sao Paulo state Friday when a driver apparently became enraged about being unable to travel along a street and rammed his car into a group of demonstrators.

In Rio de Janeiro, where an estimated 300,000 demonstrators poured into the seaside city's center, running clashes played out between riot police and clusters of mostly young men with T-shirts wrapped around their faces. But peaceful protesters were also caught up in the fray, too, as police fired tear gas canisters into their midst and at times indiscriminately used pepper spray.

Thundering booms echoed off stately colonial buildings as rubber bullets and gas were fired at fleeing crowds.

At least 40 people were injured in Rio, including protesters such as Michele Menezes, a wisp of a woman whose youthful face and braces belied her 26 years. Bleeding and with her hair singed from the explosion of a tear gas canister, she said she and others took refuge from the violence in an open bar, only to have a police officer toss the canister inside.

The blast ripped through Menezes' jeans, tearing two coin-sized holes on the back of her thighs, and peppered her upper arm with a rash of small holes.

"I was leaving a peaceful protest and it's not the thugs that attack me but the police themselves," said Menezes, removing her wire-rim glasses to wipe her bloodshot eyes.

She later took refuge in a hotel, along with about two dozen youths, families and others who said they had been repeatedly hit with pepper spray by motorcycle police as they also sheltered inside a bar.

Protesters said they would not back down.

"I saw some pretty scary things, but they're not going to shake me. There's another march on the 22nd and I'm going to be there," said 19-year-old university student Fernanda Szuster.

Asked if her parents knew she was joining in the protests, Szuster said: "They know and they're proud. They also protested when they were young. So they think it's great."

Clashes were also reported in the Amazon jungle city of Belem, Porto Alegre in the south, the university town Campinas north of Sao Paulo, the northeastern city of Salvador and dozens of other towns.

The protests took place one week after a violent police crackdown on a small demonstration against an increase in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo galvanized Brazilians to take their grievances to the streets.

The unrest is hitting the nation as it hosts the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, with tens of thousands of foreign visitors in attendance. It also comes one month before the papal visit, and ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, raising concerns about how Brazilian officials will provide security.

Brazilian bishops called a press conference Friday to discuss the papal visit in light of the protests, but no announcement of any changes had been made.

Mass protests have been rare in this country of 190 million people in recent years, and the mushrooming demonstrations of the past week caught Brazilian government officials by surprise while delighting many citizens.

"I think we desperately need this, that we've been needing this for a very, very long time," said Paulo Roberto Rodrigues da Cunha, a 63-year-old clothing store salesman in Rio.

Despite the energy on the street, many protesters said they were unsure how the movement would win real political concessions. People have held up signs asking for everything from education reforms to free bus fares while denouncing the billions of public dollars spent on stadiums in advance of the World Cup and the Olympics.

"This is the start of a structural change in Brazil," said Aline Campos, a 29-year-old publicist in Brasilia. "People now want to make sure their money is well spent, that it's not wasted through corruption."

___ Brooks reported from Sao Paulo. Associated Press writers Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo and Ricardo Zuniga in Salvador contributed to this report.
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Wall Street steadied after a two-day plunge caused by news that the Federal Reserve was getting ready to wind down its massive bond-buying program by mid-2014.

Markets were a lot calmer Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 24 points, or 0.2 percent, at 14,732 as of 11:24 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The Dow and other indexes were moving between small gains and losses in early trading.

The Dow plunged 560 points Wednesday through Thursday, wiping out its gains from May and June. The Fed's easy money policies have been a big driver behind the stock market's bull run the last four years. The plunge came just three weeks after the Dow hit a record high of 15,409.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell six points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,582 points. The S&P hit its own record high a month ago.

Kim Forrest, senior analyst with Fort Pitt Capital Group, a portfolio management firm in Pittsburgh, said the market had the "right reaction" to the news that the Fed would wind down its stimulus if the economy continues to improve, but the move may have been overblown.

"We're getting news that made the market uncomfortable," she said. "We shouldn't be sitting at these highs given the fact that the Fed signaled that someday it's going to take some liquidity off the table. So the reaction is right, the magnitude is probably a little off."

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.49 percent from 2.42 percent late Thursday. The yield has risen sharply since Wednesday as investors sold bonds in anticipation that the Fed would slow, and eventually end, its bond purchases.

The yield, which is a benchmark for interest rates on many kinds of loans including home mortgages, is at its highest level since August 2011. On Tuesday, the day before the Fed's announcement, it was 2.19 percent. It hit a low for the year of 1.63 percent on May 3.

Technology shares fell more than the rest of the market after business software maker Oracle reported disappointing earnings late Thursday. Oracle plunged $3.04, or 9 percent, to $30.17, the biggest drop in the S&P 500 index. Oracle is struggling to adapt as customers shift away from software installed on their own computers toward software that runs remotely.

Oracle's results are a poor omen for business spending on technology. Technology stocks in the S&P index fell 1 percent, the most of the 10 industry groups in the index.

The Nasdaq composite index, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, fell 30 points, or 0.9 percent, to 3,333. Apple, the biggest stock in the index, fell $8.15, or 1.9 percent, to $408.75. Microsoft fell 26 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $33.23.

The price of gold recovered after plunging the day before. Gold was up $6.40, or 0.5 percent, to $1,292.40 an ounce. Crude oil fell $1.15, or 1.2 percent, to $94 a barrel in New York.

The dollar rose against other currencies as traders anticipated that U.S. interest rates would rise as the Fed winds down its bond purchases.

Among other stocks making big moves:

— Darden Restaurants, which runs Olive Garden and Red Lobster, fell $1.16, or 2.3 percent, to $50.07 after rising expenses hurt its fourth-quarter earnings.

— CarMax, which runs used car dealerships, reported that its first-quarter profit jumped 21 percent as sales rose. Its stock rose 63 cents or 1.4 percent, to $45.20.

A Fed policy statement and comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke started the selling in stocks, bonds and commodities Wednesday. Bernanke said the Fed expects to scale back its bond-buying program later this year and end it by mid-2014 if the economy continues to improve. The bank has been buying $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds, which has made borrowing cheap for consumers and businesses. The program has also encouraged investors to buy stocks instead of bonds.

The S&P 500 is still up 11.9 percent, for the year, not far from its full-year increase of 13.4 percent last year.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei index rose 1.7 percent, but other Asian markets fell. European markets slipped. France's CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent and Germany's DAX fell 0.9 percent.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is holding his first meeting with a privacy and civil liberties board Friday as he seeks to make good on his pledge to have a public discussion about secretive government surveillance programs.

Obama has said the little-known Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will play a key role in that effort. The federal oversight board reviews anti-terror programs to ensure that privacy concerns are taken into account.

The president is also tasking the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to consider declassifying more details about the government's collection of U.S. phone and Internet records. Obama is specifically asking Clapper to review possible declassification of opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves the surveillance efforts.

Obama's meeting with the board was taking place Friday afternoon, but the White House wasn't planning to allow press coverage.

The government has already lifted some of the secrecy surrounding the programs following disclosures earlier this month about their existence by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. But the legal opinions from the highly secretive court remain private.

The privacy board was created in 2004 but has operated fitfully ever since, given congressional infighting and at times, censorship by government lawyers. The board was dormant during Obama's first term and only became fully functional in May, before the NSA programs became public.

The board's chairman, David Medine, said the five-member group has a "broad range of questions" to ask about the NSA's widespread collection programs. The board was given a classified briefing on the programs last week and plans to release a report eventually with recommendations for the government.

Follow Julie Pace at on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
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   Embattled St. Louis Community College chancellor Myrtle Dorsey will likely keep her job another year.  That's despite criticism of the college's handling of an attack on a female student on the Meramec campus.  

   Critics say the suspected assailant shouldn't have been let go by campus police after he was initially picked up and students and staff should have been alerted to the attack right away.  

   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the new chairman of the college Board of Trustees, Craig Larson expects Dorsey to complete the third year of her contract.   Larson told the paper that the final report on ans investigation into the incident will be out next month, and that could lead to personnel changes, but probably not involving Dorsey.

Friday, 21 June 2013 04:01
Published in Local News
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