Thessaloniki, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras painted an optimistic vision Saturday night of a Greece that has emerged from eight years of financial austerity imposed by creditors and is on the road to economic recovery.
Laying out his economic program for the coming year in a speech at Greece's largest trade fair, Tsipras said he will seek to keep lowering the unemployment rate that peaked at nearly 28 percent in 2013, raise wages and cut some taxes.
And in an unusual gesture for a leftist politician who has spent far more time protesting outside the U.S. Embassy than in meeting with U.S. officials, Tsipras emphasized Greece's close relations with America, calling it "a country with which we are tied in a strong strategic partnership and in common struggles for shared values."
For the first time, a guest, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, addressed the trade fair's Saturday evening gathering, which normally hears only Greece's prime minister set out his economic policy goals.
Ross also noted the closeness of U.S.-Greek ties, and he praised Greece for meeting its defense spending commitments in the trans-Atlantic alliance. "We would like to see other NATO countries fulfill their engagements in the same way," he said.
Outlining his achievements, Tsipras said that 300,000 new jobs have been added in the three years since he took power at the depth of Greece's economic crisis and that the long-declining economy is expected to grow 2.5 percent in 2018.
He said he wants the jobless rate to drop from the current 19 percent to 10 percent over the next five years and Greek debt to reach investment grade within two years. He promised to lower the corporate tax rate, expand welfare spending, provide tax breaks to lure back university-educated young people who migrated, raise the minimum wage and restore collective bargaining on wages. He also promised retroactive pay raises to the police, military and judiciary.
Addressing the contentious issue of further pension cuts committed to by his government under pressure from creditors, Tsipras said he thinks the government's budget surplus targets can be achieved without more cuts in pensions but added that he will discuss this with the EU later in the year.
Greece last month ended its third international financial bailout and now must return to markets that have been rattled by financial concerns and a jump in borrowing rates in nearby Italy.
Earlier Saturday, Ross inaugurated the annual trade fair, with Tsipras at his side. The United States is the featured country at this year's event, hosting exhibits from major corporations including tech giants Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook, Google and IBM.
Greek-U.S. bilateral trade totals more than $2 billion annually. Ross said U.S. corporations want to boost commerce with Greece, a long-standing NATO ally that is also in talks to intensify military cooperation with the U.S.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, visited Greece earlier in the week and said he discussed the possibility of expanded base access for the U.S. military in Greece as well as training cooperation.
The cooperation reflects a shift in regional alignments, with Greece's neighbor Turkey seeking closer ties to Russia amid strains in its relationship with the United States.
An estimated 6,000 nationalists protesting Greece's agreement with neighboring Macedonia that ended a 27-year dispute on the latter's name clashed with police along Thessaloniki's waterfront deep into the night. Police also clashed briefly with about 3,000 extreme leftists at a separate demonstration.
Sao Paulo, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — The man suspected of stabbing Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro was moved Saturday to a prison in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
The Globo TV network said Adelio Bispo de Oliveira was taken to the Federal Prison in Campo Grande, the state's capital. It said he would be held in an isolation wing used for prisoners who might be in danger.
Calls to the prison's administration went unanswered.
Bolsonaro, a far-right congressman running second in opinion polls, was stabbed Thursday during a rally in Juiz de Fora, a city about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of Rio de Janeiro.
He suffered intestinal damage and serious internal bleeding before undergoing surgery at a local hospital. He was later transferred to Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein Hospital, where doctors said Saturday that he was improving.
"My father continues improving and has begun physical therapy sessions," Flavio Bolsonaro, one of the candidate's sons, said on his Twitter account. He posted a photo showing his smiling father in a blue hospital gown sitting on a chair imitating pistols with both hands.
It is unclear what led de Oliveira to attack Bolsonaro.
The G1 news portal on Friday posted a cellphone video, apparently obtained from police, where he said he acted on God's orders.
Although there is no indication that the stabbing was premeditated, the Bolsonaro camp has sought to pin the blame on the left.
"They say that he (de Oliveira) was a lone wolf. That it was an isolated case. That is not the case," said Eduardo Bolsonaro, another son of the candidate. "At the very least he was a leftist with a lot of hate in his heart."
Evangelical pastor Silas Malafaia said on Twitter that de Oliveira was once affiliated with the left-wing Socialism and Liberty Party, which like most of Brazil's political parties criticized the attack and called for a thorough investigation.
For Bolsonaro, there will be questions about his physical ability to campaign for the Oct. 7 election.
"He probably won't go back to the streets during this campaign, so he can't do it, but we can," his son Flavio said in a video posted on Facebook.
The son later tweeted: "Jair Bolsonaro is stronger than ever and ready to be elected President of Brazil in the 1st round.
About a dozen candidates are competing in the presidential race. If no one wins an outright majority, the top two finishers will face off in a runoff election Oct. 28.
The Federal Police said in a statement Saturday that the number of agents providing security for each candidate will be increased, though it provided no details. But Bazileu Margarido, an official in candidate Marina Silva's campaign, told G1 that the number of agents would rise to 25 from 21.
Anaheim, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — Former President Barack Obama said Saturday that November midterm elections would give Americans "a chance to restore some sanity in our politics," taking another swipe at his successor as he raises his profile campaigning for fellow Democrats to regain control of the House.
Obama didn't mention President Donald Trump by name during a 20-minute speech in the key Southern California battleground of Orange County but the allusions were clear.
"We're in a challenging moment because, when you look at the arc of American history, there's always been a push and pull between those who want to go forward and those who want to look back, between those who want to divide and those are seeking to bring people together, between those who promote the politics of hope and those who exploit the politics of fear," he said.
His appearance — one day after a strongly worded critique of Trump at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — touched on themes of retirement security, climate change and education.
"If we don't step up, things can get worse," the former president told the audience at the Anaheim Convention Center. "In two months, we have the chance to restore some sanity to our politics. We have the chance to flip the House of Representatives and make sure there are real checks and balances in Washington."
Obama gave shout-outs to seven Democratic candidates in competitive House districts across California that are considered crucial to the party's efforts to oust Republicans from control. Four of those districts are at least partly in Orange County, a formerly reliable GOP bastion that went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
"We're going to put on our marching shoes, we're going to start knocking on some doors, we're going to start making some calls," he said to cheers.
Clinton trounced Trump by more than 4 million votes in California in 2016 and carried Orange County by 9 percentage points. A surge in immigrants has transformed California and its voting patterns. The number of Hispanics, blacks and Asians combined has outnumbered whites in the state since 1998. Meanwhile, new voters, largely Latinos and Asians, lean Democratic.
In Orange County, Republicans held a 13-point edge in voter registration 10 years ago but that has shrunk to 3 points while independents, who tend to vote like Democrats in California, have climbed to 25 percent.
Democrats, hoping to build on their 39-14 advantage in the state's congressional delegation, are eyeing Republican seats in districts that Clinton won in 2016. Each of the seven candidates that Obama campaigned for on Saturday fit that description.
In Orange County, GOP Rep. Mimi Walters faces a challenge from Katie Porter, a law professor at University of California at Irvine. Environmental lawyer Mike Levin is seeking an open seat to replace retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa in a district that includes part of Orange County.
Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, whose district encompasses part of Orange County, is fending off a challenge from Democratic real estate investor Harley Rouda to secure a 16th term in Congress despite barely winning 30 percent of the primary vote. In the other Orange County race, Gil Cisneros, a Democratic philanthropist and Navy veteran, is vying for an open seat created by retiring Republican Ed Royce.
Obama also highlighted two races in the state's Central Valley, praising venture capitalist Josh Harder in his bid to unseat four-term Republican Jeff Denham, and T.J. Cox, who is challenging David Valadao in a district where Democrats hold a 17-point advantage in voter registration.
He also made a plug for nonprofit executive Katie Hill in her Los Angeles-area race to unseat sophomore Republican Steve Knight, who won an underwhelming 53 percent of the vote in 2016.
California Republicans said Obama's appearance would have little impact and may even help their party.
"I wish he would come more often because he reminds Republicans of eight years of misery," said Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel, who lives in Orange County. "It reminds the Republicans why these midterms are important."
Vice President Mike Pence says it's disappointing that Obama is back on the campaign trail criticizing Trump.
Says Pence: "The truth is, the American people in 2016 rejected the policy and direction of Barack Obama when they elected President Donald Trump." Pence comments came in a taped interview set to air on "Fox News Sunday." Fox released an excerpt on Saturday.
Obama is expected to deliver a similar message in Cleveland on Thursday, when he campaigns on behalf of Richard Cordray, the Democratic nominee for Ohio governor, and other Democrats.
Atlanta, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. East Coast could be hit with a powerful hurricane next week as Tropical Storm Florence continues to strengthen as it moves toward the mainland, forecasters said Saturday.
Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said, adding that "a rapid intensification" is forecast to begin Sunday.
The storm is forecast to become a "major hurricane" Monday, travel between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday before approaching the southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday, the Miami-based weather center said.
Officials in the Carolinas warned residents to prepare and to brace for impact.
Governors in both South Carolina and Virginia declared a state of emergency Saturday to give their states time to prepare for the possible arrival of the storm. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster emphasized that there's no way to know yet when and where the storm will hit land, or when evacuations might be called.
On Friday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency and urged residents to use the weekend to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster.
"We are entering the peak of hurricane season and we know well the unpredictability and power of these storms," Cooper said.
The U.S. Navy is making preparations this weekend for its ships in the Hampton Roads area to leave port. The U.S. Fleet Forces Command said in a news release Saturday that the ships will get ready in anticipation of getting under way Monday to avoid storm damage.
Adm. Christopher Grady said in a statement that the decision was based on Florence's current track, which indicates the area could see strong sustained winds and storm surges.
The news release notes that plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm.
Swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda and starting to reach parts of the Eastern Seaboard, the National Weather Service said.
At 11 p.m. EDT, the hurricane center said Florence's maximum sustained winds were estimated to be 70 mph (110 kph). The storm was centered about 790 miles (1,270 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 6 mph (9 kph).
Paris, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — More than 18,000 people marched Saturday in Paris as part of an international mobilization to show popular support for urgent measures to combat climate change in advance of a San Francisco summit.
Crowds overflowed a plaza in front of City Hall before marching east to the Place de la Republique, carrying an urgent message that it's up to the public to put global warming at the top of the political agenda.
"Planet in Danger," read some banners.
Activists around the world encouraged "Rise for Climate" protests before the summit taking place Sept.12-Sept. 14. California's governor proposed the event after President Donald Trump vowed to pull the U.S. out of a landmark 2015 climate accord.
The international agreement was negotiated in France, and the French capital's march was more successful than ones held Saturday in other French cities or elsewhere in Europe.
Environmental groups said the organized hundreds of events around the globe Saturday to highlight the issue.
Thousands of people took to the streets of San Francisco, marching about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the city's piers to City Hall. Demonstrators banged drums, sang and hoisted signs that said "Rise for climate justice" and "Not a penny more for dirty energy." They called for politicians to spearhead a transition to 100 percent renewable energy.
Police estimated that 18,500 took part in the Paris march, while organizers put the number at some 50,000.
Several hundred people gathered in France's southern port city of Marseille. Several dozen called for an end to the use of fossil fuels outside London's Tate Modern art gallery. Only about two dozen showed up in Barcelona, Spain.
The front-page of France's daily Liberation newspaper featured a call from 700 French scientists for the government to "move from incantations to acts to move toward a carbon-free society."
The language was a reference to French President Emmanuel Macron's use of the phrase "Make our planet great again," a takeoff on Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan.
The signing scientists also called for "strong and clear political choices" and said "solutions are available."
The march in Paris, organized with the theme "Change the system, but don't change the climate," was both festive and serious.
One protester, Manuel Bibes, denounced the plastic that inundates daily life. Another, Rodgrigo de la Vega criticized the practice of driving down the road to buy bread.
"There is no Planet B," a sign read.