Protesters out Again in Brazil's Biggest City
                              Red Bottom Shoes

By BRADLEY BROOKS Associated Press

Tens of thousands of Brazilians again flooded the streets of the country's biggest city to raise a collective cry against a longstanding lament — people are weighed down by high taxes and high prices but get low-quality public services and a system of government infected with corruption.

That was the repeated message Tuesday night in Sao Paulo, where upward of 50,000 people massed in front of the city's main cathedral. While mostly peaceful, the demonstration followed the rhythm of protests that drew 240,000 people across Brazil the previous night, with small bands of radicals splitting off to fight with police and break into stores.

Mass protests have been mushrooming across Brazil since demonstrations called last week by a group angry over the high cost of a woeful public transport system and a recent 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo, Rio and elsewhere.

The local governments in at least four cities have now agreed to reverse those hikes, and city and federal politicians have shown signs that the Sao Paulo fare could also be rolled back. It's not clear that will calm the country, though, because the protests have released a seething litany of discontent from Brazilians over life's struggles.



Yet, beyond complaints about the cost for bus and subway rides, protesters haven't produced a laundry list of concrete demands. Demonstrators mainly are expressing deep anger and discontentment — not just with the ruling government, but with the entire governing system. A common chant at the rallies has been "No parties!"

"What I hope comes from these protests is that the governing class comes to understand that we're the ones in charge, not them, and the politicians must learn to respect us," said Yasmine Gomes, a 22-year-old squeezed into the plaza in central Sao Paulo where Tuesday night's protest began.

President Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured during Brazil's 1964-85 dictatorship, hailed the protests for raising questions and strengthening Brazil's democracy. "Brazil today woke up stronger," she said in a statement.

Yet Rousseff offered no actions that her government might take to address complaints, even though her administration is a prime target of demonstrators' frustrations.

The protests have brought troubling questions about security in the country, which is playing host this week to soccer's Confederations Cup and will welcome Pope Francis in July for a visit to Rio de Janeiro and rural Sao Paulo.

Brazil's media has scrambled to cover the sprawling protests — coverage that in some cases raised the ire of protesters, in particular that of the powerful Globo TV network. Whenever what appears to be a Globo helicopter swoops over a demonstration, protesters hiss, raise their fists and chant slogans against the network for what they say was its failure to widely show images of a violent police crackdown on protesters last week in Sao Paulo.

Brazilian demonstrations in recent years generally had tended to attract small numbers of politicized participants, but the latest mobilizations have united huge crowds around a central complaint: The government provides woeful public services even as the economy is modernizing and growing.

The Brazilian Tax Planning Institute think tank found that the country's tax burden in 2011 stood at 36 percent of gross domestic product, ranking it 12th among the 30 countries with the world's highest tax burdens.

 
 
             Taliban Claim Killing of 4 US Troops  Red Bottom Shoes 


The Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed four U.S. troops in Afghanistan, hours after the U.S. announced it was opening formal talks with the insurgent group.

A Taliban spokesman said the group fired two rockets into the Bagram air base on Tuesday.

Earlier, the U.S. said direct negotiations with the Taliban will begin Thursday in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in a push to establish a framework for ending more than a decade of war in Afghanistan.

Senior U.S. State Department and White House officials are expected to meet with a Taliban delegation, in what authorities are describing as preliminary talks.

President Barack Obama, speaking Tuesday at a G8 summit in Northern Ireland, called the Qatar talks "a very early first step," and cautioned that he expects "there will be a lot of bumps in the road" .

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government is not expected to participate in the initial round of the Doha talks.



But officials say Thursday's talks are expected to lead to a meeting between the Taliban and a peace council established by the Afghan leader. To date, the Taliban has refused to talk publicly with the Karzai government.

President Karzai said Tuesday his government will send envoys to Qatar to try to open peace talks in Kabul with the Taliban.



"The principles are that the talks, having begun in Qatar, must immediately be moved to Afghanistan; second, that the talks must bring about an end to violence in Afghanistan; third, that the talks must not become a tool for any third country for exploitation with regard to its or their interests in Afghanistan."



Mr. Karzai commented in Kabul, during a ceremony in which Afghan forces took over responsibility for security for the entire country from the NATO military coalition set to leave the country next year.

In a VOA interview, foreign policy expert John Feffer of the Institute for Policy Studies said it appears there is some resistance to talks within the ranks of the Taliban, with some members of the group taking a wait-and-see attitude.



"They are interested in seeing who will emerge to replace Karzai and they are interested in seeing how much control they can get on the ground, especially with the increased violence that has taken place recently."



Earlier Tuesday, a senior U.S. official said the Taliban and other insurgent groups need to break ties with al-Qaida, end violence and accept Afghanistan's constitution, for the reconciliation process to move forward.

He also said leaders in neighboring Pakistan understand there can be no stability in their country without stability in Afghanistan. The official said Pakistan's support of the peace process is in keeping with its national interests.