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.  
44 MINs agoSportsHeat Top Spurs in OT to Force Game 7

Miami's Chris Bosh blocks Danny Green's game-tying three-pointer in the dying seconds as Heat hang on to win an instant classic.

By Chris Herring

Miami Heat center Chris Bosh blocks the final shot of the game by San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green to end Game 6 of the NBA Finals Tuesday in Miami.

European Pressphoto Agency
MIAMI—After watching unheralded San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green light his team up for an NBA Finals-record 25 three-pointers through the first five games of the series, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh had a message ahead of Tuesday’s Game 6.

“He won’t be open tonight,” he vowed at Miami’s morning shootaround.

Bosh held to his word on the final play, when he blocked Green’s potential game-tying three to seal a Heat victory, 103-100, and set the stage for Thursday’s Game 7 here, which will decide this year’s league champion.

Tuesday’s game, easily one of the best the league has seen in recent history, continued the seesaw series, as the winning team has alternated through each of the first six games. But this matchup had all the late-stage dramatics that the previous four meetings—all with double-digits margins—lacked.

The Spurs, who had a five-point cushion at 94-89 with 28 seconds left in regulation, were in prime position to win their fifth NBA title; so much so that scores of nonbelieving Heat fans had already left the arena in anticipation of a season-ending loss.

But LeBron James (32 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) hit a triple from the wing to cut it two. And after the defending champs intentionally fouled the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (22 points, 11 rebounds) to send him to the line, the second-year swingman missed a free throw, which left the door open for the Heat to tie it.

Miami’s Ray Allen, open after a huge offensive rebound by Bosh, did just that, hitting a three from the corner with just five seconds left to knot the score at 95. “When it went in, I was ecstatic,” said Allen, the league’s all-time leader in three-pointers, who was signed by Miami this past off-season for precisely such occasions. “But at the same time, I was expecting to make it.”

San Antonio’s Tony Parker enjoyed success on clutch shots earlier in the game (he knotted it at 89 with a long three-pointer with 1:30 left in regulation) and in the series (he sealed Game 1 with a circus shot in the closing seconds). But he couldn’t get off a good look against James—who, in a strategic change, defended the Frenchman for much of the game—and the contest went to overtime.

Both sides played a relatively even extra period, and the Spurs had a second chance to win the game on a last shot when Manu Ginobili aggressively drove down the lane and drew contact, but got nothing out of it, other than a turnover. He pleaded with officials for a foul (overlooking the fact that he might have traveled himself) to no avail, and Allen hit a pair of free throws to put the Heat up three, the final margin they’d win by.

Ginobili’s play summed up his night in a nutshell. One game after being the hero, with 24 points and 10 assists, he finished with just nine points and three assists. Far more important, and unfortunate for the Spurs: Ginobili finished with a career-high eight turnovers, and the team was outscored by 21 points with him on the floor.

The nature of the loss was a tough blow for San Antonio, which has a championship pedigree, but—with its aging core players—could be spent by the time Thursday’s deciding game rolls around.

In particular, the 31-year-old Parker (19 points on 6-for-23 shooting), clearly exhausted by the time the extra period had rolled around, was pulled from the overtime, and had a towel on his head as the team huddled for its final timeout.

And 37-year-old Tim Duncan—who gave a vintage performance in which he logged 30 points and 17 rebounds—also needed breathers down the stretch in his 44-minute showing. (Miami is built around Dwyane Wade, James and Bosh, who are 31, 28 and 29, respectively.)

“I have no clue how we’re going to be re-energized. We’re devastated,” Ginobili, 35, said after the game. “But we have to [bounce back]. There is no Game 8.”

San Antonio’s loss ruined a handful of key moments that had gone in their favor. Duncan, buoyed by Miami’s defensive scheme to take away Green, had by far his best game of the series. He made his first seven shots and went off for 25 points in the first half, outscoring Miami’s superstar trio by himself in that window. As such, the team built up a sizable 13-point lead at one point in the third period.

But the Heat, led by a focused James, battled back early in the fourth. The reigning MVP, who’d struggled to score through the first three quarters (in which he shot 3-of-14), came to life late in the game, while Wade (14 points) was on the bench. A handful of statistics suggested Wade’s absence—which has typically spaced out the Spurs’ defense by forcing them to play Miami’s perimeter shooters more honestly—helped James find a rhythm.

James shot 5-for-17 when playing alongside Wade, but 6-of-9 with his star teammate (ailing with injured knees) off the floor. Beyond that, James took a much greater percentage of his shots near the rim when Wade was on the bench resting, too.

James—who began playing more aggressively after a physical third-quarter sequence where he lost his trademark headband (and after teammate Mike Miller made a three without one of his shoes)—said he simply felt a need to rise to the occasion.

“I told myself, ‘Give it all you got.’ If we go down losing, I’m going to go down with no bullets,” said James, who had 18 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth period and overtime.

Truth be told, it looked like both teams emptied nearly everything they had left in the tank during Tuesday’s instant classic. But each side will have to find a way to muster what they can for Thursday. Because, for as great as Game 6 was, Game 7 is all that matters as far as the history books are concerned.