Thousands Demonstrate Against Georgian President
Tens of thousands of protesters marched through the streets of this capital city on Thursday bearing signs and chanting slogans against President Mikheil Saakashvili, who took office five years ago with promises of a progressive, pro-Western government.
They gathered in front of the Parliament building to demand the resignation of the president, whom opposition speakers denounced as a tyrant who had mishandled the war with Russia. While the atmosphere was tense, the day’s events unfolded without violence.
Opposition leaders said they would not halt the protest until Saakashvili steps down. “We are here because there is no other way to do this,” said Levan Gachechiladze. “We need to stay here until the end. He must go!”
Irakli Alasania, a former ambassador to the United Nations who broke with Saakashvili over the war, told the crowd that the president had spurned the values of the democratic movement that brought him to power. Alasania said Saakashvili exerted authoritarian control over the media, the judiciary and other spheres of society.
“The whole world is watching us now,” Alasania said. “We are here to show our government and other countries that this is the only way to have real change.”
Pitcher’s Death Stuns Baseball
Only a few hours after the most promising performance of his major league career, Nick Adenhart, a 22-year-old pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, was one of three people killed early Thursday when the car they were traveling in was struck by a vehicle driven by a suspected drunken driver.
Adenhart was a passenger in a Mitsubishi Eclipse that was broadsided by a minivan whose driver had run a red light, the police said. The crash occurred about five miles from Angel Stadium in Fullerton, about 25 miles south of Los Angeles.
The Angels postponed their scheduled game Thursday night with the Oakland Athletics. “It is a tragedy that will never be forgotten,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Major League Baseball called for a moment of silence before every game Thursday. Late Thursday, the Angels had not announced plans for an observance before their home game Friday night with the Boston Red Sox. Players met with coaches at 3 p.m., then left the stadium without speaking to reporters.
Adenhart, a right-hander, pitched six scoreless innings against the Athletics on Wednesday night, giving up seven hits and three walks but working out of several tight situations. After the game, Adenhart told reporters he felt “just a lot more relaxed, self-confident.”
Toyota Said To Weigh
Reorganizing U.S. Operations
The Toyota Motor Co. is exploring a reorganization of its North American operations that would put its sales, engineering and manufacturing operations under one executive, people with direct knowledge of the plan said Thursday.
The reorganization, which has not yet been finalized, may be led by a returning executive, Yoshimi Inaba, who spent years in the United States and was once considered a candidate to become Toyota’s president, the equivalent of chief executive.
If Toyota decides to reorganize, it would mark the first significant step by the incoming president, Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company founder Kiichiro Toyoda.
Toyoda takes charge in June, when Toyota holds its annual shareholders meeting.
That is also the time when a new organization could be announced, the people with knowledge of the plan said. They insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it.
The news was first reported Wednesday by The Detroit News. Toyota executives did not comment.
Farm Exports Fall Sharply
In Global Recession
Only a year ago, all the stars appeared to be aligned for American farm exports. China and other developing countries were fattening up growing herds of cattle on American corn, and they were importing record amounts of foods to meet the appetite of their expanding middle classes. A drought in Australia meant a shortage of wheat on world markets. The price of dairy products soared across the globe because of shortages.
Since then, all that has changed.
The developing countries are slowing their food imports, it is raining again in Australia, and the price of dairy products is slumping. A strengthening dollar in recent months has made U.S. farm exports less competitive.
“What a difference 12 months can make,” Joseph Glauber, chief economist of the Department of Agriculture, noted in congressional testimony last week. “We have seen prices for most commodities fall 40 to 50 percent from their midyear peaks. The global economic slump has cast a pall on most markets.”
The department recently predicted that farm exports, which account for about 20 percent of the value of farm production, would fall this year to $96 billion from $117 billion in 2008, roughly in line with the recent falloff of all American exports. But the decline is particularly drastic for corn and wheat, two staples of the farm economy, and government economists say the falloff could directly lead to a loss of 45,000 jobs.
The drop in farm exports has been overshadowed by other bad economic news because the United States farm economy is in relatively good shape. Land prices in farm country remain firm, prices of farm produce have declined but remain relatively strong by historical measures, and several years of strong farm prices have left farmers in good financial shape.