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Anti-Wall Street protests spread to cities large and small

A loose-knit populist campaign that started on Wall Street three weeks ago has spread to dozens of cities across the country, with protesters camped out near Los Angeles City Hall, assembled before the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, and marching through downtown Boston to rally against corporate greed, unemployment, and the role of financial institutions in the economic crisis.

With little organization and a reliance on Facebook, Twitter and Google groups to share methods, the Occupy Wall Street campaign, as the prototype in New York is called, has tapped into a deep vein of anger, experts in social movements said, bringing longtime crusaders against globalization and professional anarchists together with younger people frustrated by poor job prospects.

“Rants based on discontents are the first stage of any movement,” said Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University. But he said it was unclear if the current protests would lead to a lasting movement, which would require the newly unleashed passions to be channeled into institutions and shaped into political goals.

—Erik Eckholm and Timothy Williams, The New York Times

More than a dozen states restrict access to voting booths

Since Republicans won control of many statehouses last November, more than a dozen states have passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification at polls, cutting back early voting periods or imposing new restrictions on voter registration drives.

With a presidential campaign swinging into high gear, the question being asked is how much of an impact all of these new laws will have on the 2012 race.

State officials, political parties, and voting experts have all said that the impact could be sizable. Now, a new study to be released Monday by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has tried to tally just how many voters stand to be effected.

The center, which has studied the new laws and opposed some of them in court and other venues, analyzed 19 laws that passed and two executive orders that were issued in 14 states this year, and concluded that they “could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”

—Michael Cooper, The New York Times

Companies to pass on more of health costs to workers

Companies next year will push more health care costs onto their workers, who may see an increase of nearly 11 percent in what they have deducted from their paychecks for health insurance, according to an annual study by Aon Hewitt, a large Chicago benefits consulting firm.

As companies struggle to control costs in a tough economy, the 2012 annual employee premiums are expected to jump on average 10.6 percent, to more than $2,300. That figure has nearly doubled since 2005, when workers at larger companies paid on average $1,192 annually per employee and paid about 17 percent of the company’s costs, according to Aon Hewitt data.

The employee share projected for next year is a contribution of 22 percent of the $10,475 employer cost of the health plan. This year, workers are paying 21.3 percent of the total cost, or $2,084 of the $9,792 total company-paid premium.

“The reality is that employers, particularly in this economy, are doing everything they can to get net company cost levels that they can budget for and afford,” said Jim Winkler, a managing principal with Aon Hewitt, a unit of the Aon Corp. “Employers are shifting costs to employees to be able to afford to offer benefits.”

—Bruce Japsen, The New York Times

New military chief faces economic challenges

WASHINGTON — After his Senate confirmation as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey knew he had some catching up to do before being sworn in last Friday as the nation’s highest-ranking officer and the principal military adviser to the president and secretary of defense.

The gap in his training was not the geopolitics of the Middle East, a perpetual source of American security concerns. Even before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Dempsey was among the few senior officers who had spent significant time immersed in Muslim culture, having served for several years as an adviser to Saudi Arabia’s security forces. Since 9/11, he has had two tours in Iraq and has been the acting commander of American forces across the Middle East and Central Asia.

—Thom Shanker, The New York Times

Greeks move to slash 30,000 public jobs

ATHENS, Greece — After marathon talks with foreign auditors, the Greek government said Sunday that it had reached a deal on how to slash its unwieldy public sector, by putting 30,000 workers on a scheme that would lead to early retirement for some and dismissal for others, in a bid to meet conditions set by foreign lenders for the release of crucial emergency loans.

The government also completed a draft budget for 2012, which is expected to be presented in Parliament on Monday and voted on by the end of October, and conceded that it would miss a deficit-reduction target of 7.6 percent of gross domestic product. The deficit is projected to equal 8.5 percent of GDP this year.

The deficit shortfall had been expected because of delays in the implementation of reforms and a deeper-than-expected recession, with the Greek economy forecast to contract by 5.5 percent this year.

—Niki Kitsantonis, The New York Times