A demonstrator is detained by riot police during anti-austerity protests in Athens, June 29, 2011. (John Kolesidis/Reuters)

Greece passes crucial austerity vote

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou clinched enough votes to pass the first part of an austerity plan aimed at meeting European Union aid requirements and staving off default for his debt-laden nation.

Clouds of gas engulfed the square outside parliament as lawmakers voted on a package whose defeat could have led to the euro area’s first sovereign default. Greece needs to cover 6.6 billion euros of maturing bonds in August and government officials have said they may lack the money to pay wages and pensions by mid-July.

Riot officers and hooded youths with clubs have clashed over the past two days as crowds swelled to more than 20,000 and some protesters fought police, broke windows at a McDonald’s Corp. restaurant and burned two vans.

The rich are probably not suffering the same fate.

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