World Briefs: Eurozone falls into recession

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FRANFURT, Germany -- The eurozone is back in a recession, its first in three years, as gross domestic product for the debt-plagued 17-nation bloc contracted 0.1 percent in the third quarter from the earlier quarter.

In the second quarter, the currency collective tightened 0.2 percent, according to the official European Union statistics agency, Eurostat. Two consecutive quarterly slips make a recession.

Growth in core countries such as Germany and France couldn't counteract the plunges in long-struggling, austerity-bound nations such as Spain and Italy. Portugal took an especially nasty 0.8 percent dive.

Spain halts some evictions

MADRID -- Spain approved a two-year suspension of evictions Thursday for some needy homeowners unable to pay their mortgages, but activists said the government failed to address the larger issue of how those who give up their homes may still remain indebted, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

Evictions have suddenly become one of the most sensitive topics in Spain's financial drama, and government officials acted less than a week after a Spanish woman facing eviction killed herself by jumping from an apartment balcony. They are trying to reverse or at least delay a trend that has seen more than 371,000 mortgage eviction orders issued since the financial crisis hit the country in 2008.

Myanmar frees prisoners

NEW DELHI -- In an apparent goodwill gesture days before a visit by President Barack Obama, Myanmar's president Thursday released 452 prisoners. It wasn't immediately clear, however, how many had been jailed for their political views and how many were common criminals.

According to the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper, President Thein Sein ordered the amnesty "on humanitarian grounds" to spur friendship with neighboring countries.

By some counts, Myanmar, also known as Burma, held an estimated 300 political prisoners before the latest amnesty, down from as many as 2,000 a year ago. A September release of 500 prisoners, including several dozen political dissidents, was meant to please the U.S. as well, human rights group say, timed just before Mr. Thein Sein visited the United Sates.

Wal-Mart bribery probe

Wal-Mart disclosed Thursday that it has expanded an internal investigation into bribery accusations in Mexico to Brazil, China and India.

The company acknowledged the expanded inquiry in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that accompanied its third-quarter financial results, which showed lower sales than analysts had expected.

Wal-Mart had previously reported that the audit committee of its board was examining possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Mexico.

Cuba hints at deal

Havana has offered a "draft agenda" for U.S.-Cuba negotiations that largely repeats its years-old positions but almost directly offers to swap American Alan Gross for five Cuban spies..

President Barack Obama has lifted nearly all limits on Cuban-American travel and remittances to the island. But his administration repeatedly has said that more significant improvements in bilateral relations can come only after Cuba frees Mr. Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor serving a 15-year prison sentence.

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