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Portugal, refusing bailout, faces key bond test

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates
© AP Photo/Armando Franca
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates addresses journalists Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011, at his official residence, the Sao Bento palace in Lisbon. Socrates called a news conference to announce that Portugal cut the 2010 budget deficit to below its target of 7.3 percent of gross domestic product, according to provisional data.
Portugal insists that it does not need an international bailout to solve its debt problems. It faces a bond auction Wednesday that could reveal the price of going it alone - and perhaps even add to the European financial crisis.

Investors have identified the debt-burdened country as the potential next victim of the crisis and have pushed its borrowing costs to barely sustainable levels by demanding higher premiums to lend it money.

Market tensions were eased slightly Tuesday after Japan, taking advantage of high interest rates and echoing a similar pledge by China, said it would help finance European bailout efforts.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates sought to soothe frayed nerves with evidence that his government, which has introduced pay cuts and tax hikes, is reducing its budget deficit. Preliminary data show last year's will be below the government target.

"The government is doing its job and is doing it well," Socrates told a news conference. "I'd like to stress again that ... Portugal won't request any financial help for the simple reason that it doesn't need it."

But reports have said Germany and France, Europe's two main financiers, are pushing Lisbon to accept assistance to keep the debt crisis from spreading to bigger countries that would be much costlier to rescue.

Stop

Iraq: Study Shows High Rate of Fallujah Birth Defects

Fallujah General Hospital
© Mozhgan Savabieasfahani
A doctor cares for children at Fallujah General Hospital. Doctors there have observed an elevated rate of birth defects. An study funded by an anti-war group and published Dec. 31 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health links the malformations to US warfare.

Is the U.S. war in Iraq behind an increase of severe birth defects in Fallujah?

That's the question raised by new research co-authored by an Ann Arbor resident and published in the International Journal of Environmental Health.

"Lots of babies are dying in Fallujah," said environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. "Those who don't die have a grim future. Their parents aren't able to care about them."

The study authors theorize that military assaults in Fallujah left a toxic footprint that could be continuing to harm families there, especially pregnant mothers and their babies, some of whom are being born with severe deformities and other problems.

Savabieasfahani, author of the 2009 book Pollution and Reproductive Damage, joined the international research team working on the study after she saw Fallujah General Hospital doctor Samir Allani on BBC news reports about the birth defects. Allani was interviewed by the BBC about birth defects and cancer in the Iraqi city following heavy U.S. assaults in 2004 aimed at stamping out out an insurgency.

The latest study, funded by The Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War, focuses on birth defects observed at the hospital since 2003. International media outlets, including the BBC World and others, have published reports on the Ann Arbor resident's research since the journal published the paper Dec. 31.

Footprints

US: John Dingell Runs Through Litany Of Violent Rhetoric On House Floor

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© C-SPAN
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)

Members of Congress have, by and large, stayed out of the partisan fray over violent rhetoric in the wake of the Arizona shooting spree. But there have been some exceptions. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) took the opportunity to muse that the government may be withholding information about the crime because Jared Loughner is a flag-hating Marxist liberal who might embarrass President Obama.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), by contrast, ran through a litany of now-infamous statements by high-profile politicians, leaving blank the names of people and issues under threat.

"Let me read some statements that I have seen to be pretty awful," he said on Wednesday.

Arrow Down

US: Housing Market Slips Into Depression Territory

As the economy revs back to life, with signs of hiring on the horizon, the housing market is being left behind like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.
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© AP
Macaulay Culkin

In the past few years, we've all been careful to choose our words carefully, not calling it a recession until it fit the technical definition and avoiding any inappropriate use of the "D" word - Depression.

Things were bad but the broader economy never reached Depression territory. The housing market, on the other hand, just crossed that threshold.

Igloo

US: D.C Considers Ticketing for Uncleared Sidewalks

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© Examiner File Photo
District property owners could soon be ticketed for not shoveling snow off the sidewalks around their land.

The D.C. Council is considering a bill that would empower the city to write tickets of at least $25 for residential property owners and at least $250 for businesses if they don't clear their sidewalks. They'd have eight hours from the time the snow stops to get the job done.

"Pedestrian safety should be a priority no matter what season it is," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who introduced the bill. "Every year, though, the District wakes up during winter and rediscovers that the current scheme for enforcing sidewalk clearing is impractical and does not work."

The city currently requires property owners to shovel within the eight-hour time frame. But if a property owner doesn't act, the city can clear the sidewalk and then sue the property owner for the cost. That's too costly and time consuming to be effective, officials said.

Syringe

Mexico: Drug-Related Killings Hit Record High

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© unk
Thousands of bodies have been uncovered in Mexico's ongoing drug wars
More than 34,000 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico since 2006 - nearly half of those in the last year alone, government officials have said.

Police in Mexico have found 18 bodies in a mass grave near Acapulco following a surge in drug violence.

The deaths have occurred in the four years since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on organised crime and cartels.

A total of 34,612 have died, with the number of deaths jumping sharply from 9,616 in 2009 to 15,273 in 2010.

Beaker

US: New Jersey Town To Vote On Middle School Drug Tests

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© (Photo/CBS 2)
Belvidere Elementary School
A proposal to conduct random drug tests of young students in one New Jersey town is raising some eyebrows.

Students at Belvidere Elementary School could be adding drug testing to their list of lessons when they move into middle school.

The Board of Education will vote Wednesday on a plan to randomly test sixth, seventh and eighth graders to see if they are under the influence of drugs. School administrators said they were confident the proposal would pass.

Elementary School Principal Sandra Szabocsik said school officials want to use the testing "as a deterrent."

"We're hoping that the students if they're at say a party or someone's house or just hanging out somewhere, that they'll say 'I don't want to get involved in drinking or using any drug because tomorrow could be a drug testing day,'" she told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.

The program is voluntary and both parents and students must consent. School officials said it was important to note that if a student tested positive, they would not be suspended or have the results sent to the police.

Bomb

'Our Savings Have Vanished - We've Lost Everything'

Dhaka crowd
© Reuters
Chanting investors accuse brokers of dishonesty at Dhaka's stock exchange
Angry investors take to streets as Dhaka's stock exchange crashes.

Police in Bangladesh used tear gas and water canons to disperse angry protests by crowds of small investors after a dramatic free-fall plunge on the country's stock market caused the authorities to suspend trading.

Hundreds of outraged investors took to the streets outside the stock exchange in the Motijheel neighbourhood of the nation's capital after the worst plunge in the country's history saw the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) fall by 660 points, or 9.25 per cent, in less than an hour.

Chanting slogans that accused brokers and traders of manipulating stock prices and of the government of failing to properly regulate the situation, the small-scale investors smashed up cars, burned tyres and ran loose until police stepped in to break them up. There were other protests in smaller cities and towns. Four journalists were reportedly beaten by police.

Last night, with trading due to restart later today in both Dhaka and the country's second city, Chittagong, Bangladesh's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, met with senior financial officials including the governor of the central bank, and ordered them to take steps to try and ease the crisis. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), after an emergency meeting with the central bank, said trading - which was halted yesterday after just an hour - could resume.

But the crisis that began on Sunday, when the DSE's bench mark Dhaka Stock Exchange general index (DGEN) fell by almost 8 per cent, has long been smouldering. Last month there were similar demonstrations to those yesterday when the market fell by around 7 per cent, triggering panic among investors. Since early December, the index - which had climbed by more than 80 per cent in 2010 - has fallen by 27 per cent.

Binoculars

BP Agent's Home Had Secret Room: Feds

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The agent is accused of harboring his undocumented father

Investigators who searched the Imperial Beach home of a U.S. Border Patrol agent said they found an undocumented man in a hidden room along with evidence of drug dealing.

According to the FBI, Marcos Gerardo Manzano Jr., 26, was arrested Monday at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station and stands accused of harboring illegal immigrants, including his father.

Around 6 a.m.Tuesday, a SWAT team raided Manzano's house in the 3600 block of Shooting Star Drive in San Ysidro and arrested suspected undocumented immigrant Jose Alfredo Garrido-Morena, also 26.

"It looked like a movie. It was a big scene," said neighbor Daniel Lazo. "Seems impossible. They were everywhere."

"They went inside every house," Lazo said. "We couldn't get out. It was crazy."

Ambulance

Bodies Doubled Up At Cook County Morgue

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© CBS
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Chicago - WBBM Newsradio 780 has learned that the cooler at the Cook County morgue is so crowded right now, bodies are doubled-up on some of the trays.

Why are there so many bodies?

"We had this huge upswing in deaths right at the end of the year, and with the holidays being on Saturdays, it really created a backlog because the funeral directors weren't coming in," Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Nancy Jones tells WBBM Newsradio 780′s Steve Miller.

Jones adds that more bodies could not go out because coffins were on back order.

But Jones says the coffins are now in, and a mass county burial is scheduled for next week.

"The cooler really isn't in bad shape right now," Jones said. "We do have a fair number of bodies, but it has had more bodies in it at other times."