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News Wrap: U.S. Economy Dodges Blow as Longshoremen Settle Union Dispute

December 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: The U.S. economy has dodged a potentially crippling strike at ports up and down the East Coast and Gulf Coast, at least for now. The longshoremen’s union agreed today to extend its existing contract by another month.

That word came after the union and shipping lines worked out a deal on royalty payments for unloading containers. The contract extension gives the two sides time to resolve their remaining issues.

Wall Street finished the week with its fifth straight losing session. Stocks have been falling as concern mounts that Washington will fail to get a budget deal. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 158 points today to close at 12,938. The Nasdaq fell 25 points to close at 2,960. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq fell 2 percent.

Sectarian tensions flared across Iraq today, as tens of thousands of Sunnis staged mass protests against the Shiite-led government. There were rallies in Fallujah and Ramadi, where protests already had erupted earlier this week.

Today, Mosul, Tikrit and Samarra had demonstrations as well. Protesters took to the streets waving flags and signs. They chanted slogans demanding fair treatment from the Baghdad regime and the release of Sunni prisoners. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the demonstrations were not acceptable.

The government of China imposed tighter controls on Internet usage today. Now China’s 500 million Web users will have to provide their real names when they register for Internet service. And providers must delete any Web content deemed illegal, and report it to authorities.

Leading writers and bloggers insisted it’s a new way for China’s communist leaders to censor their critics.

ZHU RUIFENG, Chines blogger (through translator): Since the Internet came to China, the Chinese government has been repeatedly imposing restrictive measures, such as shielding, blocking and banning. It has even spent billions of dollars to build a firewall against overseas sites. They just don’t want to see any freedom of speech, which is provided by the constitution, because it will hurt their vested interest.

KWAME HOLMAN: The new curbs come in the wake of a series of online discussions that have helped expose corruption scandals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law today banning Americans from adopting Russian children. The move terminated more than 50 adoptions that already were under way. The measure came in reaction to a U.S. sanctions law targeting Russians accused of human rights abuses.

Former President George H.W. Bush was said to be alert and improving today. A family spokesman said he’s even singing with doctors and nurses. Mr. Bush is 88 years old. He’s been hospitalized in Houston with complications from bronchitis. This week, he was placed in intensive care, but in an e-mail yesterday, his chief of staff said the former president wants people to put the harps back in the closet.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.