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News Wrap: Florida Judge Rules Health Reform Law Unconstitutional

January 31, 2011 at 6:13 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A federal judge in Florida has declared the national health-care reform law unconstitutional. The decision today came in a lawsuit by 26 states. They challenged the mandate that most Americans must buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

So far two federal courts have ruled against the mandate. Two others have upheld it. The issue is expected to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Salt was the focus of new federal dietary guidelines today. They called for roughly half the U.S. population to cut daily sodium intake to no more than half a teaspoon. For the first time, the study focused on groups most at risk for high-blood pressure due to sodium intake. They include African-Americans, pregnant women and people with hypertension, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Wall Street rallied as energy companies led the way. ExxonMobil reported its strongest profits since 2008. Overall, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 68 points to close at 11,891. The Nasdaq rose 13 points to close at 2,700. And worries about Egypt sent oil prices sharply higher again to well over $92 a barrel. They’re up 8 percent since Friday.

A roadside bombing killed a NATO soldier in Afghanistan today. There was no immediate word on the trooper’s nationality, but more than 20 Americans have died in Afghanistan so far this month. In all, 31 NATO troops have been killed since the new year began.

In Pakistan, a U.S. official attached to the American Embassy remained in custody in the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis in Lahore. Fifteen thousand people protested there on Sunday, waving flags and chanting demands that the man remain in custody. The U.S. Embassy said he acted in self-defense and has diplomatic immunity. The Pakistani government was unswayed and said it would leave the final decision to its courts.

The U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, will step down. The former Utah governor is expected to explore a possible Republican presidential bid. White House officials confirmed today that Huntsman will leave his diplomatic posting in the next months. He was appointed by ambassador — he was appointed ambassador by President Obama in 2009.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.