HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama and labor leaders have reached agreement on taxing high-cost health plans. It had been a key sticking point toward passing a final health care reform bill. The head of the AFL-CIO announced the deal today. He said collective bargaining agreements would be exempt from the tax until 2018. Up to now, the unions opposed any tax on the so-called Cadillac plans they negotiate with employers.
In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber killed at least 20 people, in the deadliest attack on civilians in more than three months. It happened in the Uruzgan Province. Police said the intended target may have been a meeting of NATO and local officials. Instead, the bomber blew himself up before reaching the meeting site.
Across that border, a U.S. missile strike apparently missed killing the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The attack, by a drone aircraft, did kill 12 people, but Pakistani intelligence officials said Hakimullah Mehsud, the militant chief, was not among the victims. This was the eighth drone attack in the last two weeks in Pakistan.
China today warned all foreign Internet companies to obey Chinese law. It was Beijing’s first response, after Google threatened to stop censoring search results inside China. The company also threatened to pull out of the country altogether. Google complained of sophisticated attacks on e-mail accounts for human rights activists. The foreign ministry said today China bars all e-mail hacking.
The U.S. economy has turned out disappointing new numbers. Retail sales fell in December. And first-time claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected. But Wall Street paid more attention to a rise in business inventories, which could signal new confidence.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 29 points to close at 10,710. The Nasdaq rose more than eight points to close at 2,316.