In other news Wednesday, faulty airbags pushed carmaker Honda to add 437,000 vehicles to its 15-month-old global recall, and Ben Bernanke outlined plans to unwind the Federal Reserve's crisis policies.
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Honda is the latest Japanese automaker to announce a large recall. The company today added 437,000 vehicles to a global recall for air bags that can deploy with too much force. Affected models included 2001 and 2002 Accord sedans, Civic compacts, Odyssey minivans, and some CR-Vs, and some 2002 Acura T.L. sedans. Honda has now recalled nearly one million vehicles for the air bag problem since 2008.
The Federal Reserve now has plans for ending its huge economic stimulus efforts by raising interest rates. Chairman Ben Bernanke outlined the effort in written testimony for a congressional committee. Bernanke said the economy still needs an easy-money policy for now, but he added, "At some point, the Federal Reserve will need to tighten financial conditions."
The talk of higher rates kept Wall Street at bay. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 20 points to close at 10038. The Nasdaq fell three points to close below 2148.
Thousands of workers in Greece staged a national strike today, protesting a government plan to freeze salaries and cut bonuses. The 24-hour strike closed schools and brought air travel to a halt.
We have a report from John Sparks of Independent Television News.
The people of Greece face a financial crisis that can't be ignored or postponed or talked away. Fixing it, however, won't be easy. And the public sector unions, who staged a massive 24-hour strike today, want no part of the government's new austerity plan.
"We won't collaborate with the government's reforms," said this union leader. "They're a shameful attack on public sector workers."
Greece now a test case for other indebted states — its new socialist government plans swingeing budget cuts, nearly 10 percent of GDP in three years. And for many here on the streets of Athens today, it is not acceptable.
"The capitalist government has declared war on the working classes, and we will respond with warlike measures," said this communist M.P.
The government is marching to a different beat. It wants to raise the retirement age by two years, slash public sector pay, and it's introduced a slew of new taxes.
European Union leaders will address Greece's debt crisis at a summit tomorrow in Brussels.
The death toll from a series of avalanches in Afghanistan kept climbing today. Authorities said search-and-rescue teams have recovered at least 166 bodies from snowbound vehicles on the Salang Pass. Helicopters ferried out more than 2,500 survivors, but hundreds of cars were still trapped in a two-mile-long tunnel.
Across the border in Pakistan, a suicide bomber attacked a police patrol vehicle in the Northwest, killing at least 17 people. It happened on the main highway in the Khyber tribal area. Most of the victims were policemen. Some 15 others were wounded.
The U.S. today announced new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. The penalties affect four Iranian companies linked to the elite Revolutionary Guard. President Obama had promised a significant regime of sanctions after Iran moved this week to begin enriching uranium at a higher level. But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remained defiant today of Western pressure.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iranian president (through translator): In the views of the world's powers, economic, scientific and technological progress must only be monopolized by a few, and others do not have the right to enter the arena of science and modern technology.
Amid the nuclear standoff, Iran will mark the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution tomorrow.
The government of Iraq has ordered about 250 current and former employees of the company formerly known as Blackwater Security to leave the country. They were told today to get out within seven days or have their visas revoked. The order came after an American judge dismissed criminal charges against five Blackwater guards. Those men were accused in the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in 2007.
A rare earthquake struck northern Illinois today. The pre-dawn tremor was centered 45 miles northwest of Chicago, but was felt as far away as Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The U.S Geological Survey reported it had a magnitude 3.8. There was no word of damage or injuries, but the shaking tossed people out of bed and set off alarms.
Former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson has died at a Dallas hospital. He suffered a heart attack. Wilson served in the U.S. House for 23 years. In the 1980s, he was instrumental in helping provide weapons to Afghan fighters who resisted Soviet occupation. His story was made into a movie in 2007, starring Tom Hanks as the congressman.
Charlie Wilson was 76 years old.