In other news Wednesday, a Texas jury convicted former House Majority Leader Tom Delay on money-laundering charges. He now faces 5 years to life in prison.
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Americans earned more and spent more last month and unemployment filings fell last week. The latest batch of government data was released a day before the Thanksgiving holiday, and offered some hope that the U.S. economic picture is improving.
Still, the Commerce Department reported demand for new homes and long-lasting manufactured goods fell sharply in October. The improved numbers in the labor market sent stocks up on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 151 points to close at 11187. The Nasdaq rose 48 points to close at 2543.
In Ireland, the prime minister unveiled the toughest budget cuts in the country's history. Ireland will slash $20 billion over the next four years, so it can receive a bailout from the European Union. The move will cut thousands of public sector jobs and pension payments, while raising college tuition and taxes, among other things.
In Dublin, Prime Minister Brian Cowen acknowledged that, while the austerity measures will be tough, they are necessary.
BRIAN COWEN, prime minister, Ireland: I am hopeful for the future that this plan is another confidence-building measure, another signpost along the road towards national recovery, a journey upon which we have been embarked since this economic and financial crisis began.
Cost-cutting measures in Portugal led to a nationwide strike from labor unions today. The daylong demonstration paralyzed many public services, canceling flights and disrupting train and bus travel. It came as lawmakers are preparing to vote Friday on an austerity package that will raise taxes and cut public sector wages and welfare benefits.
In Britain, it was students who took to the streets to protest tuition hikes. That's one way the British government plans on cutting its debt, by tripling university fees.
We have a report from Juliet Bremner of Independent Television News.
A symbol of authority and, as such, the focus of today's student anger, this police van was surrounded and almost toppled in front of the treasury.
Deep in government territory, a handful of hooligans, some no more than schoolchildren, covered it in graffiti and then looted it. Several thousand students congregated in Central London, determined to voice their frustration at plans to make them pay more for university education. It was boisterous and initially peaceful.
URSULA ALVES, student:
It's not going to be easy for the other generations. Like, my brother is still in like (INAUDIBLE) school. He's not going to be able to pay the amount that they're asking, because this is ridiculous. I mean, you can't pay that much. It's basically the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
But once in Whitehall, the protesters found themselves contained in a police operation that looked very similar to the much-criticized policy of kettling used during the G20 riots. They prevented them spilling out into nearby streets.
The students are now effectively barricaded in here between two lines of police. Officers are at the ready in case things turn ugly, but up until now, it's been more noise than violence.
However, confrontation did occasionally turn ugly. Cans of drink were used as missiles, and two officers were injured, one with a suspected broken arm, the other with leg injuries. As darkness fell in London, bottles of water were handed out to hundreds still being held behind police lines. It was a cold, uncomfortable end to a day of protests that had again failed to remain peaceful.
Students also demonstrated in university cities across the country, including Bristol, Liverpool and Leeds.
A suicide bombing in Yemen left 17 people dead and more than 15 injured. The car bomb struck a convoy of Yemeni Shiites on their way to a religious ceremony about 100 miles outside the capital city. Yemeni officials suspect it was the work of al-Qaida. If confirmed, that would be the terrorist organization's first direct assault on the Shiite minority in Yemen.
Complete parliamentary election results from almost all of Afghanistan were finally certified today, more than two months after the vote. Ballots in 33 of 34 provinces were approved. But, in the eastern province of Ghazni, there were still problems, even after substantial investigations. Meanwhile, the Afghan attorney general launched a new fraud investigation into more claims of ballot manipulation.
Hope for finding survivors of last week's New Zealand coal mine blast came to an end today. A second massive gas explosion rocked the Pike River coal mine on the country's South Island. Twenty-nine miners have been trapped underground there for five days. Today, authorities alerted family members that, even if the workers survived the first blast, none would have made it through the second.
A jury in Texas convicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on money-laundering charges. DeLay was accused of helping funnel $190,000 in corporate campaign donations to Texas legislative races in 2002. That ultimately helped send more Republicans to Congress. He now faces five years to life in prison.
Those are some of the day's major stories.