In other news Tuesday, the U.S. reopened its embassy in Yemen after security concerns forced a two-day closure, and "rising threats and attacks" pushed the United Nations World Food Program to suspend aid to approximately 1 million people in southern Somalia.
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In Yemen, the American Embassy reopened after closing for two days under threat of attack. The embassy said the threat had passed after Yemeni forces killed two al-Qaida suspects on Monday. In all, the government sent thousands of troops into two provinces and the region around the capital, Sanaa, to go after militants. A government statement said security is good in Sanaa, and any threat to foreign embassies has abated.
The U.N.'s World Food Program has suspended operations in southern Somalia. A spokesman today cited rising attacks on aid workers and extortion demands by armed groups. He said it's virtually impossible to reach as many as one million Somalis. Much of the south is controlled by the Al-Shabab rebel group. Their spokesmen said today the World Food Program is — quote — "a spy agency" and will not be allowed back.
An arctic blast extended its reach today from the Eastern U.S. to the Deep South. Hard freeze warnings were issued all the way to the Florida Panhandle. Farmers in the region rushed to save strawberry crops and citrus groves. Meanwhile, parts of the Great Lakes and the Northeast were shoveling out of another record snowfall. Forecasters expect the bitter cold to stick around all week.
2009 will go down as the worst year for U.S. auto sales in nearly 30 years. Chrysler was hardest hit, with sales down 36 percent from 2008. General Motors was down 33 percent, and Ford was off 15 percent. The major Japanese brands were off as well. Ford and Chrysler did report sales gains in December, compared with November.
Wall Street marked time after Monday's big gains. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 12 points, to close at 10572. The Nasdaq rose a fraction of a point, to close at 2308.
The rise in health care spending in the U.S. slowed in 2008, by the most in nearly 50 years. Still, it grew faster than the nation's overall economy. A government study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found health spending topped $2 trillion. That works out to an average of about $7,700 for every American.