Berlusconi Wins Confidence Votes : The Two-Way Berlusconi confidence vote; Bangladesh fire; Holbrooke honored; southern crop freeze
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Berlusconi Wins Confidence Votes

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reacts after delivering an address to the Italian Senate on December 13, 2010. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty hide caption

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Italy's senate passed its vote of confidence in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi 162-135, according to the Associated Press. Today's second vote in Italy's lower house of parliament is his crucial test. Even if Berlusconi survives, Stefan Faris writes in Time he'll emerge damaged:

The parliamentary wrestling match follows a long autumn of embarrassing revelations, from allegations of "bunga-bunga" sex parties at Berlusconi's residences to accusations of governmental neglect over the crumbling of ancient Pompeii to intimations in the WikiLeaks cables that Berlusconi may have personally profited from secret deals with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

If Berlusconi loses the parliamentary confidence vote, Bloomberg reports Italian voters could re-elect his coalition.

Update at 7:45 a.m. ET. The AP just reported that "in the second and most dramatic of Tuesday's votes, Berlusconi survived a no-confidence motion in the lower house by three votes." It adds that "voting was briefly interrupted after scuffles broke out during the tense session."

We've also updated the headline atop this post.

President Obama shakes hands with Ambassador Holbrooke on Jan. 22, 2009. SAUL LOEB/Getty hide caption

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The AP says at least 20 people are dead with as many as 100 people injured in a garment factory near Dhaka. Reuters says some people were hurt as workers rushed for safety, trampling others in the crowd. Bangladesh online site says more people may be trapped in the building. This week, Time reported the violent clashes between Bangladeshi police and garment workers demanding better pay for the clothing they make for H&M, Walmart, JC Penny and others. Four people died.


Via the State Department's Twitter feed:

BarackObama Deeply saddened by the passing of Richard Holbrooke, a true giant of foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer and more respected.

Todd Spangler checks on a ground cover used to protect plants from below freezing temperatures at Kaywest Nursery in Apopka, Fla., Monday, Dec. 13, 2010. John Raoux/AP hide caption

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John Raoux/AP

No word yet on funeral details.


NPR's Greg Allen tells Newscast that Florida farmers are covering vegetables and flooding orange groves to keep crops warm. It's the second time in a week they've had to do this. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has declared a state of emergency, letting growers harvest oranges early to beat the freeze. The AP reports some farmers are trying helicopters, hoping the rotating blades will fan warm air toward the crops. Bloomberg reports OJ futures jumped to their highest price since May, 2007: juice prices have risen nearly a third just this year on bad weather fears.