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Nation & World Briefly

Italy speeds toward economic reforms and new government

ROME (AP) – Under pressure to control its dangerous debt, Italy sped a package of reforms toward approval Friday and prepared to hand its dysfunctional government over to a technocrat who Europe hopes can save the country from going broke. Financial markets around the world rallied in relief.

In its own step toward stability, Greece, which preceded Italy as the epicenter of the European debt crisis, installed a new prime minister. The Dow Jones industrial average in New York rose 2 percent, and markets in Britain, France and Germany posted similar gains.

A set of austerity measures cleared the Italian Senate by a vote of 156-12. The lower chamber of Parliament will vote Saturday, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he will step down once the reforms are passed.

In a sign of confidence from investors, Italy’s borrowing costs fell sharply. The yield on benchmark Italian 10-year bonds fell to 6.48 percent, safely below the crisis level of 7 percent reached earlier this week.

Greece, Ireland and Portugal all required international bailouts after their own borrowing rates passed 7 percent. The Italian economy would not be so easy to save. It totals $2 trillion, twice as much as the other three countries combined.

Helicopter crash kills Mexican president’s top Cabinet secretary

MEXICO CITY (AP) – The country’s top Cabinet secretary, Francisco Blake Mora, a key figure in Mexico’s battle with drug cartels, died Friday in a helicopter crash that President Felipe Calderon said was probably an accident.

Blake Mora, 45, was the second interior minister, the No. 2 post in the government, to die in an air crash during Calderon’s administration.

Despite some tendencies to suspect a hit on the top officials leading Calderon’s offensive against organized crime, the crash that killed Blake Mora and seven others may have had to do with bad weather. A Learjet that slammed into a Mexico City street in 2008, killing former interior secretary Juan Camilo Mourino and 15 others, was blamed on pilot error.

One of Blake Mora’s last postings on his Twitter account commemorated the loss of Mourino. “Today we remember Juan Camilo Mourino three years after his death, a person who was working to build a better Mexico,” he tweeted on Nov. 4.

Blake Mora’s death, while a blow to the government, is not likely to change policy or day-to-day operations.

Deaths at 3 Occupy camps in California, Vermont and Utah heighten pressure for shutdown

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Leaders across the country felt increasing pressure Friday to shut down Occupy encampments after two men died in shootings and another was found dead from a suspected combination of drugs and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a propane heater inside a tent.

Citing a strain on crime-fighting resources, police first pleaded with and then ordered Occupy Oakland protesters to leave their encampment at the City Hall plaza where a man was shot and killed late Thursday.

The Oakland Police Officer’s Association, which represents rank-and-file police, issued an open letter saying the camp is pulling officers away from crime-plagued neighborhoods.

“With last night’s homicide, in broad daylight, in the middle of rush hour, Frank Ogawa Plaza is no longer safe,” the letter said. “Please leave peacefully, with your heads held high, so we can get police officers back to work fighting crime in Oakland neighborhoods.”

Late in the afternoon, police officers acting at the direction of Mayor Jean Quan distributed fliers to protesters warning that the camp violates the law and must be disbanded immediately. The notices warned campers they would face arrest if tents and other materials were not removed, although the warnings did not say by when.

Dover mortuary whistle-blowers say they were shocked, disturbed by practices they witnessed

WYOMING, Del. (AP) – The body of the Marine lay on a gurney at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary, an arm bone jutting out from the torso.

Embalming technician James Parsons wondered how he would be able to get the stiffened arm back into position so that a uniform could be put on the corpse for a viewing. Parsons and a co-worker asked their supervisor, Quinton “Randy” Keel, what to do, and he told them to take the arm off, then left, according to Parsons.

“I’m thinking, ‘This is just wrong. We shouldn’t be doing this,”‘ Parsons recalled, contending that consent should have been obtained from the Marine’s family first.

Parsons refused to cut off the arm and instead stood and watched as his co-worker – a new employee still on probation – grabbed the saw and removed the limb, which was then placed alongside the Marine’s leg inside an undergarment that would be covered by his uniform.

After stewing for months about what happened, Parsons bypassed the military chain of command and reported the episode. He was one of three co-workers to complain about what they saw as callous or sloppy handling of remains at the main military mortuary for America’s war dead.