Union membership plummets — Government figures released Wednesday showed union membership declined from 11.8 percent to 11.3 percent of the workforce, another blow to a labor movement already stretched thin by battles in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and other states to curb bargaining rights and weaken union clout. Overall membership fell by about 400,000 workers to 14.4 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than half the loss, about 234,000, came from government workers, including teachers, firefighters and public administrators. But unions also saw losses in the private sector even as the economy created 1.8 million new jobs in 2012. That membership rate fell from 6.9 percent to 6.6 percent, a troubling sign for the future of organized labor, as job growth generally has taken place at nonunion companies.
Cameron offers Brits vote on EU — British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged Wednesday to offer citizens a vote on whether to leave the European Union if his party wins the next election, prompting rebukes from European leaders accusing the premier of putting the bloc’s future at risk over domestic politics. Cameron said that public disillusionment with the 27-nation EU is “at an all-time high." The fiercely independent island nation has never been an enthusiastic member of the bloc, seeing itself as culturally different and balking at having policy dictated by Brussels. But the drumbeat has grown over fears that new EU regulations to address the debt crisis will further restrict the country’s control over its own economic policies.
N. Korea threatens nuclear test — North Korea said Wednesday that its nuclear weapon program was no longer negotiable, and indicated that it might conduct its third nuclear test to retaliate against the U.N. Security Council’s tightening of sanctions against the isolated yet highly militarized country. The North’s comments came as the U.S. reaffirmed its policy of punishing North Korea for moving toward the development of long-range missiles tipped with a nuclear warhead, spearheading international backing for a unanimous Security Council resolution Tuesday condemning North Korea’s Dec. 12 rocket launch as a violation of earlier resolutions banning the country from any tests involving ballistic missile technology, and tightened existing sanctions.
Bomber kills 35 in Iraq — A crowded tent full of Turkmen funeral mourners in northern Iraq was transformed into a mass killing ground Wednesday by a suicide bombing that left at least 35 people dead and 117 wounded, regional officials and tribal leaders said. It came a day after an extended outbreak of sectarian shootings and bombings in the country that killed at least 24 Iraqis.
Adoptees leave Russia — Some of the Russian children caught in limbo by their country’s ban on adoptions by Americans have left for the United States with their new parents, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Wednesday. The confirmation to The Associated Press from press attaché Joseph Kruzich was the first official word that any of the 46 children had been allowed to leave Russia. Kruzich did not say exactly how many of the children had already left, but it was clear that all of these adoptions could now go forward, bringing huge relief to the children’s would-be parents in America.