Berlusconi survives vote
ROME — Premier Silvio Berlusconi won back-to-back confidence votes Tuesday in the Italian parliament, narrowly surviving one of the toughest fights of his political life. But violent protests greeted his victory, as rioters torched cars, smashed windows and clashed with police.
Riot police fired tear gas to try to disperse the crowds in Rome after earlier trying to cordon off the area around parliament. Clouds of white tear gas and orange flares engulfed some streets, shops full of Christmas goods hurriedly closed down and employees at one bank cowered in fear as waves of stone-throwing youths swept by.
Tensions inside parliament’s lower house had boiled over earlier in the day, as lawmakers pushed and shoved each other, forcing a brief suspension in the voting.
Ultimately, Berlusconi survived the lower house’s no-confidence motion by just three votes after a more comfortable victory in the Senate earlier in the day.
The outcome of the highly uncertain votes attested to Berlusconi’s uncanny ability to survive, even when nearly all indications pointed to a government collapse.
Boat carrying suspected asylum seekers crashes
SYDNEY, Australia — A boat carrying dozens of suspected asylum seekers capsized in heavy seas off the Australian coast Wednesday and many were feared dead, witnesses said.
Rescue efforts were under way and officials declined to give any immediate confirmation of casualties or deaths in the accident. The boat crashed into jagged rocks on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean where refugee hopefuls are detained.
Photographs taken at the scene and published on The West Australian newspaper’s website show the wooden boat crashing into the rocks. The images also show people floating in the water amongst the wreckage. It is unclear if they are alive or dead.
Christmas Island resident Phillip Stewart told Australia’s Sky News he saw several people in the water.
“The tragedy continued for some time and we witnessed people actually drowning,” Stewart said. “They were not able to get off the boat when it hit against the rocks. We did witness one person jumping off the flotsam and swimming to a naval rescue boat and was picked up.”