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Nov. 24, 2012 at 10:28 PM
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Italian students rally peacefully

ROME, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Thousands of Italian students rallied peacefully Saturday to protest the government's education budget cuts and their poor prospects for employment.

Euronews reported the rallies, which followed last week's violent demonstrations, went ahead without police authorization. The Italian news agency ANSA said there were no reports of violence as the students, accompanied by some teachers, marched in Rome, Catania, Florence, Palermo, Pisa and elsewhere.

Some protesters carried self-made shields, but one student told Euronews, "These are not shields to fight in clashes, we're carrying them for effect. They have important messages on them that we'd like to send to everyone here."

Rome police Chief Giuseppe Pecoraro had warned people not to wear helmets during the marches. Some protesters responded Saturday by wearing colanders or bowls on their heads, the Italian news agency AGI reported.

AGI said police looked on impassively, despite verbal abuse by some marchers.

ANSA said the protesters proclaimed they were "fighting for our future." Among the government actions they oppose is a proposal to privatize schools.

"We are protesting against the cuts to the education budget that were carried out by both the Berlusconi and Monti governments," one unidentified demonstrator told Euronews.

Unemployment among young Italians is at 35 percent.

Obama, daughters venture out to shop

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 24 (UPI) -- President Obama and his daughters shopped at an independent neighborhood bookstore in Arlington, Va., on Small Business Saturday.

The president whipped out his BlackBerry to check his shopping list and told One More Page Books proprietor Eileen McGervey: "Preparation. That's how I shop."

The White House said Obama purchased 15 children's books he intends to give family members for Christmas. The book titles were not revealed.

The president's outing with Sasha and Malia took less than an hour, including time spent shaking hands with several store employees and several other people who gathered outside and the round-trip motorcade ride.

Asked by a reporter about the fiscal cliff facing the nation, Obama responded, "We're doing Christmas shopping. Happy Thanksgiving, folks."

4 workers hurt in State Department fire

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- A fire broke out in the U.S. State Department's headquarters in Washington Saturday, leaving four maintenance workers injured, a department spokeswoman said.

Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the work crew was engaged in "routine maintenance in the mechanical area of the main State Department building" when flames broke out about 11 a.m., Politico reported.

"The fire was quickly extinguished and the main building has been reopened for normal weekend operations," Nuland said.

WRC-TV, Washington, reported the fire was put out with handheld extinguishers before emergency personnel arrived.

District fire department spokesman Lon Walls told the TV station one worker had life-threatening injuries, two others had serious, but non-life-threatening injuries the fourth sustained a knee injury falling off a ladder.

WRC-TV said officials said the crews were working on an eighth-floor air duct when the fire broke out.

The Washington Post reported Walls said the fire "appears to be accidental," though it was still under investigation.

6 dead in Italy minivan-train crash

ROSSANO, Italy, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- A passenger train hit a minivan in Italy Saturday, killing six people, authorities said.

The victims, who were all in in the minivan, were thought to have been farm workers from Romania, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The train dragged the vehicle for several hundred yards before coming to a stop. The crash occurred at a private crossing about 5:15 p.m. between Rossano and Crosia.

The Italian news agency AGI reported about a dozen people aboard the train suffered minor injuries.

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