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Associated Press

Posted on January 2, 2013 at 12:02 AM

Away from the cliff at last? House to vote on Senate bill as GOP backs off demands for changes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Weary lawmakers in the House pushed at last toward a final congressional vote on legislation to avoid a national "fiscal cliff" of middle class tax increases and spending cuts, a New Year's Night culmination of a struggle that tested divided government to the limit.

Passage would send the measure to President Barack Obama for his signature and seal a political triumph less than two months after he won re-election while calling for higher taxes on the wealthy. The late-night House vote took place less than 24 hours after Senate action spilled over from New Year's Eve into the pre-dawn hours of 2013.

In addition to neutralizing middle class tax increases and spending cuts taking effect with the new year, the legislation raises tax rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. That was higher than the thresholds of $200,000 and $250,000 that Obama campaigned for. But remarkably, in a party that swore off tax increases two decades ago, dozens of Republicans supported the bill at both ends of the Capitol.

Supporters of the bill in both parties expressed regret that the bill was narrowly drawn, and fell far short of a sweeping plan that combined tax changes and spending cuts to reduce federal deficits. That proved to be a step too far in the two months since Obama called congressional leaders to the White House for a post-election stab at compromise.

Majority Republicans did their best to minimize the bill's tax increases, just as they abandoned their demand from earlier in the day to add spending cuts to the package.

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Even if US averts worst of 'fiscal cliff,' political fights loom over spending and debt limit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even if U.S. lawmakers avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, higher taxes and brinksmanship in Washington are likely to continue damaging the fragile economy well into 2013.

In the early hours of the new year, the Senate passed emergency legislation to prevent deep spending cuts and even bigger tax hikes from taking effect. But the measure ran into fierce opposition Tuesday from House Republicans, leaving unclear whether a final agreement could be reached before the current Congress ends Thursday.

The Senate version would raise taxes on individual incomes over $400,000 and household incomes over $450,000 and on the portion of estates that exceeds $5 million. House Republicans are reluctant to sign on to those tax hikes — which would deliver some $600 billion in revenue over 10 years — at least without more cuts in government spending.

The higher taxes on the wealthy would likely slow the economy a little bit. But a bigger drag would come from a tax hike Democrats and Republicans aren't even bothering to fight over: the end of a two-year Social Security tax cut. The so-called payroll tax is scheduled to bounce back up to 6.2 percent this year from 4.2 percent in 2011 and 2012, amounting to a $1,000 tax increase for someone earning $50,000 a year.

"It's a huge hit," says Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "It hits people whether they're making $10,000 or they're making $2 million. It doesn't matter who you are ... The lower your income, the more of your income you're (spending). So if you're taxes go up, it's going to come out of your spending." And that is bad news for an economy that is 70 percent consumer spending.

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10 Things to Know for Wednesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about Wednesday:

1. HOW HOUSE REPUBLICANS NAVIGATED THE CLIFF

By abandoning demands for spending cuts, the GOP cleared the way for a final, climactic vote on the budget bill.

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Pakistan: Gunmen kill 5 female teachers, 2 aid workers possibly in retaliation for polio work

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Gunmen on motorcycles sprayed a van carrying employees from a community center with bullets Tuesday, killing five female teachers and two aid workers, but sparing a child they took out of the vehicle before opening fire.

The director of the group that the seven worked for says he suspects it may have been the latest in a series of attacks targeting anti-polio efforts in Pakistan. Some militants oppose the vaccination campaigns, accusing health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and alleging the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.

Last month, nine people working on an anti-polio vaccination campaign were shot and killed. Four of those shootings were in the northwest where Tuesday's attack took place.

The attack was another reminder of the risks to women educators and aid workers from Islamic militants who oppose their work. It was in the same conservative province where militants shot and seriously wounded 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai, an outspoken young activist for girls' education, in October.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest shootings.

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Stampede after New Year's fireworks show kills 61, injures more than 200 in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — A crowd stampeded after leaving a New Year's fireworks show early Tuesday in Ivory Coast's main city, killing 61 people — many of them children and teenagers — and injuring more than 200, rescue workers said.

Thousands had gathered at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan's Plateau district to see the fireworks. It was only the second New Year's Eve fireworks display since peace returned to this West African nation after a bloody upheaval over presidential elections put the nation on the brink of civil war and turned this city into a battle zone.

With 2013 showing greater promise, people were in the mood to celebrate on New Year's Eve. Families brought children and they watched the rockets burst in the nighttime sky. But only an hour into the new year, as the crowds poured onto the Boulevard de la Republic after the show, something caused a stampede, said Col. Issa Sako of the fire department rescue team. How so many deaths occurred on the broad boulevard and how the tragedy started is likely to be the subject of an investigation.

Many of the younger ones in the crowd went down, trampled underfoot. Most of those killed were between 8 and 15 years old

"The flood of people leaving the stadium became a stampede which led to the deaths of more than 60 and injured more than 200," Sako told Ivory Coast state TV.

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Clashes shut down Aleppo airport in Syria, hit capital Damascus

BEIRUT (AP) — Clashes between government troops and rebels on Tuesday forced the international airport in Aleppo to stop all flights in and out of Syria's largest city, while fierce battles also raged in the suburbs of the capital Damascus.

The rebels have been making inroad in the civil war recently, capturing a string of military bases and posing a stiff challenge to the regime in Syria's two major cities — Damascus and Aleppo.

The opposition trying to overthrow authoritarian President Bashar Assad has been fighting for control of Aleppo since the summer, and they have captured large swathes of territory in Aleppo province west and north of the city up to the Turkish border.

In the past few weeks, the rebels have stepped up their attacks on airports around Aleppo province, trying to chip away at the government's air power, which poses the biggest obstacle to their advances.

The air force has been bombing and strafing rebel positions and attacking towns under opposition control for months. But the rebels have no planes or effective anti-aircraft weapons to counter the attacks.

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Doctors using blood thinners in effort to dissolve clot in Hillary Rodham Clinton's head

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to recover in a New York hospital where she's being treated for a blood clot in her head.

Her doctors say blood thinners are being used to dissolve the clot and they are confident she will make a full recovery. Clinton didn't suffer a stroke or neurological damage from the clot that formed after she suffered a concussion during a fainting spell at her home in early December, doctors said in a statement Monday.

Clinton, 65, was admitted to New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Sunday when the clot turned up on a follow-up exam on the concussion, Clinton spokesman Phillipe Reines said. The clot is located in the vein in the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear. She will be released once the medication dose for the blood thinners has been established, the doctors said.

In their statement, Dr. Lisa Bardack of the Mount Kisco Medical Group and Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi of George Washington University said Clinton was making excellent progress and was in good spirits.

Clinton's complication "certainly isn't the most common thing to happen after a concussion" and is one of the few types of blood clots in the skull or head that are treated with blood thinners, said Dr. Larry Goldstein, a neurologist who is director of Duke University's stroke center. He is not involved in Clinton's care.

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Sandy Hook parents, teachers and students brace for return to school routines

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Since escaping a gunman's rampage at their elementary school, the 8-year-old Connors triplets have suffered nightmares, jumped at noises and clung to their parents a little more than usual.

Now parents like David Connors are bracing to send their children back to school, nearly three weeks after the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. It won't be easy — for the parents or the children, who heard the gunshots that killed 20 of their classmates and six educators.

"I'm nervous about it," Connors said. "It's unchartered waters for us. I know it's going to be difficult."

Classes are starting Thursday at a repurposed school in the neighboring town of Monroe, where the students' desks have been taken along with backpacks and other belongings that were left behind in the chaos following the shooting on Dec. 14. Families have been coming in to see the new school, and an open house is scheduled for Wednesday.

An army of workers has been getting the school ready, painting, moving furniture and even raising the floors in the bathrooms of the former middle school so the smaller elementary school students can reach the toilets.

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Pa. Gov. Corbett poised to file federal lawsuit against NCAA over Penn State sanctions

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett said Tuesday he plans to sue the NCAA in federal court over stiff sanctions imposed against Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

The Republican governor scheduled a Wednesday news conference on the Penn State campus in State College to announce the filing in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.

A person associated with the university and knowledgeable about the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the lawsuit had not been filed, told The Associated Press that it is an antitrust action.

The NCAA sanctions, which were agreed to by the university in July, included a $60 million fine that would be used nationally to finance child abuse prevention grants. The sanctions also included a four-year bowl game ban for the university's marquee football program, reduced football scholarships and the forfeiture of 112 wins but didn't include a suspension of the football program, the so-called death penalty.

The governor's office announced the news conference late Tuesday afternoon. His spokesman did not respond to repeated calls and emails seeking to confirm a Sports Illustrated story that cited anonymous sources saying a lawsuit was imminent.

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Defense dominates: No. 8 Stanford holds off Wisconsin 20-14 in 99th Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Shayne Skov and Zach Ertz believe every game in Stanford's improbable football renaissance led the Cardinal to midfield at the Rose Bowl.

That's where Usua Amanam made the interception that stopped Wisconsin's final drive with 2:30 to play in a grind-it-out game. That's where Kevin Hogan grinned broadly as he took the final snap on Stanford's first Rose Bowl victory in 40 years.

And it's the spot where the once-struggling team from a school better known for brains than brawn raised the West Coast's most coveted trophy after a 20-14 victory over the Badgers on Tuesday night.

"There's a sense of accomplishment, because we got somewhere we hadn't been yet," said Skov, who made eight tackles while leading Stanford's second-half shutout. "If you looked at our goals at the beginning of the season, this was on top of the list, and we got it done. We're extremely satisfied."

Stepfan Taylor rushed for 89 yards and an early touchdown, while Hogan passed for 123 yards, but Stanford (12-2) won the 99th Rose Bowl with a shutdown effort by its defense. Although Stanford didn't score many style points against the Badgers, the Cardinal could celebrate because they didn't let Wisconsin score any points at all after halftime, holding the Badgers to 82 yards.

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