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Nov. 14, 2012 at 4:59 PM   |   Comments

Obama: National security not harmed

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- President Obama said Wednesday he hasn't seen any evidence that the scandal that led to the resignation of CIA chief David Petraeus harmed U.S. security.

Obama, in his first news conference since his re-election, also called on Congress, as he has in the past, to extend tax cuts for the middle class as quickly as possible then settle into discussions on revising the tax code, entitlement reform and reducing the country's debt and deficit.

"We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy," Obama said. "I won't pretend figuring out everything else will be easy, but [I am] confident we can do it. We have to."

Concerning the controversy surrounding Petraeus, who resigned Friday after admitting he had an affair, Obama said, "I have no evidence at this point from what I've seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security."

Obama was visibly upset with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona for their withering criticism of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for her discussions about the deadly attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as information was still surfacing. McCain and Graham said they would do everything they could to block her from becoming secretary of state if Obama nominates her once Hillary Clinton steps down as she said she would.

On another issue, Obama said he expects an immigration reform bill would be introduced soon.

Concerning the pending fiscal cliff, Obama said Washington faces "a very clear deadline that requires us to make some big decisions on jobs, taxes and deficits by the end of the year. Both parties voted to set this deadline and I believe that both parties can work together to make these decisions in a balanced and responsible way."

Speaking about reforming the tax code, Obama said loopholes could be closed and there should be an examination of how the process of deductions and filling out tax returns could be easier and simpler.


GOP calls for select panel on Libya attack

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Several Republican senators Wednesday urged a congressional investigation of the Sept. 11 terror attack in Libya, separate from the administration's.

The administration has "no credibility" left to address the issue, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said while calling for a select committee to investigate.

The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three members of his staff.

"We will be introducing this afternoon a resolution that would establish such a select committee and we will urge the Senate leadership to act on it as soon as possible," McCain told a news conference in Washington. "While we await the findings and recommendations of the administration's internal review, it's essential for the Congress to conduct its own independent assessment."

McCain said there is "no credibility amongst most of us considering the administration and the numerous controversies and contradictions that have been involved in their handling of this issue."


Israeli assault in Gaza kills Hamas leader

GAZA, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Israel said strikes in Gaza Wednesday, including one in which a top Hamas official was killed, are part of a campaign against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

The assault, which Israel called Operation: Pillars of Defense, included airstrikes on 20 underground bunkers housing long-range launchers capable of striking Tel Aviv, as well as naval attacks on other targets in Gaza.

Hamas returned fire, launching dozens of rockets at southern Israel, and Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israel "committed a dangerous crime and broke all red lines" and said Israel "will regret and pay a high price" for the assault.

Israeli civil-defense officials cautioned the public to prepare for retaliatory rocket attacks from Gaza, The New York Times reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Israeli television the operation was necessary to put an end to rocket attacks on southern Israel.


Bombings kill at least 21 in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- A string of bomb attacks across Iraq Wednesday killed at least 21 people and wounded scores of others, officials say.

Iran's Press TV reported five people died and more than 30 were hurt when two car bombs and a roadside explosive device were detonated in Kirkuk.

The network said four others were killed and five wounded by a bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol in Hawijah.

Six people were killed and dozens injured in two car bombings in Baghdad, Press TV said, adding police sources said an Iraqi major general survived one of the attacks aimed at a convoy in which he was traveling.

Near Hill, other bombs went off near a marketplace, killing six people and injuring more than two dozen others, and local sources said 11 schoolgirls were hurt in a grenade attack near a secondary school in the city, Press TV said.


Treasury moves against drug cartel

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday it has frozen a reputed Guatemalan drug lord's family assets.

Waldemar Lorenzana Lima, the suspected drug trafficker, has used agricultural holdings to front for his cartel, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a release.

The decree freezes any assets the family may have under American jurisdiction, and prohibits American companies and individuals from doing business with the Lorenzana family.

"Treasury will continue to target major drug cartels wherever they are operating, including family organizations that work together to traffic narcotics," said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin. "Today's designation of Marta Julia and Ovaldino Lorenzana Cordon, members of one of Guatemala's most significant crime families, along with the Lorenzanas' business network, allows us to continue our efforts to dismantle transnational drug trafficking organizations operating in Guatemala."

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