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Nov. 21, 2012 at 5:00 PM   |   0 comments

Cairo announces Israel, Hamas truce

JERUSALEM, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Israel must use the cease-fire ending eight days of hostilities with Hamas to achieve a long term truce, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

At a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu thanked U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their efforts to achieve a truce and said Israel and the United States will work together to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza. Netanyahu also praised Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for his efforts to bring about a cease-fire, which was announced in Cairo.

"Above all I salute the people of Israel. We have a strong army. We are a strong people. I am proud to be your prime minister," he said.

Since Operation Pillar of Defense began, more than 1,400 rockets have been fired at Israel, 500 intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense systems, Barak said. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations operating in Gaza paid a heavy price.

"Over 130 terrorists were killed, 900 Palestinians injured ... [and] six [confirmed reports have said five] Israelis were killed," he said. Barak said Israel holds Hamas responsible to ensure the cease-fire holds.

As the press conference ended and the cease-fire went into effect, militants in Gaza fired rockets at a number of communities in southern Israel. Israel's Channel One said thousands of reservists will remain in the south and if calm is restored will be released gradually from duty. In addition soldiers were instructed to return fire only if their lives were endangered, the report said.

"It is the time to halt fire on both sides and end the bloodshed, and restore calm to the region," Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr said earlier at a Cairo news conference, flanked by Clinton.

"The rocket attacks [from Gaza] must end and a broader calm must return," Clinton added.

Shortly after the news was announced, a siren warning of an incoming rocket attack sounded in Beersheba, Israel. Initial reports said a home suffered a direct hit and the Iron Dome missile defense battery intercepted four others. Barrages of rockets hit Ashdod, Ashkelon and other communities in southern Israel.

In response Israel's air forces hit two rocket launching sites in Gaza, Israeli media said.

On Israel's northern border two mortar shells fired from Lebanon, exploded near Metulla. No injuries were reported, Israel's Channel 2 said.

Word of the truce came just hours after terrorists threw a bomb onto a bus in central Tel Aviv, injuring at least 21 people.


Turkey asks NATO for Patriot missiles

BRUSSELS, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Turkey Wednesday asked NATO to send Patriot anti-missiles to protect its border with Syria, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmusen said.

"I have received a letter from the Turkish government requesting the deployment of Patriot missiles," Rasmussen said in a statement. "Such a deployment would augment Turkey's air defense capabilities to defend the population and territory of Turkey."

Turkey stressed in its formal request the missile system, if approved, would be used only for defense and would not be part of any offensive operation or to enforce any no-fly zone if one is declared over Syria. Turkey shares a more than 500-mile border with Syria.

Rasmussen indicated the United States, Germany and the Netherlands had available Patriot missiles and it would be their decision whether to deploy them and for how long.

Patriot missiles previously were deployed in Turkey in 1991 and 2003.

He said the Patriot missile deployment "would contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO's south-eastern border. And would be a concrete demonstration of Alliance solidarity and resolve."

CNN said German likely would provide the U.S.-made missiles for Turkey, a NATO ally, if the deployment is approved by the NATO Council.


Boehner, Sessions seek spending pullbacks

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Key U.S. Republican congressional leaders say they want to trim Obamacare and head off other Democratic spending as the so-called fiscal cliff looms.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said in an opinion piece in The Cincinnati Enquirer Wednesday the healthcare reform law Congress approved in President Obama's first term must be part of the upcoming tax-and-spending negotiations.

"We can't afford it, and we can't afford to leave it intact," Boehner wrote. "That's why I've been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation's massive debt challenge."

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said in a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday the price tags on any spending proposals must be offset by real cuts elsewhere, The Hill reported.

Steps to offset proposals such as extending the payroll tax cut, changes in Medicare or extending jobless benefits must "be achieved through real savings, not gimmicks like counting baseline savings from future war spending that is not expected to occur, Sessions wrote.

He counseled lawmakers to hold to levels agreed to last year.

"Congress must reorganize and reprioritize these cuts, but we must not retreat from the overall amount Congress agreed to and that the president signed into law," he wrote.

Obama re-election campaign manager Jim Messina said campaign staff and technology could be used to put pressure on Congress to agree to the president's position.

"It would be very easy for supporters today to go and start asking people to call members of Congress," Messina said at a Washington event sponsored by Politico.

"I am sure you will see our supporters start doing that."

Messina said a decision had not been made, but if it were, the effort would include the re-election campaign's online organizing tool, called Dashboard.

"You could easily see people using Dashboard to say, 'OK, I want to talk about the choices ahead of us in the fiscal cliff [debate] and I want to start organizing my friends,'" he said.

"Dashboard would be very easy to start a group. We did over 350,000 events on Dashboard the last couple months of the campaign."

As part of his fiscal cliff proposal, Obama wants to let tax rates rise to 39.6 percent from 35 percent on taxable incomes of more than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

Ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for those wealthy people would raise about $440 billion in new revenue over 10 years, the White House estimates.


Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigns seat

CHICAGO, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., resigned Wednesday, just two weeks after being elected to an eighth full term in Congress.

A spokesman for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner's office confirmed Jackson, who has been hospitalized twice for bipolar disorder, had submitted his letter of resignation from the House.

"We have received the (resignation) letter," a spokesman in Boehner's office told The Washington Post.

"During this journey, I have made my share of mistakes," Jackson wrote in his letter. "I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities, and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone. None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right."

Jackson, 47, has been on medical leave from Congress since June and has been receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. After he left the clinic for the second time recently, media reports indicated a federal investigation of alleged misuse of campaign funds to pay for personal items had included his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, who reportedly receives $2,000 a month as a political consultant.

CLTV, a local cable news service, reported Jackson's father, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson Sr. said: "It has been a tough day," when asked to comment on his son's condition.

Jackson was reported in plea negotiations with federal prosecutors. The Chicago Sun-Times said Jackson hired attorney Dan Webb, a former federal prosecutor who is a noted criminal lawyer.

"For 17 years I have given 100 percent of my time, energy and life to public service," Jackson wrote. "However, over the past several months, as my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish.

"Against the recommendations of my doctors, I had hoped and tried to return to Washington and continue working on the issues that matter most to the people of the 2nd District. I know now that will not be possible.

"The constituents of the 2nd District deserve a full-time legislator in Washington, something I cannot be for the foreseeable future. My health issues and treatment regimen have been incompatible with service in the House of Representatives. Therefore, it is with great regret that I hereby resign as a member of the United States House of Representatives, effective today, in order to focus on restoring my health."

The resignation is the second in the heavily Democratic 2nd Congressional District. His predecessor, Mel Reynolds, was convicted of engaging in sex with a minor and other charges. Jackson won a special election to Congress in 1995 to replace Reynolds.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has five days to announce the timing of a special election to fill Jackson's vacant seat, the Chicago Tribune said.

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Obama pardons turkey at White House

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama pardoned a turkey Wednesday at the White House in Washington after the bird was chosen from two finalists by an online vote.

Cobbler, a turkey from Rockingham County, Va., was pardoned by the president at 2 p.m. Wednesday on the White House lawn after he was chosen for the honor by Facebook voters over Gobbler, also from Rockingham County.

More than 150 reporters and photographers and about 50 White House staffers gathered on the lawn to witness Obama give a short speech to pardon the fowl, which will live out the rest of its life with Gobbler at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate in Virginia.

The president's daughter, Sasha, gave the turkey a pet on his back feathers while her sister, Malia, declined to touch the bird.

The event continued a tradition of turkey pardoning started by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

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