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UPI NewsTrack TopNews

  |   Nov. 28, 2012 at 5:00 PM
104 die in Syria fighting

DAMASCUS, Syria, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- A car bombing in southeast Damascus, killed at least 57 people and injured dozens more Wednesday, opposition activists reported.

The neighborhood, home to mostly Christian and Druze residents, is considered supportive of President Bashar Assad's government and has been targeted previously, The Washington Post reported.

The explosions occurred a day after rebel fighters seized two military bases in Syria, the latest in their capture of several key government military installations.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said it had documented the deaths of 104 people across Syria Wednesday, including 57 by the car bomb in the Jarbana neighborhood. A second car bomb and other fighting killed 76 people, including four children, in Damascus and its suburbs. Elsewhere, 10 died in Daraa, six each in Homs and Idlib, five in Aleppo and one in Dier al-Zoor.

Video of bloody streets and demolished cars at the explosion site in Jarbana was aired on state-run television and the official Syrian Arab News Agency blamed "terrorists" -- the characterization used by state media for opposition fighters -- for the attack.

The BBC reported no group has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

SANA reported two devices were detonated elsewhere in Damascus but only caused "minor material damage."

Elsewhere Wednesday, Syrian fighter jets attacked rebel positions in the western Damascus suburb of Darayya, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said.

The army also reportedly shelled Zabadani, northwest of the capital, the BBC said. The Syrian Revolution General Commission, an opposition network, said more than 50 shells rained on the town in a 30-minute period, injuring several people.


3 detained in Bangladesh factory fire

ASHULIA, Bangladesh, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Police have detained three mid-level managers they say may have locked doors to a Bangladesh garment factory during a fire that killed at least 112 people.

The Wall Street Journal said the three men were mid-level managers at Tazreen Fashions Ltd. The news site BDNews24.com identified the men as Tazreen's administrative officer Dulal Uddin, store in-charge Hamidul Islam Lavlu and security in-charge Al Amin.

The Journal said the three men are suspected of locking doors to the factory so workers could not escape though they have not been formally charged.

The mass deaths have sparked outrage in Bangladesh, the world's second-leading garment producer behind China.

Some 100,000 garment district workers took to the streets in Ashulia, the industrial suburb Dahka where Tazreen Fashions was located. Protesters clogged streets and threw stones but no major violence was reported, police said.

The Journal said local workers' advocates charge at least 500 people have died in recent years in factory fires and other incidents because profit-hungry owners refuse to implement changes to make their factories safer for employees.

Tazreen made clothes for the Walmart line Faded Glory and Enyce, the brand founded by rapper Sean Combs. Walmart has said it instructed the distributor who subcontracted with Tazreen not to use the factory due to safety concerns and was unaware the factory was still being used, The Journal said.


Obama begins campaign-like 'cliff' effort

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday attempted to up the pressure on Congress to resolve the so-called "fiscal cliff," saying immediate action is necessary.

The Bush-era tax cuts expire and massive spending cuts kick in Jan. 1 if Congress doesn't act to rein in the federal deficit.

Obama and Republicans disagree on how to approach the issue, Obama advocating an increase in income taxes on incomes above $250,000 coupled with spending cuts, while Republicans insist on not raising marginal tax rates on incomes exceeding $250,000.

Economists have predicted if no action is taken, the U.S. economy will fall back into recession next year.

Obama initiated a campaign-like effort to enlist the public in pressuring Congress, urging Americans to flock to Twitter and post under the "#My2K" hashtag, a reference to the $2,000 average annual increase in middle-class taxes if nothing is done.

Obama again urged the House to approve a Senate-passed measure that extends tax cuts on income of less than $250,000 to give lawmakers time to revise the tax code and budget after the first of the year.


Poll: Raise taxes on wealthy

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- A majority of Americans support hiking taxes on the wealthy to avoid steep budget cuts and tax increases dubbed the "fiscal cliff," a poll indicates.

Though less than the 60 percent majority overall that supports higher taxes on those making $250,000 or more, 40 percent of self-identified Republicans in the poll said they, too, support higher taxes on the wealthy. That figure could offer potential wiggle room for GOP lawmakers who have pledged not to raise taxes but will face heavy pressure to do so by President Barack Obama, who campaigned and won on the pledge to charge rich people more, ABC News said Wednesday.

In addition to a majority of Americans' belief on taxes, two-thirds of respondents opposed raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 as part of a fiscal cliff deal, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found.

Though Americans surveyed were largely in agreement on taxes for the wealthy and Medicare, there was a much greater split on the issue of eliminating tax deductions. By a 49 percent to 47 percent margin, respondents disagreed with the general proposition of eliminating tax deductions as a way to pay down the national debt.

The poll was conducted Nov. 21-25 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.


Ex-con, ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds in House bid

CHICAGO, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Former Rep. Mel Reynolds, D-Ill., who was convicted of sex-related charges and campaign fraud, Wednesday asked voters to send him back to Congress.

Reynolds, at a downtown news conference, announced he would be a candidate to succeed former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Illinois' sprawling 2nd Congressional District, which includes portions of Chicago's South Side and suburbs.

Jackson, 47, resigned last week while undergoing treatment for biopolar disorder amid reports he is under federal investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds. Jackson replaced Reynolds in a special election in 1995.

Flanked by red-and-white campaign signs reading: "re-elect Reynolds" and "Redemption," Reynolds, 60, told reporters his candidacy was not a joke.

"The fact of the matter is, no nobody's perfect," said the Harvard University graduate and former Rhodes scholar. He said voters should "look at the entire history of me."

Reynolds, a self-employed financial consultant who works with African investors in U.S. companies, acknowledged his "mistakes" but said he had paid his debt to society and his convictions "shouldn't be a life sentence."

"I made mistakes," he said. "I want to serve."

He served time in state prison for having sex with a teenage volunteer campaign worker and another 42 months for convictions on federal financial and campaign fraud charges.

As a convicted felon, Reynolds is barred from seeking state office, but he can run for Congress, where he served on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee during his two-year term.

In 2001, President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence to time served and he is not required to register as a sex offender, the Chicago Tribune said.


Powerball jackpot at $550 million

CHICAGO, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Lottery dreams helped boost the jackpot for Wednesday's Powerball drawing to a record $550 million, but the odds of winning remain 1-in-175 million.

The grand prize was increased from $500 million to $550 million as the pace of sales increased before the drawing. Powerball is played in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The new jackpot would be worth $360.2 million cash to a single winner, the lottery said on its website.

"Typically, 60 percent of sales occur the last day, "Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association told USA Today.

He estimated ticket sales would average 6.3 million a hour before the drawing at 10:59 p.m. EST.

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