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Dec. 1, 2012 at 8:51 AM   |   Comments

Obama: Clock is ticking on 'fiscal cliff'

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- President Obama said Saturday Congress must pass middle-class tax cuts to provide certainty for families and businesses as the holidays and New Year approach.

Delivering his weekly radio and Internet address from the factory floor of a toy business in Hatfield, Pa., Obama said the "clock is ticking" on important decisions Congress must make that will affect businesses and families across the country.

"The most pressing decision has to do with your taxes. See, at the end of the year, middle-class tax cuts are set to expire. And there are two things that can happen.

"First, if Congress does nothing, every family will see their income taxes automatically go up at the beginning of next year. A typical middle-class family of four will see their income taxes rise by $2,200. We can't let that happen. Our families can't afford it, and neither can our economy," the president said.

"The second option is better. Right now, Congress can pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody's income. Everybody. That means that 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn't see their income taxes go up at all. And even the wealthiest Americans would get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their incomes."

Obama said if Congress does that now it will give families and business a sense of security about what to expect down the road and give the government "more time to work out a plan to bring down our deficits in a balanced way -- including by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, so we can still invest in the things that make our nation strong, like education and research."

"So let's begin by doing what we all agree on. Both parties say we should keep middle-class taxes low. The Senate has already passed a bill to keep income taxes from going up on middle-class families. Democrats in the House are ready to do the same thing. And if we can just get a few House Republicans on board, I'll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way.

The president said it's "unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans. And if you agree with me, then I could use your help. Let your congressman know what $2,000 means to you. Give them a call. Write them an email. Or tweet them using the hashtag "My2K."


Egypt: Pro-Morsi demonstrators rally

CAIRO, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Political sentiment in Egypt took a swing Saturday as thousands rallied in support of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian media reported.

Protesters gained international headlines when Morsi announced on Nov. 22 he was assuming absolute power until a new constitution was approved by parliament.

Countering days of protests by pro-democracy demonstrators, thousands of Islamist supporters rallied in Cairo and Alexandria to cheer Morsi, the Middle East News Agency reported.

The Morsi supporters avoided Cairo's central Tahrir Square, the hub of anti-government protests and there were no reports of clashes or arrests.

Friday, the Egyptian parliament passed a draft of a new constitution which the country's top judges have opposed, the BBC said.

Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood that espouses Sharia [Islamic law] and shuns Western values.

At the Cairo rally, Mahmoud Saleh, 58, told Ahram Online pro-Morsi supporters were sincere.

"No one here is smoking hash -- no one here is being paid like those in Tahrir square," he said.


New evacuations after N.J. derailment

PAULSBORO, N.J., Dec. 1 (UPI) -- New evacuations were ordered Friday near a train derailment in southern New Jersey involving tanker cars filled with toxic chemicals, emergency officials said.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Drew Madjeska said people living within 12 blocks of the bridge over Mantua Creek in Paulsboro might be out of their homes for several days, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. About 500 people were affected.

Several cars on the long freight train derailed at about 7:15 a.m. when a bridge over the creek collapsed. Four tanker cars carrying vinyl chloride went into the water, rupturing one of them.

Assistant Paulsboro Fire Chief Gary Stevenson said about half of the vinyl chloride remains in the tanker and water could be leaking in. The slushy material turns into a gas if mixed with water.

Stevenson said air tests showed "spiking" levels of vinyl chloride in late afternoon. Earlier in the day, environmental officials had suggested any air problems would be short-lived because the gas dissipates quickly.

The bridge, near where Mantua Creek joins the Delaware a few miles downriver from Philadelphia and Camden, N.J., was repaired after a 2009 collapse. That collapse spilled rail cars loaded with coal into the creek.


British appeals court frees army sergeant

LONDON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- A British court has freed a sergeant in the elite Special Air Service who was sentenced to 18 months for bringing a weapon home from Iraq.

After the Court of Appeal suspended his sentence Thursday, Sgt. Danny Nightingale thanked his wife, Sally, The Daily Telegraph reported. He held his two young daughters as he spoke to reporters.

"She has done wonders," he said. "I think common sense prevailed really and also the amount of support that has been shown by everyone. Sally is a hero in this, along with the public."

Nightingale, who has served in the British army for 17 years, entered a guilty plea to possession of an illegal weapon and ammunition. He had expected to receive a non-custodial sentence.

After he was jailed in a military detention center, Sally Nightingale organized a petition drive and gathered more than 100,000 signatures. She also made a direct appeal to Prime Minister David Cameron.

The appeals court reduced the sentence to 12 months suspended and allowed Nightingale to appeal to reverse his conviction.

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