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Dec. 7, 2012 at 5:04 PM   |   0 comments

Biden: Bill could get done in 15 minutes

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Vice President Joe Biden said a fiscal cliff agreement could get done in 15 minutes if Republicans would allow tax rates to increase on income over $250,000.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, however, the administration is just wasting time.

Biden, at a lunch in Washington with middle class Americans, said although the economy is moving in the right direction, as indicated by the unemployment figures, "this is no time to add any additional burden for middle class people."

Biden said the administration is willing to negotiate tax rates although he would prefer they rise to Clinton-era levels for the wealthiest 2 percent of U.S. taxpayers.

Snapping his fingers, Biden said a deal could be worked out "like that" if the GOP would just acknowledge rates need to rise. He said it would take "15 minutes" for a bill to get done and said President Barack Obama likely would have him sprint up to Capitol Hill to get it and bring it back to the White House to be signed.

Boehner said Obama "wasted another week" and may be deliberately trying to "slow-walk" the country over the fiscal cliff – a combination of the scheduled expiration of current income tax rates and across-the-board federal spending mandated by federal legislation.

"Well, this isn't a progress report because there's no progress to report," Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a Friday news conference.


Supreme Court to take up same-sex marriage

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Friday agreed to review the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California's ban on same-sex marriage.

The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law in 1996, says federal benefits and considerations for married couples apply only to heterosexual unions. The Obama administration is enforcing the 1996 act but is one of the main challengers in court.

The part of the law under attack reads: "In determining the meaning of any act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

It has been declared unconstitutional in some jurisdictions but upheld in others.

California's Proposition 8 was adopted by voters in 2008, banning same-sex marriage in a bid to nullify court decisions granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.

An earlier, similar measure, Proposition 22, was overturned by a ruling from the California Supreme Court. For Prop 8, opponents went to federal court where a judge declared it unconstitutional. A three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed 2-1.

The petition to the Supreme Court filed by ProtectMarriage -- its sponsor is a state non-profit, California Renewal -- argues the appeals court misinterpreted Supreme Court precedent. It also argues the state has a compelling interest in limiting marriage to a woman and a man.

CBS said the arguments likely would be heard next March.


Protesters gather at presidential palace

CAIRO, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- As protesters prepared for a sit-in at the presidential palace, police and military forces surrounded supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, apparently in an effort to prevent them from getting near the palace, Ahram Online reported.

An al-Ahram website reported hundreds of Morsi opponents stormed a government office in Alexandria Friday in reaction to the killing of protesters Thursday by what they called "armed militias affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood." Armed men chased the protesters out of the building, the report said.

Egyptian health officials said 11 people were injured in Friday protests in Cairo, and in Zagazig, where Morsi supporters and opponents clashed near his home. Officials said police had cordoned off the area around Morsi's home, denying access to thousands of protesters.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the opposition National Salvation Front, Friday called on Morsi to withdraw the controversial decree and put off the Dec. 15 referendum.

"I ask President Morsi in the name of the Egyptian conscience to heed these two demands tonight. I am betting on president Morsi's patriotism," ElBaradei said in televised speech.

Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekki said Friday Morsi is willing to postpone a referendum on a new constitution, but only on condition "the political forces who demand the delay of the referendum must provide guarantees that there will not be appeals [against the delay] in courts."

Egyptian protesters said Friday Morsi's call for dialogue gave no sign he is willing to give ground and that he has threatened his opponents.


Pranked nurse possibly committed suicide

LONDON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- A nurse at the hospital where Kate Middleton was treated for morning sickness was found dead in a suspected suicide after she fell for a prank, officials said.

The nurse was found dead Friday morning at a residence near King Edward VII Hospital where she worked, The Independent reported.

Paramedics were sent to the scene but were unable to revive the woman. Scotland Yard said it is treating the death as a possible suicide.

On Tuesday, the nurse received a prank phone call from two Australian radio personalities who were impersonating Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.

The pranksters asked about Middleton's condition and the nurse passed the call along to a colleague who gave out private information on the duchess of Cambridge.

After the incident, John Lofthouse, chief executive at the King Edward VII Hospital, said: "This was a foolish prank call that we all deplore. We take patient confidentiality extremely seriously and we are now reviewing our telephone protocols."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the two pranksters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, would be off the air at 2Day FM until further notice.


Two safe after falling onto subway tracks

NEW YORK, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Two people survived falling onto the tracks of the New York City subway, witnesses said, days after a man was killed when pushed into the path of a train.

A man tumbled onto the tracks at Bowling Green Station in Manhattan's financial district Thursday night, and another man, attempting to pull him to safety, fell to the tracks as well, the New York Daily News reported Friday.

Both men scrambled to safety as a train entered the station, witness Margaret Besheer said.

"Everyone was panicking. I was standing, waiting for the Downtown 4 Train, and all of a sudden I hear gasping. It all happened so fast. Thank God this had a happy ending."

On Monday, Ki-Suck Han, 58, was struck and killed after he was pushed into the path of a moving train at Manhattan's 49th Street Station. Nareem Davis, 30, was arraigned Wednesday for second-degree murder in what apparently began as a train-platform altercation, the newspaper said.

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