WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday Republicans must agree to higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans as part of a plan to reduce the deficit.
Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Congress must also agree to extend the middle-class income tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses without delay.
"Over the last few weeks, there's been a lot of talk about deadlines we're facing on jobs and taxes and investments. But with so much noise and so many opinions flying around, it can be easy to lose sight of what this debate is really about. It's not about which political party comes out on top, or who wins or loses in Washington. It's about making smart decisions that will have a real impact on your lives and the lives of Americans all across the country," Obama said.
"Right now, middle-class tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. Time is running out. And there are two things that can happen.
"First, if Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1st. A typical middle-class family of four would get a $2,200 tax hike. That would be bad for families, it would be bad for businesses, and it would drag down our entire economy.
"Now, Congress can avoid all this by passing a law that prevents a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody's income. That means 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn't see their income taxes go up by a single dime. Even the wealthiest Americans would get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income. And families everywhere would enjoy some peace of mind."
Obama said the Senate already has acted and all eyes are on House Republicans, who so far have "put forward an unbalanced plan that actually lowers rates for the wealthiest Americans."
"If we want to protect the middle class, then the math just doesn't work," he said.
Sen. Rubio makes call for less government
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, in the weekly Republican media address, said Americans face a challenges finding jobs and working their way into the middle-class.
"Americans are struggling to find or keep middle class jobs for two reasons: because our economy is not creating enough of these jobs and because too many of our people don't have the education or skills required for the jobs that are being created," Rubio said.
To fix these problems, Rubio called for smaller government and tax code reform, ABC Radio News reported Saturday.
"We must reform our complicated, uncertain, job-killing tax code, by getting rid of unjustified loopholes. But our goal should be to generate new revenue by creating new taxpayers, not new taxes," Rubio said, adding, "A limited government can and must help solve these challenges."
Rubio also said the government needs to reform the education system to ensure that people coming out of school have the skills to earn middle-class jobs, saying, "we have to make sure that our people have the skills to do these new jobs."
Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, referenced his parents as an example of how anyone can make it into the middle class.
"Today, the journey my parents made from poor immigrants to middle class, it's harder than it was in their time because the world has changed. The economy has changed," Rubio said. "But whether or not the journey my parents made is still possible to all who are willing to work for it, well, that will decide whether America will decline or whether America will remain exceptional."
Taliban ambush NATO troops in Afghanistan
KHOST, Afghanistan, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Taliban militants in Afghanistan's Khost province ambushed a convoy of NATO-led coalition security forces and claimed to have killed nine NATO troops.
Local authorities confirmed that the incident took place, but have denied that there were any casualties, Khaama Press reported Saturday.
No other information on the incident was released.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force released a statement on Saturday that said: "Afghan and coalition security forces confirmed Dec. 8 that the insurgent leader, Numan, and several other insurgents were killed during a security operation in Nari district, Kunar province, Tuesday."
"During an operation in Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province Dec. 8 an Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader who distributed improvised explosive device materials." ISAF said following the statement adding that, "During the operation, the security force also detained one suspected insurgent and seized IED-making materials."
Former R Charlie Crist becomes a D
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Charlie Crist, elected governor of Florida as a Republican, became a Democrat during a White House Christmas reception Friday.
President Obama responded with a fist bump after Crist signed the papers, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Crist, an independent for more than two years, endorsed the president in this year's election over his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
"I've had friends for years tell me, 'You know Charlie, you're a Democrat and you don't know it,'" Crist told the newspaper.
Crist served in the state Legislature before winning the governorship in 2006. Trailing Marco Rubio in a Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, Crist became an independent in 2010. He ran behind Rubio and ahead of the Democratic candidate in the general election.
The Times said Crist is believed to be considering another run for governor in 2014. He would be likely to have competition in the Democratic primary.
Florida has been split between the two parties in recent years. Obama carried the state narrowly in November, Gov. Rick Scott and Rubio are both conservative Republicans while Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won a third term this year with 55 percent of the vote.
Fallout from radio station's royal prank
SYDNEY, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- A supermarket chain canceled its advertising Saturday on an Australian radio station involved in a prank on a London hospital.
The Coles chain announced its decision on its Facebook page after news spread that a nurse who accepted a call from two DJs was dead in an apparent suicide, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The DJs pretended to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles and were given information on the condition of Charles' daughter-in-law, the former Kate Middleton.
"We understand Australians are clearly angry and upset by what appear to be tragic consequences of the 2Day FM hospital prank," the Coles group said in its statement. "We have wanted to let you know we have instructed 2Day FM to remove all Coles group advertising from the station as soon as possible."
The Sydney radio station appeared to be facing a huge backlash. The Herald said 10,000 comments appeared on 2Day FM's Facebook page and thousands of comments were on Twitter.
"People are calling for the Australian DJs to be sacked. Sacked?! I'd like to see involuntary manslaughter charges against them," one man, Dave Turner, tweeted.
The head of Southern Cross Austereo, which owns 2Day FM, said the two DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, would be off the air until further notice.
Jacintha Saldanha, who was working an overnight shift at King Edward VII Hospital when the prank call was made, was found unconscious Friday morning in a staff hostel. She answered the phone because no receptionist was on duty and put it through to a nurse caring for the duchess of Cambridge, who was hospitalized because of acute morning sickness.
Australian regulators would not comment on possible sanctions. The station got into trouble in May after a presenter called a reporter a "fat slag" on the air.