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Dec. 11, 2012 at 12:14 PM   |   Comments

Unions, police, prep for vote in Michigan

LANSING, Mich., Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Thousands of protesters descended on Lansing, Mich., Tuesday as the Legislature prepared to vote on right-to-work legislation.

"We have heard reports of anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000. Either way, we'll be prepared for the max," Michigan State Police Capt. Herold Love said.

Protesters began arriving as early as 5 a.m. carrying supplies to help them stay warm during a day that started with chilly 22-degree weather, The Detroit News reported.

The battle lines for the day are crystal clear. The state's House and Senate passed three bills Thursday that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law that allows companies to hire non-union workers even if their company has been unionized.

Three school districts closed for the day as too many teachers had called in sick to attend the rally to keep classrooms staffed.


House GOP fundraise in New York

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A fundraiser for Republican lawmakers in New York has fueled Democrats' ire about the lack of House session days even though major issues need to be resolved.

Roll Call said GOP members left for the "Bright Lights and Broadway" trip to the Big Apple Friday morning aboard Amtrak in two private cars. The itinerary indicated members stayed at the luxury New York Palace hotel, home to the two-star Michelin-rated restaurant GILT, and went on a shopping trip to Bloomingdale's 30 minutes before the store opened – complete with a shopping pass and availability of a discount for qualifying purchases.

The itinerary obtained by Roll Call indicated that after a private reception, members and others could take in a Broadway show. On Sunday morning, participants could visit toy store FAO Schwarz and were offered a 45-minute tour, among other perks.

"Even members of Congress buy holiday gifts for their families this time of year. And yes, like every political committee we hold fundraising events in New York City," said Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which organized the tony fundraiser.

Bozek declined to answer questions about whether the registration fee of $575 -- which the registration form indicated paid for "transportation, a theater ticket, events and private shopping" -- paid for lodging or how many lawmakers went on the trip, Roll Call said.


Report: Syria rebels to get U.S. armed aid

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Washington and other Western and Arab powers plan to give air and naval support to Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime, a British newspaper reported.

High-level uniformed-services officers from the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates met privately in London a few weeks ago at the request of British Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss providing military training to the rebels and supporting them with air and naval power, The Independent reported Tuesday.

The countries concluded the 21-month-old civil war in Syria had reached a tipping point and countries supporting the opposition must help rebel fighters succeed in a final push to defeat President Bashar Assad, the newspaper said.

The Western nations are especially concerned about wanting to influence the political shape of the opposition the West hopes will replace Assad, the newspaper said.

In Washington, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday it sanctioned Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al-Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab, two senior members of the Syrian-based al-Nusrah Front for acting on behalf of al-Qaida in Iraq.

The State Department designated and sanctioned al-Nusrah Front Monday.

Also Tuesday, the Treasury Department sanctioned two armed militia groups operating under the control of the Syrian government, Jaysh al-Shabi and Shabiha, and two Shabiha commanders.


Virus sidelines Secretary Clinton

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ill with a virus, won't lead the U.S. delegation to the Friends of Syria meeting in Morocco Wednesday, a spokesman said.

Deputy Secretary William Burns will go to the meeting in Marrakesh in place of Clinton, who has a stomach virus, CNN reported.

"We will let you know when she shakes this bug and resumes a public schedule," State Department spokesman Philippe Reinnes said.

The Friends of Syria is an international diplomatic collective of countries and and entities that meets periodically to discuss the situation in Syria, where anti-government protesters have engaged in a bloody fight to try to oust President Bashar Assad since March 2011.


U.S. officials: Mission investigation slow

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. investigators said they identified some suspects involved in the attack on the U.S. mission in Libya, but the case has been slowed by Libyan authorities.

Three months ago, an assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Since then, the FBI has been investigating the incident with Libyan authorities, who are reluctant to move against Islamist extremist suspects, who belong to militias, officials told The New York Times.

Officials in Benghazi said it would difficult for their lightly armed, weak forces to go after powerful militia members.

Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the U.S. military's Africa Command, said Libya has identified some of the suspects in the attack, but "we don't yet have sufficient information to indict anyone. They're still collecting and building information.

"The Libyans clearly accept responsibility" for investigating the attack, Ham said, but "I have expressed to the Libyans that it hasn't proceeded as quickly as any of us would have liked."

A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said there is little the FBI can do to speed up the investigation because they need to respect Libya's sovereignty.

"When you deal with a foreign country, you have to play by their rules," the official said. "You can't just go around the world and conduct an independent investigation wherever it is happening."

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