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Dec. 13, 2012 at 9:56 PM   |   Comments

Obama, Boehner have "frank" discussion on "fiscal cliff"

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Thursday had a "frank" discussion on the "fiscal cliff," a Boehner spokesman said.

Their third-in person meeting on negotiations lasted for 50 minutes, CBS News reported.

"The president and speaker had a frank meeting in the Oval Office tonight," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement. "There will be no further readout of the meeting, but lines of communication remain open."

The White House and Republicans earlier traded insults over "fiscal cliff" negotiations Thursday, with the White House saying the GOP is into "fantasy economics."

Boehner earlier told reporters Obama is "unserious" about working out an agreement to avert the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and $500 billion in spending cuts that kick in Jan. 1.

As Obama walked across Pennsylvania Avenue to Blair House to attend a holiday party for the National Security Council, he would say only that the negotiations are "still a work in progress."

Boehner was scheduled to return home to Ohio for the weekend Friday.


Hamas rallies in West Bank

NABLUS, West Bank, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Hamas supporters rallied in the Fatah-ruled West Bank Thursday for the first time since the movement violently split in 2007 from Fatah, officials said.

The festival in Nablus marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas. Ma'an News Agency reported thousands rallied. The New York Times put the number at hundreds of boys and men marching through the ancient city's alleys.

The rally began at the al-Nasr Mosque in the Old City of Nablus, and the secretary-general of Fatah's revolutionary council, Amin Maqboul, Nablus Gov. Jibrin al-Bakri and other Fatah officials joined the assemblage, Ma'an reported.

The head of a coalition of independent leaders, Khalif Assaf, said the festival marked the beginning of the end of national division. Hamas holds power in Gaza.

Waving green Hamas flags, demonstrators chanted: "From Gaza to the West Bank, our unity is honorable, a national reconciliation, Fatah, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine," Ma'an reported.

The Times said demonstrators shouted slogans about Palestinian missile attacks on Israel -- "Qassam, repeat it, Tel Aviv, destroy it," and "Qassam, repeat it, hit Haifa this time."


Chavez suffers complications

HAVANA, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who underwent cancer surgery in Cuba, suffered complications but is recovering, the information minister said Thursday.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Chavez suffered internal bleeding but it was brought under control, CNN International reported.

"This process of recuperation ... will require a prudent time, as a result of the complexity of the surgical procedure, and also because of complications that came up in the surgery," Villegas said in a televised address.

Chavez underwent six hours of surgery Tuesday and his condition raised questions about whether he would be well enough to attend his inauguration Jan. 10.

"It would be irresponsible to hide the delicacy of the current moment and the coming days," Villegas said Wednesday in a posting on the ministry's website.

Chavez has designated Vice President Nicolas Maduro to succeed him if "something were to happen that would incapacitate me."


Marine gets 4 years for rape

OKINAWA, Japan, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- A U.S. Marine was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday for raping a woman in Okinawa, Japan.

Cpl. Iian Christopher Tarver, 21, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the woman in the early hours on Aug. 18, Stars and Stripes reported.

Before the attack, Tarver was out drinking with other Marines and tried to contact his Japanese girlfriend for sex, a Japanese court heard. When Tarver was unable to reach his girlfriend, he grabbed the victim, dragged her to two different locations and forced her to perform oral sex.

Prosecutors requested the four-year sentence, calling the assault a vicious crime.

"The defendant committed the crime only to satisfy his lust, thus there is no grounds for extenuating circumstances," prosecutors said.

Yuji Fujita, Tarver's attorney, sought leniency, alleging that the attack was not premeditated.

"For a foreigner like you, it might be difficult to serve in a Japanese prison, but we expect you to reflect on what you have done," Chief Judge Hideyuki Suzuki said.

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