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Dec. 17, 2012 at 7:59 AM   |   Comments

Obama: 'These tragedies must end'

NEWTOWN, Conn., Dec. 17 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama vowed to "use whatever power this office holds" to stop massacres like the one in Newtown, Conn., as that town prepared to bury its dead.

"No single law, no set of laws, can eliminate evil from the world -- but that can't be an excuse for inaction," Obama told a multifaith memorial service at Newtown High School, near the elementary school where 20 young children and six adult staff members were killed Friday by 20-year-old Adam Lanza after he killed his mother at their home. Lanza then killed himself.

"Surely, we can do better than this," he told the packed auditorium in an address carried live on national television.

"In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," Obama said.

"Because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine," he said. "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"

He added: "We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change."

Obama concluded his 19-minute remarks with a biblical reference.

"'Let the little children come to me,' Jesus said, 'and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven,'" Obama said, citing Matthew 19:14 in the New Testament.

He then slowly read the names of the children killed at the elementary school.


Boehner offers to delay debt-limit fight

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- House Speaker John Boehner offered to delay any U.S. debt-limit fight for a year, people in both parties familiar with the talks told The Washington Post.

The Ohio Republican also made an offer to President Barack Obama in a phone call Friday to let tax rates rise on incomes over $1 million, the Post, The New York Times and other news organizations reported.

Obama has insisted on higher tax rates on incomes above $250,000. He also wants a deal that address the $16.4 trillion debt limit.

The White House rejected Boehner's two-pronged offer, saying it would raise too little money to make a big-enough dent in the budget deficit, a Democrat familiar with the talks told the Post.

It was also rejected because it made no mention of extending emergency unemployment benefits into the new year, the Democrat told the newspaper.

But despite the rejection, the offer was viewed as a breakthrough, the Democrat said.


Blast occurs in Lebanese village

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- A large explosion in a village in southern Lebanon was caused by a rocket from the 2006 Israel-Lebanese war, Lebanese officials said.

Yasser Ataya, the mayor of the village Teir Harfa, several miles from the Israeli border, said the rocket was fired into southern Lebanon during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah but failed to detonate.

"Thank God there are no casualties," he told The Daily Star newspaper in Beirut.

The force of the blast early Monday shattered windows in the village, the newspaper said.

Citing Lebanese media reports, Israel Radio said it is possible the blast occurred in a Hezbollah arms depot in the village.

Hezbollah members sealed off the area preventing Lebanese military officials and U.N. peacekeepers from reaching the area, the paper said.

Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, said he was able to reach the area shortly afterward.

"We are trying to ascertain the nature of the place and the nature of the explosion," he told the newspaper.


Car bomb kills at least 17 in Pakistan

JAMRUD, Pakistan, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- A car bomb exploded in Pakistan's Khyber agency Monday, killing at least 17 people, including women and children, officials said.

Officials said a vehicle loaded with about 90 pounds of explosives was detonated by remote control in Jamrud, near Peshawar, which borders the tribal region along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, The New York Times reported.

The blast occurred near the offices of a senior government official, but its force tore through a women's waiting area of a bus stop, Jahangir Azim, a senior official in the Khyber agency, said.

Four Afghan woman and three children were among the dead, Azim said.

No one claimed responsibility immediately after the explosion, which damaged several nearby businesses and vehicles.


Multiple bombings kill 12 in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Several bomb blasts in areas under dispute by the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan authorities killed at least 12 people Monday, officials said.

Health and police officials said several explosions in the northern village of Khazna, about 12 miles northeast of Mosul, killed at least seven people and wounded 11 others, CNN reported.

In Tuz Khurmato, near Kirkuk, authorities said two car bombs killed at least five people and wounded 25 others. Police said one explosion was outside a hospital and the other occurred outside a Shiite mosque.

The explosions Monday came during a time of high tensions between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government of Iraq over the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

In another area under dispute, a car bomb Sunday targeted the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, killing eight people and injuring at least 24 others, officials said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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