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Dec. 21, 2012 at 4:59 PM   |   Comments

Obama nominates Kerry for State

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Friday nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

Announcing his decision at the White House, Obama said Kerry's "entire life has prepared him" to serve as secretary of state.

"As the son of a Foreign Service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women of the State Department -- the role they play in advancing our interests and values, the risks that they undertake and the sacrifices that they make along with their families," the president said.

"Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power."

Obama said Kerry "knows, from personal experience, that when we send our troops into harm's way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done."

He said has "played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years."

Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became the front-runner for the post after U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said she did not want to be considered.


Midwest blizzard causes at least 4 deaths

MILWAUKEE, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A winter storm muscled through the United States, killing at least four people, snarling travel and knocking out power for tens of thousands of customers.

More than a foot of snow was reported in the region's first blizzard of the season and driving was hazardous in many areas. The storm began in the west, with snowfall in Flagstaff, Ariz. and blizzard conditions in eastern Colorado Tuesday, and is slowly moving east.

Officials in Nebraska temporarily closed much of Interstate 80 Thursday and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency for much of southern Wisconsin, CNN reported.

Cities across Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa had record-setting snowfalls Thursday. Gaylord, Mich., received 13.8 inches of snow, Madison, Wis., had 13.3 inches, and Marquette, Mich., had 11.9 inches, Accuweather.com said.

A winter weather advisory was put in effect Friday for counties in northeast Ohio, with accumulations of as much as 4 inches expected by Friday night, WJW-TV, Cleveland, reported.

Bad road conditions were blamed for two deaths in Wisconsin and two in Iowa Wednesday, law enforcement officials said.


NRA calls for armed police in schools

NEWTOWN, Conn., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The nation observed a moment of silence Friday to honor the victims of the Newtown, Conn., mass killing a week ago in which 27 people were fatally shot.

As three more victims were to be buried, the head of the National Rifle Association blamed violence on the entertainment industry and called for federally funded armed police officers in every U.S. school.

Adam Lanza burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday and opened fire, killing 20 children and six adults before killing himself. He had killed his mother, Nancy, before going to the school.

"20 beautiful children & 6 remarkable adults. Together, we will carry on & make our country worthy of their memory. -bo," President Barack Obama tweeted. The president took part in the moment of silence before leaving the White House to attend the funeral of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

Bells at the National Cathedral and churches across the country, tolled 26 times to mark the 9:34 a.m. EST start of the massacre.

A short time later, Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the NRA, spoke to reporters and called for congressional funding to place armed police officers in every U.S. school. LaPierre took no questions from reporters in what had been billed as a news conference.

LaPierre said the children at the Sandy Hook school were "utterly defenseless" against Lanza because there were no armed adults.

"Can't we afford to put a police officer in every single school?" he asked.


Obama: Inouye 'full of dignity and grace'

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, speaking Friday at the funeral of Sen. Daniel Inouye in Washington, said the Hawaii senator "inspired all of us with his courage."

In remarks at the National Cathedral -- where Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Sen. Joe Lieberman, Ind-Conn., and former President Bill Clinton were also in attendance -- Obama said Inouye was his "earliest political inspiration" as a member of the Senate Watergate Committee.

Obama recalled watching the Watergate hearings with his mother as a child in Hawaii, which Inouye represented in the Senate for nearly 50 years before his death Monday at age 88.

The president recalled how, as the child of a white mother and black father, he had been fascinated by "this man of Japanese descent ... full of dignity and grace."

"We remember a man who inspired all of us with his courage and moved us with his compassion, that inspired us with his integrity, and who taught so many of us, including a young boy growing up in Hawaii, that America has a place for everyone," Obama said.

He said Inouye, who had experienced discrimination because of his Japanese heritage, did not project the conventional image of a U.S. senator, yet he "commanded the respect of an entire nation."


WH: Obama determined to make 'cliff' deal

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is set on finding a "fiscal cliff" deal that will pass Congress, the White House said after Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" failed.

"The president will work with Congress to get this done and we are hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that protects the middle class and our economy," spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement after House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a vote on Boehner's fallback bill Thursday night after failing in an emergency meeting to rally enough votes for passage.

Conservatives refused to support Boehner's proposal to let taxes to rise on incomes above $1 million a year, lawmakers said.

"I want something that treats everybody fairly. I think everybody needs to be protected, and I don't think the bill does that," Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., who opposed Plan B, told The New York Times.

After pulling his bill, Boehner, an Ohio Republican, unexpectedly disbanded the House until after Christmas.


Report: Drone attack in Pakistan kills 4

MIRAMSHAH, Pakistan, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Four suspected militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan region were killed Friday in what Pakistani officials said was a U.S. drone attack.

A house was targeted in the Hisukhel area of Mir Ali -- about 15.5 miles east of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, Dawn News reported.

Four militants inside the house were killed, an intelligence official said.

It was not know if the victims were affiliated with a specific group.

The News International reported that officials said another U.S. drone crashed in an uninhabited area of South Waziristan.


Murder charges in Indianapolis house blast

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Three people face murder charges in the explosion of an Indianapolis home that killed two neighbors and destroyed or damaged scores of homes, prosecutors said.

Police on Friday arrested Monserrate Shirley; her boyfriend, Mark Leonard; and his brother Robert Leonard, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Audio engineer John "Dion" Longworth, 34, and his wife, Jennifer, 36, a teacher, were killed in the Nov. 10 explosion, which destroyed five homes and damaged more than 80 others.

Prosecutors said all three suspects face two counts of felony murder as well as one count each of conspiracy to commit arson, 12 counts of arson and 33 counts of arson. If convicted, they could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole, the newspaper reported.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said investigators determined the suspects opened or removed a fireplace gas valve in Shirley's home and then set a microwave timer to ignite the gas and set off the explosion.

Curry said the suspects intended to collect insurance on the house to pay off debts.

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