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Dec. 24, 2012 at 10:31 AM   |   Comments

Barrasso: Obama wants to go over 'cliff'

WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- A senior Republican accused President Barack Obama of wanting to take the United States over the "fiscal cliff" for political gain.

"I think the president is eager to go over the cliff for political purposes," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said on "Fox News Sunday."

"I think he sees a political victory at the bottom of the cliff," said Barrasso, the third-highest ranking GOP senator. "He gets all these additional tax revenue for new programs. He gets to cut the military, which Democrats have been calling for, for years, and he gets to blame Republicans for it."

Barrasso said he believed no deal would be reached and the United States would go over the so-called cliff, which is more than $500 billion in spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect in eight days.

Economists have said this could bring the United States back into a recession.

The White House had no immediate comment on Barrasso's remarks.


Egypt charter OKd amid voter fraud charges

CAIRO, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Egypt's political opposition charged fraud and sought a probe into the referendum for a divisive Islamist-backed constitution state media said voters adopted.

The main secular opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, led by Nobel Peace laureate and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, said it documented more than 3,000 examples of "fraud, violations and organizational shortcomings" in the referendum's two rounds.

The voting's second round was held Saturday. The first round was held a week before.

"We would like the responsible party to investigate and report the conclusions before the final results of the referendum are announced," NSF leader and political scientist Amr Hamzawy said, referring to Egypt's High Elections Commission.

The official results were to be announced Monday. But Islamists claimed victory in advance and the state-run Middle East News Agency said the charter was approved by 64 percent of the vote.

About 16 million of the nation's more than 51 million voters cast ballots in the referendum over the two Saturdays, with the constitution winning by 4.5 million votes, preliminary figures indicated.


Gazan groups accused of harming civilians

JERUSALEM, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Palestinian groups in Gaza knowingly targeted civilians during a recent Israeli military operation, a Human Rights Watch report said.

"Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim. There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas," Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's Middle East director said in the report published Monday.

"A limited military arsenal that relies on largely indiscriminate rockets does not justify a failure to respect the law of war, which apply to all sides in a conflict whatever their capabilities. As the ruling authority in Gaza, Hamas has an obligation to stop unlawful attacks and punish those responsible."

Human Rights Watch officials said they interviewed Israeli residents and witnesses in towns and villages that came under attack from rockets fired from Gaza during the Israelis' Operation Pillar of Defense last month.

Under humanitarian law or the laws of war, civilians and civilian structures may not be the subject of deliberate attack that doesn't discriminate between civilians and military targets, the Human Rights Watch report said. It noted that groups in Gaza repeatedly fired rockets from densely populated areas, near homes, businesses and a hotel, placing civilians in the vicinity at grave risk.

The Gaza groups responsible for the rocket firing include Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee, Human Rights Watch said.


Afghan policewoman kills U.S. adviser

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- An Afghan policewoman shot and killed a U.S. adviser Monday in an apparent insider attack at the Kabul police headquarters, sources told The Washington Post.

The woman was arrested shortly after the incident, the Post reported, quoting U.S. and Afghan sources. It was believed to be the first such insider attack by a woman.

The victim was a contractor working as police adviser, CNN reported.

"He was shot in his heart and died very quickly afterwards in the hospital," the Post quoted an official as saying.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed the shooting and spokesman Charlie Stadlander said the attacker was a woman.

"A civilian police adviser was shot and killed this morning by a suspected member of Afghan uniformed police outside the Kabul police headquarters," Stadtlander said.


Tornadoes expected across South

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Parts of the South braced for a severe thunderstorm with the possibility of tornadoes and forecasters said some Southerners could see a rare white Christmas.

The thunderstorm will affect a region stretching from southeast Texas to northern Florida and southwestern Georgia, Accuweather reported Monday.

The potential tornado outbreak should begin just about when Santa is wrapping up his rounds in Texas, the report said.

Meanwhile, other parts of the south could see a rare white Christmas, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A storm forming in the lower Plains could drop small amounts snow on Little Rock, Ark.; Oklahoma City; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, the report said.

As much as 6 inches of the white stuff could fall Christmas Eve and Day in some parts of Oklahoma, northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.

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