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Jan. 1, 2013 at 12:03 PM   |   Comments

Fiscal cliff bill heads to House

WASHINGTON, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate, in an 89-8 vote, passed a fiscal cliff deal Tuesday that would extend current tax rates for the middle class and delay automatic spending cuts.

The bill was approved in the early hours of 2013 after 10 minutes of floor debate and no scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, The Hill said.

The bill now heads to the House where Speaker John Boehner had said it would be brought to the floor for a vote.

The deal hammered out by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would permanently extend tax rates lowered during President George W. Bush's administration on individual income up to $400,000 and family income up to $450,000. The lower Bush-era tax rates for higher incomes would expire and return to the higher rates in effect during President Bill Clinton's administration.

The House Rules Committee already waived the 3-day review requirement, setting the stage for a New Year's Day vote. But The Hill said it was unclear if the House would take up the bill before Thursday, when the 113th Congress will be sworn in.

"The House will honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement if it is passed," Boehner said. "Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members -- and the American people -- have been able to review the legislation."

The daily schedule distributed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for Tuesday indicated the House would meet at noon "for legislative business." The schedule was distributed before the Senate vote.

The bill, which will attract support from House Democrats, could be a hard sell among House Republicans, many of whom objected to any measure sought by Boehner that would have extended tax rates on incomes of less than $1 million, calling it a tax hike, The Hill said.


Pilgrim convoy bombed in Pakistan; 20 die

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- At least 20 Shiite pilgrims in Pakistan were killed when an explosives-filled car rammed into a convoy of buses traveling to Iran, officials said.

Monday's bombing in Baluchistan province's Mastung district also injured 25 people, many critically, KarachiNews.net reported.

Witnesses said the car was driven by a suicide bomber who detonated the explosives as the buses were passing another vehicle near Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province, close to the Iranian border.

Officials said women and children were among the victims. A government official in Quetta said the buses were taking about 180 Shiite Muslim pilgrims to Iran.

Also Monday, seven health workers, six of them women, were shot and killed near the Swabi district, Dawn reported.

Police said a vehicle carrying the Support With Working Solutions workers was traveling home from a school and health center when it was ambushed near Anbar Interchange in Swabi district.


1 Afghan killed, 3 hurt in missile firing

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- One Afghan civilian was killed and three others injured during a missile attack from Pakistan, local officials in Afghanistan's Kunar province said.

The official said the woman and three children were killed when at least a dozen missiles were fired Monday, Khaama Press reported Tuesday.

Local officials said least 60 people have been killed or injured in missiles attacks by Pakistan military in the last nine months.

Cross-border shelling has increased tension between the two countries, with each one accusing the other of initiating the hostilities, Khaama Press said.

The Afghan government repeatedly asked Pakistan to stop the cross-border shelling, but Pakistani officials have denied any involvement, blaming Afghanistan for violating border sovereignty.


2013 brings new deaths in Syria

ALEPPO, Syria, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Nearly 40,000 people died in Syria's civil war in 2012, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, an Arab League official predicted 100,000 would die in the conflict in 2013, CNN reported.

The human rights group, which opposes Syrian leader Bashar Assad, said of all the people believed killed in the civil war, 39,520, or 85 percent, died in the past year. The group said the early hours of 2013 saw fighting and shelling in eight Syrian provinces, with the heaviest fighting in Aleppo and Damascus and its suburbs.

The group said 6,548 were killed in the civil war in 2011.

But U.N.-Arab League envoy U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Sunday the death toll could rise dramatically.

"Do not expect just 25,000 people to die next year -- maybe 100,000 will die," Brahimi told reporters in Cairo, CNN reported.

Syria uses the Western calendar, and observed New Year's Day Tuesday with a national holiday.


1M revelers flocked to Times Square

NEW YORK, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- More than 1 million revelers helped ring in 2013 in New York's Times Square, officials estimate.

ABC's New Year's Eve live coverage from the Big Apple's tourist district included appearances by Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, PSY, MC Hammer, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the Rockettes.

"American Idol" emcee Ryan Seacrest served as host of Monday evening's festivities, paying homage to his mentor and predecessor Dick Clark, who died in April at the age of 82.

Clark was the holiday program's host from 1972 to 2005. He began sharing duties with Seacrest in 2005 when he suffered a stroke.

Revelers at Monday night's festivities wore blue foam hats and waved blue balloons, distributed by sponsor Nivea.

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