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Jan. 2, 2013 at 4:59 PM   |   Comments

Gov. Christie: 'Shame on Congress'

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. House adjourned Wednesday without considering relief for Superstorm Sandy victims, despite calls by the president, governors and lawmakers to do so.

The next House session is set for 11 a.m. Thursday, when the new Congress convenes. If no action is taken before the new Congress gavels in, the legislative process will have to start over.

President Barack Obama urged the House to take up relief for Superstorm Sandy victims Wednesday, saying they were "still trying to put their lives back together."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, ripped by Northeast lawmakers in both parties, has pledged to pass a relief bill in January, The Hill reported.

During a news conference Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made clear he blamed Boehner and House Republicans for failing to hold a vote on supplemental Hurricane Sandy relief, The Hill said.

"Thirty-one days for Andrew victims. Seventeen days for victims of Gustav and Ike. Ten days for victims of Katrina," Christie said, listing other hurricanes. "For the victims of Sandy, New York and Connecticut, it's been 66 days and the wait continues.

"There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their Speaker, John Boehner," Christie said. "This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Natural disasters happen in red states and blue states, in states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before our oath to serve our citizens. For me it was both disappointing and disgusting to watch.

"Shame on Congress," Christie said.


Cliff averted, now what?

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Business leaders and deficit-reduction hawks say the "fiscal cliff" deal passed by the U.S. Congress is positive because it averts tax hikes, but falls short.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue said the deal passed Tuesday "does not even begin" to address the fiscal challenges facing the country, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

"The new Congress and the administration must begin work immediately to slow runaway spending through structural entitlement reforms," Donohue said Wednesday, adding that policy-makers needed to spur economic growth by revamping the tax code and pumping up U.S. energy production.

The Business Roundtable, a group of corporate chief executives, said President Obama and Congress only scratched the surface of the nation's fiscal woes by pulling back from the confluence of steep tax increases and deep government spending cuts that would have gone into effect if the fiscal cliff bill hadn't passed.

"When pressed to the limit, political leaders averted some of the most immediate negative consequences of the short-term fiscal cliff, but left unaddressed the most serious and fundamental reforms required for the country's long-term economic health," the roundtable said. "We hope political leaders will now work continuously to agree on market-credible structural fiscal and spending reforms needed for America to compete in a modern global economy."

The deal raises tax revenue by $620 billion over the next 10 years, mainly by allowing tax rates to rise on annual income of more than $450,000 for households and $400,000 for individuals, among other things. However, the deal did not address spending, delaying the automatic spending cuts, or sequesters, for two months.


Clinton leaves hospital

NEW YORK, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday left the New York hospital where she was being treated for a blood clot on her brain, a spokeswoman said.

Clinton, 65, who checked in to New York Presbyterian Hospital Sunday with a blood clot apparently caused when she fell and suffered a concussion, left the hospital in the back of a van driven by her security detail, the New York Post reported.

Clinton was treated with blood thinners during her hospital stay and was expected to make a full recovery, doctors have said.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton had been working from her hospital bed, even though she hasn't been seen in public since Dec. 7.

"She's been quite active on the phone with staff and taking paper, etc.," Nuland said.

Clinton fell at her Washington home last month after suffering dehydration because of a stomach virus. The illness forced her to cancel some foreign travel and testimony before Congress.


Mourning period after deadly stampede

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara declared three days of mourning and pledged a swift investigation into the stampede that killed 60 people.

In a statement issued by his office Tuesday, Ouattara also offered his "saddest condolences to the families and close relations of the victims and [assured] them of his compassion in those painful circumstances," CNN reported.

Chaos erupted after a New Year's Eve fireworks display in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's largest city and former capital. Killed in the stampede were 26 children, 28 women and six men, Youth Minister Alain Lobognon said on his Twitter page.

When it learned of the incident, the U.N. mission in the country sent medical first-responders to the location and said it would help provide assistance to the victims and help in the investigation.

Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said the stampede occurred as people were trying to leave after the fireworks display ended in the city's central business district.


Coalition arrests two suspected terrorists

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Coalition forces led by U.S. troops arrested two suspected terrorists in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the military said Wednesday.

Both men are accused of making improvised explosive devices and shuttling arms and ammunition to Taliban soldiers fighting in the country.

A non-military contractor was also killed in what was described as a "non-battle related injury." The contractor's identity was not released, officials said.

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