U.S. jobless rate steady at 7.8 percent
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. unemployment rate held steady in December at 7.8 percent, with 155,000 new non-farm jobs added, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
The rate was a 0.1 point increase from the initial unemployment figure reported in November that later was revised to 7.8 percent.
The BLS said the bright spots in the economy were in healthcare, food services and drinking establishments, construction and manufacturing, but the number of jobs added was less than economists had predicted.
"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the woulds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression," said White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger.
Kruerger said the American Taxpayer Relief Act passed this week would reduce the federal deficit by $737 billion over 10 years and help the middle class "as we dig our way out of the deep hole."
The payroll firm Automatic Data Processing said Thursday the U.S. economy had added 215,000 non-farm private sector jobs in December.
Cuomo to Congress: Show me Sandy aid
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he won't trust Congress to vote as promised on $60.4 billion in Superstorm Sandy aid until lawmakers show him the money.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reversed an earlier decision to pull the relief package from consideration after being lambasted by Republican lawmakers and top officials from the affected states.
Boehner, re-elected as speaker Thursday amid open dissent from conservatives, suspended House rules Friday on part of the package -- a $9.7 billion bill to replenish the National Flood Insurance Program so it can pay claims from the storm. The House voted 354 to 67 to approve it.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says the flood-insurance program it manages will likely run out of money next week.
Nearly 140,000 Sandy-related flood insurance claims have been filed, FEMA said, with most still not paid or not paid in full.
Tea Party leader warn of 'consequences'
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Grassroots Tea Party movement leaders are saying Republicans may pay a price for their votes on the "fiscal cliff" deal this week.
Amy Kremer, leader of the Tea Party Express, said Thursday she was "outraged" about the deal, reached by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Vice President Joe Biden that allows tax rates on upper income earners -- families earning more than $450,000 and individuals earning more than $400,000 -- to expire while making permanent tax breaks passed during President George W. Bush's administration for earners making less than that, CNN reported.
"At some point we're going to have to come together and do what's right for America, but do the Democrats have a mandate to go and just do whatever and just spend into oblivion? No," she said. "And that's evident because the Republicans still control the House."
The fiscal cliff compromise passed the House 257-167 Tuesday, with 85 Republicans voting in favor and 151 Republicans voting against it.
Explosion at Damascus gas station kills 10
DAMASCUS, Syria, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- At least 10 people were killed Friday in an explosion at a gas station in Damascus, Syria, in the second recent attack on people seeking fuel, witnesses said.
The government news agency blamed terrorists for the bomb struck the station in a northeastern neighborhood while anti-government activists said a car bomb caused the explosion, The New York Times reported.
One activist in Damascus said he thought the government was behind the bombing in Barzeh as well as an explosion in which at least 30 people Wednesday at a gas station in an eastern suburb. Rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's government been had contested both areas.
"The people are being punished and disciplined, because the regime wants them to say again that [Assad] is their master," the activist told the Times.
People are going to gas stations not only to fill up their vehicles, but to get containers of fuel for generators and heaters.
Pakistan says 21 militants killed in raids
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Some 21 people affiliated with an outlawed extremist group were killed Friday in raids by Pakistani security forces in the remote Tirah Valley, officials said.
Fourteen other militants were injured in the attacks on insurgent hideouts in the Khyber tribal region of Jamrud tehsil, Dawn News reported.
The militants were associated with Lashkar-i-Islam, said sources with the Frontier Corps.
Five hideouts were destroyed, the sources said.
The report could not independently verified as the region is not open to journalists.
Chief Justice Roberts to swear in Obama
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts will issue the oath of office to President Obama when he is sworn this month, the inauguration planning committee said.
Obama has selected Roberts to deliver two oaths -- the first in an official ceremony at the White House at noon Jan. 20, the date and hour mandated by the Constitution for the swearing-in, and again on Jan. 21 as part of the public inaugural activities, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said in its Web site.
"I will be honored to again stand on the inaugural platform and take part in this important American tradition," Obama said in a statement released by the committee. "I look forward to having Chief Justice John Roberts administer my oath of office as we gather to celebrate not just a president or a vice president, but the strength and determination of the American people."
Roberts also swore in Obama in 2008.