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Jan. 5, 2013 at 8:40 AM   |   Comments

Obama: U.S. can cut spending more

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday federal spending can be cut further but "cuts must be balanced with more reforms to our tax code."

In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president said legislation enacted in Congress this week "raised taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans in a bipartisan way, while preventing a middle-class tax hike that could have thrown our economy back into recession. "

He said the law maintains income tax rates for 98 percent of individuals and 97 percent of small businesses and preserves tax credits for families with small children, as well as for research, investment and clean energy job creation by companies. In addition, benefits are being extended for 2 million long-term unemployed people.

Obama said more needs to be done to create jobs and pay down the federal debt, but he said "messy brinksmanship in Congress" over the just-completed tax deal "made business owners more uncertain and consumers less confident."

Noting he signed into law $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction in 2011, and calling this week's legislation "one of the largest deficit reduction bills passed by Congress in over a decade," the president said he believes "we can find more places to cut spending without shortchanging things like education, job training, research and technology all [of] which are critical to our prosperity in a 21st century economy."

"But spending cuts must be balanced with more reforms to our tax code," he said. "The wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations shouldn't be able to take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren't available to most Americans."

Obama repeated his assertion this week that he "will not compromise" on raising the federal borrowing limit to pay for spending the government has already committed to.

"If Congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic," he said.


Tsunami alert ends after Alaskan quake

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A tsunami warning has been canceled for British Columbia, Canada, and southeastern Alaska in the wake of a strong earthquake early Saturday, officials said.

The 7.5-magnitude temblor struck off the coast of Alaska at 3:58 a.m. ET, CNN reported.

The U.S. Geological Service initially measured the quake at 7.7-magnitude.

The earthquake was centered 63 miles west of Craig, on Prince of Wales Island, and 208 miles south of Juneau, USGS reported.

The warning was canceled after a small tsunami of about 6 inches was seen near Port Alexander in southeastern Alaska.


Heat-spawned fires rage across Tasmania

HOBART, Australia, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Fires raging across Tasmania have razed more than 100 properties, with some residents stranded in evacuation centers or on beaches, officials say.

Some 40 fires are burning, with the small community of Dunalley, east of the capital Hobart, experiencing the worst of the destruction, the BBC reported Friday.

"Thirty or 40 percent" of the properties there were consumed in the fires, Tasmanian Fire Services chief officer Mike Brown told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Further north, near Bicheno, some residents in the Courland Bay area were left with nothing, said tour operator Nick Wardlaw.

"They've got out with basically just the clothes on their backs and nothing else," he said.

People stranded on the Tasman Peninsula, which had been cut off by the fires, were being taken back to Hobart by ferry.

Acting Tasmania Premier Bryan Green flew over the peninsula by helicopter and later said "the catastrophic nature of the weather meant that many houses burnt well and truly before the front. There was really nothing people could do with respect to managing that other than to protect people and usher them to safe places."

The fires began during a record-breaking heat wave, high winds and drought in Tasmania and southern Australia. Earlier, temperatures in Hobart had reached 106 degrees Fahrenheit.


Nepal army officer arrested in Britain

LONDON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The Nepalese government has demanded the release of an army officer arrested in Britain on suspicion of war crimes during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal.

Col. Kumar Lama was visiting his wife in St. Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex when he was picked up by London's Metropolitan Police, Republica reported. He is deployed with a Nepalese detachment as part of the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Sudan.

The Nepalese government lodged a formal protest with John Tucknot, the British ambassador in Kathmandu.

Scotland Yard issued a statement after Thursday's arrest that said Lama is suspected of torture in 2005 during the decade-long civil war in Nepal, The Guardian reported. The complaint was filed by the Advocacy Forum, a Nepalese human rights group, on behalf of an alleged victim.

The forum said police had been given supporting evidence. The Scotland Yard statement said investigators with the counter-terrorism unit would determine if there is enough evidence to present a case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The case could be tried in Britain.

"This arrest has brought a ray of hope to victims," Mandira Sharma, the forum's founder, said.


Bluefin tuna sale in Japan is a record

TOKYO, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A 489.5-pound bluefin tuna sold for a record price of about $1.3 million Saturday in Tokyo.

The sale at the year's first auction at the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market amounted to $2,656 per pound, Kyodo News reported.

The pricey fish went to a sushi restaurant chain, Kiyomura Co.

"It was a little bit expensive," company President Kiyoshi Kimura said. "But I hope we can encourage Japan by providing good tuna."

At last year's first auction, Kyomura set the bluefin record at about $647,000, Kyodo said.

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