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  |   Jan. 14, 2013 at 4:59 PM
Obama: 'We got to pay our bills'

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- President Obama says he will not negotiate with congressional Republicans on raising the debt ceiling, saying America is not a "deadbeat" country.

"The debt ceiling is not question of authorizing more spending," Obama said in what is likely his last news conference of his first presidential term. "It allows the country to pay for spending that Congress already committed to. These are bills that are already racked up and we need to pay."

He said he was "happy" to have a conversation about reducing the deficit, but not have that conversation tied to raising the debt ceiling.

"The issue here is whether or not America pays its bills. We are not a deadbeat nation," Obama said. "So there's a very simple solution to this: Congress authorizes us to pay our bills."

Threats of allowing the government to shut down would be "disastrous" for the American economy, Obama said, warning that Social Security checks would be delayed and the nation could sink into another recession.


Obama reviewing gun violence options

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- President Obama says he expects to announce his gun violence package of legislative and executive initiatives this week.

"My starting point is not to worry about the politics," Obama said during a news conference Monday. "My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works, what should we be doing to make sure that our children are safe and that we're reducing the incidence of gun violence."

He said the task force Vice President Joe Biden led met with numerous stakeholders and developed a "list of sensible, common sense steps that can be taken to make sure that the kind of violence we saw at Newtown [Conn.] doesn't happen again."

A month ago in Newtown, Adam Lanza killed his mother, then drove to an elementary school where he fatally shot 20 children and six adults before committing suicide.

Freshman Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, threatened to file articles of impeachment against Obama if he exercises executive privilege "to infringe on our constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms [which] is an unconstitutional and unconscionable attack on the very founding principles of this republic."


Info on Army criminal suspects withheld

FORT SILL, Okla., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The commander of the U.S. Army base in Fort Sill, Okla., has ordered information about soldiers accused of crimes be kept secret from the public, officials say.

The restrictions have been put in place even as two service members at the base await trial on crimes involving victims under the age of 12, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported Monday.

Maj. Gen. James "Mark" McDonald instituted the limitations on public access to information after taking command last year.

In November, the base's public affairs office announced it would no longer make available basic information about a defendant, including their name and rank, or information about the crime.

What information is released may still be redacted.

Base officials also have not released the name of the prosecutor or judge in one of the upcoming trials. Neither have they released the defendant's age or military occupation.


Mali militants advance despite airstrikes

BAMAKO, Mali, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- French airstrikes in Mali have not prevented the advance of rebels aligned with al-Qaida, who took over the town of Diabaly, the French defense minister said.

Despite a barrage of French airstrikes during the weekend on Islamic militant strongholds in Mail's northern desert, Diabaly was attacked and overrun, French Defense Minister Yves Le Drian said.

"They took Diabaly after intense fighting and after resistance by the Malian army, which was not sufficiently equipped at the time," he said Monday.

The advance opened another route to the capital of Bamako and highlighted the risks of a French aerial campaign in tandem with a weak Malian army, The Wall street Journal said Monday.

Sunday French jets bombed rebel training camps and other targets, France's Defense Ministry said in a statement.


Bombings highlight Syrian aid crisis

DAMASCUS, Syria, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Syria intensified airstrikes in the suburbs of Damascus, with conflicting accounts of the effects, the rebels claiming 15 children were killed in the assaults.

While the official SANA news service said the airstrikes had killed scores of "armed terrorists" and identified eight by name, two videos offered by anti-government activists, which they said were shot Monday in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh, showed the motionless bodies of six children on blood-soaked blankets.

"Let the whole world observe, those are the victims. Those are the ones [Syrian President] Bashar Assad is fighting," the unnamed narrator of the video said.

The origin of the videos could not be independently verified, The New York Times noted Monday.

The airstrike in Moadamiyeh killed at least 13 people, the anti-government Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in the nearly two-year uprising, United Nations estimates say, and international organizations have said the world is not adequately responding to Syria's humanitarian crisis.

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