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March 1, 2013 at 4:59 PM   |   Comments

WH talks yield no sequester breakthrough

WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- Talks between President Obama and congressional leaders on how to avert the $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts ended with no agreement Friday.

Obama, speaking to reporters after the hourlong meeting, said the cuts -- known as the sequester -- will go into effect and stressed that, even though they wouldn't be "an apocalypse," the country would pay.

"Not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away. The pain, though, will be real," Obama said. "I don't anticipate a huge financial crisis [such as reaching the debt ceiling], but people are going to be hurt."

The sequester crisis, he said, is "just dumb. And its going to hurt individuals ... and hurt the economy overall."

In a statement shortly after the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans would maintain their opposition to Democratic proposals that would raise new revenues to offset the cuts.

"The discussion about revenue, in my opinion, is over," he said. "It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington."

He said the House would take up a bill next week to fund the government past March 27, when the current continuing resolution expires.


Kerry addresses Erdogan Zionism remark

ANKARA, Turkey, March 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Friday admonished Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for calling Zionism "a crime against humanity."

"We not only disagree with it, we found it objectionable," Kerry told reporters Friday in a joint news conference in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu following a meeting to discuss the crisis in Syria, Turkey's neighbor.

Kerry said he would raise the issue directly with Ergdogan, who at a U.N. event Wednesday in Vienna, said, "As with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it is inevitable that Islamophobia be considered a crime against humanity."

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the remark "dark and mendacious."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office said Ban heard Erdogan's speech at a U.N. Alliance of Civilizations Forum through an interpreter and called it "unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership."

Turkish-Israeli relations have been strained since May 2010 when Israeli troops killed nine Turkish activists aboard a flotilla of aid ships trying to break through Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.


Rebels unenthused by new Syrian aid

DAMASCUS, Syria, March 1 (UPI) -- Syrian rebels said a U.S. package of non-lethal aid and the possibility of Britain supplying equipment was insufficient for them to oust President Bashar Assad.

The announcement that the United States would contribute $60 million for non-lethal assistance directly to the rebels -- a first for the United States -- was made Thursday during a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Rome. Some rebel officials attended the meeting while the Syrian National Council, the opposition coalition's largest faction, boycotted the conference over what it said was insufficient support for the rebels by Western countries.

"The way I see it is that this is all nonsense and lies to people who are dying. Anyway, the final word will go to the revolutionaries on the ground," an activist inside Syria told The Wall Street Journal.

Britain was expected to agree to provide combat gear, including body armor, night-vision equipment and military-transport vehicles, to opponents of Assad's regime.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates already provide light weapons to rebels, the Journal said. France and Britain fund local civilian activist and aid councils directly, as well as communications and satellite equipment, and training on their use, just as the United States.


Gov. Snyder declares Detroit emergency

DETROIT, March 1 (UPI) -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared a fiscal emergency in Detroit, opening the way Friday for appointment of an emergency manager.

The governor said he had a candidate in mind but declined to release the name. The city has 10 days to appeal his decision, which represents the largest state takeover in U.S. history.

Snyder called it a "sad day" but said he believes supervision by an emergency manager would be the best way to end the city's fiscal spiral, The Detroit News reported.

"There's been too much fighting, too much blame, not enough resources, not enough people working together," Snyder told a town hall meeting. "The key answer I believe all of us want to get to is growing the city of Detroit."

Detroit Mayor David Bing said the governor told him of his decision Thursday by phone.

"The governor's been saying [this is] the direction he's wanted to go in," Bing said. "Too many people think the city can come out of this by itself. I've never been one who's thought like that. I've never fought help. I've never pushed back. I'm a team player. We need more people to come to the table."

The emergency manager would be responsible for either restructuring Detroit's debt or guiding the city through bankruptcy. Snyder said he thinks the process can put the city on the right path within 18 months.


Judge extends ban on lottery payout

INDIANAPOLIS, March 1 (UPI) -- An Indiana judge blocked a lottery payout of $9.5 million, at the center of a dispute among eight hair salon workers who say they have claim to the prize.

The request came from seven co-workers at Lou's Creative Styles in Lawrence, Ind., who contend they should share in prize winnings from a ticket bought by another co-worker, Christiana Shaw, The Indianapolis Star reported Friday.

Marion County, Ind., Superior Judge Heather Welch issued a temporary order prohibiting the payout by the Indiana Lottery Commission last week, and Friday extended it indefinitely.

Shaw told her colleagues the winning ticket she purchased was hers alone, paid for with her own money and not money pooled by the group for ticket-buying. Shaw's attorney, Kent Smith, repeated the claim at a hearing Wednesday, acknowledging his client bought the winning ticket at the same time she bought tickets for the group.

At the hearing, the seven co-workers, and three former employees who participated in the salon's lottery pool, testified each was aware of a "rule" in their system prohibiting the purchaser of the group's tickets to buy personal tickets at the same time.

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