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March 2, 2013 at 8:03 AM   |   Comments

Obama: Congress must compromise

WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday Congress must compromise to stop the impact of the so-called sequester budget cuts.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said a series of harmful budget cuts have taken effect because Republicans in Congress refused to compromise to close tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans, and hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs or have their pay cut as a result.

The president called on Congress to replace the cuts with a "balanced approach" that reduces the deficit while making "smart investments" to grow the U.S. economy.

"On Friday, I met with leaders of both parties in Congress to try and find a way forward in light of the severe budget cuts -- known in Washington as 'the sequester' -- that have already started to inflict pain on communities across the country.

"These cuts are not smart. They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs. And Congress can turn them off at any time -- as soon as both sides are willing to compromise," Obama said.

"As a nation, we've already fought back from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, and we'll get through this, too. But at a time when our businesses are finally gaining some traction, hiring new workers, bringing jobs back to America -- the last thing Washington should do is to get in their way. That's what these cuts to education, research, and defense will do. It's unnecessary. And at a time when too many of our friends and neighbors are still looking for work, it's inexcusable.

"Beginning this week, businesses that work with the military will have to lay folks off. Communities near military bases will take a serious blow. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who serve their country -- Border Patrol agents, FBI agents, civilians who work for the Defense Department -- will see their wages cut and their hours reduced.

"This will cause a ripple effect across the economy. Businesses will suffer because customers will have less money to spend. The longer these cuts remain in place, the greater the damage. Economists estimate they could eventually cost us more than 750,000 jobs and slow our economy by over one-half of one percent.

Obama said "none of this is necessary" and blamed Republicans for choosing this outcome over closing "a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit."


GOP: Sequester about children's future

WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- The battle over across-the-board federal spending cuts is about of the future of America's children, a Republican congresswoman said Saturday.

Delivering the GOP's weekly media address, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said the debate over the sequester is about "the kind of future we want for our children and grandchildren."

It's a question between handing them "a mountain of debt and all the worries that go with it," she said, or giving them "a vibrant economy and a future full of opportunity," The Hill reported.

President Obama activated $85 billion in automatic spending cuts late Friday night.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said senators should "get off their ass" and pass a budget.

Rodgers referenced the two spending bills the House passed last year, noting, "we've done the work and shown that these choices can be made in a responsible, thoughtful way."

In February, contrasting Democratic and Republican budget proposals were turned down in the Senate.

Rodgers said the debate over the sequester was being used by the president to raise taxes.

She said it was time for the Democrats to "get serious" about dealing with the deficit.


Blue Angels shows canceled for April?

WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy expects to cancel Blue Angel shows for at least the month of April because of the "sequester" cuts, a senior U.S. military official told NBC News.

April shows that are expected to be canceled include events in Florida, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina, NBC said.

The official said the Navy hopes to salvage some of the season, though cancellations could extend beyond April.

President Obama Friday signed an order initiating $85 billion in so-called sequester budget cuts after he and congressional leaders failed to reach an agreement.


Bangladesh: 3 killed in protests

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, March 2 (UPI) -- At least three people died Saturday in protests over the death sentence given a senior Islamist opposition leader in Bangladesh, officials say.

A war crimes tribunal pronounced the sentence after convicting Delwar Hossain Sayedee of atrocities, including rape and mass killings, during the country's war of independence from Pakistan in 1971, the Voice of America reported.

Sayedee, a senior member of the Jemaat-e-Islami party, is the third member of the party sentenced to death for war crimes since 2010.

During the three days of protest since the sentence was handed down, at least 40 people have been killed.

On Saturday, hundreds of student activists clashed with police in the port city of Chittagong when police tried to remove barricades set up by the protesters, the BBC reported.

Police said they fired live ammunition and rubber bullets at the protesters, who attacked them with sticks and stones.

A total of nine Jamaat leaders and two members of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party are being tried.

Human rights groups have questioned the fairness of the trials, contending that members of the defense have been pressured.

The government has denied allegations the trials are politically motivated.


Sydney area hit by flooding

SYDNEY, March 2 (UPI) -- Flooding continued Saturday in the Sydney area as heavy rain persisted in parts of southeast Australia.

Forster and Turncurry, twin towns about 200 miles north of Sydney, were cut off by high water, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. In Sydney itself, a few people were evacuated because of flood risk and two drivers had to be rescued when their cars became stuck on flooded roads.

Phil Campbell, a spokesman for the State Emergency Service, said about 1,000 calls from people seeking assistance came in in a 24-hour period.

At least one person has been killed. Luke O'Neill, 17, of Bonny Hill was sucked into a drain last weekend.

Eastern Australia endured a bad bushfire season. The week of bad weather kicked off with tornadoes in Kiama, 70 miles south of Sydney.

"It has been a very busy week for the SES," Campbell said.

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