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Nov. 13, 2012 at 10:00 PM
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Half in U.S. expect fall over fiscal cliff

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- A slim majority of the U.S. public says President Obama and Republicans will not find a way to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a poll released Tuesday indicated.

While 51 percent of those surveyed by the Pew Center for People & the Press and The Washington Post said there will be no agreement by the Jan. 1 deadline, only 38 percent predicted there would be one. The Republicans, who control the House, the Democrats, who have a majority in the Senate, and President Obama must agree on a deficit-reduction plan to avert a package of automatic across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes that will total hundreds of billions of dollars.

More than half of respondents -- 53 percent -- said Republicans in the House are more responsible for the situation, which many fear would plunge the nation back into recession if not carefully resolved, than Obama. Only 29 percent blamed the president.

There were sharp partisan differences. Republicans were less optimistic about an agreement by a 66 percent to 25 percent, and 68 percent said Obama would be responsible.

Among Democrats, 47 percent predicted an agreement and 40 percent did not, while 85 percent said Republicans should take the blame. More than half, 51 percent, of independents do not expect an agreement, while 37 percent do not, and 53 percent said they would blame Congress.

More than half, 62 percent, said the cuts and tax hikes would be bad for the U.S. economy, and 60 percent said it would hurt them personally. But only 26 percent said they understand exactly what would happen.

Pew interviewed 1,000 adults by telephone Nov. 8-11. The margin of error is 3.7 percentage points for the whole sample, ranging up to 7.1 percent for Republicans among sub-groups.

Pakistan building drones, official says

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Pakistan, where resentment runs deep over U.S. drone strikes within its borders, is developing its own combat drones, a Pakistani senior defense official said.

Pakistani military officials briefed some of Pakistan's closest allies about their efforts to develop unmanned combat aircraft at an arms exposition in Karachi last month, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

"The foreign delegates were quite excited by what Pakistan has achieved," said the unnamed official, reported by the British newspaper as being involved in organizing the four-day exhibition. "They were briefed about a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that can be armed and has the capability to carry a weapon payload."

Although Islamabad officially objects to drone strikes by the United States within its borders, the official said Pakistan sought to demonstrate to friendly countries it can be self-sufficient in a technology revolutionizing warfare and dominated by a handful of countries, the newspaper reported.

"It does not have the efficiency and performance as good as [the] Predator," he said, referring to the United States' sophisticated drone, "but it does exist."

'Elmo' accuser recants

NEW YORK, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The man who accused "Elmo" puppeteer Kevin Clash of an underage sexual relationship now says their relationship was "adult" and "consensual."

Sesame Workshop said Monday a 23-year-old man told the show's producer in June he had a sexual relationship with Clash, 53, that began when he was 16.

Pittsburgh law firm Andreozzi & Associates said in a statement Tuesday their client "wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship," The New York Times reported.

"He will have no further comment on the matter," the law firm said.

"We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode," Sesame Workshop said in statement.

The show said it thoroughly investigated the allegations and found them to be false. Clash was granted a leave of absence Monday to "take actions to protect his reputation."

"I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further," a spokeswoman for Clash said.

Google says Web take-down requests rising

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Government requests to remove content from Google search results increased more than 70 percent in the first half of 2012, Google's Transparency Report said.

Designed to demonstrate the rising pressure Google faces in offering computer content to its 1 billion users, the report said there were 1,791 requests to remove 17,746 items of content from January through June.

The government of Turkey led the list with 501 requests to remove content, up from 45 in the previous six months. The United States was second with 273 requests, up from 187, the report said.

"When we first launched the Transparency Report in early 2010, there wasn't much data out there about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the Web," said Dorothy Chou, Google senior policy analyst.

The report is offered twice a year, and has alarmed some people in the technology community, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

"Where is Amazon's Transparency Report? Yahoo's? Microsoft's? And the biggest question in terms of scale and personal information: where is Facebook's?" said entrepreneur John Battelle in a blog post. "If we are shifting our trust from the government to the corporation, who's watching the corporations?"

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