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Dec. 13, 2012 at 7:59 AM
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Boehner said open to more tax revenue

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker John Boehner told President Obama he'd accept more tax revenue if Obama supports deeper cuts to entitlement programs, Politico reported.

The Ohio Republican privately told Obama during "fiscal cliff" talks he'd consider more than the $800 billion in tax revenues he already proposed, the political news website said, citing several sources familiar with the talks.

Politico did not say how Boehner suggested the new tax revenue would be raised. Boehner has adamantly refused to raise upper-income tax rates. Obama has insisted marginal income rates go up on the top 2 percent of Americans.

The White House and Boehner's office had no comment on the report. Both sides agreed last week not to discuss internal discussions.

Boehner's reported olive branch came as a public-opinion poll indicated Americans clearly want to work out a deal, and soon, to avoid the fiscal cliff's $500 billion in automatic tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect in 19 days.

Foreclosure activity dropped in November

IRVINE, Calif., Dec. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. foreclosure data from November suggests the housing market has come through the worst of the foreclosure crisis, a RealtyTrac executive said.

The data is uneven, but the 180,817 properties involved in foreclosures in November was a decrease of 3 percent from the previous month and 19 percent from November 2011, making it the 26th consecutive month with an annual decline in foreclosure activity, RealtyTrac said in a statement.

Moreover, November included a 71-month low in foreclosure starts, the firm said.

That presents "more evidence that we are past the worst of the foreclosure problem brought about by the housing bubble bursting six years ago," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

While some signs are encouraging, "foreclosures are continuing to hobble the U.S. housing market as lenders finally seize properties that started the process a year or two ago -- and much longer in some cases," he said.

Foreclosure starts were down 13 percent from October and 28 percent from November 2011, but foreclosure activity increased in 23 states and the District of Colombia. Nine states hit 12-month highs in foreclosure activity in the month, RealtyTrac said.

Russian official: Assad losing control

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Russia's top diplomat for the Middle East said Thursday Syrian President Bashar Assad's government is losing control and territory to rebels.

Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, in remarks to Russia's Public Chamber, said it is "impossible to exclude a victory of the Syrian opposition," an indication Russia -- one of Syria's few allies -- sees Assad as headed for defeat, RIA Novosti reported.

"We must look squarely at the facts, and the trend now suggests that the regime and the government in Syria are losing more and more control and more and more territory," said Bogdanov, in remarks to Russia's Public Chamber that were carried by Russian wire services.

Bogdanov said Russia is preparing to evacuate its citizens, the first time a higher-ranking official had announced plans for an evacuation, The New York Times reported.

Syrian officials rejected the U.S. and other nations' recognition of a new opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Rights group: Probe abuse by Morsi allies

CAIRO, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- A rights group demanded Egypt's public prosecutor probe the detention and videotaped beating of dozens of President Mohamed Morsi's foes by Islamist supporters.

The call by Human Rights Watch follows an accumulation of video and photographic evidence, coupled with Western and local journalistic accounts and victim testimonies, of abuses Dec. 5-6 allegedly by Islamist Morsi supporters during a night of street fighting between Islamists and Morsi opponents outside the presidential palace.

During the fighting the Islamists captured and held Morsi opponents for hours with their hands bound on the sidewalk outside the palace while pressuring them to confess they accepted money to use violence in the protests, the accounts allege.

The street fighting was tied to an upcoming national referendum on an Islamist-backed draft constitution that opponents contend restricts freedoms and gives Islamists vast political influence.

The referendum, originally scheduled to be held Saturday, was split in two phases by Egypt's election commission Wednesday, with some provinces voting then and the rest a week later, Dec. 22.

U.K. hoax-call nurse said found hanged

LONDON, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The nurse found dead after a prank call to the London hospital treating Kate Middleton was found hanged, the London Evening Standard reported.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, a mother of two from Bristol, England, was discovered unconscious at her nurses apartment near the private King Edward VII hospital in central London around 9:30 a.m. Friday, three days after taking the prank call from two Australian disc jockeys pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles.

The Evening Standard reported Saldanha had been dead for some time when she was found. Autopsy results were expected to be released Thursday.

The Metropolitan Police Service, known as Scotland Yard, would not comment on the reports, saying the post-mortem would be announced at the inquest.

Police have publicly made no connection between Saldanha's death and the prank call. Many critics say she died as a result of stress stemming from falling for the prank.

New SARS-like virus may jump from animals

BONN, Germany, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- A new coronavirus related to SARS has many potential hosts and could pass from animals to humans repeatedly, researchers in Germany said.

Lead author Christian Drosten of the University of Bonn Medical Centre in Germany said given the similarities, the researchers wanted to know whether the new coronavirus hCoV-EMC and SARS might use the same receptor, a sort of molecular "dock" on human cells that the virus latches onto to gain entry to the cell.

The SARS receptor, ACE2, is found mostly on pneumocytes deep within the human lung, so an individual must breathe in many, many SARS viruses for a sufficient number of them to reach this susceptible area and cause an infection.

Drosten said this simple fact helped ensure the SARS outbreak didn't spread like wildfire and was mostly limited to healthcare workers and residents of overcrowded housing in Hong Kong.

Like SARS, hCoV-EMC is most closely related to coronaviruses from bats, but unlike SARS, this study found that hCoV-EMC can still infect cells from many different species of bats.

The virus is also able to infect cells from pigs, indicating that it uses a receptor structure that all these animals have in common. If that receptor is present in mucosal surfaces, such as the lining of the lung, it is possible the virus could pass from animals to humans and back again, making animals an ongoing source of the virus that would be difficult or impossible to eliminate, Drosten said.

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