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Dec. 20, 2012 at 8:14 AM
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Boehner calls for House vote on Plan B

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called for a House vote Thursday on his fallback tax plan, despite Senate opposition and President Barack Obama's veto threat.

In a public statement that lasted less than a minute, the Ohio Republican repeated his charge Obama's latest offer was not "balanced."

He said Obama's proposal would raise more than $1.3 trillion in new tax revenue but cut spending only $930 billion.

The White House said Obama's most recent offer includes roughly $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.

Republicans say too many of Obama's proposed spending cuts came from items such as reduced interest payments on the federal debt, and said it was up to Obama to come up with more cuts.

Boehner counted interest savings as a spending cut in past deficit deals, The New York Times said.

In his one-minute statement, Boehner vowed his plan -- which he calls Plan B, extending George W. Bush-era tax cuts beyond Dec. 31 for all incomes up to $1 million -- would pass the House.

"Then the president will have a decision to make," Boehner said. "He can call upon Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history."

Obama vowed Wednesday to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

Clinton accused of lying to avoid Benghazi

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- An ex-U.S. envoy said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied about a concussion to avoid testifying Thursday about the U.S. mission attack in Benghazi, Libya.

John R. Bolton, U.N. ambassador under the George W. Bush administration, told Fox News Channel a Clinton staff explanation the former first lady fainted, hitting her head and suffering a concussion, so she couldn't testify before Congress, was what foreign-service officers call a "diplomatic illness," intended to free a diplomat from an unpleasant duty.

"This is a diplomatic illness to beat the band," said Bolton, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank and a Fox News commentator who was also a foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"I mean, I hope it's nothing serious. But this was revealed in a way that I think was not transparent and I think there is an obligation here," Bolton said.

Clinton's staff said Sunday she wouldn't be able to testify because of a concussion she sustained after fainting last week. Clinton, who has visited 112 countries and logged nearly 1 million miles, contracted a stomach virus while traveling overseas, her aides said, and was suffering from dehydration when she blacked out.

Instead of Clinton, the State Department was to send No. 2 diplomat William J. Burns and Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas R. Nides to brief the Senate and House panels.

Jordan warns of jihadist elements in Syria

AMMAN, Jordan, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Jordanian officials warned jihadist organizations are taking over the rebellion against the Syrian regime and are being supplied with advanced weaponry,

Advanced missiles financed by the Gulf states transferred to rebel groups in Syria via Turkey have fallen into the hands of fanatics in recent weeks, a report in Haaretz said Thursday. Jordan blames Turkey for allowing fanatics to accumulate strength and arms at the expense of moderate and secular rebel groups, the paper said.

Unnamed senior officials in the Jordanian government said they warned Israel and Western nations of the development and fear, with the collapse of the Syrian government, extremist elements will target other areas in the region, especially Israel and Jordan, the paper said.

The report said Jordan identified the trend about two months ago when its security personnel detained 11 Jordanian Salafists who had assembled in Syria and planned to carry out terror attacks in Jordan, the Israeli daily said.

India says missile test successful

NEW DELHI, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Indian scientists reported the successful test firing Thursday of an indigenously developed nuclear-capable, surface-to-surface missile with a 217-mile range.

The Prithvi-II missile was test fired from a mobile launcher in salvo mode at the launch site in India's eastern coastal state of Odisha, the Press Trust of India news agency reported, quoting defense sources.

The launch was conducted as part of an exercise by the Strategic Force Command of the defense services, the report said.

"The missile was randomly chosen from the production stock and the total launch activities were carried out by the specially formed SFC and monitored by the scientists of Defense Research and Development Organization as part of practice drill," the sources told PTI.

The report said Prithvi, the first missile developed under India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Program, is capable of carrying warheads up to 2,200 pounds.

One dead in winter storm car pileup

BOULDER, Colo., Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Blizzard conditions throughout the Midwest United States forced highway closures and caused at least one death as the result of a 23-car pileup, officials said.

The season's first major winter storm prompted officials in Davenport, Iowa, to declare a snow emergency through 6 a.m. Friday, the Quad City Times reported Thursday.

Other cities throughout the region are seeing high snowfalls, including Boulder, Colo., which received 3.7 inches by Wednesday and is expected to get more as another storm system is forecast to move through the area Monday and Tuesday, the Boulder Daily Camera reported. Snow totals in some areas of Boulder County reached 4 inches.

"There is a pretty good shot at a white Christmas," Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch said.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning stretching from eastern Colorado to Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shoreline. The weather service warns of snow accumulation of a possible 12 inches, along with 25- to 35-mph winds that could gust as high as 45- to 50 mph, CNN reported.

Officials closed a 156-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Denver and the Kansas state line Wednesday, though it was reopened by 7 p.m., CNN reported. Poor visibility in Lubbock, Texas, resulted in a 23-car pileup, killing one person and injuring 17 others.

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