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Dec. 20, 2012 at 10:08 PM
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Boehner lacks votes, pulls Plan B

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. House Republicans Thursday refused to follow Speaker John Boehner's lead, forcing him to cancel a vote on his Plan B to avert the "fiscal cliff."

Boehner, R-Ohio, had proposed raising taxes on incomes of more than $1 million and a companion bill that eliminated defense cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act as a backup in case negotiations with the White House failed to produce an agreement.

The Bush-era tax cuts and the across-the-board spending cuts kick in Jan. 1 unless Congress acts.

Boehner issued a statement saying a vote on his plan had been canceled "because it did not have sufficient support from our members." Earlier, the House had voted to advance the measure.

"Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the 'fiscal cliff,'" Boehner said in a statement, adding the House already had passed a bill that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said with the cancellation of the vote, legislative business for the week had concluded.

"Members are advised that the House will return for legislative business after the Christmas holiday when needed," Cantor's office said in a statement.

Party leaders had expressed confidence throughout the day but announced shortly before 8 p.m. the vote had been canceled -- a major defeat for Boehner, who has had trouble controlling his caucus since he assumed the speaker's job, The Hill noted.

Egypt top prosecutor rescinds resignation

CAIRO, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah, who resigned as Egypt's chief prosecutor earlier this week under pressure from protestors, rescinded the action Thursday.

The decision comes as the country prepares for a second round of voting on a draft constitution. Opponents of President Mohamed Morsi, who appointed Abdallah, have said they will continue to oppose the constitution if it passes.

Abdallah agreed to quit Monday as lower-level prosecutors surrounded his office, accusing Morsi and his top aides of trying to use the judicial system for political purposes, The New York Times reported.

Morsi's party called the protesters "street thugs" and accused them of carrying weapons. In a statement, the party said Egypt would be "governed by the law of the jungle" if top-level officials could be forced out by employee demonstrations.

Large protests are planned before Saturday's voting.

Opposition marches by groups including the Revolutionary Socialists, the Strong Egypt Party, the 6 April Youth Movement and the Socialist Popular Alliance are scheduled to lead up to the second round of the referendum, Ahram Online reported Thursday.

The first round of the referendum illustrated the deep divide within post-revolutionary Egypt, with the measure being approved by 54 percent of the voting population and opposed by 44 percent.

Mich. reverses population-loss trend

LANSING, Mich., Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Michigan gained population in 2012, ending a seven-year trend of decline, the U.S. Census Bureau said.

Population estimates said Michigan gained 6,559 residents this year, a fraction of a percent increase in the state's 9.8 million residents, The Detroit News reported Thursday.

Births have steadily exceeded deaths in the state, a records analysis shows, but the population loss has largely been laid to the state's persistent unemployment, which has remained higher than the national average since 2000.

At the height of the recession in October 2009, unemployment was 14.1 percent in Michigan, but 10 percent nationally. Presently, Michigan's unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, compared to 7.7 percent nationally, the newspaper said.

Despite the fractional uptick, Michigan fell behind Georgia in the nation's population rankings by state. Georgia is now the eighth largest state and Michigan is ninth.

Brown favored for Kerry's Senate seat

BOSTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is favored to be elected in a special election if Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is appointed secretary of state, a poll of voters indicated.

In a poll of registered voters, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, 58 percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of Brown, R-Mass., if Kerry is appointed by President Barack Obama to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, WBUR-FM, Boston, reported.

Just 28 percent of respondents viewed the outgoing senator unfavorably.

MassINC pollster Steve Koczela said Brown fared better than four current or former Democratic members of Congress.

"We matched him up theoretically against (U.S. Reps.) Ed Markey, Mike Capuano, Steve Lynch and (former U.S. Rep.) Marty Meehan, and in each one of those cases, he led by between 17 and 19 points," Koczela said.

Politico said the lead over the potential Democrat candidates is in part due to low name recognition for the four; a majority of those polled said they either did not know who Markey, Capuano, Lynch or Meehan were, or they had no opinion of them.

Assange says WikiLeaks will continue

LONDON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Julian Assange, speaking from a balcony at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, promised Thursday that WikiLeaks will continue its work in 2013.

Supporters gathered in the street below, some of them carrying candles, the BBC reported.

Assange, a 41-year-old Australian, has been living in the embassy for six months. He sought asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is under investigation for alleged sexual crimes.

While no charges have been brought, the United States could prosecute Assange for publishing leaked diplomatic cables. He said Thursday the U.S. Defense Department has called WikiLeaks' survival "an ongoing crime."

"While that remains the case and while my government will not defend the journalism and publishing of WikiLeaks, I must remain here," Assange said. "However, the door is open, and the door has always been open, for anyone who wishes to use standard procedures to speak to me or guarantee my safe passage."

Assange promised WikiLeaks will publish "millions of pages" in 2013 involving every country in the world. He described 2012 as a "huge year" for WikiLeaks.

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