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'Fiscal cliff' bill delays budget cuts

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. budget cuts set to take effect Wednesday were delayed as Congress passed a "fiscal cliff" bill that raised tax rates on the rich with Republican support.


The bill, sent to President Barack Obama for his signature, averts big income tax increases on most Americans.

It also keeps benefits flowing to 2 million unemployed workers and delays for two months automatic cuts to the Defense Department and other agencies that had been set to take effect Wednesday.

But it also lets tax rates go up on household income and investment profits over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. Not since 1991 have congressional Republicans supported such a move.

The measure was approved by the House 257 to 167 shortly before 11 p.m. EST, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in the majority. Voting no were 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats.


Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who rarely takes part in roll calls, voted in favor.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 3 Republican, voted no.

Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, supported the bill.

The measure passed the Senate early Tuesday morning by an overwhelming 89-8 vote. It was supported by nearly all Senate Republicans, including some of the most conservative members, including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Muslim official says Israel won't exist

CAIRO, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A senior Muslim Brotherhood official and adviser to President Mohamed Morsi warned Israel will cease to exist in a decade.

"Jewish occupiers in the territory of historic Palestine are an obstacle to the Palestinians' right of return. Anyone who can read the future can see that this project has a decade, less than a decade to go, and it is our faith that the people of Palestine can then return to Palestine," the pan-Arab network al-Arabiya quoted Essam el-Eria,n the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, as saying Tuesday.


Last week Erian called on Jews to return to Egypt, saying, in an interview with the local Dream TV network: "It is better for Jews to live in a country like Egypt rather than in a country contaminated by occupation.

"Every Egyptian has the right to come back to Egypt no matter what his religion. Egyptian Jews should refuse to live under a brutal, bloody and racist occupation stained with war crimes against humanity."

At the time, Mohamed Younis, former dean of the Helwan University law faculty, warned that calling on Jews to return to Egypt could force the country to pay huge sums of money as reparations, Haaretz said.

During the 1948 War of Independence, many Egyptian Jews left the country with a majority of the remaining then departing during the 1967 Six Days War. The number of Jews currently living in Egypt is thought to be less than 100.

Chavez said in coma; Maduro: Ignore rumors

CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in an induced coma and on life support in a Havana hospital, sources told Spanish newspaper ABC.

At the same time, Vice President Nicolas Maduro urged Venezuelans not to believe rumors about Chavez's health. He told Venezuelan broadcaster Telesur Chavez was "aware of the complex and delicate situation he is going through" and said Chavez had "the same strength as always" when Maduro visited him the past few days.


Maduro said Chavez squeezed his left hand "strongly" before Maduro left the hospital room.

Maduro, his wife, Attorney General Cilia Flores, and Chavez family members arrived in Havana Saturday.

Maduro, 50, told the broadcaster in the recorded interview broadcast Tuesday night Chavez told him to return to Caracas, the capital, Wednesday "to report the truth" about the 58-year-old president's condition, which he said the government has done "and will continue to do."

He didn't say what the truth was.

Sources told ABC Chavez was breathing through mechanical ventilation and being fed intravenously and rectally, and Russian doctors treating him said his kidneys were failing.

The doctors were considering ending the life support, the newspaper said.

Nigeria: Fighting kills militants, soldier

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Fighting between Nigerian government forces and the Boko Haram in the country's restive north killed 13 suspected militants and one soldier, officials said.

Spokesman Sagir Musa said Joint Task Force Operation Restore Order fought the Islamist militant organization Tuesday in Maiduguri in Nigeria's northwest corner, CNN reported.

The task force condemned Boko Haram attacks dating back to July 2012 in a statement, calling the assaults "incessant callous, brutal, barbaric and impious killings."


CNN said 34 people have died in Nigeria since Christmas because of Boko Haram attacks. The toll includes 27 Christians attending church services.

Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, has been fighting to impose Sharia [Muslim] law in Nigeria, which has large Muslim and Christian populations.

The U.S. State Department has accused Boko Haram of attacking mosques and churches to foment tension between the two religious groups. The State Department also condemned some of the group's leaders for their alleged ties to al-Qaida.

Study: A few extra pounds help you survive

CHICAGO, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Moderately overweight people are less likely to die than people of normal weight, a U.S. government study published Wednesday indicates.

Being substantially obese, with a body mass index of 35 and higher, does raise the death risk 29 percent, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics said in the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But overweight people with a BMI of 25 to 30 -- who make up more than 30 percent of the U.S. population -- have a 6 percent lower risk of dying than those with a BMI in the normal range of 18.5 to 25, said the CDC study, which analyzed 97 studies involving nearly 3 million people and 270,000 deaths around the world.


The report is the largest to examine the "obesity paradox," stemming from statistics indicating heavier patients in some cases are less likely to die than normal-weight patients, particularly elderly people or those with certain chronic diseases.

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