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Jan. 3, 2013 at 8:36 AM
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New school awaits Sandy Hook schoolkids

MONROE, Conn., Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The new school Sandy Hook Elementary School children in Connecticut were to go to Thursday has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School, officials said.

The repurposed Chalk Hill School in Monroe, Conn., 7 miles south of Newtown, was also decorated with snowflakes delivered from around the world.

Along the road to the former middle school were signs of support. "Welcome," read one neon-green sign with a red heart. Another sign filled with hearts and featuring the Elmo "Sesame Street" character said: "Sandy Hook School -- We Luv U!"

Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson said Sandy Hook staff decided to keep the school's name the same despite its new location.

She also said many people had worked hard to clean, paint and get the school ready for its reopening 20 days after the Dec. 14 mass shooting at the original Sandy Hook school that left 20 students and six staff members dead.

Monroe offered use of the former Chalk Hill School, which was closed almost two years ago.

Obama signs 'fiscal cliff' legislation

HONOLULU, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- President Obama signed into law legislation that averted the "fiscal cliff" as he vacationed in Hawaii with his family.

A senior White House official said the bill was received late Wednesday afternoon and immediately processed. A copy was delivered to Obama for review and he "directed the bill be signed by autopen."

The bill, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, makes permanent lower tax rates passed during President George W. Bush's administration on income up to $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families; permanently indexes the Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount to the Consumer Price Index; extends emergency unemployment benefits for one year; continues existing Medicare payment rates for physician services through Dec. 31; extends farm bill policies and programs through Sept. 30, and delays automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts for two months.

Individuals earning more than $400,000 and families with income of more than $450,000 will see their federal tax rates rise to 39.6 percent, the rate in effect when President Clinton was in office.

The bill passed the Senate, 89-8, early New Year's Day and was approved by the House Tuesday night on a 257-167 vote after discussions were raised about whether to try to amend the bill to include more spending cuts.

Soon after the House vote, Obama left Washington for Hawaii to rejoin his family vacation.

Boehner sets Sandy vote under pressure

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The House will vote on $9 billion to help Northeastern U.S. states hit by Hurricane Sandy, Speaker John Boehner said after getting an earful from his own party.

The Friday vote for flood assistance would be followed by another vote Jan. 15, the first full legislative day of the new Congress in the House, on an additional $51 billion, Boehner said.

"Getting critical aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy should be the first priority in the new Congress," the Ohio Republican said in a statement he released with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. "That was reaffirmed today with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations."

His decision followed an explosion of criticism from enraged Northeastern lawmakers and governors from both parties after he first said he would hold off on the vote until after the new Congress was sworn in Thursday -- which The Wall Street Journal said could have pushed the vote into late January or February.

Drone strike kills top Pakistani militant

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- A U.S. unmanned aircraft strike killed a Pakistani militant commander and five others in a northwestern tribal region, security officials said Thursday.

The drone strike occurred Wednesday and targeted the vehicle of Maulvi Nazir in the Angoor Adda area in South Waziristan, The New York Times reported.

"He has been killed. It is confirmed," a senior Pakistani intelligence officer said. "The vehicle he was traveling in was hit."

Among the five other people killed was one of Nazir's key aides, officials said.

In North Waziristan Thursday, at least four people were killed when their vehicle was hit by a drone strike, the Times said. No other information was immediately available.

Nazir operated out of the western area of the South Waziristan tribal region, leading the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, officials said. His followers regularly participated in attacks on U.S. forces across Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

Gang rape suspects to be charged

DELHI, India, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The six men accused of viciously gang-raping an Indian woman who died of her injuries last month will make their first court appearance, officials said.

Police were expected to file charges, including a charge of murder, against the men Thursday in a district court in Delhi, The New York Times reported.

Officials said the charges will be reviewed by the Delhi High Court before being submitted to a magistrate in Saket, the neighborhood where the woman and a companion boarded a private bus and she was gang-raped, then thrown from the vehicle.

So far, no defense attorney has been named for the accused, lawyers and court officers in Saket said.

The Dec. 16 gang rape and mangling of the 23-year-old woman shocked not just India but the world. The victim, who suffered multiple serious injuries in the incident, died Saturday at a hospital in Singapore, where she was transferred for specialized care.

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