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Jan. 5, 2013 at 12:08 PM
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GOP calls for entitlement cuts, tax reform

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A top U.S. congressional Republican said Saturday Democrats were unwilling to cut spending as part of deficit reduction, calling it an "irresponsible" position.

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in the Republicans' weekly address deficit reduction requires cuts in "wasteful spending" and "strengthening programs like Medicare and Social Security."

The deficit reduction package enacted this week preserves income tax rates on all income under $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. Republicans who supported the compromise said they were willing to take on spending during subsequent talks on raising the country's debt ceiling, but Camp criticized Democrats for not putting spending cuts on the table during the recent negotiations, The Hill reported.

"That position is irresponsible and fails to acknowledge what every family in America already knows -- when you have no more money in your account and your credit cards are maxed out, then the spending must stop," he said.

Camp noted that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said "the American people re-elected a Republican majority ... and we will use it in 2013 to hold the president accountable for the 'balanced' approach he promised."

"That means cutting wasteful spending, strengthening programs like Medicare and Social Security so that they're there when Americans need them, and creating a tax code that creates a healthy economy."

Camp called for a "simpler, flatter, fairer tax code that's designed for taxpayers."

Likely Defense nominee Hagel drawing fire

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as secretary of defense, multiple sources in Washington said.

Although Hagel has not yet been officially nominated to succeed Leon Panetta, opposition to him has already surfaced from members of both parties, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Obama's selection of Hagel -- a Vietnam War veteran who served two terms in the Senate before retiring in 2008 -- would reinforce an image of bipartisanship for his administration, the newspaper said. Robert Gates, a Republican who headed the Pentagon under the George W. Bush administration, was retained by Obama when he took office in 2008.

Conservative Republicans have criticized Hagel for past comments in which he opposed sanctions against Iran and called on Israel to negotiate with Palestinian groups.

Liberal Democrats and gay rights advocates are upset over comments Hagel made15 years ago when he called an ambassadorial nominee "openly aggressively gay." He recently apologized for those remarks.

Former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Monday he was "strongly opposed" to Hagel's nomination, The Hill reported.

Frank, who is gay, this week expressed interest in being named an interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry, who has been nominated for secretary of state.

Abbas: Palestine now a state

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says future official documents will use the term "State of Palestine."

Abbas said his order applies to all government institutions, including missions in other countries, the official Wafa news agency reported Friday. He said missions in countries that voted against granting the authority the status of a non-member observer state at the United Nations should consult the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.

Qais Abdul Karim, a senior member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said the central council of the Palestinian Liberation Organization plans a meeting to discuss changes that need to be made to recognize the new status.

Sa'ab Erekat, head of the PLO negotiations department, said last Sunday that the authority should draft a new constitution, the Saudi Gazette reported.

Israel and the United States do not recognize the Palestinian Authority as a state.

6 Russians die in snowmobile plunge

CERMIS, Italy, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Six Russian tourists were killed and two were injured in the Italian Alps when their rented snowmobile fell into a deep ravine, officials confirmed.

The accident happened at Cermis in the Trentino province late Friday, RIA Novosti reported.

Four women and four men were crossing a closed trail when the driver lost control of the vehicle, broke through safety nets and fell about 328 feet down the slope.

Four women and two men died, while two other men were brought to a hospital, official said.

"According to a preliminary investigation report, the accident occurred due to the exceeded speed limit of the snowmobile on a dangerous part of the mountainous road," said Russian Consul General in Milan Alexei Paramonov, adding that an investigation was under way to determine whether a technical failure of the vehicle was a factor.

Plane crash in France kills five

GRENOBLE, France, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- French police said five people were killed Saturday when a private plane crashed near the mountain resort of Grenoble.

The twin-engine aircraft went down after taking off from the village of Pierre de-Bressieux, 30 miles northwest of Grenoble.

The BBC said there was no immediate word on the identities of the victim or the cause of the crash.

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