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Obama: 'Self-inflicted wounds' harm growth

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday 2013 "can be a year of solid economic growth" but warned "self-inflicted wounds in Washington" would hurt progress.


In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president said the year began with "economists and business leaders saying that we are poised to grow in 2013. And there are real signs of progress: Home prices are starting to climb again. Car sales are at a five-year high. Manufacturing is roaring back. Our businesses created 2.2 million jobs last year. And we just learned that our economy created more jobs over the last few months than economists originally thought."

However, he also noted initial estimates showed a slight contraction in the economy during the fourth quarter of 2012.

"And it reminded us that bad decisions in Washington can get in the way of our economic progress," Obama said.


Economists said the main factor in the fourth-quarter slowdown was a reduction in government spending.

"In the coming weeks, we face some important decisions about how to pay down our debt in a way that grows our economy and creates good jobs -- decisions that will make a real difference in the strength and pace of our recovery," the president said.

"We all agree that it's critical to cut unnecessary spending," he said. "But we can't just cut our way to prosperity. It hasn't worked in the past, and it won't work today. It could slow down our recovery. It could weaken our economy. And it could cost us jobs -- now, and in the future."

Obama called for "a balanced approach -- an approach that says let's cut what we can't afford but let's make the investments we can't afford to live without. Investments in education and infrastructure, research and development -- the things that will help America compete for the best jobs and new industries."

The president said congressional Republicans and Democrats "have worked together to reduce our deficits by $2.5 trillion" and called that "a good start."

"2013 can be a year of solid growth, more jobs, and higher wages," he said. "But that will only happen if we put a stop to self-inflicted wounds in Washington. Everyone in Washington needs to focus not on politics but on what's right for the country; on what's right for you and your families."


GOP: Dems have failed to lead on budget

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Democrats were accused Saturday of failing to lead by a freshman Republican congresswoman, who faulted them for not producing a budget.

"It's been nearly four years since Senate Democrats last passed a budget -- 1,375 days to be exact," Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana, said in the weekly GOP media address.

She said the Democratic majority in the Senate "has failed to see the value in this sound model of working hard and living within your means," The Hill reported.

Brooks noted she had voted for the "No Budget, No Pay Act" that suspended the debt limit for three months and required both the GOP-controlled House and Senate to pass a budget by April 15 for the members to continue getting paychecks on time.

The bill, she said, presented Democrats with "a golden opportunity to confront and solve our spending problem," she said.

Brooks blamed Democratic President Obama for the impending automatic spending cuts passed by Congress in 2011 that would make across-the-board reductions in all government agencies. He proposed them, she said, and Republicans now want to replace them with "better, thoughtful, common-sense cuts and reforms."


Brooks was optimistic about the future despite the challenges faced by the United States, ABC News Radio reported.

"We have a chance to begin balancing our nation's checkbook, jump-start our economy and restore faith in our government," she said. "Republicans will work tirelessly to hold the Democratic majority in Washington accountable and make sure, together, we seize this opportunity."

Washington Post also hacked by Chinese

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The Washington Post has joined the list of targets attacked by Chinese hackers that includes The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the Times reported.

The Times reported Wednesday its computer systems had been compromised by cyberattacks from China, with the Journal saying Thursday it had experienced similar attacks.

The Times Friday reported the Post also was attacked in 2012, when newsroom computers were found to be in communication with servers in China.

Washington Post Co. spokeswoman Jennifer Lee said the company "did not have anything to share at this time."

China has denied the hacking allegations.

"All such alleged attacks are groundless, irresponsible accusations lacking solid proof or reliable research results," a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

22 U.S. veterans died of suicide each day


WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- An estimated 22 U.S. veterans died of suicide each day -- or about one each hour, in 2010, officials of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said.

The VA released a comprehensive report on veteran suicide. In the past, data on veterans who died by suicide was only available for those who had sought VA healthcare services.

The report indicated the percentage of veterans who died by suicide decreased slightly since 1999, while the estimated total number of veterans who died by suicide increased.

"The mental health and well-being of our courageous men and women who have served the nation is the highest priority for VA, and even one suicide is one too many," Eric K. Shinseki, veterans affairs secretary, said in a statement. "We have more work to do and we will use this data to continue to strengthen our suicide prevention efforts and ensure all veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve."

The U.S. Census Bureau said 93 percent of all veterans are male and 21 percent of all males age 18 years and older have history of U.S. military service -- with the highest percentage of veterans age 55 and older.


Between 1999 and 2010, the average age of male veterans who died from suicide was age 59.6 among veterans identified on state death certificates and age 54.5 among those who could be validated using VA administrative records, the report said.

Harvard punishes 70 students for cheating

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Harvard University said Friday it has forced dozens of students to leave in the wake of a massive cheating scandal.

The Ivy League institution did not say exactly how many students were disciplined and declined to address concerns that a professor and his teaching assistants were partly to blame for the academic dishonesty, The New York Times reported Friday.

The dismissed students had cheated on a May 2012 take-home final exam for a government class. School administrators said last year "nearly half" of the 279 students in the class were suspected of cheating.

Michael Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Friday wrote a letter to staff and students indicating "somewhat more than half" of those cases had resulted in dismissal, or an estimated 70 students in total, the Times said.

The forced withdrawals are a disciplinary measure that lasts two to four semesters, after which the affected students may return to school, the newspaper said.


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