Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment

December 8, 2012, 1:00 am


OBAMA-GOP MESSAGES

Obama: Republicans blocking middle-class tax cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama continues a relentless push for his middle class tax cut plan, doing so in his weekly media message for the fourth time since his re-election.

Obama is accusing House Republicans of blocking a bill that would prevent a tax increase on the first $250,000 of income earned by all Americans. The Democratic-controlled Senate has approved the measure.

Obama says a House bill is unbalanced and actually lowers rates for the wealthiest Americans, instead of raising them as the president has proposed.

For the GOP, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says tax increases will not solve the nation's $16 trillion debt. He says the only way to do that is through economic growth and reform of entitlement programs.

He says limited government can help meet the challenge of restoring the middle class.

EGYPT

Egypt's military warns against political disputes

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's military has warned of 'disastrous consequences' if the political crisis gripping the country is not resolved through dialogue.

The military said in a statement read on state TV on Saturday that serious dialogue is the "best and only" way to overcome the nation's deepening political dispute.

Violent protests and clashes between supporters of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his opponents have left half a dozen civilians killed and several offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in flames since the crisis began last month.

Morsi has called for a national dialogue but opponents say he must first cancel a Dec. 15 referendum on a contentious draft constitution and rescind decrees granting him immunity from any oversight.

BAHRAIN-SECURITY SUMMIT

Saudi official: Gulf cannot 'tolerate' unrest

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A senior Saudi official says Gulf Arab states must quash any Arab Spring-inspired unrest or risk threats to their leadership across the oil-rich region.

The comments by Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, the Saudi deputy foreign minister, echo calls by Gulf authorities to widen crackdowns on perceived opposition such as rights activists and Islamist factions.

His remarks also seek to justify the intervention last year in Bahrain by a Saudi-led Gulf military force after an uprising by the kingdom's Shiite-led majority. Bahrain remains the Gulf's main flashpoint.

Prince Abdulaziz says Gulf states "cannot tolerate instability" that could lead to challenges to the Western-allied leaders from Kuwait to Oman.

He spoke Saturday at an international security summit hosted by Bahrain.

SYRIA

Syrian rebels create new unified military command

BEIRUT (AP) — A senior official with the rebel Free Syrian Army says commanders from all over the country have elected a new Supreme Military Council and a chief of staff.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the meeting's outcome, says the move is similar to last month's conference in Qatar that unified political groups.

He says the meetings in the Turkish resort of Antalya began on Dec. 5 and are being attended by more than 550 rebel commanders and representatives. The official said Saturday that Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss was named as the group's chief of staff.

The Syrian rebels' fight to oust President Bashar Assad has long been hobbled by their inability to forge a united front and command structure.

SUPERSTORM AID

Obama request for Sandy aid could face hurdles

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's proposal for $60.4 billion in aid for states hit by Superstorm Sandy adds a huge new item to an end-of-year congressional agenda already packed with controversy.

Lawmakers from New York, New Jersey and other states had requested significantly more money, but generally praised the request Friday. They're urging Congress to adopt it without delay.

That's no easy task. Washington is laser-focused on the so-called fiscal cliff looming at the end of the year. And tea party House Republicans may demand budget cuts elsewhere to offset costs.

That means the measure could be delayed in whole or in part until next year.

The request blends aid for homeowners, businesses and local governments affected by Sandy, which left millions without power and is blamed for at least 125 deaths.

SUPREME COURT-GAY MARRIAGE

Same-sex marriage cases get Supreme Court review

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking a potentially historic look at same-sex marriage by agreeing to hear two cases that challenge governments' different treatment of gay Americans.

The focus in one case is California's constitutional amendment that forbids same-sex marriage. The other case deals with a federal law that denies to those who can marry legally the right to obtain federal benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples.

Supreme Court cases often take twists and turns that limit the scope of the eventual decision. But the justices' action on Friday gives them the chance to say whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals.

The same-sex marriage cases likely will be argued in March with a decision likely by the end of June.

SUBWAY-PUSH-DEATH

Man charged in subway rider's death blames voices

NEW YORK (AP) — The man who police say pushed another man to his death in front of an oncoming New York City subway train says he was high on drugs and trying combat voices in his head.

Authorities have charged 30-year-old Naeem Davis with second-degree murder in the Monday death of 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han.

Davis tells the New York Post (http://bit.ly/TLW17v) in a jailhouse interview that Han had grabbed his arm and threatened him earlier. He says he was coaxed into shoving Han by voices in his head that he couldn't control.

Davis tells the newspaper he didn't attempt to pull Han to safety because "it happened so fast" and he was "under the influence" at the time.

He says he didn't mean to kill Han.

CLIMATE TALKS

UN talks nearing weak deal on climate

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Negotiators from nearly 200 countries are poring over new draft agreements on emissions cuts by rich countries and aid for poor ones as United Nations climate talks spilled into the weekend.

The two-week conference was set to finish Friday, but as so often in the annual U.N.-led talks, negotiators struggled to reach an agreement, especially on money matters.

After all-night wrangling, the latest drafts Saturday lacked the strong commitments on climate action and financing by rich countries that poor countries had hoped for. Final decisions were expected later in the day.

Countries plan to adopt a new climate pact by 2015. The Doha conference focused on side issues such as extending an existing emissions treaty for rich countries and increasing financing to help poor countries cope with global warming.

AFGHANISTAN

Karzai: Afghan spy chief bomber came from Pakistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai says a suicide attack that wounded the Afghan intelligence chief was planned in neighboring Pakistan.

Karzai did not provide any evidence to back up his claim, and he did not accuse the Pakistani government of having any role in the attack.

But the president says Afghan officials know with certainty that the suicide attacker who blew himself up Thursday during a meeting with Asadullah Khalid came from Pakistan.

At a news conference Saturday in Kabul, Karzai said Khalid was recovering from the wounds he sustained when the bomber — posing as a messenger of peace — detonated explosives that he had hidden inside his body.

Karzai said his government is investigating the attack and would raise the issue with Islamabad.

PHILIPPINES-TYPHOON

Philippine typhoon rescue operations hampered

NEW BATAAN, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has declared a "state of national calamity" after visiting New Bataan, ground zero of a deadly typhoon that left nearly 600 dead and as many missing.

The declaration focuses government efforts on rescue and rehabilitation, controls prices of basic commodities and allows the quick release of emergency funds.

Meanwhile, an official says search and rescue operations following a typhoon that killed nearly 600 people in the southern Philippines have been hampered in part because many residents are too stunned to assist recovery efforts.

A local government spokesman says soldiers, police and volunteers from outside the farming community of New Bataan have formed the bulk of the rescue teams searching for signs of life New Bataan.

New Bataan municipal spokesman Marlon Esperanza says, rocks, mud and tree trunks and other rubble have destroyed landmarks, making it doubly difficult to search places where houses once stood.

CRIST-DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Ex-Fla. Gov. Crist tweets he's joining Democrats

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has announced on Twitter that he's joining the Democratic Party.

Crist sent out a Tweet on Friday night that said, "Proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President (at)Barack Obama!"

The Tweet included a photo of a smiling Crist holding up a Florida voter registration application. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the former Republican governor signed the papers changing his affiliation from independent to Democrat at a Christmas reception at The White House.

A message left for Crist wasn't immediately returned Friday night.

Crist was elected Florida governor while in the GOP. He left the party and ran as an independent for the U.S. Senate, losing a three-way contest to Republican Marco Rubio. Crist is viewed as potential Democratic candidate against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

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