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Last-minute Senate talks to avert fiscal disaster

Senate leaders groped for a last-minute compromise Saturday to avoid middle-class tax increases and possibly prevent deep spending cuts at the dawn of the new year as President Barack Obama warned that failure could mean a “self-inflicted wound to the economy.” Obama chastised lawmakers in his weekly radio and Internet address for waiting until the last minute to try and avoid a “fiscal cliff,” yet said there was still time for an agreement. “We cannot let Washington politics get in the way of America’s progress,” he said as the hurry-up negotiations unfolded. For all the recent expressions of urgency, bargaining
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Former President George H.W. Bush moved out of intensive care

Former President George H.W. Bush‘s condition improved enough for him to be moved on Saturday out of the intensive care unit and into a regular room at the Houston hospital where he was admitted last month for respiratory problems, a spokesman said. Bush, 88, who served as president from 1989 to 1993, entered Methodist Hospital on November 23 for treatment of what doctors said was bronchitis, and he was moved into the ICU last Sunday after suffering a number of medical complications, including a persistent fever. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the air passages through the
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Last ditch effort for a ‘fiscal cliff’ deal in Senate

Senate leaders rushed to assemble a last-ditch agreement to avoid middle-class tax increases and possibly delay steep spending cuts in an urgent attempt to find common ground after weeks of postelection gridlock. An impatient President Barack Obama pressed top lawmakers to cut a deal, even one that falls short of the ambitions he and congressional leaders may once have harbored for a bigger deficit reduction package. Without a resolution, he warned, “every American’s paycheck will get a lot smaller.” “Congress can prevent it from happening, if they act now,” he said in his weekly Saturday radio and internet address. Following
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For Senate, a ‘mission impossible’ from Obama?

Following a Friday meeting with congressional leaders, an impatient and annoyed President Barack Obama said it was “mind boggling” that Congress has been unable to fix a “fiscal cliff” mess that everyone has known about for more than a year. He then dispatched Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, on a mind-boggling mission: coming up with a bipartisan bill to break the “fiscal cliff” stalemate in the most partisan and gridlocked U.S. Congress of modern times – in about 48 hours. Reid and McConnell, veteran tacticians known for their own long-running feud,
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Last minute stab at ‘fiscal cliff” averting deal may be too little too late

Amid partisan bluster, top members of Congress and President Barack Obama were holding out slim hopes for a limited fiscal deal before the new year. But even as congressional leaders prepared to convene at the White House, there were no signs that legislation palatable to both sides was taking shape. The Friday afternoon meeting among congressional leaders and the president — their first since Nov. 16 — stood as a make-or-break moment for negotiations to avoid across-the-board first of the year tax increases and deep spending cuts. Obama called for the meeting as top lawmakers alternately cast blame on each
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Republicans will have to live with a tax increase, no matter what happens

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are resigned to seeing some sort of income tax increase in legislation to avoid a “fiscal cliff,” but such efforts could be doomed in the absence of spending cuts, some Republican lawmakers say. Congress and President Barack Obama are gearing up for a last-ditch attempt to avoid $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that could halt progress in the U.S. economy, which lately has been showing signs of gaining ground. The White House said Obama will host a meeting on Friday with the four top congressional leaders – Senate Majority Leader
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Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf dead at 78

 Truth is, retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf didn’t care much for his popular “Stormin’ Norman” nickname. The seemingly no-nonsense Desert Storm commander’s reputed temper with aides and subordinates supposedly earned him that rough-and-ready moniker. But others around the general, who died Thursday in Tampa, Fla., at age 78 from complications from pneumonia, knew him as a friendly, talkative and even jovial figure who preferred the somewhat milder sobriquet given by his troops: “The Bear.” That one perhaps suited him better later in his life, when he supported various national causes and children’s charities while eschewing the spotlight and resisting efforts
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Former President George H. W. Bush in intensive care

Former President George H.W. Bush is being treated in the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital after suffering “a series of setbacks,” including a stubborn fever, his spokesman said. In a brief email Wednesday, Jim McGrath, Bush’s spokesman in Houston, said the 88-year-old former leader had been admitted Sunday to the ICU at Methodist Hospital. McGrath said Bush, the oldest living former U.S. president, was alert and talking to medical staff. He said doctors are cautiously optimistic about Bush’s treatment and that the former president “remains in guarded condition.” He said Bush was surrounded by family. Early Thursday, McGrath
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Obama’s controversial EPA administrator resigns

The Obama administration‘s chief environmental watchdog, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, is stepping down after a nearly four-year tenure marked by high-profile brawls over global warming pollution, the Keystone XL oil pipeline, new controls on coal-fired plants and several other hot-button issues that affect the nation’s economy and people’s health. Jackson, the agency’s first black administrator, constantly found herself caught between administration pledges to solve controversial environmental problems and steady resistance from Republicans and industrial groups who complained that the agency’s rules destroyed jobs and made it harder for American companies to compete internationally. The GOP chairman of the House Energy
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Consumer confidence hits four-month low in December

Consumer confidence fell to a four-month low in December as a looming budget crisis sapped what had been a growing sense of optimism about the economy, a private sector report released on Thursday showed. The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 65.1 from a downwardly revised 71.5 in November. Economists had expected a reading of 70.0, according to a Reuters poll. November’s number was originally reported as 73.7. While the present situation index rose to 62.8 from an upwardly revised 57.4, its highest in more than four years, the overall survey suggested most
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