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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Obama Seeks Gun Control Solutions as NRA Breaks Silence

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, the White House presented today a series of gun control measures President Barack Obama would support. They include Senator Dianne Feinstein’s plan to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, but also legislation to close loopholes that allow weapons purchases without background checks at gun shows, and prohibiting the use of high-capacity ammunition clips. Meanwhile, the U.S.’ largest sporting good chain Dick’s announced it suspended sales of modern sporting rifles across the nation. In addition, private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management said it has put Bushmaster, the maker of the rifle used in the Newtown shooting, for sale, citing investor concerns. After four days of silence on the matter, the National Rifle Association (NRA) released a statement today, vowing “to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

White House, Republicans Closer to Compromise on ‘Fiscal Cliff’

President Barack Obama and the Republican leadership in Congress made some progress in the negotiations on a deficit plan that would help avert the so-called fiscal cliff, $607 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts that would take effect on January 1st, 2013. Obama yesterday presented a second offer, proposing a fiscal package that would increase the marginal tax rate for incomes above $400,000 (from the $250,000 he initially sought) and an extra $50 billion in entitlements savings. Meanwhile, House Republicans launched a side effort to pass a bill that would only raise taxes for incomes about $1 million and extend tax cuts for the rest, legislation Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a democrat, declared the bill would not pass as it still too heavily skewed in favor of the wealthy.

Six Polio Vaccine Workers Gunned Down in Pakistan

Six women who worked in an anti-polio campaign in Pakistan were gunned down in a series of coordinated attacks in Karachi and Peshawar. While no one claimed the shootings, the Taliban have repeatedly denounced vaccine campaigns as “Western plots” and issued a fatwa against polio vaccination. While the disease, a nerve disorder that can cause paralysis within hours, has been eradicated in most countries, contagion still occurs in Pakistan, with at least 35 new cases this year. Religious leaders have treated vaccination campaigns as “conspiracies” before, and last year, a fake vaccination program allowed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to gather information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

Syrian Army Bombs Palestinian Refugees

Jets of the Syrian army bombed today the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk near Damascus for the second time this week. Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been targeting Palestinians as they began supporting rebels in the civil war. Assad has been intent on recapturing Damascus, which has been increasingly dominated by his opponents. Meanwhile, American Correspondent Richard Engel, of NBC, and his team escaped the watch of the loyalist militia that held them hostage. The humanitarian crisis in the war-torn nation is worsening, with 4 million people in need of aid, and 2.5 million in need of food aid, according to the United Nations.

Ramses III Was Killed, Scans Show

Egyptian Paraoh Ramses III was killed by his wife and son, new research shows. The circumstances of his death long confounded scientists and historians, but a CT scan has recently uncovered a deep cut on his throat. Ramses III, who is seen as the last great pharaoh, ruled over Egypt between 1186 and 1155 BC. Documents found at the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy, seem to suggest one of his wives, Tiye, conspired with her son Pentawere to have Ramses killed so that Pentawere could inherit the throne. It is likely Pentawere was hanged, or made to kill himself.

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