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Obama on road; GOP snubs his ‘cliff’ offer

HATFIELD, Pa., Nov. 30 (UPI) — Republicans spurned President Obama’s offer in "fiscal cliff" budget talks, calling it a step backward, as Obama was to press his case at a toy factory Friday.

Obama was to fly Friday morning to Hatfield, Pa., 30 miles north of Philadelphia, to visit the K’Nex Brands toy company as part of his strategy to pressure Republican lawmakers to allow tax increases on upper-income Americans.

K’nex is "a business that depends on middle-class consumers during the holiday season, and could be impacted if taxes go up on 98 percent of Americans at the end of the year," the White House said Tuesday when it announced the visit.

"I’m disappointed in where we are, and disappointed in what’s happened over the last couple weeks," House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), R-Ohio, told reporters.

Boehner — who learned from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Obama wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes, $50 billion in fresh spending and new power to raise the federal debt limit — was trying late Thursday to decide how to respond, aides told The Washington Post.

Policymakers have 31 days to stop more than $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts from kicking in, a combination economists warn will send the U.S. economy back into recession.

Obama’s plan also calls for a one-year postponement of planned spending cuts in defense and domestic programs in exchange for increasing tax rates on those with income over $250,000 and some $400 billion in savings over 10 years from Medicare and other programs, GOP aides told The Wall Street Journal.

Republicans haven’t put any comparable offer on the table. They’ve expressed a willingness to accept $800 billion in revenues over 10 years — half the amount Obama proposed.

Egypt constitution passed, protests follow

CAIRO, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Demonstrators protested in Cairo Friday soon after lawmakers passed a new constitution that gives President Mohamed Morsi near-absolute power.

The Constitutional Declaration was passed early Friday, despite walkouts by liberal and leftist lawmakers. The quick vote on the constitution, which caught many by surprise, was the topic of Friday prayers in Tahrir Square, witnesses told Ahram Online.

Protesters chanted "leave" and "the people want to bring down the regime," as they were finishing Friday prayers, witnesses said.

A sheik leading prayers in the square told protesters the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists tainted Islamic Sharia law and accused the once-outlawed Brotherhood of taking advantage of the "blood of the martyrs" of last year’s revolution that culminated in the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak to secure power.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition figure, said the constitution "belongs in the garbage can of history" in an interview with Egyptian private television channel al-Nahra Thursday.

Russia wary of NATO missiles in Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey, Nov. 30 (UPI) — The deployment of a Patriot air defense system along the Turkey-Syria border means NATO is involved in the Syrian conflict, Russia’s NATO envoy said Friday.

Alexander Grushko expressed Russia’s concerns about the plan during a meeting with the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, RIA Novosti reported.

Russia is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"This involvement can become [or] might accelerate … an incident or provocation," Grushko said. "Previously, the alliance officials have repeatedly said that Syria is not Libya, and NATO doesn’t have a role in the Syrian conflict," he said, referring to last year’s multi-state military intervention in Libya.

Turkey, a NATO member, requested the deployment of Patriot missiles inside its borders, saying the defense system was necessary to protect its border with war-torn Syria.

Britain stops aid to Rwanda over DRC role

LONDON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Britain suspended financial aid to Rwanda, expressing concerns about the African country’s role in the conflict with neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ministers said Britain would not release a $33.6 million payment after paying about $25.1 million in September despite concerns over Rwanda’s alleged support of the M23 militia in the DRC, the BBC reported Friday.

The government said it would give another $28.8 million for immediate humanitarian needs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the money, which was to be released to Rwanda next month, would be held back because Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime had breached agreements.

While his government has been praised for improving economic and social conditions in Rwanda, Kagame has come under fire recently for allegedly funding the M23 militants in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A U.N. report said Rwanda’s defense minister was, in effect, commanding the revolution in DRC.

Kelley loses special consul license plates

TAMPA, Fla., Nov. 30 (UPI) — The Tampa, Fla., woman at the center of the sex scandal that led David Petraeus to resign as CIA director lost her special license plate, state officials said.

Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles said Jill Kelley, 37, no longer qualifies for the special-issue honorary consul plates after South Korea stripped Kelley of her honorary title for misusing it in some business dealings, the New York Post reported Friday.

She had the honorific title because she helped arrange meetings between Tampa businessmen and South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, the Post said.

As of Thursday, her three vehicles had regular Florida plates.

Kelley’s complaint about allegedly threatening emails led to the probe that exposed Petraeus’ affair with biographer Paula Broadwell.

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