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News Wrap: Obama Urges GOP to ‘Peel Off Partisan War Paint’ for Fiscal Fix

December 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama urged Republicans today to “peel off the partisan war paint” and avoid the fiscal cliff at year’s end.

At his White House appearance, the president said he and House Speaker John Boehner are “pretty close” to an agreement. He said he’s come at least halfway in a bid to avert mandatory spending cuts and across-the-board tax increases. He said Republicans should take the deal.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package, that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The president’s plan would raise taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year. White House officials said he’d veto what House Republicans call plan B. It would raise taxes on those making $1 million a year and keep tax cuts for everyone else.

But Speaker Boehner said he’s going ahead with the bill anyway.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American, 99.81 percent of the American people.

And then the president will have a decision to make. He can call on the Senate Democrats to pass that bill or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Boehner and the president have been negotiating in private. But administration officials said there’s been no progress since Monday.

Wall Street had been rising this week on hopes for a deal in Washington, but today’s talk doused the optimism. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 99 points to close below 13,252. The Nasdaq fell 10 points to close at 3,044.

The Federal Trade Commission moved today to stiffen online privacy rules for children. The new standards require parental consent before online companies may collect personal information from preteens. The FTC said the rules will include new methods for verifying a parent’s consent using scanned forms, video conference and e-mail.

The Swiss bank UBS has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay more than $1.5 billion in fines in the U.S., Britain and Switzerland. The U.S. Justice Department formally announced the deal today. The charges stem from the bank’s attempt to manipulate a key interest rate known as LIBOR.

Attorney General Eric Holder said two former UBS traders will face criminal charges.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: These alleged conspirators and others at UBS manipulated the benchmark interest rate, upon which many consumer financial products, including credit cards, student loans and mortgages, are frequently based. They defrauded the company’s counterparties of millions of dollars.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The two traders are currently in Britain and Switzerland. Justice Department officials said they will seek extradition for both.

The U.S. Army will pursue the death penalty for a soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers last march. The announcement came today in the case of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. He was in his fourth deployment to a war zone when he allegedly attacked a pair of Afghan villages. Bales faces a court martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle. No member of the U.S. military has been executed since 1961.

The United Nations suspended its polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan today, after two more workers were killed. Six other volunteers were shot dead earlier in the week. Suspicion fell on the Taliban. The militant group accuses the health workers of acting as U.S. spies, and it claims the vaccine makes children sterile.

Senior officials at the BBC were absolved today of covering up claims of sex crimes committed by longtime star Jimmy Savile. He died last year, and the BBC later shelved an expose that he abused and raped scores of underage girls for decades. The scandal erupted anyway, and the public broadcaster was widely criticized.

Today, an independent review blamed incompetence, but not bad faith.

NICK POLLARD, BBC report author: When the full force of the affair broke in October this year, the BBC’s management system proved completely incapable of dealing with it.

The level of chaos and confusion was even greater than was apparent at the time. Several individuals and departments were making considerable efforts to get to the truth behind the Savile story,but leadership and organization seemed to be in short supply.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A criminal investigation continues in the Savile scandal. So far, eight suspects have been arrested.

South Korea has elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye. The conservative ruling party candidate beat her liberal challenger in a tight race. And, late today, supporters braved freezing temperatures to celebrate the historic victory outside party headquarters in Seoul. Their candidate will take office in February. Park’s father was the late Park Chung-hee, who ruled as dictator for 18 years, until he was killed by his intelligence chief in 1979.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.