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Tuesday, November 30, 2021 8:24 AM

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Congressional leaders of both parties meet with U.S. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday to discuss a possible lame-duck session agenda.

The meeting, expected to last about an hour, likely will address ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and extension of tax cuts enacted during George W. Bush's presidency, CNN reported. The meeting occurs as Republicans prepare to take control of the House of Representatives after claiming a majority of seats in the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

Obama has called on Congress to extend lower tax rates for most Americans before the end of the year when tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration are set to expire.

Obama's tax proposal would extend lower rates for individuals earning up to $200,000 a year or families earning up to $250,000. Republicans want the lower tax rates extended for all Americans regardless of income level.

Among other things, the new U.S.-Russia arms control treaty would resume mutual inspections of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, and limit each nation to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers.

Obama and others have said Senate ratification of the treaty is a priority, calling it critical to national security and a key element of U.S.-Russia relations. However, a group of senators, led by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., are want to put off ratification until the next Congress, expressing concerns about the need to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, among other things.

In a commentary written by House Speaker-apparent John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell posted on The Washington Post Web site Tuesday, the congressmen said Republicans and Democrats can work in a bipartisan manner.

"The clock may be winding down on this session of Congress, but there is still time to do the right thing," the commentary said. "If President Obama and Democratic leaders put forward a plan during the lame-duck session to cut spending and stop the tax hikes on all Americans, they can count on a positive response from Republicans. If the president and Democratic leaders don't act before the end of the year, however, House and Senate Republicans will work to get the job done in the new Congress. But we hope it doesn't come to that."

U.S., allies reject talks with North Korea

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The United States, South Korea and Japan are declining China's request for emergency talks with North Korea on the Korean Peninsula crisis, officials said.

China called during the weekend for the United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia to engage in emergency talks with North Korea.

Obama administration officials said resuming talks with North Korea would amount to rewarding Pyongyang for actions during the past week that included an artillery attack on a South Korean island and disclosure of the existence of a uranium enrichment plant, The New York Times reported Monday.

"The United States and a host of others, I don't think, are not interested in stabilizing the region through a series of P.R. activities," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.

Gibbs said such talks would lack "seriousness of purpose" if there is no "understanding and agreement from the North Koreans to both end their behavior as they exhibited last week."

White House officials said Washington wants North Korea to take steps toward denuclearization.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak did not address China's proposal for a resumption of talks, but analysts told the newspaper the proposal was disappointing. A spokesman for Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told the Times resumption of talks depends on whether North Korea modifies its behavior.

Leaked info shows haggling on detainees

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- State Department cables released by WikiLeaks reveal U.S. efforts to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so the facility could close.

American diplomats sought countries willing to accept the former prisoners and could be trusted to watch them carefully, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The leaked cables indicate U.S. officials wrangled with their foreign counterparts to resettle detainees cleared for release but could not be returned to their home countries for fear of reprisal.

Some of the give-and-take in the more than 250,000 documents released by WikiLeaks and published by the Times and four European newspapers include Slovenia being encourage to "do more" on detainee resettlement if it wanted to "attract higher-level attention" from Washington and the administration of George W. Bush offering the Pacific nation of Kiribati a $3 million incentive package to accept 17 Chinese Muslim detainees.

In 2009, when Obama ordered the Guantanamo Bay prison closed, the Bush administration already had transferred more than 500 of the detainees it had sent to the detention facility. The Obama administration since has reduced the population from 240 to 174.

Obama administration officials have condemned the leaks, saying they were published without consideration of any consequences and endangered lives. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday said world leaders needed frank assessments from envoys in the field to help shape their foreign policy and she did not expect U.S. relationships with other countries to be damaged.

18 bodies found in mass grave in Mexico

PALOMAS, Mexico, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Officials in the Mexican state of Chihuahua were investigating the gruesome discovery of a mass grave containing 18 bodies, authorities said.

While confirming Friday's discovery of the grave, the Chihuahua state attorney general's office could not say how long the bodies had been buried, CNN reported Tuesday.

The discovery was made after Mexican military interrogated five men on marijuana possession charges. During questioning, officials were told about possible "narco graves" on a ranch about five miles south of Palomas, across the border from Columbus, New Mexico, CNN said.

The military alerted the federal attorney general's office, which was being aided by forensic investigators and the Chihuahua state attorney general's office, officials said. Authorities were working Monday to identify the bodies and determine the causes of the deaths.

U.S. must lower high school dropout rate

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The United States needs the equivalent of World War II's Marshall Plan to increase the number of high school graduates, an education report recommended.

The report, released Tuesday by Gen. Colin Powell's America's Promise Alliance, said the United States has the ability to end what it calls an epidemic of high school dropouts.

America's Promise Alliance said it is partnering with Civic Enterprises and John Hopkins University's Everyone Graduates Center to develop and advance a "Civic Marshall Plan" to build a national of graduates.

"Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic" said the country is seeing the first positive signs of progress in reducing the number of students who leave high school without a diploma.

Nationwide, the number of "dropout factory" high schools fell by 13 percent from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008, the report said.

The report highlights four case studies of success where graduation rates improved at high schools in Tennessee, Alabama, Richmond, Indiana and New York City.

America's Promise Alliance, chaired by Gen. Powell's wife, Alma, is a cross-sector partnership of more than 400 corporations, non-profits, faith-based organizations and advocacy groups dedicated to improving the lives of children.

(Source: UPI )
(Source: Quotemedia)
 

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