Obama promises to back gun-control bill
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama promised Wednesday to submit gun control legislation to Congress in the wake of the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
The president said his proposals, to be submitted in January, would go beyond limits on gun and ammunition sales.
"We are going to need to work on making access to mental healthcare at least as easy as access to guns," he said.
Obama said he will follow recommendations drawn up by a task force to be headed by Vice President Joe Biden, who joined him in the White House briefing room. The president said the task force will not be a commission whose work will be "shelved."
While the death of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has reopened a national debate on gun control, any limits on gun ownership could have trouble winning support in the Republican-controlled House.
Ban on U.S. adoptions advances in Russia
MOSCOW, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A bill that would ban U.S. adoptions of Russian children passed its second reading Wednesday in the Duma.
If the measure passes its third reading Friday and is approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin, it would take effect in January, RIA Novosti reported. Putin has not said whether he approves the adoption ban, which also bars Russian organizations from helping with U.S. adoptions.
Police said about 20 protesters were arrested outside the Parliament building.
The so-called Dima Yakovlev bill was proposed as part of the Russian response to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which, in part, targeted Russian officials involved in the 2009 prison death of Russian anti-corruption whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky. It was scheduled for a second reading Wednesday in the State Duma, Russia's lower house, RIA Novosti reported.
Dozens of people demonstrated outside the Duma in Moscow to protest the adoption ban critics charge would leave Russian children in outdated state-run facilities.
The bill is named after Dima Yakovlev, a 21-month-old who died of heatstroke in July 2008 after his adoptive father left him unattended in a vehicle for hours in Virginia in 2009.
Mayan expert: Dec. 21 not doomsday
CHICAGO, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A Chicago expert on the ancient Mayans said the belief that the world will end Dec. 21 of this year is based on a misunderstanding of the calendar.
Gary Feinman, curator of Mesoamerican anthropology with Chicago's Field Museum, said Friday will mark the end of a 1,872,000-day cycle for the Mayan calendar, but there is no reason to expect the world to come to an end, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.
"There's really no basis for thinking we have to be worried about what will happen," Feinman said. "There's no Maya prophesy of doom. There's no idea the world will come to an end that we can find in studies of the Maya."
Feinman said the ancient Mayans also wrote down dates for events taking place after the calendar rolls over Dec. 21.
Obama is Time's 2012 Person of the Year
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama is Time magazine's 2012 Person of the Year, with the magazine calling him a political and cultural figure.
Obama was selected from a short list that included Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer of Yahoo!; Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi; Undocumented Americans; Bill and Hillary Clinton; Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt; Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Fabiola Giannati, an Italian physicist leading the search for Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle."
In its introduction on Obama, Time wrote the president is "more than just a political figure; he's a cultural one."
Robert Bork, polarizing figure, dies at 85
ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork has died at a hospital in Arlington, Va., of heart disease, his family confirms. He was 85.
Bork died early Wednesday.
Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 ignited Washington's most heated nomination debate in decades and ended Oct. 22 when the Senate rejected the bearded judge with a resounding vote of 58-42, the biggest margin of defeat in the history of the court.
The rejection ended a heated and protracted battle over the conservative jurist's interpretation of the Constitution and began with his nomination by Reagan on July 1.
The former Yale Law School professor first gained public attention in October 1973 when as U.S. solicitor general he followed President Richard Nixon's order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Superiors U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Richardson's top deputy, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, resigned rather than carry out Nixon's order.
Several tributes were posted Wednesday on the website of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank where Bork worked and wrote following his resignation from a federal appeals court in Washington in 1988.
One was written by John Bolton, a senior AEI fellow who was taught antitrust law by Bork at Yale Law School in the early 1970s.
"Bob was central to the development and growth of the law-and-economics movement," Bolton said, "and Bob's book, 'The Antitrust Paradox,' remains a towering intellectual achievement, dwarfing everything else in the field."