Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 78
TAMPA, Fla., Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Norman Schwarzkopf, who led U.S. Central Command during the Persian Gulf War, died Thursday in Tampa, Fla., from complications of pneumonia, his sister said.
The former general spent the holidays with his family and had not long suffered from pneumonia, his sister Ruth Barenbaum told The New York Times.
He leaves behind a wife and three children.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told NBC News he will remember Schwarzkopf as a "close buddy," a great patriot and a great soldier.
Aides to former President George H.W. Bush, who is hospitalized with a persistent fever in a Houston hospital, released a statement saying: "Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation. A distinguished member of that Long Gray Line hailing from West Point, General Norm Schwarzkopf, to me, epitomized the 'duty, service, country' creed that has defended our freedom and seen this great Nation through our most trying international crises.
"More than that, he was a good and decent man -- and a dear friend. Barbara and I send our condolences to his wife Brenda and his wonderful family," the statement said.
Bush awarded Schwarzkopf the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his Desert Storm service, and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary knight.
Obama, congressional leaders to meet
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama will meet with leaders of Congress to try to avert tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect next week, a White House official said.
Citing an administration official it did not identify, Politico reported Thursday the White House meeting has been set for Friday.
The report came as House Republicans said they will call the House back into session Sunday to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the Senate floor to accuse House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, of operating a "dictatorship."
"The American people I don't think understand, the House of Representatives is operating without the House of Representatives," Reid said. "It's being operated with a dictatorship of the Speaker, not allowing the vast majority of the House of Representatives to get what they want."
Reid accused Boehner of being more concerned about preserving his speakership than dealing with the issue, and blasted Boehner for sending House Republicans home for Christmas with the issue far from unresolved and no schedule for their return to Capitol Hill.
A short time after Reid's broadside, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., tweeted the House would be back into session Sunday night, little more than a day before Bush-era tax cuts and deep spending cuts are scheduled to kick in.
Schatz sworn in to replace Inouye
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Less than 24 hours after Hawaii Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz was appointed to the U.S. Senate, he was sworn in to succeed the late Daniel Inouye.
Vice President Joe Biden presided as Schatz, a Democrat, took the oath of office Thursday afternoon at the Capitol in Washington.
Schatz, at 40 one of the younger members of the upper house, will become Hawaii's senior senator when the 113th Congress gets underway next week, Politico reported. Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Democrat, is retiring next month at the end of his current term and will be succeeded by Rep. Mazie Hirono, also a Democrat.
Inouye died Dec. 17 at age 88.
Sandy Hook shooter's DNA examined
FARMINGTON, Conn., Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Geneticists are examining Adam Lanza's DNA but experts say it is unlikely the analysis will help explain why he went on a mass killing rampage in Newtown, Conn.
University of Connecticut Health Center spokeswoman Carolyn Pennington Thursday confirmed Lanza's DNA was being tested at the request of the state medical examiner's office, CNN reported.
Pennington said the examination isn't intended to identify a specific genetic marker. Results are expected "probably the end of January," she said.
Lanza killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14, and then took his own life. Before going to the school, he killed his mother at her home.
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the DNA analysis probably won't yield a genetic explanation for the rampage.
"There's no clear-cut sort of ... genes identified with the types of illnesses, mental illnesses, that may cause this sort of behavior," he said.