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Dec. 28, 2012 at 12:02 PM   |   Comments

McConnell to review new Obama 'cliff' plan

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama called a Friday meeting with congressional leaders to discuss a plan to avert the "fiscal cliff."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he'd review the plan ahead of the 3 p.m. meeting.

"Hopefully, there is still time for an agreement of some kind that saves the taxpayers from a wholly preventable economic crisis," McConnell said ahead of his first direct engagement with the White House to avoid more than $500 billion in tax hikes for virtually all taxpayers and spending cuts in defense and domestic programs scheduled to take effect Tuesday.

Obama called McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to meet to try to broker a way forward in stalled negotiations to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts.

Economists have warned missing the year-end deadline and letting those increases and cuts go into effect could thrust the nation back into recession.

At Friday's meeting, Obama was expected to outline elements he thinks should be in a deal that could get majority support in both chambers of Congress, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

But Reid said the prospects of passing even a slimmed-down bill before Monday, the last day of the year, were fading fast.

"I have to be very honest. I don't know time-wise how it can happen now," he said.

Both parties told The Washington Post talks were quietly under way between aides to McConnell and senior White House officials ahead of Friday's Oval Office meeting.

House GOP leaders announced Thursday they would call members back into session Sunday, with a possible vote that evening.


Putin signs anti-U.S. adoption law

MOSCOW, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law Friday an anti-U.S. adoption bill, a retaliatory measure to a U.S. law concerning human rights violations.

Russian lawmakers said the bill is a response to the reported abuse of Russian children by their adoptive parents in the United States. Since 1999, 19 Russian children have died at the hands of their American adoptive parents.

The bill Putin signed Friday includes several provisions that help fulfill state policy concerning the protection of underage orphans and children left without parental care, ITAR-Tass reported.

Adoptions of Russian children by American parents already in progress have stopped, RIA Novosti reported.

"I don't see how one of those members of [Russian] Parliament can look at those children and say 'this is what's best for you, you could have had a home and a family and now that's not going to happen,'" Bill Deutsch told RIA Novosti. He and his wife are in the process of adopting 13-year-old Tim and 11-year-old Ana from Russia, both are HIV-positive.

Earlier this year, U.S. and Russian negotiators reached agreement on a new inter-country adoption treaty that addresses many of the concerns of Russian officials.


Lebanese protesters seek killer's release

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Protesters near the U.S. Embassy in Beirut Friday demanded the release of a Lebanese man jailed in France for killing an U.S. soldier and an Israeli diplomat.

About 100 protesters carried posters, including one calling for the immediate release of George Abdullah, who has been imprisoned for 28 years, and another bearing the likeness of U.S. President Barack Obama altered to look like the "Joker" character from Batman movies, The Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon reported.

"We aren't in the habit of apologizing to the Great Satan," another poster stated.

A French court granted Abdullah parole last month but the former Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions member, serving a life term, remains jailed pending an appeal by prosecutors.

Abdullah was arrested in 1984 and sentenced three years later for the killings of U.S. Lt. Col. Charles Ray and Israeli diplomat Yacov Barsimentov in Paris.


India to release sex offenders' names

DELHI, India, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The Indian government, facing mounting public pressure over sexual violence against women, says it will publicly name thousands of convicted sex offenders.

Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs R.P.N. Singh said the government will publish sex offenders' names, photographs and addresses, starting in Delhi where protests have been carried out over the gang rape of a 23-year-old student this month, The Guardian reported.

The woman, who was raped while on a moving bus, was listed in critical condition in a Singapore hospital where she was taken for treatment, the British newspaper said.

"We are planning to start the process [of identification] in Delhi," Singh said. "Photographs, names and addresses of the rapists will be uploaded on the Delhi police website also."

Police chiefs and government officials were to meet with activists and others Friday to go over the implementation of the plan to publish the information, despite concerns of potential vigilante attacks against the convicted offenders.


Bush aide: Keep the harps in the closet

HOUSTON, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The family of former President George H.W. Bush said they were confident he would be released from an intensive care unit in a Houston hospital soon.

Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath said the former president moved into Methodist Hospital's ICU so he could be treated for an elevated temperature and that Bush family members had confidence in the medical staff treating him, CNN reported.

While the family has expressed hope that Bush would be discharged soon, they and Bush's doctors indicated they were in no hurry to send him home, McGrath said.

Bush, 88, has been battling a fever and was transferred to Methodist Hospital's intensive care unit Sunday.

On Wednesday, McGrath said Bush was in guarded condition and on a liquid diet. On Thursday, the spokesman said Bush was being treated with Tylenol, among other things, and was in good spirits.

Bush's chief of staff Jean Becker sent supporters a message Thursday, assuring them the 41st president's condition wasn't dire, CNN said.

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