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Dec. 27, 2012 at 4:59 PM
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House called back into session

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. House will be called back into session Sunday to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff following finger-pointing by Senate Majority Harry Reid.

President Obama cut short his Hawaiian vacation and returned to Washington early Thursday. Shortly after his return, Reid, D-Nev., took to the Senate floor, lambasting House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for sending members of the House home for Christmas without a return schedule.

A short time later, 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.

"The House will return for legislative business on Sunday, December 30. First votes are expected at 6:30 p.m.," Cantor said. He followed up, saying the House likely would be in session through Jan. 2.

Air Force One touched down at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland outside of Washington Thursday morning.

White House officials told reporters late in the flight while in Hawaii, the president called the four congressional leaders: Boehner, Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Tenn.

Prospects for a deal, however, apparently were bleak.

Reid took to the House floor to criticize Boehner's handling of the issue and accused him of being more concerned about preserving his speakership than dealing with the issue.

Putin to sign U.S. adoption ban

MOSCOW, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said he plans to sign a controversial bill that will ban Americans from adopting Russian children.

"I already received this draft law today from the Federation Council. I have not seen any reason why I should not sign it, although I have to consider the final version and think everything over," Putin said at a meeting of the State Council, a presidential advisory body.

Should Putin sign the bill, the ban would go into effect on Jan. 1, halting the adoption of 46 Russian children by American families, RIA Novosti reported.

The ban is partially a response to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this month, which introduces sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses.

Russian lawmakers say the bill also 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.

Unity sought against Pakistani extremists

GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH, Pakistan, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Thursday urged Pakistan's political parties to unite to fight extremists.

In a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the assassination of his mother, Zardari, 24, the head of the Pakistan People's Party whose father is President Asif Ali Zardari, said his party's policy of political reconciliation works against extremism, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

"We want to take along all the parties and have adopted the process of reconciliation to ensure progress and prosperity in the country," the younger Zardari said. "We invite them [all political forces] to come and work together unitedly and we will change the winds."

He said those who oppose the PPP's call for reconciliation are anti-democratic and are intent on establishing a dictatorship.

"We are followers of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and all those who sacrifice their lives for the democracy and rights of the people," he said.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, his grandfather, was executed in 1979 for authorizing the killing of a political opponent.

Malay flooding kills 6, displaces 20,000

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Severe flooding in Malaysia has killed six people, including five children 15 or younger, and displaced more than 20,000 others, police said.

Most of the fatalities came as children worked or played around swollen waterways in the island nation.

A 6-year-old boy drowned while trying to help his father fix a torn fishing net in Kampung Kederang about 1 a.m. Thursday, The Star of Bernama said.

A 14-year-old died when he slipped into a flooded canal in Kampung Kebor Besar, Manir Wednesday. In Kemaman, two teens ages 14 and 15 drowned while playing near floodwaters.

The government said 9,600 flood relief centers have been opened in the province for residents whose homes are underwater. Residents in some areas were allowed to return home Thursday.

Forecasters see new storm for Northeast

NEW YORK, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A new storm was headed for portions of New England, the mid-Atlantic and the Ohio Valley as the region tried to dig out from a deadly Christmas blast.

Accuweather.com said the new storm could strengthen to a strong nor'easter or blizzard in portions of New England and the Maritimes.

Accuweather said the new storm forecast for the last weekend of 2012 will bring more snow to areas already hit by an after-Christmas storm and will bring snow to some areas that received rain or mostly rain.

One piece of good news: Forecasters said storm will not evoke a major outbreak of thunderstorms and tornadoes in the South.

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