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Dec. 27, 2012 at 12:46 PM
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Obama returns to D.C. as 'cliff' nears

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- President Obama returned to the White House Thursday to face dwindling prospects for a deal on the "fiscal cliff" before the New Year.

Obama cut short his Hawaiian vacation to fly to Washington overnight with U.S. Senator-designate Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, on board Air Force One.

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 that while in Hawaii the president called the four congressional leaders: U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Tenn.

The rest of the first family stayed on vacation in Hawaii but the Obamas' dog Bo returned to the White House with the president.

Prospects for a deal apparently were bleak.

"What Obama has outlined as minimally acceptable to him doesn't come within a country mile of passing either the House or the Senate," a senior Republican aide told Politico of the president's latest proposal. "No negotiation can change the fundamentals."

"Unless Boehner and McConnell are willing to buck their Tea Party members, then I see nothing happening," a Democratic aide told the Washington newspaper.

Envoy says plan could end Syrian war soon

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said the Syrian conflict could be over within months if the warring sides agree to a plan with a transitional government.

Brahimi pushed for implementation of the so-called Geneva communique, a plan presented by world leaders in June in the Swiss city that calls for a transitional government, an end to violence and establishing lasting democracy in Syria, CNN reported Thursday.

Brahimi was in Damascus this week meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad and other officials.

"I discussed with all the parties the need to have a transitional government that will hold broad powers," Brahimi said in a statement broadcast on Syrian state-run television. "The Geneva communique had all that is needed for a road map to end the crisis in Syria within few months."

Russia and China joined France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Turkey in agreeing on the plan, which brought together countries that had been at odds on how to resolve the Syrian crisis.

Left unanswered, however, was whether Assad could be part of a transitional government, CNN said.

The communique states the transitional government "could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent."

George H.W. Bush in intensive care unit

HOUSTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush was moved to the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital due to a persistent fever, his spokesman said.

Bush has been at Methodist Hospital since Nov. 23 when he was admitted for a cough, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The 41st president was moved to the intensive care unit of the hospital Sunday for treatment of a fever, Bush's spokesman Jim McGrath said.

"He is considered in guarded condition," McGrath said. "He has suffered a series of setbacks."

Doctors are treating Bush's fever with Tylenol but it's not responding to the treatment, McGrath said.

Bush has had various health problems in recent years, including being diagnosed with lower body Parkinsonism in February.

McGrath said Bush is alert, has a "running banter'' with his nurses and is surrounded by family.

Blogger turns tables on gun map

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A blogger who published the names and home addresses of a New York newspaper's employees said the newspaper staff "were being hypocrites."

Earlier this week, the Journal News, a suburban New York City newspaper, published the names and addresses of people with gun licenses in Westchester and Rockland counties, Politico reported. The publication caused outrage from the right and from some readers.

"We knew publication of the database [as well as the accompanying article providing context] would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings," Janet Hasson, the president and publisher of the Journal News Media Group, said Wednesday.

In retaliation for the incident, Christopher Fountain on Wednesday published on map that identified Journal News employee, as well as their places of residence.

"Well, I just thought they were being hypocrites," Fountain told CNN. "In the aftermath of Newtown, it was obviously one tragedy, but somehow they were conflating legal gun owners with some crazed tormented devil up in Newtown and putting the two together. And I was offended by that and I wondered how they would like it if their addresses were published."

Explosion at medical school kills one

CHERNIVTSI, Ukraine, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- An explosion Thursday at Ukraine's Chernivtsi Medical University left one man dead and two others wounded, officials said.

Interfax news agency reported that a man set off an explosive device, killing himself, in one of the buildings of a medical university in Chernivtsi. His identity hasn't been released.

Two other people -- a 42-year-old professor and an 18-year-old student -- were injured in the blast and were hospitalized.

Police officers were investigating the explosion, ForUm reported.

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