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Dec. 29, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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Blunt calls on Dems to pass GOP bills

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has called on Democrats to back bills passed by the Republican-controlled House to prevent the impending spending cuts and tax increases.

The Missouri Republican's appeal came during the weekly Republican media address Saturday.

On Friday, President Barack Obama met with both Democratic and Republican leaders to deal with the so-called "fiscal cliff," or spending cuts and tax increases, that will automatically go into effect Tuesday.

"Fortunately, going over the fiscal cliff is avoidable. There's not much time, but there's still time to act," Blunt said. "Both President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have claimed that an achievable plan is one that can pass both houses of Congress and Republicans agree."

"The Republican-controlled House has taken a step in the right direction," Blunt said. "The House has already passed bills to protect all Americans from burdensome tax increases. In addition, they've passed legislation to replace damaging across-the-board spending cuts with responsible targeted ones, and to bring our nation's record debt under control."

"But instead of working across the aisle and considering the House-passed plan to protect taxpayers, Senate Democrats have spent months drawing partisan lines in the sand," he said. "The president's proposal to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of Americans won't even pay one-third of the annual interest that's now owed on this massive $16 trillion debt. In fact, the president's tax hike would only fund the government for eight days."

"We still can avoid going over the fiscal cliff if the president and the Democrat-controlled Senate step forward this week and work with Republicans to solve this problem and solve it now," Blunt concluded.

Four killed in Moscow airliner fire

MOSCOW, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Four people were killed and four others escaped from an airliner that overshot a runway in Moscow Saturday, emergency officials said.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said the Tu-204 passenger jet caught fire after going off the runway at the Vnukov airport in the capital.

The eight people aboard the plane were identified as crew members with Russian Red Wings Airline and were on a flight from the Czech Republic.

Officials said the captain of the aircraft was among those killed.

The Interior Ministry said the plane rolled off the airport grounds on to an adjacent highway, forcing police to close the road.

The Russian government launched an investigation into the accident. Sources told Russia's RIA Novosti news service pilot error was suspected.

Fresh snow falls in U.S. Northeast

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Parts of the Midwest were reporting 4-5 inches of new snow Saturday as a hefty winter storm headed toward the U.S. East Coast, forecasters said.

The storm was blamed for at least 10 deaths nationwide this week.

AccuWeather.com said 5.1 inches was on the ground in the Indianapolis suburbs and Columbus, Ohio, checked in with 4 inches. New York and Pittsburgh were expecting at least a couple of inches Saturday.

"It will keep the ski resorts happy and they won't waste money making snow," said John Goff, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service office in Burlington, Vt., told CNN.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said a survey of the lower 48 states found snow covered 64 percent of the total area -- a degree of coverage meteorologists told CNN was not seen last winter until February.

"Our current snow cover is not anything unusual," AccuWeather's Jack Boston said. "It was just way less than normal last winter."

Protest planned on Russian adoption ban

MOSCOW, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A Russian opposition group said it plans to protest the ban on adoption by U.S. citizens and the dissolution of the two houses of parliament.

Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front leftist opposition group, said Saturday that the group submitted a request to Moscow authorities requesting permission for a march Jan. 13.

"The demonstration of 20,000 people will walk from Belorussky train station down to the State Duma," Udaltsov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the new adoption law Friday, and it will go into effect Jan.1, RIA Novosti reported.

The adoption law was a response to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law earlier this month, introducing sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses, the Russian news agency reported.

Critics of the adoption ban said it will pressure Russian's dilapidated orphanage system with tens of thousands of children who would otherwise be adopted by Americans.

"We consider [the adoption law] antihuman and savage, it's an inadequate reaction to the Magnitsky Act," Udaltsov said.

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