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Jan. 16, 2013 at 8:01 AM
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Obama to propose sweeping gun-law changes

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's gun-law plan includes expanded background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, the White House said.

"The president has made clear that he intends to take a comprehensive approach," White House spokesman Jay Carney said ahead of Obama's Wednesday announcement of the most sweeping proposed changes to gun laws in nearly two decades.

Obama "has also made clear that there are specific legislative actions that he will continue to call on Congress to take, including the assault-weapons ban, including a measure to ban high-capacity magazine clips, including an effort to close the very big loopholes in the background-check system in our country," Carney said.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who developed the administration's proposals, were to unveil the package at the White House at 11:55 a.m., the White House said.

They were to be accompanied by children who wrote to Obama after last month's Sandy Hook Elementary school mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., the White House said.

Helicopter hits crane in London; 2 dead

LONDON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- At least two people died and 11 were injured, one critically, when a helicopter crashed into a crane at a construction site in London Wednesday, police said.

"It's very early stages but there is no suggestion yet this was terrorism," the Metropolitan Police told the BBC. "There is no SO [Special Operations] involvement at the moment."

London Fire Brigade station manager Bruce Grain said the helicopter crashed to the street and burst into flames.

"The fire spread to buildings along the road," Grain told the BBC. "We were able to rescue someone from one of the burning cars that the helicopter hit. All the fires are under control now, we're damping down and making the area ready for the investigation."

Witnesses said debris from the crash was flung about the area and plumes of black smoke could be seen rising in the air. The crane was toppled at a construction site.

Transportation officials said train and subway service resumed after a temporary suspension, but a bus station near the crash site was closed.

Sky News said the helicopter pilot and another person were killed.

Inspector General: USPS bailout or shutdown

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The troubled U.S. Postal Service has reached its own debt ceiling and will go out of business this year unless Congress rescues it, the inspector general said.

"The choices are that it would cease to exist or it would need a bailout," David Williams, the chief postal watchdog, told Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

The service -- one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the Constitution -- has reached its $15 billion credit limit with the U.S. Treasury and has effectively run out of money, said Williams, whose job is to prevent fraud, waste and program abuse and promote USPS efficiency.

"This is the year that they borrowed so much that they can't borrow anymore," he told the newspaper.

The post office bailout would not require taxpayer dollars, Williams said, but rather congressional intervention to reduce USPS pension payments, which are about $5.5 billion a year.

ANA, JAL ground Boeing 787 fleets

TOKYO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- An All Nippon Airway's Boeing 787 made an emergency landing in Japan with all aboard safe but it led both ANA and JAL to ground all their new "Dreamliner" jets.

Wednesday's emergency landing with 137 crew and passengers aboard was the latest in a series of recent incidents involving the U.S. aircraft maker's much-admired, technologically-advanced plane.

ANA's Boeing 787 Flight 692 bound for Tokyo landed at about 8:45 a.m. at Takamatsu Airport in western Japan, about 30 minutes after taking off from the Yamaguchi Ube airport, Kyodo News reported.

All the 137 crew members and passengers aboard evacuated the plane upon landing, but one passenger complained of pain in the lower back and was taken to hospital, Kyodo reported, quoting ANA and local fire department officials.

At news conference, Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government's main spokesman, said another five people on board were slightly injured, but other details were available, the report said.

ANA Vice President Osamu Watanabe said the landing at Takamatsu airport was made after a battery alarm signal activated on the plane, CNN reported. Some of those aboard reported a burning smell in the cabin.

CNN also quoted officials as saying one alarm indicated smoke in a forward electrical compartment.

After the incident, CNN said both ANA, which has 17 Boeing 787s, and Japan Airlines, which has seven of the planes, grounded them, but it was not clear how long the planes would remain like that.

French troops head north in Mali

BAMAKO, Mali, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- French troops left the capital of Mali and headed north overnight in what appears to be an acceleration of the ground war against Islamic rebels.

French officials said they are concerned with concentrations of armed militants from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, also known as AQIM, at two sites, the BBC reported Wednesday.

One is the towns is Diabaly, some 250 miles northeast of Mali's capital of Bamako, and the other is the village of Konna, the first place to fall to Islamists, they said.

Until now, the main French effort against the rebels has been aerial bombardment of their positions using fighter jets and helicopters.

When France started attacks against AQIM and its allies in northern Mali plans were for only several hundred French soldiers to take part.

Wednesday the total due in Mali rose to 2,500.

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