Posted: Dec 29, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: Dec 30, 2012 4:00 AM
Fiscal deal, still under negotiations in the Senate, would pale against initial expectations
WASHINGTON (AP) Whether negotiated in a rush before the new year or left for early January, the fiscal deal President Barack Obama and Congress cobble together will be far smaller than what they initially envisioned as an alternative to purposefully distasteful tax increases and spending cuts.
Instead, their compromise, if they do indeed cut a deal, will put off some big decisions about tax and entitlement changes and leave other deadlines in place that will likely lead to similar moments of brinkmanship, some in just a matter of weeks.
Republican and Democratic negotiators in the Senate were hoping for an accord as early as Sunday on what threshold to set for increased tax rates, whether to keep current inheritance tax rates and exemptions and how to pay for jobless benefits and avoid cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.
An agreement would halt automatic across-the-board tax increases for virtually every American and perhaps temporarily put off some steep spending cuts in defense and domestic programs.
Gone, however, is the talk of a grand bargain that would tackle broad spending and revenue demands and set the nation on a course to lower deficits. Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner were once a couple hundred billion dollars apart from a deal that would have reduced the deficit by more than $2 trillion over 10 years.
If US falls off 'fiscal cliff,' economy could get soft landing or dizzy dive onto the rocks
WASHINGTON (AP) Efforts to save the nation from going over a year-end "fiscal cliff" were still in disarray as lawmakers returned to the Capitol to confront the tax-and-spend crisis. A tone-setting quotation was Democratic Sen. Harry Reid's assertion that the House under Republican Speaker John Boehner had been "operating with a dictatorship."
President Barack Obama flew back to Washington from Hawaii after telephoning congressional leaders from his Christmas vacation perch. Once back, he set up a meeting with leaders of both parties at the White House late Friday to make a fresh attempt to find a solution before Monday night's deadline.
A look at why it's so hard for Republicans and Democrats to compromise on urgent matters of taxes and spending, and what happens if they fail to meet their deadline:
NEW YEAR'S HEADACHE
19 Shiite pilgrims killed in suicide attack in southwest Pakistan
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) A suicide bomber driving a vehicle packed with explosives rammed into a bus carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims in southwest Pakistan on Sunday, killing 19 people, a government official and eyewitnesses said.
Earlier Sunday, 21 tribal policemen believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban were found shot dead in Pakistan's troubled northwest tribal region, government officials said.
Pakistan has experienced a spike in killings over the last year by radical Sunni Muslims targeting Shiites who they consider heretics. The violence has been especially pronounced in Baluchistan province, where the latest attack occurred.
In addition to the 19 people killed in the bombing in Baluchistan's Mastung district, 25 others were wounded, many of them critically, said Tufail Ahmed, a local political official. The blast completely destroyed the bus that was hit and damaged a second bus carrying Shiites that was close by.
An eyewitness who was traveling in the second bus told Pakistan's Geo TV that first bus contained over 40 pilgrims headed to neighboring Iran, a majority Shiite country that is a popular religious tourism destination.
Woman charged with murder as hate crime in man's NY subway death after tip leads to her arrest
NEW YORK (AP) A woman who told police she shoved a man to his death off a subway platform into the path of a train because she has hated Muslims since Sept. 11 and thought he was one was charged Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.
Erika Menendez was charged in the death of Sunando Sen, who was crushed by a 7 train in Queens on Thursday night, the second time this month a commuter has died in such a nightmarish fashion.
Menendez, 31, was awaiting arraignment on the charge Saturday evening, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said. She could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted. She was in custody and couldn't be reached for comment, and it was unclear if she had an attorney.
Menendez, who was arrested after a tip by a passer-by who saw her on a street and thought she looked like the woman in a surveillance video released by police, admitted shoving Sen, who was pushed from behind, authorities said.
"I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I've been beating them up," Menendez told police, according to the district attorney's office.
4 dead after airliner goes off Moscow runway, catches fire
MOSCOW (AP) A passenger airliner careered off the runway at Russia's third-busiest airport and partly onto a highway while landing on Saturday, broke into pieces and caught fire, killing at least four people.
Officials said there were eight people aboard the Tu-204 belonging to Russian airline Red Wings that was flying back from the Czech Republic without passengers to its home at Vnukovo Airport.
Emergency officials said in a televised news conference that four people were killed and another four severely injured when the plane rolled off the runway into a snowy field and partly onto an adjacent highway, then disintegrated. No collisions with vehicles on the major, multilane highway were reported.
The plane's cockpit area was sheared off from the fuselage and a large chunk gashed out near the tail.
The crash occurred amid light snow and winds gusting up to 15 meters a second (30 mph), but other details were not immediately known. A spokesman for Russia's top investigative agency, Vladimir Markin, said initial indications were that pilot error was the cause.
Russian foreign minister says Assad won't step down, can't be persuaded
MOSCOW (AP) Russia's foreign minister said Saturday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no intention of stepping down and it would be impossible to try to persuade him otherwise.
After a meeting with Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.'s envoy for the Syrian crisis, Sergey Lavrov also said that the Syrian opposition risks sacrificing many more lives if it continues to insist on Assad leaving office as a precondition for holding talks on Syria's future.
Assad "has repeatedly said publicly and privately, including in his meeting with Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus not long ago, that he does not intend to leave for anywhere, that he will stay to the end in his post, that he will, as he expressed it, defend the Syrian people, Syrian sovereignty and so forth," Lavrov said. "There's no possibility to change this position."
Brahimi warned that the country's civil war could plunge the entire region into chaos by sending hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring nations, but his talks in Moscow produced no sign of progress toward settling the crisis.
Brahimi and Lavrov both said after their meeting that the 21-month-old Syrian conflict can only be settled through talks, while admitting that the parties in the conflict have shown no desire for compromise. Neither official hinted at a possible solution that would persuade the Syrian government and the opposition to agree to a ceasefire and sit down for talks about a political transition.
Body of woman who was gang-raped on a bus in India's capital is cremated in private ceremony
NEW DELHI (AP) A young woman who died after being gang-raped and beaten on a bus in India's capital was cremated Sunday amid an outpouring of anger and grief by millions across the country demanding greater protection for women from sexual violence.
The cremation took place during a private ceremony in New Delhi soon after the woman's body arrived in the capital on a special Air India flight from Singapore, where she died at a hospital Saturday after being sent for medical treatment.
The tragedy has forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crime, forcing them to keep quiet and discouraging them from going to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Police often refuse to accept complaints from rape victims, and the rare prosecutions that reach courts can drag on for years.
Security was tight, with no access to the public or media at the crematorium.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party, were at the airport to receive the body and meet family members of the victim who were on the flight.
Central Asian migrants change the face of Moscow as they move into more visible roles
MOSCOW (AP) Timur Bulgakov has a black belt in karate, two university degrees, a powerful SUV and a small yet thriving construction company. The 28-year-old's success is impressive for a Muslim migrant from Uzbekistan whose first job in Moscow 10 years ago was as a delivery boy.
But his story is no longer that unusual.
The old Moscow, populated largely by Slavs, is rapidly giving way to a multi-ethnic city where Muslims from Central Asia are the fastest growing sector of the population. And they are changing the face of Moscow as their numbers rise and they move up the career ladder, taking on more visible roles in society.
Muslim women wearing hijabs are a growing sight on the capital's shopping streets. Bearded men sport Muslim skullcaps and hang trinkets with Koranic verses in their cars. Many more are non-practicing Muslims who blend in with secular attire, although their darker skin, accented speech and foreign customs often provoke frowns from native Muscovites. Meanwhile, their children some born and raised in the capital throng kindergartens and schools.
Russia's Federal Migration Service estimates that about 9.1 million foreigners arrived in Russia to work in 2011. More than a third came from three impoverished Central Asian countries that were once part of the Soviet Union: About 2 million from Uzbekistan, 1 million from Tajikistan and more than 500,000 from Kyrgyzstan. Local experts say the number of Central Asian arrivals is at least twice as high. And hundreds of thousands of Central Asians have already acquired Russian passports and are off the migration services' radar.
2nd snowstorm in a week hits Northeast, Ohio; flights delayed, Pa. drivers told to slow down
NEW YORK (AP) A widespread winter storm dumped snow over the Northeast and parts of Ohio on Saturday, just days after the regions were hit by another storm moving from the nation's midsection.
The National Weather Service expected up to a foot of snow in parts of southern New England, with the heaviest snowfall possibly in Providence, R.I., and Boston, which declared parking bans to allow snow removal vehicles to clean the streets. Winter storm warnings were in effect in parts of those states and in Connecticut.
New York City and Philadelphia saw a mix of rain and snow as the storm moved in from the west. In Ohio, Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati saw about 2 to 5 inches of snow by Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
"Expect those accumulations to kind of work their way northeastward through much of New York state and much of New England," weather service meteorologist Brian Hurley said.
Drivers throughout the regions were warned to be cautious. Officials lowered the speed limit on much of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, about 300 miles from the Ohio state line to east-central Pennsylvania, from 65 mph to 45 mph.
Las Vegas police suspect casino worker killed 10-year-old girl, slashed co-worker with razor
LAS VEGAS (AP) Police suspect that a casino worker killed a 10-year-girl before going to a Las Vegas resort and allegedly slashing the face of a co-worker with razor blades.
The search for Jade Morris ended Friday afternoon when officials confirmed that it was her body that was found a day earlier in an undeveloped housing tract.
The Clark County coroner's office said she died of multiple stab wounds. Jade was last seen Dec. 21 with family friend Brenda Stokes Wilson, who picked her up to go Christmas shopping.
Wilson, 50, returned the car she had borrowed for the outing to a friend two hours later. Jade never came back. Investigators later found blood on the driver's door and steering wheel of the 2007 Saab sedan.
Later that night, Wilson was wrestled to the ground with razors in each hand after allegedly slashing the face of a female co-worker at the Bellagio casino.