US News: Fiscal Cliff Talks; Mississippi Wreck Kills 6; Former President Bush Out of ICU

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate leaders are groping for a last-minute compromise to avoid middle-class tax increases and possibly prevent deep spending cuts at the dawn of the new year as President Barack Obama warned that failure could mean a "self-inflicted wound to the economy."
Obama chastised lawmakers in his weekly radio and Internet address for waiting until the last minute to try and avoid a "fiscal cliff." Yet he said there was still time for an agreement.
Senate Republicans say they're ready to compromise.
Even so, there's no guarantee of success.
In a blunt challenge to Republicans, Obama said that barring a bipartisan agreement, he expected both houses to vote on his own proposal to block tax increases on all but the wealthy and simultaneously preserve expiring unemployment benefits.
Following a White House meeting Friday among Obama and congressional leaders, aides to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began racing against the clock for a bipartisan bargain. The leaders could present legislation to senators as early as Sunday, with a vote possible on Sunday or Monday.

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Five children and one adult have died after a sport utility vehicle plunged into a rain-swollen creek in eastern Mississippi.
Neshoba County Sheriff Tommy Waddell says the victims appear to have drowned after a Dodge Durango went off a county road 20 miles southeast of Philadelphia just after midnight Saturday morning.
Five siblings died. They have been identified as 9-year-old Dasyanna John, 8-year-old Duane John, 7-year-old Bobby John, 4-year-old Quinton John, and 18-month-old Kekaimeas John. Family friend Diane Chickaway also died. The sheriff says all were members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
The father of the children, Dewayne John, escaped and remains hospitalized. Their mother, Deanna Jim, and Chickaway's husband, Dale Chickaway, also survived.
Waddell says it took several hours for divers to find the submerged vehicle and pull it from the water.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A plane has skidded into a snow bank at an upstate New York airport and become stuck, temporarily stranding passengers.
A spokesman for the Albany County Airport Authority says there were no injuries.
GoJet Airlines flight 3645 was leaving the gate in Albany en route to Chicago on Saturday when it slid off a paved roadway. It had been snowing lightly all day. The flight was operating as a United Express flight.
The 66 passengers and four crew members were sent back to the airport by bus.
Airport authority spokesman Doug Myers says the accident didn't cause any other airport delays. The plane was removed from the snow bank. A GoJet spokesman says the aircraft will remain in Albany and undergo a full inspection by maintenance crews.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A widespread winter storm has dumped snow over the Northeast and parts of Ohio just days after the regions were hit by another storm moving from the nation's midsection.
The National Weather Service expects up to a foot of snow in parts of southern New England. The heaviest snowfall could be in Boston and Providence, R.I.
The weather service says in Ohio, Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati saw about 2 to 5 inches of snow Saturday.
Drivers in the Northeast are being warned to be cautious. Officials lowered the speed limit on much of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The earlier storm dumped more than a foot of snow in some places and has been blamed for at least 16 deaths. It spawned more than a dozen tornadoes in Alabama.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Red Cross says it responded to 113 large-scale disasters in 42 states and territories from the beginning of 2012 through December 1.
That included Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac, tornadoes, floods and wildfires. The Red Cross says Sandy was the biggest response in five years.
The Red Cross report does not include the response to the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut. But the report includes the response to the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado and the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin.
Red Cross says throughout 2012, it opened more than 900 shelters and provided shelter to more than 100,000 people forced from their homes.
Red Cross spokeswoman Anne Marie Borrego says every nine minutes they respond to a disaster in communities across the country, and most of the work is done by volunteers.

HOUSTON (AP) -- A spokesman says former President George H.W. Bush's condition continues to improve and that he was moved Saturday out of intensive care and into a regular hospital room.
Family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement Saturday that the Bushes thank everyone for their prayers and good wishes.
Bush was hospitalized Nov. 23 for treatment of a bronchitis-related cough. He was moved to intensive care at Houston's Methodist Hospital on Dec. 23 after he developed a fever.
Bush, the 41st president, is the country's oldest living former president by a few months.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Prosecutors say a woman accused of pushing a man to his death in front of a New York subway train has been charged with murder as a hate crime.
Police arrested Erika Menendez on Saturday after a passer-by on a street noticed she resembled the woman seen in a surveillance video.
A spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown says Menendez told authorities she hates Hindus and Muslims.
Subway shoving victim Sunando Sen was from India, but it's unclear if he was Muslim or Hindu.
Sen was killed Thursday. Witnesses say a muttering woman pushed him on the tracks as a train entered a Queens station and then ran off.
Menendez is in custody and can't be reached for comment. It's unclear if she has an attorney.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- When Dawn Nguyen (noo-WHEN') bought a semiautomatic rifle and 12-gauge shotgun 2 1/2 years ago, she indicated on a form that she would be the owner of the weapons.
Police say that was a lie and that she actually bought the guns for a convicted felon who couldn't legally possess them.
That felon was 62-year-old William Spengler, who used the weapons Monday to ambush firefighters lured to a blaze he set at his house in upstate Webster, killing two people and wounding three before killing himself.
Authorities charged Nguyen on Friday with lying on the form.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul says it's against federal law to provide any materially false information related to the acquisition of firearms.
Nguyen is scheduled in court on Jan. 8. She declined comment Friday.

MATTHEWS, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina man whom authorities say caused an alcohol-related wreck that killed a mother of two and her mother outside Charlotte has now been charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony death by vehicle.
Police say 28-year-old Justin Jones was arrested Saturday afternoon on the new charges after he was released from the hospital.
Jones was charged with driving while intoxicated after a wreck in Matthews, a Charlotte suburb, on Wednesday night. Authorities say he was driving an SUV and hit a Honda CRV, killing 62-year-old Marie Crook and her daughter, 37-year-old Jennifer Hunt.
Hunt's two children were treated for minor injuries at an area hospital.
It wasn't known if Jones had an attorney. He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 1.