Obama: "Best is yet to come" for the United States

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Democrat Barack Obama pledged after winning a second term as president that the "best is yet to come" for the United States.

Accompanied on stage at the massive McCormick Place convention center in Chicago by his wife and their two daughters, Obama said after defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney that the "task of perfecting our union moves forward."

"Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you and you have made me a better president," Obama said in the wee hours of Wednesday, pledging to return to the White House "more determined and more inspired than ever."

Obama, who fulfilled a campaign promise to end the combat mission in Iraq during his first term, said the challenges that still await him include reducing the deficit, overhauling the tax code and finding a comprehensive solution to the nation's troubled immigration system.

He also congratulated Romney on his campaign and said he hoped to sit down with the former Massachusetts governor to discuss how the two parties can work together to "move this country forward."

Obama won nearly all the key battleground states in Tuesday's balloting, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia and all-important Ohio.

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Death toll in major Guatemala earthquake stands at 39

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The death toll in the magnitude-7.4 earthquake that struck Guatemala now stands at 39 and local authorities said that it could go higher.

Arnoldo Rivera, the governor of the northwestern province of San Marcos, told local media earlier in the day that "officially ... there are 29 fatalities and 155 people injured," but 10 more fatalities were later added to that total as emergency crews searched the rubble of collapsed buildings in the province.

At least 135 homes in that region were destroyed, he said.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said earlier at a press conference at the headquarters of the Conred emergency management agency that around 100 people were listed as missing in San Marcos.

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Puerto Ricans support U.S. statehood for first time

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For the first time in their history, a majority of Puerto Ricans expressed support for U.S. statehood in a non-binding referendum on the future of the island's relationship with Washington.

The result of the plebiscite, held on Tuesday to coincide with the general election, breaks decades of local support for the island's current commonwealth status.

Just over 61 percent of voters favored seeking to make Puerto Rico the 51st state, while 33.31 percent supported an enhanced commonwealth arrangement and just 5.53 percent were in favor of full independence.

Statehood would require the approval of the U.S. Congress.

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Puerto Rico changes course, elects Garcia Padilla as governor

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Puerto Ricans decided to shift course by electing Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, as their new governor.

Delays by the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico in announcing the results of the voting meant that Garcia Padilla did not celebrate his victory until the wee hours of Wednesday, while Gov. Luis Fortuño of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, or PNP, did not concede until late Wednesday morning.

With 96.35 percent of the votes counted, 47.85 percent of the ballots were cast for the PPD standard-bearer, compared to 47.04 percent for Fortuño.

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Arizona Hispanic community still stuck with Arpaio

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The immigrant community in the Phoenix area is preparing to live another four years with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who over the past few years has intensified his fight against undocumented migrants.

Arpaio, 80, was reelected Tuesday to a sixth consecutive term with 53 percent of the votes.

The controversial Republican sheriff received another mandate despite several pending federal lawsuits accusing his office of engaging in racial profiling against Hispanics.

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EU expects Spanish economy to stay in recession until 2014

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The European Commission said it expects Spain's economy to contract by 1.4 percent both this year and next before rebounding in 2014 with growth of 0.8 percent.

The commission's latest forecast is more pessimistic than the one it issued in May, when it predicted Spain's gross domestic product would decline by 0.3 percent in 2013.

Its figures are largely in line with the latest forecast by the International Monetary Fund, which said it expects Spain's economy to shrink by 1.5 percent in 2012 and 1.3 percent in 2013.

The commission said Spain will remain in recession well into 2013 due to a deteriorating labor market, deficit-cutting measures and difficult credit conditions.

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5 Gunned down in Brazilian metropolis

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Five people were killed and three others wounded overnight in separate shootings in Brazil's largest city and its suburbs, authorities said.

The incidents came just hours after the Sao Paulo state government and Brazilian federal officials announced the implementation of a joint plan to confront a recent upsurge in violence here.

Two young men were fatally shot late Tuesday in the crime-ridden Sao Paulo city neighborhood of Itaquera, a source in the municipal Public Safety Office told Efe, while shootings in nearby areas left a youth dead and a police officer wounded.

The other two fatalities were reported on Sao Paulo's north side and in suburban Guarulhos, respectively.

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4 Hurt in shootout between police and Indians in Brazil

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Four people were wounded in a gunfight between Brazilian federal police and Munduruku Indians in a remote Amazonian village, authorities said.

The clash took place in a hamlet outside the town of Alta Floresta, 775 kilometers (481 miles) north of Cuiaba, capital of Mato Grosso state.

The police involved in the incident were part of a multistate operation targeting illegal gold mining.

The officers came under attack with bullets and arrows as they were destroying equipment allegedly used in illegal mining, a police spokesman told Efe.

Two Munduruku and two cops were hurt in the ensuing battle.

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EFE