Democrats present principles for immigration reform

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Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress presented the nine principles that should guide comprehensive immigration reform they say will contribute to the economic recovery.

During a press conference in the Capitol, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus insisted that immigration reform is cannot be postponed any longer, adding that during the 113th Congress is the perfect time to bring undocumented foreign residents out of the shadows.

An overhaul of immigration law would increase the U.S. gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said.

The nine principles put forward Wednesday include the registration of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants; protection of immigrant families to prevent their separation; legalization of undocumented students and visas for agricultural guestworkers.

To register, undocumented people would have to provide their fingerprints, pay taxes and learn English, although those who have criminal records will be subject to deportation.

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Chavez returns to Cuba for new medical treatment

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is once again in Cuba, where he arrived with substantially more security precautions than normal to undergo hyperbaric oxygenation treatment.

For the first time since June 2011, when Chavez began his comings and goings to the island for cancer treatment and medical checkups, authorities in Caracas did not announce his departure time or provide any photographs of it, in contrast to other trips, on some of which he was accompanied by huge entourages on his way to the capital airport.

It has been almost 18 months since Chavez underwent surgery in Havana in June 2011 for a pelvic abscess during which the cancer was detected, although the specific type of the disease he is suffering from has been kept an official secret.

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Overcrowding a factor in Spain Halloween tragedy

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The crowd at the Madrid Arena was 58 percent larger than the facility's legal capacity during the Halloween party that ended in tragedy with the deaths of four young women who were crushed in a human stampede.

The final count of people admitted to the party in the Madrid Arena was 16,791, far exceeding the permitted number for the event of 10,600 people, court sources said Wednesday.

Lawyers for the families of victims Rocio Oña and Belen Langdon said that the count showed that the allowed number of partygoers was "immensely" exceeded, and the promoter of the event, Miguel Angel Flores, lied when he said that only 9,650 entry tickets had been sold.

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Bangladesh arrests 3 in deadly factory fire

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Three management personnel at the Bangladeshi clothing factory where 111 workers died in a fire were arrested for preventing the employees from fleeing, Dhaka newspaper The Daily Star said.

The supervisors are accused of chaining doors shut and giving the workers false information at the outset of the blaze, the daily said, reporting on a press conference held by Dhaka police chief Habibur Rahman.

The fire, thought to have been caused by an electrical short circuit, broke out last Saturday night at the eight-story Tazreen Fashion factory in the export processing zone outside Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.

Besides the 111 fatalities, around 100 other workers were injured.

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Most Brazilian workers now in formal employment

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The proportion of working Brazilians with employment contracts increased from 45.3 percent in 2001 to 56 percent last year, the IBGE statistics agency said.

Even so, Latin America's largest economy still has 44.2 million informal workers, the IBGE said in its Synthesis of Social Indicators report.

The agency said the shift toward formal employment can be attributed to periods of strong economic growth that boosted incomes and job creation.

Informal work is now mainly the preserve of people over 60 and under 24, according to the report

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Colombia withdraws from world-court pact

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President Juan Manuel Santos said that Colombia has pulled out of a pact recognizing the International Court of Justice's jurisdiction over its territorial disputes, a step taken in the wake of this month's world-court decision setting new maritime borders with Nicaragua.

"Colombia withdrew from the (1948) Pact of Bogota on (Tuesday). The corresponding notice was given to the secretary-general of the Organization of American States," Santos said at a coffee forum.

This decision adheres to the basic principle that "territorial and maritime borders are set through (bilateral) treaties, as has been the legal tradition in Colombia," Santos said.

The Hague-based ICJ ruled on Nov. 19 that seven Caribbean islets belong to Colombia, ending a three-decade-long dispute between the Andean nation and Nicaragua.

The world court had earlier confirmed Bogota's claim to the larger islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, part of an archipelago that lies 775 kilometers (480 miles) from mainland Colombia and 220 kilometers (140 miles) from the coast of Nicaragua.

While giving the islets to Colombia, the decision also significantly expanded the waters under Nicaraguan control.

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Spain's King Juan Carlos to remain in hospital for several more days

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Spain's King Juan Carlos is "in optimum condition" to be discharged after a hip replacement, but his medical team has convinced him to remain in the hospital for "a few more days" to carry out the next phase of his rehabilitation.

Orthopedist Angel Villamor, who headed the surgical team, said that the monarch could have left the hospital on Wednesday, but he convinced Juan Carlos to remain for several more days to carry out his physical therapy exercises there, although he could do them "at home."

The doctor emphasized that, far from causing a delay in the king's recovery, remaining in the hospital was suggested to "more efficiently and more rapidly" get him better.

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Cuba: Alan Gross does not have cancerous lesions

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The Cuban government said that a biopsy established that U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence here for subversion, does not have any cancerous lesions.

Gross is receiving "adequate treatment" for his various health problems, including any chronic ones and those "typical for his age" that he had before being arrested in Havana, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Gross maintains a voluntary regimen of systematic physical exercise and is following a balanced diet of his choosing, which has allowed him to eliminate his earlier condition of obesity," said the statement.

"This test could not be performed earlier, given that Mr. Gross refused it," said the foreign ministry.

Now 63, Gross was arrested in Havana on Dec. 3, 2009, in possession of satellite communications equipment he said he was planning to distribute among Cuba's Jewish community.

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10 Missing after landslide in Colombia

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Ten people were missing and 50 others left trapped after a massive landslide in the northeastern Colombian province of Norte de Santander, authorities said.

The avalanche that struck the hamlet of Teorama was caused by torrential rains, Colombia's emergency management office said.

An army reconnaissance flight confirmed that one residence was buried in the mud and "its 10 inhabitants still remain missing," the office said.

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9 Dead, 7 missing after fishing boat sinks off northeast China

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Nine people have died and seven remain missing after a fishing boat sank off the coast of the northeastern Chinese seaport of Dalian, maritime authorities said.

The boat with 17 people on board sank in the wee hours of Wednesday amid strong waves during an attempt to hook the boat to a larger vessel, the authorities said.

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EFE