U.S. backs Spain's efforts to repair economy


President Barack Obama's administration wants to "see Spain surmount its economic problems" and supports Madrid's efforts to that end, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs said.

Mike Hammer addressed the issue during a digital press conference conducted in Spanish.

"I can assure you that there is every interest on the part of the United States to have very close relations and to work on important common issues," he said in response to a question about the course U.S.-Spanish ties will take in Obama's second term.

"We want to see Spain surmount its economic problems," Hammer said, noting that Obama has discussed the situation with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

"We want to provide support and also find occasions where we can work together, and we're already doing so in many areas," the assistant secretary said.

Spain is suffering through a double-dip recession marked by a jobless rate of more than 25 percent.




U.S. mogul McAfee hospitalized in Guatemala


U.S. software guru John McAfee was hospitalized here after complaining of chest pains as Guatemalan authorities prepared to deport him to neighboring Belize, where police want to question him in connection with a murder.

The millionaire was taken to the police hospital after he collapsed at the immigration detention center where he was being held pending deportation, McAfee attorney Carla Paz said.

While doctors think it was only an anxiety attack, they plan to keep him under observation, a source at the police hospital told Efe.

"He can't move. He says his chest and his heart hurt, but he's conscious," Paz said. Another member of McAfee's legal team, Telesforo Guerra, told reporters his client suffers from heart problems.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina announced earlier Thursday that his government turned down McAfee's request for asylum.




Typhoon Bopha kills at least 350 in Philippines


Philippine authorities raised the death toll caused by Typhoon Bopha to about 350 as more bodies are being found among the ruins of homes destroyed by the storm.

The head of the National Council for Prevention and Response to Disasters, Benito Ramos, warned that expectations are that the death tally will "rise because there are still many people missing."

Rescue teams have registered 380 missing persons in the southern and central parts of the country, the regions affected by Bopha.

Ramos said that the priority at this time is to locate the missing and provide shelter for the people who have lost their homes and belongings.

The number of people affected by the storm stands at some 5 million, of whom 348,392 are being housed in 541 shelters, according to figures compiled by Ramos' agency.




Mexico high court supports same-sex marriage proponents


Mexico's Supreme Court ruled in favor of three same-sex couples to whom the authorities in the southern state of Oaxaca had refused authorization to wed, bringing the country one step closer to general recognition of this type of union.

The high court declared Article 143 of the Civil Code of Oaxaca unconstitutional, specifically the part stating that marriage "has the purpose of perpetuating the species."

That language "threatens people's self-determination and the right to the free development of their personality, by conditioning the union between a single man and a single woman to the fulfillment of that task," the justices found.

In addition, the court said, it violates the principle of equality because "it gives differentiated treatment to couples of men or of women compared to heterosexual couples, excluding people of the same sex from the possibility of marrying."




Eurozone officially in recession


The economy of the 17-nation eurozone shrank 0.1 percent in the July-September period after a decline of 0.2 percent in the second quarter, the European Union's statistics agency said.

Two consecutive quarters of contraction is the official definition of recession.

The EU as a whole - with 27 members - narrowly avoided entering a recession, rebounding from a 0.2 percent fall in April-June to grow 0.1 percent in the third quarter, Eurostat said in its latest estimates.

Eurozone GDP was down 0.6 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period in 2011, while the EU economy as a whole had year-on-year growth of 0.4 percent.




Eight dead in earthquake in Iran


At least eight people died, about 20 were injured and 12 towns suffered serious material damage in the magnitude-5.5 earthquake that rocked northeastern Iran, the local Fars news agency reported.

The quake struck the city of Zahan, in South Khorasan province, on Wednesday night cutting highways and electric lines servicing the zone, a situation that made rescue operations more difficult.

In the area hardest hit by the temblor, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Biryand, the capital of South Khorasan, where on Thursday morning it began to rain, the residents slept in the streets or out in the open after their homes collapsed and for fear of aftershocks that might bring down the remaining buildings.




Death toll in Bolivia shipwreck rises to 13


Two more bodies were found near the site where a boat capsized in Lake Titicaca, bringing the confirmed death toll from the accident to 13, Bolivian authorities said.

Area residents discovered the two bodies floating offshore, regional naval commander Pablo Cardona said by telephone from the scene.

Five other people remain unaccounted for after the shipwreck, he said.

The vessel went down about 1 mile from Suriqui island due to excess weight.




Cuba must free Alan Gross, U.S. Senate says


By unanimous consensus, the U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan resolution demanding that Cuban authorities immediately release imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross.

The non-binding resolution, introduced by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin and Kansas Republican Jerry Moran, is Congress' first formal pronouncement on the issue.

Now 63, Gross was detained in Havana three years ago in possession of satellite communications equipment he said he was planning to distribute among Cuba's Jewish community.

Havana says he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion on the Communist-ruled island. Last August, Cuba's highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on Gross five months earlier.