Obama upbeat after budget talks


President Barack Obama described himself as "moderately optimistic" after talks with congressional leaders on a possible solution to the so-called fiscal cliff.

The president said that if a workable bipartisan plan fails to materialize within the next 24 hours, Reid will schedule a Senate vote on the current White House proposal.

That initiative would preserve tax cuts for the middle class, extend unemployment benefits and lay the groundwork for deficit reduction in the medium- and long term, the White House says.

An aide to Republican House Speaker John Boehner told CBS News that it is now up to the Senate to produce a bipartisan path toward avoiding the "cliff," a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to begin taking effect Jan. 1.




Argentina's YPF teams with Bridas to develop shale resources


State-run energy company YPF announced a preliminary accord with Bridas International to exploit the massive non-conventional Vaca Muerta formation in southwestern Argentina.

Bridas, majority owned by Argentine mogul Carlos Bulgheroni, will receive 50 percent of YPF's rights in the Bajada de Añelo and Bandurria shale-oil fields if the deal materializes.

YPF signed a similar accord last week with U.S. oil supermajor Chevron Corp. to develop the Loma La Lata Norte and Loma Campana areas within Vaca Muerta.

The Argentine government earlier this year seized a majority stake in originally state-owned YPF from Spain's Repsol, which maintains a 12 percent interest in its former unit.




Chilean judge indicts 8 for murder of Victor Jara


The murder of popular folk singer Victor Jara in the wake of Chile's Sept. 11, 1973, military coup became front-page news again with a judge's decision to indict 8 retired army officers for the crime.

Jara's killing remains a powerful symbol of the atrocities committed by Chile's 1973-1990 military regime, which is blamed for more than 3,000 deaths and some 25,000 documented instances of torture.

Judge Miguel Vazquez originally said he planned to charge two people with killing the singer and five others as accomplices, but he ended up adding another name to the indictment.

Jara, a musician, actor, theater director and cultural icon, was a prominent supporter of Socialist President Salvador Allende, who took his own life during the Sept. 11 putsch.




Stomach bug to keep Nadal out of Australian Open


World No. 4 Rafael Nadal said a stomach flu will prevent him from taking part in the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

The Spaniard, sidelined since June with a knee injury, had planned to return to competition in this week's exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, but the intestinal virus forced him to bow out.

Besides the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 14, Nadal will miss next week's Qatar Open. Doctors told the tennis great he needed at least a week to recover from the virus.

"I always said that my return to competition will be when I am in the right conditions to play," he said. "And after all this time away from the courts, I'd rather not accelerate the comeback and prefer to do things well," Nadal said in a statement.




Ailing Chavez sends year-end message to Venezuelan military


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who remains in Cuba recovering from his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months, had his vice president deliver a year-end message to the Andean nation's military.

"I raise my voice to transmit to the comrades of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces the renewed and fraternal testimonial of respect, admiration, gratitude and affection of the heroic people of Simon Bolivar," Nicolas Maduro said at a ceremony in the eastern city of Barcelona, reading from the president's missive.

Chavez, who took office in 1999, was re-elected in October for another six-year term. He was first diagnosed with cancer after complaining of pain in his pelvic region during a June 2011 official visit to Cuba. Since then, the former paratrooper has undergone four surgical procedures and courses of chemotherapy and radiation.

Venezuela's opposition said Wednesday the official reports on Chavez's condition are ambiguous and demanded the appointment of a board of physicians to certify that the president is fit to begin a new mandate.




Spain facing "a very tough year," P.M. says


Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said economically ailing Spain has "a very tough year" ahead of it in 2013.

"The economy will continue in recession for some time," the conservative prime minister said at a press conference where he looked back on his first year in office.

"We are confident that in the last part of 2013 we will be able to give positive news, which will be even more positive in 2014," Rajoy said.

Calling for unity, he urged Spaniards to join forces "to avoid everything that distracts us from emerging from the (economic) crisis."