House won't take up fiscal cliff plan before Wednesday

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The U.S. House of Representatives is not scheduled to hold any vote on Monday evening, meaning that the United States will go over the so-called "fiscal cliff."

Although negotiations between Republican and Democrat lawmakers are continuing, House sources told the media that the chamber will not vote on a possible compromise before midnight, thus apparently ensuring that no deal will be reached until 2013.

President Barack Obama said a few hours earlier that while an agreement to avert the set of automatic tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff was "within sight," the deal was "not done.

The leader of the Republican minority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, agreed with the president that both parties are "very, very close" to working out a deal and that an agreement in principle had already been reached regarding the tax portion of a plan to avert the consequences of the fiscal cliff.

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Deal on fiscal cliff "in sight," Obama says

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U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday afternoon that while an agreement to avert the set of automatic tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff is "within sight," the deal is "not done.

The proposal now under consideration would raise taxes on couples earning more than $450,000 a year - Obama had wanted a threshold of $250,000 - and jobless benefits would be extended for a year.

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Obama, Hillary Clinton, the people Americans admire most

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President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton topped the list of people Americans admired most in 2012, polling firm Gallup said.

Gallup recalled that while Clinton has been the "most admired woman" for 11 years in a row, Obama has been the "most admired man" for five straight years.

This year's rankings come from a Gallup survey taken for the daily USA Today on Dec. 19-22 among 1,038 adults, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

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Hillary Clinton hospitalized for blood clot

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hospitalized over the weekend in New York after her doctors discovered a blood clot during a routine medical examination, her spokesman, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Philippe Reines, said.

Clinton, who had taken a few days off to rest after sustaining a concussion after she fainted on Dec. 15, was hospitalized Sunday for treatement of a blood clot in an unspecified part of her body and is taking anti-coagulants.

Doctors expect to keep Clinton in the hospital for observation for 48 hours and "will continue to assess her condition, including other issues associated with her concussion," Reines said.

The 65-year-old Clinton has kept up a blistering pace as the top U.S. diplomat, undertaking numerous foreign trips.

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Venezuela's Chavez in "delicate" condition, v.p. says

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's condition "continues to be delicate" due to new "complications" following cancer surgery earlier this month in Havana, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said from the Cuban capital.

Maduro has been visiting Chavez since Friday and provided the update on the president's condition Sunday on national radio and television.

The 58-year-old Chavez, who underwent surgery on Dec. 11, is recovering from his fourth cancer operation in 18 months.

Chavez is experiencing "new complications that emerged as a result of the respiratory infection" diagnosed on Dec. 17, the vice president said.

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23 Dead in series of attacks in Iraq

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At least 23 people died and 75 were wounded in a series of attacks across Iraq, police told Efe.

Three bombs planted near homes exploded in the town of Al Musaieb, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the capital, killing seven people and wounding five others.

Elsewhere, four Shiite pilgrims died and another 16 were wounded in a suicide attack using a car bomb in the Al Qarrada area of central Baghdad.

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3 Confirmed dead in Colombia mudslide

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Colombian emergency rescue workers found the body of another person killed in the mudslide that cascaded onto a rural road in the southern part of the country last weekend, bringing the confirmed death toll to three so far, along with eight people injured.

Meanwhile, Red Cross, Civil Defense, Fire Department and police teams are looking for two other people who have been reported missing by their families.

Last Saturday afternoon, as much as 10,000 cubic meters (343,000 cubic feet) of water-soaked earth detached itself from the side of a mountain and slid down onto the road, where buses and automobiles were traveling between the cities of Neiva and San Vicente del Caguan.

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9 Found slain at rural estate in Colombia

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Nine people were found murdered at a luxurious country home near the northwestern city of Medellin, Colombian police said.

"It could be a settling of scores," the Medellin police chief, Gen. Yesid Vazquez, told Efe from the crime scene at the La Piscina estate in the municipality of Envigado.

All of the victims - five men and four women - were shot in the head.

Police found an armor-plated SUV, a motorcycle and a gun just outside the home.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the shooters forced their way into the home or were among the guests at what appears to have been a weekend-long party at the residence.

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Bullfight festival leaves 19 injured in north Colombia

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Colombia's traditional bullfight festival known as Las Corralejas left 19 people hurt, one of them seriously, in Turbaco, a village near the Caribbean city of Cartagena.

The most serious injury was to an inebriated young man who tried to fight a half-ton brown bull.

The charging animal gored him in the left side of the chest, though he managed to walk out of the bullring as people ran to find help for him or looked on as he bled profusely.

The incident shocked the crowd into a silence that was, however, immediately interrupted by a band of trumpets, clarinets and drums blaring out a popular tune.

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Afghanistan bombing sets fuel tankers ablaze

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Nine fuel tankers supplying NATO-led international forces in Afghanstan burst into flames when a mine exploded in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

"The nine tankers were destroyed by the fire," the spokesman for the provincial government, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, told Efe, adding that the explosion and fire caused no casualties.

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Brazilian robbers free hostages

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The group of thieves who dynamited the doors and safes of a jewelry factory freed nine people they had held hostage for 20 hours in southern Brazil, police said.

The attackers had hidden themselves with their hostages in a wooded area of Rio Grande do Sul state after three members of the criminal group were killed in a shootout with police.

The hostages - six women, a boy and two men - showed up safe and sound about 9:30 p.m. on Sunday at one of the police checkpoints set up in the area.

The criminals, however, remain holed up in the wooded area, which has been surrounded by some 200 police.

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Colombian designer rolls out bullet-proof clothing for U.S. schoolchildren

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The massacre at the U.S. school in Newtown, Connecticut, prompted Miguel Caballero, the Colombian known as the "Armani" of bullet-proof garments, to design in just two weeks a collection of clothing and accessories for children of ages 8 to 14.

It's an unobtrusive line of clothing, "security solutions" that, as Caballero told Efe in an interview, kids can wear in the street and at school without attracting any particular attention.

Caballero said it was clear that the market for his MC KIDS children's line is in the United States and Canada, because "that's where they have the problem."

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EFE