Sharply divided House Republicans debate fiscal cliff deal


Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives discussed whether they will try to amend the agreement reached in the Senate to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff or subject it to a vote without any changes.

A significant number of Republicans in the lower house demanded additional spending cuts as a precondition for supporting the bipartisan deal reached in the Senate Monday evening to minimize the impact of the fiscal cliff.

Just hours before the international investment markets reopen on Wednesday morning, the U.S. edged closer to the feared "cliff" given the inability of a sharply divided Congress to reach agreement about legislation to cancel the pending overall tax hike and across-the-board spending cuts in the federal budget.

House Republicans - and they are a majority in that chamber - held at least two meetings behind closed doors on Tuesday at which they analyzed the details of the Senate compromise and the next steps to be taken.

Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama urged the House, with its Republican majority, to approve the bipartisan agreement reached by the Senate to get the United States off the edge of fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts.

The Senate, which has a Democratic majority, voted 89-8 to approve a package that will keep tax rates at their current level for the middle class and postpone deep cuts in defense and domestic programs.




New York hosts traditional New Year's party in Times Square


More than 1 million people welcomed the new year in Times Square, where neither the cold nor the strict security measures were obstacles to happiness and merriment.

The famous lighted ball came down, as per tradition, along the pillar situated on the top of the building at No. 1 Times Square when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg activated the mechanism along with the Rockettes, the dancers at the famous Radio City Music Hall.

The partygoers, meanwhile, loudly counted backwards as the seconds ticked off before midnight in preparation for the beginning of the new year, which was rung in with a rain of confetti and cheers, along with the singing of the traditional "Auld Lang Syne" and another symbolic song: "New York, New York."




Hillary Clinton treated for blood clot in head


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains hospitalized in New York, where she is being treated for a blood clot in her head, doctors said.

The clot is located between the brain and skull in a vein near the right ear, doctors said.

Clinton did not have a stroke and did not sustain neurological damage, specialists said.

The secretary of state was hospitalized on Sunday after her doctors discovered a blood clot during a routine medical examination.




Iran launches long and short-range missiles during naval maneuvers


The Iranian navy "successfully" launched long and short-range missiles during its Velayat 91 naval maneuvers in the waters off its southern coast, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The spokesman for the maneuvers, Adm. Amir Rastegari, said "the Nur ground-to-ground missile is launched by the fleet to destroy ships," adding that "this missile had previously passed all the tests successfully and this new version is the optimization of that one."

Rastegari said the Ghader missile was successfully launched and that "this missile, designed by Iranian specialists, today hit all the planned targets and destroyed them."




Syria closes Aleppo's int'l airport due to rebel offensive


Syrian authorities closed the international airport in the northern province of Aleppo, which has been surrounded by rebel forces for more than two weeks, opposition activists told Efe.

The coordinator of one opposition group in Aleppo, Mohammed Nur, said that Syrian authorities declared a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius around the airport to be a "military zone" after heavy clashes with the rebels took place.

Another rebel spokesman, Abu Feras, told Efe that "the rebels managed to down a military helicopter of the Syrian regime over the airport."




13 Guerrillas killed by Colombian military


At least 13 guerrillas were killed during an operation by Colombian security forces against the FARC rebels in Chigorodo, a town in the northwestern province of Antioquia.

The Colombian air force announced in a communique that the operation staged on Monday morning along with the National Police was aimed at attacking a rebel camp "that later was neutralized by combat aircraft."

Among the dead are seven men and six women, all evidently FARC members, and security forces found a shotgun and 12 rifles along with documents that they turned over to military intelligence for analysis.




At least 1 dead, 13 wounded in Karachi explosion


At least one person died and 13 were wounded in an explosion in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, the local Dawn television station reported.

The blast, which could be heard several kilometers away, occurred next to a furniture factory in the district known as Federal B Area.