House passes bill to avert fiscal cliff


The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that averts the so-called "fiscal cliff," a package of across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts that congressional budget experts said would have sent the world's largest economy back into recession.

Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled House passed the Senate-approved measure - without amendments - by a vote of 257-167 late Tuesday.

The bill, which President Barack Obama supports, extends decade-old income tax rate cuts for most Americans and postpones for two months automatic cuts in defense and other spending that were established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Those automatic cuts were due to start taking effect this week.




Amid confusion, Hillary Clinton leaves hospital


The U.S. State Department reported in a communique that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left the New York hospital where she was being treated for a blood clot in the head.

Clinton was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital after a fainting spell while she was recovering from a stomach ailment, after which the blood clot was detected.

Clinton was released from Presbyterian Hospital several hours after undergoing tests at other medical facilities, a situation that caused temporary confusion among the media, which initially reported her initial trip to the other health centers to be her definitive release.

However, after the other tests, Clinton returned to the hospital for a time before being sent home later in the day, accompanied by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter Chelsea, who tweeted her thanks that her mother was once again at home and the medical team's assessment that she would recover completely.

Medical reports are that Clinton has sustained no neurological damage and is expected to recover completely.




U.N. estimates Syria death toll at 60,000


Nearly 60,000 people died in Syria's internal conflict in the period from March 15, 2011, to Nov. 30, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

"Given there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013," Navi Pillay said in Geneva.

Starting with a list of 147,349 reported killings based on data from the Syrian government and six other sources, U.N. analysts eliminated duplicates to bring the tally to 59,648.

Reports that did not include the victim's full name and the date and place of the killing were excluded from the estimate.

The pace of killing has skyrocketed, from an average of 500 deaths per month in the summer of 2011 to more than 5,000 a month a year later, the U.N. study found.




Colombian security forces kill 14 rebels


The number of insurgents killed in a New Year's Eve attack on a FARC rebel camp in the northwestern province of Antioquia stands at 14, Colombian authorities said.

Only two of the guerrillas present in the camp when the assault began survived, the head of the national police, Gen. Jose Roberto Leon, told a press conference in the capital.

He identified one of the survivors as Maria Elda Ramirez, second-in-command of the 5th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Police intercepted a message in which the wounded Ramirez related that she and the other surviving guerrilla were in bad shape and had no way out, Leon said.

Authorities blame Ramirez's unit for a March 2009 bombing and a 2005 attack that left 19 soldiers dead.




110 Dead in cold wave besetting northern India


The cold wave besetting northern India has resulted in 110 deaths, most of them indigent people, including nine people confirmed dead by authorities in Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh has recorded some of the lowest temperatures on the Indian subcontinent, in particular in the city of Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located, where the thermometer dipped to 0.9 C (33 F).

Other areas, such as Kashmir in the northwest, are registering much lower temperatures - with the thermometer plunging to minus 17 C (1 F) in the Kargil area on Wednesday morning - but these are regions where the public is more used to, and thus better prepared, for extreme cold.




Newspaper: Organized crime behind 12,394 deaths in Mexico in 2012


Violence related to organized crime resulted in 12,394 deaths in Mexico last year, capital daily Milenio said.

That total is slightly larger than the 12,284 gangland killings reported in 2011, but short of the modern record of 12,658 homicides, set in 2010, the newspaper noted.

Conflict among rival crime outfits and between the gangs and Mexican security forces has claimed some 70,000 lives since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against drug trafficking.




27 Teens escape from Peru reformatory


A total of 27 teenagers escaped from the Juvenile Diagnostic and Rehabilitation Center in Lima within a 24-hour period, Peruvian Interior Minister Wilfredo Pedraza said.

The teenagers fled in two groups of 13 and 14 people on New Year's Eve and during the early hours of Jan. 1. Police managed to locate and detain eight of them on several streets in the capital's San Miguel district.

Pedraza told RPP radio that the search, which is being handled by three teams of police, is being conducted nationwide, and he expressed confidence in "the recapture of the majority is a question of hours."




Mexican Olympic medalist remains stable after shooting


Mexican Olympic medalist Noe Hernandez remains stable three days after being shot in the head at a nightclub in metropolitan Mexico City, although his condition is still life-threatening, doctors said.

The 34-year-old former race walker, winner of a silver medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, lost vision in his right eye as a result of the attack but has responded favorably in recent hours.

Surgeons said Hernandez has awoken and is able to move his extremities and respond to basic commands but they are not yet able to determine if he suffered brain damage.