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Nov. 4, 2010 at 5:00 PM
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Obama asks congressional leaders to meet

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama said he invited the congressional Republican and Democratic leaders to discuss what can be accomplished during the lame duck session.

In remarks after a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Obama said he contacted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker-apparent John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to invite them to a meeting at the White House in the first week of the lame duck session Nov. 18.

"This is going to be a meeting in which I'll want us to talk substantively about how we can move the American people's agenda forward," Obama said. "It's not just going to be a photo op. Hopefully -- it may spill over into dinner. And the immediate focus is going to be what we need to get done during the lame-duck session."

Returning to a theme he discussed Wednesday when he discussed the spanking Democrats got on Election Day, Obama said it was important that a better working relationship be developed between the White House and Congress now and in the next session.

Obama ticked off several economic issues that must be addressed during the lame duck session, including an extension of the middle class tax cuts and small-business legislation. He also said he'd like to see the new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia acted on during the session, noting the treaty is the type of issue that "traditionally has gotten bipartisan support."

"So, in sum, we've got a lot of work to do. People are still catching their breath from the election. The dust is still settling," Obama said. "But the one thing I'm absolutely certain of is that the American people don't want us just standing still and they don't want us engaged in gridlock. They want us to do the people's business, partly because they understand that the world is not standing still."

"We can't afford two years of just squabbling," he said.

10 Democrats still hoping for victory

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Ten U.S. congressional races, all involving incumbent Democrats, remained undecided Thursday, two days after the election.

In Arizona, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was ahead of the Republican candidate, Jesse Kelly, in the Tucson-area 8th District, KGUN-TV reported. In the neighboring 7th District, Rep. Raul Grijalva held a slender lead over Republican Ruth McClung.

Two California races are so tight the result will be determined by absentee and provisional ballots and the outcome might be unknown for days or weeks, the San Francisco Chronicle said. Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney is about 100 votes ahead of Republican David Harmer in the 11th District, which includes part of the San Francisco suburbs and rural areas to the east, while Democratic Rep. Jim Costa is a few votes behind Republican Jesse Kelly in the Fresno-area 20th District.

In Illinois, Republican challenger Joe Walsh, a Tea Party candidate, has claimed victory over Rep. Melissa Bean in the Chicago-area 8th District. But the Democrat, trailing by about 500 votes, has not given up and says she hopes to win in the absentee ballot count, scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon, The (Arlington Heights, Ill.) Daily Herald said.

Republican Andy Barr has said he will not make any decision on challenging the results until Friday in central Kentucky's 6th District, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler, with an unofficial lead of more than 600 votes, declared victory Tuesday.

In the Rochester area in upstate New York, Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei trails Republican Ann Marie Buerkle by a few hundred votes, WSYR, Syracuse, reported. A final result could be days away because of delays in counting absentee ballots.

In Texas, Democrat Solomon Ortiz, a 14-term incumbent, trails Republican Blake Farenthold by fewer than 1,000 votes in the 27th District. He said he may ask for a recount, while Farenthold says he is the winner, the San Antonio Express reported.

Freshman Democrat Gerry Connolly was ahead of Republican challenger Keith Fimian by more than 900 votes in the 11th District in northern Virginia, The Washington Post said.

Democrat Rick Larsen, seeking a sixth term in the 2nd District in northwest Washington State, led Republican John Koster by about 500 votes, the Journal of the San Juan Islands said.

Suspects in Greek bomb plot charged

ATHENS, Greece, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Two alleged members of a small Greek terrorist group were formally charged Thursday with offenses linked to at least 14 letter and parcel bombs this week.

Gerasimos Tsakalos, 24, and Panagiotis Argyrou, 22, were arrested Monday. Investigators are searching for other members of the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, which is believed to have carried out a number of attacks since 2008, The New York Times reported.

Most of the bombs discovered so far have been sent to embassies in Athens, although one addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel was found in a Berlin mailroom and another, sent to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was discovered in transit. Officials said foreign mail shipments from Greece would resume Friday after a 48-hour halt.

The most recent bomb, sent to the French Embassy, was blown up at a courier service office in Athens. Officials say the bombs discovered so far are not powerful, and only one injury has been reported.

The Parliament building in Athens was closed for 2 hours Thursday after a small package was discovered. The package turned out to be a harmless parcel of books.

Greece has been hit by political unrest in recent weeks as Prime Minister George Papandreou attempts to change Greece's labor and welfare system. Firefighters protesting outside the Parliament building clashed with police Thursday.

18 bodies, mass grave found in Mexico

ACAPULCO, Mexico, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Mexican officials said Thursday the deaths of 18 men found in a mass grave on Acapulco's outskirts may have been the result of mistaken identity.

Twenty men with no apparent connection to the drug trade were kidnapped in broad daylight Sept. 20 soon after they arrived in the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco for what their families said was a guys' vacation, The New York Times reported.

An anonymous tip Tuesday led police to a coconut grove and the bodies of two men. A note said they had killed innocent people, and was signed by CIDA -- which authorities said represented the Independent Cartel of Acapulco.

There was no official confirmation that the bodies later discovered in the mass grave in the coconut grove were the missing tourists. Officials said it was too early to tell.

The governor of Michoacan, Leonel Godoy, said the kidnappings appeared to be a case of mistaken identity. Michoacan borders the state containing Acapulco.

"From the beginning we have sent out the message to those who took them to bring them back because evidently there was confusion, because the honest way they made their living has been proven," the Times quoted him as telling local reporters.

The newspaper said five of the missing were brothers who owned an auto repair shop in Morelia, the Michoacan capital, and five more were their employees. Relatives said they organized a trip every year.

Tomas threatens Haiti, Jamaica

MIAMI, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Tropical Storm Tomas spawned thunderstorms over Haiti Thursday though it was still hundreds of miles away, U.S. forecasters said.

The AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center in State College, Pa., said Tomas could strengthen into a hurricane as it passed west of Haiti Thursday night.

The track puts Haiti in the path of most of the storm's torrential rain and strongest winds, forecasters said, while flash flooding and mudslides remain the biggest threats to life. Winds, even in Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, could be strong enough to destroy makeshift shelters, forecasters said.

But Tomas' strongest winds should spare the city as they move farther west over Haiti's peninsulas into Friday morning, forecasters said.

Earlier, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tomas was moving northward toward Jamaica and Haiti.

In its 2 p.m. EDT Thursday advisory, the center said Tomas was 115 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and about 295 miles west-southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with sustained winds of 50 mph. Forecasters said the storm would pass near Jamaica or Haiti late Thursday.

The storm was moving north at 8 mph, the center said.

Cuba issued a hurricane warning for the province of Guantanamo and a tropical storm warning for the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguin.

Meanwhile, a hurricane warning was also in effect for Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands. A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Dominican Republic coast eastward to Barahona.

In the next two days, Tomas was expected to turn more northerly and gain speed.

Jamaican officials were considering whether to impose mandatory evacuations in anticipation of heavy rains and strong winds associated with Tomas, the Jamaica Gleaner reported.

The Haitian government ordered schools closed Thursday and Friday and urged tens of thousands of residents living in tent cities to seek safer shelter, The Miami Herald reported.

More than a million people remain homeless in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in January.

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