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Congress: Still talking, still no deal

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Congressional budget dickering went on into the night in Washington Sunday while the nation lurched ever closer to the so-called fiscal cliff.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the negotiations were still going on so reaching a deal was still possible, The Washington Post reported.

"There's still time left to reach an agreement, and we intend to continue negotiations," Reid said on the Senate floor.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said the Republican and Democratic negotiators were "so close that they can't afford to walk away."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wasn't so optimistic.

"I think we're going over the cliff," he said.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was blunt.

"It just looks like we can't govern," the retiring Texas Republican said.


The Senate was to be back in session at 11 a.m. Monday, the Post noted.

Direct talks on the fiscal cliff began Sunday between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Biden, Republicans said

The Post said Republicans came out of a caucus meeting saying McConnell had taken a call from the vice president.

Senate Republicans also said they gave way on a demand to cut Social Security payments.

The New York Times reported Republican senators withdrew a demand that any deal include a new way of calculating inflation. The new method would have lowered payments to programs such as Social Security, plus slow their growth, the newspaper said.

Hillary Clinton hospitalized

NEW YORK, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hospitalized Sunday for a blood clot stemming from a recent concussion, the State Department said in a statement.

State Department senior adviser Philippe Reines said Clinton was being treated with anti-coagulants at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, NBC News reported. She is to be monitored at the hospital for 48 hours, he said.

"Her doctors will continue to assess her condition, including other issues associated with her concussion," he said. "They will determine if any further action is required."


CNN reported Reines said the clot was found by doctors during a follow-up exam related to the concussion she suffered early this month, her spokesman said.

Clinton, 65, who is leaving the Obama administration this year, was injured when she fainted due to dehydration related to a stomach virus.

9 dead in Oregon bus crash

PENDLETON, Ore., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- A Canadian charter bus careened off an icy highway in Oregon and crashed Sunday, killing nine people and injuring at several others, state police said.

The accident occurred before 10:30 a.m. PST when the driver lost control on Interstate 84 near Pendleton in an area known as Deadman Pass because it is treacherous in the winter, The (Portland) Oregonian reported. The bus, carrying about 40 people, slammed through a guardrail and tumbled nearly 100 feet down an embankment, police said.

The newspaper said police trained in rope rescues were deployed to help bring passengers up the embankment.

Initial reports had indicated five people had died but the toll grew through the day as the victims were removed from the bus, the newspaper said.

State police said the bus driver survived but hadn't been able to provide any information because of the severity of his injuries.


Umatilla County Emergency Manager Jack Remillard said the bus is owned by MiJoo Tour & Travel in Vancouver, British Columbia, and The Oregonian said an employee, Ryan Choi, said the company has rented out its two tour buses to travel companies for more than a decade.

Choi said the tour was run through another Canadian firm, Royal Tours Co. An unidentified representative for Royal Tours said the bus was headed back to Canada from Boise, Idaho, while the state police indicated the tour had started in Las Vegas.

Obama signs warrant-less surveillance bill

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama Sunday signed a five-year extension of the law allowing warrant-less electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists, the White House said.

The statement from the press secretary's office simply stated the president had signed the measure, without which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would have expired at year's end.

The Senate had given its approval to the re-authorization of the act's provisions on a 73-23 vote Friday, the Los Angeles Times said. The House had passed it previously.

The law has bee criticized by privacy advocates, the newspaper noted, because it allows the government to monitor phone calls, emails and other electronic communications between suspected terrorists and U.S. citizens without judicial approval.


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