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Dec. 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM
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World starts ringing in 2013

SYDNEY, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Celebrations around the world marking the start of 2013 began in New Zealand and Australia.

In Sydney, crowds gathered on New Year's Eve to watch the city's renowned fireworks display, the BBC reported.

It was one of many events scheduled annually around the globe to mark the start of the new year

Even Myanmar, which had banned large public gatherings when it was under military rule, was celebrating, witnesses said. Thousands of spectators were expected to view a fireworks display and watch entertainers in Yangon.

The mood was subdued in New Delhi after last week's death of a 23-year-old victim of a gang rape. The army canceled its celebrations, as have the governments in the states of Punjab and Haryana, residents and nightclubs, the BBC said.

Muscovites, Parisians, Londoners and people in hundreds of other cities prepared to take their turns to ring in 2013.

More than 2 million people were expected to be on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach, welcoming the new year to Brazil.

New York ushers in 2013 with its traditional countdown and ball-drop in Times Square.

Congress creates fiscal cliff-hanger

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. lawmakers say they hope the Senate will adopt a "fiscal cliff" bill Monday that the House would act on by midnight, but House members say they may delay.

Delaying past midnight would mean missing the fiscal cliff deadline, but with U.S. financial markets closed for the New Year's Day holiday, some House members said they doubted the economy would suffer, The Washington Post reported.

If a last-minute deal does not come through, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was expected to move Monday to bring a vote on a stopgap measure pushed by President Barack Obama that would retain lower tax rates for incomes $250,000 or less and extend unemployment benefits, The New York Times reported.

But Senate rules allow a single senator to prevent that from happening simply by objecting to the bill, the Times said.

Unless Republicans and Democrats can reach a deal by midnight, tax rates will go up for virtually all Americans, 2 million people receiving extended unemployment benefits will lose their stipends and severe federal spending cuts will kick in, potentially sending the U.S. economy back into recession.

In addition, nearly 30 million taxpayers would be required to pay the costly alternative minimum tax for the first time.

Envoy: 100,000 more could die in Syria

DEIR BAALBAH, Syria, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Another 100,000 people could die in 2013 in the fighting in Syria, U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said.

A "solution is possible" in the 21-month-old conflict but it is getting more complicated and deadly, Brahimi said Sunday in Cairo.

"If nearly 50,000 people have been killed in about two years, do not expect just 25,000 people to die next year -- maybe 100,000 will die," he said. "The pace is increasing.

CNN reported that Saturday may have been the deadliest day yet in the war.

The Local Coordination Committees -- a group opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad -- said more than 200 people were executed in a field by soldiers in Deir Baalbah, a suburb of Homs.

"Smoke is rising from Deir Baalbeh this morning, and a stench is coming out of some of its streets due to the burning of some corpses by the regime forces," Hadi Abdallah, an opposition activist, said Sunday.

Obama, Clinton most admired man, woman

PRINCETON, N.J., Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Americans named President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the most admired man and woman living in the world, a Gallup survey indicated.

Clinton has been the Most Admired Woman for the last 11 years while Obama has been the Most Admired Man five years running, results of a USA Today-Gallup poll released Monday indicated.

First lady Michelle Obama, television daytime host Oprah Winfrey and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were behind Clinton on the Most Admired Woman list. Former South African President and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, evangelist Billy Graham, former President George W. Bush, and Pope Benedict XVI follow Obama as Most Admired Man.

Results are based on nationwide telephone interviews with 1,038 adults conducted Dec. 19-22. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

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