AP News in Brief at 7:58 p.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on December 10, 2012 at 9:02 PM

Cliff talks: No progress evident as each side demands specifics from the other; deadline ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year-end deadline approaching, negotiations to avoid an economy-rattling "fiscal cliff" appeared at a standstill Monday. Republicans pressed President Barack Obama to name specific spending cuts he will support, while the White House insisted the GOP agree explicitly to raise tax rates on upper incomes.

At a campaign-style event in Michigan, Obama warned his listeners their taxes will rise on Jan. 1 without action by the Congress. "That's a hit you can't afford to take," he declared.

He spoke one day after meeting privately at the White House with House Speaker John Boehner, whose office expressed frustration with the talks to date.

"We continue to wait for the president to identify the spending cuts he's willing to make as part of the 'balanced' approach he promised the American people,'" said a written statement from the Ohio Republican's office.

The negotiations are designed to prevent across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to begin at the turn of the year, a combination that economists say poses the threat of a new recession.

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Egypt's military assumes temporary powers ahead of vote as country braces for more rallies

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's military assumed responsibility Monday for protecting state institutions and maintaining security ahead of a Dec. 15 constitutional referendum, as the country braced for another round of mass demonstrations by the supporters of the country's Islamist president and the liberal opposition over the disputed charter.

The referendum on a contentious new constitution lies at the heart of a bitter political battle that has deeply polarized Egypt and triggered some of the worst street violence between backers and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi since he took power in June as the country's first democratically elected leader.

So far, Morsi has stood firm on the referendum, refusing to yield to opposition demands that he scrap the vote scheduled for Saturday. The opposition, meanwhile, was still trying to decide late Monday whether to boycott the referendum or rally Egyptians to vote "no" to the draft constitution, and hoping that a massive turnout for a rally Tuesday would force the president to cancel the balloting.

"We still have a chance, with popular rejection, to stop the referendum," said Basil Adel, a former lawmaker and liberal activist.

Egypt's political crisis began on Nov. 22 when Morsi issued a decree granting himself — and the Islamist-dominated panel writing the constitution — immunity from judicial oversight or challenge. Those decrees sparked mass demonstrations, with opponents saying they were issued initially to protect the draft charter from the judiciary.

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Judge: Strauss-Kahn, NYC hotel maid ink settlement in her lawsuit claiming sexual assault

NEW YORK (AP) — Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a hotel maid settled her lawsuit Monday over sexual assault allegations that sank his political career and spurred scrutiny of his dealings with women on two continents.

The housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, looked composed and resolute as state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon announced the confidential deal. Strauss-Kahn stayed in Paris and was mum when asked about the settlement, which came after prosecutors abandoned a related criminal case because they said Diallo had credibility problems.

"I thank everyone who supported me all over the world," Diallo, who has rarely spoken publicly since the May 2011 encounter between her and Strauss-Kahn, said softly after court.

"I thank God, and God bless you all," she added.

In a statement, Strauss-Kahn attorneys William Taylor III and Amit Mehta said the former diplomat was "pleased to have arrived at a resolution of this matter." They credited the judge with "patience and forbearance" that fostered the agreement.

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Reservation gravediggers prepare to bury 5 slain tribal members in community cemetery in Calif

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Gravediggers work the old-fashioned way on the Tule River Indian Reservation, chipping away at the hard pan by hand with pickaxes and shoveling the dirt aside. They say it's a sign of respect not to use machinery, but never has the crew had to dig so many graves at one time.

On Monday, the brothers who run the reservation cemetery were preparing to dig a grave for Alyssa Celaya, 8, who died Sunday following a rampage the previous day that also took the lives of her grandmother and the grandmother's two brothers. It will be the first of five they'll dig this week.

The killings have shaken this peace-preaching tribe because it goes against their teachings that love for family exists above all.

Authorities said the killer was Alyssa's father, Hector Celaya, 31, who died Sunday after a shootout with sheriff's deputies. Investigators were still searching for a motive.

Along with killing his daughter, mother and uncles, Celaya wounded his 5-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, whose injuries are life-threatening, authorities said.

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AP source: HSBC to pay $1.9B in money-laundering probe; biggest forfeiture ever in bank case

WASHINGTON (AP) — HSBC, the British banking giant, will pay $1.9 billion to settle a money-laundering probe by federal and state authorities in the United States, a law enforcement official said Monday.

The probe of the bank — Europe's largest by market value — has focused on the transfer of billions of dollars on behalf of nations like Iran, which are under international sanctions, and the transfer of money through the U.S. financial system from Mexican drug cartels.

According to the official, HSBC will pay $1.25 billion in forfeiture and pay $655 million in civil penalties. The $1.25 billion figure is the largest forfeiture ever in a case involving a bank. Under what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement, the financial institution will be accused of violating the Bank Secrecy Act and the Trading With the Enemy Act.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak about the matter on the record.

Under the deferred prosecution arrangement, HSBC will admit to certain misconduct, the official said, but the details of those admissions to be made in a New York court were not immediately available late Monday. Nevertheless the deferred prosecution agreement means the bank won't be prosecuted further if it meets certain conditions, such as strengthening its internal controls to prevent money laundering. The Justice Department has used such arrangements often in cases involving large corporations, notably in settlements of foreign bribery charges.

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AP PHOTOS: World marks Human Rights Day

NEW YORK (AP) — The United Nations marked Human Rights Day on Monday by declaring that everyone has the right to be heard and to shape the decisions that affect their lives and communities.

"International law is clear: No matter who you are, or where you live, your voice counts," U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the day.

Minorities speaking out for themselves during protests included anti-war activists in Kabul, Afghanistan; exiled Tibetans in New Delhi and Rajasthan, India; and activists in Myanmar opposing a recent police crackdown on demonstrators there.

In Argentina, President Cristina Fernandez oversaw a fireworks display on Sunday, a day ahead of time, during a rally celebrating the 29th anniversary of the nation's return to democracy.

Here, in images, are scenes from World Human Rights Day as marked by people from around the world:

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Jenni Rivera, soulful, troubled California-born superstar of Mexican-American music

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jenni Rivera launched her career hawking cassette recordings of her songs at flea markets, but a powerful voice, soulful singing style and frank discussion of personal troubles powered her to the heights of a male-dominated industry, transforming her into the one of the biggest stars of the genre known as grupero.

Her life was cut short at its peak on Sunday by an airplane crash in northern Mexico that also killed six friends and co-workers.

The 43-year-old mother of five and grandmother of two became a symbol of resilience for millions of fans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Her fame grew as she branched out into acting, appearing in independent film, reality TV and the televised singing competition "La Voz Mexico."

She had recently filed for divorce from her third husband, was once detained at a Mexico City airport with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, and publicly apologized after her brother assaulted a drunken fan who verbally attacked her in 2011.

"I am the same as the public, as my fans," she told The Associated Press in an interview last March.

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Another Fla. man sues ex-Elmo puppeteer; claims he was seduced as a teen, flown to NY for sex

MIAMI (AP) — Another man on Monday sued the former Elmo puppeteer who resigned amid sex abuse allegations, claiming the voice actor befriended him in Miami and promised to be a father figure before flying the teen to New York to have sex with him.

The alleged victim is now the fourth to accuse Kevin Clash, who resigned from "Sesame Street" last month after 28 years. The three legal actions filed so far have been civil cases seeking financial compensation.

But the incident with the latest victim, referred to only as S.M., could involve criminal charges because the lawsuit claims Clash transported him across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.

Attorney Jeff Herman said he encouraged his client to report the incident to authorities but it's unclear if the now-33-year-old alleged victim has done so.

Sexual abuse allegations against Clash triggered a media frenzy last month. He quickly denied the first claim, which was recanted the next day. But Clash then resigned after a 24-year-old college student, Cecil Singleton, sued him for $5 million, saying the actor engaged in sexual behavior with him when he was 15.

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Venezuelan vice president steps into void, wiping tears, while Chavez set for cancer surgery

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's cancer relapse and his sudden announcement that he will undergo a fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba have thrown the country's future into question, and his designated political heir has begun trying to fill the void.

Underlining the gravity of the situation, Vice President Nicolas Maduro broke into tears on Monday at a political rally hours after Chavez flew to Havana.

"Chavez has a nation, he has all of us, and he'll have all of us forever in this battle," said Maduro, who wiped away tears while speaking to supporters. "Even beyond this life, we're going to be loyal to Hugo Chavez."

Maduro called for the president's supporters to rally behind his candidates in upcoming gubernatorial elections on Sunday, and he also inaugurated a new cable car system in a poor neighborhood. Maduro, who spoke passionately and wore the red of Chavez's socialist movement, seems set to take on a larger role as the president's chosen successor.

Chavez said for the first time on Saturday that if he suffers complications, Maduro should take over for him and should be elected president to continue his socialist movement.

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Marijuana legalized in Colorado after purposefully low-key procedural step by governor

DENVER (AP) — Marijuana for recreational use became legal in Colorado Monday, when the governor took a purposely low-key procedural step of declaring the voter-approved change part of the state constitution.

Colorado became the second state after Washington to allow pot use without a doctor's recommendation. Both states prohibit public use of the drug, and commercial sales in Colorado and Washington won't be permitted until after regulations are written next year.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, opposed the measure but had no veto power over the voter-approved amendment to the state constitution.

Hickenlooper tweeted his declaration Monday and sent an executive order to reporters by email after the fact. He told reporters he didn't want to make a big deal about the proclamation, a decision that prevented a countdown to legalization as seen in Washington, where the law's supporters gathered to smoke in public to celebrate.

Fewer than two dozen people publicly marked Colorado's legalization day. A small group puffed away at 4:20 p.m. on the steps of the state Capitol, with no arrests and no police officers in sight.

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