The Republican agenda for the new Congress that convenes Wednesday may have a greater impact on the 2012 elections than on the lives of Americans in the next two years. Republicans promise to cut spending, roll back President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and prevent unelected bureaucrats from expanding the government's role in society through regulations that tell people what they must or can't do. Getting this agenda through the House may be easier than in the Senate, given the GOP's 241-194 majority in the House. Getting the Senate to act will be a challenge. Democrats still hold an edge there, though smaller than the one Obama had during his first two years in the White House.
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A magnitude-7.1 earthquake shook southern Chile on Sunday, prompting tens of thousands to flee the coast for higher ground amid fears it could generate a tsunami like the one that ravaged the area last year. There were no reports of deaths or damage, and Vicente Nunez, head of the National Emergency Office, said no tsunami alert was issued.
HONOLULU (AP) — President Barack Obama said Sunday he was honored to sign a bill to provide aid to survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks and first responders who became ill working in the ruins at the World Trade Center. "We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others," Obama said in a statement. "I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks."
MORELIA, Mexico (AP) — A letter purportedly signed by La Familia drug cartel announcing a one-month truce circulated Sunday in the western state of Michoacan. In the one-page message, distributed by e-mail and in some cities door by door, the gang claims it will halt all crime activity during January to demonstrate that the cartel "is not responsible for the criminal acts federal authorities are reporting to the media."
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's president vowed Monday not to let North Korea "covet even an inch of our territory." But he also opened the door to possible peace talks, saying North Korean disarmament could lead to South Korean economic aid. Lee Myung-bak, addressing the country in a New Year's speech, said the Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, which killed four and has spiked fears of war, was a transformational event. Seoul, he said, would treat it as the United States did the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and "overhaul our defense posture."
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The Navy said Sunday it will investigate "clearly inappropriate" videos broadcast to the crew of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in which a top officer of the ship used gay slurs, mimicked masturbation and opened the shower curtain on women pretending to bathe together. The star of the videos, made in 2006 and 2007, is a former Top Gun pilot who now commands the same ship, the Norfolk-based USS Enterprise, which was deployed in the Middle East at the time and is weeks from deploying again.
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Military planes were flying food and other supplies toward a major city being slowly swamped in Australia's flood emergency Monday, and police were increasing patrols in evacuated regions amid reports of looting. Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeastern coast, filling rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the cattle and fruit and vegetable farming region.
BOSTON (AP) — A blood test so sensitive that it can spot a single cancer cell lurking among a billion healthy ones is moving one step closer to being available at your doctor's office. Boston scientists who invented the test and health care giant Johnson & Johnson will announce Monday that they are joining forces to bring it to market. Four big cancer centers also will start studies using the experimental test this year.
BEEBE, Ark. (AP) — Environmental service workers finished picking up the carcasses on Sunday of about 2,000 red-winged blackbirds that fell dead from the sky in a central Arkansas town. Mike Robertson, the mayor in Beebe, told The Associated Press the last dead bird was removed about 11 a.m. Sunday in the town about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock. He said 12 to 15 workers, hired by the city to do the cleanup, wore environmental-protection suits for the task.
Seattle, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Pittsburgh clinched division titles Sunday, while Green Bay grabbed the final wild-card berth. The Seahawks, at 7-9, became the first division winner with a losing record in NFL history when they defeated St. Louis 16-6 for the NFC West championship.