Let the endgames begin.
After a Christmas holiday, President Barack Obama returned to Washington from Hawaii and the U.S. Senate reconvened Thursday as the deadline approached for going over the fiscal cliff of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts.
However, the House remained on Christmas break, with members warned they could be called back on 48 hours' notice if needed.
Hopes for a so-called grand bargain that would address the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt appeared dashed for now, with four days remaining to reach agreement on a smaller plan that would avoid the harshest effects of the fiscal cliff's tax increases and slashed spending.
With House Republicans unable to resolve the impasse, the focus shifted to the Democratic majority in the Senate to come up with a way forward that could pass the House and get signed into law by Obama.
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that she is leaving her post after the State of the Union Address, according to a release on the Agency's website.
Her statement in full is below:
I want to thank President Obama for the honor he bestowed on me and the confidence he placed in me four years ago this month when he announced my nomination as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. At the time I spoke about the need to address climate change, but also said: “There is much more on the agenda: air pollution, toxic chemicals and children’s health issues, redevelopment and waste-site cleanup issues, and justice for the communities who bear disproportionate risk.” As the President said earlier this year when he addressed EPA’s employees, “You help make sure the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are safe. You help protect the environment not just for our children but their children. And you keep us moving toward energy independence…We have made historic progress on all these fronts.” So, I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference.
You can read more on our Political Ticker blog.
[Updated at 10:01 a.m. ET] Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ordered to a military hospital after a report conducted by doctors stated that he had fractures in three of his ribs after he slipped in a prison hospital
bathroom this month, his lawyer Farid El Deeb told CNN.
[Posted at 8:19 a.m. ET] Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is serving a life sentence in a Cairo prison, is being transferred to a military hospital for medical treatment, state-run TV reported Thursday.
Egypt's state prosecutor ordered the transfer. An update of Mubarak's health was not given.
Mubarak suffered a head injury and a bruised chest when he slipped in a prison hospital bathroom this month. The 84-year-old is serving a life sentence in Cairo's Tora prison for his role in the killing of pro-reform demonstrators during Egypt's recent revolution.
An outpouring of support and gifts for Newtown, Connecticut, in the wake of a mass shooting has forced the town to ask for a temporary halt in donations.
"Our hearts are warmed by the outpouring of love and support from all corners of our country and world," Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra said. "We are struggling now to manage the overwhelming volume of gifts and ask that sympathy and kindness to our community be expressed by donating such items to needy children and families in other communities in the name of those killed in Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14.
"Thank you for understanding our message of appreciation and our need to now defer gifts to others in need."
The town has received worldwide support after Adam Lanza opened fire on Sandy Hook Elementary school, killing 20 children, six school employees and his own mother before taking his life.
People can still donate through the Sandy Hook Donations Fund, maintained through United Way of Western Connecticut.
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In his latest diplomatic push to end the Syrian civil war, U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said the conflict could be over in a "few months" - provided that warring parties agree to a plan with a transitional government.
Brahimi is in Damascus this week meeting with President Bashar al-Assad and other officials.
"I discussed with all the parties the need to have a transitional government that will hold broad powers," Brahimi said in a statement aired on Syrian state-run TV.
He pushed for the implementation of the Geneva communique, a plan laid by world leaders in June that calls for a transitional government, an end to violence and lasting democracy.
"The Geneva communique had all that is needed for a road map to end the crisis in Syria within few months," Brahimi said Thursday.
The plan united countries that had been at odds on how to handle the Syrian crisis. Russia and China joined France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Turkey in agreeing on the plan.
The talk in Washington is all about the "fiscal cliff" and what the president and Congress need to do to avoid it. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the fiscal cliff debate.
Today's programming highlights...
Ongoing coverage - Winter weather
11:30 am ET - Obama returns to Washington - President Obama cuts short his Christmas vacation in Hawaii to return to Washington and resume work on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.
CNN.com Live is your home for breaking news as it happens.
Another day of frightful weather awaits some areas Thursday as a powerful winter storm hurtles across the northeastern United States.
The Christmas storm unleashed heavy snow, bristling winds and tornadoes in the Midwest, killing six people, including two young children. The two - ages 1 and 2 - died in a car accident in Arkansas, state officials said.
And as the storm, which started in the Midwest, continues surging east, snow will leave thousands of passengers stranded after flight cancellations.
More than 360 flights have already been taken off the schedule for Thursday, tracking website FlightAware.com said. That's in addition to about 1,780 flights canceled a day before.
Travelers are advised to check before leaving home to see if their flights are postponed or canceled.
Forecasters said additional heavy snowfall is expected in various states, including upstate New York, southern New England and central Maine through Friday morning.
As much as two feet of snow is possible in central Maine, leading to hazardous roads, forecasters said.
A powerful winter storm system will again snarl air traffic in the Northeast on Thursday, canceling hundreds of flights as travelers try to get home after the Christmas holiday.
Winter storm advisories are in place from central Pennsylvania to Maine, with snow accumulations of up to a foot expected by Friday morning, according to CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider.
A tracking website said many flights across the country have been called off for weather and mechanical reasons. According to FlightAware.com, more than 360 flights have already been taken off the schedule for Thursday. That's in addition to about 1,780 flights canceled Wednesday.
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