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Electoral College Set to Affirm Obama Reelection

The official, final votes in the 2012 presidential election were cast Monday by members of the Electoral College, a constitutional formality in President Barack Obama's march to a second term.

The rite playing in state capitols dates back centuries, to a time in early American history when only elected representatives could vote for president. It's now ceremonial, and involves party luminaries and tireless activists carrying out the will of each state's voters. The popular vote from state-to-state dictates whether Democratic or Republican electors get the honor, but the outcome is not in doubt.

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Northern Mali's Sharia Amputee Victims Face Bleak Future

With his head bowed, Moctar Toure recalls the day two months ago when hardline Islamists blindfolded him and chopped off his right hand, robbing him of his independence and his livelihood.

"It is not our arms they cut off, but our lives which they stole," says the 25-year old.

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Salehi: Iran, Powers Must End Nuclear Talks Deadlock

Iran's foreign minister said on Monday that it was time to end the country's long standoff with world powers over its disputed nuclear program.

"The parties have reached a conclusion that they must exit the current deadlock," Ali Akbar Salehi told the ISNA news agency.

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Queen Elizabeth II to Attend British Cabinet

Queen Elizabeth II is to attend a meeting of the British Cabinet on Tuesday, in what is thought to be the first such visit in more than a century.

The 86-year-old sovereign will be attending the meeting at the prime minister's residence on Downing Street as an observer in a visit to mark her diamond jubilee, celebrating 60 years on the throne.

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Georgia Seeks End to 'Confrontation' with Russia

Georgia said Monday that it wants to end "confrontation" with Russia after the ex-Soviet foes held their first direct talks since they fought a brief war in 2008.

"It is not possible to remain in perpetual confrontation with Russia," Tbilisi's special representative for Russia, Zurab Abashidze, told a news conference after returning from talks in Switzerland on Friday with Moscow's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.

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Bangladesh Factory Inferno was Act of Sabotage

A fire that killed 111 workers at a Bangladesh garment factory last month was caused by sabotage and managers at the plant prevented victims from escaping, the head of an official inquiry said Monday.

"We have found that the fire that gutted Tazreen Fashion factory in Ashulia was an act of sabotage," Main Uddin Khandaker told Agence France Presse after submitting a report into the November 24 tragedy to the government.

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Bus Crash in Colombia Kills 27

A bus swerved off a road in central Colombia and flipped over, killing 27 passengers and injuring 15, an official said.

A total of 24 people died on the scene and three more later in hospital, said Alvaro Escobar, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office in Cundinmarca department.

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Romania's President re-Appoints Foe Ponta as PM after Polls

Romanian President Traian Basescu on Monday reappointed his arch-rival Victor Ponta as prime minister following elections, allaying fears of new political turmoil in one of EU's newest members.

Ponta's ruling center-left Social-Liberal Union (USL) won the December 9 parliamentary polls with 60 percent of the vote, well ahead of the center-right alliance supported by Basescu.

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6.1-Magnitude Quake Hits Off Central Indonesia

A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of central Indonesia Monday, the US Geological Survey said, sending panicked people rushing into the streets but there was no tsunami alert.

The quake struck at 0916 GMT more than 160 kilometers (99 miles) south-southeast of Gorontalo in central Indonesia's Sulawesi island at a depth of 18 kilometers.

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S. Africa Police Arrest Four in Anti-Terror Sting

South African police on Monday said they had arrested four armed right-wing extremists suspected of planning attacks, amid claims that an ANC leadership meeting may have been targeted.

Four men, aged 40-50 years old, were arrested on Sunday, "believed to be right-wing extremists, suspected of acts of terrorism," according to Free State police spokesman Brigadier Billy Jones.

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