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Fiscal cliff talks appear to stall as sides dig in

– Washington stumbled closer to the fiscal cliff Wednesday as President Obama and congressional Republicans dug in further on their positions on taxes, even as no face-to-face negotiations took place.

With hope fading for a deal before Christmas, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio told his Republican colleagues to prepare for a holiday season of tense negotiations in Washington.

He told reporters of a “deliberate call” he had with Obama on Tuesday evening after each man rejected the other’s latest offer.

“We spoke honestly and openly about the differences that we face,” Boehner said. “But the president’s calling for $1.4 trillion worth of revenue. That cannot pass the House or the Senate.”

The speaker was referring to Obama’s latest offer, which reduced his demand for $1.6 trillion in new taxes to $1.4 trillion. Republicans, who have offered $800 billion in new revenue generated by a rewrite of the tax code, responded with a proposal that was virtually identical to their opening bid from weeks ago.

Not-guilty plea in 1979 missing case

The man charged with killing a 6-year-old New York City boy who infamously vanished in 1979 pleaded not guilty Wednesday as his lawyer insisted his confession to police was false. Pedro Hernandez, 51, answered “not guilty” at the hearing in the case of Etan Patz.

Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said Hernandez confessed falsely after seven hours of questioning by police, and that he is still under medical and psychiatric care.

White majority ends in 2043, Census says

White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2043, according to new census projections. The official projection, released Wednesday by the Census Bureau, now places the tipping point for the white majority a year later than previous estimates, which were made before the impact of the recent economic downturn was fully known.

Indy mayor vows to replace city’s fleet

Indianapolis is aiming to become the first major U.S. city to replace its entire fleet with environmentally friendly vehicles.

Mayor Greg Ballard signed an executive order Wednesday requiring the city to replace its nearly 500 non-police sedans with electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. The city also will work with the private sector to phase in snow plows, fire trucks and other heavy vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, and will ask automakers to develop a plug-in hybrid police car.

New vehicles would be purchased as older ones are retired, and the city hopes to completely swap out its current 3,100-vehicle fleet by 2025.

No prison time for abandoning baby

A South Carolina judge decided against prison time for a woman who left her newborn near death in the toilet of a sports arena after giving birth during the circus.

Jessica Blackham was sentenced to a year of home confinement and three years of probation after pleading guilty to infliction of great bodily injury to a child.

Blackham, who has an older daughter, said she never knew she was pregnant for a second time. She said she doesn’t remember giving birth in the cramped stall in February 2011.

Putin rejects advice on democracy

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday angrily rejected what he described as attempts to enforce foreign patterns of democracy on Russia and vowed to preserve the nation’s identity against interference from abroad.

Putin’s speech was his first state-of-the nation address since winning a third term in March’s election despite a wave of massive protests in Moscow. Putin has pursued a tough course on dissent since his inauguration with arrests and searches of opposition activists and introduction of laws that impose heavy fines on protesters and rigid rules on civil society groups.