WASHINGTON

- Confronted with a revolt among the rank-and-file, House Republicans abruptly put off a vote Thursday night on legislation allowing tax rates to rise for households earning $1 million and up, complicating attempts to avoid a year-end "fiscal cliff" that threatens to send the economy into recession and likely sending negotiations past Christmas.

In a brief statement, House Speaker John Boehner said the bill "did not have sufficient support from our members to pass." Meanwhile, he challenged President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to work on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.

The House will not meet again until after Christmas, if then, and the Senate is expected to meet briefly on Friday, then not reconvene until next Thursday.

This might be the last thing you'll ever read

Today's the big day!

The Mayans predicted that Dec. 21, 2012, would be the human race's final day on Earth. (Actually, they didn't, but some modern-day conspiracy theorists are convinced they did.)

True or not, it sure is a good excuse to party like there's no tomorrow. After all, our last day is a Friday . . . coincidence?

First big snow causes deadly 25-car pileup

DES MOINES, IOWA

- The first widespread snowstorm of the season crawled across the Midwest on Thursday, with whiteout conditions stranding holiday travelers and sending drivers sliding over slick roads - including into a fatal 25-vehicle pileup in Iowa.

On the southern edge of the system, a tornado destroyed several homes in Arkansas, and strong winds peeled roofs off buildings and toppled trucks in Alabama and led to flight cancellations in Texas.

In Iowa, drivers were blinded by blowing snow and didn't see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on Interstate 35 about 60 miles north of Des Moines, state police said. A chain reaction of crashes involving semitrailers and passenger cars closed down a section of the highway. At least one person was killed.

Russia distancing itself from Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Thursday that change was needed in Damascus, further distancing Moscow from Syrian President Bashar Assad in another sign that Assad's support may be fraying even among his few remaining allies.

Putin made the comments as a U.N. panel concluded that Syria's raging conflict had become "overtly sectarian" after almost two years of violence and tens of thousands of deaths. Putin said that Russia would not back Assad, long a close ally, "at any price."

Greeks, Spaniards flock to Germany

TUTTLINGEN, GERMANY

- More than three years into an economic crisis that has threatened to tear Europe apart, one country is still on a hiring spree, and it is pulling away the best and the brightest workers from its neighbors along the way.

Thousands of professionals from recession-struck Spain and Greece have been streaming into Germany. The migration is the biggest test yet for the European Union's promise to wipe away barriers between nations.

N.Y. Stock Exchange exchanged for $8B

NEW YORK - The Big Board just isn't so big anymore.

In a deal that highlights the dwindling stature of what was once a centerpiece of capitalism, the New York Stock Exchange is being sold to a little-known rival for $8 billion - $3 billion less than it would have fetched in a proposed takeover just last year. The buyer is IntercontinentalExchange, a 12-year-old exchange headquartered in Atlanta.