HARI SREENIVASAN: Amid the fiscal cliff fight, members of the House and Senate paid final respects today to the late Sen. Daniel Inouye. The Hawaii Democrat died Monday at the age of 88. He had served as a U.S. senator for five decades.
Inouye's body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda, an honor that's been bestowed on just 31 people. At a service, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called him a legend of the Senate.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: And Sen. Inouye was one of the deluxe senators to ever walk the hallowed halls of this great building. He leaves behind a legacy of public leadership and private kindness that will not be forgotten as long as these walls stand.
Dan Inouye was an institution, and deserves to spend at least another day in this beautiful building in which he dedicated his life.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A memorial service is planned tomorrow at the Washington National Cathedral. After that, Inouye's body will be flown home to Hawaii for burial.
The people of Newtown, Conn., endured a fourth day of funerals for the mass shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Police escorted processions of mourners as five more children and a teacher were laid to rest. Services are also scheduled tomorrow and into the weekend.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden met with Cabinet and law enforcement officials to discuss ways of reducing gun violence. Later, Attorney General Eric Holder headed to Newtown to meet with those investigating the shootings.
The first major winter storm of the season moved across the Midwest today and began taking a toll on holiday travelers. Blizzard warnings stretched from Kansas to Wisconsin as the weather system pushed eastward. It has already dumped a foot of snow in some areas, driven by powerful winds. In turn, some of the nation's busiest airports are reporting hundreds of flight delays and cancellations.
The countdown to the end of the world was on today, at least in some places. It's based on a reading of the Mayan calendar that says a final cataclysm will strike tomorrow.
We have a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Tourists are flocking to Mexico and Guatemala to sites where the ancient Maya lived and where their descendants are channeling the wisdom of their forbearers.
OTTO MARTIN, tourist: So, we're hoping for some sort of a contact event, and meet some beings of other species and we're basically hoping to just ask them for help.
LINDSEY HILSUM: In the meantime, archaeologists keep trying to explain, it's the end of an era, not of the world. The ancient Maya split time into periods of 400 years called baktuns, and tomorrow is the end of a cycle of 13 baktuns; 7,000 miles away in Moscow, a Cold War era bunker is being prepared.
"The enemy of the state has launched atomic missiles," says the voice. Maybe, this time, it will be an asteroid. The plan is to have a party tonight and wait it out, entry fee, $1,000. In China, hundreds of people from the Almighty God cult have been arrested for distributing leaflets. Their crime? Not warning of the end of the world, but promoting war on the big red dragon, the Communist Party.
Bugarach in the South of France is believed by New Agers to be the only safe place in the world, something to do with the shape of the mountain which overlooks the village. But, today, TV crews and police outnumbered prophets of doom.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In this country, NASA has produced a video to reassure those who need it. It's titled "Why the World Didn't End Yesterday."
The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, put new distance today between his government and the regime in Syria. In his annual news conference, Putin insisted his country is not protecting Syrian President Bashar Assad. He urged Assad to hold talks with the opposition and negotiate an end to the bloodshed.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through translator): We are not concerned about the fate of Assad's regime. We understand what is going on there and that his family has been in power for 40 years. The changes are undoubtedly needed. We are worried about a different thing: What next? We simply don't want the current opposition, having become the authorities, to start fighting the people who are the current authorities and become the opposition. We don't want this to go on forever.
HARI SREENIVASAN: On another matter, Putin indicated he plans to sign a law banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children. That move is retaliation for a new U.S. law aimed at punishing Russian human rights violators.
In U.S. economic news, growth during the summer quarter was better than first estimated. The Commerce Department reported today the economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent. And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 59 points to close above 13,311. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 3,050.
Those are some of the day's major stories.