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Negotiating in Public: Washington Post: "House Speaker John A. Boehner delivered a blow Thursday to the optimism that Washington leaders have been showing over negotiations on the fiscal cliff, saying that there’s been 'no substantive progress' in attempts to reach a deal and that “the White House has to get serious” on entitlement spending. ... Moments after Boehner spoke, Senate Democrats held their own news conference, where they accused House Republicans of gumming up the works by failing to offer a detailed plan for raising taxes."
Negotiating in Private: Politico: "Listen to top Democrats and Republicans talk on camera, and it sounds like they could not be further apart on a year-end tax-and-spending deal — a down payment on a $4 trillion grand bargain. But behind the scenes, top officials who have been involved in the talks for many months say the contours of a deal ... are starting to take shape. No doubt, there will be lots of huffing and puffing before any deal can be had. ... But it’s clear to veterans of this budget fight a deal is there to be done."
What a Deal Would Look Like: "Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion .... Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion .... There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and 'war savings.' And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner."
Happy Thursday and welcome to The Slatest PM, where your afternoon host can see the weekend from here and, like always, it looks glorious. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.
Joe Goes to Costco: Washington Post: "Vice President Biden dropped in on Washington D.C.’s first Costco Thursday. He was greeted by CEO Craig Jelinek and co-founder Jim Sinegal, both of whom attended a grand opening ceremony for the store earlier in the morning. Biden 'engaged in an extended Costco shopping spree, to the delight of shoppers and employees at the store,' according to the pool report.... Biden’s cart held, among other things, flowers, children’s books, fire logs, a 32-inch Panasonic TV and a large apple pie. ... Biden did a loop of nearly the entire store, including bakery and frozen foods."
Convenience Store: Moneybox: "Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal is 'a longtime Democratic donor' and spoke at the Democratic National Convention as an example of corporate executive who loves the Obama economic record. In the scheme of things it's hardly the greatest corruption scandal in human history, but it does look at least a little corrupt. I bet if a non-donor opens up a small shop in Fort Lincoln and wants the Vice President to visit so he can get some out-of-neighborhood publicity and business he'll have a very difficult time making that happen."
This Isn't a Good Sign: Syria's Internet Went Entirely Dark Today
Map of the Week: Which Countries Police the Internet the Most?
Rice's Keystone Connection: Bloomberg: "Susan Rice’s holdings in an energy company seeking State Department approval for an oil pipeline from Canada may pose a conflict of interest if she is nominated to become U.S. secretary of state. Rice ... and her husband own stock in TransCanada Corp. valued at $300,002 to $600,000, according to her most recent financial disclosure report. The company has filed for a State Department permit to build Keystone XL, a pipeline that would carry crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf coast. ... 'Ambassador Rice is in full compliance with all financial disclosure requirements related to her service in the U.S. government and is committed to continuing to meet these obligations,' her spokeswoman, Erin Pelton, said in an e-mail."
Speaking of the Pipeline: Campaign Against Keystone XL Spurring a Boom in Fossil Fuel Railroad Shipments
American Birth Rate Falls to Lowest Level Since 1920: Washington Post: "The U.S. birth rate plunged last year to a record low, with the decline being led by immigrant women hit hard by the recession, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. The overall birth rate declined by 8 percent between 2007 and 2010, with a decrease of 6 percent among U.S.-born women and 14 percent among foreign-born women. The decline for Mexican immigrant women was more extreme, at 23 percent. The overall birth rate is now at its lowest since 1920, the earliest year with reliable records."
That's One Way To Put It: Gen. Petraeus' Apology Tour Begins With a Handwritten Admission: "I Screwed Up Royally"
There's Water on Mercury. A Lot of It: Associated Press: "A NASA spacecraft has confirmed there's ice at Mercury's north pole. Scientists announced Thursday that the orbiting probe, Messenger, has found evidence of frozen water, even though Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. The ice is located in the permanently shadowed region of Mercury's north pole. It's thought to be at least one-and-a-half feet deep—and possibly as much as 65 feet deep. Scientists say it's likely Mercury's south pole also has ice, though there are no data to support it." Bad Astronomy takes a closer look.
How Old Is the Grand Canyon? New York Times: "Old enough to be gazed on by actual dinosaurs, which died out 65 million years ago, or more like 6 million years old, formed about when the earliest human ancestors began walking upright? This bitter controversy among geologists edged into the open on Thursday when a report published in the journal Science offered new support for the old-canyon hypothesis, which is not the prevailing one. ... An analysis of the data, the geologists said, revealed where surface erosion had gouged out canyons and how much time had passed since there was significant natural excavation in the Grand Canyon region. They thus concluded in the report that the western segment of the canyon was carved to within a few hundred meters of modern depths by about 70 million years ago."
Dumb Criminal of the Week: The Job Candidate Who Told the FBI about His Child Porn Stash
If You Have To Be Told To Self-Regulate...: Wall Street Journal: "A judge tasked with evaluating the U.K. press in the wake of last year's phone-hacking scandal has recommended a strengthened system of 'self-regulation' for the country's newspaper industry that would be underpinned by a change to British law. Lord Justice Brian Leveson and his team of lawyers took evidence from more than 600 witnesses—including celebrities, politicians and editors ... On Thursday, the inquiry published its findings in a 1,987-page report. In it, the Murdoch family looms large, with hundreds of references to News Corp, Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and his son, Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch, some of which are critical."
Driving Winds, Surging Waters and Higher Taxes: Associated Press: "Superstorm Sandy may have one more nasty surprise still to come: higher taxes. The math is simple and cruel. The storm left fewer properties standing, often wrecking waterfront communities that paid the highest taxes because of the desirability of living near the water. Unless shore towns from Rhode Island to New Jersey get a big influx of aid from the state and federal governments, which are themselves strapped for cash, they will have no choice but to raise taxes on homes and businesses that survived to make up for the loss."
Mitt Goes to Lunch: Reuters: "Mitt Romney arrived at the White House on Thursday for private talks with President Barack Obama, their first meeting since this month's election. Romney ... stepped out of a black sport-utility vehicle at around 12:30 p.m. and entered the West Wing of the White House. The lunch meeting is a chance for Obama to show bipartisanship .... For Romney, it is an opportunity to begin rebuilding his political stature after his party's disappointing outcome in the Nov. 6 election." Photo: The two men shaking hands in the Oval Office.
The Menu: White turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad, according to the White House.
At Long Last Apple Unveils New iTunes: All Things D: "It took a little longer than expected to arrive, but the latest iteration of Apple’s iTunes is finally here — albeit a month after it was promised. ... Apple released iTunes 11, the biggest update to the company’s media software since it debuted more than a decade ago. A complete redesign of what began in 2001 as a simple music jukebox, the latest iteration of iTunes features tighter integration with Apple’s iCloud service and iTunes Store, and an iOS-inspired user interface that more elegantly incorporates the many elements that have been grafted and patchworked onto it over the years."
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