House Expected to Pass Budget Deal: Wall Street Journal: "The House was set to vote later Thursday on a two-year budget deal, as opposition in both parties appeared to fall short of threatening passage and Speaker John Boehner doubled down on his criticism of outside conservative groups. ... Few lawmakers have expressed enthusiasm for the narrowly focused agreement reached by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and his Senate counterpart, Budget Chairman Patty Murray (D., Wash.), to ease the effect of across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. But lawmakers from both parties predicted that bipartisan desire to call a cease-fire in Congress's budget wars would carry the bill through the House on Thursday and into the Senate next week."
Meanwhile in the Senate: Associated Press: "A budget agreement between key Republicans and Democrats. Even President Barack Obama was on board. All without anyone threatening to repeal this or shut down that. Gridlock, however briefly, took an early holiday in the bitterly polarized, Republican-run House. But across the Capitol, the high-minded Senate remained in the grip of some of the worst partisan warfare in its history after majority Democrats curbed the Republicans' power. A round-the-clock talkathon is the result, putting no one in the mood for cooperation. Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to shorten the Senate's cherished Christmas vacation if need be."
Refresher on the Deal: New York Times: "By most analyses, the budget deal ... is a modest plan to mitigate the impact of across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, that went into effect in March, and to slightly lower the budget deficit over the next decade. The legislation would also extend current Medicare payment rates for three months, staving off a cut of more than 20 percent to health care providers. That would allow lawmakers to try to come up with a more permanent “doctors’ fix” to prevent a deficit reduction measure that neither party has been able to stomach for more than a decade. ... All those measures would have once been considered routine, but they have turned into a donnybrook between congressional leaders and Tea Party-aligned groups and lawmakers. "
Smartphones on a Plane: Washington Post: "The federal government is moving closer to approving the use of cellphones on planes, but with a catch: Consumers couldn’t use the devices to make calls. The effort would be the culmination of separate rules being considered at two federal agencies. The Federal Communications Commission is taking steps Thursday to allow airplanes to install technology that would enable cellphone service. Separately, the Department of Transportation is considering a proposal that would ban calls outright. Passengers could still use their data plans on smartphones and tablets to surf the Web or send e-mails and texts. The idea of allowing cellphone calls on planes generated a massive storm of public criticism after it was first put forward by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last month. Travelers, flight attendants and lawmakers voiced concern that the proposal unleash unbearable cacophonies of phone conversation on packed airplanes."
U.S. Drone Strike: NBC/AP: "Missiles fired by a U.S. drone slammed into a convoy of vehicles traveling to a wedding party in central Yemen on Thursday, killing at least 13 people, Yemeni security officials said. The officials said the attack took place in the city of Radda, the capital of Bayda province, and left charred bodies and burnt out cars on the road. The city, a stronghold of al Qaeda militants, witnessed deadly clashes early last year between armed tribesmen backed by the military and al Qaeda gunmen in an attempt to drive them out of the city. There were no immediate details on who was killed in the strike, and there were conflicting reports about whether there were militants traveling with the wedding convoy. A military official said initial information indicated the drone mistook the wedding party for an al Qaeda convoy. ... One of the three security officials, however, said al Qaeda militants were suspected to have been traveling with the wedding convoy."
The "Birthers" Are Back At It: Los Angeles Times: "A small plane with nine people aboard went down off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Molokai, killing one person—the state's health department director, Loretta Fuddy. The Wednesday crash put an unexpected spotlight on Fuddy, 65, who had helped implement Obamacare, the state's new gay marriage law and, perhaps most notably to conspiracy theorists, verified and approved the release of President Obama's birth certificate. ... In 2011, Fuddy verified that the birth certificate was legitimate and Obama released the long-form version. That, however, failed to placate everyone, which is why Fuddy's death has added fuel to the conspiracy theory fire."
Former "Most Wanted" Pleads Guilty: Associated Press: "A former Washington private school teacher who was once featured on the FBI's list of most wanted fugitives pleaded guilty Thursday to child pornography charges and faces decades in prison. Eric Justin Toth, 31, was captured in Nicaragua in April, ending a five-year period on the run that began after images of child pornography were found on a school camera that had been in his possession. His arrest came one year after the FBI publicized his disappearance by adding him to its Most Wanted list, where he filled a vacancy created by Osama bin Laden's death, and offered a reward for information leading to his capture. He pleaded guilty to three counts of producing child pornography, identity theft and misuse of a Social Security number. The recommended sentencing range is between 22 and 30 years in prison, according to the terms of his plea agreement."
The World: Uruguay's Bold Pot Legalization Experiment
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