Congressional negotiators announced Tuesday they'd reached a budget proposal to restore about $65 billion worth of sequestration cuts in exchange for cuts elsewhere and additional fees.
If approved by both the House and Senate, the plan - hammered out by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray — would avoid another government shutdown on Jan. 15.
The Associated Press writes:
"Officials said the increases would be offset by a variety of spending reductions and increased fees elsewhere in the budget totaling about $85 billion over a decade, enough for a largely symbolic cut of roughly $20 billion in the nation's $17 trillion debt."
House and Senate negotiators working to finish a farm bill say it is unlikely their work will be completed before the end of the year. The House is only in session for the rest of the week, and according to one of the negotiators, this week's snowy weather has delayed some numbers-crunching needed to figure out how much elements of a possible deal will cost.
"We're going to pass it in January," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., as she left a closed-door meeting to negotiate details of the five-year farm bill.
Her House counterpart, Frank Lucas, R-Okla., stood next to her, nodding.
"I believe that's the scenario that you'll see," said Lucas.
They didn't get into details about where differences remain, but funding for SNAP, formerly called food stamps, and the structure of the crop insurance program have been sticking points.
One reason they were rushing to get it done before the end of the year is what's known as the "dairy cliff," a risk of soaring milk prices. Without a farm bill, dairy policy will revert to 1949 law, and wholesale milk prices could double. But Stabenow insists it won't happen immediately.
"I'm confident, talking with the secretary of agriculture just a little while ago, that we have no impacts on dairy in January," said Stabenow.
Lucas is planning to introduce a short-term extension of the 2008 farm bill that would last through the end of January. But he said he'd only want the House to vote on it if it looked like the two chambers were still too far apart in negotiations as this week comes to the close. And Stabenow says a short-term extension won't fly in the Senate.
A former actress who sent ricin-laced letters to President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has pleaded guilty in a Texarkana court as part of a deal to limit her sentence to no more than 18 years.
Shannon Guess Richardson, a mother of six from Texas, had minor roles in The Walking Dead and The Blind Side. She mailed three ricin-laced letters from New Boston, Texas, near Texarkana, and then contacted police to say that her estranged husband had done it.
"The letters reportedly focused on the national debate over gun control and threatened violence if more restrictions are put on gun ownership. The ones sent to Bloomberg and the gun control group showed traces of ricin, a deadly poison, in preliminary tests. The letter sent to Obama [was] being tested."
The Associated Press says that Richardson, 35, "acknowledged in a signed plea agreement document filed Tuesday that she ordered castor beans online and learned how to process them into a substance used to make ricin. She obtained an email address, a PayPal shopping account and a post office box in her husband's name without his knowledge, according to the document."
"On the morning of May 20, she said, she waited for Nathan Richardson to go to work."
"After he left the house, I printed the mailing labels for President Barack Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Mark Glaze with The Raben Group," Richardson said in the document. Glaze is director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg's group advocating for tougher gun control."
"The letter to Obama, according to the document, read: 'What's in this letter is nothing compared to what ive got in store for you mr president.'"
"'You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns,' the letter read. 'Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face.'"
Acid-inhibiting drugs like Zantac and Prilosec have become hugely popular because they're so good at preventing the unpleasant symptoms of heartburn and acid indigestion.
But the drugs also make it more likely that a person will be short on vitamin B-12. And that can cause health problems including depression, nerve damage and dementia.
People who took acid-inhibiting drugs for two or more years were more likely to have B-12 deficiency, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. The more medication they took, the more apt they were to be short on the vitamin.
That was particularly true if they took drugs called proton pump inhibitors, which can suppress 90 percent of stomach acid. Over-the-counter brand names for those include Prevacid and Prilosec.
Other acid-inhibiting drugs, called histamine 2 receptor antagonists, also increased the risk of B-12 deficiency, but not as much. They're sold over-the-counter as Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac, among other names.
In the study, 12 percent of the people taking proton pump inhibitors for two years or more developed a new diagnosis of B-12 deficiency, compared to 4 percent who were taking histamine 2 receptor antagonists.
Of course, that still means 84 percent of the people who were low on B-12 did not take acid-suppressing drugs. So clearly, the acid reducers weren't the only cause of deficiency.
When people in the study stopped taking the acid inhibitors, their B-12 levels rose.
As part of the study, the researchers looked at the records of almost 26,000 patients at Kaiser Permanente clinics in Northern California who were diagnosed with B-12 deficiency between 1997 and 2011.
It's the biggest study by far to look at how acid-inhibiting drugs affect B-12. Earlier efforts also found a link, but looked at much smaller numbers of people.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is relatively common, especially in older people, and can cause a wide range of symptoms, including tiredness, weakness, depression, weight loss, a loss of appetite and anemia. More serious problems can include dementia and permanent nerve damage.
About 3 percent of adults over 50 are low in B-12, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People typically get their B-12 from food; it's in animal proteins, and also in some fortified cereals. Stomach acid shears the B-12 from food proteins and makes it easier for the body to absorb. So when there's less acid, there's less B-12 available.
Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve: Take vitamin B-12 supplements, or stop taking the acid inhibitors.
A couple and four children who had been missing since Sunday in the mountains of northern Nevada amid sub-zero temperatures, have been found in good shape, officials said.
"We have located the people. They have been taken to the hospital. They are alive and well." Pershing County Undersheriff Thomas Bjerke said Tuesday. "They are in pretty good shape."
About noon on Sunday, James Glanton, 34, his girlfriend Christina McIntee, 25, took their two children and McIntee's niece and nephew, ranging in age from 3 to 10, to play in the snow around Seven Troughs, an abandoned mining town about 25 miles from Lovelock. Police began a search when the six did not return by Sunday evening.
Local ABC affiliate KOLO-TV reports that the couple's Jeep drove off an embankment and overturned.
"Authorities were particularly concerned because of the frigid temperatures in the area, which features several abandoned gold mining towns."
"A signal from McIntee's cellphone directed rescuers to Seven Troughs. The family told the rescuers they heard searchers blowing whistles and could see helicopters, KOLO said."
"They were found by a citizen among the 200 people who had joined the search by Tuesday, said Sheila Reitz of the Pershing County Sheriff's Office. The ground effort was aided by six aircraft from the Nevada Wing of the Civil Air Patrol."