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CBS: It's Official: Deal Reached On "Fiscal Cliff"

Source: CBS

As revelers in Times Square and cities and towns across the country wait for the ball to drop to ring in the new year, politicians in Washington have announced that a ball is not likely to drop on the average taxpayer. Negotiators have come to an agreement on the so-called "fiscal cliff" - and with less than three hours to spare, CBS News has confirmed.

Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Capitol Hill to brief Senate Democrats on the details of the deal; both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have signed off on the agreement, White House and congressional sources told CBS News' Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett.

Now that lawmakers have settled on a deal, it's unclear when the Senate will vote but it's expected that if it passes, the House will vote tomorrow at the earliest.

What this means is that although the country will technically go over the "cliff" at midnight, the agreement - if passed by both houses of Congress - guarantees any detrimental impact from the "cliff" will be avoided, even if a vote happens after midnight, as language will likely be added to the final legislation that would make the changes retroactive.

Here are the known details of the deal:

Tax rates: current tax rates will be extended for all wage earners making below $400,000 and couples making below $450,000.

This was a key concession for both Republicans and Democrats. Democrats wanted the threshold for tax increases to rest at $250,000 and Republicans didn't want marginal tax rates to increase for anyone.

The automatic spending cuts under the sequester will be delayed for two months. The cost of continuing current federal spending levels will be offset by revenue increases and some spending cuts. The spending cuts will come half from defense and half non-defense accounts.

The two-month window is to allow Congress and the White House to come up with a larger deal on spending cuts, leading to another (though smaller) "fiscal cliff." Democrats see this deal as a victory because Republicans had objected to using any new tax revenue to offset the loss of sequester spending cuts, reports Garrett.

The estate tax: it was set to increase from rom 35 percent to 55 percent in 2013. Instead, the compromise sets the new rate at 40 percent with the first $5 million worth of property exempt from being taxed.

Capital gains tax: Capital gains and dividend tax rates will increase from 15 to 20 percent.
Alternative Minimum Tax: a permanent fix to the tax that would hit middle class families
"Doc Fix": doctors will be shielded from a massive reimbursement gap for treating Medicare patients.

Unemployment benefits: unemployed workers will receive their benefits which expired over the weekend.

Renewable energy tax credit: the tax credit for renewable energy companies will be extended for another year.

While the extension of unemployment benefits and the Medicare "doc fix" cost money, and revenue will be lost due to a fix in the Alternative Minimum Tax, the package will still increase the federal government's receipts. The total package will add $600 billion to federal coffers.

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57561465/its-official-deal-reached-on-fiscal-cliff/

Doctors Expect Clinton to Recover Fully From Blood Clot Near Brain

Source: New York Times

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s blood clot formed in her head, her doctors said on Monday, a potentially serious condition from which they nonetheless stressed they expect her to fully recover.

Mrs. Clinton was hospitalized Sunday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for the blood clot — in a vein between the brain and the skull and behind her right ear — and doctors said on Monday that it had not resulted in a stroke or neurological damage. They said they were treating her with blood thinners to try to dissolve the clot.

“She will be released once the medication dose has been established,” according to the statement from Dr. Lisa Bardack and Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi. Clots like the one Mrs. Clinton has can be serious, said doctors not involved in her care. Dr. David Langer, a brain surgeon and an associate professor at the North Shore-Hofstra-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine, said that if this type of clot was untreated, it could cause blood to back up, and could lead to a hemorrhage inside the brain.

Mrs. Clinton’s doctors struck an upbeat tone in their statement. “In all other aspects of her recovery, the secretary is making excellent progress, and we are confident she will make a full recovery,” the statement said. “She is in good spirits, engaging with her doctors, her family and her staff."

The sudden turn in Mrs. Clinton’s condition appeared to take members of her staff by surprise. As recently as Sunday afternoon, they thought she was on the mend and ready to return to work this week.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/01/us/doctors-expect-clinton-to-recover-fully-from-blood-clot-near-brain.html?_r=0

Barney Frank 'Strongly Opposes' Chuck Hagel As Defense Secretary

WASHINGTON -- Outgoing Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced on Monday that he "strongly opposes" the potential nomination of Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary, due to anti-gay comments the former Republican senator from Nebraska once made.

In 1998, Hagel called James Hormel, then President Bill Clinton's choice for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, “openly, aggressively gay." He called Hormel's sexual orientation an "inhibiting factor" that would prevent him from doing "an effective job."

Hagel recently apologized, saying his 1998 remarks were "insensitive."

That apology has not been enough for some members of the LGBT community. Hormel himself questioned the sincerity of Hagel's comments, saying they appeared to be made "only in service of his attempt to get the nomination."



Iran Test-Fires Missiles Near Strait of Hormuz

By Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran -

Iran's navy says it has test-fired a range of weapons during ongoing maneuvers near the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for one-fifth of the world's oil supply.

The Monday report by the official IRNA news agency quotes exercise spokesman Adm. Amir Rastgari as saying the Iranian-made air defense system Raad, or Thunder, was among the weapons tested.

Iran says the system fires missiles with a range of 50 kilometers (30 miles), capable of hitting targets at 22,000 meters (75,000 feet).

He said torpedoes and underwater and surface-to-surface rockets were also successfully tested.

Read more: http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/20472047/iran-test-fires-missiles-near-strait-of-hormuz#ixzz2GgNxD4gI

With Blockade Eased, Building Materials Enter Gaza

Thousands of tons of building materials, such as cement and steel, began crossing into the Gaza Strip on Saturday, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said, as Israel eased its five-year-old blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory.

Israel agreed to ease the blockade on Gaza under terms of a cease-fire that ended eight days of fierce fighting with Hamas last month, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger.

Trucks carrying gravel for private construction entered Gaza from Israel for the first time since Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory.

Israel says 300 truckloads of goods are now entering Gaza each day.

The director of Gaza's border authority, Maher Abu Sabha, confirmed to The Associated Press that Qatar is paying for the raw materials that were bought in Egypt, to be transported through the Rafah border crossing.



House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer Cool To Compromise

By KEVIN ROBILLARD | 12/31/12 12:22 PM EST
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Monday he was “not enthusiastic” about an emerging deal to avert the fiscal cliff and wouldn’t commit to voting for it.

“ is prepared to compromise and has been willing to compromise and, in fact, has compromised throughout the last two years,” Hoyer said on MSNBC. “Do some Democrats not like that? Yes, I think that is the case. I frankly am not enthusiastic about the compromise being talked about today.”

Hoyer, a Marylander considered the most moderate member of Democratic leadership in the House, said he wouldn’t commit to voting either way until he saw a final bill.
“We’ll have to see what the final product is,” Hoyer said. “But I think we need to get to compromise, we need to move forward. Nobody wants to go over this cliff. Going over the cliff is economically harmful to the United States of America, to the growth of jobs in America and to the middle class. We don’t want to go over the cliff.”

Some Democrats have begun to express dissatisfaction with the deal being negotiated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden. While Obama campaigned on ending the Bush-era tax rates for income above $250,000 a year, Biden and McConnell’s negotiations have moved the dividing line closer to $400,000.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/hoyer-cool-to-compromise-85618.html#ixzz2Geap0L9H

AP Sources: 'Fiscal Cliff' Deal Emerging

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The contours of a deal to avert the 'fiscal cliff' are emerging that would raise tax rates on couples making over $450,000 a year, raise the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year.

That's according to officials familiar with the negotiations.

The deal in the works would return tax rates on families making over $450,000 to 39.6 percent. The tax on estates worth more than $5 million would increase to 40 percent. And unemployment benefits would continue for one year.

The officials say the White House and Republicans are at an impasse over what to do about automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to begin taking effect on Jan. 1. Democrats want to put off the cuts for one year.


Dem Sen. Harkin Criticizes His Party's Position To Fiscal Cliff Talks

By Ramsey Cox - 12/31/12 11:23 AM ET

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) criticized an emerging fiscal cliff deal on Monday, arguing Democrats were giving up too much on tax rates for the rich.

Harkin said "no deal is better than a bad deal" in criticizing a deal that could extend tax rates for households with annual income under $450,000.

"This is one Democrat who doesn’t agree with that at all,” Harkin said.

He argued Democrats were making permanent generous tax rates for wealthier households even as in return they were only winning temporary extensions of programs that would help the poor and middle class, such as federal unemployment benefits. Harkin also argued against extending the current estate tax, which he views as too generous.

"There might be some extended debate," he told reporters after his floor comments. He added that it is "not true" that Democrats have as a group signed off on $450,000 threshold or estate tax status quo.



Andrei Arbashe, Christian Taxi-Driver 'Beheaded By Syrian Rebels & Fed To Dogs'

A Christian man was beheaded by Syrian rebels and fed to dogs, a nun has told a British newspaper.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Sister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix said newlywed taxi driver Andrei Arbashe's brother had reportedly been overheard comparing the rebels to "bandits".

As a consequence, Andrei, who was set to become a father for the the first time, was kidnapped. The 38-year-old's remains were found in the northern town of Ras al-Ayn, on the Turkish border.

Sister de la Croix, who is mother superior of the Monastery of St James the Mutilated between Damascus and Homs, said: "They beheaded him, cut him into pieces and fed him to the dogs.

"The uprising has been hijacked by Islamist mercenaries who are more interested in fighting a holy war than in changing the government.



Sen. Tom Harkin on Senate floor, 'no deal is better deal than the one he is hearing about being


Senate in 1 hour 10 minute speeches until noon est.

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