WASHINGTON (AP) — The dealmakers who warn that a year-end plunge off the "fiscal cliff" would be disastrous don't seem to be rushing to stop it. Why aren't they panicking?
For one thing, the Dec. 31 deadline is more flexible than it sounds. Like all skilled procrastinators, from kids putting off homework to taxpayers who file late, Washington negotiators know they can finagle more time if they need it.
That doesn't mean delay would be cost-free. Stock markets might tank if 2013 dawns without a deal. But Americans could be temporarily spared many of the other ill effects if Congress and President Barack Obama blow past their deadline.
The Obama administration would have power to delay some of the tax increases and spending cuts that would officially take effect as January begins. Then, if an agreement is reached early in the year, it could be applied retroactively to wipe them out.
Some lawmakers even argue that briefly going over the cliff is the best way to force a compromise. The Obama administration on Wednesday indicated it would take the plunge if necessary to ensure that the wealthy end up paying higher tax rates.
Egyptian army deploys tanks outside presidential palace following deadly clashes
CAIRO (AP) — The Egyptian army has deployed tanks outside the presidential palace in Cairo following clashes between supporters and opponents of Mohammed Morsi that left five people dead and nearly 500 wounded.
Six tanks and two armored vehicles belonging to the Republican Guard, an elite unit tasked with protecting the president and his palaces, have been stationed outside the complex.
After a night of violence, the opposition plans another demonstration outside the palace later Thursday to press demands that Morsi shelve a draft constitution adopted by his Islamist allies and rescind decrees giving him sweeping powers.
The situation was calm Thursday morning, with thousands of Morsi supporters camping outside the palace after driving away opposition activists who had been staging a sit-in there, prompting fierce street battles.
Celebrations planned as law legalizing marijuana in Washington state takes effect
SEATTLE (AP) — Legal marijuana possession becomes a reality under Washington state law on Thursday, and some people planned to celebrate the new law by breaking it.
Voters in Washington and Colorado last month made those the first states to decriminalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana. Washington's law takes effect Thursday and allows adults to have up to an ounce of pot — but it bans public use of marijuana, which is punishable by a fine, just like drinking in public.
Nevertheless, some people planned to gather at 12:01 a.m. PST Thursday to smoke in public beneath Seattle's Space Needle. Others planned a midnight party outside the Seattle headquarters of Hempfest, the 21-year-old festival that attracts tens of thousands of pot fans every summer.
"This is a big day because all our lives we've been living under the iron curtain of prohibition," said Hempfest director Vivian McPeak. "The whole world sees that prohibition just took a body blow."
In another sweeping change for Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday signed into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage. The state joins several others that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.
Colonial staple, 'Reefer Madness' and now legal weed: marijuana in American history
SEATTLE (AP) — The grass is no greener. But, finally, it's legal — at least somewhere in America. It's been a long, strange trip for marijuana.
Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize and regulate its recreational use last month. But before that, the plant, renowned since ancient times for its strong fibers, medical use and mind-altering properties, was a staple crop of the colonies, an "assassin of youth," a counterculture emblem and a widely accepted — if often abused — medicine.
On the occasion of Thursday's "Legalization Day," when Washington's new law takes effect, here's a look back at the cultural and legal status of the "evil weed" in American history.
CANNABIS IN THE COLONIES
German Cabinet approves sending German Patriot air defense missiles to Turkey
BERLIN (AP) — Germany's Cabinet on Thursday approved sending German Patriot air defense missiles to Turkey to protect the NATO member against possible attacks from Syria, in a major step toward a possible Western military role in the Syrian conflict.
Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters that two batteries with a total of 400 soldiers would be sent to the border area under NATO command for one year, although the deployment could be shortened.
The decision must be endorsed by the German Parliament, which is expected to take the matter up between Dec. 12 and 14, but approval is all but assured.
The Dutch Cabinet is expected to announce approval Friday contingent on parliamentary approval.
De Maiziere said the overall mission was also expected to include two batteries each from the Netherlands and the United States, and that NATO Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, or AWACS, will also be involved.
AP Exclusive: Japan scientists assessing radiation risks took travel money from utilities
TOKYO (AP) — Influential Japanese scientists who help set national radiation exposure limits have for years had trips paid for by the country's nuclear plant operators to attend overseas meetings of the world's top academic group on radiation safety.
The potential conflict-of-interest is revealed in one sentence buried in a 600-page parliamentary investigation into last year's Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant disaster and pointed out to The Associated Press by a medical doctor on the 10-person investigation panel.
Some of these same scientists have consistently given optimistic assessments about the health risks of radiation, interviews with the scientists and government documents show. Their pivotal role in setting policy after the March 2011 tsunami and ensuing nuclear meltdowns meant the difference between schoolchildren playing outside or indoors and families staying or evacuating.
One leading scientist, Ohtsura Niwa, acknowledged that the electricity industry pays for flights and hotels to go to meetings of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, and for overseas members visiting Japan. He denied that the funding influences his science, and stressed that he stands behind his view that continuing radiation worries about Fukushima are overblown.
"Those who evacuated just want to believe in the dangers of radiation to justify the action they took," Niwa told the AP in an interview.
Software founder McAfee arrested in Guatemala, ending bizarre saga
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Software company founder John McAfee was arrested by Guatemalan police for entering the country illegally, ending his bizarre weekslong journey as a blogging fugitive claiming to be persecuted by authorities in Belize.
The fate of the anti-virus guru remained unclear Thursday as Guatemalan authorities awaited word from their Foreign Ministry as to what they would do with McAfee and whether they intended to send him back to Belize, where he is a person of interest in the killing of a fellow ex-pat.
"We are awaiting instructions from the Foreign Ministry. It will be the foreign relations department that decides the process," Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said following McAfee's arrest Wednesday at a hotel in an upscale part of Guatemala City.
Earlier on Wednesday, McAfee said he had formally requested asylum in Guatemala after entering the country from Belize, where he says he fears for his safety because he has sensitive information about official corruption and refused to donate to local politicians.
Since refusing to turn himself in to authorities in Belize, the 67-year-old had been in hiding, blogging his movements and calling reporters, until reappearing in Guatemala to claim asylum. He has not said how he crossed the border into Guatemala.
Pushed NYC subway rider's horrific death has straphangers thinking about what they would do
NEW YORK (AP) — As New York City straphangers pondered what they would do in a similar nightmare situation, authorities charged a homeless man in the death of a Queens resident pushed in front of an oncoming subway train and killed as onlookers watched.
"I would certainly try to do whatever I possibly could," said Denise Martorana, 34, as she waited for the "A'' train at Penn Station on Wednesday evening.
"I certainly wouldn't be able to stand there and watch, that's for sure," she said.
Naeem Davis, 30, was arraigned Wednesday night on a second-degree murder charge and ordered held without bail in the death of 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han on Monday. He is due back in court on Dec. 11.
Davis has several prior arrests in New York and Pennsylvania on mostly minor charges including drug possession.
Spreading the love: Fun., West, Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons among 6 top nominees for 2013 Grammys
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Grammy Awards celebrated the diversity of music as six different artists tied for lead nominee — Kanye West, Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Mumford & Sons and fun.
Auerbach received five nominations as a member of the Keys and also is up for producer of the year, earning a spot with the others at the top of the list as the Grammy's primetime television special came to his hometown Wednesday night.
"We're speechless," Auerbach said in a statement to The Associated Press from Germany, where he's on tour with drummer Patrick Carney.
The rockers little resemble any of the other acts at the top of the list. The nominations for Jay-Z and West, two of hip-hop's most important figures, is a familiar refrain. Each has routinely been at or near the top of the nominations list for the last several years.
Indie pop band fun., a featured performer during the show, aired live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on CBS, rode the success of its anthemic hit "We Are Young" featuring Janelle Monae to sweep of the major categories, earning nods for best new artist, song and record for "We Are Young" and album of the year for "Some Nights." The band's producer Jeff Bhasker is up for four nominations.
Bryant scores 29, surpasses 30,000 career points and Lakers down Hornets 103-87
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Before Kobe Bryant had even turned in his latest dominant performance, NBA Commissioner David Stern sought him out to offer a congratulatory hand shake for the extraordinary scoring milestone the Lakers star was about to surpass.
Stern assumed Bryant would score the 13 points he needed to become only the fifth player in NBA history to reach 30,000, and who wouldn't?
Bryant had 17 points by halftime, finished with 29, and Los Angeles snapped a two-game skid with a 103-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.
"He just congratulated me and told me I was one of the best competitors that he's seen in this game and I really appreciated that," Bryant said of his pregame exchange with Stern.
Now Bryant in is elite company. The only other players to score more than 30,000 are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.