Federal deficit drops by 40%

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WASHINGTON — The federal deficit for the first quarter of fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, dropped by almost 40 percent compared with the same period a year earlier, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.

The deficit has gone down so much that the federal government actually ran a surplus for December — a one-time occurrence that resulted from some special circumstances but still an indicator of the rapidly improving state of the government’s finances.

For October to December 2012, the government ran a deficit of $293 billion. By the last three months of 2013, the deficit had shrunk by $111 billion, to $182 billion.

Detainee transfer urged

WASHINGTON — A panel established by the Obama administration to review the cases of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, announced the results of its first case Thursday, recommending that a detainee who was previously deemed too dangerous to release be transferred out of the prison.

In a statement, the Defense Department said the board had agreed by consensus to recommend release for Mahmoud Abd al Aziz al Mujahid, a Yemeni detainee who was among the first to arrive at Guantanamo in January 2002. Mr. Mujahid, 36, is one of 56 Yemeni detainees still held at the facility.

Freeze cost: $5 billion

MINNEAPOLIS — Hunkering down at home rather than going to work, canceling thousands of flights and repairing burst pipes from the Midwest to the Southeast because of the recent cold snap proved costly: by one estimate, about $5 billion.

The polar vortex — affecting about 200 million people — brought about the biggest economic disruption delivered by the weather since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, said Evan Gold, senior vice president at Planalytics, a business weather intelligence company in suburban Philadelphia.

Plea deal in rape case

MARYVILLE, Mo. — A Missouri man accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old schoolmate when he was 17 pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Matt Barnett, 19, was sentenced to two years of probation and a four-month suspended jail term. The girl says Mr. Barnett raped her at a house party in January 2012. He said the sex was consensual.

The local prosecutor dropped the case because he said the girl’s family stopped cooperating. A special prosecutor was tasked with re-examining it after it received widespread attention last fall.

Hagel visits missile base

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. — Hoping to boost sagging morale, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a rare visit Thursday to an Air Force nuclear missile base and the men and women who operate and safeguard the nation’s Minuteman 3 missiles.

But his attempt to cheer the troops was tempered by news that two launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana had been implicated in an illegal-narcotics investigation.

Also in the nation …

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday proposed a record $106.8 billion budget as state coffers brim with the biggest surplus in more than a decade, setting up a fight with fellow Democrats who want more spending. … A privately launched supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Thursday from Wallops Island, Va., following a series of delays ranging from the cold to the sun.




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