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It wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to the country.

If President Obama and Congress can't come to agreement on new tax and spending policies by the end of year, the U.S. could slip into recession, defense and domestic programs will see damaging cuts, and the American people may become convinced that Washington can't govern the nation.

On the other hand, the lack of a deal would do a lot to help erase the federal deficit.

The bottom line on the fiscal cliff negotiations on Capitol Hill is that things seem far from resolved. As Politico put it, the last we heard is that White House congressional liaison Rob Nabors went to Capitol Hill to tell lawmakers that President Obama is not budging.

If Congress does not come to an agreement, the country is facing steep spending cuts and tax hikes that economist warn could send the economy back into recession.

For the first time since his exile in 1967, the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, returned to the Gaza Strip today. He arrived through the border with Egypt, kissing the ground in celebration and as NPR's Philip Reeves reports, Meshal received a hero's welcome as well as military one.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. That's a four-year low.

The economy added 146,000 jobs, beating expectations. Surprisingly the BLS said that Hurricane Sandy "did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November."

The BLS adds that employment increased "in retail trade, professional and business services, and health care."

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake stuck the Japanese coast that was battered by 2011's 9.0-magnitude earthquake that triggered a devastating tsunami.

According to NHK, the state broadcaster, the tremor was felt from the coast all the way inland to Tokyo and at least 10 people were injured.

The battle over how to avoid the looming cuts and tax increases known as the fiscal cliff is a frustrating one for the Tea Party. The movement is still a force within the GOP, even as its popularity has fallen over the past two years.

But in the current debate, there have been no big rallies in Washington, and Tea Party members in Congress seem resigned to the fact that any eventual deal will be one they won't like — and one they'll have little influence over.

Friday marks a not-so-happy anniversary for some of President Obama's biggest supporters: It's exactly one year since Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius decided not to lift the age restrictions on availability of the so-called morning-after pill, Plan B.

The U.S. birthrate just fell to its lowest point since we've been keeping track. Here's why that may be a problem for my 2-year-old son.

Cuba has no shortage of fertile farmland, but the country spends $1.5 billion a year importing about 70 percent of its food.

The communist government's chronic struggle to get farmers to produce more is forcing authorities to grudgingly accept a greater role for market principles and the profit motive.

Now authorities seem willing to go another step further, tolerating the rise of what might be described as Cuba's "free-est" market.

Pinterest is known as a place where people share recipes, crafts or fashion. But a new set of images have started showing up on the social media site: mug shots.

Bonnie Stankunas has come to the post office in Pottstown, Pa., her entire life. She remembers, as a kid, spotting "most wanted" posters hung on a wall.

"It kind of reminded me of the Wild, Wild West," Stankunas says.

None of the people at this post office remembers exactly when the posters went away, but the FBI stopped sending the notices out a couple of years ago.

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