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US budget deficit grows by $260 million in December

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. annual budget deficit is on track to reach $1 trillion for a fifth straight year, though government revenue jumped last month as people paid some taxes early to avoid higher rates in 2013.

The Treasury Department said Friday that the federal deficit grew by just $260 million in December. But for the first three months of the budget year, the deficit widened to $292 billion.

In December, tax revenue rose 12 percent to $270 billion. Spending fell 17 percent to nearly the same amount.

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USDA: Drought cut corn crop by about one-fourth

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) â¿¿ For farmers like Earl Williams, last year couldn't have started out better or ended much worse as a warm, sunny spring that let him plant early gave way to record heat and drought that devastated his corn.

Williams ended up with about two-thirds of the crop he expected, and a Department of Agriculture report released Friday showed most corn farmers didn't fare much better. The final report on the 2012 growing season showed farmers harvested 10.78 billion bushels of corn, less than three-fourths of what the agency predicted last spring.

While the report covers many other crops, much of the attention has been on corn, which is widely used as an ingredient in many foods, provides feed for livestock and is mixed with gasoline as ethanol. The crop also was the hardest hit by the drought that settled in just as the plants were maturing.

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Merck warns docs to stop prescribing Tredaptive

Drugmaker Merck & Co. is suspending its sale of the cholesterol drug Tredaptive after initial results from a study showed that it wasn't effective and could raise the risk of some serious side effects.

The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company said Friday it is telling doctors to quit prescribing the tablets, which are not approved in the U.S., and it also is advising patients to stop taking the medication only after talking to a physician.

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