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Little Hope, Low Expectations, Lots Of Gloom: 'Fiscal Cliff' Talk Is Dreary

Yes, President Obama and congressional leaders are scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. ET to discuss how to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts.

But, no, that isn't inspiring much talk this morning of a breakthrough before the midnight New Year's Eve deadline:

-- The meeting comes "with no sign of progress in resolving their differences over the federal budget and low expectations for a 'fiscal cliff' deal before Jan. 1," says Reuters.

-- According to Politico, "neither side is hopeful that there will be a breakthrough on taxes and spending before the new year, and top Republicans considered the Friday meeting to be more about optics than last-ditch horse-trading."

-- "Publicly, there was little sign of ... a thaw Thursday. Instead, a sense of gloom pervaded the Capitol," writes The Washington Post. "Each party stepped up its efforts to proactively deflect blame, insisting that the other must act first."

-- "No one holds out much hope the group can reach a deal to avert the fiscal cliff on Tuesday, but stranger things have happened," tweets CBS News' Mark Knoller.

On Morning Edition, NPR's David Welna said that Democrats want assurances from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans that they won't filibuster any last-minute deal if one is reached. McConnell, David reported, "says that all depends on Democrats coming up with a proposal that's acceptable to both parties."

Not every lawmaker is pessimistic. David said that despite all the gloom and doom talk, "some key Republicans sense a deal may be about to emerge." Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole put it this way on MSNBC: "To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there's so much manure around here, there's got to be a pony someplace."

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NPR

Chinese Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Restricted To 20-Day U.K. Visa

Ai says he was denied a six-month visa because U.K. officials said he didn't list a criminal conviction in his application. Ai was imprisoned in China, but he notes he was never charged with a crime.
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Humans Aren't The Only Ones To Go Ape Over Diets: Chimps Detox, Too

A group of Ugandan chimps has found a great way to boost their mineral intake and neutralize bitter compounds in their diet: by eating clay.
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The Politics Hour - July 31, 2015

Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

NPR

Debris Found In The Indian Ocean May Be From Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet

Investigators believe a piece of debris found on the French island of RĂ©union in the Indian Ocean could be from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in March 2014.

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