Last updated: February 20. 2013 1:46AM - 146 Views

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Deficit to reach $1 trillion

The U.S. annual budget deficit is on track to reach $1 trillion for a fifth year in a row, 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 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.

The budget year begins on Oct. 1. The size of the annual deficit will hinge, in part, on how Congress and the White House resolve a debate over raising the nation's borrowing limit. Republicans are demanding deep spending cuts in return for any increase.

French forces are in Mali

France announced Friday that its forces were fighting alongside African allies in the first Western intervention to help the beleaguered government of Mali wrest control of the north section of its country from Islamist militants who captured it last spring.

In a speech, French President Francois Hollande confirmed that his forces were in Mali and pledged that they would stay as long as necessary to prevent the desert nation from becoming a new haven for al-Qaida-linked extremists.

Mali is facing an assault by terrorist elements coming from the north whose brutality and fanaticism is known across the world, Hollande said, according to the Agence France-Presse news service.

Screenings for lung cancer?

After decades of qualms about lung cancer screening, the American Cancer Society says there now is enough evidence to recommend it, but only for current and former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74 and after a frank talk about risks and benefits.

The new guidelines, announced Friday, are a cautious but exciting step against the world's most deadly cancer, doctors who wrote the advice say.

It is based on a big study in 2011 that found annual, low-dose CT scans – a type of X-ray – could cut the chances of dying of lung cancer by 20 percent and from any cause by nearly 7 percent.

The study only included older people who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or the equivalent, such as two packs a day for 15 years. Whether screening would help others isn't known, so scans were not advised for them.

‘Big stink' at federal agency

A federal government agency did more than wrinkle its nose at an employee's flatulence problem, issuing an official reprimand after months of malodors. But the agency said Friday that it has since retracted the rebuke.

The reprimand letter, which runs four pages and is dated Dec. 10, charges the Social Security Administration employee with conduct unbecoming a federal employee and creating a hostile work environment because of the repeated gas passing.

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