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Business Highlights

Monday - 12/31/2012, 7:00pm  ET

The Associated Press

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Obama says fiscal cliff deal close, not done

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Agonizingly close to a New Year's Eve compromise, the White House and congressional Republicans agreed Monday to block across-the-board tax increases set for midnight, but held up a final deal as they haggled away the final hours of 2012 over spending cuts.

"It appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year's tax hike is within sight," President Barack Obama said in an afternoon status report on negotiations. "But it's not done."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell -- shepherding final talks with Vice President Joe Biden -- agreed with Obama that an overall deal was near. In remarks on the Senate floor, he suggested Congress move quickly to pass tax legislation and "continue to work on finding smarter ways to cut spending" next year.

The White House and Democrats initially declined the offer, but several officials said they could reconsider.

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AP IMPACT: Big Pharma cashes in on HGH abuse

Unlike other prescription drugs, human growth hormone or HGH may be prescribed only for specific uses. U.S. sales are limited by law to treat a rare growth defect in children and a handful of uncommon conditions like short bowel syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome, a congenital disease that causes reduced muscle tone and a lack of hormones in sex glands.

An AP analysis, supplemented by interviews with experts, shows too many sales and too many prescriptions for the number of people known to be suffering from those ailments. At least half of last year's sales likely went to patients not legally allowed to get the drug. And U.S. pharmacies processed nearly double the expected number of prescriptions.

Peddled as an elixir of life capable of turning middle-aged bodies into lean machines, HGH -- a synthesized form of the growth hormone made naturally by the human pituitary gland -- winds up in the eager hands of affluent, aging users who hope to slow or even reverse the aging process.

Experts say these folks don't need the drug, and may be harmed by it. The supposed fountain-of-youth medicine can cause enlargement of breast tissue, carpal tunnel syndrome and swelling of hands and feet. Ironically it also can contribute to aging ailments like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

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Minimum wage gap grows wider between states

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- With a bump in the Washington state minimum wage to $9.19 an hour on Tuesday, high school student Miranda Olson will edge closer to her goal of purchasing that black Volkswagen Beetle she's been researching online.

Olson is only able to pick up part-time hours, working after classes and on weekends. But the extra money she'll earn in 2013 will add up over the coming weeks and months.

Many workers around the country won't be as lucky as the ones in Washington state, which is raising its salary minimum even though it already has the highest state baseline in the country. Workers one state over -- in Idaho -- will make nearly $2 per hour less in 2013.

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FDA approves 1st new tuberculosis drug in 40 years

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved a Johnson & Johnson tuberculosis drug that is the first new medicine to fight the deadly infection in more than four decades.

The agency approved J&J's pill, Sirturo, for use with older drugs to fight a hard-to-treat strain of tuberculosis that has not responded to other medications. However, the agency cautioned that the drug carries risks of potentially deadly heart problems and should be prescribed carefully by doctors.

Roughly one-third of the world's population is estimated to be infected with tuberculosis bacteria. The disease is rare in the U.S., but kills about 1.4 million people a year worldwide. Of those, about 150,000 succumb to increasingly common drug-resistant forms of the disease. About 60 percent of all cases are concentrated in China, India, Russia and Eastern Europe.

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Tribune leaves bankruptcy after 4 years

CHICAGO (AP) -- Tribune Co. emerged from a Chapter 11 restructuring Monday, more than four years after the media company sought bankruptcy protection.

The reorganized company is starting with a new board of directors and new ownership that includes senior creditors Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon and Co., and JPMorgan Chase and Co.

Tribune closed on a new, $1.1 billion senior secured term loan and a $300 million revolving credit line. The loan will fund payments required under the reorganization plan, and the credit line will fund ongoing operations.

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