Libya's prime minister is kidnapped and released under strange circumstances, we may be spared the debt ceiling debacle, and Kendrick Johnson would have turned 18 today.
Welcome to the Thursday edition of "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."
1. GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
Light at the end of the tunnel vision
The government's still partially shut down. House Republicans say they aren't budging from that. But it looks like we could be spared the debt ceiling debacle. Late last night, GOP sources told us that lawmakers are preparing a proposal to temporarily raise it. And yesterday, President Obama said he would accept a short-term deal. The two sides meet today. We're keeping our fingers crossed.
There's another bit of good news
The shutdown has meant the Defense Department can't pay benefits to families of fallen troops. Yesterday, it struck a deal with the Fisher House Foundation to pick up the tab for now. The private charity will dole out the money. The Pentagon will pay it back when the shutdown ends.
2. SHUTDOWN IMPACT
Furlough can you go
Yesterday we told you about the bizarre side effects of the shutdown, but the examples keep piling up:
Three children from the Spirit Lake Tribe will not reconcile with their mom this week because the Bureau of Indian Affairs social worker is on furlough, according to this report. The government paid $47,000 for a mechanical bull for the Utah National Guard. And just days before the shutdown, the State Department awarded a contract to a glass designer to make stemware for U.S. foreign embassies. The cost? Up to $5 million!
But wait, there's more!
Two women were slapped with a $275 ticket for hiking in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas. They wonder why the government is paying rangers to keep people out, instead of paying them to let people in.
And since the park service won't cut the grass in front of the Lincoln Memorial, this South Carolina man decided to do it for them. Rangers kicked him out before he could complete the job.
3. SOUTH DAKOTA BLIZZARD
Left in the cold
It's like a scene from a scriptural parable: Dark carcasses of cows and steers lie motionless in silent clusters across swaths of South Dakota. An early blizzard this week killed as many as 20,000 head of cattle. But ranchers say they're the real victims. This year's federal farm bill got hung up in Congress before the shutdown. There's no money to help the ranchers, and the governor's asking for donations.
4. LIBYA KIDNAPPING
The prime minister of Libya was kidnapped this morning -- or was he? His office says absolutely. But the gunmen who plucked him from a Tripoli hotel say they merely "escorted" him away because he's been charged with corruption. The justice ministry says there's no warrant for his arrest. But the interior ministry says the militias work for them. Hours later, he was released, unharmed. Confused? So are officials on the ground.
5. GYM MAT DEATH
Outrage upon outrage
Kendrick Johnson's suspicious death at 17 was awful enough for his parents. But imagine how they felt when they discovered that every organ from the teen's body, from the pelvis to the skull, had been removed - and his body stuffed with newspaper and department store circulars. The explanation for that -- like everything else in this case -- defies logic for the anguished parents. The parents will talk to the media this morning.
Those are your five biggies for the day. Here are a few others that are brewing and have the Internet buzzing.
-- Oops, Awkward!!: Azerbaijan has released the results from its big presidential election. Only hitch? It did so before voting even started. It's kind of hard to explain your way out of this one, President Ilham Aliyev. The government is blaming the app's developer, saying the 2008 election results were accidentally sent out as part of a test. Hmm. That explanation might have worked except it lists candidates for this election, not the one five years ago.
-- Flush with excitement: There are people who line their entire bathrooms with gold. Surely, they don't want an ordinary roll of toilet paper hanging in there. For them, an Australian who calls himself "toilet paper man" has designed a 22-carat gold roll. Interested? It's yours for a cool $1 million. He'll even deliver it in person with champagne in hand.
There you go. All you need to know to get an early start to your morning.