TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: Budget talks continue to trudge along, but every indication is that the deal being brokered by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray is going to leave a bitter taste in everyone's mouth. The NSA continues to surprise us by proving that there is still more stuff for them to spy on. The newest revelations find American and British spies infiltrating online fantasy games like World of Warcraft to collect gamer data due to seemingly unsubstantiated fears that terrorists might be using the games to coordinate real-world attacks. Everyone went to work late today because of the icy slush on the ground, and the current forecast means you might be rewarded with another round of sleeping in on Tuesday. Beards are en vogue, but they're hurting the shaving industry, and new data shows Republicans and Democrats even shop differently.
BUDGET DEAL NIGH, BUT LIKELY TO LEAVE ALL SIDES UNSATISFIED: As snow blanketed much of D.C. on Sunday, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray continued to work behind closed doors to hammer out a budget deal and avoid another potential shutdown next month. The budget chiefs are expected to greet all returning lawmakers with a deal Tuesday, effectively bypassing the 29-member conference committee they chair. But for all the fevered negotiating, the proposal is looking and sounding like it will do very little to reduce the debt, close tax loopholes, or reform costly health-care and retirement programs. It's also unlikely to take a significant bite out of the sequester, which was pegged as a top concern for both sides. (Lori Montgomery, WaPo)
SO WHAT WILL THE DEAL DO? A partial repeal of the sequester appears to still be on the table, one that would boost agency budgets by slightly more than a trillion dollars. Ryan and Murray are still hashing out how to pay for the expenses, but cuts to federal-worker pensions and higher security fees for airline passengers are possible.
MORE SNOW COMING TUESDAY: The National Weather Service is saying there's potential for five or more inches of snow beginning early Tuesday morning. Sunday's snow and ice, by the way, created its fair share of chaos in and around the District. (Jason Samenow, WaPo)
THE NSA IS SPYING ON YOUR ORC AVATAR: Apparently there still is something left for the NSA to spy on. New documents find that intelligence agents for the U.S. agency and Britain's GCHQ are infiltrating the virtual realities of online video games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life in an effort to catch and foil possible terrorist plots. (Mazzetti/Elliott, NYT)
DON'T LIKE NSA SPYING? READ THIS TO FUEL YOUR OUTRAGE: From the Guardian: "... The documents contain no indication that the surveillance ever foiled any terrorist plots, nor is there any clear evidence that terror groups were using the virtual communities to communicate as the intelligence agencies predicted.… One problem the paper's unnamed author and others in the agency faced in making their case—and avoiding suspicion that their goal was merely to play computer games at work without getting fired—was the difficulty of proving terrorists were even thinking about using games to communicate." (Will Oremus, Slate)
'KEEPING US SAFE, ONE GNOME AT A TIME': Not surprisingly, gamers weren't happy to learn the government is spying on their attempted raids on Hellfire Citadel. Said one World of Warcraft reddit user: "They have went [sic] from spying on a super power in the cold war to spying on people playing an elf in a video game." (Matt Berman, NJ)
TOMORROW IN ONE PARAGRAPH: President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will attend the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. Kerry is expected to testify before a House Foreign Affairs committee hearing on "The Iran Nuclear Deal: Does It Further U.S. National Security?" at 1:00 p.m. in Rayburn 2172. Nancy Pelosi and a handful of Dems will hold a news conference calling for a minimum-wage increase and pay equity for women at 10:00 a.m. The House is in session and is expected to consider a series of bills. The Senate is in session.
TECH EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Eight titans of tech–traditionally archivals–are uniting to test their muscles against the U.S. government's surveillance program. (Economist)
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT: ... Or at least where you shop. Data shows that shoppers at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are more likely to lean Democrat, while Republicans are more likely to stock-up at Wal-Mart and Costco. (Reid Wilson, WaPo)
ADAM LANZA: Blame him for Obama's troubled second term. (Alex Seitz-Wald, NJ)
STUBBLE EFFECT: The beard boom is having a negative impact on the shaving industry's earnings. (Roberto Ferdman, Quartz)
OBAMA AND THE NSA: Why is President Obama so hesitant to curb the NSA's spying activities? (Ryan Lizza, New Yorker)
ANGRY AMERICANS: "The country faces a crisis of mutual resentment, masquerading as a general collapse in national morale." (Economist)
BEST POLITICAL BOOKS OF 2013: In need of a good book for holiday travel? Read our staff's picks for political reads of 2013. (Staff, NJ)
THE WEEKEND'S LATE-NIGHT FUNNIES IN UNDER 2 MINUTES: U.S. students better watch out: The most popular Black Friday item at Wal-Mart was a set of towels, and if they don't raise their test scores, maybe that's what they'll be getting for Christmas. Also, SNL spoofs the GOP's unwillingness to admit that HealthCare.gov is finally improving. (Reena Flores, NJ)
Correction: Friday's edition of The Edge inaccurately stated that employment was at its lowest level in five years. It should have said unemployment hit its lowest level in five years. We regret the error.