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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

UN: World lacks enough food as population soars

LONDON (Reuters) - The world is running out of time to make sure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and to avoid sending up to 3 billion people into poverty, a U.N. report warned on Monday.

As the world's population looks set to grow to nearly 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially.

Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply.

And if the world fails to tackle these problems, it risks condemning up to 3 billion people into poverty, the report said.

Efforts towards sustainable development are neither fast enough nor deep enough, as well as suffering from a lack of political will, theUnited Nations' high-level panel on global sustainability said.

"The current global development model is unsustainable. To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is required," the report said.

"Tinkering on the margins will not do the job. The current global economic crisis ... offers an opportunity for significant reforms."

Although the number of people living in absolute poverty has been reduced to 27 percent of world population from 46 percent in 1990 and the global economy has grown 75 percent since 1992, improved lifestyles and changing consumer habits have put natural resources under increasing strain.

There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in 2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost per year - an area the size of Costa Rica; 85 percent of all fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted; and carbon dioxide emissions have risen 38 percent between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk of sea level rise and more extreme weather.

The panel, which made 56 recommendations for sustainable development to be included in economic policy as quickly as possible, said a "new political economy" was needed.

"Let's use the upcoming Rio+20 summit to kick off this global transition towards a sustainable growth model for the 21st century that the world so badly needs," EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in response to the report, referring to a U.N. sustainable development summit this June in Brazil.


Among the panel's recommendations, it urged governments to agree on a set of sustainable development goals which would complement the eight Millennium Development Goals to 2015 and create a framework for action after 2015.

They should work with international organizations to create an "evergreen revolution," which would at least double productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further biodiversity losses, the report said.

Water and marine ecosystems should be managed more efficiently and there should be universal access to affordable sustainable energy by 2030.

To make the economy more sustainable, carbon and natural resource pricing should be established through taxation, regulation or emissions trading schemes by 2020 and fossil fuel subsidies should also be phased out by that time.

National fiscal and credit systems should be reformed to provide long-term incentives for sustainable practices as well as disincentives for unsustainable ones.

Sovereign wealth and public pension funds, as well as development banks and export credit agencies should apply sustainable development criteria to their investment decisions, and governments or stock market watchdogs should revise regulations to encourage their use.

Governments and scientists should also strengthen the relationship between policy and science by regularly examining the science behind environmental thresholds or "tipping points" and the United Nations should consider naming a chief scientific adviser or board to advise the organization, the report said.

Yahoo News

Mind reading program translates brain activity into words

Scientists have picked up fragments of people's thoughts by decoding the brain activity caused by words that they hear.

The remarkable feat has given researchers fresh insight into how the brain processes language, and raises the tantalising prospect of devices that can return speech to the speechless.

Though in its infancy, the work paves the way for brain implants that could monitor a person's thoughts and speak words and sentences as they imagine them.

Such devices could transform the lives of thousands of people who lose the ability to speak as a result of a stroke or other medical conditions.

Experiments on 15 patients in the US showed that a computer could decipher their brain activity and play back words they heard, though at times the words were difficult to recognise.

"This is exciting in terms of the basic science of how the brain decodes what we hear," said Robert Knight, a senior member of the team and director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Potentially, the technique could be used to develop an implantable prosthetic device to aid speaking, and for some patients that would be wonderful. The next step is to test whether we can decode a word when a person imagines it. That might sound spooky, but this could really help patients. Perhaps in 10 years it will be as common as grandmother getting a new hip," Knight said. The study is published in the journalPLoS Biology.

The scientists ran tests on patients who were already in hospital for an operation to treat intractable epilepsy. In that procedure, patients have the top of their skull removed and a net of electrodes laid across the surface of their brain. Doctors use the electrodes to identify the precise trigger point of the patient's fit, before removing the tissue. Sometimes, patients wait for days before they have enough seizures to locate the source of the problem.

Scientist Brian Pasley enrolled 15 patients to take part. He played each a series of words for five to 10 minutes while recording their brain activity from the electrode nets. He then created computer programs that could recognise sounds encoded in the brain waves.

The brain seems to break sounds down into their constituent acoustic frequencies. The most important range for speech is 1-8,000 Hertz.

Pasley compared the technique to a pianist who can hear a piece in their mind just by knowing which keys are played.

He next played a collection of new words to the patients to see if the algorithms could pick out and repeat recognisable words. Among them were words such as "Waldo", "structure", "doubt" and "property".

The scientists got their best results when they recorded activity in the superior temporal gyrus, part of the brain that sits to one side, above the ear.

"I didn't think it could possibly work, but Brian did it," said Knight. "His model can reproduce the sound the patient heard and you can actually recognise the word, though not at a perfect level."

The prospect of reading minds has led to ethical concerns that the technology could be used covertly or to interrogate criminals and terrorists.

Knight said that is in the realm of science fiction. "To reproduce what we did, you would have to open up someone's skull and they would have to co-operate." Making a device to help people speak will not be easy. Brain signals that encode imagined words could be harder to decipher and the device must be small and operate wirelessly. Another potential headache is distinguishing between words a person wants to say and thoughts they would rather keep private.

Jan Schnupp, professor of neuroscience at Oxford University called the work "remarkable".

"Neuroscientists have long believed that the brain works by translating aspects of the external world, such as spoken words, into patterns of electrical activity. But proving that this is true by showing that it is possible to translate these activity patterns back into the original sound – or at least a fair approximation – is nevertheless a great step forward. It paves the way to rapid progress toward biomedical applications," he said.

"Some may worry though that this sort of technology might lead to mind-reading devices which could one day be used to eavesdrop on the privacy of our thoughts. Such worries are unjustified. It is worth remembering that these scientists could only get their technique to work because epileptic patients had cooperated closely and willingly with them, and allowed a large array of electrodes to be placed directly on the surface of their brains.

"We can rest assured that our skulls will remain an impenetrable barrier for any would-be technological mind hacker for any foreseeable future," he added.

The Guardian

India's ID plan: An end to its inept bureaucracy

NEW DELHI // A plan to provide each of India's 1.2 billion citizens with a unique identification number has been praised as an essential programme to impose some efficiency on India's infamously inept bureaucracy.

But its opponents have said it is ripe for abuse. The government could use it to spy on its citizens and criminals could steal the data and create false identities.

Since the plan was launched in mid-2010, about 110 million Indians have queued up at data-processing centres across the country to have their irises scanned and their fingerprints recorded.

The unique identification (UID) number that arrives in the post a couple of months later can then be used to apply for welfare benefits and set up a bank account, without the endless form-filling and bribe-giving, which often goes along with proving your existence in India.

Headed by the respected former chairman of IT giant Infosys, Nandan Nilekani, the scheme has been a model of unusual government efficiency.

But the programme is now under threat from the Home Ministry, which has its own biometric database.

It collects not only fingerprints and irises, but also sensitive information such as caste and religion, which it wants to use for security purposes.

A turf war between the Home Ministry and the UID Authority led to a compromise last week. The agencies agreed to share their data to avoid duplication. That allowed Mr Nilekani to collect another 400 million people on to his database. The government is providing more than US$1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) to merge the databases.

The deal is a boon for the Home Ministry, since it has only registered about 8 million citizens on its National Population Register (NPR).

Senators demand study of airport scanners for possible cancer

Chances are, if you have been at an U.S. airport lately, you've been inside a tubular body scanning machine called a "backscatter," named for the way it scatters electrons. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to determine whether the scanners emit harmful levels of cancer-causing radiation, as some experts believe.

The bill would also require signs at airports to clearly alert travelers of alternative screening options available in lieu of the X-ray devices.

Primary bill sponsor Sen. Susan Collins, top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told of a once-pregnant constituent who believes she miscarried after unknowingly entering a backscatter machine.

"Time and time again I have expressed my concern over their use, particularly since there is an alternative screening technology available," she said. "While the (Transportation Security Administration) has repeatedly told the public that the amount of radiation emitted from these machines is extremely small, passengers and some scientific experts have raised legitimate questions about the impact of repeated exposure to this radiation."

According to the TSA's website, "One scan is equivalent to approximately 10 microRem of radiation. This is equivalent to the exposure each person receives in about two minutes of airplane flight at altitude or each person receives every 15 minutes from naturally occurring background radiation."

A TSA official told Fox News on Tuesday, "While we do not comment on pending legislation, TSA is committed to working with Congress to explore options for an additional study to further prove these machines are safe for all passengers."

The agency notes that "the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and NCRP (National Council on Radiation Protection) have advised that the (backscatter) is safe to use on anyone ages 5 and up regardless of gender or any medical condition."

Meanwhile, in November, the European Commission announced that it would ban the use of X-ray machines from all airports in the 27-member European Union "in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens' health and safety."

The Collins bill, co-sponsored by panel members Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, Carl Levin, D-Mich., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Scott Brown, R-Mass., would "require the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, in consultation with the National Science Foundation, to commission an independent study on the possible health effects of the X-ray radiation emitted by some of the scanning machines in airports."

"We simply do not truly know the risk of this radiation exposure over multiple screenings for frequent fliers, those in vulnerable groups, or TSA employees themselves who were operating these machines," Collins warned.

It is unclear when the bill will be brought up for a vote.

Read more: http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2012/01/31/senators-demand-study-airport-scanners-possible-cancer-exposure#ixzz1l8h5ZCpz

Civil war in Syria: Damascus on fire

UN Security Council Discusses Syrian "Killing Machine"

The United Nations Security Council met on Tuesday to debate whether to adopt a draft resolution on Syria which calls for President Bashar Assad to step down.

The resolution is based on the Arab League’s plan for Syria which instructs Assad to delegate powers to his vice president following the formation of a national unity government.

The League’s plan calls for the unity government to prepare to elect a council, within three months, that will write a constitution. It should also prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said last week that he intends to bring the League’s peace plan for discussion at the Security Council.

The BBC reported that during the meeting, Qatar’s prime minister urged council members to take action against what he called Assad's “killing machine.”

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said all previous initiatives had failed “because the Syrian government failed to make any sincere effort to co-operate with us and the only solution available to it was to kill its own people.”

He added, “Bloodshed continued and the killing machine is still at work,” but stressed that it was for the Syrian people to decide whether they wanted a change in leadership.

Also present at the discussion was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said thesituation in Syria risked spinning out of control but that Assad's “reign of terror”, as she put it, would end.

“The question for us is how many more innocent civilians will die before this country is able to move forward,” Clinton was quoted by the BBC as having said.

She dismissed concerns that Syria could follow the same pattern as Libya and result in military intervention adding that the Arab League plan represents “the best effects and efforts of Syria's neighbors to chart a way forward and deserves a chance to work.”

“The alternative - spurning the Arab League, abandoning the Syrian people, emboldening the dictator - would compound this tragedy and would mark a failure of our shared responsibility and shake the credibility of the United Nations Security Council,” Clinton added.

The draft resolution being discussed strongly condemns human rights abuses by the Syrian government and calls on all sides to cease the use of violence. The BBC addedthat it calls on member states to take necessary steps to prevent flow of arms into Syria, without imposing an embargo.

Finally, the resolution calls on Assad to hand power to a deputy and make way for free elections.

The biggest obstacle to the resolution is Russia, the report said, which says the plan amounts to regime change and could lead to civil war. It is expected to veto the resolution, as it did with a previous resolution on Syria.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin, however, expressed optimism when he said the draft resolution contained elements of an earlier Russian text rejected by Western powers and the Arab League as too weak.

“This gives rise for hope,” Churkin was quoted as having said. “We hope that the council will come to consensus on the Syrian issue, as is not only possible but also necessary.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Syrian forces continued to kill opponents and soldier-turned-rebels, who have breached the suburbs of Damascus, previously totally loyal to Assad.

Government-controlled media said the army "chased the elements of armed terrorist groups that committed the worst crimes of murder and kidnapping against the citizens and had planted mines on public roads and terrorized people, including children and women” in the capital’s suburbs.

Arutz Sheva

Prokhorov: 'In the Worst Case there'll be Civil War'

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Prokhorov, you own assets worth billions and now you plan to challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the presidential election this spring. What makes you think that a successful businessman makes a successful politician?
Prokhorov: That is no problem when that businessman has social skills to go with his leadership abilities. When I was head of the mining company Norilsk Nickel, I also handled the kindergartens, energy provision and housing construction. On a smaller scale, I have already done what is needed on a national level. It is good to have a president who has already achieved something in life.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Don't you think that different rules apply to politics and business? Politicians have to vie for support in the public arena whereas businessmen take decisions behind closed doors.
Prokhorov: Many political decisions are also taken away from the public eye. That is one of Russia's biggest problems. Even in Western countries with their longer democratic traditions, public participation is not always as good as it should be. A businessman can lose his money and then earn it again. The currency in politics is trust. When you have lost people's trust once, it is hard to win it back again.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Russian people's loss of faith in Vladimir Putin has been dramatic. Why did his popularity ratings suddenly slide from 70 percent down to 50 percent according to official polls, or even 40 percent, according to an internal survey?
Prokhorov: His primary mistake occurred on the day of his United Russia party's convention at the end of September, when (outgoing President Dmitry) Medvedev and Putin announced they were simply going to trade places. That was cynical. It really angered people. The creative class then said: Wait a minute, we earn the taxes and so we earn respect and demand respect. People no longer remain silent when decisions are taken above their heads.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did the Kremlin send you into the running, to channel this dissatisfaction?
Prokhorov: I make my own decisions. That's what I'm used to. I was never anybody else's project.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does it offend you that your close acquaintance, former oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky who has been in prison for the past eight years and whose business was nationalized, called you a Kremlin project?
Prokhorov: No, I am not offended and am generally difficult to offend. It is my job to prove the opposite to the skeptics who want to tag me with the Kremlin label. I am sure that I could convince Khodorkovsky if I could just talk to him. Mikhail is an excellent, talented manager. He must have a difficult time right now and is sitting behind bars. When I become president, I will ensure that he is freed.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You advocate a term limitations law that prevents a person from holding the same political office for more than two terms. What, then, would happen to Vladimir Putin, who is seeking to become president for a third time in March? Should he lead the energy company Gazprom and should Medvedev become the president of the Constitutional Court?
Prokhorov: I'm too busy to spend time thinking up such fantasies.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You took part in the mass protests. One of the solutions offered was: "Russia without Putin." How do you like that slogan?
Prokhorov: I am in favor of a Russia with Putin, but also with the writer Boris Akunin and the blogger Alexei Navalny, both of whom called for Putin to step down. If the different sides don't manage to reconcile themselves we will, in the worst case, face civil war. The solution "Russia without Putin" does not inspire me. We don't need revolution, we need evolution.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why are you running against Putin in the election then?
Prokhorov: Precisely because we need evolution, new minds with new ideas. Putin deserves credit for what he's done. In particular, during the early years of his rule, he managed to unite a divided land and simplified the tax code. People's income rose. It is exactly this new middle class, these well-earning citizens, who refuse to go without their civil rights any longer.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What three measures would you focus on first if you were elected president?
Prokhorov: For me it is important to establish competition in business and politics. When you go into a shop in our big cities, you can choose between dozens of refrigerators or tea pots. In politics people have little choice.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What exactly do you want to change?
Prokhorov: I want to make it easier to establish new parties. The 7 percent hurdle for parliamentary representation should be lowered to 3 percent. The term of office should be reduced from recently decided-on six years back to four years. In the economy I will break up monopolies, like Gazprom for example. Third, I will give top priority to investments in education, science and culture. They are much more important than high military spending. At the moment no one is threatening our country.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Russians are not fond of oligarchs. How do you rate your chances of entering the Kremlin?
Prokhorov: There are prejudices against rich business people but not as many as there used to be. Above all the country is not fond of dishonest people.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Election fraudsters and corrupt civil servants?
Prokhorov: Yes.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why do you think that the reputation of rich people has improved?
Prokhorov: Because they create many jobs, invest in their country, engage in charity work and help people. On the campaign trail, I speak to many ordinary people. Again and again people come to me and say: I am actually a communist but I will vote for you because I know that you don't steal. This is the moment when successful and well off people should assume power instead of those who abuse their office to line their pockets.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How far up the ranks is the corruption you describe? Are President Demitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin corrupt?
Prokhorov: Slow down. Corruption is an inheritance from the Soviet Union, a consequence of an economy of scarcity. To buy meat you had to bribe the butcher. Those needing official authorization had to give the right officials a present and doctors got pralines or chocolate. A system developed based on double standards. We were all dissidents when we chatted at home in the kitchen but at work and in public we were followers of the communist party.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But we asked if the system is corrupt from the top down?
Prokhorov: Also from there. There you find people with double standards.


UN resolution could spur Syria civil war, Russia warns

The Western-Arab drive to adopt a UN resolution on Syria is a "path to civil war", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has warned.

He said demands for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down would "not lead to a search for compromise".

The resolution will be discussed at an imminent UN Security Council meeting on the deepening Syrian crisis.

The talks come after a day of particularly heavy bloodshed and with the army on the streets in Damascus.

More than 100 people were killed across the country on Monday, including 40 civilians, said activists.

Another 30 people were killed on Tuesday, the Local Co-ordination Committee (LCC) said, including two children.

Such claims cannot be independently verified as the the BBC and other international media are severely restricted inside Syria.

The UN has conceded it cannot keep track of the escalating death toll, but estimates more than 5,400 people have been killed since the unrest began last March.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that Russia would be increasingly isolated across the Arab World if it vetoed the UN resolution.

Meanwhile, senior US officials have said it is only a matter of time before Mr Assad loses his grip on power.

"I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria," intelligence chief James Clapper told a Senate hearing, but said the process could take a long time.Regime change 'obsession'

The latest draft of the resolution strongly condemns violence and human rights abuses by the Syrian government and calls on countries to stop the flow of arms to Syria, without imposing an arms embargo.

At the core of the plan is an endorsement of an Arab League peace plan that would see President Assad delegate power to his deputy to oversee a political transition.

Moscow, which has maintained close ties with Damascus and has a naval base in the country, says this amounts to regime change and has criticised the document's threat of unspecified further measures if Syria does not comply.

As one of the five permanent council members, Russia has already said it will veto the draft, but the BBC's UN correspondent Barbara Plett says Western nations still hope to convince it to at least abstain.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said some countries were "obsessed" with regime change in the Middle East region.

"If this vigour to change regimes persists we are going to witness a very bad situation, much, much broader than just Syria, Libya or Egypt or any other single country," he said.

Moscow had never insisted that Mr Assad should remaining in power, he said, but believed that decision "has to be Syrian". He said third parties were encouraging Syria's opposition to "crawl away from this dialogue".Running battlefield

On Monday, Syria's army said it had regained control of some Damascus suburbs recently held by rebel forces.

The interior ministry said troops had arrested or "finished off" a large number of "terrorists", capturing large quantities of weapons.

Activists say security forces have also moved into the mountain town of Rankous, just to the north of Damascus, which had been surrounded and bombarded for nearly a week.

The city of Homs, further north, saw the highest toll on Monday with 72 dead, activists say - victims of bombs and snipers. Sectarian killings and abductions are also reported.

Parts of Homs are reported to have become a running battlefield, with the government unable to restore control over several quarters where armed rebels have been increasingly active.

On Tuesday, LCC said 30 people had died across the country - 14 in Idlib, 10 in Homs, two in Deraa and four in and around Damascus.

There were also reports of an oil pipeline explosion near the city - one resident told Reuters it had been caused by a tank bombardment.

Syria's ambassador to Russia, Riad Hadda, has repeated the assertion that the government is tackling "armed terrorists" acting under a foreign plot. He said anyone pushing for sanctions was supporting a "mutiny".

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy magazine says it has seen a leaked copy of the Arab League's report into its troubled monitoring mission, which was suspended last Saturday amid the upsurge in violence.

The alleged report outlines the problems the mission faced, including hostile officials and members of the public but also the monitors themselves.

It says many of them were too elderly, inexperienced or poorly equipped to fulfil their obligations or had "underestimated the burden of the responsibility with which they were entrusted".


S&P Warns of Cuts; Another US Downgrade Coming?

Concerns over the size of United States debt reared their head once again as ratings agency Standard & Poor's warned that health care costs for a number of highly-rated Group of 20 countries, including the U.S., could hurt growth prospects and harm their sovereign creditworthiness from the middle of this decade.

S&P downgraded the United States credit rating for the first time ever in August of last year.

"Governments' fiscal burdens will increase significantly over the coming decade, with the highest deterioration in public finances likely to occur in Europe and other advanced G-20 economies, such as Japan and the U.S.," S&P said in a statement on Tuesday.

Health care costs for a typical advanced economy will stand at 11.1 percent of gross domestic product by 2050, up from 6.3 percent of GDP in 2010, S&P said.

"Population aging will lead to profound changes in economic growth prospects for countries around the world as governments work to build budgets to face ever greater age-related spending needs," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Marko Mrsnik in the statement.

The August downgrade of the United States rating was an embarrassment to the country, but fears that the move would hurt investors' confidence in the country proved unfounded.

David Owen, Chief European Economist at Jefferies International believes the U.S. will face another downgrade, but that its impact will again be limited.

"Is the U.S going to be downgraded again? We think so," he told CNBC on Tuesday. "Our general perception is it won't have a material impact. It could even lead to more money flowing to the U.S in the way we saw following the initial downgrade."

S&P's first downgrade has not driven up the United States' borrowing costs and the dollar appreciated relative to other currencies in the months following the cut as investors sought out safe havens to escape the European debt crisis.

"The U.S. [dollar] is a reserve currency. It's able to retain all the confidence of international investors," Owen said.

He pointed out that most rating agencies take a short-term view about where the ratings should go.

Aging, in increasing pension provisions and health care costs, will weigh on public finances for years to come, he said..

"If the rating agencies took a view out to 2030, 2040 or even 2050, you'd have no triple-As at all because obviously increasing healthcare costs will bear down on the public finances," Owen added.


Deficit Is Again Set to Top $1 Trillion

WASHINGTON—Tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January 2013 would slow the economy and raise unemployment next year unless policy makers strike a deal to keep those changes from kicking in or offset their impact, the Congressional Budget Office warned.

But while such an agreement would boost the economy in the short term, it also would expand the federal budget deficit over time if not combined with other policy changes, the nonpartisan CBO said.

Policy makers will have to decide soon how to handle the near-term economic strains as well as the future problems caused by rising government debt, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said.

"The longer that we wait as a country to make the sort of choices that we have to make, the harder it will be to make them," he said.

The agency, in its semiannual budget and economic forecast, projected a $1.2 trillion federal deficit for fiscal year 2012, which ends Sept. 30, if Congress—as expected—extends the temporary payroll-tax cut through the end of this year. The deficit would be slightly smaller than in recent years but still huge by historical standards.

Republicans seized on the report, particularly the fourth straight projected deficit of more than $1 trillion, saying it was evidence President Barack Obama wasn't doing enough to reduce government spending and expand the economy. "The president needs to be proposing a way out of this," Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Senate Budget Committee's top Republican, said in an interview. "He needs to be leading."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr. Obama has tried to put in place broad deficit-reduction deals but has been blocked by Republicans at multiple turns, particularly over the issue of tax increases. "What has been lacking thus far is any willingness to deal with revenue in any meaningful way by the Republicans," Mr. Carney said. "And that is just not the approach that the broad base of the American public feels is the right way to go."

The two parties are starkly at odds over how best to address the dual challenge of spurring economic growth while trying to reduce looming deficits. Democrats have advocated more short-term spending to jump-start growth, combined with tax increases on the wealthy, while Republicans have called for deep spending reductions and the preservation of temporary tax cuts. The CBO report suggested there was no easy way out of the country's fiscal problems, and offered fresh details of the trade-offs.

The CBO predicted U.S. gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, would grow a modest 2.3% this fiscal year if the payroll-tax cut were extended through December.

But growth would slow to just 1.1% in fiscal 2013, which starts Oct. 1, if a number of tax cuts were allowed to expire at the end of this year and if across-the-board government spending cuts take effect as scheduled, the CBO said.

If the tax cuts expire, individuals and companies would pay $2.99 trillion in taxes next fiscal year—$465 billion more than in 2012. The spending cuts, set to kick in starting in January, are worth $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

If no agreement is reached to extend the tax cuts and block the spending curbs, unemployment would rise to 8.9% by year-end from 8.5% now, and hit 9.2% at the end of 2013, the CBO said.

"Taken together, those policies will generate a sharp fiscal contraction," Mr. Elmendorf said. If the tax cuts were extended and the spending cuts reversed, the CBO projected that the economy would grow at a healthier 3% clip in 2013 and the jobless rate would be closer to 8%. But reversing the cuts would produce "unsustainable" deficits in the future, Mr. Elmendorf said.

Under the first scenario—with Bush-era tax cuts and other measures allowed to expire at the end of this year and the spending cuts left in place— the total federal debt would grow by roughly $3.1 trillion over the next 10 years, the CBO said. But under the second scenario—with tax increases and spending cuts reversed and other temporary policy measures continued—the debt would grow by $11 trillion over that time span.

Mr. Elmendorf warned that the primary driver of the deficit later this decade would be the cost of an aging U.S. population, particularly the rising costs of government health-care programs. For example, the CBO projected the government would spend $1.6 trillion on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in 2012, 44% of the federal budget. In 2022, the government will spend $3.0 trillion on those programs, 54% of the federal budget.