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February 3, 2012 --  (San Diego’s East County) – ECM World Watch helps you be an informed citizen about important issues globally and nationally. As part of our commitment to reflecting all voices and views, we include links to a wide variety of news sources representing a broad spectrum of political, religious, and social views. Top world and U.S. headlines include:  


General news 
  • Obama announces new housing refinance plan (Washington Post)
  • Facebook and Zuckerberg embark on mega-IPO(Reuters)
  • Obama offers plan to help small businesses, start-ups (Washington Post)
  • Proposed jobs bill would target outsourcing by U.S. firms (Washington Post)
  • USDA to require healthier meals in schools with updated nutrition standards (NPR)
  • Common chemical could make kids vaccines less effective (NPR)  
Presidential election 
  • Romney wins big in Florida, routing Gingrich (San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Jailed Rep. Cunningham endorses Gingrich (Daily Beast)
  • Villagers scramble for fuel in Europe's big chill (Reuters)
  • U.S. plans to end Afghan combat role early; Kabul surprised (BBC)
  • Child slavery and chocolate: all too easy to find (CNN)
  • Fair trade chocolate creations (CNN)
  • Al Qaeda in northern Africa an “afterthought” no more (CNN)
Scroll down for excerpts and links to full stories.
General news
Obama announces new housing refinance plan (Washington Post)
February 1, 2012 -- President Obama on Wednesday made his latest pitch to lift the nation’s beleaguered housing market, unveiling a series of proposals to help struggling borrowers reduce their monthly payments and to stem the continuing slide in real estate prices.
The centerpiece of the effort is legislation that would make it easier for homeowners who have been paying their mortgages on time to take advantage of today’s ultra-low interest rates, perhaps saving thousands of dollars a year. Millions of homeowners, including many who owe more than their properties are worth, have been unable to refinance.
Facebook and Zuckerberg embark on mega-IPO(Reuters)
February 2, 2012 -- Facebook unveiled plans for the biggest ever Internet IPO that could raise as much as $10 billion, but made it clear CEO Mark Zuckerberg will exercise almost complete control over the company, leaving investors with little say.

The Harvard dropout, who launched the social networking phenomenon from his dorm room, will control 56.9 percent of the voting shares in a company expected to be valued at up to $100 billion when it goes public. Facebook says it has 845 million active monthly users.

Obama offers plan to help small businesses, start-ups (Washington Post)
January 31, 2012 -- A week after his State of the Union pledge to create a stronger economy, President Obama on Tuesday sent Congress a legislative package aimed at accelerating small business growth and removing roadblocks for start-ups.
Obama’s proposals build on the administration’s year-old Startup America initiative and include eliminating taxes on capital gains for investments in small businesses, offering a 10 percent tax credit for companies that create jobs or increase wages this year and ending country-specific immigration caps in order to attract more high-skilled workers.
Proposed jobs bill would target outsourcing by U.S. firms (Washington Post)
Febuary 1, 2012 -- Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will introduce a bill Wednesday requiring large U.S. companies to disclose how many of their jobs are based on U.S. soil and how many are based abroad, an attempt to shed light on the number of American jobs being outsourced.
Such data is closely guarded by some of the country’s biggest multinationals, including Pfizer, Apple and IBM. Public filings by these firms disclose their total number of employees, but don’t specify where those jobs are located. Meanwhile, other data shows that multinationals overall cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.
USDA to require healthier meals in schools with updated nutrition standards (NPR)
January 25, 2012 -- Less salt and fat. More whole grains, fruit, veggies and low-fat dairy. This is what kids can expect in the school lunchroom soon, according to new nutrition standards for school meals announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and first lady Michelle Obama.
"When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won't be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home," Obama said in a statement. "We want the food they get at school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables."
Common chemical could make kids vaccines less effective (NPR)  
January 24, 2012 -- The more exposure children have to chemicals called perfluorinated compounds, the less likely they are to have a good immune response to vaccinations, a study just published inJAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association shows.
The finding suggests, but doesn't prove, that these chemicals can affect the immune system enough to make some children more vulnerable to infectious diseases.
For decades now, PFCs have been used in nonstick coatings, stain-resistant fabrics and some food packaging. And because they persist in the environment for years, they have become common around the globe.
Presidential election
Romney wins big in Florida, routing Gingrich (San Diego Union-Tribune)
January 31, 2012 -- Mitt Romney routed Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary Tuesday night, rebounding smartly from an earlier defeat and taking a major step toward the Republican presidential nomination. Gingrich vowed to press on despite the one-sided setback
Romney, talking unity like a nominee, said he was ready to take the Republican helm and "lead this party and our nation." In remarks to cheering supporters, the former Massachusetts governor unleashed a strong attack on Democratic President Barack Obama and said the competitive fight for the GOP nomination "does not divide us, it prepares us" for the fall campaign.
Jailed Rep. Cunningham endorses Gingrich (Daily Beast)
January 27, 2012 -- Randy “Duke” Cunningham realizes his endorsement probably won’t help Newt Gingrich win the GOP nomination, but he just can’t resist offering his support. The former Republican representative from California is currently serving a 100-month sentence in federal prison for bribery and is hopeful that, if elected, Gingrich will advocate prison reform. “Newt, a voice out of the past. Down but not out and still fighting. First I do not want anything from you but have been watching the debates,” Cunningham wrote in a letter to the former speaker. “I have 80 percent of inmates that would vote for you. They may not be able to but their extended families will. When you are president I could help you with prison and justice reform if wanted.” The two actually have a history, as Gingrich--champion of the earmark agenda and dismantler of the House Ethics Committee during his time in the House of Representatives--reportedly enabled Cunningham's corruption.
Villagers scramble for fuel in Europe's big chill (Reuters)
February 1, 2012 --  Hungarian villagers were scavenging for coal with their bare hands on Thursday as a blast of Siberian air killed scores in Eastern Europe and looked set to keep its icy grip on the continent for another week.

At least 139 people have died across Eastern Europe and Germany since the cold snap began, interrupting what had been an unusually mild European winter.
U.S. plans to end Afghan combat role early; Kabul surprised (BBC)
February 2, 2012 -- U.S. forces will cede the lead role in combat operations in Afghanistan next year, but will keep fighting alongside Afghan troops, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday, as the Obama administration struggled to clear up confusion over its Afghan exit strategy.

Panetta surprised allies on Wednesday by suggesting the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan would end in 2013, the first time Washington had floated such a deadline.
Child slavery and chocolate: all too easy to find (CNN)

Janaury 19, 2012 -- Daloa, Ivory Coast (CNN) - Chocolate’s billion-dollar industry starts with workers like Abdul. He squats with a gang of a dozen harvesters on an Ivory Coast farm.
Abdul holds the yellow cocoa pod lengthwise and gives it two quick cracks, snapping it open to reveal milky white cocoa beans. He dumps the beans on a growing pile.
Abdul is 10 years old, a three-year veteran of the job.
Fair trade chocolate creations (CNN)
January 19, 2012 -- Tens of thousands of children toil in cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast, some against their will, to create the chocolate bars that many of us enjoy.
In a CNN Freedom Project investigation, David McKenzie traveled to the West African country and discovered that despite promises the global chocolate industry made a decade ago to end forced labor, there are still child slaves harvesting cocoa, even though some have never tasted chocolate and some don't even know what the word "chocolate" means.
It can be hard to find ethically produced cocoa, but the "fair trade" designation helps ensures that farmers receive a fair price and prohibits the use of slave and child labor.
Al Qaeda in northern Africa an “afterthought” no more (CNN)
February 1, 2012 -- A terrorist peril that's notorious in Africa and Europe but less publicly well known in the United States may wreak havoc in the coming year, warns the top senator on intelligence matters.
The terror group, an al Qaeda affiliate in northern Africa known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was singled out by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who chairs the Senate's intelligence committee.
"For the past few years, AQIM has been almost an afterthought when discussing the terrorist threat. This may be about to change," she said on Tuesday during a hearing.





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