ECM WORLD WATCH: GLOBAL AND NATIONAL NEWS

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January 3, 2013 (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 reflect 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:

U.S.

WORLD

HEALTH

Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.

U.S.

Bill to avert fiscal cliff heads to House after Senate approves it 89-8 (U-T San Diego)

January 1, 2013--Now in the spotlight, House Republicans plan a closed-door meeting Tuesday to decide their next move after the Senate overwhelmingly approved compromise legislation avoiding a fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies.

The Senate endorsed the legislation overnight, 89-8. That vote came hours after Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky sealed a deal.

Storms on U.S. Plains stir memories of the "Dust Bowl" (Reuters)

January 1, 2013--The State Department made a "grievous mistake" in keeping the U.S. mission in Benghazi open despite inadequate security and increasingly alarming threat assessments in the weeks before a deadly attack by militants, a Senate committee said on Monday.

A report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee on the September 11 attacks on the U.S. mission and a nearby CIA annex, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died, faulted intelligence agencies for not focusing tightly enough on Libyan extremists.

It also faulted the State Department for waiting for specific warnings instead of improving security.

Agricultural Committees Agree To Farm Bill Extension (NPR)

December 30, 2013--The top leaders in both parties on the House and Senate Agriculture committees have agreed to a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill that expired in October, a move that could head off a possible doubling of milk prices next month.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow indicated that the House could vote on the extension as early as Sunday evening, though House leaders have not yet agreed to put it on the floor. In addition to the one-year extension that has the backing of the committees, the House GOP is also considering two other extension bills — a one-month extension and an even smaller bill that would simply extend dairy policy that expires Jan. 1.

The real lessons of Columbine: Psychiatric drugs induce violence (Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Colorado)

April 11, 2011--On this 12-year anniversary of the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, let us not forget the real lesson of Columbine:  psychiatric drugs induce violence.

Shooter Eric Harris was taking the antidepressant Luvox at the time he and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 12 students and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves.  At least one public report exists of a friend of Klebold who witnessed Klebold taking the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft and urged him to come off them.  Officially, Klebold’s medical records remain sealed.

Details of Toyota sudden acceleration settlement (Sacramento Bee)

December 26, 2012--Toyota Motor Corp. and attorneys representing people who claim their Toyota vehicles are prone to sudden, unexplained acceleration announced a settlement Wednesday worth more than $1 billion. Some of the key provisions of the agreement, which must be approved by a federal judge:

- A fund of $250 million will be established to pay former Toyota owners who sold their cars during the period from Sept. 1, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2010. The money is intended to compensate those owners for the reduced value of their vehicles that is alleged because of

U.S. soldier suicides outnumber combat deaths in 2012 (CBS)

December 28, 2012--American soldier suicides continue to outnumber combat-related deaths in 2012, and the trajectory for soldier suicides continues to get worse.

Statistics released by the Department of the Army show that through November potentially 303 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers committed suicide. As of Dec. 7, Stars and Stripes reports that 212 soldiers have died in combat-related deaths in Afghanistan.

The Army set a grim new record of 177 potential active-duty cases with 2012 coming to a close on Tuesday – 64 of these cases remain under investigation, 113 have been confirmed.

Award-winning PVC cell pushes efficiency higher – to 44% (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

December 28, 2012--It takes outside-the-box thinking to outsmart the solar spectrum and set a world record for solar cell efficiency. The solar spectrum has boundaries and immutable rules. No matter how much solar cell manufacturers want to bend those rules, they can't.

So how can we make a solar cell that has a higher efficiency than the rules allow?

Airlines Fear Pilot Shortage Amid New Federal Safety Rules ( NPR)

December 26, 2012--Some airlines — especially the smaller ones — worry they won't have enough pilots. They're a number of factors in play, but they point to new federal safety rules as a big part of the problem.

In February 2009, a Colgan Air commuter jet crashed, killing 50 people. Investigators cited inadequate pilot training; Congress responded with new legislation. Beginning next summer, those who want to pilot commercial jets will need dramatically more hours of flight training before they can be hired.

US snow storm claims more lives (BBC)

December 27, 2012--Sixteen people have been reported killed by a severe snow storm moving through the north-eastern US after disrupting Christmas in the Midwest.

States in New England are seeing heavy snowfall, with over a foot (30cm) already fallen in parts of Massachusetts, weather officials said.

Flights were grounded and road collisions reported as the storm moved across the middle of the US.

Congress extends foreign surveillance law (U-T San Diego)

December 28, 2012-- The Senate gave final congressional approval Friday to a bill renewing the government's authority to monitor overseas phone calls and emails of suspected foreign spies and terrorists - but not Americans -without obtaining a court order for each intercept.

The classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act program was on the brink of expiring by year's end. The 73-23 vote sent the bill to a supportive President Barack Obama, whose signature would keep the warrantless intercept program in operation for another five years.

WORLD

State Department made "grievous mistake" over Benghazi: Senate report (Reuters)

January 1, 2013--The State Department made a "grievous mistake" in keeping the U.S. mission in Benghazi open despite inadequate security and increasingly alarming threat assessments in the weeks before a deadly attack by militants, a Senate committee said on Monday.

A report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee on the September 11 attacks on the U.S. mission and a nearby CIA annex, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died, faulted intelligence agencies for not focusing tightly enough on Libyan extremists.

Yemen: Al-Qaida offers bounty for US ambassador (U-T San Diego)

December 30, 2012--Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen has offered to pay tens of thousands of dollars to anyone who kills the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa or an American soldier in the country.

An audio produced by the group's media arm, the al-Malahem Foundation, and posted on militant websites Saturday said it offered three kilograms of gold worth $160,000 for killing the ambassador, Gerald Feierstein.

The group said it will pay 5 million Yemeni riyals ($23,000) to anyone who kills an American soldier inside Yemen.

Protests in India after Delhi rape victim dies (CNN)

December 29, 2012--Thousands of people have joined peaceful protests in India's capital, Delhi, following the death of a woman who was gang-raped in the city.

The 23-year old woman, who has not been identified, died of her injuries on Saturday in Singapore, where she had been taken for specialist treatment.

Six men arrested in connection with the rape have now been charged with murder.

India files murder charges against suspects in brutal gang rape  (CNN)

December 31, 2012--Indian authorities added murder charges Saturday for suspects in the brutal gang rape that led to the death of a 23-year-old woman and sent outraged protesters to the streets.

The suspects already faced rape charges.

Six people, including a minor and a bus driver, have been arrested in connection with the rape that occurred in New Delhi this month.

Egypt's Morsi signs Islamist constitution into law (Jerusalem Post)

December 26, 2012--Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has signed into law a new Islamist-drafted constitution he says will help end political turmoil and allow him to focus on fixing the fragile economy.

Anxiety about the deepening economic crisis has gripped Egypt in past weeks, with many people rushing to take out their savings from banks and the government imposing new restrictions to reduce capital flight.

Cabinet resignations deal setback for Egypt's Mursi (Reuters)

December 27, 2012--An Islamist minister quit Egypt's government on Thursday, the second cabinet resignation this week, as President Mohamed Mursi tries to shore up his authority and gather support for unpopular austerity measures.

An economic crisis and a battle over a new constitution have underlined bitter divisions between Islamist-backed Mursi and his liberal opponents and delayed a return to stability almost two years since a popular uprising.

Egypt to pursue relationship with Hezbollah Jerusalem Post)

December 29, 2012--In a dramatic policy shift, Egypt will seek to forge “tight” relations with Hezbollah, Egyptian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Hamdy revealed in a candid interview published on Saturday in the Beirut-based Daily Star.

“You cannot discuss politics in Lebanon without having a relationship with Hezbollah,” Hamdy was quoting as saying, before describing the terrorist group as a “real force on the ground” with “big political and military influence.”

Targeting of Israel civilians violates war laws: HRW (JWR)

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip "violated the laws of war" by firing rockets at populated areas in Israel during an eight-day flare up last month, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

Citing Israeli army figures, HRW said that approximately "1,500 rockets were fired at Israel between November 14 and 21," of which "at least 800 struck Israel, including 60 that hit populated areas."

Muslim scholars and clerics: suicide bombings are un-Islamic.(Christian Science Monitor)

December 24, 2012--Suicide bombers in Afghanistan have shown little restraint: Wedding parties and even mosques and children have witnessed gruesome targeting by the Taliban against civilians.

But as attacks soared in the summer and fall, killing scores of civilians every week – including at least 40 Muslim devotees at a mosque in late October –public revulsion has turned into unprecedented condemnation.

HEALTH

How A Drug Shortage Hiked Relapse Risks For Lymphoma Patients (NPR)

December 26, 2012--Katie Alonzo was stunned when doctors told her they couldn't get a drug her 10-year-old daughter, Abby, was taking to fight lymphoma.

"When a doctor says, 'This is what you need to take.' And then all of a sudden somebody tells you, 'Well, that is what you need to take but this isn't available so we're going to try this instead,' it's very scary," say Alonzo, who lives in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Brain scan can sort dementia by type (BBC)

December 26, 2012--Scientists say they have found a way to distinguish between different types of dementia without the need for invasive tests, like a lumbar puncture.

US experts could accurately identify Alzheimer's disease and another type of dementia from structural brain patterns on medical scans, Neurology reports.

Currently, doctors can struggle to diagnose dementia, meaning the most appropriate treatment may be delayed.

Like Girls, Boys Are Entering Puberty Earlier (NPR)

December 24, 2012--It's been known for a while that girls start puberty earlier than they did in the past, sometimes as young as 7 or 8. But it's been unclear whether boys also go through puberty earlier. Now, a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics helps answer that question.

Marcia Herman-Giddens is a public health researcher at the University of North Carolina. She did the original studies looking at early puberty in girls. Now, she has replicated those studies with more than 4,000 boys. And the findings are similar: Boys are entering puberty six months to two years earlier than they did in past studies.