ECM WORLD WATCH: GLOBAL AND NATIONAL NEWS

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February 14, 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.

REI CEO named head of Department of Interior (Sustainable Business)

February 11, 2013--Although many of President Obama's cabinet nominations are controversial, there's one that many seem to agree is a great pick - the new Secretary of the Interior. Sally Jewell is CEO of outdoor gear manufacturer REI, and will take over for outgoing secretary, Ken Salazar.

"Sally Jewell has the mind of an engineer, the heart of an environmentalist and the know-how of a businesswoman. It's not surprising President Obama would turn to such a talented woman to balance the responsible use of America's public lands, the protection of these resources and the wildlife that depend on them," says Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke.

A Secretary  to match the setting (New York Times)

February 8, 2013--The emperor of the American outdoors usually wears a cowboy hat, for the lashing dust and searing sun in the domain of the Interior Department, one-fifth of the United States. James Watt, the most small-minded head of that agency in modern times, wore one. So did Ken Salazar, the outgoing secretary.

Don’t expect to see Sally Jewell, who is President Obama’s nominee for Interior secretary, in a showy Stetson. Running shoes, yes. Climbing helmet, of course. Cycling tights, no doubt. If confirmed, Jewell would be one of the few directors of that vast department to actually share the passions of the majority of people who use the 500 million acres of public land under Interior’s control.

US military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,045 (U-T San Diego)

February 12, 2013--As of Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at least 2,045 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.

The AP count is two less than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST.

At least 1,706 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

U.S. withdrawing 34,000 troops from Afghanistan within a year (Reuters)

February 13, 2013--President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that 34,000 troops - about half the U.S. force in Afghanistan - will withdraw by early 2014, bringing the United States one step closer to wrapping up the costly, unpopular war.

Obama announced the withdrawal in his annual State of the Union address, as he renewed his pledge to a war-weary American public that the 66,000 remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan would move into a support role this spring.

US gas prices jump 25 cents over past 2 weeks (Sacramento Bee)

February 10, 2013--The average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline has jumped 25 cents over the past two weeks.

The Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday says the price of a gallon of regular is $3.59. Midgrade costs an average of $3.75 a gallon, and premium is $3.89.

Mississippi tornado hits Hattiesburg, leaves no fatalities (+video) (Christian Science Monitor)

February 11, 2013--Residents shaken by a tornado that mangled homes in Mississippi were waking up Monday to a day of removing trees, patching roofs and giving thanks for their survival. More than a dozen in the state were injured.

Daylight also offered emergency management officials the chance to get a better handle on the damage that stretched across several counties. Bryant planned to visit hard-hit Hattiesburg, where a twister moved along one of the city's main streets and damaged buildings at the governor's alma mater, the University. Emergency officials said late Sunday that at least 10 people were injured in surrounding Forrest County and three were hurt to the west in Marion County, but they weren't aware of any deaths.

Navajo, Hopi tribes struggle without water in Southwest cold snap (Reuters)

February 6, 2013--Thousands of Navajo tribal members in the Southwest face a public health emergency, having struggled without drinking water for weeks after a long cold snap shattered pipes across the largest U.S. Indian reservation, Navajo officials said on Wednesday.

The Navajo Nation, about the size of West Virginia, shivered as the temperature dipped to night-time lows of 25 degrees F (-4 C) over three weeks in January, leaving as many as 10,000 members without water.

Massive power outages as ‘Nemo’ storm lashes northeast (USA Today)

February 9, 2013--A blizzard predicted to be of epic proportions is pounding the Northeast, already bringing more than a foot of snow to some areas as 40 million residents in its path brace for the worst.

As of 5:20 a.m. ET, more than 650,000 homes and businesses had lost electricity as wet snow, freezing rain and howling winds caused havoc.

More than 28 inches of snow has fallen in central Connecticut, and areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire stand at 2 feet or more.

Death By Drone, And The Sliding Scale Of Presidential Power (NPR)

FebruaryThe controversy over President Obama's targeted-killings-by-drone policy is a reminder that the default position of presidents in times of crisis is generally to side with national security over civil liberties.

Whether it has been Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln sidestepping Congress and suspending habeas corpus to enable the arrests of scores of Confederate sympathizers, or that great liberal Franklin D. Roosevelt placing his imprimatur on the internment in camps of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, presidents have often used their power as military commander-in-chief in ways profoundly at odds with constitutional protections of the individual.

Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes  (Sacramento Bee)

February 10, 2013--Homeowners on the hunt for sparkling solar panels are lured by ads filled with images of pristine landscapes and bright sunshine, and words about the technology's benefits for the environment - and the wallet.

What customers may not know is that there's a dirtier side.

While solar is a far less polluting energy source than coal or natural gas, many panel makers are nevertheless grappling with a hazardous waste problem. Fueled partly by billions in government incentives, the industry is creating millions of solar panels each year and, in the process, millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water.

'Every new car' connected to web by 2014 (BBC)

February 11, 2013--Five years ago mobile phones were at the forefront of technology, by 2010 the focus was on tablet computers and now billions of yen, dollars and pounds are being invested in what is seen as the next digital playground - the car.

Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving a car has been illegal in the UK since 2003.

But 10 years later, car manufacturers are hoping that the technology regularly found on smartphones could change the way we use our cars.

WORLD

Vatican announces Pope to step down by end of February (10 News)

February 11, 2013-- Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 -- becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a mid-March conclave to elect a new leader for a Catholic Church in deep turmoil.

The 85-year-old pope dropped the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators even though he had made clear previously that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to carry on.

Bizarre stories of the 4 other popes who resigned in the last  1,000 years (Washington Post)

February 11, 2013--On Feb. 28, Pope Benedict XVI will become the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. That’s not just tradition — it’s dogma. The Washington Post’s Debbi Wilgoren cited a theological expert in explaining, “Most modern popes have felt that resignation is unacceptable except in cases of an incurable or debilitating disease — that paternity, in the words of Paul IV, cannot be resigned.”

But Benedict XVI’s shocking resignation is even more curious when compared to the handful of others who have left the powerful office willingly. In the past 1000 years, only four other popes have resigned. Here are their unusual stories, which are also an indication of just how much the church has changed.

Exiting U.S. general says Afghan women's rights are key (Reuters)

February 9, 2013--Advancing women's rights in Afghanistanis key to preventing the Taliban from reimposing a radical form of Islam once most foreign troops leave by the end of 2014, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces said on Saturday.

Afghan women have won back basic rights in education, voting and employment since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, but fears are growing such gains could be traded away as Western forces prepare to leave and the Afghan government seeks peace talks with the group.

Pakistan Says U.S. Drone Strikes Violate Its Sovereignty (NPR)

February 7, 2013--There was another U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday. At least three people were killed when missiles struck a compound in North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan. The strike comes as Washington debates the use of drones and not long after Ambassador Sherry Rehman said the use of drones was a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and international law. Throughout Pakistan, popular reaction to the drone strikes continues to be vociferously negative. Robert Siegel talks to Jackie Northam.

Iran's Khamenei rebuffs U.S. offer of direct talks (Reuters)

February 7, 2013--Iran's highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday slapped down an offer of direct talks made by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last week, saying they would not solve the problem between them.

"Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America, however, negotiations will not solve the problem," Khamenei said in a speech to officials and members of Iran's air force carried on his official website.

Irish marchers protest nationwide against austerity (Reuters)

February 9, 2013--Tens of thousands of people marched in six cities around Ireland on Saturday to protest against austerity measures, days after the government struck a vital deal on its bank debt.

Prominent trade unionists and opposition members of parliament marched alongside citizens facing a sixth year of cuts since a financial crisis plunged Ireland's banking system into a debt spiral.

The size of the protest was reminiscent of the early days of Ireland's financial crisis; in recent years demonstrations have waned despite ever-rising taxes and spending cuts.

Exclusive: U.N. monitors see arms reaching Somalia from Yemen, Iran (Reuters)

February 10, 2013--As the United States pushes for an end to the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia, U.N. monitors are reporting that Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa nation are receiving arms from distribution networks linked to Yemen and Iran, diplomats told Reuters.

The U.N. Security Council's sanctions monitoring team's concerns about Iranian and Yemeni links to arms supplies for al Shabaab militants come asYemen is asking Tehran to stop backing armed groups on Yemeni soil. Last month Yemeni coast guards and the U.S. Navy seized a consignment of missiles and rockets the Sanaa government says were sent by Iran.

HEALTH

Folic acid in pregnancy  may help lower autism risk (CNN)

February 12, 2013--Taking folic acid before pregnancy, and through the first several weeks of pregnancy, may help reduce the risk of autism for those children, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers in Norway looked at data from 85,000 pregnancies, and found that women who took the supplement four weeks before pregnancy, and through the eighth week of pregnancy, were 39% less likely to have children with autism.

The Norwegian study is the largest to date on the benefits of folic acid for autism prevention, and marks one of the first tangible things a woman can do to reduce her risk of giving birth to a child with the disorder.

DePuy Hip Implant Problems In San Diego (KPBS)

February 7, 2013--Internal documents reveal that artificial hip maker Johnson & Johnson knew there were problems with the DePuy ASR Hip Replacement System years before they recalled them.

This information has come out in the first trial against Johnson & Johnson in a Los Angeles courtroom.

DePuy declined to be interviewed for this story, but released this statement.

Chain Restaurants Boost Sales With Lower-Calorie Foods (NPR)

February 7, 2013--Lower-calorie foods are driving growth and profits for chain restaurants, according to fresh research, suggesting that people are making smarter choices when it comes to burgers and fries.

We're still ordering the burger and fries, mind you. But we're going for smaller portions and shunning sugary drinks. French fry sales dropped about 2 percent from 2006 to 2011, while sales of lower-calorie beverages rose 10 percent, the study found.

That should make for happy restaurant chains, which have argued that Americans really don't want salads and other healthy offerings pushed by public health officials.

Lenses could 'cure colour-blindness' (BBC)

February 7, 2013--Scientists say they have invented spectacle lenses that cure red-green colour blindness, which affects some women and one in every 10 men.

The Oxy-Iso lenses were designed by an American research institute to allow medics to spot bruising and veins that are difficult to see.

Tests suggest they can help to enhance reds and greens in the colour-blind.

Pig Manure Reveals More Reason To Worry About Antibiotics (NPR)

February 11, 2013--There's a global campaign to force meat producers to rein in their use of antibiotics on pigs, chickens and cattle. European countries, especially Denmark and the Netherlands, have taken the lead. The U.S. is moving, haltingly, toward similar restrictions. Now the concerns about rampant antibiotic use appear to have reached China, where meat production and antibiotic use have been growing fast.

Half of all the pigs in the world live in China — a consequence of the country's swelling appetitefor pork. And like pork producers in many other countries, Chinese farmers have turned to antibiotics and other feed additives to control disease in their herds and also to make the animals grow faster.