ECM WORLD WATCH: GLOBAL AND NATIONAL NEWS

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March14, 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/SCIENCE

Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.

U.S. 

Ryan budget plan combines old cuts, new tax revenues (Washington Post)

March 12, 2013-- Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are drafting radically different budget blueprints that offer little room for compromise, even as President Obama presses lawmakers to take another shot at a far-reaching agreement to tame the national debt.

On Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rolled out a 10-year spending plan that would revive the most controversial prescriptions from last year’s GOP budget, including a partial privatization of Medicare and a repeal of the health-care law that is Obama’s signature policy achievement. 

Paul Ryan’s budget: Social engineering and a side of deficit reduction (Washington Post) 

March 12. 2013--Here is Paul Ryan’s path to a balanced budget in three sentences: He cuts deep into spending on health care for the poor and some combination of education, infrastructure, research, public-safety, and low-income programs. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts remain, but the military is spared, as is Social Security. There’s a vague individual tax reform plan that leaves only two tax brackets — 10 percent and 25 percent — and will require either huge, deficit-busting tax cuts or increasing taxes on poor and middle-class households, as well as a vague corporate tax reform plan that lowers the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

The hot air in wind power (Wall Street Journal)

March 4, 2013--Renewable energy sources are likely to play a bigger role in our energy mix in future, but a new study throws cold water on what it considers vastly exaggerated claims for how much power can be produced using wind.

The problem is that harvesting wind power on a large scale inevitably diminishes the force of wind available to massed turbines. The study’s authors say that estimates of potential wind output often fail to take account of this.



A Lasting Legacy of the Fukushima Rescue Mission: Part 1 Radioactive Contamination of American Sailors (Energy Matters)

January 31, 2013--The Department of Defense has decided to walk away from an unprecedented medical registry of nearly 70,000 American service members, civilian workers, and their families caught in the radioactive clouds blowing from the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan.

The decision to cease updating the registry means there will be no way to determine if patterns of health problems emerge among the members of the Marines, Army, Air Force, Corps of Engineers, and Navy stationed at 63 installations in Japan with their families. In addition, it leaves thousands of sailors and Marines in the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 7 on their own when it comes to determining if any of them are developing problems caused by radiation exposure. 

Journalism schools try out drones—and test legal boundaries (U.S. News)

February 26, 2013--AP style, interviewing skills, fact checking, and … drone flying lessons? At least two journalism schools are experimenting with using unmanned aircraft as news-gathering tools.

Drones have already been used by law enforcement, search-and-rescue groups, and other government agencies in the United States, but unmanned aircraft are still illegal for commercial entities to fly (and will remain illegal until at least 2015), which might be one reason that TMZ's rumored interest in a drone was quickly denied by the company.

House Democrats demand President release full legal basis for drone strikes (RawStory)

March 11, 2013--Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is leading a small group of House Democrats in calling on President Barack Obama to release information regarding the Administration’s use of drone strikes.

In a letter sent Monday, Lee said a leaked Department of Justice memo showed an “increasing devolution of accountability, transparency, and Constitutional protections in U.S. counterterrorism operations.” The 16-page memo provided an outline of the Obama’s administration legal justification of targeted drone strikes against U.S. citizens.

Rand Paul's Filibuster: The Latest Example of Why We Need "President's Questions"  (Reason)

March 8, 2013--The recent filibusteringof John Brennan's nomination to the CIA by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was not only an entertaining and refreshing change to the usual proceedings on Capitol Hill, it also highlighted a deficiency in the American political system, namely that the president does not appear before legislators to take questions. While Rand Paul’s filibuster was an impressive physical and mental feat, I can’t help but think some time would have been saved if we somehow managed to introduce some parliamentary combativeness to the proceedings on Capitol Hill. 

State of Ore. backs Klamath Tribes water rights (Sacramento Bee)

March 7. 2013--The state of Oregon on Thursday backed the Klamath Tribes' claim to have the oldest water rights in the upper Klamath Basin.

The findings filed with the Klamath County Circuit Court in Klamath Falls gives the tribes a new dominant position in the longstanding battles over sharing scarce water between fish and farms in the Upper Klamath Basin. Farmers and ranchers used to drawing irrigation water from rivers where the tribes now have the oldest claim could be restricted in drought years.

The fire sale at the White House (Jewish World Review)

March 5, 2013--Bubba was a piker. The Clinton White House sold sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom that were cheap at the price. Barack Obama is auctioning off access to His Grandiosity for really big bucks. Unlike Hillary, Michelle doesn't even have to straighten up a room and make up the bed when the guests leave.

The White House reacted with considerable heat Monday to editorials in the New York Times and the Washington Post scolding the president for putting "major campaign donors" on an "advisory board" and giving them frequent "access" to the president. This little perk was said to be going for a half-million dollars.

Justice issues order supporting photojournalist taking pictures of police  (Media Law)

March 7, 2013--The Department of Justice issued a rare letter supporting the constitutional rights of a photojournalist suing Montgomery County, Md., police officers who arrested him for taking their pictures while on duty.

The Justice’s Statement of Interest issued Monday urges the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to uphold citizens’ constitutional rights to record police officers in their public capacity without being arrested or having the recordings unlawfully seized.

How more than $8 billion in US taxpayers' money went to waste in Iraq (Christian Science Monitor)

March 6, 2013--During the course of the nine-year US presence in Iraq, at least $8 billion – or 13.3 percent of US reconstruction spending – was wasted, according to the final report released today by the Special Investigator General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The report, entitled Learning From Iraq: A Final Report From the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, offered a detailed assessment how $60 billion in American taxpayer money was spent in Iraq during the war. Of that sum, about $25 billion went to training and equipping the Iraqi security forces, while the remainder went an array of development projects ranging from infrastructure construction to governance improvement programs.

Dow's 'Record Highs' Misleading Without Including Inflation (NPR)

March 6, 2013--MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.  I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:And I'm Audie Cornish.

And a record close. That's what we've been hearing both today and yesterday as the Dow Jones industrial average climbs upwards.

BLOCK: That may be an ear-grabbing headline after a recession and years of unimpressive growth. But we begin this hour with a different take from Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money.  

Dianne Feinstein ignites debate over veterans with PTSD and guns  (Daily Beast)

March 10, 2013--While the gun debate has been raging in Washington ever since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in mid-December, the one thing that has been conspicuously absent from the conversation is veterans’ accessibility to guns. No one inside the Beltway appeared willing to broach the topic and risk offending America's 22 million former servicemen and women. 

Judge: DHS Must Release Body Scanner Safety Reports (Reason)

March 11, 2013--Aside from the privacy-threatening qualities of whole body scanners, which have got the widgets dubbed "nude scanners" and "virtual strip searches," safety concerns have plagued the things, too. They emit radiation — either backscatter x-ray or millimeter wave — which the government in the form of the TSA assures us is harmless. But the tests conducted in-house by the feds often involve machines tested under ideal conditions, not much-used devices indifferently maintained as they are in the real world, so worries persist.  

WORLD 

 

Jorge Mario Bergoglio: Who is the new pope? (Global Post)

 

March 13, 2013--Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Argentina, has been named the new leader of the Catholic Church. He will go by the name Pope Francis.

Bergoglio is the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and has spent most of his 76 years in his home country, modernizing Argentina's conservative churches,according to the Globe and Mail. He was reportedly the second most-voted candidate in 2005 behind Pope Benedict XVI. 

 

Francis is first Pope from Americas: Austere Jesuit who modernized Argentine church (Fox News)

 

March 13, 2013--Pope Francis is the first ever from the Americas, an austere Jesuit intellectual who modernized Argentina's conservative Catholic church.

Known until Wednesday as Jorge Bergoglio, the 76-year-old is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed. He came close to becoming pope last time, reportedly gaining the second-highest vote total in several rounds of voting before he bowed out of the running in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Mexico's lower house passes bill to remove lawmaker immunity  (Reuters)

March 6, 2013--Mexico's lower house of Congress voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to strip federal lawmakers of criminal immunity, part of a larger reform push in Latin America's second-largest economy.

The vote was 376 in favor to 56 opposed, with five abstentions.

The bill aims to amend the country's constitution to make federal senators and deputies subject to the country's criminal justice system, but still protect lawmakers from being detained for the duration of their terms in office.

Chinese Farmers Revolt Against Government Land Grab  (NPR)

March 5, 2013--The road that runs along the edge of Shangpu village in south China is littered with the hulks of burned-out cars. Farmers have built tents and simple barricades made of rocks and wire. Police have set up their own cordon in a standoff that is approaching two weeks.

The villagers are demanding free elections following yet another government land grab. They say armed thugs sent by their own village chief attacked the community to pave the way for a new factory on their farmland. 

U.N. Security Council Hits North Korea With More Sanctions After Nuclear Test (NPR)

March 7, 2013--The U.N. Security Council agreed to tighten sanctions against North Korea on Thursday as punishment for its recent nuclear test. The Council's unanimous agreement came after three weeks of negotiation between the U.S. and China, which has opposed such measures in the past. North Korea was furious at the U.N. action, issuing a threat to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons as the sanctions came up for a vote.

Bomber kills at least nine people in Kabul during Hagel’s visit to Afghanistan  (The Hill)

March 9, 2013--Suicide bombers killed at least 18 people in Afghanistan Saturday during new U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the country, highlighting continued violence as the U.S. prepares to remove its troops.



A bomber riding a bicycle struck outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing at least nine civilians, according to press accounts.

U.S. envoy walks out of nuclear meeting over Iran's Israel remark (Reuters)

MArch 6, 2013--The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations nuclear watchdog walked out of an agency meeting on Wednesday in protest when Iran's representative accused Washington's ally Israel of "genocide", diplomats said.

Officials from Canada and Australia also left the closed-door meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation governing board when Iran's Ali Asghar Soltanieh made his statement during a debate on Syria, they said.

Syrian rebels seize U.N. peacekeepers near Golan Heights  (Reuters)

March 6, 2013--Syrian rebels have seized a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers near the Golan Heights and say they will hold them captive until President Bashar al-Assad's forces pull back from a rebel-held village which has seen heavy recent fighting.

The capture was announced in rebel videos posted on the Internet and confirmed on Wednesday by the United Nations, which said about 20 peacekeepers had been detained.

Christian homes torched by Pakistani mob (Christian Science Monitor)

March 9, 2013--Hundreds of people in eastern Pakistan rampaged through a Christian neighborhood Saturday, torching dozens of homes after hearing reports that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam's prophet.

Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan that can carry the death penalty, but sometimes outraged residents exact their own retribution for perceived insults of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim and people of other faiths, including the nation's small Christian community, are often viewed with suspicion.

Khmer Rouge genocide: justice delayed may be justice denied (Reuters)

March 10, 2013--Under Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge, Meas Mut and Sou Met, now two-star generals in their 80s, are said to have hauled prisoners to S-21, a torture center that symbolized the horrors of a regime that wiped out nearly a quarter of the population.

Another soldier, Im Chaem, now a Buddhist nun in her 60s, is suspected of running a forced labor camp where fellow Khmer Rouge cadres Ta An and Ta Tith oversaw massacres in the "Killing Fields" revolution of 1975-79.

HEALTH/SCIENCE

Microsoft fined $730 million over browser choice (Christian Science Monitor)

March 6, 2013--The European Union fined Microsoft Corp. £561 million ($730 million) for failing to allow Windows users to easily choose browsers other than Internet Explorer.

Microsoft and EU made a settlement in 2009 after the commission started investigating allegations that the company abused its dominant position in desktop software by tying Internet Explorer to Windows, EU commissioner Joaqúin Almunia says in astatement delivered in a news conference Wednesday.

Flights from NY airport fueled by cooking oil (UT San Diego)

March 9, 2013--A Dutch airliner is flying from New York to Amsterdam on a fuel mix that includes leftover oil from frying Louisiana's Cajun food.

The KLM flights from Kennedy Airport are powered by a combination of 25 percent recycled cooking oil and 75 percent jet fuel.

After the first such flight Friday, the concept will be tested on 24 round-trip trans-Atlantic trips every Thursday for the next six months. 

National Security Letters Target Thousands of Google Accounts (Reason)

March 6, 2013--Given the fact that the FBI's National Security Letters come accompanied by gag orders making it illegal to reveal to anybody that you are the very special recipient of an order to release information to the feds, it's a happy wonder that Google is providing even a glimpse into the company's experience with the things. According to a transparency report released yesterday, (most of) the world's favorite search engine has received fewer than a thousand such letters per year from 2009 through 2012, with between 1,000 and 2,000 American user accounts targeted every year but 2010, when 2,000 to 3,000 accounts were subject to FBI scrutiny.

Newly discovered cell could heal damaged tissue, organs, researchers say  (Jewish World Review)

March 13, 2013--To their surprise, University of California, San Francisco researchers have discovered a new type of cell in women's breast tissue that might one day be used to heal a variety of wounds and damaged organs, without having to destroy embryos to acquire stem cells.

The newly discovered cells act similarly to embryonic stem cells in that they can be placed in mice or in a Petri dish and "instructed" to produce many different cell types.

That raises hope that the cells might someday be used as a sort of personalized "patch kit," without the controversy that has surrounded stem cells taken from human embryos.

Can Milk Sweetened With Aspartame Still Be Called Milk? (NPR)

March 6, 2013--The dairy industry has a problem. Despite studies demonstrating milk's nutritional benefits, people are drinking less and less of it.

Even children are increasingly opting for water or other low-cal options — including diet sodaand artificially sweetened sports drinks.

So how can milk — especially school kids' favorite, chocolate milk — compete in the low-cal arena? The dairy industry has a strategy: Swap the sugar that's added to flavored milks for a zero-calorie sweetener such as aspartame (or other options such as plant-based stevia).