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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 29,876

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USDA Proposes Streamlining Poultry Inspections

(01-20) 09:30 PST WASHINGTON, (AP) --

The Agriculture Department is proposing to reduce the number of government inspectors at poultry slaughter plants.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says about 1,000 government inspector jobs at poultry plants would be phased out as companies take over the job of looking for visual flaws like bruises in chickens on the processing line.

Vilsack says the move will shift inspectors to jobs more important to food safety, like sampling for pathogens and keeping conditions sanitary.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/01/20/national/w093029S05.DTL#ixzz1k1SYTFUA

France's Sarkozy: Military Strike On Iran Would Trigger Middle East War


French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned against any military intervention against Iran over its nuclear program, saying a strike on Iran would "trigger war and chaos in the Middle East."

At his annual New Year's address to diplomats in Paris, Sarkozy warned "a military intervention would not solve the problem (of Iran's nuclear program) but would trigger war and chaos in the Middle East and maybe the world."

France would "do everything to avoid a military intervention," he said, calling instead for "much stronger sanctions" against Iran.

Sarkozy's remarks come amid fresh tensions between Iran and the West since a report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog late last year, which said Iran had tested designs normally used to make a nuclear weapon.



U.S. Treasury, State Officials To Travel To Israel

WASHINGTON | Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:06am EST

(Reuters) - The United States deputy Treasury secretary and deputy secretary of State will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Tunisia next week to discuss diplomatic and economic relations, the Treasury Department said on Friday.

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides will meet with senior government officials and members of the business community in Israel and the West Bank on January 23-24.

The two U.S. officials will then travel to Tunisia on January25 to accelerate efforts to strengthen the country's economy and further support its democratic transition.

The Obama administration has promised to help the region since uprisings in Tunisia ended the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali one year ago.



House Republicans Head to Retreat Amid Frustration, Low Ratings

By James Rowley - Fri Jan 20 05:01:00 GMT 2012

House Republican leaders have a complicated task as their members gather for an annual retreat: to pull together a caucus that shares in Congress’s low approval ratings and develop a legislative agenda that unifies the party.

The retreat being held at a harbor-front hotel in Baltimore comes one month after U.S. House Speaker John Boehner had to capitulate in a standoff with the Democratic-controlled Senate and accept a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut deal. He is also facing frustration from House freshmen, many backed by the Tea Party movement, who say their party fell short of its goals of slashing federal spending and the government’s debt.

“We have a very long way to go on a lot of issues that are really important,” said Representative James Lankford, a freshman Republican from Oklahoma. He said Congress succeeded last year by not further increasing spending on discretionary programs. “But what we have not succeeded at is stopping the avalanche of debt that is coming on us,” he said in a telephone interview. “That’s the frustration.”

The election in 2010 of 87 House Republican freshmen presented both an opportunity and challenge for Boehner as his party took control. Many of the freshmen have been impatient for quick results and are pushing to move faster. They were at the center of battles last year over legislation to extend government spending authority.



Hamas Calls For End To Israel Talks In Wake Of Arrests

AFP - Gaza's Hamas prime minister on Friday called on Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to end all dialogue with Israel after troops arrested parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik.

In a speech during weekly Friday prayers, Ismail Haniya also urged Abbas to reconvene the long-dormant Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), or parliament, whose activities have been frozen for nearly five years.

The parliamentary speaker, who is a member of the Islamist Hamas movement, was arrested by Israeli troops late on Thursday, sparking a furious response from Gaza's Hamas rulers as well as from Abbas's Fatah movement.

"The response to the arrest of Dr Aziz Dweik should be to end these failed and absurd negotiations," said Haniya, referring to a round of informal Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan aimed at finding ways to jump-start the stalled peace process.



Thailand Recognizes Palestinian State

01/20/2012 09:04

Bangkok joins over 100 countries in recognizing "Palestine" along pre-67 borders; Abbas officially thanks envoy.

Thailand on Thursday joined a long list of countries that have recognized a Palestinian state along pre-1967 lines. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas subsequently thanked the east Asian country as its envoy to the United Nations officially announced the move.

Bangkok's mission at the UN in New York said in a letter that it "officially recognized the state of Palestine and has initiated the process to establish and formalize diplomatic relations" with it at the earliest opportunity, official PA news agency WAFA reported Thursday.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called the recognition "an achievement for Palestinian diplomacy" and noted it was the first such recognition of 2012, according to WAFA. He said officials in Ramallah would be in contact with Thai diplomats to determine the nature of relations between the two.



6 Marines Die In Afghanistan Helicopter Crash

By NBC News and news services

Updated at 3:33 a.m. ET: A helicopter crash in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan killed six U.S. Marines, the NATO military command in Kabul told NBC News early Friday.

Officials said there were no signs of enemy activity in the area at time of the crash.

"We are still in the process of gathering more information on the incident," an official told Reuters.

It is the worst crash since last August when 30 soldiers, including 22 elite Navy SEAL commandos, died when their helicopter came down in eastern Afghanistan.

The Helmand helicopter crash occurred on the same day seven civilians were killed outside a crowded gate at Kandahar Air Field, a sprawling base for U.S. and NATO operations, after a suicide attacker set off a vehicle laden with explosives. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying they were targeting a NATO convoy.



Sales of Existing U.S. Homes Increased 5% to 4.61 Million Pace in December

By Alex Kowalski - Fri Jan 20 15:00:21 GMT 2012

Sales (ETSLTOTL) of previously owned U.S. homes rose for a third month in December to the highest level since January 2011, a sign the housing market ended last year with momentum.

Purchases (ETSLTOTL) increased 5 percent to a 4.61 million annual rate, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The pace was less than the 4.65 million median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The gain helped push down the inventory of homes for sale last month to the lowest level since 2005. Purchases in 2011 climbed 1.7 percent from a year earlier as prices fell.

Historically low mortgage rates and a pickup in employment may be giving Americans the confidence to purchase homes that have fallen in value. At the same time, another wave of foreclosures may inhibit a faster recovery in real estate as more distressed properties are put on the market.

“We’re starting to see improvement in some of the key leading housing indicators,” Carl Riccadonna, a senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York, said before the report. “First you have to see a recovery in the economy, then consumers have to register improving economic conditions, which seems to be happening already, and then they have to go and start looking for homes.”



Pentagon Said to Propose Ending $6.8 Billion Missile, Northrop Satellite

By Tony Capaccio - Fri Jan 20 05:01:00 GMT 2012

The Pentagon will propose canceling a potential $6.8 billion Army missile program that pits Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) against Raytheon Co. (RTN), a Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) weather satellite, and an Air Force light-attack aircraft, according to a government official.

The Joint Air-to-Ground Missile, the Defense Weather Satellite System, and the plane are included on a list of weapons programs that would be terminated under the fiscal 2013 defense budget to be sent to Congress next month, according to the official, who spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity before Defense Secretary Leon Panetta releases some budget details on Jan. 26.

The three programs would be ended along with a 10-year-old initiative costing about $4 billion under which Boeing Co. (BA) is upgrading C-130 Hercules transports with modern cockpit electronics.

The satellite for environmental monitoring is in the initial stages so there’s no specific dollar value for savings from calling it off. The Air Force planned to buy two satellites. Northrop Grumman said in May it received authorization and funding to proceed with development for a projected initial launch in 2018. The Pentagon requested $445 million in fiscal 2012.



France Threatens To Pull Out Of Afghanistan After Troops Killed

PARIS (Reuters) - France threatened on Friday to pull out early from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan after four a rogue Afghan soldier opened fire on French soldiers, killing four and wounding about 15 others.

The killings in the Taghab valley ofAfghanistan's eastern Kapisa province were the latest in a series of incidents that have seen Afghan troops turn on their Western allies, damaging trust.

French PresidentNicolas Sarkozy said all French operations on the ground were being suspended and his defense minister was dispatched to clarify things on the ground in Afghanistan.

"If the security conditions are not clearly established then the question of an early return ofFrench forces from Afghanistan will arise," said Sarkozy.


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