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Panetta warns Congress against extra Pentagon funds

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WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta scolded Republican lawmakers Thursday for adding what he deemed to be unnecessary expenses to the Pentagon’s budget, warning it could lead to “gridlock.”

The Pentagon chief spoke after the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee approved a defense budget that added funds for a study on a possible East Coast missile defense site and for modernizing US Navy cruisers that were due to be retired.

The panel approved a bill for a base defense budget of $554 billion, which committee Chairman Buck McKeon says is about $4 billion more than what President Barack Obama’s administration wants to be spent for fiscal 2013 in order to meet cost-cutting targets.

The lawmakers also authorized $88.5 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other counterterrorism efforts, in line with the Pentagon’s request.

“My concern is that if Congress now tries to reverse many of the tough decisions that we reached by adding several billion dollars to the president’s budget request, then they risk… potential gridlock, because it’s not likely that the Senate will go along with what the House did,” Panetta told reporters.

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He warned that the bill, which must be voted by the entire House before heading to the Democrat-led Senate, “could force the kind of trade-offs that could jeopardize our national defense.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said the committee’s extra funding for a study on a possible new missile defense site on the US East Coast was not necessary.

“In my military judgment, the program of record for ballistic missile defense for the homeland, as we’ve submitted it, is adequate and sufficient to the task,” he said.

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“I don’t see a need beyond what we’ve submitted in the last budget.”

Fiscal pressure has forced military chiefs to scale back projected spending by $487 billion over the next decade, a task they have described as tough but manageable.

But a threat of dramatic defense cuts also looms on the political horizon.

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If Congress fails to agree by January 2013 on how to slash the deficit, dramatic defense reductions of about $500 billion would be automatically triggered under a law adopted last year.

“The Department of Defense and I believe the administration are not going to support additional funds that come at the expense of other critical national security priorities,” Panetta said, warning that “there is no free lunch here.”

“And if members try to restore their favorite programs without regard to an overall strategy the cuts will have to come from areas that could impact overall readiness.”

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The panel’s bill also cancels an increase in military health care benefits.


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CNN

Trump supporter blames Democrats for being targeted by the president: ‘Why is that racist?’

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CNN interviewed a supporter of President Donald Trump in Eau Claire, Wisconsin who refused to acknowledge the racism in the president's "Go Back" attacks on four women of color in Congress.

The network interviewed Kerri Krumenauer of Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating Company about Trump's attacks.

"How is it racist?" she asked.

"If you don't like this country, get out," she demanded. "Leave!"

She then showed how misinformed she was about the incident.

"He didn't use any names -- they stood up," she falsely claimed. In fact, Trump did use names and the targets did not stand up as they were not at his North Carolina campaign rally.

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2020 Election

Here’s how Trump hopes to recreate his 2016 presidential win — and how Democrats can send him packing

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Writing for CNN on Saturday, election forecaster Harry Enten explained how President Donald Trump's recent, racist behavior lies in his desire to recreate the same electoral conditions that gave him a victory in 2016 in the presidential election next year.

"The Trump strategy is pretty simple: 1. Drive up the unfavorable ratings of his Democratic rival as he did in 2016 in order to compensate for his own low ratings. 2. Bank on an electoral college/popular vote split as he did in 2016. 3. Use a campaign of racial resentment to drive up turnout even more among groups favorable toward the President," wrote Enten. As he noted, Democrats have excellent odds to flip back Michigan and Pennsylvania, but they will have to work harder to win back any of the other states Trump flipped from the 2012 Obama camp — in particular Wisconsin, which was the closest state after those two.

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American, Italian and Russian blast off for ISS

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US, Italian and Russian astronauts blasted into space Saturday, headed for the International Space Station, in a launch coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA's Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set off on a six-hour journey to the orbiting science lab from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1628 GMT.

A NASA TV commentator hailed a "textbook launch" minutes after blastoff in "sweltering" weather in Baikonur, where daytime temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

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