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May 7, 2012 at 5:11 PM   |   0 comments

House panels release defense, VA bills

WASHINGTON, May 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. House Appropriations' defense panel released its proposed budget that includes money for a drone program the Pentagon axed in its funding request.

The bill revealed Monday included $278 million to maintain funding for the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 drones and $1.5 billion to restore "unrealistic cuts to facility sustainment and base operating support," the Appropriations Committee said on its Web site.

The panel allocated $519.2 billion in base defense spending, an increase of $3.1 billion above the president's request. The bill included $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations, which funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Appropriations Defense subcommittee will mark up its authorization bill in a closed-door session Tuesday.

"This subcommittee has worked tirelessly to mitigate risks associated with budget shortfalls in areas such as shipbuilding, force structure, and weapons and facility maintenance," Defense Subcommittee Chairman C.W. Young, R-Fla., said, noting the panel worked in a "true bipartisan fashion."

The Senate panel approved a base budget of $511.1 billion and an overseas contingency operations budget of $93.3 billion, for a total that's about $3.5 billion below the House's proposal, The Hill reported.


Woman calls Secret Service 'stupid brutes'

NEW YORK, May 7 (UPI) -- In a television interview Monday, the woman at the center of the U.S. Secret Service scandal called the agents "stupid brutes" and accused them of negligence.

Self-described Colombian prostitute Dania Londono Suarez, 24, in a pre-recorded interview on the "Today" show that NBC described as her first American television interview, referred to the U.S. Secret Service as "completely stupid, idiotic people. I don't know how Obama had them in his security force."

She also pointed out, "They are to blame, for leaving their duty behind."

The scandal began in April when agents allegedly brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, where the U.S. Secret Service was preparing for the president's arrival for the Summit of the Americas.

Suarez told NBC News that one of the men refused to pay, so she went to police.

Eight agents, thus far, have lost their jobs as a result of the incident.


Obama invites Hollande to the White House

PARIS, May 7 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama invited French President-elect Francois Hollande to the White House and upcoming Group of Eight and NATO summits, the White House said.

In a phone call, Obama congratulated Hollande -- who won France's second and final round of voting Sunday with 51.7 percent of the vote -- saying he looked forward to working with him "on a range of shared economic and security challenges," the White House said.

Obama said he would welcome Hollande -- the first Socialist to win France's presidency since Francois Mitterrand in 1981 -- to Camp David in Maryland for the G8 Summit May 18-19 and to Chicago for the NATO summit May 20-21.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acknowledging his defeat with 48.3 percent of the vote, announced he would again become "a French among the French."

Obama also called Sarkozy to thank him for his leadership, friendship and partnership during challenging times globally, Carney said in another statement.

The president "expressed his appreciation for the valued cooperation that has characterized the relationship between the two leaders since January 2009," Carney's statement said.

Hollande's election is widely seen as a mandate to challenge German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who worked closely with Sarkozy to impose deep spending cuts throughout the eurozone as a promised remedy to turn around the economies of heavily indebted European countries.


Bali bombing suspect apologizes in court

JAKARTA, May 7 (UPI) -- A man accused of making bombs used in the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks apologized and said he had opposed targeting places where numerous foreigners gathered.

Umar Patek, 45, who faces the death penalty if convicted, made the apology in West Jakarta court, The Daily Telegraph of Britain reported.

"I am taking this opportunity to seek forgiveness from the victims, their families and whoever else suffered losses," Patek said.

"I am very sad and regret the incident, because I was against it from the start. I never agreed to their methods," he added, referring to the al-Qaida-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Patek is charged with premeditated murder, bomb-making and illegal firearms possession.

He denied assembling bombs or loading them into a car.


S. Korea strengthens customs inspections

SEOUL, May 7 (UPI) -- South Korean authorities have increased customs inspections to stop the smuggling of pills allegedly made from human fetuses, officials said Monday.

The importing of so-called "human flesh capsules" into South Korea from China was first noticed in August, Yonhap news agency reported.

Since then, customs authorities have uncovered 35 attempts to bring in human flesh pills, totaling 17,451 capsules, in travelers' luggage or by mail, a statement from the South Korean Customs service said.

The pills, which could cause serious health risks, are believed to help replenish blood supply, improve circulation and enhance sexual performance.

The statement said South Korean customs officials will strengthen inspections of drugs arriving from China, especially the northern cities of Yanji, Jilin, Qingdao and Tianjin, to stop the importation of the pills into South Korea.

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