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  |   Jan. 9, 2013 at 8:05 AM
U.S. mulls military departure from Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The Obama administration is mulling a total military withdrawal from Afghanistan, officials said, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai began Washington meetings.

Having no troops in Afghanistan -- known as the "zero option" -- "would be an option that we would consider" when the U.N. security mandate sanctioning the international coalition expires next year, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication Ben Rhodes told reporters in a conference call.

"The U.S. does not have an inherent objective of X number of troops in Afghanistan," Rhodes said. "We have an objective of making sure there's no safe haven for al-Qaida within Afghanistan and making sure that the Afghan government has a security force that is sufficient to ensure the stability of the Afghan government and the denial of that safe haven.

"So that's what guides us and that's what causes us to look for different potential troop numbers, or not having potential troops in the country," he said.

The administration might find non-military ways of meeting U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, he said.

The Washington Post said some groups within the administration are pushing to shrink U.S. forces to no more than a few thousand troops -- perhaps as few as 2,500 -- after 2014, arguing a small number would be the most constructive way of capping the costly, unpopular war.

The low number is far less than the 10,000 to 30,000 troops discussed among NATO allies and some U.S. officials as recently as a year ago, the Post said.

Some senior military officials have pressed for a more robust figure, arguing a hurried withdrawal would be irresponsible and could cause Afghanistan's security forces to collapse.


India lodges 'strong protest' on Kashmir

NEW DELHI, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- India Wednesday charged the Pakistani army of "barbaric and inhuman mutilation" of the bodies of two Indian soldiers killed in the Kashmir region.

As the flash point, decades-old dispute between the two nuclear-armed rivals over Kashmir province resurfaced, India strongly protested to Pakistan, saying its army had killed the Indian soldiers after crossing the Kashmiri border, known as the Line of Control.

The Indian Foreign Affairs Ministry summoned Pakistani Ambassador Salman Bashir to lodge India's "strong protest" over the incident Tuesday, the ministry said on its website.

The ministry said Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai reminded that officials from the two countries had only met last December in New Delhi to discuss confidence-building measures "wherein maintaining the sanctity of the LoC, one of the most important CBMs between the two countries, was emphasized."

The countries have fought four wars, two of them over Kashmir, since they became independent in 1947. Bilateral relations have seesawed since then but have become critical since the two became nuclear weapons countries.


Fire shuts down nuclear reactor in Texas

BAY CITY, Texas, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A fire at a nuclear power plant near Houston has shut down one of the plant's two reactors, utility spokesmen said.

Plant spokesman Buddy Eller said the fire began at 4:42 p.m. Tuesday at the South Texas Project Electric Generating System, about 90 miles southwest of Houston. Eller said the fire was extinguished within 15 minutes.

The San Antonio Express-News said no workers were injured and the fire did not threaten the reactor.

Eller did not know when the reactor will be restarted.

The Express-News said each reactor at the plant produces 1,280 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt is enough to power 500 homes during mild winter conditions.


Nat'l Cathedral to have same-sex marriages

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The Washington National Cathedral, one of the world's largest cathedrals, will begin hosting same-sex marriages, Washington diocese leaders say.

Observers say the announcement, expected Wednesday, isn't surprising because the denomination and the diocese both advocate marriage equality, The Washington Post reported.

Still, "it's something for us to say we are going to do this in this very visible space where we pray for the president and where we bury leaders," said the Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral. "This national spiritual space is now a place where [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people can come and get married."

This summer, the denomination approved a rite for same-sex blessings, the Post said. Previously, the rite used for heterosexual couples was adapted for same-sex couples.

"[The] heterosexual marriage [ritual] still has some vestiges of patriarchy, with woman being property. There's hope in same-sex marriage that it is a teachable moment for heterosexual couples," Hall said. "The new rite is grounded in baptism and radical equality of all people before God. ... I'd like to use it for heterosexual weddings because I think it's so much better than our marriage services."


Survey reveals how not to get a job

CHICAGO, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Failure to appear interested in the job during an interview was the No. 1 mistake made by job seekers, a survey of hiring managers found.

In a survey conducted for employment agency CareerBuilder by Harris Interactive, 62 percent of hiring managers said an apparent lack of interest was among the mistakes made during interviews by job candidates.

"A lack of enthusiasm can leave the employer feeling less than enthusiastic about you as a candidate," CareerBuilder said in a news release Wednesday.

The second most commonly mentioned mistake is, perhaps, related to that: Answering a cellphone during an interview. Sixty percent of hiring managers mentioned that as a reason candidates failed to get the job.

When it comes to dressing for the interview, "It is better to err on the conservative," CareerBuilder said, as 60 percent of hiring managers said dressing inappropriately derailed job candidates.

Almost as many -- 58 percent -- of hiring managers indicated being negative about a former or current employer ended a job candidate's chances of getting a job.

Poor body language also figured in to the equation, hiring managers said. Poor eye contact, failing to smile, weak handshakes and poor posture can deep-six a job candidate's chances, CareerBuilder said.

The survey was conducted in November and involved interviews with 2,600 hiring managers nationwide.

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