Obama: Sequester creating uncertainty now
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama, mindful of the pending automatic spending cuts, urged the nation's governors Monday to push lawmakers to avert the sequester.
In just four days, Obama told a National Governors Association luncheon at the White House, Congress is poised to allowed arbitrary automatic budget cuts of $85 billion to kick in, and "uncertainty is already having an effect."
He urged the governors to speak to their congressional delegations while in Washington for the association's annual meeting to remind them what's at stake and that the cuts can be avoided with "just a little bit of compromise," he said.
"I know some folks in Congress think compromise is a bad term," he said. "You know that compromise is essential to getting things done."
"All of us are elected officials," he said. "All of us are concerned about our politics, both in our own party's as well as the other party's. But at some point we've got to do some governing."
Napolitano outlines sequester threats
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Across-the-board spending cuts will make the United States more vulnerable to a terror attack, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned Monday.
Because the $85 billion in cuts are spread among domestic and defense budgets and don't differentiate about what is affected, Napolitano said, they make it difficult to mitigate security threats.
"We're going to do everything we can to minimize that risk, but the sequester makes it awfully, awfully tough," she said.
"Put simply, the automatic budget reduction mandated by sequestration would be disruptive and destructive to our nation's security and economy," the secretary said during a White House media briefing. "It would negatively affect the mission readiness and capabilities of the men and women on our front lines. It would undermine the significant progress we've made over the past 10 years to build the nation's preparedness and resiliency."
Iran defiant entering nuclear talks
ALMATY, Kazakhstan, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Iran isn't likely to budge after seeing no real penalty for a nuclear test by North Korea, said officials with knowledge of pending international negotiations.
With Iran and a group of Western nations about to kick off another round of talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, most expect Iran's delegation to sit, arms folded, and demand the West give in.
Experts told The New York Times Monday Iran believes the international sanctions have proven weak enough to manage and sees no real threat of greater sanctions or military action given the bark-no-bite response to a nuclear test by North Korea.
"If [the West] wants constructive negotiations, it's better this time they come with a new strategy and credible proposals," Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told reporters before his departure to Kazakhstan.
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful domestic energy production. Western allies say it's a cover for developing a nuclear bomb.
Kerry, Hague warn Syria, Iran
LONDON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during a trip to London, issued a warning to Iran and Syria, telling them they must embrace change.
"[The] Syrian people deserve better than the horrific violence that now invades and threatens their everyday lives -- the lives of innocent people, the lives of people who simply want an ability to have their government be accountable and to be able to be part of the governance of their own live," Kerry said during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague after a meeting.
Kerry said he and Hague condemned the "indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians" by President Bashar Assad's regime.
"And it is just further evidence that Assad has to go," he said.
Ikea drops horsemeat-tainted meatballs
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Ikea Monday said it has pulled horsemeat-tainted meatballs from shelves in the furniture-giant's Swedish stores.
The tainted meatballs were discovered by Czech inspectors, the Swedish news agency TT reported.
An Ikea spokeswoman told TT she was unsure whether stores in other countries would stop selling the meatballs.
Should the Czech tests be confirmed, this will be the first instance of traces of horsemeat being found in food in Sweden amid the European horsemeat scandal.
Meanwhile, in Italy Monday, horsemeat was also discovered in lasagna produced by Eurochef Italia Srl of Sommacampagna, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
The meat for the lasagna was supplied by S.A.V. Srl of Sona.
Ala. AG: 'Money mattered most' for BP
NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- BP was greedy and it was BP's greed that "devastated the gulf," a state attorney general said Monday in a civil trial in a New Orleans federal courtroom.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said BP's actions concerning the gulf spill were driven by greed.
"At BP, money mattered most," Strange said.
Saying the spill was predictable and preventable, Strange said the oil giant's "culture of callousness" caused it to happen.
"Money mattered more to BP than the gulf. A lot more," Strange said. "Your honor, the evidence will be clear and unmistakable: Greed devastated the gulf."
BP should be slapped with the highest possible civil fine and a ruling of gross negligence not preventing the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.
Caldwell said during his opening statement Monday in federal court in New Orleans evidence will show "willful and wanton misconduct" by BP in the April 2010 fire and explosion on the rig that killed 11 workers and spewed 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, AlabamaLive.com reported.