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Military: California contrail not missile

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- A mysterious contrail seen over Southern California came from an aircraft, not a missile, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

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"There is no evidence to suggest that this is anything else other than a condensation trail from an aircraft," said the statement from Col. Dave Lapan, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense. "As stated yesterday, NORAD and USNORTHCOM determined that there was no threat to the U.S. homeland."

The statement does not say whether the plume came from a military, commercial, government or private aircraft.

The contrail appeared in the sky at sunset Monday, originating from a location about 35 miles west of Los Angeles, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Navy ships regularly fire missiles off the coast in the Point Mugu Sea Test Range. But the Navy said it was not firing missiles at the time. And the Air Force said there were no launches out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.


Fiscal panel offers spending, tax reforms

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Proposals for spending cuts, tax reforms and changes to Social Security are included in a preliminary report released by President Obama's fiscal commission.

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The report, released Wednesday, proposes capping discretionary spending, setting up tax rate reductions while expanding the tax base, raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 gradually and reducing the rate of increase of Social Security benefits, The Hill reported.

The report is the "chairmen's mark," meaning it was approved by the panel's co-chairmen, former Clinton administration chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., but not approved by the 18 members of the commission.

The commission is to make its recommendations by Dec. 1.

President Obama will wait until the commission finishes its work before commenting, White House spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.

"He respects the challenging task that the (co-chairmen) and the commissioners are undertaking and wants to give them space to work on it," Burton said. "These ideas, however, are only a step in the process towards coming up with a set of recommendations and the president looks forward to reviewing their final product early next month."

The preliminary draft includes five basic recommendations, including:

-- Enacting discretionary spending caps and providing $200 billion in domestic and defense savings by 2015.

-- Passing tax reform that would reduce rates, simplify the code, broaden the base and reduce the deficit.

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-- Addressing Medicare issues through savings from payment reforms, cost-sharing malpractice reform and long-term measures to control healthcare cost growth.

-- Realizing savings from farm subsidies, and military and civil service retirement.

-- Ensuring Social Security solvency for the next 75 years while reducing poverty among seniors.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, called the draft a good start.

"It shows the size of the problem, which is massive," said Gregg, who is retiring at the end of this term. "This is the draft for discussion purposes to get us all thinking."

"It's a lot to digest. I support the goal," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Senate Finance Committee chairman, adding, "(We're) at the early stages."


U.N. reports global employment recovery

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Global employment rates are trending up with sectors showing uneven job creation during the first six months of 2010, the United Nations labor agency said.

The U.N. International Labor Organization's study, released Wednesday, indicated that while construction and manufacturing sectors lost more than 5 million jobs during the first quarter of 2010, the health sector grew by 2.8 million jobs, the United Nations said in a release issued in New York.

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"In 2010, the global economy seems to have entered into a new stage where divergence and volatility in a number of labor markets have significantly increased and uncertainty over the stability of the recovery remains high," said Elizabeth Tinoco, director of the U.N. unit's Sectoral Activities Department. "These trends are also observed across sectors and vary from country to country."

Despite the net loss of jobs in construction and manufacturing, the ILO study indicated recovery is progressing, albeit slowly, in wholesale and retail trade; transportation, storage, and communications.

The study also analyzes changes in labor markets as far as hours of work, the United Nations said. After falling in 2009, working hours began to increase in the first and second quarters of 2010 in all sectors, except for agriculture, forestry and fishing.

"One of the uncertainties we face is what will happen to private consumption in developed countries -- will it remain weak or will it pick up," Tinoco said. "The same goes for fiscal consolidation plans -- what impact will they have in the short run on the economy? The shape and scope of the recovery will depend on how these trends evolve."


Bush takes aim at Schroder, who fires back

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder says former U.S. President George W. Bush "is not telling the truth" in his newly published memoir.

In "Decision Points," Bush says Schroder broke a promise to support the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Schroder told ABC News he did no such thing, and said he told Bush he would support the invasion if there was proof Iraq had given "protection and support to al-Qaida fighters."

"This connection, however, as it became clear during 2002, was false and constructed," Schroder said.

Germany did support the United States in Afghanistan.

Bush suggests Schroder acted differently in Iraq out of political calculation because he was facing an election. He said Schroder's switch on Iraq made their future relationship difficult because he no longer trusted the German leader.

Schroder's memoir, "Decisions: A Life in Politics," was published in 2006, a year after he was defeated by Angela Merkel. He was none too complimentary about Bush, describing him as having "almost Biblical semantics."

"The problem begins when the impression is created that political decisions are a result of this conversation with God," Schroder said.

Now, the ex-chancellor accuses the president of breaking at least one of the Ten Commandments: "The president is not telling the truth."

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