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Feb. 20, 2013 at 1:10 PM
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Jesse Jackson Jr. pleads guilty

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds in a Washington federal courtroom.

The 47-year-old son of civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. entered a negotiated plea of guilty on one felony count of conspiracy to commit false statements, wire fraud and mail fraud and could be sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Jackson and his wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, ignored shouted questions from reporters at they entered the courthouse Wednesday. A short time later, his father and other family members walked in the front of the U.S. Courthouse.

Jackson Jr. was accused of spending more than $750,000 in campaign funds on entertainment and civil rights memorabilia of Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., $9,600 in children's furniture and thousands on luxury items including cashmere clothing, mink capes, fur coats and a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch, the Chicago Tribune reported.

A Jackson lawyer confirmed late Tuesday his client would enter a guilty plea and a lawyer for his wife said she could enter a guilty plea to federal tax fraud charges, most recently for tax year 2011. Both Jacksons reached plea bargains with prosecutors, WLS-TV, Chicago, reported.

"We are hopeful and we expect there will be fairness in the [sentencing] process," said Jackson's attorney Reid Weingarten.

Sandi Jackson was expected to enter her plea before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins Wednesday afternoon.

She was elected twice as alderman of Chicago's 7th ward even though the couple lived at their Washington townhouse much of the time.

Panetta notifies Congress of furloughs

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday he had notified Congress that civilian personnel could be furloughed if spending cuts proceed as planned.

Congress and the White House have until March 1 to agree on a new spending plan or automatic, across the board spending cuts of $500 billion from the federal budget over 10 years will become law.

Automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, would result in furloughs affecting "a vast majority" of the department's civilian personnel, Panetta said. He also said it would result in "severe damage ... both to this department and to our national defense."

Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday that the plan is to place about 800,000 civilian personnel on furlough one day per week for 22 weeks, starting in late April and running through the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

The few exceptions include jobs that protect either life or property but even first responder personnel aren't entirely exempt, the newspaper said.

"That doesn't mean a wholesale protection of those jobs. They can still do minimum manning," said Pentagon spokeswoman U.S. Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins.

Over the course of the year, the furloughs would result in a one-month loss of pay for those affected. Unlike previous department furloughs, there are no plans to make up that loss to the workers affected, Stars and Stripes reported.

Panetta further lamented the spending cuts in a news release: "Our most important asset at the department is our world-class personnel. You are fighting every day to keep our country strong and secure, and rest assured that the leaders of this department will continue to fight with you and for you."

Kerry heading off on nine-country trip

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Newly minted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Europe, the Middle East and Asia this month, a State Department spokeswoman said.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Kerry is to leave Sunday on his first trip as head of the department.

He is to visit Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Kerry travels first to London where he is to discuss bilateral and global issues with British officials.

While in Germany, Kerry is scheduled to exchange views with young Germans on European-American relations. The visit will also allow Kerry to reconnect with Berlin where he lived as a child.

In Paris, Kerry is to talk about international support for Mali with French officials.

After visiting Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Kerry is to meet with leaders in Qatar before returning to the United States March 6, Nuland said.

Poll: Preventing terrorism top policy goal

PRINCETON, N.J., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Nearly nine in 10 Americans say preventing terrorism should be a top foreign policy goal for the United States, a Gallup poll released Wednesday indicated.

Respondents also give priority to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and securing adequate energy supplies for the country, results indicated.

Those asked indicated they were less likely to list as important foreign policy goals such as the promotion of economic development in other countries and helping other countries build democracies, the Princeton, N.J., polling agency said.

Preventing future acts of international terrorism was the top-ranked issue listed by 89 percent of respondents. Eight-three percent said prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons should be a top priority, while 82 percent said securing adequate energy supplies for the United States was their top priority.

The remaining six issues Gallup included in its survey were, in order, promoting favorable trade policies, defending allies' securities, working with groups such as the United Nations to bring about world cooperation, promoting and defending human rights in other countries, promoting economic development in other countries and helping other countries build democracies.

Respondents were most likely to give greater weight to international issues with a real or potential direct effect on the United States, Gallup said. Matters involving providing assistance to other countries were ranked lower.

Results are based on nationwide phone interviews with 1,015 adults conducted Feb. 7-10. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Report: Lanza had controversial condition

NEW YORK, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The man who killed 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school suffered from a little-understood condition, an investigative report has found.

The report, aired on the PBS show "Frontline," said Adam Lanza, 20, had been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD), ABC News reported Wednesday.

The disorder can cause people to over-respond to stimuli and clothing, physical contact, light, sound or food can be unbearable.

Another version of SPD can cause weakness, clumsiness or delayed development of motor skills.

The disorder made Lanza unable to recognize pain and he would shut down if faced with loud noises, confusion or change, the report said.

Show producer Frank Koughan described Lanza as "someone that was afraid of the world."

No one in the medical community knows whether SPD is a distinct disorder or a collection of symptoms of other neurological problems such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Neither does anyone know why Lanza shot his mother four times before shooting 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.

SPD is a controversial condition. The American Psychiatric Association earlier this year refused to recognize the ailment because there are no distinct criteria for diagnosing it.

The report was a collaboration between "Frontline" and the Hartford (Conn.) Courant.

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