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Obama talking Medicare, Social Security cuts

WASHINGTON, March 4 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is talking to Democrats and Republicans about cutting Medicare and Social Security entitlements, a White House official said.


"He's reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform, and Republicans who realize that if we had that type of entitlement reform, they'd be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit," Gene Sperling, director of Obama's National Economic Council, told CNN's "State of the Union."

When asked if that means Obama was talking to top congressional leaders, Sperling said, "Well, he just had the leadership in on Friday," referring to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.


Sperling said Obama followed up Friday's meeting by making phone calls Saturday to rank-and-file senators in both parties who had expressed interest in "the type of grand bargain that Bowles-Simpson have called for, that most budget experts called for, that recognize it's not cutting defense and domestic spending like education and research we need."

Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff to Democratic President Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, a former GOP senator from Wyoming, were co-chairmen of a White House bipartisan deficit-reduction panel created in February 2010 to find ways of reducing the mounting federal debt.

Karachi Shiite area bombing kills dozens

KARACHI, Pakistan, March 4 (UPI) -- The toll from a huge bomb attack in Karachi, apparently targeting Pakistan's minority Shiites, rose to at least 45 dead and 135 injured Monday, police said.

The dead included women and children.

The Sunday evening blast occurred in Abbas Town, a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in the port city of Karachi, which has been plagued for months by such sectarian, political and gang violence.

Shiites, a minority in Sunni majority Pakistan, have been targeted in similar attacks lately in other cities of the country.


The Sunday attack came during evening prayer time. The blast occurred near a mosque and two apartment blocks, Dawn newspaper reported. The apartments suffered heavy damage and Dawn said there were reports several residents died inside their apartments, raising concerns more victims may be buried under the rubble.

Initial estimates said up to 50 apartments and at least 10 nearby shops were destroyed and more structures were damaged, many of them in resulting fires.

Karachi police official Aleem Jafri told Dawn an explosive-laden vehicle might have been used in the attack.

The explosion created a four-foot deep and 10-foot circumference crater at the site.

Walmart charity head to be named OMB chief

WASHINGTON, March 4 (UPI) -- Walmart charity head Sylvia Mathews Burwell would be a great White House budget director, the U.S. retail chain's chief said ahead of her likely choice Monday.

"Sylvia does a great job leading the Walmart Foundation and, if confirmed by the Senate, will do a tremendous job serving our country," Walmart Stores Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke said in a statement.

President Barack Obama intends to nominate Burwell, a veteran of several top economic-policy posts in the Clinton administration, to the Cabinet-level post Monday, running the Office of Management and Budget and assisting Obama in preparing the White House federal budget, a senior administration official said Sunday.


Burwell, 47, worked in the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s as OMB's deputy director as well as deputy White House chief of staff. She previously was chief of staff for Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Kenya votes amid violence; 6 officers die

NAIROBI, Kenya, March 4 (UPI) -- Kenyans voted in a presidential election Monday amid reports of violence, including the deaths of six police officers in Mombasa, authorities said.

Several election workers were injured, police said.

Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said 400 more officers were deployed to Mombasa after the officers were killed Sunday by suspected members of the outlawed Mombasa Republican Council, which opposes the election and believes Kenya's coastal area should be a separate country, Kenya Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The officers were killed in two incidents in Kilifi County after a gang of more than 300 suspected MRC members attacked polling locations in the county, police said.

Kenya's top politicians have urged voters to be calm and avoid the post-election chaos that erupted in late 2007 and early 2008, when a disputed election ignited ethnic clashes in which more than 1,000 people died, The New York Times reported.

"We must keep the peace," said William Ruto, a candidate for deputy president who was charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity in the violence in the last election.


Raila Odinga, Kenya's prime minister, is a leading contender for president. Odinga's main rival is Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya's first president

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