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Panetta to Address Defense Cuts; Salmonella Sparks Turkey Recall

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. File photo by Getty Images.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will hold his first press conference Thursday since he took on the head the job at the Pentagon after the retirement of Robert Gates earlier this year.

Panetta, who was replaced as head of the CIA by Gen. David Petraeus, made his first public comments Wednesday since the signing of the new deficit-slashing legislation, saying that the Pentagon will do its part to help get the nation’s finances in order, but that a second round of potential spending cuts later this year would be “completely unacceptable.”

“I will do everything I can to ensure that further reductions in defense spending are not pursued in a hasty, ill-conceived way that would undermine the military’s ability to protect America and its vital interests around the globe,” Panetta said in a message to U.S. troops and civilian department employees.

Under the bill signed by President Obama on Tuesday, Defense spending over 10 years would be reduced by $350 billion from projected increases. The cuts are in line with what defense officials expected, Panetta said, since the president announced earlier this year that the Pentagon must accept $400 billion in defense cuts over 12 years.

Defense officials are more worried about the second step in Tuesday’s legislation, according to the Associated Press. A 12-member, bipartisan congressional committee must propose by the end of the year as much as $1.5 trillion more in across-the-board cuts over a decade. If Congress deadlocks or rejects the committee’s recommendations, the Obama administration would impose $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, with half hitting the Pentagon.

Meantime, two NATO soldiers were killed in separate insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan.

Salmonella Outbreak Sparks Turkey Meat Recall

Meat producer Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of turkey because of a salmonella outbreak linked to 76 illnesses and one death. The move is the second-largest meat recall in the country. Cargill stopped production at its Springdale, Ark., plant while investigators hunt the source of contamination.

Illnesses in the outbreak date back to March and have been reported in 26 states. All of the packages recalled include the code “Est. P-963” on the label, according to Cargill.

Haiti Bracing for Tropical Storm Emily

Haiti braced for another potential natural disaster Thursday as Tropical Storm Emily threatened just off the coast. More than 600,000 people still live in makeshift encampments 18 months after a devastating earthquake.

Emily stalled just south of Hispaniola in the Wednesday overnight hours, but torrential rains were sweeping the Dominican Republic and southern coast of Haiti, where flash floods and mudslides have killed hundreds in previous storms, the Miami Herald reported. A day earlier, the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic both issued “red alerts” and urged residents to seek safe shelter.

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