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DEFENSE

Panetta: Pentagon cuts to hit lawmakers at home

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta says the Pentagon will need to make difficult budget cuts to find more than $450 billion in savings, and the cuts may include lawmakers' pet projects or weapons programs in their regions.

He says the budget-cutting on military equipment and personnel costs will prove politically sensitive. The Pentagon chief says Congress must be a responsible partner in that process.

Mr. Panetta says he hopes to find $60 billion in savings through efficiencies across the department.

He says the military of the 21st century will be smaller and more agile, but must be ready for the possibility of fighting more than one war at a time. Military leaders say that will be tough, given the shrinking armed forces.

Mr. Panetta made his remarks Tuesday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

VERMONT

Leahy to seek maple syrup protection law

MONTPELIER — Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy says he's planning to introduce legislation to make it a federal crime for people to mislabel products as containing maple syrup.

Mr. Leahy said Tuesday the legislation is needed to protect Vermont's maple crop from fraud.

The move came in the aftermath of a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation that found a man who had been selling fake Vermont maple syrup when the product contained no syrup.

Mr. Leahy's proposal would create a new federal felony offense and increase the sentences that prosecutors can seek for people who defraud consumers and farmers by intentionally mislabeling maple products.

Mr. Leahy, a Democrat, announced his plan at the same time he was announcing the state had received a $70,000 federal grant to help market Vermont maple syrup.

NEW YORK

Social media companies 'friend' 2012 politics

NEW YORK — Social media companies have "friended" the 2012 presidential contest at a level almost unimaginable just four years ago.

Social-media giants such as Facebook and Google are hosting debates and sponsoring presidential town halls. They remain indispensable tools for candidates looking to connect with voters.

The companies get great public exposure for their attachment to the presidential campaign. It also helps their business interests by nurturing relationships with political leaders.

Facebook recently launched a political action committee and has begun hiring lobbyists in Washington. It's taken a prominent role in the presidential campaign, with plans to co-host a Republican debate in New Hampshire. President Obama participated in a Facebook town hall last spring.

Google and Twitter have also stepped up their presence in Washington along with their campaign visibility.

MINNESOTA

Bachmann slides ideas into economic plan

ST. PAUL — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has packaged many of the proposals she's been pressing in her campaign into an 11-point plan for putting the U.S. economy back on sound footing.

The blueprint Mrs. Bachmann outlined Tuesday calls for tax accommodations that would give companies incentive to reinvest at home money that presently is earned abroad. She also would decrease government employee salaries, eliminate an inheritance tax and roll back a slate of federal regulations. That includes President Obama's signature health law.

The Minnesota congresswoman has talked repeatedly about most of the ideas since entering the White House race in June.

Mrs. Bachmann has been trying to fight off a campaign slump since winning the Iowa GOP straw poll two months ago.

CAMPAIGN

Former governor joins Senate race in Hawaii

Linda Lingle, a former two-term governor of Hawaii, says she is entering the state's Senate race, giving Republicans hope of capturing the seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel K. Akaka, 87, who is retiring.

Mrs. Lingle, 58, said she has experience in getting people to work together, regardless of party affiliation. She announced her candidacy on KSSK radio in Honolulu.

Mrs. Lingle was the state's first female governor and served from 2002 to 2010. Her victories indicated she can appeal to moderate Democrats, which could be critical in an election cycle that features native son President Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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