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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Chuck Hagel Stresses US Foreign Policy Shift From Military Might To Diplomacy

The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, on Saturday underscored the Obama administration's intention to shift the focus of its foreign policy away from military might toward diplomacy.

Speaking at the Munich security conference, Hagel said he and the secretary of state, John Kerry, "have both worked to restore balance to the relationship between American defence and diplomacy".

Hagel, in prepared remarks, stressed that the US was "moving off a 13-year war footing" as the war in Afghanistan winds down and as Washington seeks to avoid getting involved in additional military conflicts overseas.

Hagel's remarks echo those of President Barack Obama, who in his annual state of the union address this week said the US could not rely on its military power alone, promising to send US troops to fight overseas only when "truly necessary".

In recent years, the US has shown its eagerness to wind down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the military dominated traditionally civilian-led activities such as development aid. US officials have also sought to avoid becoming involved in new on-the-ground military action in places like Syria and Libya.



Neocons Seek New Ultimatum on Syria

You have to hand it to the neocons; they never give up on their single-minded agenda of promoting wars against Israel's Muslim "enemies," even after the disastrous war in Iraq. The big difference now is that the neocon strategy is to endlessly insist that the U.S. government issue ultimatums of war unless a target country acquiesces to some demand.

The apparent neocon hope is that at some point the target won't or can't do something, thus requiring a U.S. military assault to maintain American "credibility." The Washington Post's neocon editors are the bellwether for this approach as they mix outraged propaganda against the targets with outrage over any perceived "failure" of the targets to comply -- and then over President Barack Obama's hesitancy to act.

A typical example was on Sunday's editorial page, egging President Obama to reissue a threatened military strike against Syria for allegedly dragging its heels on delivering chemical weapons to the United Nations for destruction.
As you may recall, the Syrian government got high marks for implementing the initial phase of its promise to destroy equipment that could be used to prepare chemical weapons for deployment. But it was well known that the next phase -- collecting the chemicals and taking them to a Mediterranean port and then to sea for destruction -- would be much trickery because some of the CW depots were in areas controlled or contested by Syrian rebels and the routes to the sea also were insecure.

Even the Post's editors acknowledge this reality, writing:

"No one should be surprised that the international effort is behind schedule. The original deadline to remove all so-called Priority One chemicals, the most dangerous, by Dec. 31, and all Priority Two chemicals by Feb. 5, was terribly ambitious for an operation that is complex even in peacetime and doubly difficult in the midst of a civil war. The chemicals must be transported to the coast, then by sea to a destruction facility on board a U.S. vessel, the MV Cape Ray, and neutralized safely."



New Saudi Counterterrorism Law Alarms Human Rights Activists; 'A Catastrophe'

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia put into effect a sweeping new counterterrorism law Sunday that human rights activists say allows the kingdom to prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent.

The law states that any act that "undermines" the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism. It also grants security services broad powers to raid homes and track phone calls and Internet activity.

Human rights activists were alarmed by the law and said it is clearly aimed at keeping the kingdom's ruling Al Saud family firmly in control amid the demands for democratic reform that have grown louder since the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in 2011 and toppled longtime autocrats.

Saudi activist Abdulaziz al-Shubaily described the law as a "catastrophe." And Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle warned: "The new law is draconian in spirit and letter, and there is every reason to fear that the authorities will easily and eagerly use it against peaceful dissidents."

The measure was approved by the Cabinet on Dec. 16 and ratified by King Abdullah. It was published in its entirety for the first time on Friday in the government's official gazette Um Al-Qura.



Mondale Family: Joan Mondale Enters Hospice Care

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale has entered hospice care.

A statement released Sunday on behalf of the Mondale family says Joan Mondale entered hospice care Friday. The statement was released by Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, where the Mondales have been longtime members.

The family is asking for privacy at this time, as Joan Mondale's "life on this earth moves peacefully to its close."

Mondale is 83.

She built a reputation as a national cultural arts advocate while her husband was vice president, and was so passionate about the arts that she was nicknamed "Joan of Art."



‘Goblin’ Toppling Ex-Boy Scout Leaders Facing Felony Charges, 5 Years In Prison

Two former Boy Scout leaders accused of toppling an ancient rock formation in a Utah state park are now facing felony charges of five years in prison and $5,000 in fines according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

David Hall and Glenn Taylor – who filmed themselves pushing over the ‘goblin’-shaped sandstone pillar and posted the video to YouTube – are accused of causing more than $1,500 but less than $5,000 in damages when they pushed over the ancient rock formation on Oct. 11. Taylor, who pushed over the rock, was charged in Castle Dale’s 7th District Court with third-degree felony criminal mischief, while Hall, who filmed the incident and could be heard on the video cheering, was charged with conspiracy criminal mischief, also a third-degree felony.

If convicted, both men could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

In a story that made national headlines, the two men were leading a pack of Boy Scouts through the state park last October when they came across a round-shaped rock, weighing thousands of pounds, balanced on a natural pedestal and decided to push it over. With Hall filming and singing “wiggle it, just a little bit,” Taylor pushed the stone over and then proceeded to celebrate his achievement with high fives. Taylor and Hall have maintained that they believed that the rock formation was a risk to hikers traversing a nearby trail.

Within days of Hall posting the video to YouTube, angry constituents began calling Rep. Dixon Pitcher, (R-Ogden) wanting to know why the men hadn’t been arrested and charged. Pitcher contacted park authorities and was surprised to discover there is no law specifically addressing the men’s actions.



Arthur Rankin Jr., Producer Of Christmas Classics (‘Rudolph,’ ‘Frosty’) Dies At 89

Arthur Rankin Jr., animator, director, and producer of perennial television holiday hits like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, has died at the age of 89, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Credited with involvement in over 1,000 television programs, Rankin and his partner Jules Bass (Bass is 78) were pioneers in the field of stop-motion animation at their production company Videocraft International (now called Rankin/Bass Productions). The painstaking process of shooting single cells of objects, which are moved incrementally to create the illusion of motion, allowed them to create classic animated features that also included The Little Drummer Boy (1968) and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970).

Rankin also produced the 1980′s animated series Thundercats, the Jackson 5ive animated series in 1971-72, as well as directing the animated version of The Hobbit (1977) which premiered on NBC.

However, audiences knew Rankin/Bass best for 1964′s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is the longest running Christmas special on television, and Frosty the Snowman, which premiered in 1969. Both shows were re-broadcast by CBS this past December and were the two highest-rated programs of the evening.

Mr. Rankin died Thursday at his home by Harrington Sound in Bermuda, and is survived by his wife Olga and sons Todd and Gardner.


US Warns Israel Over Apparent Distortion Of John Kerry Statements

Source: Guardian

The US hit back at Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday after the Israeli prime minister warned that calls for boycotts of Israel to pressure it over settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are "immoral and unjustified" and would not achieve their goal.

In a public spat that reflected tensions over slow-moving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the state department rebuked Netanyahu for apparently misrepresenting the words of the US secretary of state, John Kerry. Another senior rightwing minister accused Kerry of serving as a "mouthpiece" for antisemitic views.

Speaking on the record at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, the Israeli prime minister said that the growing international boycott movement would only "push peace further away" by encouraging Palestinian intransigence.

"No pressure will force me to give up the vital interests of the state of Israel, above all the security of the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu stated.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/02/us-rebukes-binyamin-netanyahu-misrepresentation-john-kerry-comments

US Auto Union Close To Big Win Thanks To Germany's VW

American labor leaders are closing in on a decades-long goal of organizing a factory run by a foreign automaker, thanks to a bridgehead opened up at Germany's Volkswagen.

While a vote has not yet been scheduled, the United Auto Workers says that a majority of the 1,700 workers at VW's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee have signed cards asking for union representation.

A win at VW would increase pressure on fellow German automakers BMW and Daimler AG to open the door to unionization efforts at their US facilities.

It could even boost the union's claims for recognition at factories run by Japan's Nissan, Honda and Toyota and South Korea's Kia and Hyundai.

Despite strong traditions of organized labor in their home countries, German, Japanese and South Korean automakers have strongly resisted unionization efforts in the United States.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/biz/business/us-auto-union-close-to-big-win-thanks-to-germany-s-vw/article/368527#ixzz2sCEB6ksb

Bobby Jindal: New Death Penalty Drug That Takes 26 Minutes To Kill Is ‘Fair’

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Sunday said that using a new lethal drug that took as long as 26 minutes to kill an inmate is a “fair way” to conduct an execution.

Earlier this month, Ohio elected to use two drugs never combined before to execute Dennis McGuire after manufacturers began refusing to sell traditional execution drugs to U.S. states. According to reports, “McGuire gasped for air and took almost 26 minutes to die.”

Louisiana announced last week that it would also use the drug cocktail to convicted killer Christopher Sepulvado.

“Are you comfortable with this execution going forward with this method of killing him?” CNN host Candy Crowley asked Jindal on Sunday.

Jindal pointed out that the Louisiana legislature was considering new laws to give the Department of Corrections more options for conducting executions, but this week’s execution would go forward as scheduled.



Bill Kristol Says GOP Has Solved Christie’s Scandal With Two Words: ‘Jeb Bush’

Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol said on Sunday that the Republican Party had already found a two-word solution New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s problems: Jeb Bush.

During a panel discussion on ABC’s This Week, Kristol, who was recently hired as a contributor to the network, shrugged off new evidence that Christie may have not told the truth about knowing the George Washington Bridge had been closed.

“Having talked to various Republican establishment types — I’m pro-Tea Party — but anyway, the establishment types over the last 24 hours when you ask them about the Christie situation, there’s a two-word answer: Jeb Bush,” the neoconservative pundit opined. “And I’m really struck by how much Christie was kind of the establishment donor-class favorite, I think, for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. They are beginning to, maybe foolishly, they are beginning to write them off.”

“We will see a big drumbeat of Jeb should get into the race,” he predicted.

Republican strategist, Ana Navarro, who is a close friend of the former Florida governor, said that she hoped he would run.

“He would bring so much to the debate,” she insisted. “He would be a game changer when it comes to Hispanic votes.


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