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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Split Over Tactics As Jonathan Pollard Drive Heats Up

Link convicted spy to peace talks? Leaders divided on way forward after clemency fails.

12/31/13 Stewart Ain

After President Barack Obama again refused to include imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard on his Christmas clemency list, supporters of Pollard’s release are conflicted on how best to proceed.

There are some who believe Pollard, who has already served 28 years of a life sentence, should be freed in light of recent revelations that the U.S. spied on the e-mails of senior Israeli leaders, including the prime minister and defense minister.

“Is this how friends treat each other?” asked Israeli Transportation and Road Safety Minister Israel Katz. “Pollard was arrested for much less.”

Others believe Israel should demand Pollard’s release in return for making concessions in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“I do think that in the context of negotiations with the Palestinians something could be done that would provide the basis for his release,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “I have always said and I do believe that this is the option that would make a difference. …”



Putin Triumphs In 2013 Yet Tough Challenges Loom

Displaying the killer instincts of a chess grandmaster, Vladimir Putin rang out 2013 with an exceptional list of accomplishments.

The Russian president humiliated the United States by sheltering NSA leaker Edward Snowden, brokered a Syrian chemical weapons deal that averted a seemingly inevitable U.S. military strike and outmaneuvered the 28-nation European Union in the wrestling match for influence over Ukraine.

Putin also surprised both his own people and the world by pardoning his old foe, former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and allowing an amnesty that got two Pussy Riot punk band members and over two dozen Greenpeace anti-oil drilling activists out of prison.

"It's Putin's moment. He should feel quite happy," said Gleb Pavlovsky, a political strategist and onetime adviser to the Kremlin.

But as the 61-year-old leader prepares for his pet project _ the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi _ to begin in February, dark clouds are hovering. Two terrorist attacks in the southern city of Volgograd this week raised the specter of continuing violence in the run-up to the games. In addition, the Sochi Olympics are still dogged by fierce criticism over the Russian law signed by Putin that bans so-called "gay propaganda" for minors.



Poll: United States Seen As Greatest Threat To World Peace In 2013

Once again the United States has topped the list in a world opinion poll as the biggest threat to world peace. Apparently the War On Terror has succeeded in making people terrified of us. The disclosures of NSA’s plan for global information awareness by whistleblower Edward Snowden probably did not help things much either.
The poll was conducted by Win/Gallup International which started the global survey in 1977, this year national probability samples of around 1,000 people were surveyed in each of the 65 countries polled, a total of 66,806 respondents.

The survey of opinions across 65 countries by pollster Win/Gallup International recorded some of the strongest anti-American sentiment, predictably, in countries widely regarded as rivals, led by Russia (where 54 percent of respondents said the U.S. was the greatest threat to peace) and China (49 percent).

But the view that the U.S. poses the greatest threat to peace was also strongly held in some purported U.S. allies – such as NATO partners Greece and Turkey (45 percent each), and Pakistan (44 percent), which is also a top recipient of U.S. aid.

Pakistan was listed as a distant second among country’s posing the greatest threat to peace overall though it did win top spot among those surveyed in India.

The US also doesn’t have many fans in Latin America and a very mixed impression in the European Union.



Russian President Vladimir Putin Vows To Destroy Terrorists After Volgograd Suicide Bombings

By: Reuters Published on Tue Dec 31 2013

VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA—Eerily empty buses lumbered through the streets, police weighed down with body armour warily watched pedestrians near a fast-food restaurant, and members of Cossack units stood guard at bus stops. Volgograd was an ominous and jittery city on Tuesday, after two suicide bombings in two days that killed 34 people.

Police reinforcements and Interior Ministry troops have been sent into Volgograd, regional police official Andrei Pilipchuk was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency. He said more than 5,200 security forces are deployed in the city of 1 million, but did not say how much of an increase that was from normal levels.

Officers and security guards carefully searched the purses of young women entering a shopping centre and waved metal detectors over both males and females.

The Cossacks guarding some bus stops added an unsettling note. Although these units are officially authorized volunteer patrols, they are descendants of the fierce horsemen who protected the czars and launched raids on Muslims in the Russian Caucasus, where the Islamist insurgency is now centred.

Volgograd authorities have cancelled mass events for New Year’s Eve, one of Russia’s most popular holidays, and asked residents not to set off fireworks. In addition, all movie theatres have been closed until Thursday. In Moscow, festivities were to go ahead, but authorities said security would be increased.

President Vladimir Putin, in his New Year’s Eve address to the nation, vowed that the fight against terrorists will continue “until their destruction is complete,” Russian news agencies reported.



Return Of Popular Downton Abbey PBS Series Is Reason For A Fancy Tea Party

Are you counting down the days until "Downton Abbey" is back on the air? Been watching reruns so often you've practically memorized the dialogue? Well, Season 4 premieres Sunday, and what better way to celebrate the return of the Crawleys than to throw a tea party?

"We are huge fans of the show," said Diane Wisdom, who owns Wisdom Tea House in Monument with her husband, Tom. "Last year, with the start of Season 3, we had customers order cream scones, house cream and lemon curd from us because they had been watching the series and duplicating tea at home."

Wisdom has plenty of fun ideas to share as Season 4 kicks off.

"I want to offer customers a package of some kind along the lines of afternoon tea with a 'Downton Abbey' flair," Wisdom said.

She gets inspiration for her teatime menus from several sources, including Tea Time magazine. And, fittingly, the January issue's feature story is "A Downton Abbey Tea." The magazine menu hones in on the classic British tea favorites: cucumber tea sandwiches and Victoria Sponge Cake. But then it tosses in a show-stopper: Chocolate Biscuit Cake.

Read more at http://gazette.com/return-of-popular-downton-abbey-pbs-series-is-reason-for-a-fancy-tea-party/article/1511831#hMShMYgj1vvoRfJK.99

40,000 New Laws Take Effect In 2014

(CNN) - It may have been the least productive year for Congress in history, at least in terms of passing laws – fewer than 60 of which made it through the House and Senate and were signed by President Barack Obama.

Across the country, however, state lawmakers were busy getting more than 40,000 bills passed, ones that tackle everything from drones to food stamp benefits.

In Illinois for example, teenagers will no longer get to use tanning beds without a doctor's note. If you live in Delaware, visit the shark fin buffet while you can, a new law will make it illegal to own, sale, or distribute the controversial delicacy. And in California, new laws take effect that will let students take part in school sports, or use bathrooms based on their gender identity, regardless of the gender noted in their birth certificates.

MORE with vid...


Chelyabinsk Meteorite Hit The Earth Like A Warning Shot Fired From Space

Just after sunrise on 15 February 2013, as commuters made their way along snow-covered roads to Chelyabinsk in south-west Russia, the clear blue sky was torn by a hurtling lump of space rock.

The meteorite appeared without warning, out of the sun, on a shallow trajectory. It thumped into the atmosphere at 12 miles per second and became a fireball. For a moment, the rock burned 30 times brighter than the sun.

Viktor Grokhovsky, a researcher at Ural Federal University, 200km to the north of Chelyabinsk, missed the beautiful, terrifying spectacle that morning, but within minutes was watching video of the event. He spent the rest of the day assembling a search party. The first of several set out at first light the next morning to interview eyewitnesses and recover pieces of the fallen rock.

“It was rather easy to find fragments in the first days after the meteorite fell, because the chunks left holes in the snow,” Grokhovsky told the Guardian. But as more snow fell over the next two weeks, the holes became covered over. The search was called off until the snow began to melt in the spring.

Nothing the size of the Chelyabinsk meteorite had fallen to Earth in 100 years, and never over an urban centre where its dramatic arrival would be captured by CCTV and dashboard video cameras installed by Russians wary of insurance scams and crooked police.

“This was the first time in modern, medieval or ancient history when a meteorite fell in an area with a high density population. This type of meteorite is rare and a lot of material fell. All these factors give excellent opportunities for extraterrestrial substance research. The hazard from asteroids and comets, people’s behaviour in emergencies, and the shortage of astronomical education are all on the agenda,” said Grokhovsky.



Franklin Graham Chides Christians For Not Fighting Beside Phil Robertson In ‘Religious War’

In a statement issued on Monday, Franklin Graham — son of legendary televangelist Billy Graham and CEO of his Evangelical Association — complained about Christians who were unwilling to fight beside Phil Robertson in the “religious war against Christians and the biblical truths stand for.”

“I appreciate the Robertson family’s strong commitment to biblical principles and their refusal to back down under intense media pressure over Phil Robertson’s comments in a recent interview,” Graham wrote. “As the Robertson controversy winds down—at least for now—I have been amazed at how many churches have apparently ‘ducked’ out on the issue (sin).”

He chastised those churches that “have fallen into the trap of being politically correct, under the disguise of tolerance.”

“God is not ‘politically correct,’” he wrote, “and He is certainly not tolerant of sin.”

He continued by noting that “he Bible tells us that He is going to judge all sin one day; and anyone who is not found under the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, will face an eternity in hell separated from God.”



Knoxville Drivers Greeted By Banners Warning That Diversity Is Anti-White Genocide

Police in Knoxville have removed two vinyl banners bearing a white supremacist message from an Interstate 640 overpass.

Banners bearing the message “’diversity’ is a code word for white genocide” in red ink were reported Monday morning by a 911 caller.

Officers took down the banners, which were about 30 inches tall and 123 feet long, from a Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge that spans the interstate.

Police aren’t sure who printed the banners or tied them to the overpass, but they’ve offered to return them if the owner calls to claim them.

Banners or signs carrying similar messages have been displayed in recent months in Arkansas and Oregon, and flyers with the slogan were passed out at Eastern Kentucky University.



Conservatives Urge Boycott Of Rose Parade Over Same-Sex Wedding Float

Anti-LGBT activists and other right-wing conservatives are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Rose Parade because of a parade float that will feature the wedding of a same-sex couple.

CBS Los Angeles reported on Monday that Aubrey Loots and Danny LeClair plan to formalize their partnership of 12 years atop a float sponsored by the AIDS Health Foundation in this year’s parade.

The two will be the first same-sex couple to get married in the parade. On its Facebook Page, the foundation announced that the two men will be married on top of a float made of thousands of flowers shaped into a white wedding cake. The float will be one of 45 featured in this year’s Rose Parade, a tradition that dates back 125 years.

The theme of the float will be “Dreams Come True,” which for LeClair and Loots, could not be more true.

“AIDS Healthcare Foundation is about love is the ultimate protection. We’ve taken it to love saves lives. This is about love, across the world, no boundaries. We’re celebrating love,” Loots said to CBS. “This is also an opportunity, for us, to give a voice to people who don’t have a platform like this to express their love, in this country and many other countries, too.”



Good! It will make for a much better parade without 'them'...
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