04 21 2015
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  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A decision by Ohio officials to remove all pork products from prison menus in response to a lawsuit by Muslim inmates is not sitting well with the state's pork producers and processors.

Both promise action of their own, including a possible counter lawsuit, to address what they consider an unfair and illogical decision.

"We really think it's not in the best interest, frankly, of the whole prison system," said Dick Isler, executive director of the Ohio Pork Producers Council. "It seems like we're letting a small group make the rules when it really isn't in the best interest of the rest of prisoners."

Pork is inexpensive and nutritious and compares well with other lean meats, he said.

Ironically, the inmates' lawsuit doesn't involve pork at all; it demands that non-pork meats like beef come from animals slaughtered according to Islamic law. But the prisons system responded by simply removing pork as an option altogether.

Assistant prisons director Steven Huffman has spoken with Isler, but the system isn't changing its mind, spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Wednesday.

She said she couldn't comment on the lawsuit specifically, but said removing pork assures that inmates' religious practices aren't jeopardized by pork coming into contact with other food during preparation.

The prison system first took pork off the menu in 2009 after, in a money-saving attempt, it closed the pig farm and processing facility it operated to provide meat for inmates.

Last year, after lobbying by pork producers, the system added pork rib patties back to the menu twice a month.

The prison system couldn't immediately say Wednesday how much it spent on pork. But Kristin Mullins, who lobbies for Ohio pork processors, said the move last year actually saved Ohio money because pork was less expensive at the time than other meats.

"Let's service the entire prison population and not let one portion dictate what's being served," said Mullins, who also represents processors in Kentucky and Tennessee.

In a federal lawsuit, death row inmate Abdul Awkal complains that the state is restraining his religious freedoms by not providing meals prepared according to Islamic law, known as halal, while at the same time supplying Jewish prisoners with kosher meals.

Awkal, joined by a second inmate not on death row, says the vegetarian and non-pork options aren't good enough. The inmates say food must be prepared in specific fashion, such as ensuring that an animal is butchered by slitting its throat and draining its blood, to conform to Islamic beliefs.

Prison guidelines for Muslim inmates already provided that meals will be "free of all pork and products containing or derived from pork."

As a result, the decision to remove pork from menus won't affect the lawsuit, which will continue, said David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, which is suing on behalf of the two inmates.

A judge has given lawyers and inmates for the state until next month to finish filing documents bolstering their arguments, ahead of an expected January trial.

Ohio says requiring halal meals could mean new dietary plans for as many as 2,000 inmates, while Awkal's lawyers believe the figure is lower because not all Muslims eat halal meals.

Awkal, 52, is scheduled to die in June for killing his estranged wife, Latife Awkal, and brother-in-law Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz in 1992, in a room in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court. Joining Awkal in the lawsuit is Cornelius Causey, 35, serving 15 years to life for murder and aggravated robbery convictions out of Hamilton County.

In court documents, Ohio has argued that it provides both non-pork and vegetarian meals to Muslims and says the courts have sided with this practice. The state also says that providing halal meals could hurt Ohio financially, given the current budget situation.

It's unclear if any other state prison system has made a similar move. California provides packaged kosher meals to Jewish inmates and halal meals prepared at prisons for Muslim prisoners, as well as including pork on the regular menu.

Muslim inmates in Texas can select regular, meat-free or pork-free meals but are not served halal meals.

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