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Dec. 10, 2012 at 10:00 PM
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Colbert leads list to replace DeMint

RALEIGH, N.C., Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Satirist Stephen Colbert tops the wish list of South Carolina voters to fill the seat of outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint, a poll released Monday indicates.

DeMint, who has been strongly identified with the Tea Party, is stepping down to head the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.

The Public Policy Polling survey said 20 percent of those surveyed wanted the Comedy Central star to fill the outgoing Republican's shoes, with his closet rival, U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, D-S.C., at 15 percent.

The poll said Republican Nikki Haley is one of the most unpopular governors in the nation, with only 42 percent approving of her job performance compared with 49 percent who disapprove. That makes her 35th in popularity of the 43 sitting governors PPP has asked about in polls.

She had trouble with Democrats and independents. Among Republicans, 70 percent approved of her and 22 percent disapproved.

Among Democrats, 32 percent say they'd like Colbert to be picked to fill DeMint's seat, 19 percent picked Republican former state first lady Jenny Sanford, and no one else was in double digits.

Among state independents, Colbert has a 15 point lead for the appointment, getting 28 percent to 13 percent for Scott, and 12 percent for Sanford. A PPP release on the poll did not give GOP preferences.

PPP surveyed 520 South Carolina voters Dec. 7-9. The margin of error is 4.3 percentage points. PPP said the poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

More soldiers cut for being overweight

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- About 16 times more U.S. troops were drummed out of the Army this year for being overweight than were five years ago, military officials say.

The Washington Post reported Monday during the first 10 months of this year, the Army discharged 1,625 soldiers for being out of shape.

The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center says between 1998 and 2010, the number of active-duty military personnel categorized as overweight or obese more than tripled, with 86,186 troops diagnosed as overweight or obese in 2010.

The effort to weed out the overweight comes as the military moves to reduce its forces by tens of thousands of troops in the coming years to save money, the Post notes.

"A healthy and fit force is essential to national security," said Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The weight problem in the military is a reflection of the U.S. population in general.

Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said that in 2009 he found 75 percent of civilians who wanted to join up were ineligible and obesity was the leading cause. And of the 25 percent who could join, 65 percent could not pass the physical training test on the first day.

But with two wars to fight, the Army granted waivers and overweight recruits made it in. Now with the wars winding down, the Army is able to tell soldiers to get fit or get out.

"We will use the drawdown as an opportunity to shape our Army by ensuring that we retain only the very best soldiers," the Post said Army Secretary John M. McHugh wrote in a Feb. 2 memo.

Senate balks at more Pentagon spies

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate has blocked a Pentagon plan to beef up its legion of overseas spies, questioning the cost and efficacy of current covert operations.

The Senate passed a military spending measure last week that requires the Pentagon to provide details about where the money will go, exactly, and just what all those spies would be doing, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The Defense Department "needs to demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion," the bill states.

The measure expresses concerns about existing Pentagon intelligence efforts, including "poor or non-existent career management" for operatives who were trained but wound up on "unproductive" assignments or returned to regular military units.

The Post said the lawmakers' reticence to dole out more money is a setback for the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is working on a five-year plan to develop its espionage network along the lines of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The DIA wants to boost its force of about 500 overseas undercover operatives to between 800 and 1,000 by 2018, officials have said.

U.N., U.S. leaders mark Human Rights Day

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- All people have the right to be heard and shape decisions affecting their lives, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in observing Human Rights Day Monday.

"International law is clear: No matter who you are or where you live, your voice counts," Ban said in his message for the day. "On this day, let us unite to defend your right to make it heard."

In his message, Ban said there has been "undeniable" progress during the past century, but too many groups and individuals still face obstacles.

U.S. President Obama, in a proclamation recognizing Dec. 10 as Human Rights Day and this week as Human Rights Week, said, "Men and women everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny, the dignity that comes with work, the comfort that comes with faith, and the justice that exists when governments serve their people."

"These dreams are common to people all around the world, and the values they represent are universal," Obama said in the proclamation.

In Geneva, Switzerland, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, "Millions of people have gone on to the streets over the past few years, some demanding civil and political rights, others demanding economic, social and cultural rights. This groundswell is not simply a question of people demanding freedom to say what they think. ... They have been asking for their right to participate fully in the important decisions and policies affecting their daily lives."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights "not just a catalog of rights and government obligations [but] a time-tested blueprint for successful societies."

"Those of us lucky enough to live in countries like the United States have an extra responsibility, first, to remain vigilant in ensuring that we honor and implement our own commitment to human rights at home, and second, to help others gain what we have, the chance to live in dignity," Clinton said in a statement.

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