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Ondrej Palat is the NHL's rookie of the month for March

Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for March. Palat had five goals, 16 points in 16 games.

Palat, 23, is having a terrific season worthy of rookie of the year consideration. His 51 points on 19 goals, 32 assists is second in the league among rookies. His 32 assists also are second, and he is tied for the lead at plus-27.

He also was rookie of the month for January.

Here is the announcement from the league:

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat, who led all rookies with 16 points (5-1116) in 16 games, has been named the NHLs Rookie of the Month for March.

Palat edged Calgary Flames center Joe Colborne (6-511 in 16 games), Anaheim Ducks left wing Patrick Maroon (3-811 in 14 games), Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad (1-1011 in 17 games) and Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Tyler Johnson (5-510 in 16 games) for the award.

Palat, 23, recorded at least one point in nine of 16 games, including a five-game assist/point streak March 8-17 (4-59), his third point streak of five or more games this season. He also posted six multi-point performances, including his second career multi-goal and three-point game March 10 vs. PHX (2-13).

Palat, a native of Frydek-Mistek, Czech Republic, was selected by the Lightning in the seventh round (208th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft. He has played in 75 games this season, ranking second among rookies in assists (32) and points (51) while placing fourth in goals (19). He also is tied for the lead among first-year players with 36 points (13-2336) in 36 games since Jan. 1.

Palat, who also earned Rookie of the Month honors in January, joins San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl (October), Nashville Predators goaltender Marek Mazanec (November), and Los Angeles Kings goaltender Martin Jones and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta (December co-winners) as recipients of the award this season.

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Ondrej Palat is the NHL's rookie of the month for March

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NATO, the multiple-choice alliance

As NATO militaries hand over their responsibilities to Afghanistans fledgling security forces and head for home, let the evaluation of the alliances performance begin no matter how disappointing the conclusions might be.

Immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations charter, which obliges member countries to come to the aid of those under attack. This was the first time in NATO history that Article 5 was in the spotlight, and, unfortunately, the holes in its interpretation were large enough to drive a truck through. None of the framers of Article 5 indicated how much military assistance each member country was expected to contribute. In other words, NATO was really a closet multiple-choice alliance where each member country could pick and choose not only how much it would contribute, but how much it would actually do after arriving in theatre.

As it approached the 50th anniversary of its 1949 creation, NATO found itself with no obvious military role. The collapse of the Soviet Union had eliminated its sole enemy and primary reason for existence. The hype and outright propaganda surrounding the deteriorating situation in Kosovo in early 1999 provided the alliance with a questionable mission, at best. Serbia had been heavy-handed with Kosovos Albanian majority for years, but deadly force was not employed. Then, the Kosovo Liberation Army began ambushing and killing Serbian security forces throughout Kosovo. The Serbs reacted and the fighting intensified.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevics reputation in most NATO countries was already at rock-bottom after the war in Bosnia, and the alliance had now found a role. Absent a United Nations resolution, it bombed a sovereign country not just Serbian military targets, but civilian infrastructure.

Most alliance member countries participated in the bombing campaign, even if some disagreed with the mission. What was not realized at the time was how the degree of risk, despite being virtually non-existent to alliance forces in an air campaign, would play a role in determining which countries would participate and what they would be prepared to undertake in Kosovo, and then in future NATO missions.

The aversion to risk raised its head again as the Afghan mission unfolded. The U.S. mission, Operation Enduring Freedom, laid the ground for the subsequent NATO mission. In late 2005, when Kandahar looked like it would fall to the Taliban, NATO decided that Dutch, British and Canadian combat units would move south to Kandahar under the alliances command. The Canadians moved south on schedule and defeated formed Taliban units. The others were delayed for months as their governments debated. NATOs command of the operation was also postponed and the Canadians operated under U.S. operational control as part of Enduring Freedom.

It had become obvious that while safe air campaigns were one thing, many countries were not prepared to contribute forces for high-risk ground combat. Meanwhile, a number of countries who sent troops to the Afghan theatre insisted on caveats that might have been humorous if the consequences hadnt been so serious: We wont patrol at night and We will only shoot if shot at first and We wont go outside the wire, for example.

The 2011 air campaign in Libya reinforced the theory that risk is the key deciding factor in which countries will show up when NATO calls. Bombing Moammar Gadhafis forces was extremely low risk, and there was no shortage of alliance volunteers.

Despite the steady erosion of NATO combat capabilities since the end of the Cold War, the alliance continued to grow by moving east and welcoming former Soviet satellite countries, such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. Pushing right up to the Russian border and bestowing membership on the likes of Estonia and Latvia was extremely unwise, because the alliance no longer has the capability to rush to the rescue with military force in the event a member is threatened. All the Wests rhetoric about Ukraine is meaningless, because Russia knows NATO is incapable of taking on any high-risk intervention anywhere.

In the aftermath of NATOs failures in Afghanistan, there is the possibility of a three-tier alliance emerging once the post-mission evaluation is completed:

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NATO, the multiple-choice alliance

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Czech press survey – March 13

Prague – The developments in Ukraine is changing some Czech priorities and even though the Russian army will not occupy the Czech Republic, energy security gains new importance, Zbynek Petracek writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) today. Last year, the Social Democrats (CSSD) and Public Affairs (VV) worked out a bill on the ban on analysing of Czech shale gas supplies, Petracek points out. He says shale gas is unpopular among the population also because of the hydraulic fracturing process as the hydraulic technology was used in the country for uranium mining under the communist regime.

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Czech press survey – March 13

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Conference kicks off Kerry's plan to boost Palestinian economy

RAMALLAH, West Bank — U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s plan to jump-start the Palestinian economy to boost his political efforts kicked off this weekend in the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague.

A conference in Prague brought together some 100 international businesspeople, investors, financiers, Palestinian Authority officials and key figures in the Palestinian private sector.

When Kerry launched his Palestinian-Israeli peace program at the end of July, he pledged to muster $4 billion to help boost the Palestinian economy, saying that a strong economy would be good for peace.

The two-day conference organized by Tony Blair, the international quartet’s representative to the Middle East peace process, came as Kerry’s peace program approaches its April 29 deadline without any apparent progress after eight months of negotiations.

Blair emphasized that the economic plan is a complementary process to the political negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and is not a substitute, a news release by the quartet’s Jerusalem office said Sunday.

The conference discussed “an economic initiative designed to bring about transformative change and substantial growth in the Palestinian economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” the release also said.

The economic effort is Blair’s Initiative for the Palestinian Economy, or IPE, described as “an ambitious, multiyear plan drafted by a team of policy advisors, external economic analysts and international domain experts.”

Speaking at the opening event Saturday, Blair said the initiative goes into granular detail that sets out what we need from the private sector, the international financial institutions and the governments of Israel and the Palestinians.

He added that measures are now needed that improve not just the economy in the most basic sense, but also the economy in the sense that people feel that Palestinian statehood can become a reality because they see around them the developments within the Palestinian territories that are consistent with statehood.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chairwoman of the Albright Stonebridge Group, told the conference that her Partners for a New Beginning approached Kerry to see what “we could do to support investment in the Palestinian private sector, given its priority.”

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Conference kicks off Kerry's plan to boost Palestinian economy

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Ukraine crisis brings Europe security back to the fore

STUTTGART, Germany While there is no sign that NATO is girding for a military confrontation, Russias intervention in Ukraine could pull Europe off Americas strategic back burner as Western leaders confront what some are calling Europes biggest crisis in a generation.

Europe is without a doubt in the sharpest crisis since the (Berlin) Wall came down, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters on Monday ahead of meetings in Brussels. Twenty-five years after the end of the confrontation, the danger of a new division of Europe is real. Daily, the situation in Ukraine intensifies further.

Indeed, Russias deployment of troops in Ukraine could prompt the very thing Russian President Vladimir Putin has long wanted to avoid: renewed U.S. focus on the security challenges in Europe.

For two decades the Pentagon has steadily been drawing down its forces on the Continent, arguing that such a strong presence was no longer needed after the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliance.

In eastern Europe, former Warsaw Pact members that now belong to NATO are watching the events in Ukraine unfold with alarm as old Cold War anxieties intensify. Long leery of the Obama administrations reset with Russia, Polish parliamentarian Witold Waszczykowski said on Monday he would like to see NATO deploy military assets to Poland which shares a border with Ukraine in a show of support. Just as NATO now has troops in Turkey to protect its ally from possible missile incursions from Syria, the alliance should bolster support for Poland, Waszczykowski said.

We hope for this kind of support right now, Waszczykowski said by phone. Not because we have an immediate threat, but we are frightened. We at least need some kind of reconnaissance support to monitor what is going on beyond our border.

The Obama administration and its European allies are now facing a host of challenges as they attempt to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to reverse course while also reassuring eastern European allies. Putin has ignored calls from the West to pull out of Ukraine even as he faces potential economic sanctions and other measures aimed at isolating Russia.

But beyond diplomatic and economic penalties, the West sees few options.

Some U.S. lawmakers say the Obama administration should restore a scrapped missile defense plan for Europe that called for long-range interceptors in Poland. In 2013, Obama scaled back U.S. missile defense plans on the continent in a move that critics decried as a capitulation to Russian concerns.

Russia backed Obama down. If I were President Obama, I would re-engage Poland and the Czech Republic regarding missile defense, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Sunday said on CNN.

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Ukraine crisis brings Europe security back to the fore

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Ukraine crisis brings Europe security back to the fore for US

STUTTGART, Germany While there is no sign that NATO is girding for a military confrontation, Russias intervention in Ukraine could pull Europe off Americas strategic back burner as Western leaders confront what some are calling Europes biggest crisis in a generation.

Europe is without a doubt in the sharpest crisis since the (Berlin) Wall came down, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters on Monday ahead of meetings in Brussels. Twenty-five years after the end of the confrontation, the danger of a new division of Europe is real. Daily, the situation in Ukraine intensifies further.

Indeed, Russias deployment of troops in Ukraine could prompt the very thing Russian President Vladimir Putin has long wanted to avoid: renewed U.S. focus on the security challenges in Europe.

For two decades the Pentagon has steadily been drawing down its forces on the Continent, arguing that such a strong presence was no longer needed after the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliance.

In eastern Europe, former Warsaw Pact members that now belong to NATO are watching the events in Ukraine unfold with alarm as old Cold War anxieties intensify. Long leery of the Obama administrations reset with Russia, Polish parliamentarian Witold Waszczykowski said on Monday he would like to see NATO deploy military assets to Poland which shares a border with Ukraine in a show of support. Just as NATO now has troops in Turkey to protect its ally from possible missile incursions from Syria, the alliance should bolster support for Poland, Waszczykowski said.

We hope for this kind of support right now, Waszczykowski said by phone. Not because we have an immediate threat, but we are frightened. We at least need some kind of reconnaissance support to monitor what is going on beyond our border.

The Obama administration and its European allies are now facing a host of challenges as they attempt to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to reverse course while also reassuring eastern European allies. Putin has ignored calls from the West to pull out of Ukraine even as he faces potential economic sanctions and other measures aimed at isolating Russia.

But beyond diplomatic and economic penalties, the West sees few options.

Some U.S. lawmakers say the Obama administration should restore a scrapped missile defense plan for Europe that called for long-range interceptors in Poland. In 2013, Obama scaled back U.S. missile defense plans on the continent in a move that critics decried as a capitulation to Russian concerns.

Russia backed Obama down. If I were President Obama, I would re-engage Poland and the Czech Republic regarding missile defense, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Sunday said on CNN.

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Ukraine crisis brings Europe security back to the fore for US

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In Solidarity with Roma People from OO Dec 2012 – Video


In Solidarity with Roma People from OO Dec 2012 Solidarity statements from members of Occupy Oakland for Roma people resisting forced evictions in at Prednadrazi in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and allied acti… By: Roma – Indian tenth army

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In Solidarity with Roma People from OO Dec 2012 – Video

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Heatley, Kuemper lead Wild past Predators, 4-0

Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker (16) watches as his shot gets past Nashville Predators goalie Marek Mazanec (39), of the Czech Republic, for a goal in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Wild right wing Dany Heatley (15) looks on.

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Heatley, Kuemper lead Wild past Predators, 4-0

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No to NATO – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was founded in 1949, in the early years of the Cold War. Initially conceived as a defensive organisation, the founding members were Belgium, Canada,Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK and the USA. The Warsaw Pact was established in response in 1955, by the then Soviet Union and its allies. In the 1950s, Greece, Turkey and West Germany also joined NATO, followed by Spain in 1982.

At the end of the Cold War,the Warsaw Pact was dissolved,but NATO was not. Hopes of a peaceful new world order werenot realised. Rather than scaling back its global military presence,the US moved to fill the positions vacated by its previous rival. As the countries of eastern Europe embraced free market economics and multiparty democracy, the US movedrapidly to integrate them into its sphere of influence via NATO.This would prove to be an effective strategy, as witnessed by the support of those countries for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The 1990s saw NATO developing its regional cooperation forums and inviting new members to join the alliance. In March 1999, Hungary,Poland and the Czech Republic were all admitted as full members. Ten days later they found themselves at war with their neighbour Yugoslavia, as part of NATO’s illegal bombing campaign. But developments at that time were not limited to NATO expansion. At NATO’s fiftieth anniversary conference in Washington in April 1999, a new ‘Strategic Concept’, was adopted. This moved beyond NATO’s previous defensive role to include ‘out of area’ in other words offensive operations,anywhere on the Eurasian landmass.

In March 2004, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania were admitted to NATO not only former Warsaw Pact members, but also former Soviet republics in the case of the Baltic states. In 2009, Albania and Croatia also became members. This scale of expansion has contributed to international tension as Russia sees itselfincreasingly surrounded by US and NATO bases, including in the Balkans, the Middle East and central Asia. Georgia, Macedonia,Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina arealso in various stages towards becoming members.

Out of area activity

Over the past decade, the US drive for global domination through military influence has become increasingly active, most notably in Afghanistan. NATO assumed control of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2003, marking NATO’s first deployment outside Europe or North America. ISAF will transfer responsibility for the security of the country to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by the end of 2014, which should signal the end of the NATO-led combat mission. However, NATO stated ina declaration following a summit in Chicago in May 2012 that it will establish a ‘new post-2014 mission of a different nature in Afghanistan’, thereby maintaining its influence in the region. Recently, NATO has also undertaken operations inLibya and the Horn of Africa.

Global reach?

NATO adopted a new Strategic Concept at its summit inPortugal in November 2010, entitled Active Engagement,Modern Defence. It recommitted to an interventionistmilitary agenda that set back the cause of peace and nuclear disarmament. This included an expansion of its area of work to counterterrorism, cyber-security, and theproliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons’.The summit also agreed to integrate the US missile defencesystem with a European theatre missile defence programmeunder the auspices of NATO. But concerns remain thatmissile defence will enable the US to attack another country without fear of retaliation. Following its summit in May 2012 in Chicago, NATO reaffirmed its determination to retain and develop the capabilities necessary to promoting security in the world. At this summit, NATO declared that it had taken successful steps towards establishing a missile defence system. It also announced developments in its air command and control system, as well as plans for improved and more integrated armed forces. There seems no doubt that there is a long term plan formaintaining and extending its global influence.

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No to NATO – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

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Oh, little town of Bethlehem – for real

BETHLEHEM, West Bank – If there is a heart of the Christmas celebration, it’s here.

Thousands have gathered in the cradle of Christianity on the site where Jesus is believed to have been born – the West Bank city of Bethlehem. They’re here to kick off Christmas celebrations.

“I’m not Christian; I am not a religious person, but I came today to experience Christmas in Bethlehem,” said Vaclav Dostal of the Czech Republic. “It’s good to see the coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Bethlehem.”

Tourists, Christian pilgrims and residents packed Manger Square to watch choral groups, performers, clowns, giant Santas and marching bands from across the West Bank. Children wearing Santa outfits and Christmas-themed costumes held balloons as they crowded outside the Church of Nativity to see the arrival of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal.

Palestinian police snipers flanked the rooftops, and police heavily guarded the crowd as Twal arrived.

The erection of Israel’s separation barrier with the West Bank, a high concrete wall around the town, did not stop the procession today, which began in south Jerusalem at Mar Elias Monastery.

Three gates in the concrete wall were opened for Christmas to allow the procession from Jerusalem to enter Bethlehem. Twal was welcomed by Mayor of Bethlehem Vera Baboun.

Twal gave a message spreading peace and love to all the nations of the world. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh arrived later on Christmas Eve to participate in the celebrations and attend the annual midnight mass.

Among the spectators was Angela Freeland from Seattle, who said that as a Christian, visiting Bethlehem has long been a priority for her.

Elisabeth von Trapp performed on stage at Manger Square. The Sound of Music film was based on her father and grandfather.

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Oh, little town of Bethlehem – for real

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