National briefs: Vote on Hagel likely, foes say

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Republican opponents of former Sen. Chuck Hagel's stalled bid to become defense secretary said Sunday that they'll probably allow his Senate confirmation vote to proceed unless material more damaging to the nominee -- and, by extension, the Obama administration -- surfaces in the coming week.

Critics said the decorated Vietnam combat veteran is a "radical" unqualified to lead the U.S. military. A top White House official expressed "grave concern" over the delayed confirmation vote, adding that there was nothing to worry about in any disclosures that may yet come.

"No, I don't believe he's qualified," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on NBC's "Meet the Press," speaking about his fellow Republican and former Senate colleague. "But I don't believe that we should hold up his nomination any further, because I think it's [been] a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered."

Critics contend that Mr. Hagel, who snubbed Mr. McCain by staying neutral in the 2008 presidential race between Mr. McCain and Barack Obama, isn't supportive enough of U.S. ally Israel and is unreasonably sympathetic to Iran, which has defied international pressure to halt its pursuit of material that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Pipeline protested

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of protesters marched around the White House on Sunday in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which environmental groups say would worsen the risks of climate change by encouraging development of Alberta's oil sands.

Organizers said 35,000 people from across the country attended the rally. That would make it the largest climate-change protest in U.S. history, according to sponsors, who said it signals the rise of a national movement demanding action on global warming as President Barack Obama weighs whether to approve the $5.3 billion pipeline.

The rally should show Obama that he has to "the support he needs to block this pipeline," said Bill McKibben, founder of, an environmental group. The project would cross six states and link Alberta's oil sands to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Obama, Woods hit links

PALM CITY, Fla. -- President Barack Obama played golf Sunday with Tiger Woods, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Mr. Obama is spending the Presidents Day weekend at the Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, playing golf with friends and donors.

Mr. Woods, who is working to rebuild his legacy after a 2009 scandal over extramarital affairs derailed his career, joined the president, U.S. Trade representative Ron Kirk and Jim Crane, who supports the president and owns the exclusive Florida golf course, Mr. Earnest said.

Maker's Mark back to 90

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- After backlash from customers, the producer of Maker's Mark bourbon is reversing a decision to cut the amount of alcohol in bottles of its famous whiskey.

Rob Samuels, Maker's Mark's chief operating officer, said Sunday that it is restoring the alcohol volume of its product to its historic level of 45 percent, or 90 proof. Last week, it said it was lowering the amount to 42 percent, or 84 proof, because of a supply shortage.

The brand, which is made near Louisville, is known for its square bottles sealed in red wax.

-- Compiled from news services



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