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Friday, December 10, 2010

Poll:DREAM Act;NATO,Taliban;Cyprus property?;War Crimes suspect;Kyoto;Haiti elections,protests;March for Life, Jan 24

Americans are more likely to say they would vote for than against a law that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children if they join the military or attend college. This is the major thrust of the DREAM Act legislation Congress is now considering to provide a path to citizenship for thousands of young adults living in the United States illegally. The DREAM Act, whose formal name is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, narrowly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday. The U.S. Senate delayed a scheduled vote Thursday on the bill because Senate leaders did not have the votes necessary to pass it. Its fate is now uncertain as the end of the lame-duck session nears. Congressional supporters, including most Democrats, see the bill as an opportunity for young adults who have proven to be productive members of society to gain legal status. Opponents, including most Republicans, are concerned that the legislation would grant amnesty to those here illegally and may encourage more illegal immigration in the future. It is not clear to what extent Americans are familiar with the particulars of the DREAM Act, because the legislation has not received as much attention as other issues Congress is dealing with, such as the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. But the poll indicates Americans' top-of-mind responses to a proposal similar to the DREAM Act are more positive than negative. Non-Hispanic whites are divided as to whether they would vote for legislation similar to the DREAM Act, while nonwhites favor it by a better-than 2-to-1 margin. The poll did not include a large enough sample of Hispanics to provide reliable estimates of that group's support, though the data suggest they largely favor it. Support varies by education and age, with younger and more educated Americans the most likely to say they would vote for such legislation, and older and less educated Americans least likely to do so. Support for a law similar to the DREAM Act is on the lower end of eight issues Gallup tested in its recent referendum question, and trails that for increasing government regulation of food safety, extending the 2001 and 2003 income tax cuts, extending unemployment benefits, and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Additionally, a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last month found Americans placing a lower priority on legislation to provide a path to citizenship for young adults here illegally, compared with other issues Congress was likely to take up in its lame-duck session.

NATO forces will fight through the bitter Afghan winter to step up the pressure on the Taliban, concentrating on their strongholds in the south and east, a spokesman for the alliance said on Monday. NATO-led forces are battling Taliban militants in their strongholds in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. The Afghan winter usually marks a pause or at least decrease in fighting due to the frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall but also because militant fighters head to more temperate climes, notably in neighbouring Pakistan. The spokesman welcomed the increase in the Afghan police and army, which he said currently numbered 263,000 in total. Afghan forces are due to assume responsibility for security from foreign troops forces by 2014 under an agreement between NATO, the United States and the Afghan government reached last month at a NATO summit in Lisbon. Almost 140,000 US- and NATO-led troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan to support the Kabul government against the Taliban insurgency, which has gained ground in recent years despite regular Western reinforcements.

Entrenched property disputes on ethnically split Cyprus could be resolved if the two sides compromised on new proposals in reunification talks, a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank said on Thursday. Peace talks, ongoing for more than two years, have stalled on how to satisfy the wishes of over 210,000 Cypriots who were displaced by inter-communal fighting in the 1960s and the Turkish invasion in 1974. "The flagging talks could be revived by compromises," the report said, adding that "constructive proposals" put forward by both sides "deserve careful consideration. Both sides should seize the opportunity of the current talks to strike a realistic balance between the right to return with the rights of the current users. Time is only making a property settlement harder," said Hugh Pope, Turkey/Cyprus country director for the ICG. Cyprus's division has defied years of mediation and remains an obstacle to Turkey's attempts to join the EU. The Greek and Turkish Cypriot community leaders at the peace talks should also take into account that fewer than a quarter of all displaced people on Cyprus still wished to return to their former homes, having made new homes elsewhere on the island, Pope said in the report. A solution to the property conundrum has so far been hampered by the opposing standpoints of the two communities. Greek Cypriots demand the right of return for all refugees displaced from the area under Turkish Cypriot control. Turkish Cypriots say the return of around 160,000 Greek Cypriots would lead to the effective destruction of a two-zone federated framework both sides and the United Nations has agreed should form the basis of a reunification deal. The two sides are due to meet U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva in January to assess peace talks progress. In a report last month, Ban warned Cyprus talks could "founder fatally" if a deal were not reached by mid-2011.

Croatia's wartime deputy Interior Minister Tomislav Merčep has been detained in Zagreb this morning. Merčep's name has been mentioned in connection to several war crimes, reports Croatia's state television HRT. He has never been indicted. Merčep's alleged victims during the war of the early 1990s were ethnic Serbs. A recent Amnesty International reports called on the government in Zagreb to process war crimes, and to investigate public accusations against Vladimir Šeks, Tomislav Merčep and Davor Domazet, who are all believed to have taken part in committing war crimes. The report said that there were public testimonies of a number of former Croatian Interior Ministry reserve unit members, and media reports about the crimes committed near Pakrac and elsewhere in Croatia. But their commander, Tomislav Merčep, remained "untouchable". In the summer of 1991 - before any clashes occurred in Vukovar, eastern Croatia, Merčep, who was the local police chief, is believed to have detained and murdered more than 20 Serb civilians from the area. Many of the victims' bodies have not yet been recovered. The Hague Tribunal sent a large volume of documentation on Merčep and his unit's crimes, but up until this point, Croatia launched no proceedings against him. One of the most serious scandals in the Croatian judiciary is also related to Merčep's unit. In December 1991, they murdered three members of a Serb family in Zagreb: 12-year-old Aleksandra Zec and both her parents. Neighbors managed to save two other children. Although the Merčep men admitted to the crime, they were set free due to a procedural error in the court procedure. Six others from the same unit were on trial for crimes near Pakrac in western Slavonia, where they imprisoned, tortured and murdered 18 Serb civilians in November and December 1991. A first-degree court set them free, while Croatia's Supreme Court in 2001 sent the case to retrial. They were sentenced and sent to prison, but the Supreme Court overturned the verdicts and sent the case to another retrial.

Russia opposes the renewal of the Kyoto protocol and will not sign an extension to the climate treaty, Russian envoy Alexander Bedritsky said on Friday. The Kyoto Protocol is a legally binding agreement restricting carbon emissions that expires in 2012. A new global climate deal is needed to continue efforts beyond 2012. Bedritsky - president of the World Meteorological Organization and adviser to the Russian president - said there had been "no basic changes in the negotiating process." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev previously said the country would pull out of the Kyoto agreement if a compromise could not be found concerning the reduction of carbon emissions. Russia's announcement follows a statement from Japan that it would not sign an extension of Kyoto. Canada is also expected to oppose extending the Kyoto agreement. Russia believes that climate change should be tackled by modern technology, not cuts in carbon emissions stipulated by the Kyoto Protocol. The G20 leaders failed to reach an agreement at the last UN climate summit in December 2009, largely as a result of China's reluctance to agree to binding commitments. China has consistently showed reluctance to commit to slashing greenhouse emissions, despite being the world's largest emitter. In light of the disagreements, this year's summit aims to reach less ambitious goals than last year's.

Some major streets in this Haitian capital were cleared of debris and a few businesses opened Friday morning as electoral officials prepared to meet at a U.N. compound on the disputed results of last week's presidential elections. Since the release of preliminary elections results on Tuesday for the contested Nov. 28 vote, thousands of protesters for rival candidates have staged demonstrations and counter demonstrations. Protesters have also erected flaming barricades, and torched government buildings in the southwest city of Les Cayes. In the capital, merchants including streets artisans have had their businesses destroyed. Since Wednesday there has been an increased police presence. The U.N. military has also done patrols. Meanwhile, the medical relief team Doctors Without Borders said it has treated 26 patients -- 15 with bullet wounds -- since violence erupted Tuesday night. The group's ambulances have been seen traveling Port-au-Prince in an effort to administer medical care, especially for victims of a deadly cholera outbreak that has so far claimed more than 2,000 lives. On Thursday, the U.S. State Department advised U.S. citizens against nonessential travel to Haiti. American Airlines has canceled its flights until at least Dec. 13. In an effort to stem the unrest, election officials said Thursday they would review contested presidential votes -- though some opposition candidates say the move doesn't go far enough to address allegations of widespread voter fraud. Despite the CEP's declaration, questions remain if the three candidates who received the highest number of votes will even agree to participate. The top two voter getters head to a second round scheduled for Jan. 16. It is Haiti's first run off since the 29-year Duvalier regime was ousted in 1986. The election comes as the country struggles to recover from a massive earthquake in January and tries to contain a deadly cholera outbreak.

Orthodox Christians everywhere -- especially those within driving distance of the US capital -- are being encouraged to bear witness to their faith at the annual March for Life on Monday, January 24, 2011. As in years past, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah expressed his desire to see as many youth and young adults as possible to join him in proclaiming that all life is indeed a gift from God. The faithful are asked to gather by 12:30 p.m. under the "Orthodox Christians for Life" banner to the left of the stage at the Ellipse, between the Washington Monument and the national Mall. Metropolitan Jonah will be one of several speakers to address the public at the pre-March program. At the conclusion of the March, Metropolitan Jonah will offer prayers for the victims of abortion. On Sunday, January 23, the eve of the March, the faithful are encouraged to join Metropolitan Jonah for Vespers at Saint Nicholas Cathedral, 3500 Massachusetts Ave. NW, at 6:00 p.m. A reception will follow. On the morning of the March, Metropolitan Jonah will preside at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the cathedral at 8:00 a.m. Following the March, Metropolitan Jonah will attend the annual Rose Dinner at DC's Hyatt Regency Hotel. While additional details concerning the the Orthodox Christian witness at the March will be forthcoming, general information on the March may be found here.