Top Stories: Worldwide

The following are the day's top general news stories:

1. Senate Passes Repeal of `Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Ban on Gays in Military 2. South Korea Drills May Be Delayed by Weather; UN Security Council to Meet 3. Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle Cancellations, Delays Likely Amid Snow Havoc 4. Democrat Van Hollen Says Republicans Face Battle on Push for Budget Cuts 5. Barry Bonds Seeks to Bar Giambi, Santiago From Testifying at Perjury Trial

1. Senate Passes Repeal of `Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Ban on Gays in Military

The U.S. Senate voted today to repeal the "don´t ask, don´t tell" ban on military service by openly gay men and women. The 65-31 vote sent the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature. Before the new policy takes effect, the Defense Department must draft regulations and the president and Pentagon leaders must certify that the change won´t hurt the nation´s war efforts. Obama, who promised to repeal the 1993 law, praised the Senate action as a civil-rights victory. "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed," he said in a written statement. "It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly."

2. South Korea Drills May Be Delayed by Weather; UN Security Council to Meet

South Korea said it may not be able to conduct an artillery drill this weekend because of bad weather, as the United Nations Security Council prepared for an emergency meeting today on tensions in the Korean peninsula. North Korea warned it will retaliate if the South Korean exercise took place. A spokesman at South Korea´s Joint Chiefs of Staff, who declined to be named because of military policy, made the comments by telephone yesterday in Seoul. South Korea was planning to conduct the exercises by Dec. 21, a spokesman at the Joint Chiefs said Dec. 17. Russia requested the emergency meeting, saying the Security Council "must send a restraining signal" to North Korea and South Korea and drive diplomatic moves to resolve issues of dispute between them, according to a statement yesterday by Vitaly Churkin, Russia´s UN ambassador. The meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. New York time today. Shelling by South Korea "would make it impossible to prevent the situation on the Korean peninsula from exploding," North Korea´s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement distributed yesterday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. North Korea has already said it will "mete out decisive and merciless punishment" if its sovereignty is violated, and it "does not make an empty talk," according to the statement.

3. Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle Cancellations, Delays Likely Amid Snow Havoc

Air travellers across Europe were likely to face cancellations and delays Sunday as fresh snow and the remains of previous falls played havoc with airports including London´s Heathrow and Paris´s Charles de Gaulle. Heathrow said late yesterday that there will be "significant knock-on delays" today after it was closed for much of Saturday. Roissy-Charles de Gaulle will cancel about a quarter of its flights from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today because of likely snow showers, France´s civil aviation regulator said late yesterday. Skies above London are likely to be largely clear today and temperatures will be just below freezing most of the time, the U.K. Met Office forecasts. Conditions may be icy in many places. Flights at European airports including London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt were cancelled yesterday as western Europe was blanketed by snow during the last weekend before Christmas.

4. Democrat Van Hollen Says Republicans Face Battle on Push for Budget Cuts

Representative Chris Van Hollen, set to become the top Democrat on the U.S. House Budget Committee, said Republicans face a fight over plans to cut billions in spending if targeted programs include education and health research. "If they´re talking about just slashing our investments in things like education, or our national investments in trying to find cures to cancer, which benefit every American family, then I think we´re going to have a real battle over priorities," Van Hollen, 51, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television´s "Political Capital with Al Hunt," airing this weekend. Republicans will find their cuts hard to defend after they pushed for tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, including a provision that gives $23 billion in relief to the biggest estates, Van Hollen said. Those provisions were part of the tax- cut and spending bill that President Barack Obama signed into law yesterday. Republicans, who had a net gain of 63 House seats in November´s elections and take control of the chamber next month, have promised to cut domestic spending by $100 billion to help address the $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

5. Barry Bonds Seeks to Bar Giambi, Santiago From Testifying at Perjury Trial

Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball´s homerun record holder charged with lying to a grand jury about taking steroids, is seeking to stop the government from calling Benito Santiago and Jason Giambi as trial witnesses. Lawyers for the former San Francisco Giants outfielder seek to bar testimony by ex-teammate Santiago and former Oakland Athletics player Giambi. Drug testing and laboratory documents, calendars and other paperwork from Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative are also inadmissible at Bonds´s perjury trial under a 2009 judge´s order that was upheld by an appeals court in June, the lawyers said in a court filing yesterday. Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron´s record of 755 career home runs in August 2007, is scheduled to go on trial March 21 on charges of obstruction of justice and of lying to a federal grand jury in 2003 when he said he never knowingly took steroids. In February 2009, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco barred drug tests that prosecutors said were linked to Bonds from being shown to jurors at trial because they were hearsay, Bonds´s lawyers said. Prosecution filings since then indicate the government plans to introduce "all the same evidence that was excluded by this court´s order," according to yesterday´s filing.

-0- Dec/19/2010 00:35 GMT

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