The following are the day's top general news stories:
1. Senate Clears Way for Ratification of U.S.-Russia Nuclear Weapons Treaty 2. Israeli Military Strikes Targets in Gaza; Rocket Hits Near Kindergarten 3. `Young Bloods' Rush to Join South Korean Marines Amid Anger Over Shelling 4. Alleged Gambino Boss Marino Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy in Nephew's Murder 5. Yankees Hit With $18 Million Luxury Tax, Cut Player Spending, AP Reports
1. Senate Clears Way for Ratification of U.S.-Russia Nuclear Weapons Treaty
The U.S. Senate cleared the way today for ratification of a nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, one of President Barack Obama´s foreign-policy priorities. The Senate´s 67-28 procedural vote to limit debate gave supporters more than the 60 votes needed to proceed toward a final vote, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said is likely tomorrow. Today´s tally also reached the threshold of a two-thirds Senate majority that´s required for ratification. A lobbying push, with a classified briefing and calls and letters from Obama and other administration officials, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, helped drive support over the minimum needed in a chamber where Democrats control 58 votes. Eleven Republicans voted for the amendment along with 54 Democrats and two independents. The 11 Republicans were Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, Robert Bennett of Utah, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and George Voinovich of Ohio.
2. India, Russia Sign Military, Nuclear Pacts as Leaders Vow to Double Trade
Russia and India signed pacts to provide missiles for the Indian army, develop advanced stealth fighter jets and build more nuclear reactors as their leaders vowed to double trade over four years. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev´s two-day visit to India comes after similar trips by President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Major nations are jostling for contracts as India builds its armed forces and plots a $100 billion expansion of its nuclear-power generating capacity. "There is enormous unexploited potential for the development of our relations particularly in the area of trade and economic affairs," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today at a press conference with Medvedev in New Delhi. Russia successfully tested a prototype of its fifth- generation PAK FA stealth fighter in January, one year behind schedule and 13 years after the first flight of its U.S. rival, Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin´s F-22 Raptor. Today´s deal -- which covers design modifications for planes to be bought by India -- may be worth $295 million, RIA Novosti reported Dec. 16.
3. `Young Bloods' Rush to Join South Korean Marines Amid Anger Over Shelling
Anger at North Korea´s killing of civilians in an artillery barrage last month has spurred applications to join South Korea´s Marine Corps. Almost 3,500 men are competing for 977 openings in the elite corps this month, a 37 percent increase on December last year, according to figures from the Military Manpower Administration. There were about 2,800 applicants for November´s monthly intake. Two civilians and two marines were killed on Nov. 23 when North Korea fired on the Yeonpyeong fishing community and military outpost in the first shelling of South Korean soil since the 1950-1953 war. Recruiters had feared the attack and the sinking of the warship Cheonan in March might discourage young men. "If there´s war, I´ll fight. And I´d feel more proud as a marine," Ko Chang Ho, an athletic 20-year-old college student with a spiky haircut, said on Dec. 17 as he waited to take a physical test of sit-ups and push-ups at a Military Manpower office in Seoul. "I realized our first enemy is North Korea, and it made me reflect on how lazy and weak we´ve been."
4. Cancer Survival Rates in Sweden, Australia Surpass U.K., Denmark in Study
Cancer patients in the U.K. and Denmark are less likely to survive than those living in Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway because of poorer early diagnosis in the two countries, researchers said. Survival rates for breast, colorectal, lung and ovarian cancer rose in all six countries whose medical data was analyzed in a study published in The Lancet medical journal today. The U.K. and Denmark, which saw the biggest increase in breast cancer survival rates, still lagged behind the other nations. "The improvement is there to see in all countries," Michel Coleman, the study´s lead author and a professor of epidemiology and vital statistics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told reporters at a briefing yesterday in London. "Cancer is a very important chronic disease and public health problem. One in three can be expected to be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetimes and one in four will die of it." Patients in the U.K. and Denmark are less likely to be diagnosed in the early stages of disease, when treatment is more effective, based on the one-year survival rates in the study, said Mike Richards, national cancer director at the U.K. Department of Health. Between 2005 and 2007, about 30 percent of Britons were alive within one year of being diagnosed with lung tumors, compared with 35 percent in Denmark, 39 percent in Norway, 42 percent in Canada, 43 percent in Australia and 44 percent in Sweden, the study found.
5. Bethlehem Business Reborn as Christmas Tourism Boosts Palestine Statehood
Azur Murad is opening a gourmet food store on Bethlehem´s Star Street in time for Christmas, joining 11 other shopkeepers encouraged by Palestinian Authority incentives to boost business in the biblical town. "We want to bring special things here to make this street successful," said Murad, 52, pointing to cheeses from France and olives from Greece and the West Bank. Her optimism is a sign of the rebirth of Bethlehem, where 80 shops -- 12 of which opened this year -- line the street that runs into Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. The quarter was almost deserted three years ago following the second Palestinian uprising against Israel´s presence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which led almost everything to close. Boosting tourism in the West Bank is part of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad´s plan to have all institutions needed to run and finance a state operational by the middle of next year. As U.S. efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table stall, the authority´s ability to create a vibrant economy may help its quest for international recognition.
-0- Dec/22/2010 00:35 GMT