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Sept. 20, 2011 at 8:05 AM   |   0 comments

'Don't ask, don't tell' policy is history

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The "don't ask, don't tell" ban on openly gay U.S. service members was lifted Tuesday, ending a policy under which about 14,000 men and women were discharged.

"From this day forward, gay and lesbian soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve," a U.S. Army memo sent to soldiers around the globe said.

"We expect all personnel to follow our values by implementing the repeal fully, fairly and in accordance with policy guidance," the memo obtained by The Washington Post said. "It is the duty of all personnel to treat each other with dignity and respect, while maintaining good order and discipline throughout our ranks. Doing so, will help the U.S. Army remain the strength of the nation."

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen planned to discuss the change, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. EDT, at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday.


Palestinians urged to talk, not press U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Washington pressed Palestinian leaders not to ask the United Nations to declare Israeli-occupied land independent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

"We continue to believe and are pressing the point that the only way to a two-state solution, which is what we support and want to see happen, is through negotiations," Clinton told reporters in New York.

"No matter what does or doesn't happen this week, it will not produce the kind of result that everyone is hoping for," she said.

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said "all hell has broken out against us" over the bid for statehood recognition -- which Washington and Israel see as severely hurting the chances of resuming Middle East peace efforts -- but he told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon he would not be diverted from his plan to make the request to the Security Council Friday.

Washington, which is upset because Abbas is going the United Nations without agreement with Israel, has promised to veto the Palestinian request. However, it is hoping to avoid the embarrassment of a veto by seeking to persuade enough of the 10 non-permanent Security Council members to vote against Palestinian statehood -- or to abstain from the vote, in the hope of denying Abbas the nine votes needed to win the declaration, Britain's Guardian reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered to meet with Abbas in New York this week and restart negotiations.


Rockets hit protesters camp in Sanaa

SANAA, Yemen, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Rockets struck a protesters' camp in Yemen's capital, killing at least two demonstrators and wounding 11, medical personnel said Tuesday.

Witnesses said at least 13 blasts were heard at Change Square in Sanaa and one strike was near a medical camp, CNN reported.

Abdul Rahman Barman, head of a local human rights organization, said Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime is attacking protesters and army personnel who defected and isn't distinguishing among civilians, protesters and gunmen.

"All are targets for the oppressive Saleh regime," Barman told CNN.

"Government troops are attacking armed militants who claim to be unarmed," government spokesman Abdu Ganadi said.

Medical officials said at least 36 people were killed in clashes Monday, raising the death toll from two days of fighting in the capital to more than 60. Nearly 1,000 people, mostly demonstrators, were injured in the two days.


Blast rips downtown Ankara

ANKARA, Turkey, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- An explosion rocked the downtown area of Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, injuring 15 people, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said preliminary information indicates a bomb caused the explosion, Today's Zaman reported.

Arinc said "there is information that a bomb was planted" on a vehicle that exploded. Police said they were considering the attack possibly terror-related.

However, a witness said a liquefied propane gas tank exploded, Today's Zaman said.

One witness described the scene as "terrible" and "very chaotic," CNN reported.

"Cars were exploding. Pieces were spreading around. We were terrified," witness said.

Officials said several vehicles and a building were damaged by the explosion and fire.

Initial reports indicated two people died but Atalay later said no one was killed.


Three-country quake toll rises

GANGTOK, India, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- People in the Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim, the worst hit by a powerful earthquake, struggled to return to normal Tuesday amid mounting odds.

Rains and landslides in the state, the epicenter of the 6.9-magnitude weekend quake, hampered rescue and relief work as the quake death toll rose to at least 41, the Times of India reported. Rescue teams included about 6,000 Indian army and paramilitary forces.

Sikkim has a population of about 500,000 and draws many tourists, especially trekkers.

The earthquake and its aftershocks also rattled other parts of India as well as Nepal and Tibet.

In addition to the 41 deaths in Sikkim, at least 17 died in West Bengal and Bihar states in India, nine in Nepal and seven in Tibet, for a total of at least 74, the Times reported. Dozens of people also were injured.

Other reports put the death toll much higher.

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