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Washington The House voted Thursday against permitting Cuban-Americans to visit their families in Cuba more frequently and for retaining a trade embargo that has been in place since 1960.

The 211-208 vote reversed a trend in Congress in recent years toward relaxing some travel sanctions on Cuba. A similar vote last year – to permit Cubans who have claimed asylum in the United States to visit the island more frequently than every three years – produced a 225-174 tally to ease travel rules.

Congressional supporters of maintaining the U.S. government’s tough regimen of trade and travel sanctions credit a redoubled lobbying and education effort for their success – as well as continued bad behavior by communist dictator Fidel Castro.

“Castro’s been our best friend in winning the votes around because his conduct has been so reprehensible in the past two years,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. “Cubans from all around the United States are doing a greater lobbying effort, more organized than before.”

The votes came as the House passed, by a 405-18 vote, a bill funding the Transportation and Treasury departments for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. The Senate has yet to act on the bill.

Marchers stabbed at Israeli Gay Pride parade

Jerusalem An ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed and wounded two marchers in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade Thursday, the most serious in a series of incidents involving opponents of the gay and lesbian gathering.

Opponents tried to stop the march by throwing a stink bomb at the starting point, but several thousand marchers paraded through the center of Jerusalem anyway, braving shouts and insults from protesters, most young ultra-Orthodox Jews.

“Homo sex is immoral,” read a sign carried by one protester. As the parade neared a main downtown intersection, the attacker jumped into the first group of marchers and stabbed a middle-aged man. Blood from his chest seeped through his shirt as he sat, dazed, at the side of the road before an ambulance came to take him to a hospital, where he was said to be seriously wounded.

The man, who was not immediately identified, was marching with his two teenage daughters.

The attacker stabbed another victim, wounding him slightly, before being apprehended, Israel Radio said. A number of others were arrested, the radio said.

The march proceeded despite the violence.

Mexico finalizes absentee voting bill

Mexico City Millions of Mexicans living abroad will now be able to vote in the 2006 presidential elections under a bill signed into law by President Vicente Fox on Thursday.

Fox signed the bill on the deadline for approval, two days after it was approved in the lower house of Congress. It provides for mail-in ballots for the estimated 11 million migrants.

“These reforms will broaden and strengthen the democratic change Mexico is going through, and constitute an important recognition of the contribution made to Mexico’s development by those who live abroad,” Fox said. “Today, by signing this law, we are telling our countrymen that we are all one community, that we are all part of one nation that values and loves them.”

The lower house of Congress passed the voting proposal 455-6 Tuesday with six abstentions. The bill was already approved by Mexico’s Senate.

As much as 14 percent of the country’s electorate lives overseas, most in the United States.

Riots kill 6 in Congo

Kinshasa, Congo Riot police fired tear gas and beat demonstrators with batons as thousands protested delays to Congo’s first postwar presidential elections. At least six died in violence nationwide, the United Nations said.

Several thousand demonstrators carrying white banners of the main opposition party marched toward parliament in the capital Kinshasa, fists held high and waving palm branches.

Riot police armed with Kalashnikovs fired tear gas volleys and gave chase as the crowds scattered. They ran into surrounding neighborhoods, dragging out demonstrators and beating them.


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