December 20, 2012 in Nation/World

In brief: Israel advances housing project

From Wire Reports

Jerusalem – Defying a wave of international condemnation, Israel on Wednesday gave final approval to a 2,610-unit housing project in a southern Jerusalem area that Palestinians claim should be part of their future state.

The project, called Givat Hamatos, is the first entirely new development approved in 15 years in the Jerusalem area on land Israel seized during the 1967 Middle East War. City officials said the project, which could begin construction in a year, is needed to ease the rising cost of housing.

Palestinians say the development will further divide Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Officials from the Palestinian Authority threatened to take their complaints about the project to the U.N. Security Council.

Most of the world views Israel’s settlement construction on land it seized during the 1967 war as a violation of international law. In recent weeks, Israel has frustrated many of its closest allies, including the U.S. and Europe, by advancing a string of projects.

Russia moves to ban adoptions to U.S.

Moscow – Russia’s parliament took a first step Wednesday toward banning the adoption of Russian children by American parents, a move intended as retaliation for an anti-corruption law recently passed by Congress.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, voted 399-17 in favor of a bill that included the ban and also would annul an adoption agreement between the two countries that Russia ratified in July. The measure still has to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin, who has sent mixed signals about his support.

American parents have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children over the last two decades. Americans adopt 1,000 to 3,000 Russian children a year, said Boris Altshuler, who heads Right of the Child, a Moscow-based advocacy group. Russian families adopt about 7,000 children a year, far from enough to meet the country’s needs.

The ban is intended to punish the United States for the so-called Magnitsky law, passed by Congress this month and named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and whistle-blower who died in pretrial custody in Moscow in 2009. The Magnitsky law imposed visa restrictions on a group of Russian officials connected to the lawyer’s prosecution and death.

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