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News Briefs

Albanian Militia Retains Arms Despite Pledge


An ethnic Albanian militia group whose leaders agreed in the presence of U.S. diplomats last week to end an insurgency in southern Serbia has taken no steps to live up to its pledge, according to U.S. and Kosovo officials.

Elements within the organization -- the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Buganovac, which is composed largely of former Kosovo Liberation Army members -- seem determined to continue their challenge to Serbian security forces in the Presevo Valley, a predominantly ethnic Albanian-populated area of southern Serbia just outside the U.S.-patrolled zone of eastern Kosovo, the officials said.

Despite the agreement last Thursday, these militiamen have continued to wear uniforms and conduct training exercises with AK-47 assault rifles in and around the village of Dubrosin, which lies in a neutral zone between U.S. forces in Kosovo and Yugoslav forces in Serbia proper. In addition, some members of the militia group have continued to cross back and forth between the U.S.-patrolled area of Kosovo and the neutral zone, where they undergo military training.

Court Rejects Challenge to Welfare Reform Act


The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that eliminated food stamps and other benefits for legal immigrants, spurning arguments that the federal government breached the Constitution and endangered the lives of some of the nation’s neediest people.

The justices, without comment, denied on Monday an appeal by the city of Chicago and a group of immigrants focused on a provision of the historic welfare law that abolished food stamps, disability benefits and other federal assistance for immigrants who were living legally in the United States but were not citizens.

Congress, seeking to reduce the welfare rolls nationwide, said the new rules would foster self-reliance and remove an incentive for illegal aliens to cross the border to obtain benefits. But municipalities and advocates for the poor contend the provision has left numerous families hungry and vulnerable, imposing new financial burdens on states and cities.

According to Department of Agriculture figures submitted in the case, for example, 570,000 needy permanent residents were ineligible for food stamps last year because they were not citizens.

Cuban Boy’s Relatives Agree to Speedy Appeals Process


Relatives of 6-year-old castaway Elian Gonzalez partially bowed to a Justice Department ultimatum Monday, agreeing to a speedy appeals process that could see the boy returned to his father in Cuba within a few weeks.

But on a day when family members here also took their case for keeping Elian to network television, the Justice Department angrily concluded that they had failed to meet a second demand: commit to surrendering the boy to U.S. authorities for deportation if they lose the appeal.

Without such a pledge, a Justice Department official said, federal authorities will summon Elian’s relatives to discuss his future on Tuesday. His status in the United States could change as early as Thursday.