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Palestinian Upgrade, Vampires and the Fiscal Cliff

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This column is designed to offer a platform to discuss national stories on a local level. Share your opinion in the comment section!

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Members of the United Nations took a vote on Thursday, Nov. 29, that upgraded the Palestinian Authority's status to "non-member observer state." The Vatican, for example, holds the same status. Out of 193 nations, 138 voted in favor. 

The U.S. and Israel were among those who voted against. Only nine total voted against the measure, with 41 abstaining. 

The vote is largely symbolic and would "do nothing to advance the peace and the two-state solution we all want to see," according to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. 

The new status for Palestine grants them access to the International Criminal Court, meaning it would be possible for them to charge Israel with crimes against humanity, war crimes or other crimes.

Some history: This decision was reached 65 years to the day after a 1947 UN vote to divide Palestine into two states, according to the Associated Press. Israel accepted the resolution; Palestinians rejected it. 

The two sides have been fighting ever since. 

Prior to that decision, the area was colonized by Great Britain. That is, until 1939, when the Palestinian Arabs revolted. 

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For the residents of a small town in Serbia, vampires are more than just a literary phenomenon. 

You see, there's this very old vampire, named Sava Savanovic, who has lived in the town of Zorazje since the 1700s. He'd been living in an old water mill, which recently collapsed. 

And since the collapse, residents are concerned that he's wandering around, looking for a new home. 

Really.

They're taking the proper precautions, like wearing crosses, placing religious icons above their homes, rubbing their hands with garlic and carrying around stakes, according to ABC News. All at the suggestion of the local government, including Municipal Assembly leader Miodrag Vujetic.

"I understand that people who live elsewhere in Serbia are laughing at our fears, but here most people have no doubt that vampires exist," he told ABC News.

The family who owned the mill was too frightened to make repairs, so it collapsed. Serbian vampires reportedly have iron teeth, red eyes and are all-around disgusting, terrifying beings. 

Apparently they only sparkle in America. 

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Regarding that pesky fiscal cliff: No news is good news, right? Wrong.

The 'fiscal cliff' refers to Dec. 31, 2012, the date that tax laws automatically change if a budget is not agreed upon. The defense budget and Medicare, for example, will face immediate, deep cuts, while the Bush-era tax cuts would expire. This comes after two years of failing to reach a "deficit reduction agreement," according to CNN. 

It's called a 'cliff' because our recovering economy could take a nose-dive off said cliff. 

Besides the looming fiscal cliff, we also keep hitting our heads on the debt ceiling. No matter what happens on Dec. 31, we'll hit it again at the end of the first quarter. 

In order to avert jumping/leaping/falling off the cliff, there will have to be an agreed upon combination of tax cuts and spending reductions. And that's what the U.S. Senate is attempting to do, but Republicans and Democrats can't seem to agree on how to do it. 

House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday that the Obama Administration has no "specific" plan, and that nothing useful has come out of two weeks of discussion. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the same thing about the Republicans. Boehner wants an increase in debt limits to be matched by spending cuts, something that Democrats call "irresponsible." 

President Barack Obama wants to keep the tax rate the same for 98 percent of Americans, while raising it for the top 2 percent.  

According to a Republican congressional aide, the White House's plan calls for a $1.6 trillion tax increase.  

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