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The Buzz

Issue: "Judicial filibuster deal," June 4, 2005

Courts Four years after President George W. Bush first nominated her to a federal appeals court seat, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen won Senate confirmation. The 55-43 vote was largely along party lines and made the 50-year-old jurist the first of Mr. Bush's nominees-long blocked by Democrats and liberal special-interest groups-to win approval. The breakthrough followed an agreement drafted by 12 Senate moderates, six Republicans and six Democrats, clearing the way for confirmation votes on judicial nominees except in "extraordinary circumstances." That will make it difficult for Democrats to filibuster future nominees but won't, according to conservative advocates, forestall a fight over a potential Supreme Court nominee later this year.

White House President Bush told students at Calvin College that they have "a great responsibility to serve and love others, a responsibility that goes back to the greatest commandment." That idea is neither Democratic nor Republican, he said, "It is an American idea." But 800 alumni, faculty, and friends of the Grand Rapids school and 130 faculty members wouldn't go along with nonpartisanship. They took out ads in a local paper protesting the president's commencement engagement.

Iraq Iraqi officials launched an offensive around Baghdad designed to root out terror cells, using over 40,000 Iraqi soldiers and police and 675 fixed checkpoints. Defense minister Saadoun al-Duleimi said the forces are intent on securing Baghdad with plans to expand the operations soon after to deal with the terrorists in all other cities. "We will have a strong and safe cordon around Baghdad like a bracelet that surrounds the hand," he said.

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Iraqi officials believe terror ringleader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was wounded in one of the lead raids. "We are not sure whether he is dead or not, but we are sure that he is injured," Interior Minister Bayan Jabr told reporters on May 26. At least one al-Qaeda-affiliated website said a deputy had been appointed in Mr. Zarqawi's place.

Science Just days after reports on May 19 that a South Korean scientist had engineered embryonic clones of people with spinal cord injuries, the U.S. House passed a bill to open federal funding for the harvesting of stem cells from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. President Bush has promised to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

Health Does abstinence education work? Scientists convened in Washington with evidence that it does. Researchers presented six studies on May 26, including one that found that abstinence-taught seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders were nearly 50 percent less likely to initiate sex than peers who did not receive abstinence education; another indicating a major decline in sexual activity among abstinence-educated students in high-teen-pregnancy-rate Amarillo, Texas; and an international study of the TeenSTAR abstinence program that found a 20 percent increase in students deciding to discontinue intercourse. "We are hopeful that, by bringing top scientists from around the world to present their research," said Gary L. Rose, president and CEO of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, "these important findings will not be ignored."

Uzbekistan More than a week after Uzbek forces gunned down protesters in Andijan, killing hundreds, many of the wounded are still afraid to report to hospitals. But fear of President Islam Karimov's government, a strong U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, is reportedly giving way to resentment and potentially more upheaval.

"I think people are being pushed to the breaking point, especially outside of Tashkent," a Western development worker told WORLD after the May 13 massacre. "In spite of the willingness to use deadly force by the government, most people expect this uprising to continue, possibly all the way to Tashkent."

Middle East President Bush has not negotiated with a Palestinian leader in five years, so Mahmoud Abbas did not waste his first meeting with him on May 26. The Palestinian Authority president made bold requests: for direct U.S. aid to his corrupt governing body and for greater pressure on Israel to stop building settlements.

But Mr. Abbas has kept little on his side of the bargain since replacing Yasser Arafat. He has streamlined Palestinian security forces but has not required the terrorist group Hamas to disarm. Incitement to violence against Jews also continues unabated in Palestinian media, mosques, and school textbooks. Mr. Abbas has even instituted a guns-for-jobs program, giving terrorists government positions if they renounce militancy. Still, Washington officials gave Mr. Abbas a warm welcome.

Economy The Commerce Department reported last week that the U.S. gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent during the first quarter, higher than an initial estimate of 3.1 percent but lower than the 3.8 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2004. Employers, meanwhile, reportedly created 274,000 new jobs in April, up from 146,000 in March.

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