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The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "What women want," Jan. 21, 2006

ROE V. WADE Since abortion became the court-ordered law of the land 33 years ago on Jan. 22, 1973, 40 million babies have been aborted. So, too, have been the roles of parenting and grandparenting for 40 million-plus survivors of each abortion. "I thought that because it was legal it might be OK," said Myra Myers of her abortion 33 years ago. On the steps of the Supreme Court building Jan. 9, Mrs. Myers, now 61, joined other mothers to declare: "My abortion hurt me" (see "What women want").

SUPREME COURT High-court nominee Samuel Alito spent the week in the Senate hotbox, enduring a marathon round of questioning ahead of a committee vote that could send his nomination to the full Senate. Mr. Alito maintained composure under grilling about his lengthy bench record on discrimination, employee rights, and executive powers, along with questions about his writing on Roe v. Wade. But his wife broke down after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) came to Mr. Alito's defense following intense questioning from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) about the nominee's membership in a controversial club at Princeton (see "Grilled Alito").

IRAN Iran's government removed seals set in place by international inspectors at its Natanz and other uranium enrichment facilities, a move that violates a truce with European negotiators that had ensured a two-year freeze in Iran's nuclear program. EU negotiators said they would take the latest violation to the UN Security Council. Russia-despite having assisted Iran in developing a nuclear program-said it would not block UN action. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the uranium enrichment is for domestic energy purposes, but most believe the oil-rich country seeks a nuclear weapons program that could threaten Israel, Iraq, and other U.S. allies in the region.

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MECCA A stampede crushed and killed at least 350 pilgrims on their way to a stone-throwing ritual as part of the Hajj in Saudi Arabia Jan. 12. Up to 300 Muslim pilgrims were injured. The long march has proved lethal repeatedly, but the death toll was the highest in 16 years. In 2004 251 pilgrims were crushed to death on the same bridge. Authorities had installed new safety measures, but they could not restrain more than 2 million seeking to perform the ancient rite.

ISRAEL Four Likud Party cabinet members resigned from office to cement plans for the party once championed by ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to run in opposition to Mr. Sharon's new Kadima Party.

De facto Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the officers to step down, saying the party "cannot present itself as an alternative if it remains in the government." But the departure of key officials, with power temporarily vested in acting head of state and Sharon deputy Ehud Olmert, further destabilizes Israel ahead of March 28 elections. Polls show Kadima leading, even after a massive stroke Jan. 4 and drug-induced coma may have ended Mr. Sharon's ability to lead the party.

Also in doubt are Palestinian elections, scheduled for Jan. 25, after EU monitors said violence in Gaza may inhibit voting.

IRAQ Shiite factions continued to arm-wrestle but are likely to name current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari or Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi as coalition leader and likely the next prime minister. Mr. Mahdi, head of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), gained support over Mr. Jaafari, who has been criticized for raising gas prices and failing to provide basic services in recent months.

Meanwhile, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani appears likely to become the country's next president and to increase presidential power in Iraq with growing support from Sunni leaders. A recent call from al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to abandon the political process was rejected by the largest Sunni party. "Ending violence is the key to stability in Iraq," said Sunni politician Salih al-Mutlaq.

BIRD FLU The World Health Organization confirmed Jan. 7 that two teenage siblings who died of bird flu in Turkey early this month were infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus. It's the first time the strain has killed humans outside East Asia. Now they must discover whether the virus was transmitted from person to person.

SPORTS Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush announced Jan. 12 he will skip his senior year at Southern California in order to go pro. Texas quarterback and fellow junior Vince Young, who finished second in the Heisman race, announced earlier that he too would enter the NFL draft.

MOVIES When it comes to box-office muscle, King Kong is no match for Aslan. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in its fifth weekend, was still the second-highest-grossing movie during Jan. 6-8. The film has raked in almost $250 million domestically, and some analysts predict final totals as high as $300 million. King Kong, on the other hand, has begun to fade, finishing third during the same period, with analysts skeptical that it will reach the $250 million mark.

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