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20,000 Israelis protested the talks at Jerusalem’s Western Wall

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Our pork," Dec. 8, 2007

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plan to sit down together Dec. 12 to begin a series of U.S.-sponsored biweekly meetings aimed at creating a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians may live side by side.

The two leaders agreed to a "workplan" for peace during a multinational gathering at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis Nov. 27. But they were careful to make no concrete compromises. Abbas insisted that East Jerusalem become the capital of a Palestinian state, while Olmert linked any deal to Palestinians' fulfilling the conditions of a failed 2003 roadmap.

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Crowds of demonstrators gathered dockside in Annapolis, while 20,000 Israelis protested the talks at Jerusalem's Western Wall. In Gaza, which is under control of the militant Islamic group Hamas, more than 100,000 Palestinians turned out against the talks, while a protest in the normally calmer West Bank turned violent-with at least one dead and 24 injured in Hebron. One added element both sides say could reduce violence surrounding upcoming negotiations: the Nov. 29 appointment of retired NATO commander Gen. James L. Jones to oversee security.

Congress

Sen. Trent Lott, the second most powerful Republican in the Senate, announced Nov. 26 that he will retire by the end of the year. He is the sixth Senate Republican to announce his retirement from a body divided 49-49 (plus two independents ) along party lines and with less than a year to go before elections. For 17 years Lott has held leadership roles in both House and Senate in a congressional career that began in 1972.

Medicine

Joint research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Kyoto University in Japan shows that embryonic-type stem cells can be produced from human skin cells, without first having to destroy-or create through cloning-human embryos. Sir Martin Evans, a British stem-cell pioneer who shared this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine, predicted: "This is going to be the way forward. We've all been waiting for this." But advocates for human embryonic stem-cell research said last week they will continue to press for federal funding, something President Bush twice has vetoed. The skin cell progress, said Rep. Diane DeGette, D-Colo., is only "one of many approaches that should be explored."

Russia

World chess champion Garry Kasparov, co-leader of an alliance of Russian opposition groups, was released from a Moscow jail Nov. 29 after serving a five-day sentence for leading a weekend protest march. Kasparov was charged with organizing a procession of at least 1,500 people against President Vladimir Putin that ended in clashes with police. His assistant said he was beaten during the demonstration, and two police officers testified that they had been ordered before the rally to arrest Kasparov-more evidence of crushing tactics by Putin's United Russia Party to secure a victory in Dec. 2 parliamentary elections.

Australia

A staunch ally of the Bush administration in the war on terror, Australian President John Howard lost elections Nov. 24 after nearly 12 years in office. In one of its biggest defeats since World War II, his Liberal Party lost a majority of its parliamentary seats to Labor, whose new prime minister is Kevin Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former foreign service officer who calls himself both a "socialist" and an "economic conservative." At home Howard was credited with reforming welfare, balancing the national budget, and cutting taxes, pushing unemployment to a 33-year low. Abroad, Howard forged a key alliance with President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair after 9/11. Australia sent troops to Iraq and fought the Taliban in Afghanistan after 2002 terror attacks in Bali, in which 88 Australians died, helped secure public support for Howard's anti-terror efforts.

Murder & questions

Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died Nov. 27 from a gunshot wound to the leg suffered during what police believe was a random burglary of his Miami home. But Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle told the Associated Press that Taylor had numerous enemies in the Miami area who had been targeting him for years. When the 24-year-old all-pro defender entered the NFL in 2004, he often blew off media interview requests and earned a reputation as a troubled youth who ran in rough circles. Teammates say that all changed over the past 18 months following the birth of Taylor's daughter.

Man Knows Not His Time

Man Knows Not His Time

Former Illinois Republican congressman Henry Hyde, 83, died on Nov. 29. Hyde, who led the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, served 16 terms in Congress before retiring at the end of the last term. A stalwart pro-life conservative, the congressman in 1976 authored what became known as the "Hyde Amendment," which blocked all federal funding for abortions. Days before Hyde left office earlier this year, President Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, declaring him a "powerful defender of life."

Hyde wasn't always a Republican. He grew up in Chicago as an Irish Catholic Democrat but switched parties in 1966 and was elected to the Illinois legislature. Eight years later, in a Democrat-heavy state, Hyde defied the post-Watergate, anti-GOP backlash and was elected to Congress.

"Chairman Hyde was a pioneer in the effort to protect human life, and because of his tireless efforts, there are thousands of people living around the world today who remember his service to mankind," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who heads the Republican Study Committee. "Henry's great victory for humankind will never be forgotten, particularly by those who live today because of the Hyde Amendment."

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