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Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Riedel

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "2009 Books Issue," July 4, 2009

Tiller clinic closed

The family of murdered late-term abortionist George Tiller announced the fate of the abortion center Tiller operated in Wichita, Kan., for more than 30 years: "Permanently closed," effective immediately. The announcement came nine days after a gunman killed Tiller in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church. Police arrested Scott Roeder, 51, in the May 31 shooting. Authorities charged Roeder with first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

Tiller, 67, was one of only a handful of abortionists in the country known to perform abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy. Pro-life groups condemned Tiller's murder, but hailed the center's closing: Operation Rescue president Troy Newman called it "a bittersweet moment." But at least one abortionist vowed to continue: Leroy Carhart worked in Tiller's center on a rotating basis and said he would begin performing late-term abortions in his own Nebraska abortion center. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning told local media that Carhart's plans "disgusted" and "saddened" him: "I mean, this guy is one sick individual."

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Days earlier, Carhart said Tiller's murder should be treated as a hate crime. "This is the equivalent of Martin Luther King being assassinated," he told The Washington Times. "This is the equivalent of Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Lusitania, and any other major historic event where we've tolerated the intolerable for too long."

Alveda King, the pro-life niece of Martin Luther King, called the comparison "offensive beyond belief."

Not thawed yet

While Hezbollah went down to defeat in Lebanon last month, and Iranian extremists were facing angry reformists in Tehran, former President Jimmy Carter was in Gaza to meet with Hamas leaders. While there he announced he would call on President Obama to take the organization off the U.S. list of terrorist-sponsoring groups. (Israel and the European Union also classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.) Carter denounced Israel's economic embargo of Gaza and told reporters that to break the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate "first of all Hamas has to be accepted by the international community as a legitimate player in the future, and that is what I am trying to do today."

Carter, 84, traveled to the region as a private citizen but is the most prominent U.S. figure to meet with the Hamas government that took over Gaza two years ago. Hamas would favor the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders-which includes sharing Jerusalem sovereignty with Israel-and has said it will never recognize Israel but only enter a truce.

In a June 14 speech Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time embraced Palestinian statehood but said the state must be completely demilitarized and not control its own airspace. He also rejected direct negotiations with Hamas.

Answering violence with censorship

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for new hate crimes legislation to combat "violence masquerading as political activism" following the Tiller murder in Kansas, the Holocaust Museum shooting June 10, and the shooting death of a U.S. soldier by a Muslim outside a recruiting station in Arkansas, also last month. "Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed brazen acts of violence committed in places that many would have considered unthinkable," Holder told the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs June 16. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white supremacists, says the number of hate groups in the United States has risen 54 percent since 2000, fueled by opposition to Hispanic immigration and the election of the nation's first black president, reports the Associated Press.

Republicans have opposed Democrats' efforts to expand hate crimes laws, saying current laws already provide for effective punishment and prosecution of violent crime. Law enforcers oppose expanding hate crimes laws, too, because they can make it tougher to track violent haters. It is free speech, after all, traced via email and phone records and other communication, that makes it possible to track those who may be plotting real harm.

It's official

The World Health Organization (WHO) formally declared June 11 that swine flu has reached a pandemic level. Considered the first global flu epidemic in 41 years, swine flu is responsible for more than 28,770 cases in 74 countries and has claimed the lives of 144 people. WHO classified the pandemic as currently "moderate in severity" and urged drug manufacturers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine. It may be several months, however, before large quantities of the vaccine are available.

Winds of change

Organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm has put its dairy cows on a diet. The company began an experiment at 15 Vermont farms to cut not fat but methane--estimated to be 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas-from the "emissions" of its belching, gas-passing bovines. By replacing traditional corn and soy with a more expensive feed mix of alfalfa and flaxseed, one farm measured an 18 percent methane reduction.

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