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News Briefs, part 2

Israel to Request U.S. Monitors

The Washington Post

After weeks of turmoil in his ruling coalition, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin Monday won parliamentary approval of his foreign policies, which he said would include an Israeli request for U.S. troops to monitor any peace accord with Syria.

Speaking at the opening session of parliament, Rabin also noted Syrian "willingness to be a partner in the effort for peace" and predicted an Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement by the end of the year.

The 53-41 vote gives Rabin a stronger hand to press negotiations on a comprehensive agreement with Syria that will entail a phased Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which Israeli occupied during the 1967 Middle East war. The legislative backing was also a welcome respite for Rabin from a mini-rebellion within his Labor Party, a 19-day hunger strike by Israeli settlers on the Golan and attacks by the right-wing Likud Party - all triggered by Rabin's reported readiness to withdraw from the Golan to secure peace with Syria.

In his speech, Rabin noted that his policies had brought historic agreements with such former enemies as Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and the Palestinians and had prompted a move by Saudi Arabia and other states to drop their boycott on firms doing business with Israel.

Far Side' Cartoonist to Retire

The Washington Post

Gary Larson, who draws the cartoon called "The Far Side," announced Monday that he would retire at the end of the year. He is 44. He is retiring because of "simple fatigue and a fear that if I continue for many more years, my work will begin to suffer or at the very least ease into the Graveyard of Mediocre Cartoons."

Not that there's a national cartooning crisis (though a national mediocrity crisis deepens every day), but there are a lot of mediocre cartoons littering America's comics pages, cartoons with drunks in the old 1940s style, or a cute kid asking, say, "Who will take over when God's old enough to retire?"

For high strangeness, nobody - except maybe George Herriman, the creator of "Krazy Kat" - has topped Larson. He has drawn a lot of straight-yuk panels - cowboys wrapping somebody in string when told to string him up, that kind of thing. But it's the strange ones that have left you wondering how he thought of them, how anyone could think of them, whether anyone should think of them, as if he were doing magic tricks inside his own skull and then describing the results in a drawing. Or as if he were insane, which is something people like to believe about cartoonists, such as Charles Addams or Gahan Wilson.

One Larson panel shows a couple walking down a sidewalk while a leering clown with a cream pie waits around a corner. The caption is: "When clowns go bad."

Or an auditorium full of professors listening to a speaker who holds a duck. They hold ducks too, except for one alarmed man. The caption says: "Suddenly, Professor Liebowitz realizes he has come to the seminar without his duck."

Or a wolf in a taxi chases a sheep in a taxi through a dark forest that figures in a lot of Larson cartoons.

The last "Far Side" will appear on Jan. 1, and Larson will work with his syndicate on his books and other projects. Which sets him up, after a year, for a triumphal return, or, after several years, for a glorious comeback.