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News Briefs

Palestinians Drop Bid for Resolution Condemning Israel


The Palestinians Friday dropped their bid for a U.N. resolution condemning Israel after failing to muster sufficient support in the 15-nation Security Council.

The decision was a significant diplomatic setback for the Palestinians because they were unable to secure the unanimous backing of a key bloc, the seven council members from the movement of non-aligned nations, that traditionally has supported Palestinian positions in the council.

In addition to condemning Israel, the resolution called for an unspecified ``monitoring mechanism'' to cool the violence that has taken the lives of more than 530 Palestinians and nearly 150 Israelis since late September.

Nasser Kidwa, the Palestinian representative at the United Nations, said Friday he was withdrawing the proposal because it faced a second U.S. veto. In March, the United States vetoed a previous Palestinian resolution calling for international observers in the West Bank and Gaza, an idea Israel has strenuously opposed.

Kidwa said, however, that the Palestinians would continue to press for international condemnation of Israel at a global conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, later this month.

``A vote in the Security Council on our draft resolution is not going to achieve a much better result than the vote which took place in March,'' Kidwa said. ``We think it would be more appropriate not to proceed immediately.''

Software Bugs Cause Problems With Med School Applications


More than 30,000 of the most hard-driving students in America now have an extra reason for heart palpitations: near-collapse of a computer system that distributes their applications to medical school.

And with life decisions at stake, applicants who have been striving for straight A’s since middle school are not taking the technological betrayal lightly.

“You couldn’t pick a worse group of people to throw a bombshell in the middle of,” said Richard Silverman, director of admissions at Yale University School of Medicine.

In a move that was supposed to speed decision-making, the clearinghouse for the first time this year asked students to file their applications online. But a series of software bugs has nearly crippled its efforts to process applications for the 16,000 medical school slots available for the 2002 academic year.

“It’s just a black hole,” lamented James Chen, 24, of Los Angeles, whose online application was submitted in June but still hasn’t reached his more than 25 prospective schools. “We’re all just super-frustrated. I never expected it to culminate in this.”

The breakdowns mean delays of several weeks or more in applications and admissions. And they have set off a scramble among many students to apply to their top-choice schools directly, before someone else grabs their slot.

Privately Funded Researcher to Create New Stem-Cell Lines


A privately funded Harvard University researcher soon will begin creating stem-cell lines for himself and other academic researchers from discarded embryos provided by a large Boston fertility clinic, an arrangement that dramatically could enhance the supply of cells available for study.

But research on these cells could not be conducted using federal money, as these cell lines would be established subsequent to the 60 lines identified by the National Institutes of Health and allowed under President Bush’s recent decision.

The deal -- unusual in that most privately funded stem-cell lines are created by companies for commercial purposes -- could serve as a catalyst for other private interests to support academic researchers who otherwise are largely dependent on federal grants. In addition, because these stem-cell lines would be new, they could be more valuable to researchers than the existing lines, whose age and viability have not been disclosed.

The arrangement, first reported in Friday’s Boston Globe, was not “a response to President Bush’s thinking and decision,” said Douglas Melton, chairman of Harvard’s cell and molecular biology department.

In an interview Friday, Melton said he first drafted the proposal more than a year ago and sought approval from his employer, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Taiwan Panel’s Review Signals Pressure for Trade with China


A high-level Taiwanese panel began a three-day review of the island’s economic future Friday amid signs that its government is about to abandon increasingly futile efforts to limit commercial ties with mainland China.

The meeting, which unfolds as Taiwan appears to be heading for its first recession in more than three decades, was called by President Chen Shui-bian to explore ways of reinvigorating what only a year ago was viewed as one of East Asia’s most vibrant economies. But interest has focused on the government’s restraints of trade ties across the Taiwan Strait -- policies viewed by a growing number of analysts as outdated, ineffective and damaging to the island’s future.

Sources following the debate believe that the panel of business and political leaders will urge an immediate easing of restrictions on trade with and investment in mainland China. Chen has pledged to implement recommendations of the panel.