JERUSALEM — The U.S. Mideast envoy returned to the region on Monday, seeking to revive troubled peace efforts after a major setback in which Washington abandoned efforts to coax Israel to freeze Jewish settlement in areas Palestinians want for a future state.
The envoy, George Mitchell, was expected to push the Israelis and Palestinians for progress on key issues at the heart of their conflict. But in a reflection of the difficulties ahead, Mitchell was being forced to meet separately with the sides during the two-day visit, and expectations for a breakthrough were low.
The failure to halt Israeli settlement construction has left President Barack Obama’s signature peace effort in embarrassing limbo.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the U.S. decision, saying efforts should instead focus on what he called the major issues in the conflict.
Bulgarians name Wham song as worst
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarians have named Wham’s ‘‘Last Christmas’’ the most annoying Christmas song ever.
An advertising agency said nearly 19 percent of the 28,110 votes cast in an online poll named the song. It was recorded in 1984 by the British duo Wham, made up of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley.
Mariah Carey’s ‘‘All I Want For Christmas’’ placed second among the 10 featured songs, with more than 15 percent of the vote.
Yordan Zhechev, creative director of the DDB agency, which organized the poll, urged radio stations not to include the poll winners in their Christmas programs if they want to keep their audience.
Top US officer: Risk of war rising in Koreas
BAGHDAD — The danger of war or hostilities is rising on the Korean peninsula, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is ‘‘a very unpredictable guy,’’ the top U.S. military officer said Monday.
Adm. Mike Mullen said North Korea has raised the ante in its aggression against South Korea.
Mullen told troops in Iraq that the old tit for tat pattern with North Korea has changed.
‘‘It’s changed out there, and it’s dangerous. Increasingly dangerous,’’ Mullen said during an informal question and answer session with troops.