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Intriguing people for December 22, 2009

By Jay Kernis, CNN

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is expected to announce that he will be ending his political career.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is expected to announce that he will be ending his political career.
  • Former New York mayor expected to retire from politics
  • President Obama expected to name White House cyber-security coordinator
  • 21-year-old with muscular dystrophy raising money for her own funeral

Editor's note: Every weekday, CNN focuses on a handful of people in the news. This is a chance to find out more about what they've done -- good or bad -- what they've said or what they believe, and why we think they're intriguing.

(CNN) -- Rudolph Giuliani
The New York Daily News and New York Times are reporting that the former mayor of New York City is expected to announce today that he is not running for the U.S. Senate in 2010, or governor or any other office -- and this might be the end of his ambitions as a political candidate. Giuliani, 65, became a national figure for the way he led New York and spoke to the world after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2007 he was a Republican presidential candidate. During his years of public service he's taken pro-choice and pro-gay stands. "I have always said that he was a good mayor -- just a terrible person," former Mayor Ed Koch told the Daily News. "And by terrible person, I mean he didn't respect anyone else's opinion. But he delivered essential services."

New York Daily News: Giuliani expected not to run for U.S. Senate

Howard Schmidt
A former White House official with a long history in law enforcement and computer security matters will be named White House cyber-security coordinator today. Schmidt joined the Air Force in 1967 and retired from public service in 2003 after serving as a cyber-security adviser for President George W. Bush. He has also served as information security chief for software giant Microsoft and for the auction Web site eBay and spent some time with the FBI at the National Drug Intelligence Center. Schmidt's job will be to help protect federal, military and civilian digital networks from attack.

Washington Post: Obama to name Schmidt as cyber-security coordinator

Jimmy Carter
The former U.S. president has apologized to the American Jewish community for "stigmatizing Israel" and asked for forgiveness for his actions, reports Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "We must recognize Israel's achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel," President Carter wrote in a letter to the JTA global news service. "As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so," Carter wrote, referring to the Yom Kippur prayer in which Jews ask God for forgiveness for any sins. His book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," angered some American Jews by comparing Israeli policy in the West Bank to South African apartheid.

Haaretz: Carter seeks forgiveness from U.S. Jews

Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo
A new order from the general in charge of northern Iraq makes getting pregnant or impregnating a fellow soldier a punishable offense by court-martial. The directive, part of a larger order restricting the behavior of the 22,000 soldiers under Gen. Anthony Cucolo's command, is meant to prevent losing soldiers at a time when troop strength is stretched thin, Cucolo explained in a statement sent to the troops under his command and provided to CNN. "I need every soldier I've got, especially since we are facing a drawdown of forces during our mission. Anyone who leaves this fight earlier than the expected 12-month deployment creates a burden on their teammates," Cucolo said. "Anyone who leaves this fight early because they made a personal choice that changed their medical status -- or contributes to doing that to another -- is not in keeping with a key element of our ethos." Gen. Cucolo has served 16 of the past 29 years in infantry and armor divisions, including time in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his official biography.

CNN: Pregnancy could lead to courts-martial

Sierra Cooper
Just days before Christmas, a young woman with muscular dystrophy is planning her own funeral so she won't leave the burden for her family in Clinton, Indiana. Sierra Cooper, 21, has battled muscular dystrophy her entire life, then she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Now, with no life insurance, doctors said she has little time left. This Christmas, she wishes for donations to help pay for her funeral. "If it was up to me, she'd have another 30 to 40 years and she'd bury me," Sallie Cooper, Sierra's mother, told WTHI-TV. "You're not supposed to bury your child."

WTHI: 21-year-old raises money for own funeral

What makes a person intriguing?

There are people who enter the news cycle every day because their actions or decisions are new, important or different. Others are in the news because they are the ones those decisions affect. And there are a number of people who are so famous or controversial that anything they say or do becomes news.

Some of these people do what we expect of them: They run for office, pass legislation, start a business, get hired or fired, commit a crime, make an arrest, get in accidents, hit a home run, overthrow a government, fight wars, sue an opponent, put out fires, prepare for hurricanes and cavort with people other than their spouses. They do make news, but the action is usually more important than who is involved in the story.

But every day there are a number of people who become fascinating to us -- by virtue of their character, how they reached their decision, how they behaved under pressure or because of the remarkable circumstances surrounding the event they are involved in.

They arouse our curiosity. We hear about them and want to know more. What they have done or said stimulates conversations across the country. At times, there is even a mystery about them. What they have done may be unique, heroic, cowardly or ghastly, but they capture our imaginations. We want to know what makes them tick, why they believe what they do and why they did what they did. They intrigue us.