Weekly Review — November 27, 2007, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A grasshopper driving a chariot, 1875]

Teams of biologists in Japan and Wisconsin discovered new methods for transforming human skin cells into “induced pluripotent stem cells.” Both techniques employ a retrovirus to inject the cells with four “master regulator” genes that reprogram the cells’ function. The Wisconsin team, directed by James A. Thompson, who pioneered the harvesting of embryonic stem cells, culled its skin cells from foreskins. The Japanese team conducted their preliminary research on mice, with a cancer gene among the regulators, and created in the process a mischief of clone mice, 20 percent of which developed cancer. President George W. Bush was said to be “very pleased” that the innovation might render the use of embryonic stem cells obsolete, but critics said it was too soon to tell whether the synthesized stem cells would prove as versatile as those from embryos.New York TimesSeattle TimesNew York TimesAn American nuclear scientist projected that the number of deaths caused by depleted uranium in ammunition fired on Iraq would exceed those caused by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “The environment is now completely radioactive,” said Leuren Moret. “The genetic future of the Iraqi people, for the most part, is destroyed.”uruknetIan Smith, the Rhodesian prime minister who promised 1,000 years of white rule in Africa, died, and authorities in Zimbabwe were arresting satirists.EconomistL.A. TimesAustralian voters elected the Labor Party’s Kevin Rudd prime minister, replacing conservative John Howard, a Bush ally who failed to retain his own seat in Parliament. Rudd, who has been videotaped eating his own earwax, said he would push for Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, leaving the United States the lone holdout.TimeYouTubeAFPFourteen thousand refugees fled wildfires in Malibu, California,.New York Timesand the British government admitted that it had lost computer disks containing the personal information of more than one third of its citizens.New York Times

Exiled prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan. “I have come,” he said, “to save this country.” New York TimesThere was a power vacuum in Lebanon after the Parliament failed to elect a new president, New York Timesand in Annapolis, Maryland, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convened a meeting of Middle Eastern leaders, excluding Iran and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. “We must not view Annapolis as a failure,” Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said before the summit started. “Nothing good will come out of it,” said Riham Abu Khater, a 17-year-old Gazan woman attending a protest march. “Good will only come from the language of fighting, and from force.” Hamas pledged to pack more explosives in its homemade rockets, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Participation in this summit is an indication of the lack of intelligence of some so-called politicians.”Daily StarHaaretzHaaretzJerusalem PostThe Interfaith Rainbow Coalition Against Homosexuality in Uganda protested a summit of British Commonwealth leaders in Kampala. “I asked President Museveni to get us an island on Lake Victoria and we take these homosexuals and they die out there,” said Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje of an earlier meeting he had with Uganda’s head of state. “If they die there, then we shall have no more homosexuals in the country.”365Gay

Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan released an excerpt of his forthcoming memoir. The passage states that he “unknowingly” lied when he denied that White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby participated in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. McClellan vaguely confesses that “Rove, Libby, the vice president [Dick Cheney], the president’s chief of staff [Andrew Card], and the President himself” were “involved” in his relaying “false information,” but he stops short of saying that Bush and Cheney knew they were telling him to lie. SlateAl Gore visited the White House,.ABCand amateur investigators in Russia found the charred bones of two teenage children of Tsar Nicholas II murdered along with their father, mother, and three siblings by Bolshevik agents in 1918, dispelling the rumor that a Romanov prince or princess had escaped execution. New York TimesAbraham Bolden, a former Secret Service agent, told reporters that a plot by Cuban exiles to kill President John F. Kennedy in Chicago was uncovered three weeks before his assassination in Dallas. The would-be assailants, who had allegedly rented a motel room overlooking Kennedy’s motorcade route and were said to possess automatic rifles with telescopic sights, were never caught, and the investigation, Bolden claimed, was covered up.TelegraphKennedy’s 86-year-old sister Eunice was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness,CNNand UNAIDS, the United Nations agency that fights AIDS, lowered its estimate of the number of people infected with the disease worldwide, from 39.5 million to 33.2 million. New York TimesArmin Meiwes, a convicted German cannibal, was elected leader of his prison’s Green Party chapter and announced that he had become a vegetarian.ScotsmanCiting Schrodinger’s cat, cosmologists speculated that humans’ observation of dark matter, beginning in 1998, might bring about the premature destruction of the universe.Telegraph

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I.

That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

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I am eight years old, sitting in my childhood kitchen, ready to watch one of the home videos my father has made. The videotape still exists somewhere, so somewhere she still is, that girl on the screen: hair that tangles, freckles across her nose that in time will spread across one side of her forehead. A body that can throw a baseball the way her father has shown her. A body in which bones and hormones lie in wait, ready to bloom into the wide hips her mother has given her. A body that has scars: the scars over her lungs and heart from the scalpel that saved her when she was a baby, the invisible scars left by a man who touched her when she was young. A body is a record or a body is freedom or a body is a battleground. Already, at eight, she knows it to be all three.

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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