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News Briefs, part 1

Japanese Author Kenzabura Oe Wins Nobel in Literature

The Washington Post

Two events have shaped Kenzaburo Oe's life and career with cataclysmic force: the Japanese surrender in World War II, which occurred when he was 10; and the birth of his brain-damaged son in 1963.

Between them, these experiences have spawned two dozen novels, decades of political activism, a position atop the Japanese literary firmament and, Thursday, the Nobel Prize in literature. The only other Japanese to win the prize, worth $930,000 this year, was Yasunari Kawabata in 1968.

The 59-year-old Oe (pronounced OH-eh) reacted modestly to the news. "Whenever I was named as a candidate, I always thought it was a joke," he said at an impromptu news conference outside his Tokyo home. "I never thought about winning the prize."

He paid tribute to such masters as Kobo Abe and Shohei Ohoka, saying, "I won the prize thanks to the accomplishments of modern Japanese literature."

In its citation, the Swedish Academy rather vaguely credited Oe for creating "with poetic force" a world "where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today."

Flow of Illegals at Mexican Border Reduced, Official Says

Los Angeles Times

The Justice Department's No. 2 official said Thursday that the Border Patrol, with the aid of the Defense Department, has sharply reduced the number of illegal immigrants coming across a formerly heavily traversed section of the California-Mexico border.

Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, returning from a two-day visit to the border south of San Diego, coupled her upbeat assessment with a prediction that the government will be able to "secure the entire southwest border."

At the same time, Gorelick stepped up the administration's attack on California Gov. Pete Wilson, who has been highly critical of federal efforts to halt illegal entries. She rejected the suggestion that Wilson has put the immigration issue on the front burner and maintained that he has hindered solutions and "has not been constructive at all."

Sean Walsh, Wilson's press secretary, countered that it was California's three lawsuits against the federal government that led to "substantial action" by the Clinton administration. Walsh dismissed as ludicrous Gorelick's statement that Wilson had strongly supported allowing California employers to hire illegal immigrants and had opposed sanctions against employers in certain industries.

Gorelick, whose responsibilities include overseeing the Immigration and Naturalization Service, described looking at sites where "people had been running across the border utterly unimpeded for years" and finding them "quiet." She provided no specific figures on the decrease, however.

Scientists Identify Genetic Markers in Dyslexia

Los Angeles Times

In a finding that could soon have a major impact on the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia, scientists have identified genetic markers that should allow early identification of the reading disorder in high-risk children or even in fetuses, experts said Thursday.

San Diego and Colorado researchers report Friday in the journal Science that they have linked the reading disorder, which arises in people with an otherwise normal intelligence, to a small region of chromosome 6, one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes that compose the human genetic blueprint. While they are racing to identify the gene in this region that causes dyslexia, they are also developing a genetic test that could identify the disorder long before a child attempts to begin reading.

Using recently developed interventions and new techniques for diagnosing dyslexia at ages 5 to 6, clinicians currently can make significant improvements in the reading ability of perhaps half the children treated. But the diagnostic techniques are not widely available yet, and dyslexia, which affects 5 percent to 10 percent of the population, is not normally diagnosed until around age 8. By that age, even the best interventions can help no more than 25 percent of dyslectics.