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News Briefs

Scientists Complete ‘Working Drafts’ of 3 Human Chromosomes

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Marking another milestone on the way to deciphering the entire human genetic code, U.S. Department of Energy scientists announced Thursday that they have completed “working drafts” of three human chromosomes.

The 10,000 to 15,000 genes on these chromosomes include several known to be linked to serious diseases, including leukemia, high blood pressure, prostate cancer and diabetes. It is hoped that the detailed mapping of these genes will lead to new treatments for the disorders.

The energy department researchers, who are part of the publicly funded Human Genome Project, acknowledge that their “drafts” for chromosomes are not as complete as the finished code of chromosome 22, which was published in December. The public effort’s working draft of the genome will include all 24 human chromosomes, including the three from the Department of Energy, and is expected to be announced by summer.

Celera Genomics, a Maryland-based biotech company that is competing against the public effort, has said it will complete its version of the genome even sooner.

The announcement Thursday was intended to call attention to the role of the Department of Energy in the public genome project, which was first suggested by a top energy department official 15 years ago.

Lebanese Civil War Memorial Day

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BEIRUT, LEBANON

Twenty-five years ago Thursday, an ambush by Lebanese Christian fighters on a bus crowded with Palestinians marked the first blow in a long civil war. Before it ended in 1990, an estimated 150,000 people -- five percent of the population -- had been killed, this capital city lay in ruins and Lebanon had, for all intents, lost its independence.

Even though a decade has passed since a Syrian-imposed peace was implemented, the legacy of a civil war that divided Christians and Muslims remains so sensitive that the country still lacks an official day of remembrance.

On the anniversary of the war’s outbreak Thursday night, however, hundreds of mostly young Lebanese activists gathered on Martyrs’ Square in the newly rebuilt heart of Beirut for an unofficial ceremony to try to get Lebanon’s leaders to confront their country’s recent past of terrible sectarian violence.

Wearing blue ribbons and carrying candles and white flowers for the war’s victims, the demonstrators called on Lebanon’s present rulers to mount a comprehensive investigation into the fate of an estimated 17,000 people -- both Muslims and Christians -- who were kidnapped or who disappeared during the war.

They also asked that April 13 be declared an annual memorial day.