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Kertesz Wins Nobel in Literature

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- ROME

Hungarian writer Imre Kertesz, a survivor of Auschwitz who made the experience of the Holocaust a central theme of his work, won the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday.

In announcing the award, the Swedish Academy singled out Kertesz’s 1975 debut novel “Fateless,” the semi-autobiographical story of a boy sent to Nazi concentration camps who conforms and survives -- partly by developing an extraordinary detachment to what is happening to him. In the novel, the terrifying reality of the camps is taken for granted, as a given of the hero’s situation.

“The shocking credibility of the description derives perhaps from this very absence of any element of the moral indignation or metaphysical protest that the subject cries out for,” the academy said.

Kertesz’s writing also carries a broader symbolism, the academy said, exploring how one can live and think as an individual when people are severely repressed by society. His work “upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history,” it said. “For him, Auschwitz is not an exceptional occurrence. It is the ultimate truth about human degradation in modern experience.”

Pakistan’s Ruling Party, Opposition in Tight Race

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN

As workers counted millions of ballots Thursday, early unofficial results in the first general election since a 1999 coup suggested that allies of President Pervez Musharraf were locked in a tight race with the leading opposition party for control of parliament.

Projections based on initial counting of ballots for the National Assembly’s 272 seats and exit polls indicated the Pakistan People’s Party of exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto holding a slight lead over the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, a staunch Musharraf ally that broke away from a major party.

The original PML party and an alliance of six Islamic parties that campaigned on an anti-U.S. platform are competing for third place in the parliament, according to the early tallies.

The election commission has not released any official results, which are not expected until later Friday at the earliest.

Advisory Panel Urges End To Gene Therapy Suspension

THE WASHINGTON POST

New tests offer overwhelming evidence that a leukemia-like disease diagnosed in a three-year-old boy in France was triggered by the experimental gene therapy he received as a baby, the first proof that the nascent and troubled field of medicine can cause cancer.

Nonetheless, because of the treatment’s track record of having apparently cured several children and because the risk of cancer so far appears to be modest, a federal advisory committee Thursday recommended that the FDA reverse its recent suspension of such studies and allow them to continue with new restrictions and protections in place.

“All of us are scared about it and are aware that this has implications,” said Daniel Salomon, chairman of the FDA’s Biological Response Modifiers Advisory Committee, which met in an emergency session Thursday at a Gaithersburg, Md., hotel. “However, one adverse event, serious as it is in the context of the whole field ... is not enough to advise the FDA to put all these programs on hold.”

The FDA in September halted the three U.S. gene therapy studies that most closely resembled the French experiment, including one that had already treated four children and two that had not yet recruited volunteers. The studies involve infusions of engineered retroviruses to deliver healthy genes into patients with life-threatening immune system deficiencies.