Friday | March 24, 2017
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World 4.16

Notion of patenting genes raises eyebrows at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court justices pushed back Monday against the idea of patenting human genes during oral arguments that ranged from baseball bats and chocolate chip cookies to imaginary plants in the Amazon.

Amid a tangle of competing metaphors, conservative and liberal justices alike seemed to recoil at patenting isolated genes taken from the human body. Even if separated through clever technology, justices suggested, the genes in question remain a product of nature rather than an invention of man.

“Here, you’re just snipping, and you don’t have anything new,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. told Gregory A. Castanias, an attorney for Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City. “You have something that is a part of something that existed previous to your intervention.”

Underscoring the court’s ideologically diverse concerns, liberal Justice Elena Kagan joined the conservative Roberts in offering examples that were critical of human-gene patenting. Repeatedly, and skeptically, Kagan asked whether a company might patent a medically useful plant removed from its habitat deep in the Amazon.

The question is telling, because the Supreme Court previously has declared that laws of nature and “natural phenomenon” may not be patented.

N. Korea calmly marks founder’s birthday

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Koreans celebrated the birthday of their first leader Monday by dancing in plazas and snacking on peanuts, with little hint of the fiery language that has kept the international community fearful that a missile launch may be imminent.

Pyongyang fired off a rocket ahead of the last anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth — the centennial — but this time the day was simply the start of a two-day holiday for Pyongyang residents who spilled into the streets.

Girls in red and pink jackets skipped along streets festooned with celebratory banners and flags and boys on inline skates took a break to slurp up bowls of shaved ice.

There was no sense of panic in the North Korean capital, where very few locals have access to international broadcasts and foreign newspapers speculating about an imminent missile launch and detailing the international diplomacy under way to try to rein Pyongyang in.

Elsewhere in the region, however, the focus remained on the threat of a launch as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a tour to coordinate Washington’s response with Beijing, North Korea’s most important ally, as well as with Seoul and Tokyo.

Denver Post wins Pulitzer for coverage of theater massacre

NEW YORK — The Denver Post won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for its coverage of the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., while The New York Times captured four awards for reporting on a harrowing avalanche, the rise of a new aristocracy in China and the business practices of Apple and Wal-Mart.

The Associated Press received the award in breaking news photography for its coverage of the civil war in Syria.

In awards that reflected the rapidly changing media world, the online publication InsideClimate News won the Pulitzer for national reporting for its reports on problems in the regulation of the nation’s oil pipelines.

The Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received the public service award for an investigation of off-duty police officers’ reckless driving, and longtime Pulitzer powerhouses The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post were recognized for commentary and criticism, respectively.

The Star-Tribune of Minneapolis captured two awards, for local reporting and editorial cartooning.

By wire sources