Monday, April 21, 2003


They made it easy to miss. I wouldn’t have caught it myself had I not been zoning out at work, stuck tagging shirts and hats with a needle-tipped pricing gun for hour after hour until I was forced to give myself a break, to stop and relax for a moment or run the risk of sticking the needle through my finger in a momentary lapse of attention.

I say they made it easy to miss, but in truth, for me, they made it easier to find. When I read the newspaper, I look for the good stuff, the strange or uplifting, the offbeat and human interest tales. These do not constitute the bulk of most media, written or otherwise. On Tuesday, the day in question, I skipped through twelve solid pages of downbeat reportage — Iraq, Syria, SARS, school shootings, some dangerous chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (which resides in Teflon cookware and Gore-Tex clothing and most everything else we own) under investigation by the EPA, and several full-page cries of clearance sales and storewide savings — before I found it, only three short columns, news from Bethesda, Maryland that the Human Genome Project is complete.

It’s been fifty years since James Watson and Francis Crick first discovered the structure of DNA, and now scientists have sequenced and produced a near-flawless map of the 3.1 billion units of DNA that comprise the human genome. In essence, this information is the beginning of the end of disease, all disease: cancer, AIDS, leukemia, meningitis, lupus, Alzheimer’s, on and on. The completion of this work, almost two years ahead of schedule and available in its entirety, for free, on public genetic databanks, means hope for all the hopeless. It changes everything.

But it isn’t front-page, top story news. Hope doesn’t sell papers. Just look at the way news ratings have skyrocketed over the course of the past month if you want proof.

They say no news is good news, but isn’t good news better?

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