Emory Report
March 23, 2009
Volume 61, Number 24



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March 23
, 2009

Cotler: Hold Iran responsible
Iran’s highest officials should be held legally accountable by the international community for their language of “genocidal incitement” toward Israel, said Canadian Parliamentarian and former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler, at a March 16 “When Law and Religion Meet” lecture.

“These hateful messages emerging from Tehran are not benign, are not mere rhetoric, and are anything but harmless,” said Cotler, also a legal scholar and international human rights lawyer, who was invited to give the inaugural Harold J. Berman lecture through Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion. “And, instead of abating, this language has been intensifying.” —Mary Loftus

Epigeneticist looks beyond genetics
“Our DNA is around 6 feet long. The diameter of a cell’s nucleus is around 50 microns, so the DNA has to be packed tightly to fit in the nucleus,” explained Victor Corces in his recent “Life of the Mind” lecture. “It’s wrapped around groups of proteins called histones, to form chromatin.”

The chair of biology and distinguished professor is working at the leading edge of epigenetics. He explained that acetylation and methylation of histones and the arrangement of chromatin affect human health, aging and behaviors.

The overflow audience included students from RISE, the program that Corces founded to bring inner-city teens into his lab, where they work alongside Emory students. “It’s satisfying to see the next generation of students becoming interested in this.” —Carol Clark

Poet dissects science tales
In 2001, Marilyn Nelson was asked to write a poem to honor a slave named Fortune, who died of a broken neck in 18th-century Connecticut. His owner was a bone-setter named Doctor Porter, said the former poet-laureate of Connecticut, during her recent talk as the visiting Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Professor in Science and Society.

Porter dissected Fortune, boiled his bones and reassembled them. “He hung them in a room to be used as a little home-grown medical school — which was science,” Nelson said. “But Fortune’s family was still living in the house.”

Nelson’s poem imagined the thoughts of Fortune’s widow, who as a slave of the family was likely consigned to dust the remains of her husband. Nelson also wrote a poem from Porter’s view. “I believe this doctor was in pursuit of knowledge,” she said. —Carol Clark