I was a secret back channel to the Khomeini Regime in 1985. So when I read about the current crop of secret diplomats, and their dealings with (thus far unnamed) Iranians, I know what they went through. It's not always fun, rarely glamorous, and always dangerous.
Influenza can be a weapon of mass destruction. The latest candidate worth worrying about is H7N9. It jumped from birds to humans earlier this year. Of the 137 people known to have been infected, 45 died. There's no evidence that H7N9 spreads among humans. On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise any of the experts if H7N9 learns how to jump from person to person and mutates into a fast-moving mass murderer.
The Bush Administration's efforts to strike a workable deal with the Islamic Republic were part of the pattern of American-Iranian diplomacy since the Revolution of 1979: lots of talking, but no bargain, grand or middling. It's almost an instant replay of the Clinton years. In 2000, Albright gave a speech that essentially apologized for past American behaviour towards Iran.
I haven't seen much in print on the recent death of the great Czech emigre writer Josef Skvorecky, who died on January 3 in Canada, his adopted country. Another bad sign for the state of the culture, because Skvorecky was a major writer, perhaps even a great writer, and for extras he contributed mightily to the salvation of Czech culture.