Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Observer: Cloning Set Back Years by Hwang

Human cloning advocates and their media allies are steeped in regret over the "years" that Hwang has allegedly cost cloning science. This piece in the Observer is well written and a prime example of this line of thinking. (And the description of therapeutic cloning is pretty accurate!)

Lost in all of this mourning are the tremendous advances being made in the very areas to which therapeutic cloning would supposedly bring relief. From the column: "The ravaged brains of Alzheimer's victims would one day be provided with new nerve cells; diabetics would be given pancreatic cells to replace those killed off by their condition; and victims of cardiac disease would be treated with fresh heart muscle cells.The promise was immense."

The "promise" is and was purely theoretical and speculative. Alzheimer's, as has been repeatedly noted here, is NOT a good candidate for treatment with embryonic stem cells. As for diabetes, mice with late stage disease have been cured with adult spleen stem cells. Nothing close to that with cloned or natural embryonic stem cells. Yet, even though the FDA has approved human trials, the Harvard scientists who want to see if it will work in humans are having trouble obtaining financing. (The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation refuses to fund the study, but put over $1 million into Proposition 71.) Heart disease is also already being treated in early trials with adult stem cells. The list goes on and on.

No mention in the article of these avenues of great hope. Also, no mention of the bigger picture issues about what such a massive fraud means about peer review, the unskeptical media, and whether the "promise" of embryonic approaches are really as bright as has been stated.

I am convinced that media and cloning advocates will refuse to learn the deeper lessons of this scandal. It will be up to alternative media to keep that aspect of the story alive.

More Bad Cloning Reporting by the New York Times

Here we are in the midst of a crucial democratic debate about the future of biotechnology and human cloning. For people to have truly informed opinions, the information they receive from the media must be accurate. Yet, whether through ignorance or bias, reporters for the New York Times seem never to get it right.

Today's interesting story on the problems Science is having retracting an inaccurate retraction of Hwang's 2005 fraudulent paper, is a case in point. The relatively short story has two serious errors (and a minor one not worth the space to describe):

1. Continues the Times' practice of inaccurately describing the process of human therapeutic cloning, which reporter Gina Kolata writes uses cloned embryonic "stem cells to treat patients with their own regenerated tissue." No, adult stem cell therapies treat patients with their own tissues. Cloned embryonic stem cell therapy would not. The cells used would come from a distinct nascent human life created to be a genetic match for the patient. That isn't the same thing morally or scientifically.

2. And here's an incredible piece of spin: Hwang published two papers in Science: In 2004, he reported creating cloned human embryos from which he derived one embryonic stem cell line. But it took 242 eggs, which, unless improved, made therapeutic cloning ridiculously unproductive. His second paper in 2005, as I describe in my Weekly Standard piece, was lauded as the big breakthrough. Hwang not only claimed to have created more human embryos, but to have derived eleven patient-specific stem cell lines from them--using only about 8 eggs per patient. This was the paper that really set the science world on fire because it supposedly meant that therapeutic cloning was now a realistic prospect.

The 2005 paper was a total fraud. The 2004 papers is still up in the air. So now the Times calls the 2004 report "the more important paper." Only because it hasn't yet proven to be a fraud. (Stay tuned: I think it will.) This is spinning at its most pathetic, either by the reporter, or as I really suspect, her scientist source.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year

To all of those who stop by Secondhand Smoke, whether you agree with my views or not, I wish you health, happiness, and prosperity in the new year. Thank you all for your support.

Thinking Animals Are Like Humans

This story involves a bitter controversy in Los Angeles over euthanizing the millions of stray cats and dogs that LA has to contend with, the tactics of some animal liberationists that may have successfully induced (coerced?) the mayor to fire an embattled head of the city's animal control system, and the steps his successor is taking to assuage the protestors. I am not going to get into all of that, but this made me shake my head:

"Still on vacation when he arrived in town two weeks ago, Boks [the new guy] got right down to business, meeting with the community, visiting shelters, and putting out the word that he needs volunteers to help paint the facilities bright, non-institutional colors, just as he did in New York." (My emphasis.)

This is fine, I suppose. Make the place cheerier for the people who work there. But if it is being done "for the animals," it is an example of the rampant anthromorphization that is endemic in the animal rights movement: The dogs and cats sheltered won't give a tinker's darn about what colors the walls are. They are color blind.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

My Weekly Standard Column on Hwang Fraud Now Available

The Weekly Standard has posted my piece in this week's issue on the Hwang debacle on its Daily Standard site, so it is now available to non subscribers. Here is the link.

Since this was published, the independent investigation has concluded there were never any cloned embryonic stem cells. Still up in the air: Was Snuppy the cloned dog a product of somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning or merely embryo splitting? Did Hwang construct human cloned embryos in either 2004 or 2005? Virtually all of his other research claims were clearly lies. With such a history, I am betting he didn't really clone embryos. Not sure about Snuppy.

If he got money for his research based on fraudulent assertions, he should go to jail. Morally, he deserves our scorn for promising a 12 year old child in a wheelchair that his research would allow him to walk. A man who would do that knowing he is a fraud would seem to have no conscience.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Seoul Times on Hwang Fraud

There were no embronic stem cells made through cloning, as claimed by Hwang in his fraudulent 2005 paper in Science. None. This probably means he also fraudulently claimed to have created an embryonic stem cell line from cloned embryos in 2004. Still unknown, but increasingly unlikely, whether he created true human cloned embryos at all.

A lot of people besides Hwang have a lot of 'splainin' to do. Here is the latest article.

Question: Will the media finally begin to show some healthy skepticism toward the claims of Big Biotech and its allies about cloning and embryonic stem cell research? Will they wonder whether it is really true that embryonic sources offer the "best" opportunities for regenerative medicine? Will they begin to challenge the Science Establishment's claims in as vigorous a fashion as they do those of other powerful institutions?

Answer: No.

Hwang Did Not Create Any Cloned Embryonic Stem Cells in 2005

This is short, so I will just reprint the story rather than link it. Hwang made it all up.

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean scientists had no data to prove claims made in a landmark 2005 paper that they had produced tailored embryonic stem cells, an investigation panel said on Thursday, indicating major scientific fraud.

The same Seoul National University investigation panel had said last week that the paper -- produced by the team led by previously celebrated and now disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk -- contained data that was intentionally fabricated.

"Stem cells with DNA matching with patient tissues regarding the 2005 paper were not found. And it is the panel's judgment that Professor Hwang 's team does not have the scientific data to prove that they (patient-specific stem cells) were made," said Roe Jung-hye, chief of the university's research office.

The panel found that two cells Hwang's team claimed were stem cells were actually human egg cells supplied by a hospital in Seoul, Roe told reporters.

Hwang has said he has the technology to produce patient-specific stem cells.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Ian Wilmut Wants to Experiment With Stem Cells on the Dying

Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly and now a would-be cloner of human embryos wants to experiment on dying people. Rather than go through the usual process of animal studies to test efficacy and safety, he wants to switch quickly to conducting embryonic stem cell experiments upon dying people on the basis that the experiments would be "high risk but high gain" procedures.

This has a certain surface attraction. After all, if people are dying, what's the harm? Well the harm could be substantial. First, unlike some experimental cancer treatments carried out on those dying of late stage disease to see if they can gain extra time, embryonic stem cells have not proven themselves to be "high gain" in animal studies yet. Therefore, it cannot be said whether or to what extent they would offer any real hope at all to the patient.

Second, it is quite possible if things go wrong, that they could increase the patient's suffering, perhaps causing brain cancer as one example mentioned in the story.

Third, we could fall headlong into the trap of looking upon our dying as so many guinea pigs, furthering the dehumanization that seems to go hand-in-hand with therapeutic cloning and ESCR research. Moreover, such a scheme would seem to violate agreed upon protocols for human medical experimentation.

Fourth, if the dying will not be with us for long enough to really test the procedures, who would be next on Wilmut's list? Those in persistent vegetative states? How about quadriplegics who would rather risk a brain tumor than live paralyzed? Once we begin down that road, we enter very dangerous territory.

Dying people are not dead: They are living. And they should be treated as fully equal and included members of the community. Using them in place of lab rats and potentially causing them great harm does quite the opposite, unless there is at least some realistic potential for therapeutic gain.

Korea Times: Hwang's Remaining Two Stem Cell Lines May Not Exist

If this is true, it should cinch the total fraud perpetrated by Woo-Suk Hwang. Hwang's excuse for failing to prove that he actually cloned human embryos is apparently going to be that the bona fide cloned embryonic stem cell lines were switched with lines taken from embryos created through fertilization. But he has lied about everything else, so even if true--barring clear proof--who will believe him?

This story, while being reported, in my view is still being underplayed. It should rock science to the core and materially impact the debate on cloning. Hwang had more than $60 million to create clones and cloned embryonic stem cell lines. If he didn't do it--or better stated, couldn't do it--a question has to be asked even by supporters of therapeutic cloning: Is investing billions into this research really worth the price, or worth diverting these massive funds away from more promising and/or immediately beneficial avenues of medical investigations?

Kevorkian's Lawyer is Clueless

Jack Kevorkian's lawyer is upset--and issued a press release to let the rest of us know--that the Michigan Parole Board refused to recommend clemency or pardon, based on Kevorkian's supposed ill health. But why should it? Kevorkian is an utterly unrepentant murderer who would spend his time as a free man justifying his crime and his assisted suicide campaign. He is right where he belongs.

NYT STILL Won't Describe Therapeutic Cloning Accurately

I apologize to regular readers who may be growing weary of my continually posting examples of awful reporting in the therapeutic cloning debate. But this "bias by omission" as I call it, is truly outrageous. On Sunday, in an analysis of the Hwang debacle, Nocholas Wade AGAIN inaccurately describes therapeutic cloning, to wit:

"The panel is also reviewing Dr. Hwang's 2004 claim in which he was apparently the first to clone human cells. If that also proves false, the goal of therapeutic cloning--repairing patients' cells with their own tissues--may be considerably further off that it seemed a few months ago." (My italics.)

The italicized section would be an accurate description of adult stem cell research in which a patient's own stem cells, say from blood, are extracted and reintroduced into the patient. We have already seen encouraging indications in early human trials that for many diseases, adult stem cells will be able to provide effective treatments.

But this isn't therapeutic cloning, which, if it works--we still don't know if human clones have even been created post Hwang--involves using the patient's DNA to create cloned embryos, that are developed and destroyed to derive embryonic stem cells.

Why is the New York Times still "the paper of record?"

My Take on Hwang Scandal in Weekly Standard

I have weighed in on the Hwang fraud in the current edition of the Weekly Standard. Since it may not yet be available to non subscribers, I'll quote a few key excerpts here.

After extensively describing Hwang's unraveling, I suggest some of the important issues that need to be explored in the scandal's aftermath:

"This debacle raises several interesting questions: What does it tell us about the thoroughness of the peer review process? Why were younger South Korean scientists able to discover Hwang's missteps when the presumably more seasoned peer reviewers for Science failed? Will the American media take a cue from their courageous counterparts in South Korea, who pursued this story until it cracked, and finally bring skepticism to their coverage of biotechnology? More to the point, will the adult/umbilical cord blood stem cell successes that have emerged one after the other in recent years finally receive the attention they deserve in the mainstream press, which has been so intoxicated with embryonic research as virtually to ignore nonembryonic breakthroughs?"

I suggest that the media is more likely to circle the wagons than do their jobs on the biotech beat, noting that the pro cloning side is already furiously spinning the scandal:

"The same voices that not long ago railed against President Bush's stem cell funding policies for supposedly allowing America to fall behind the cutting-edge research in South Korea, now indignantly blame Bush for creating a hyper-competitive atmosphere that led to Hwang's failures. 'Ethics can get forgotten as other nations and private companies race to fill the void left by the president's reluctance to fund stem cell research,' wrote bioethicists Arthur Caplan and Glenn McGee in the Albany Times Union. 'Only a properly funded U.S. stem cell research program will guarantee oversight and the protection of all involved.'"

But, I note, outright science fraud has not been the only problem with the pro-cloning side, discussing as examples the misrepresentation in the pro Proposition 71 political campaign, the hype about therapeutic cloning as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's in the wake of President Reagan's death, and the false assertions about SCNT for biomedical research not really being "human cloning."

I conclude with an overview of the current terrain: "So where are we in the cloning debate? At this point, we don't know whether human cloning has been successfully accomplished or not. We don't know whether embryonic stem cells have been derived from cloned embryos. We don't know to what depths the dishonesty of the seemingly most successful researcher in the field actually descended.

"We do know that cloning proponents in this country are avid in their desire for billions in federal and state money to pay for morally problematic and highly speculative research that the private sector generally shuns. And we do know that some advocates of this public policy agenda are more than willing to play fast and loose with the facts in order to get their way. In short, the human cloning agenda is falling into public disrepute-and for that, proponents of the agenda have no one to blame but themselves."

I am sure that the full article will be available on-line soon. I hope y'all will check it out.

Leak: No Clones Made in 2005 Hwang Experiments

This is a leak, it is only a leak: It is not the official conclusion. But it appears that Hwang never cloned human embryos at all in the 2005 experiments, in which he fraudulently asserted to have successfully made 11 patient specific, cloned embryonic stem cell lines. If this is true, it is also probably true about his 2004 claim, meaning that he may never have manufactured human clones at all. It would also explain why his work has yet to be repeated by other researchers.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Peter Singer Knocks Down Straw Men in Weak Pro Cloning Column

I have never been that impressed with the thinking of Peter Singer, although he is probably the most famous philosopher/bioethicist in the world. This article by Singer in the Australian about the Hwang scandal is a case in point.

For example, Singer trots out the old nonsense that cloning makes the human embryo essentially worthless because, well, let's let him tell it:

"Proving the possibility of cloning from the nucleus of an ordinary human cell would transform the debate about the value of potential human life, for we would find that potential human life was all around us, in every cell of our bodies."

The idea here is that since any cell could conceivably be used to create an embryo, and since many people oppose destroying embryos because of their human potential, then since every cell is a potential human life, this somehow disproves the belief that a human embryo has intrinsic value because it is human. But this is mere sophistry. A cell is just a cell, whether used in cloning or not. At most, each somatic cell would be the moral equivalent of sperm--which again, is just a cell. Scientifically, a cloned embryo is a different thing altogether than a mere cell: It is an integrated human organism, which many believe gives it a distinct moral status. Hence, contrary to Singer's assertion, learning to clone will not change this perspective at all.

Here's another weak argument: Singer quotes President Bush as opposing therapeutic cloning because each human life is as unique as a snowflake. "If it is the uniqueness of human embryos that makes it wrong to destroy them," he writes, "then there is no compelling reason not to take one cell from an embryo and destroy the remainder of it to obtain stem cells, for the embryo's unique genetic potential would be preserved."

But of course, that is not why President Bush or others oppose cloning. Otherwise, they wouldn't object to murdering identical siblings, who are the world's only true clones. Indeed, it isn't the genetic uniqueness that makes it wrong to create embryos for the purpose of destroying them to cloning opponents: It is treating human life, even nascent human life, like a commodity, a mere crop to be harvested.

Singer is adept at making straw men to knock over, and employs this technique throughout his column. The truth is that Singer believes that all unborn human lives and newborn infants have no right to life or bodily integrity because they are not "persons." Indeed, he is the world's foremost proponent of infanticide. Hence, under Singer's theories--and he does hint at this in this piece--it would be acceptable to create a cloned embryo, gestate it to the fetal stage, and abort it in order to harvest its organs. Heck, he would justify bringing a cloned baby fully to birth for that purpose. Unfortunately, many readers of this piece may not know the depth of the consequences of Singer's utilitarian mindset.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

MSM Now Reporting Hwang Fraud

The New York Times put Hwang on its front page today. That is good. The paper predictably covered the story following the general line taken by cloning advocates. The Washingto Post has another story as well, again by Rick Weiss. It ran on the San Francisco Chronicle's front page.

These reporters and the analysis I read in the Times still are not asking the truly pertinent questions about how this happened. Nor are we yet seeing the skeptical and aggressive reportage that led to Hwang's downfall in South Korea. They quote the editor of Science on the issue, which is fine, but they fail to note that he too has a lot of explaining to do, for example, why initially Science took the blame for publishing what turned out to be forged photographs, claiming the matter was a production problem within the journal.

This story should get much bigger. We'll see if it will or whether the MSM will circle the wagons around therapeutic cloning. That's my prediction.

I will have my own take on it in the next Weekly Standard and will post a few quotes here when it is out.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Snuppy the Cloned Dog May Not Be Cloned

This from the London Times today, reporting on the Hwang fraud:

"The paper reporting the birth of Snuppy did not include DNA tests that were needed to prove the dog was a true clone."

And yet, it passed peer-review muster, as did the fraudulent paper claiming 11 cloned stem cell lines, as did the 2004 paper claiming to have created the first cloned embryo, but which is in doubt because photos are duplicates. I think the scientists involved in overseeing these published papers have a lot to explain. Where was their skepticism?

MSM Downplaying Hwang Scandal

As I suspected, much of the same media that carried banner stories about Hwang's purported cloning success, are barely reporting his downfall. Notable exception, the Washington Post, which ran a front page story. But I just went through my New York Times, and couldn't find the story. On the WEB site, there is an abridged AP wire story. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a short blurb on page 3.

Not unbelievable, but sooo typical.

I would be interested in the level of reporting from elsewhere.

Singer Don Ho Adult Stem Cell Treatment Appears to Have Worked

Why does it seem to always take celebrities to get media's attention? The Washington Post has reported an apparent adult stem cell success in treating Hawaiian singer Don Ho. Ho reportedly had stem cells taken from his own blood injected into his badly ailing heart, in a procedure not yet approved in the USA. He is now feeling so good he may return to performing.

This is an anecdotal report. Safety remains an issue and until this procedure is repeated, tested properly in blind studies, and verified with peer reviewed articles, it does not a cure make. But With the Hwang debacle, the growing number of adult stem cell successes, and the media just beginning to barely cover the depth and breadth of adult/umbilical cord blood stem cell successes, it may become impossible for cloning proponents to continue to insist that embryonic stem cells offer the "best" potential to develop a robust regenerative medical sector.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Australia Panel Recommends Anything Goes Cloning License

Michael Cook is the editor of Bio Edge and he has published a powerful opinion article in the Australian about a science panel that recommends not only overturning Australia's current ban on all human cloning, but permitting a virtually anything goes license for biotech. Here is the key paragraph:

"The public is being sold a pig in a poke. In return for stuffing the Christmas stockings of scientists full of goodies, it gets gilt-edged promises. The guys in white coats, on the other hand, get jobs, research contracts and royalties on their patented discoveries. Some of them will become very rich. Drug companies will get cheaper clinical trials. And to add insult to injury, the report firmly states that patients must not share in profits which might arise from the use of their tissue."

This illustrates that the biotechnology ideologues will never willingly accept any permanent meaningful boundaries.

Hwang's University Says He Faked At Least 9 of 11 Cloned Stem Cell Lines

It's official: Hwang is a fraud. His own university investigators determined that he deliberately misled the world about his supposed cloning breakthroughs. Nine out of the eleven stem cell lines were faked and the other two have yet to be confirmed. The LA Times is on the story.

Look now for the same pro cloners who were saying we need to federally fund human cloning to catch up to the South Koreans to not miss a beat and claim we need federal funding of human cloning so we can do it right. And look for the mainstream media to mildly cover the story, which can't be ignored, but not give it the blockbuster treatment it deserves for fear of aiding the anti-human cloning political campaign.

What we need to do is outlaw all human cloning.

China Marketing Organs of Executed Prisoners

There is so much that could be written about this. But, I will just point out that the same dehumanizing, commodifying activity could be unleashed if there is ever widespread human cloning. The need for millions of eggs could result in a the exploitation of women for their eggs, or the selling of executed prisoner's ovaries for the follicles.

The End of the "Cult of Hwang"

South Korean scientists are furious with the "scam" they believe was perpetrated by Woo-Suk Hwang, to the point that they want him "punished." I am not sure what that might mean, but if he obtained government or private funding based on fraudulent assertions, that could be a crime.

What led to Hwang's fame is his supposed ability to accomplish research feats that nobody else could do or replicate. Now, it seems, the reason may be that he did not do it at all. In any event, Hwang is ruined. Along this same line, the journal Nature is now checking to verify he actually cloned a dog and gestated it to birth, which, like creating ES cells from cloned human embryos, no other scientist has ever been able to accomplish.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Some Truth Telling in NATURE

Nature has an interesting article about the Hwang debacle. A couple of quotes stuck out for me.

"In the past few days, doubts have also been raised about the authenticity of [Hwang's] 2004 paper... But whether it is valid or not, the loss of confidence in the 2005 study leaves scientists with no proof that adult cells can be cloned - let alone used to produce stem cells. "Hwang's work gave people confidence to move into this difficult area," says Alan Colman, head of Singapore-based regenerative medicine company ES Cell International and a member of the team that cloned Dolly. "But maybe it's harder than we thought."

"We're back to knowing that animal cloning is possible but wondering whether it is possible in humans," adds Kevin Eggan of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "This is an enormous setback." (My italics.)

This is important because it acknowledges that the act of human cloning is the creation of the cloned embryo, not the cloned baby. It flies in the face of the disingenuous propaganda campaign being mounted by Big Biotech and their allies that cloning an embryo is not human cloning.

Here's another interesting quote:

"But for others, the episode merely confirms that therapeutic cloning is not the way forward. 'I always had my doubts about therapeutic cloning to generate patient-matched cells,' says Stephen Minger, a stem-cell researcher at the Wolfson Centre for Age Related Diseases in London, UK. He believes that banking stemcell lines from normal embryos, so that they can be matched to patients once they are made, is a more realistic prospect."

So, it isn't just religious folk who believe that therapeutic cloning doesn't make sense scientifically. Of course, he supports ESCR, but I believe that within five years, the advances in adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells may be such that ESCR will not be seen as necessary for clinical application.

More Evidence that Hwang May Have Faked First Cloning Report

Science has steadfastly defended Hwang's research--until now. It is investigating the 2004 paper that announced the first human clones.

Now Schatten May Be In Hot Water

Reuters Alertnet is reporting that Woo-Suk Hwang's former partner, Gerald Schatten, who first alerted the world to Hwang's ethical challenges, may be dismissed by his university. I wonder what that is all about? This story may have only just begun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Human Trial to Begin Using Adult Stem Cells to Treat Brain Trauma in Children

Some more potential good news comes to us now amidst the human cloning debacle out of South Korea. Early human trials are about to begin utilyzing children's own bone marrow stem cells to treat brain trauma. The Phase 1 trial (which is primarily aimed at testing the safety of the procedure) has been approved by the FDA. Let us all hope it works, leading to further testing and the eventual bringing of adult stem cell treatments to people who suffer serious brain injuries.

Hwang May Have Faked First Cloning Report

The Hwang scandal may involve his every notable scientific work. Questions are now being asked whether he actually cloned a dog and gestated it to birth, which no other biotechnologists have ever been able to do. Now, it looks as if his first announcement in Science, that he had cloned human embryos and obtained one embryonic stem cell line, may also have been faked. The evidence? The purported photos of the cloned stem cell line is identical to earlier published photos of embryonic stem cells taken from naturally created embryos.

If this is true, human life appears never to have been cloned and the ongoing political campaign to federally fund the research in order "not to be left behind," is in tatters.

Stalin Ordered Creation of Ape/Man Warriors

The Transhumanists might say that Stalin was just ahead of his times when he ordered his scientists to create a half human/half ape species to be warriors.

It wasn't just Stalin. In our own time, Joseph Fletcher, who bioethics historian Al Jonson has called the "patriarch of bioethics" urged the creation of a half ape/half human sub caste to do our menial labor: "Chimeras or parahumans might legitimately be fashioned to do dangerous or demeaning jobs...Hybrids could also be designed by sexual reproduction, as between apes and humans...If women are unwilling to gestate hybrids animal females could." (The Ethics of Genetic Control, pp.172-173).

Now, the transhumanists want to use biotechnology, nanotech, and every other kind of tech to create a "post human species." This is a return to the concept of the super man, but Stalin and Fletcher illustrate that such technologies could also be turned to less utopian purposes.

Monday, December 19, 2005

And Yet Another Woefully Inaccurate Description of Cloning

This laughable depiction of cloning comes to us courtesy of Jamie Talan of Newsday. In a story on December 16 about the Hwang mess, therapeutic cloning was inaccurately described as follows:

"This technique calls for taking DNA from a donor cell and transferring it to a cell whose own nuclear DNA has been removed. Cloning techniques trick the hybrid cells into multiplying. The researchers say they use these cells to extract embryonic stem cells."

This description is barely coherent. No mention of the egg. No mention of the embryo. No, according to Talan, hybrid cells are tricked into multiplying.

Bad reporting about cloning is clearly pandemic.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Kansas City Star Also Inaccurately Describes Therapeutic Cloning

As regular readers of Secondhand Smoke know, I am still looking for a mainstream media outlet to accurately describe somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning, one that simply acknowledges that cloning creates an embryo, which is destroyed for research, or perhaps, (in the far distant future) for use in medical treatments. I am not asking for condemnation. Just accuracy in reportage.

This seems like a vain quest. Comes now the Kansas City Star with an editorial seeking to garner support for a proposed Missouri initiative that would create a state constitutional right to engage in human SCNT, which, following the usual pattern, is blatantly misdescribed: "Opponents are objecting to a procedure that involves scooping genetic material from a human egg and replacing it with DNA from a patient's body cell. Researchers, using chemicals and nutrients, coax the egg into dividing, producing a ball of about 300 cells. Healthy stem cells are harvested from the ball. Scientists think those stem cells have the potential to cure diseases and rebuild the body after devastating injuries." (My italics.)

Notice the editorial states that the egg produces the "healthy stem cells." If the editorial writer were a high school biology student answering a test, he or she would fail. The egg doesn't divide. Once the cloning is completed, it ceases to exist. The cloned embryo is the organism that creates the embryonic stem cells, which is destroyed to obtain them.

Notice too, the stem cells are not even identified as embryonic.

Yes, this is an editorial. But opinion should be based on accurately presented facts, not upon what National Review's Ramesh Ponnoru calls a game of "hide the embryo."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

More Media Bias by Omission in Describing Human Cloning

Here's the latest blatant example of bias by omission in the mainstream media when describing somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning. Once again, the reporter is Nicolas Wade, who writes in today's story about the Hwang Woo-Suk scandal: "In an article published in Science in March 2004, he claimed to have performed the first nuclear transfer with human cells, the cloning procedure in which a nucleus from a person's adult cell is inserted into a human egg, from which embryonic stem cells are obtained." (My italics.)

False. Embryonic stem cells are not derived from eggs. The egg ceases to exist once the SCNT is completed, just as it does upon the completion of conception. At that point, a new, integrated individual human organism comes into existence that is called an embryo. The embryo is developed for a week and then destroyed for its stem cells.

It would only take an additional 7 words to be accurate, to wit: "...in which a nucleus from a person's adult cell is inserted into a human egg, transforming it into an embryo, which is later destroyed to obtain embryonic stem cells."

Why the incomplete description? Perhaps because polls show that if people believe mere cells are created, they support therapeutic cloning. However when told that embryos are created and destroyed in the process, they oppose therapeutic cloning.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Senate Passes Umb. Cord Blood Stem Cell Bill!

I just received this press release put out by Senator Sam Brownback's Office:

"Late this Friday evening, Democrat proponents of destructive human embryonic stem cell research have lifted their hold/objections to passage of the Cord Blood bill-the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005" (H.R.2520/S.1317). Following this, the Senate just proceeded to pass this legislation by Unanimous Consent.

This is an amazing break-through for all Americans. As Sen. Brownback noted on the Senate Floor last night, holding this bill was cruel for thousands of patients who could start receiving treatments and benefits immediately upon enactment of the National Cord Blood Bank, which would be established by this bill...

Last night in objecting to this bill, Sen. Harkin falsely argued that embryonic stem cells would treat people now if only there was 'better' funding for such human-destructive research. The truth is that embryonic stem cell research is already very well-funded and has been for years, but as the prestigious journal Science noted on June 17, 2005: "It is nearly certain that the [human] clinical benefits of the [embryonic stem cell] research are years or decades away. This is a message that desperate families and patients will not want to hear."

Tonight's Senate action on Cord Blood ends what amounted to a 7 month filibuster by proponents of destructive human embryonic stem cell research and cloning. (The bill was passed on May 24, 2005 by a vote of 434-1 in the House.) This should be greatly celebrated, and it is a wonderful achievement in ending the unneeded politicization of Cord Blood. Now, the bill (H.R.2520) will go to the House for passage and then to the President. The bill could become law as early as next week."

Hwang's Story Changes--Again

Now Hwang says the research actually happened, but the paper demonstrating his work is being retracted anyway because of errors in photography. But we were earlier told that the journal Science made the errors with the photographs. And he says the samples that could be used to provide independent verification were contaminated, but now claims he has some on ice that he will thaw to prove he wasn't lying. Total confusion reigns but the cloning agenda continues its melt down.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

For Shame Senator Harkin

Tom Harkin has objected to unanimous consent that would have allowed the unopposed umbilical cord blood stem cell bill to reach the floor for vote and passage. Shame on him. Not surprisingly, he is one of the most self righteous in beating his breast against President Bush's embryonic stem cell bill funding policy. Turns out that it isn't treatments he cares the most about, but politics. The Democrats have lost the moral high ground in the stem cell debate.

Hwang a Fraud! Paper Withdrawn!

The Science paper claiming that Woo-Suk Hwang created cloned embryonic stem cells has been withdrawn! It was all faked. And yet, it was published in Science, one of the most prestigious science journals in the world.

This will have huge repercussions. What does it tell us about the peer review process? Did the reviewers of Hwang's work so WANT to believe and that they couldn't see the fraud? Will the media finally report on how so much of the advocacy on behalf of therapeutic cloning is hype and spin? Will the adult/umbilical cord blood stem cell successes finally receive the coverage they deserve? Will the Science Establishment come to recognize how science is being corrupted by the intense desire of cloning advocates to win the political debate and defeat George Bush's funding policies?

This is a scandal of historic proportions. The human cloning cause has been set back years, and indeed, it is possible--and to be hoped--mortally wounded.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Jack Kevorkian's Drive to Commit Human Vivisection

The recent announcement that clueless Hollywood will make a biopic lionizing Jack Kevorkian got me looking back into my files about the ghoulish, unemployable pathologist. Even I had forgotten just how surreal that period in history was. In this NRO piece, citing his own words, I describe the motives that drove Kevorkian to commit serial assisted suicides and become, for a brief infamous period, the most famous doctor in the world.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hwang May Be Imploding: American Author Removes Name From Cloning Paper

Holy Cow! Now, Gerald Schatten, of the University of Pittsburgh, who quit Woo-Suk Hwang's cloned stem cell banking venture over the egg issue, has cast tremendous doubt on the veracity of Hwang's claims to have cloned human embryos and derived individualized embryonic stem cell lines from them by removing his name from the paper in which the "breakthrough" was announced. This is huge. Good for Schatten for having the integrity to do the right thing even though it hurts the therapeutic cloning cause in which he so deeply believes. (Science has refused, and is expressing continued confidence in Hwang's work, although the chorus is growing for independent verification.)

Exploring the "Egg Problem" With Human Cloning

Nigel Cameron and M. L. Tina Stevens weigh in subtantively in the San Francisco Chronicle on the ethical problem of exploiting women for their eggs in the human cloning enterprise. Another informative piece worth reading.

Therapeutic Cloning "Hucksterism" and Bias in Professional Journals

Richard Doerflinger nails it in this impressive NRO piece.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Pluripotent Bone Marrow Stem Cells Found In Mice

This is a potentially tremendous story: bone marrow stem cells have been discovered in mice that have been changed into many types of body tissues. It won't matter to the pro cloners who will just shrug their shoulders and keep on cloning. But it will matter to the rest of society.

I have long said that this debate will be won when and if people come to see that adult/umbilical cord blood stem cells have the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells. This takes us a big step closer to that tipping point.

Human Brain Cells Engineered Into Mouse Brain--Again

This isn't a first, but it is a continuing effort. Researchers have used stem cells to create a mouse with human brain cells in its brain. The amount is minute, but it begs an important question that isn't even close to the public discourse front burner: How much human DNA into an animal is too much human DNA in an animal?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Hwang May Have Falsified Cloning Data

The smoke is billowing ever thicker at Woo-Suk Hwang's cloning lab. There are now charges being made by a subordinate and published in the Korean media that Hwang falsified some of the data he published. His university is now insisting on independent verification. Again, I have no idea if it is true. And again, a source who I trust implicitly on these issues is still betting the cloning was real. But if Hwang falsified data, the entire therapeutic cloning enterprise will be cast into serious doubt and set back years. This will be one of the biggest science scandals of modern times.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A True Understanding of SCNT

I received this correspondence from a reader about my piece in the Daily Standard exposing the bias-by-omission of the media when failing to fully and accurately describe what is entailed in therapeutic cloning:

"The deliberate confusion in terminology by commercial interests regarding cloning of human embryos for profit could aptly be renamed: 'Semantic cell nuclear transfer'"

I wish I had thought of that.

Feinstein Umbilical Cord Blood Bill Obstructionist?

As I wrote this week in the Weekly Standard, the uncontroversial umbilical cord blood stem cell bill is ready to be passed. Senator Frist has unanimous consent among Republicans to get it to the floor for a vote, but one or more unnamed Democrat senators are obstructing. According to the National Journal, it may be Senator Diane Feinstein. From the Journal, byline Neal Munro:

"But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told National Journal earlier this fall that she would oppose the passage of the umbilical-cord bill until the Senate approves legislation boosting federal research on embryo stem cells. Her worry, she said, was that President Bush would sign the umbilical-cord bill "with a big hoopla and say, 'We've done our job,'"thus diminishing the chances for passage of the far more controversial embryonic-stem-cell bill.

"Moments later, Feinstein revised her comments, saying she would support the passage of the umbilical-cord bill this year if the Senate agreed to debate the embryonic stem cell bill early next year. "I don't think we should hold up the cord-blood bill," she said."

As I wrote, Frist has already agreed to allow the ESCR bill for a vote early next year. And as I wrote, the problem getting the bill out is on the Democrats side. If not Di Fi, who? Senator Reid, we are waiting for your leadership.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Health Care Rationing Against Obese and Smokers in UK

So, the UK government has stated that the NHS may refuse medical treatment for smokers and the obese if their conditions might mean the treatment would be less efficacious or not cost effective. This is neo Puritanism. Following this logic, people with multiple sex partners should not be treated for VD, nor gay men and drug users treated for AIDS if their conditions would make the treatments less effective. If the government is going to invalidate a sick person's claim under government funding to medical treatment based on lifestyle choices, then it should be applied across the board to the politically connected and those with cultural panache as well as the politically incorrect. But of course, people should receive care when they are sick regardless of their lifestyle choices.

Professor Hwang's Troubles Continue

Now, South Korean academics at Woo-Suk Hwang's own university want independent verification that he actually created cloned human embryos and extracted tissue-specific embryonic stem cells from them. Earlier this week, Hwang's lab said that there would be no independent verification allowed. But if his own colleagues won't accept his word as verification, it means Hwang's credibility is really shattered--especially noteworthy given his status in South Korea as a national hero.

One of my most trustworthy sources tells me that Hwang almost certainly did what he claimed. But I must say, if his lab's resistance to an independent verification continues,the billowing smoke will begin to look a lot like fire.

U.S. Life Expectancy Hits All Time High

Not bad for a time in which the country is supposedly being led by anti-science Luddites.

Good Article on Adult Stem Cells, But Can We Please Get the Science Right?

This is a good article on the potential of adult blood stem cells to treat heart disease. I am glad it was reported by Time. But I can't help gnashing my teeth at the bad science reporting that is epidemic in the mainstream media about embryonic stem cells, to wit: "Unlike other stem-cell therapies, which make use of bone marrow or--more controversially in the U.S.--the blood of human embryos, Fulga believes the procedure patented by TheraVitae is simpler, safer and less invasive. The patient is effectively treating himself with his own blood, so there is very little danger of rejection," says Fulga, an ophthalmologist. "It's the safest kind of stem cell you can get." (My emphasis.)

Yes, adult stem cells are not only safer, embryonic stem cells are unsafe as they often cause tumors, in addition to the rejection issue. But there is no blood in the early embryo. None. This may seem a small point, but there is so much ignorance out there about these issues--unlike this article, some of it sowed intentionally in my view--that it is important to keep the science accurate.

In any event, good for Time for reporting on this adult stem cell story.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Israel Not Doing Euthanasia by Machine

This story in the Telegraph is stupid. Israel has passed a law permitting life support to be terminated. That isn't euthanasia as it is now commonly understood: It is ending unwanted life-sustaining treatment.

I am not criticizing Jewish law, but the legal analysis engaged in by the Israeli lawmakers seems very bizarre to me. Under Jewish law, it is apparently illegal to kill someone in the medical context, which is good. But Israeli lawmakers want doctors to be able to remove unwanted life support, but worry that to do so would be killing. So, they have decided to have machines do it, as if programming a machine isn't the same thing as a person doing it.

This seems so unncessary. Removing a respirator that is not wanted is not killing. If the person dies--he or she might live--it would be from underlying condition, not by an act of man.

So, despite the headline, Isreal has not legalized euthanasia. It has permitted the refusal of unwanted treatment, but has done so in an unnecessarily convoluted manner.

Read This Interview

MIT Associate Professor James Sherley has much to say in this interview about cloning, adult stem cell research and, in my view, one of the great unreported stories of our time: the fact that so many scientists feel that if they come out against cloning they will be branded anti-science and face professional repercussions.

He opposes ESCR and therapeutic cloning, first, because as a matter of science, an embryo is a human being, which he defines thusly:

"A human life begins when a diploid complement of human DNA is initiated to begin human development. Therefore, a life can be initiated by the fusion of sperm and egg or by the introduction of a diploid nucleus into an enucleated egg (i.e. "cloning")...A human life is the experience of a human being until its death. It begins with a single cell that has a diploid complement of human DNA, programmed for human development."

(A human diploid cell contains the full 46 compliment of chromosomes.) In other words, human life begins once the new single cell embryo comes into existence at the conclusion of fertilization or cloning. It is different from a simple cell because it is an organism and is genetically programmed for human development.

From the scientific understanding that an embryo is human, he applies a moral and ethical analysis. One can agree or disagree, but this is the proper method of coming to a moral conclusion about these issues, not the game of hide the embryo being played by Big Biotech.

As to scientists being afraid to speak out if they oppose cloning, I have seen and been told examples of this all over the country--all in strictest confidence because people really are afraid for their jobs or, better stated, career trajectories--a point Professor Sherley makes in this exchange:

MercatorNet: Do you think that most stem cell scientists have an open mind towards adult stem cell research?

Sherley: It's rather hard to know what most stem cell scientists or cell biologists in general, for that matter, think about these issues. I have asked the leaderships of both the American Society for Cell Biology and the International Society for Stem Cell Research to conduct anonymous on-line polls of their membership regarding their views on human embryo research. Neither has been willing to do so. Many scientists who do not support human embryo research are afraid to speak out because of possible reprisals from powerful scientists who can affect grant success, publication acceptances, tenure promotion, and employment.

Another Example of Poor Journalism in Describing Therapeutic Cloning

I know I wrote an article on this type of media bias just a few days ago. But, they just keep on coming. Perhaps, I should start collecting the erroneous/inaccurate descriptions of somatic cell nuclear transfer and therapeutic cloning published in newspapers and use them for wrapping paper.

Here's one sent me from yesterday's New York Times (natch), written by Nicolas Wade:

"The two scientists' article, published June 17, attracted considerable attention because it reported the first step toward the proposed goal of therapeutic cloning, the idea of treating patients with new tissues generated from their own cells. Dr. Hwang said he had converted the adult cells of 11 patients suffering from various diseases into embryonic form, in each case by transferring the nucleus of an adult cell into an unfertilized human egg. Scientists hope that tissues developed from such embryonic cells could be used to treat a wide range of serious diseases."

Adult cells were not "converted" to embryonic form. What Hwang did was create human embryos through cloning. He developed the embryos for about a week and then destroyed them for their stem cells. The cells were no more the DNA donor's than the cells of a natural embryo are those of its parents. That's the biological fact, but the NYT doesn't think its fit to print.

Juv. Diabetes Research Foundation Supports Cloning but Won't Fund Human Trials With Adult Stem Cells

I find the JDRF very puzzling. They put more than $1 million into Proposition 71, yet when Harvard Researchers cured late stage juvenile diabetes in mice with adult spleen stem cells, you could hear the crickets chirping at the JDRF. Even though the FDA has approved the Harvard team's project for human trials, the JDRF has three times refused to fund this effort. So, Lee Iacocca is out beating the bushes looking for money.

Now, they are endorsing the Missouri proposed initiative to create a constitutional right to conduct human cloning research.

Hmmm. Supporting techniques that might or might not result in treatments many years from now while refusing to support a technique that has demonstrated true promise and could be available much sooner. If my kid had juvenile diabetes, I would be very ticked off!

Hwang Story Gets Weirder and Weirder

First we had the case of the sold eggs that were supposedly donated. Then, American researchers back away from Hwang's cloned embryonic stem cell banking scheme. Then, one of his female scientists mysteriously disappears. Then, high school girls in Korea volunteer to donate eggs, as cloning becomes a nationalistic issue for S. Korea. Now, Hwang is too stressed to continue his work. This has the feel of in implosion to me. Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Proposition 71 Lawsuit About to Get White Hot

The Court is allowing the lawsuits against Proposition 71 to go to trial on the merits. This means facts and evidence will be presented in open court, which could get very interesting.

Before that, there will be an intense period of "discovery," that is written questions, document production, and depositions (statements taken under oath). Discovery is the heart of any case where victories and defeats are crafted, and thus things can get very heated in even mundane cases--and this is no mundane case.

After that will come a very public trial, which will be covered by media from around the world.

The judge seems intent on getting the case to trial quickly, which is understandable. The date currently set for trial is February 27, 2006. But don't be surprised if discovery disputes delay that date, as I don't expect the powers that be at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine to give up their secrets easily.

In any event, contrary to Institute head Robert Klein's blithe assertion that the case was all but over, it has really just begun.

This Makes Sense to Me

A medical study has concluded that "in-home hospitalization" for the elderly can be both beneficial and cost effective. From the study itself: "Hospital-at-home care was feasible and efficacious in delivering hospital-level care to patients at home. In 2 of 3 sites studied, 69% of patients who were offered hospital-at-home care chose it over acute hospital care; in the third site, 29% of patients chose hospital-at-home care. Although less procedurally oriented than acute hospital care, hospital-at-home care met quality standards at rates similar to those of acute hospital care. On an intention-to-treat basis, patients treated in hospital-at-home had a shorter length of stay (3.2 vs. 4.9 days)and there was some evidence that they also had fewer complications. The mean cost was lower for hospital-at-home care than for acute hospital care ($5081 vs. $7480.

The treatment would involve skilled nursing and a daily visit by a doctor. It would also lesson the risk of secondary hospital infection. This makes a lot of sense. I hope that the powers that be can make it happen.

Q and A Interview With Dr. William Hurlbut

Bill Hurlbut is interviewed in today's National Review Online. He discusses his Alterned Nuclear Transfer (ANT) proposal as well as the ethical troubles of Woo-Suk Hwang. Check it out.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Nature Editorial Decrying the Embryo Redefinition Game

A correspondent sent me this editorial from the science journal Nature of a few months ago, decrying the ongoing effort by politicized scientists to redefine the embryo that is created through somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning. The mainstream media should listen to Nature and quit permitting them to get away with it. Here are some relevant excerpts:

Editorial
Nature 436, 2 (7 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436002b

Abstract
Stem-cell biologists should not try to change the definition of the word 'embryo'.

Last month's meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in San Francisco witnessed a bizarre semantic debate. Delegates discussed a proposal to refrain from using the term 'embryo' when referring to the blastocysts from which human embryonic stem cells are harvested. The scientists involved reject the accusation that they are creating and destroying human lives, and fear that the word 'embryo' is a lightning rod that attracts negative scrutiny.

It is true that embryo is an emotive term, but there is little scientific justification for redefining it. Whether taken from a fertility clinic or made through cloning, a blastocyst embryo has the potential to become a fully functional organism. And appearing to deny that fact will not fool die-hard opponents of this research. If anything, it will simply open up scientists to the accusation that they are trying to distance themselves from difficult moral issues by changing the terms of the debate...(My emphasis.)

South Korean Cloning Scandal Continues to Grow

I have been of the opinion that questions raised about Woo-Suk Hwang's human cloning success were probably overblown. But now I am not so sure. This story from the Korea Herald reports that calls to independently retest the embryonic stem cells purportedly derived by Hwang from creating cloned embryos and destroying them are being resisted. Hwang's colleagues are refusing retesting on the dubious grounds that previous independent testing had too many errors! In other words, we are to merely accept their word for it, even though Hwang lied over an extended period about how the eggs for cloning were procured. There goes the Nobel Prize.

Here are a few really damaging parts of the story:

"A news magazine show 'PD Notebook' suggested that the cells may be fraudulent, saying one of the five customized stem cells provided to it by Hwang's team did not match the original somatic cell taken from a patient."

"PD Notebook said the other four cells [tested] were impossible to read. Experts alleged the reason the cells were not readable was that they may have been contaminated by fixing fluid containing the cells"

And get this:

"Another of Hwang's associates also said the authenticity of its patient-specific stem cells will be only proven when it comes up with scientific achievements using the groundbreaking cells. Lee Byeong-chun said, "The cells will be naturally verified after several years when other scientists will reproduce the work and we will come up with follow-up research achievements."

To paraphrase Shakespeare, something smells rotten in the state of South Korea. If those cloned embryonic stem cells are not authentic, it will be one of the biggest scandals in the history of science.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Exposing Media Bias by Omission in Cloning Debate

Media bias has many faces. Sometimes it is overt, such as presenting editorial comment masked as factual reportage. Or, it can be very subtle, for example, by a reporter intentionally calling on a widely disliked or unhinged personality to comment on the side of a public controversy with which the reporter disagrees. Often, it is by omission, such as refusing to fully report relevant facts.

In this Daily Standard piece, I expose several examples of bias by omission in the therapeutic cloning debate, all occurring in the last week of November. Whatever happened to excellence in journalism?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

China to "Tidy Up" Organ Selling From Executed Prisoners

China has admitted for the first time that it sells organs harvested from executed prisoners. Now, it intends to regulate the market. (A liver goes for about $40,000.) Once again, human life is being commodified.

"We want to push for regulations on organ transplants to standardise the management of the supply of organs from executed prisoners and tidy up the medical market'” Mr Huang [Jiefu] told Caijing magazine." How special. We won't stop it, China is saying: We will manage it.

Not irrelevantly, some of the South Korean excuses for Woo-suk Hwang's unethical egg procurement for human cloning complained that "Western" ideas of ethics were being imposed on an Eastern country. No, human rights ideas are being promoted to apply universally. It is morally wrong to use humans as a harvestable crop, East or West, North or South.

Anonymous Senate Democrats Hold Up Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cell Bill

This is inexcusable. The Senate is poised to pass a bill (S 1317) that would bring the wonders of umbilical cord blood stem cells to sick and disabled people throughout the country by addressing the current problem of lack of supply. The bill passed the House by 431-1! Yet, anonymous Democrats in the Senate are keeping the bill from immediate passage--even though they will almost certainly vote for the bill if it ever reaches the floor.

I have a piece on it in the current Weekly Standard. (Currently available on-line to subscribers only.) After describing the benefits of UBC stem cells and the bill, I make the following points:

"Yet despite this widespread enthusiasm, the measure is stalled in the Senate. Majority Leader Bill Frist wants the bill moved to the floor for an immediate vote. To do so in the waning days of this session, he would need the unanimous consent of all senators. That isn't a problem for the majority party. According to Eric Ueland, Frist's chief of staff, 'Republican senators are, to a member, ready to vote for and pass this legislation.' What about across the aisle? 'Democrats have paid lip service to the bill,' Ueland says, but their "leadership is working behind the scenes to hold it up and prevent it from coming to a vote.'

[I describe how my call to Minority Leader Reid about this matter was not returned]. "How could this be, when Democrats so often beat their breasts about the necessity of getting revolutionary stem cell treatments to suffering patients? ...

"Since these obstructionists don't have the courage to speak publicly, we can only engage in conjecture about their motives. According to one Senate source with whom I spoke, the bill is being held hostage to ensure a floor vote on increased federal funding of more controversial embryonic stem cell research. ...

"This may be seen by some senators as a clever political ploy, but coming at the expense of desperately ill people, the delay is immoral. As Senator Sam Brownback told me, 'The politics over unrelated controversial and unproven technologies is getting in the way of a practical and readily available technique that would start saving lives soon after this bill became law.'

"Time is of the essence. If the bill is not passed before the next recess, it may take another six months to reach the Senate floor for a vote--assuming it ever does. Every day that the bill is bottled up is a day preventing patients from receiving desperately needed help."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Oxford Refuses to Buckle to Animal Liberation Brownshirts

More than a year ago, the construction of a new research laboratory at Oxford University was halted when threats of violence scared off the construction company building the facility. (This is an example of tertiary targeting.) That led to a 16 month delay in building the facility, and a concomitant delay in the time in which the research that will be conducted at Oxford can reach fruition to save human lives and ameliorate suffering. But now, construction has resumed. Good for Oxford for moving forward. Unlike the New York Stock Exchange, they didn't buckle in the face of animal rights fanaticism.

Nat Hentoff Rightly Lauded

This wonderful column by Alicia Colon of the New York Sun is a wonderful tribute to my friend Nat Hentoff. He was honored in October by the Human Life Foundation, and I was humbled to be asked to introduce him. A few of my remarks are mentioned in this piece, but the focus should be on Nat.

Here is an excerpt from my introduction:

"Nat Hentoff is a superb writer and first class public intellectual. He is a man of consistent, steadfast principle, a moral purist in an age of hand-wringing accommodationists. This unyielding consistency has made him an iconoclast's iconoclast. Indeed, Hentoff has described himself as "a Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing pro-lifer." Talk about cutting against almost every societal grain: No wonder he both thrills--and upsets--so many people!

Hentoff's style is as individualistic as are his principles. In an age of shouters, he is quiet. In an era of facile talking heads, he remains profound. Where others agitate and self-aggrandize, he relies on steadfast cogent argument to persuade. Where contemporary pundits often tailor their views to cater to the powerful or popular, Hentoff courageously remains a challenger of orthodoxies.

Hentoff's advocacy cuts a wide swath across what are often called 'the life issues.' Indeed, his unyielding stand over many years against abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, unethical human medical experimentation, and the ongoing bioethical construction of a "duty to die" has made him a moral beacon for those who believe that universal human liberty depends on society's embrace of the intrinsic equality of all human life. And for decades he has connected the dots for his vast audience, expertly charting the consequences of our steady, but not always slow, slide down the slippery slope toward a veritable culture of death."

So much more can and should be said about Nat. But I will put it succinctly: Nat Hentoff is a national treasure.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Many on the Left Worry About Human Cloning

The Nation is one of our country's most "progressive" political magazines, and, I believe, its oldest. This article published on-line explains why many on the political Left oppose human cloning, focusing on the very real potential--bordering on likelihood--that women will be exploited for their eggs. Someday, the MSM will realize that opposing cloning isn't an explicitly conservative position. Even if they do, however, I doubt it will be reported.

More Potential Trouble for Hwang

This news story claims that the validity of Woo-Suk Hwang's human cloning research itself is under investigation, not just his ethics regarding egg procurement. I have no idea whether any of this is true. But almost everywhere we look at the cloning agenda, whether Proposition 71's false financial claims during the campaign, New Jersey's cloning license through nine months of gestation, or the South Korean human cloning "success," we see ethical troubles and dehumanization.

The warning sirens are blaring. We don't have to go down this path. The choice is ours.