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Science: Supporting Lifesaving Research

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GOOD NEWS

“McDonald’s Corp. agreed Monday to pay a penny more per pound for its Florida-grown tomatoes to help boost wages for the migrant workers who harvest them.”


STATE WATCH

MARYLAND: Maryland “will be the first state to provide ‘living wage.’”

WISCONSIN: Bush administration will soon “pull the plug on federal funding” for Medicaid services in Wisconsin.

MASSACHUSETTS: Advocacy groups charge that the state is not “doing enough to help people of low and moderate incomes afford health insurance.”

ECONOMY: National Priorities Project shows how your tax dollars are spent in your own state.


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claims Moqtada al-Sadr is “not contesting American forces” as Sadr loyalists rally against the United States.

HULLABALOO: Liberal blogs are far behind right-wing radio when it comes to incivility.

BRENDAN NYHAN: New York Times “adopts White House spin on Iraq bill.”

SEEING THE FOREST: Big oil surrogates attempt to smear the Stop Global Warming College Tour.


DAILY GRILL

“When you apprehended fewer people, that means fewer were trying to come across. And fewer were trying to come across because we’re deterring people from attempting illegal border crossings in the first place.”
— President Bush, 4/9/07, citing the success in decreasing apprehensions

VERSUS

“[N]ow, listen to this, listen how hard these people are working here — agents in Arizona apprehended nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants, a 42-percent increase over the previous year.”
— Bush, 11/28/05, citing the success in increasing apprehensions


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 April 10, 2007
Supporting Lifesaving Research
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Supporting Lifesaving Research

In 1995, actor Christopher Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down in a horse riding accident. He then became a tireless advocate for spinal cord injury treatment and embryonic stem cell research, asserting that “if anything is immoral, it is to deny scientists access to unwanted embryos” that could be used for potential treatment. Today, the Senate has a chance to provide hope to those suffering from similar ailments, as it will reconsider the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which was vetoed by President Bush last year. Currently, 65 percent of Americans approve of “medical research using embryonic stem cells” and nearly 60 percent support “increasing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.” ”The Senate this week has an opportunity to send a strong, clear message that this will be the year that the federal government lifts damaging restrictions on stem cell research, which offers great potential for a cure for diabetes and other debilitating diseases.”In contrast, conservatives have attempted to stall embryonic stem cell research on so-called “moral” grounds, propagating falsehoods in order to counter support for stem cell research. Take action to support embryonic stem cell research HERE.

MYTH #1 — NO POTENTIAL FOR CURES: The right wing often argues that embryonic stem cell research is in its nascent stages and provides only “false hope” for patients. White House spokesperson Tony Snow said “the vast majority of breakthroughs right now, virtually all, have involved those other than embryonic stem cells.” Far from the truth. Researchers have already used embryonic stem cells to treat spinal cord injury in laboratory animals. Embryonic stem cells have also been shown in studies to “slow vision loss, and reverse some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. [Scientists] have used human embryonic stem cells to create cardiovascular precursor cells that could lead to treatments for heart diseases, T-cells that could lead to a cure for AIDS, and insulin-secreting cells that could lead to a cure for diabetes,” according to Center for American Progress fellow Jonathan Moreno. ”Embryonic stem cells are still the most medically promising type of stem cells because of their ability to differentiate into any cell in the human body.”

MYTH #2 — THERE ARE ‘ETHICAL’ ALTERNATIVES: In January, the White House released a document titled “Advancing Stem Cell Science Without Destroying Human Life,” exaggerating that there are plenty of “ethical” and equal alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, a cause that has been consistently picked up by the right wing. For example, Karl Rove said last year that “recent studies” show researchers “have far more promise than from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells.” Subsequently, the White House “could not provide the name of a stem cell researcher who shares Rove’s views on the superior promise of adult stem cells.” But the scientific establishment has long known that “adult stem cells have markedly restricted differentiation potential” than their embryonic counterparts. Pro-life scientist David Prentice argued that adult stem cell research has yielded some 65 therapies for current ailments. Stem cell researcher Steven Teitelbaum refuted Prentice’s assertions, finding that adult stem cell research has only yielded treatment for nine diseases. “Prentice not only misrepresents existing adult stem cell treatments but also frequently distorts the nature and content of the references he cites,” Teitelbaum said. Another announcement that scientists have discovered the use of stem cells in amniotic fluid shows promise, but ”the [new stem cells] can clearly generate a broad range of important cell types, but they may not do as many tricks as embryonic stem cells.” “The discovery of new sources of stem cells is great news. It’s not a reason to neglect the funding of embryonic stem cell research,” states Moreno.

MYTH #3 — ‘DEAD EMBRYOS’ ARE A GOOD ALTERNATIVE: Last week, Bush offered his support to legislation introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to “expand” existing federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to so-called “dead embryos,” those which naturally cease developing in a laboratory setting. Scientists are already questioning the viability of these embryos for scientific research. Harvard Medical School professor George Daley wrote, “I am left to wonder why we would choose to allow only poor quality embryos for medical research when many thousands of normal embryos are otherwise destined to be discarded as medical waste.” Dr. Robin Lovell-Badge of the National Institute for Medical Research in London said, “There is no way to prove that an arrested embryo would have stopped growing if it had been put into a woman’s womb rather than a lab dish.” Endorsed by pro-life advocates like Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), the HOPE Act is an attempt at compromise that will not appreciably advance embryonic stem cell research. “The [Coleman-Isakson] bill doesn’t really do anything [for science].” Politically, the introduction of the HOPE Act is an attempt by conservatives to “doom a more liberal version” of stem cell legislation in the Senate, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. Stem cell advocate Dr. Ralph Dittman notes that Isakson’s approach is a “poison pill” that tries to divert political and public attention away more promising sources of stem cell research. “Passage of this bill would, in effect, negate any benefit from the passage of [Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act]. … This is far from a compromise; it is total surrender to a theocratic interpretation of science which, if endorsed, would be highly detrimental to the nation’s well being.” Furthermore, the Isakson bill also threatens to pull crucial votes in the Senate needed to override a veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

MYTH #4 — RELIGIOUS GROUPS OPPOSE EMBRYONIC RESEARCH: A central myth of the right wing’s opposition to stem cell research is that there is a monolithic moral or religious view that an embryo should be treated as a human being. “Some religious communities believe that embryonic stem cell research destroys innocent life and should not be allowed,” but “others believe that while the embryo has moral worth, a group of a hundred cells no bigger than the head of a pin is not the same as a person.” For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) stated, “With careful regulation, we affirm the use of human stem cell tissue for research that may result in the restoring of health to those suffering from serious illness.” The Union for Reformed Judaism supports embryonic stem cell research, asserting that the “Jewish tradition teaches us that preserving life and promoting health are among the most precious of values.” The United Church of Christ is fully supportive of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research within “ethically sound guidelines…and the limitations set forth by the National Institutes of Health.” Thus, Bush’s stated opposition to embryonic stem cell research as reflecting “his fundamental commitment to preserving the value and sanctity of human life” ignores the diversity of religious viewpoints existing today on stem cell research.

OVERTURNING BUSH’S BAN: The only viable option to adequately fund stem cell research is the immediate repeal of Bush’s 2001 stem cell ban, which prohibited funding on embryonic stem cell lines created past August 2001, lines which are now plagued by genetic mutations. Today, the Senate has the opportunity to do just that when it reconsiders the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, legislation that promotes all forms of stem cell research. Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Bush’s appointee as Director of the National Institutes of Health, told a Senate subcommittee that “it is clear today that American science will be better-served — and the nation will be better-served — if we let our scientists have access to more stem cell lines.” Dr. Story Landis, Interim Director of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force, said that updating the current policy to allow funding for new stem cell lines “would be incredibly important.” Furthermore, this legislation is endorsed by major scientific organizations, and enjoys broad bipartisan support. Despite the widespread backing, Bush has pledged another veto.

Under the Radar

IRAQ — STATE DEPARTMENT BLOWS OFF WAXMAN’S NIGER INQUIRY: Yesterday, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote another letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requesting her testimony regarding President Bush’s claims that Iraq attempted to procure uranium from Niger. Waxman writes that his previous letters to Rice produced “an insufficient response from the State Department’s Legislative Affairs office.” In yesterday’s State Department press briefing, spokesman Sean McCormack claimed the letter “answered in full” all of Waxman’s inquiries. “I don’t really see the need. I think the letter that we replied to answered in full all of his inquiries,” said McCormack. “I’m very curious as to in what regard it’s insufficient.” But Waxman lays out plainly why the State Department’s response has been “insufficient.” Specifically, he states that the State Department has not been forthcoming about Rice’s knowledge about the false Niger uranium claim that made its way into Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address. (Read the full letter here.) “Rather than address any of these questions, Mr. Bergner forwarded copies of two old State Department letters that have no bearing whatsoever on your knowledge of, your role in, or your statements about the Niger claim,” writes Waxman. Rice’s days of blowing off Waxman’s letters are over. If the State Department can’t find time to read and adequately respond to his inquiries, Waxman said he will request her testimony on April 18.

AFGHANISTAN — TALIBAN ‘DEADLIER THAN EVER’ WITH TACTICS FROM IRAQ: In an interview with ABC News Monday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed that “neither has the U.S. failed, nor the Taliban coming back. Al Qaeda is defeated.” Yet despite Karzai’s claims, the Taliban is still very active in Afghanistan. Another report by ABC News that same day asserted that “coalition forces in Afghanistan are fighting a deadlier Taliban than ever, as jihadis returning from Iraq use techniques like suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to challenge NATO forces.” Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism czar under both Presidents Bush and Clinton, told ABC News that “the cross-pollination from Iraq is making it much more difficult for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.” For example, an Easter Sunday IED attack that killed six Canadian NATO soldiers is reported to be “the worst toll on foreign troops in a single combat incident” since 2005.  Though Karzai dismissed reports that the Taliban and al Qaeda are planning a “spring offensive” of suicide bombings as “a sign of desperation,” experts told ABC that enough Taliban members are back from Iraq to have “significantly increased the number of attacks on NATO forces in recent months.”  

MILITARY — STATES’ ABILITY TO RESPOND TO DOMESTIC CRISES HAMPERED BY WARS: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said yesterday that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have “stretched the Florida National Guard further than ever before,” hampering the state’s ability to respond to domestic crises including this year’s hurricane season which is predicted to be “very active.” While the Government Accountability Office recently found that the Florida National Guard had only “53% of the dual-use equipment it once had for responding to a storm,” a Florida Guard spokesman assured the Associated Press that sufficient manpower and equipment remained to respond to a “major storm” and that additional equipment could be “borrowed from other states” or even “rented if needed.” The state’s ability to predict such storms is also at risk. Last week the National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans revealed that “a satellite crucial to developing hurricane forecasts is past its life expectancy and could die at any time.” That satellite, which “helped the National Hurricane Center achieve record-breaking accuracy in its forecasts last year,” was “launched in 1999 [and] was designed to last five years.” Yesterday, Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL) called the situation “totally unacceptable, with what this country’s been through.” Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, however, that the $375 to $400 million needed to replace the satellite is not available. National Hurricane Center Director Bill Proenza explained, “The amount of money being invested in the hurricane warning program isn’t up to the level of the threat that hurricanes present to this nation.” He added, “this must be considered the largest natural disaster threat to this country.”




Think Fast

President Bush, the Vice President, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State all failed to mention Iraq publicly yesterday on the fourth anniversary of the “liberation” of Baghdad. Instead, “the lead item on the White House Web site, under the heading ‘LATEST NEWS,’ was a photograph of Clifford the Big Red Dog at the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn.”

MoveOn.org is hosting a “live ‘virtual town hall’ forum about the Iraq war, in what is being billed as the largest and most ambitious experiment yet in harnessing the power of Internet technology to reshape participatory democracy.” Seven Democratic presidential candidates are expected to take part in the event tonight.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad invited Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in her delegation that met him in Damascus last week to make a return visit, Rep. Tom Lantos said. “I have every intention of going back,” said Lantos, refusing to back down in the face of heavy criticism from the White House.

“A half-dozen sitting U.S. attorneys also serve as aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or are assigned other Washington postings, performing tasks that take them away from regular duties in their districts for months or even years at a time, according to officials and department records.”

The late Jeane Kirkpatrick, “the godmother of the neoconservative movement,” and former U.N. ambassador whom John Bolton sought to emulate, acknowledges in a posthumous memoir that the Iraq war was “something of a mistake.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) yesterday said that he would have “taken his tour of an Iraqi market last week even if he hadn’t been accompanied by heavily armed U.S. soldiers.” He added that the only reason he walked through Baghdad’s Shorja market with 100 soldiers, three Blackhawks, and two Apache gunships was because “General Petraeus asked” him to do so.

Public approval for Congress is at its highest level in a year as [the 110th Congress marks] 100 days in power and step up their confrontation with President Bush over his handling of the Iraq War, the issue that overshadows all others.”

“Millions of dollars of North Korean funds, frozen for two years amid allegations of money laundering, are to be released,” the Bush administration said. “The chief US nuclear envoy said the release of the funds cleared the way for the North — which in October said it had successfully tested a nuclear weapon — to begin shutting down the reactor later this week.”

Stem cells will be at the top of the agenda for the U.S. Senate” when it returns from recess today. The Senate will consider a bill to expand federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. President Bush vetoed a similar bill last year.

And finally: Each year, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression gives out Jefferson Muzzle awards to “the most egregious First Amendment violators.” This year’s winners: the Bush administration (for censoring scientists on climate change) and the Defense Department (for its “investigations of organizations that conducted peaceful anti-war protests”).

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