FRC Blog

Public Confidence in CDC Drops

by Robert Morrison

October 22, 2014

Now public esteem for the long-respected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has plummeted with the arrival of Ebola on American shores. A new CBS News poll found that only 37 percent of Americans thought the centers were doing a good job, down from 60 percent last year. In fact, of nine agencies tested, seven that were judged highly by a majority of Americans last year have now fallen below 50 percent.

I have had my own concerns for decades about CDC. When I was a young appointee in the federal education department under President Reagan, I was assigned to the mournful task of researching suicide among youth. Among other troubling things I learned was that, following the quiet repeal of laws against suicide by all the states, the suicide rate among young Americans tripled.

In the course of my research, I had a briefing book sent to me by CDC. It had the demographic tables for suicide among every group in America—from Ashkenazi Jews (very low) to Zuni Indians (tragically high).One statistic had me scratching my head. I called CDC in Atlanta to ask if numbers for the suicide rate among Black women could possibly be correct. They were near zero! “Well, yes, we’ve noticed that stat, too,” said the CDC staffer on the other end of the phone line, “We call it the BFPF—Black Female Protection Factor.” What is that, I asked. “They’re very religious,” came the reply.

CDC knows this, but they don’tadvertise this? I remembered the Public Service Announcement from TV from the 1950s—”The family that prays together stays together.”

Family Research Council’s respected MARRI—Marriage and Religion Research Institute—is now the best source to show (with incontrovertible evidence) the importance of marriage and faith in our families’ well-being.

Of course, the scales had already fallen from my eyes about CDC. I knew that they had employed Willard Cates there. In 1980, Cates was doing “abortion surveillance” for this federally-funded agency. He advised abortionists to charge fees based on the size of the foot of the unborn child whom they had killed. Even now, thirty-fouryearslater, that reality still send chills down my spine.

Article from The New York Times

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Ministers: Beware

by Travis Weber

October 20, 2014

As if the over-stepping Houston major’s office subpoenaing sermons and other private communications of pastors wasn’t enough, we now receive news of two elderly ministers being told by city officials that any refusal to marry a same-sex couple could cause them to face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to do so.

For many years, the husband and wife team of Donald and Evelyn Knapp have presided over wedding services across the street from the local county clerk’s office in Coeur d’Alene, a beautiful city in North Idaho. Now, they are told they have to conform to their city’s iron-fisted demand that they “marry” men to men and women to women.

In other words, from the city to the ministers: Your religious liberty doesn’t really mean a thing when it comes to the new sexuality; you must come into line in accord with our views. When the city says something related to human sexuality should be accepted, that’s the final word.

For years, we have also been told by gay-marriage advocates that no harm would come from legalizing same-sex marriages. No one would be forced to participate.

Yet it seems that day has arrived. Court-issued stays have been lifted, and gay marriages have started to proceed in Idaho. Now a minister is being told by his government that he must officiate at these “marriages.”

Now that we are past the point where we were told the gay-rights crusade would stop, should we expect it to just stop here? I’ve grown doubtful of such expectations, as the advocacy and pressure for acceptance continue full steam. No, this crusade will likely continue until all are forced to approve.

These developments have occurred incrementally. As Albert Mohler points out, “[t]his is how religious liberty dies. Liberties die by a thousand cuts. An intimidating letter here, a subpoena there, a warning in yet another place. The message is simple and easily understood. Be quiet or risk trouble.”

How true. We are more in danger of remaining apathetic to threats to our freedom when the individual threats just don’t appear to be a big deal. The danger is in the accumulation, though. Hopefully, for many, this latest “increment” will be too big to ignore.

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We know from the social science that children do best with a mom and a dad.”-TRUE

by Peter Sprigg

October 17, 2014

On Sunday, October 12, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins appeared on Fox News Sunday to debate the redefinition of marriage with Ted Olson, a prominent Republican attorney and advocate of giving civil marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

At one point in the discussion, Olson began to argue that we should redefine marriage because it would benefit children who are being raised by same-sex couples. Perkins replied, “We know from the social science that children do best with a mom and a dad.”

Within hours, the “fact-checking” website PolitiFact posted an analysis of the statement—and rated it “False.”

Unfortunately, the PolitiFact article itself gets a failing grade.

That is, unless they think the non-partisan, non-profit research group Child Trends was also telling a “falsehood” when they reported, “An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”

Presumably, they also think it was “false” when the anti-poverty group the Center for Law and Social Policy reported, “Research indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step- or cohabiting-parent households. Compared to children who are raised by their married parents, children in other family types are more likely to achieve lower levels of education, to become teen parents, and to experience health, behavior, and mental health problems.”

And I guess they would also rate as “false” the statement by the Institute for American Values, which declared (as one of its “fundamental conclusions” about “what current social science evidence reveals about marriage in our social system”), “The intact, biological, married family remains the gold standard for family life in the United States, insofar as children are most likely to thrive—economically, socially, and psychologically—in this family form.”

I suppose PolitiFact would also say it was false when the American College of Pediatricians said that “the family structure which leads to optimal child development is the family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.” The ACP added details:

A growing and increasingly sophisticated body of research indicates that children with married parents (both a mother and a father) have more healthful measures of:

  • thriving as infants
  • physical and mental health
  • educational attainment
  • protection from poverty
  • protection from antisocial behavior
  • protection from physical abuse


The PolitiFact article put much emphasis on “peer-reviewed” literature. Are they actually suggesting that the conclusions of every single one of the sources cited in the following passage (adapted from my book Outrage) are “false”?

Children raised by opposite-sex married parents experience lower rates of many social pathologies, including:

  • premarital childbearing (Kristin A. Moore, “Nonmarital School-Age Motherhood: Family, Individual, and School Characteristics,” Journal of Adolescent Research 13, October 1998: 433-457);
  • illicit drug use (John P. Hoffman and Robert A. Johnson, “A National Portrait of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60, August 1998: 633-645);
  • arrest (Chris Coughlin and Samuel Vucinich, “Family Experience in Preadolescence and the Development of Male Delinquency,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58, May 1996: 491-501);
  • health, emotional, or behavioral problems (Deborah A. Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53, August 1991: 573-584);
  • poverty (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, America’s Children: Key Indicators of Well-Being 2001, Washington, D.C., p. 14);
  • or school failure or expulsion (Dawson, op.cit.).

PolitiFact must also not trust federal government survey research—such as that published just a few months ago which said, “Children in nonparental care were 2.7 times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have had at least one adverse experience, and more than 2 times as likely as children living with one biological parent and about 30 times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have had four or more adverse experiences.” (Note that if you turn this around, it is saying that “children living with two biological parents” are at least fifteen times less likely “to have had four or more adverse experiences” than children in any other living situation with which they were compared.)

Finally, the Mapping America series produced by FRC’s own Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) has documented (based primarily on federal government survey data) literally dozens of outcome measures for which, on average, children raised in an intact married family do better than those in other family structures.

There are certainly other things PolitiFact could have said to put Perkins’ comment in perspective. They might legitimately have pointed out, for example, that relatively few studies have been conducted to date which makes direct comparisons between children raised by their married, biological mother and father and children raised by same-sex couples. While it is certainly true, not false, that there is a large and robust body of social science evidence indicating that “children do best with a mom and a dad,” as Perkins indicated, most of the studies involved in that body of research compared children raised by their married, biological mother and father with children raised in alternate family structures such as single-parent, divorced, or step-parent households—but did not include direct comparisons with the (relatively tiny) population of children raised by same-sex couples.

For example, the New Family Structures Study spearheaded by sociologist Mark Regnerus resulted in dramatic (and statistically powerful) results demonstrating the strong advantage held by the “intact biological family” over numerous other family forms. However—as Regnerus made clear from the beginning—even his comparison with “gay fathers” or “lesbian mothers” was only based on the adult respondents having said that at some point between birth and age 18, their father or mother had a same-sex romantic relationship. It was not a comparison with children raised by same-sex couples living and raising the children together (of which very few could be found, even in Regnerus’ large sample).

A key illustration of how the PolitiFact article lacked objectivity is that its description of the Regnerus research sounds as though it were simply cut and pasted from the talking points of “gay” bloggers. It is true that his research was sharply criticized in a variety of quarters—that is to be expected, given that academia is now dominated by liberal elites who are unwilling to tolerate the slightest dissent from the pro-homosexual orthodoxy. It is also true that among his fellow sociologists who distanced themselves from the study were members of the sociology department at his own university, the University of Texas.

However, it is false to say (as PolitiFact did) that the university itself “denounced” Regnerus’ research. On the contrary, the university conducted a full investigation of charges brought by a “gay” blogger who uses the pen name “Scott Rose,” and concluded, “Professor Regnerus did not commit scientific misconduct… . None of the allegations of scientific misconduct put forth by Mr. Rose were substantiated …” The New Family Structures Study continues to be hosted by the Population Research Center within the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.

The journal which published two Regnerus articles based on the New Family Structures Study, Social Science Research, also published extensive critiques of his work. Its editor designated a sharp critic of Regnerus, Darren Sherkat, to conduct an “audit” of the publication process. Since PolitiFact was dismissive of a book-length scholarly work because it was not subject to “peer review” like academic journal articles, it is worth noting what Sherkat said about peer review of Regnerus’ work: “Five of the reviewers are very regular, reliable SSR reviewers, and all six were notable scholars. Indeed, the three scholars who are not publicly conservative can be accurately described as social science superstars.” Most importantly, as editor James D. Wright points out, “all reviewers of both papers agreed that the papers warranted publication. The unanimity of reviewer opinion is notable in this case and is also fairly unusual.” A more thorough description of the Regnerus study can be found here, and a more detailed analysis of its actual findings can be found here.

One early study which did make a direct, couples-to-couples comparison was a 1996 study by an Australian sociologist who compared children raised by heterosexual married couples, heterosexual cohabiting couples, and homosexual cohabiting couples. It found that the children of heterosexual married couples did the best, and children of homosexual couples the worst, in nine of the thirteen academic and social categories measured.

More recently, studies based on U.S. and Canadian census data have allowed couples-to-couples comparisons using much larger sample sizes, but with respect to only a single outcome measure. Canadian economist Douglas W. Allen and two co-authors analyzed data from the 2000 census in the United States and reported, “Compared with traditional married households, we find that children being raised by same-sex couples are 35% less likely to make normal progress through school.” Another study by Allen using the 2006 Canada census found, “Children living with gay and lesbian families [i.e., a “same-sex married or common law couple”] in 2006 were about 65% as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families.”

Advocates for homosexual parenting and the redefinition of marriage sometimes argue (as PolitiFact did in a similar article challenging a Ralph Reed comment in April 2014), “What studies really show is that children are better off with two parents. Those studies do not focus on gender.” This statement by PolitiFact is clearly false. Most of the studies cited above focused on the presence of two biological parents—which by definition includes both the mother and the father. At best, same-sex couples resemble a step-parent situation, in which at most one of the caregivers is the biological parent of the child. The Child Trends publication cited above noted:

Children growing up with stepparents also have lower levels of well-being than children growing up with biological parents. Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seems to support children’s development.”

(Note: FRC believes that adopted children also benefit from the gender complementarity in parenting provided by an adoptive mother and father. However, the bulk of the research has focused specifically on households headed by the married, biological mother and father.)

On the other hand, the research that has been done specifically on children raised by same-sex couples has usually compared them only to children of “heterosexual” parents—including single-parent or divorced households—rather than comparing them directly to children raised by their married, biological mother and father (the “intact biological family,” as Regnerus refers to it).

The Center for Law and Social Policy report, cited above, summarized the implications of this succinctly:

Children of gay or lesbian parents do not look different from their counterparts raised in heterosexual divorced families regarding school performance, behavior problems, emotional problems, early pregnancy, or difficulties finding employment. However, … children of divorce are at higher risk for many of these problems than children of married parents [emphasis added].

The PolitiFact article seemed to be devoted to debunking things that Tony Perkins did not say, rather than what he actually did say. If Perkins had said, “We know from the social science that children do better with a mom and a dad than with two moms or two dads,” PolitiFact might legitimately have challenged it—not because it is “false,” but because there is insufficient research on that direct comparison to assert we can “know” it as a social science certainty.

If Perkins had said, “We know from the social science that children do better with heterosexual parents than with homosexual parents,” then PolitiFact might also have challenged that—again, not because it is “false,” but because family dysfunction among heterosexuals (such as out-of-wedlock births, divorce, and cohabiting parents) is clearly harmful to children as well.

However, Perkins was clear, precise—and accurate—in what he did say, that “children do best with a mom and a dad.”

If, though, the social science research has not provided us with true, apples-to-apples comparisons between children raised by same-sex couples and children raised by their mother and father, was it legitimate for Tony Perkins to bring this truth about the general parenting research into a debate specifically about same-sex “marriage?”

I believe it was, because of the significant difference in quality and quantity between the two bodies of research at issue. As indicated by the summary statements quoted above, the research showing that children raised by their married biological mother and father do better than any other family structure with which they have been compared is extensive, methodologically sound, and convincing.

On the other hand, the research focused specifically on children raised by same-sex couples, most of which has been reported as showing that they do just as well or show “no differences” in comparison with children raised by “heterosexual parents,” suffers from serious methodological flaws.

Much of it has relied on small, non-random “convenience samples”—obtained, for example, by advertising in “gay” media. These samples may not be truly representative of the population of same-sex couples raising children. Parents whose children have significant problems may be less likely to volunteer, and parents who do volunteer may have an incentive (including a political one, knowing the significance of the research in public debates) to downplay any problems their children have (many such studies rely on the parent’s own report of child well-being).

In addition, arguments touting the large number of published studies supporting the “no differences” claim are misleading, because many of those studies are based on a single data set, from the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS). The NLLFS website lists 21 publications which have been directly based on this study, and five more related to it.

A 149-page book published in 2001 did a detailed analysis of the homosexual parenting research up to that point. The result was:

We conclude that the methods used in these studies are so flawed that these studies prove nothing. Therefore, they should not be used in legal cases to make any argument about ‘homosexual vs. heterosexual’ parenting. Their claims have no basis.”

A similar analysis was conducted by researcher Loren Marks and published in the same 2012 issue of Social Science Research as the first Regnerus article. Marks analyzes the 59 previous studies cited in a 2005 policy brief on homosexual parents by the American Psychological Association (APA). Marks debunks the APA’s claim that “[n]ot a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.” Marks also points out that only four of the 59 studies cited by the APA even met the APA’s own standards by “provid[ing] evidence of statistical power.” As Marks so carefully documents, “[N]ot one of the 59 studies referenced in the 2005 APA Brief compares a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children with a large, random, representative sample of married parents and their children.”

So, the research supposedly showing “no differences” between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexuals (remember, they are not usually compared with children raised by their own mother and father) is simply unreliable. The research showing that children do best when raised by their own, married, biological mother and father, when compared with numerous other family structures, is robust and clear-cut.

Essentially, homosexual activists (and PolitiFact) are claiming that children raised by homosexual couples are, remarkably, the lone exception to the overwhelming social science research consensus regarding the optimal family structure for children.

We rate their claim, “Highly Implausible.”

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Pulpit Friction: TX Leaders Rally To Pastors’ Defense

by Tony Perkins

October 17, 2014

Thursday may have been Boss’s Day, but don’t expect Houston’s top leader to be flooded with well-wishes. Mayor Annise Parker hasn’t exactly won Manager of the Year after her city-wide intimidation campaign of area churches. After subpoenaing the communications of local pastors, including their sermons and private messages, the Mayor got a few sermons herself from key leaders on the ridiculousness of her vendetta.

Everyone from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to the liberal Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have challenged Parker’s naked abuse of government power. The Mayor “should be ashamed,” Sen. Cruz told reporters before a local press conference this morning. “This is wrong. It’s unbefitting of Texans, and it’s un-American. The government has no business asking pastors to turn over their sermons.”

In the meantime, Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) did more than speak out — he called out city leaders with the full weight of the state. “Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Abbott warned in a formal letter to Houston Attorney David Feldman. “The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government. Nothing short of an immediate reversal by your office will provide that security.”

For his part, Feldman seemed unconcerned, blowing off concerns in a dismissive press conference with Parker, which did more to fan the flames then douse them. “It’s unfortunate,” he said, “that our subpoenas have been construed as some effort to infringe on religious beliefs.” Exactly what part of “their sermons are fair game” isn’t an infringement on religious belief?

The Mayor made it quite clear — not just this week, but throughout the entire “bathroom bill” debate — that she’ll use her bully pulpit to bully pulpits across Houston. Like I tweeted yesterday, if the city government is so curious about what pastors are saying, tell them to stop in on Sunday morning! After all, there’s nothing secret in these sermons; most of them can be found online. But as I told Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, this isn’t about sermons or biblical instruction — it’s about political intimidation.

For now, the Mayor’s office shows no signs of rescinding the subpoenas. She may backpedal on a narrow portion of the order, but the government is still demanding pastors’ emails and other private communications. As ADF’s Casey Mattox explains, “The only way to make this subpoena appropriate and not unconstitutional is to place a giant red X across the whole thing. Otherwise, this is window dressing intended to shield them from public attention, not any real change. There is NO construction of this subpoena that is appropriate. Period.”

As the rest of the country looks on, it’s important that Americans understand this is not some kind of political aberration. This will be the norm in a brave new world where human sexuality is completely disconnected from biological reality. We’re just now beginning to see the impact on religious liberty from this cultural collision course President Obama set us on by championing the redefinition of marriage. You can’t alter something like marriage that’s deeply rooted in history and tradition, not to mention nature, without the use of force. Now that force is starting to come against those who are unwilling to yield to this new order. But here’s what the Left doesn’t understand.

The Bible-believing and preaching pastors have already yielded on this issue — to God. And that means they cannot and will not yield to government, regardless of how tyrannical it becomes.

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Conservatives Should Resolutely Oppose Common Core — And so Should Liberals

by Robert Morrison

October 15, 2014

Conservatives and liberals should oppose federal usurpation of power that is known as Common Core State Standards.

The entire history of this education “reform” effort has been one of stealth and deception. In this Townhall column, FRC Senior Fellow Bob Morrison, an official of the federal education department under Ronald Reagan, argues for returning education policymaking to state lawmakers, locally elected school boards, and parents. That’s where the Founders and President Reagan thought decisions about education should be made. That’s where the Constitution placed education.

When a liberal Republican Congressman asked to meet President Reagan to discuss the “future of the education department,” the Gipper noted in the margin of his daily schedule: “I hope it doesn’t have one.” President Reagan’s note was written in his own handwriting, in cursive script. Common Core educrats want to dispense with teaching cursive writing — yet another reason to oppose it!

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Snoops on the Stoops of the Church

by Tony Perkins

October 15, 2014

When it comes to illegal surveillance, it looks like the NSA has some competition. In a story that’s making Texans’ heads spin, the Houston P.C. police — the same Council that passed an LGBT ordinance this year — is subpoenaing sermons, emails, and even text messages from local pastors to see if they’re promoting a voter referendum to overturn the measure.

The jaw-dropping move — one in a long line of Houston’s “gotcha” government — is only fanning the flames of outrage over the city’s totalitarian tactics. Even for Houston’s radical leadership, this is an affront to the plain language of the First Amendment, which not only gives churches the right to speak freely but the individuals leading them as well! “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,”said Alliance Defending Freedom’s Erik Stanley. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”

Yesterday, ADF filed a motion in court to stop the senseless monitoring of churches. “The message is clear,” they explain, “oppose the decision of city government, and drown in unwarranted burdensome discovery requests… Not only will the pastors be harmed if these discovery requests are allowed, but the People will suffer as well. The referendum process will become toxic and the People will be deprived of an important check on city government.”

It’s a sad commentary on our times that a nation founded by church leaders is trying to muscle those same religious voices out of the political process. Obviously, there’s no limit to how low the Left will stoop, and how many laws it will break, to impose its agenda on unwilling Americans.

 

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Columbus Day: A Time to Celebrate Religion in America

by Christina Hadford

October 14, 2014

Dedicating his voyage “In the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ” and offering himself as an instrument of God, Christopher Columbus set sail into the great unknown on August 3, 1492. Approximately two months later — 522 years from this very week — Columbus’ great ship Santa Maria de Immaculada Concepcion approached the New World. Upon arriving to the shore, he knelt to the ground, raised his eyes to Heaven, and proclaimed, “Blessed be the light of day, and the Holy Cross we say; and the Lord of Verity, and the Holy Trinity. Blessed be the light of day, and He who sends the dark away.”

Christopher Columbus was a deeply pious man who structured his day around prayer and sacrifice. His true joy in discovering the Americas rested in this new opportunity to bring Our Lord’s love to his brothers and sisters across the world. Columbus’ legacy survived many trials and tribulations, and eventually fueled the formation of the great nation we live in today. Centuries later George Washington echoed Columbus’ faith-filled vision, proclaiming, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness — these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

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More Embryonic Stem Cell Hype, Less Reality and Ethics

by David Prentice

October 9, 2014

Excitement over a newly-released paper on stem cells making insulin is a tribute to the Harvard stem cell Press Office.

 

The actual report is quite a bit less earth-shaking than you might be led to believe by the Harvard press office.  The science itself, in a paper from the lab of Dr. Doug Melton published in the journal Cell, provides an incremental improvement in the derivation of functional (insulin-secreting) beta cells.  Melton’s lab developed an improved method to generate millions of insulin-secreting cells from human embryonic stem cells (hESC, which require the destruction of a young human being) and from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC, the stem cells created from normal skin cells, without using embryos.)  The multistep protocol, which took 4-5 weeks and treatment with eleven different factors, produced insulin-secreting cells which the paper termed “SC-β” cells, that secreted about half the amount of insulin as normal adult beta cells from the pancreas.  Previous attempts resulted in insulin-secreting cells that were immature and more like fetal than adult cells.  In this new report, the authors note that global gene expression analysis showed “SC-β cells made ex vivo are most similar, but not completely identical, to cadaveric beta cells.”  The SC-β cells secreted insulin in response to different glucose levels in the lab dish and when injected into immunocompromised mice.  When the new SC-β cells were tested in a diabetic mouse model, 5 out of 6 mice survived up to 4 months, compared to 1 out of 6 control mice.

 

Embryonic Stem Cells Unnecessary

The paper itself makes the case that embryonic stem cells are not needed for even this incremental advance or any subsequent work.  The authors tested batches of SC-β cells made from hESC as well as from hiPSC.  The results were equivalent no matter the starting cell type.  So for any future production of SC-β cells, the authors have shown that no embryonic stem cells are necessary.

 

Unanswered Questions—Transplant Rejection and Safety

The paper and its results do not address some significant questions related to these new SC-β cells—immune rejection and safety (tumor formation).  The cells were tested in immunocompromised mice, so they were free from immune attack.  This will be an issue in any potential treatment if the SC-β cells are derived from hESC.  Use of hiPSC made from a diabetic patient might provide a way around immune attack on the SC-β.

 

Safety, especially from aberrant cell growth including tumor formation, is always an issue with pluripotent stem cells, especially hESC.  In the mouse experiment, the authors note that large masses of tumors were not seen, but also point out: “A much larger number of transplants and more extensive histological examination will be needed to assess the possibility of undesired cell growth in the grafts.” 

 

While the Harvard press release discusses testing of an implantation device to protect SC-β cells implanted into mice, this simply makes the point that the issues of immune rejection, as well as keeping the implanted cells from running free in the patient, have not been tackled.  In the end, this combination device is simply a potential cell-based insulin pump, not a cure for diabetes.

 

Embryonic Stem Cells Questionable

In the past, the obsession with ESC has led to some questionable claims about their abilities to treat diabetes.  Their ability to make authentic insulin, in quantities that would be useful, were first trumpeted and then shown to be incorrect and even artifactual (see, e.g., here and here).  In fact, teratoma formation was often the result or even the inducer of insulin secretion from ESC.

 

In fact, the high-efficiency production of insulin-secreting cells from hESC and hiPSC has been done before today’s announcement—similar results were published in September 2014 by Rezania et al.  That report also failed to address the questions that the current paper did not address, such as transplant rejection.

 

Other Ways to Make Insulin-Secreting Cells—No Embryonic Stem Cells Needed

The obsession with ESC continues to make headlines, but not help patients.  Even Melton’s lab has shown various other ways to make insulin-secreting cells, including: stimulating growth of pancreatic beta cells (which improves glucose tolerance) by expression of betatrophin growth factor; direct reprogramming to turn other pancreatic cells into new insulin-secreting cells within the body; and regeneration of insulin-secreting beta cells by the normal pancreas, achieved by stopping the autoimmune attack typical of Type 1 diabetes.

 

This latter result is important, because it addresses the underlying cause of Type 1 diabetes:  the autoimmune attack on the insulin-secreting cells.  Stopping the autoimmune destruction of beta cells allows the body to regenerate normal, insulin-secreting cells from the body’s own adult stem cells and progenitors.

 

Other scientists have shown the real promise of this approach. 

Faustman et al. used a simple treatment with BCG to achieve a transient improvement in patients, providing proof of principle for the concept.

 

Zhao et al. used cord blood-derived adult stem cells to “re-educate” the immune cells of diabetic patients, providing lasting improvement in metabolic control.

 

The best results thus far for Type 1 diabetic patients has resulted from the collaboration of Voltarelli and Burt, using immunosuppression to remove rogue immune cells followed by transplantation of the patient’s own adult stem cells.  Their success was reported in 2007 and in 2009 in JAMA.  This was able to induce complete remission (insulin independence) in most patients with early onset type 1 diabetes mellitus.  As they noted after publication of their second paper in 2009: “It’s the first therapy for patients that leaves them treatment-free — no insulin, no immune suppression for almost five years.”  Sadly, Dr. Voltarelli died in 2012, but his team continues to work on effective patient treatments.

 

Adult stem cells remain the gold standard for real patient treatments.

 

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The Social Conservative Review: October 9, 2014

by Krystle Gabele

October 9, 2014

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review.


Dear Friends,

In his lecture yesterday at FRC, “Renaissance: The Power of the Christian Gospel However Dark the Times,” renowned scholar Dr. Os Guinness offered encouraging words for Christians ready to “throw in the towel” as events at home and abroad sometimes look bleak.

Any gloom and doom today is totally unwarranted,” said Dr. Guinness. “There are no answers so deep and true as those in the Christian faith.”

Are we proclaiming and articulating those answers confidently, humbly, graciously, and persuasively? Serious believers should be asking themselves that question often. Dr. Guinness noted that “the church always goes forward by going backward first” — by returning to its first love, Jesus Christ, and the eternal truths of God’s Word. This is one of the paradoxes of God’s kingdom — we advance by retracing our path to His unchanging message. For the sake of advancing “a culture in which human life is valued, families flourish and religious liberty thrives,” taking a few steps back to what really matters is always a good idea.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council

P.S. What’s going on with ebola, Islamic terrorism, and American security? Learn from FRC’s Lt. Gen. (ret) Jerry Boykin, former commander of the Delta Force, as he explains what’s happening in a Fox News interview.


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Analyzing Tony Kennedy: My only Power Lunch

by Robert Morrison

October 8, 2014

Tony Kennedy had just been confirmed to a life appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court in late 1987 when I got an invitation to lunch from a lawyer in a well-respected Washington firm. John Connolly was a man I had never met. Mr. Connolly, I was informed, was Pat Buchanan’s brother-in-law. The message my assistant gave me was that this estimable gentleman just wanted to thank me for my efforts on behalf of Judge Robert Bork.

Earlier that year, we had been through a brutal confirmation battle. The good and decent Bob Bork, an eminent constitutional scholar, had been savagely attacked in the mass media.

Liberal activists had left no stone unturned or uncast in their hunt for anything to stop Judge Bork from being confirmed as President Reagan’s third Supreme Court nominee. They had failed to derail Chief Justice Rehnquist, though they slimed him. They never laid a glove on the beloved Justice Antonin Scalia. Everyone loves “Nino,” it seems.

But they were primed for Bob Bork. No sooner had President Reagan announced his choice on July 1, 1987 then Ted Kennedy burst onto the Senate floor with a scurrilous and scandalous attack. Thus was born “Borking.”His video rental records were ransacked by liberal activists — those famous advocates of privacy rights. Civil liberties proponents looked the other way as a Democratic senator demanded Judge Bork describe his religious beliefs while he was under oath.

I had prayed for Judge Bork. He was one of America’s most distinguished (Yale) professors of law and a most highly regarded judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Because he had criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling in the infamous Roe v. Wade case of 1973, Kennedy charged the judge with being anti-woman.

This was the first appearance of the “war on women” theme that liberals have been pushing. Ted Kennedy was a famous respecter of women, as all those whom he had pawed and preyed upon surely knew. In those years when he was posing as a champion of women, Kennedy and one of his Senate boys had even pursued women under the tables at one of Washington’s more fashionable eateries. I think it was a place called Mon Oncle, or some such.

Judge Bork had had to endure Ted Kennedy’s calculated rudeness as the Massachusetts lawmaker refused to call him anything but “Mr. Bork.” Bullying and berating, Ted grilled the judge about his ruling in an interstate trucking case.

I was in the Senate hearing room as Ted Kennedy, of all people in America, bored in on the fine points of interstate highway driving. Jimmy Carter’s campaigners had made sure in 1980 that all Americans knew that it was Kennedy who had abandoned a young woman to die of asphyxiation after he drove his car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick back in 1969.

I had hoped the Judge would stand up at the witness table and ask his Grand Inquisitor if it could be true: “Are you really questioning my judgment in a traffic safety case, Mr. Kennedy?” But the Judge was ever the gentleman and, like Aslan the Lion, he let himself be led to slaughter by these scampering tormentors.

The reward for my work was to be this “Power Lunch” with an honest Washington lawyer. I seem to recall it was the Occidental, at the Willard Hotel. I do not remember what I ordered for what was to be my only Power Lunch in thirty years, but I remember what Mr. Connolly taught me then.

Since deceased, this practiced Washington power attorney expanded on the choice of Supreme Court justices and what we as pro-life conservatives should seek in a nominee.

He had the highest praise for the recently-cast down Judge Bork. But he had this warning:

Bob Bork is so intelligent and so honest that he might have found a better constitutional basis for abortion. Remember, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee — under oath — that he had no opinion on abortion as such, he had merely done what many liberal constitutional scholars had done: He critiqued the Supreme Court’s reasoning in this case.

I knew John Connolly was right about those liberals who had criticized the opinion that Harry Blackmun had managed to cobble together with smelly gluepot and used string, rather like Mr. Dick’s Kite in Dickens’ David Copperfield.

Blackmun’s opinion was dismissed by a number of serious students of the Constitution, starting with Yale Law School’s John Hart Ely.

Ely was a famous constitutional law professor (and personally pro-abortion). Ely had said [Roe is] “bad constitutional law, or rather … it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”

Then, there was this liberal’s analysis of Blackmun’s opinion in Roe that showed why even the liberal clerks at the Supreme Court were calling the ruling “Harry’s abortion.”

Archibald Cox’s liberal credentials could hardly have been better. He was virtually a legal advisor to the Kennedys. He had earned martyrdom among liberals when, as Independent Prosecutor in the Watergate Affair, he had been fired by then-Solicitor General Robert H. Bork. But even this distinguished Harvard Law professor dismantled Blackmun’s shoddy legal reasoning and even worse history:

Blackmun’s opinion, Cox wrote;

“fails even to consider what I would suppose to be the most important compelling interest of the State in prohibiting abortion: the interest in maintaining that respect for the paramount sanctity of human life which has always been at the center of Western civilization, not merely by guarding life itself, however defined, but by safeguarding the penumbra, whether at the beginning, through some overwhelming disability of mind or body, or at death.”

Cox further argued, as National Review publisher Jack Fowler tells us: “The failure to confront the issue in principled terms leaves the opinion to read like a set of hospital rules and regulations, whose validity is good enough this week but will be destroyed with new statistics upon the medical risks of child-birth and abortion or new advances in providing for the separate existence of a fetus… . Neither historian, nor layman, nor lawyer will be persuaded that all the prescriptions of Justice Blackmun are part of the Constitution.”

All of this was part of my post-confirmation luncheon and tutorial with John Connolly.

But then he went on to reassure me that it might all be for the best. “Bob Bork is a racehorse. We don’t need a justice on the Supreme Court who is a thoroughbred. We need a mule. We need someone like Tony Kennedy who will patiently pace along for twenty, thirty years. Just a mule who will pull the barge along the canal day in and day out. The U.S. Supreme Court is a dangerous place for someone like Bob Bork who views it as ‘an intellectual feast.’  Better an unimaginative plodder like Tony Kennedy. Better a mule than a racehorse.”

I learned a great deal in my Power Lunch with that good man, John Connolly. I wish he were still here. I would have pointed out to him the record of nearly thirty years of our “mule” on the Supreme Court.

The problem is this: When the mules get to the U.S. Supreme Court, they start thinking they are all racehorses. 

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