FRC Blog

Failing to Disclose

by Tom McClusky

July 29, 2008

Within weeks of each other a newspaper in California (embroiled in a fight over same-sex “marriage”) and a newspaper in Massachusetts (which has had same-sex “marriage” on the books for a few years now but currently are set to overturn the law that prohibits out of state people coming to Massachusetts to get married) have printed articles bemoaning the fact that the U.S. Census won’t count any of the same-sex “marriages” in the census because of that pesky mean old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Coincidence? Not exactly. Consider the source for both stories, Gary J. Gates, Senior Research Fellow at UCLA Law School. According to his official bio at the school Mr. Gates is the “co-author of The Gay and Lesbian Atlas and is widely acknowledged as the nation’s leading expert on the demography and geography of the gay and lesbian population.” The bio goes on to explain “Dr. Gates’ position at the Williams Institute was made possible by a generous grant from the Gill Foundation.”

For those unfamiliar with the Gill Foundation it is run by Tim Gill, a multibillionaire software mogul who has used his billions to defeat pro-traditional marriage candidates and legislators on the state and national level. Tim Gill and a network of his political Thumbnail image for Tim Gill.jpgallies in 2006 funded 38 percent of the opposition to same-sex marriage bans across the country. Tim Gill and his cabal of other pro-homosexual agenda millionaires targets a candidate opposed to the homosexual agenda and sends donations to opposition candidate in the last two months of the election, thus avoiding any nasty pre-election exposure.

In 2000 Tim Gill’s political donations totaled $300,000, in 2002 that increased to $800,000. In 2004 he upped that to $5 million and finally in the 2006 election cycle, Tim Gill gave $15 million to 111 state candidates in 16 states. His candidates won more than 70 percent of the time. This giving was associated with five state houses changing from Republican to Democrat. These changes took place in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania House went Democrat by only one member. The 2006 election swing for the Democrats caused at least three results for which Gill must have hoped. In 2007, Iowa passed strong anti-discrimination protection for homosexuals, killed a marriage amendment and passed a pro-cloning embryonic stem cell bill. Additionally, Oregon passed anti-discrimination protections and created a domestic partner system.

The two newspapers do not discuss Mr. Gates funding or background, giving the impression he is merely an observer. Clearly this not so subtle attack on census data is coordinated to go after and repeal the highly popular 1996 DOMA, an ultimate goal of many Democrats currently in Congress.

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Uninformed Consent for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

by David Prentice

July 29, 2008

There is a new brewing controversy about the NIH “approved” human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines (more a tempest in a teapot). These are the cell lines approved for federal funding with President Bush’s speech August 9, 2001, eligible based on their derivation occurring before the speech and also meeting specific criteria as published by NIH. Of the 78 hESC lines eventually identified as eligible, 21 lines are currently available for shipping, while the remainder of the lines are not available for research (some failed to grow, some were withdrawn by their owners, but the majority have not been thawed and tested.)

One criterion was that “Informed consent must have been obtained for the donation of the embryo.” Now Josh Keller of the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that adequacy of the informed consent obtained for some of the approved lines is being challenged (subscription required) and several top hESC research institutions are considering a ban on the use of some approved hESC lines. In an article in the May-June 2008 issue of the Hastings Center Report, Robert Streiffer of the University of Wisconsin claims that many of the consent forms, used for parents to donate their embryos for experiments, were inadequate and did not meet ethical norms. In particular, the forms used by BresaGen of Atlanta, GA (now owned by Novocell) and Cellartis AB of Sweden were singled out for their deficiencies. The two companies account for only 5 of the 21 approved lines. According to Rick Weiss (formerly of the Washington Post, now with the liberal Center for American Progress that opposes President Bush’s policy on hESC research), Stanford has now determined that those 5 lines will no longer be available to their researchers. Johns Hopkins will consider lines individually as researchers express an interest in using them. According to Nature news, Story Landis, head of NIH’s Stem Cell Task Force, says the NIH will not be taking any lines off its registry. And it’s unlikely that stopping use of the 5 lines will have any impact. The BresaGen and Cellartis lines are the least-requested lines in the whole collection, accounting for only 90 out of almost 1500 cell shipments, according to NIH’s website. The favorites by far remain the five original lines developed by Thomson in 1998.

The report appears targeted more for its political utility, potential ammo for another push to open funding for more embryo destruction. The study’s subtitle notes it provides “ethical as well as scientific reasons to overturn the Bush administration’s restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research”, Weiss notes “the Bush stem cell policy is untenable and in need of a major overhaul”, and both Streiffer and Weiss spend time on the same old litany of supposed problems with the approved lines, e.g., they “had been cultivated with mouse cells and were potentially contaminated with mouse viruses, seriously diminishing their value as therapeutic tools.” Then again, hESC are nowhere close to any therapeutic use because of their many practical problems in application.

The contamination canard is worth a brief sidebar here. Critics usually cite a 2005 Nature Medicine paper that shows contamination of hESC with animal sugars (in particular an animal sugar type abbreviated as Neu5Gc) due to the co-culture with mouse cells and use of bovine serum in the culture medium. But curiously, they only cite the first half of the paper, showing there is contamination, and not the second half (esp. Fig 3), which shows that the contamination can be removed. Likewise Thomson also showed in 2006 that the contamination could be removed even from existing lines, and “no detectable Neu5Gc was found on cells grown in fully humanized conditions.” Other research has shown similar results at reversing contamination. In a June 2005 article in Science (subscription required), there was some admission that contamination was not a real problem: “But Keirstead, Okarma, and others now say that those concerns, widely reported, may have been overstated. Gage and his colleagues noted that the sugar gradually disappears once cells are removed from the feeder layers.” Okarma of Geron was more direct in this interview in 2006: “So the stuff you hear published that all of those lines are irrevocably contaminated with mouse materials and could never be used in people — hogwash. If you know how to grow them, they’re fine.” Geron of course has plans to use the original approved lines for a clinical trial. But we’ll save more on Geron and some of the other myths about the approved lines for another time.

Back to the ethics, it’s ironic that proponents of hESC research are just now examining the consent forms, years later. Maybe it was the rush to get at the cells and the funding that made them overlook such niceties before now. Of course the original lines were derived in an unethical way—after all, the derivation involved destruction of a young human life. Stanford’s decision seems irrelevant given their location in California, where $3 billion of state taxpayer funds is mandated to be prioritized for research that is NOT eligible for federal funding. And given the controversial nature of destructive embryo research, the lapses in ethics at numerous levels make one wonder what confidence this might offer to current and future donors about being made aware of all pertinent issues.

(thanks to R.D. & N.C. for additional thoughts)

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More Corruption In Congress

by Tom McClusky

July 29, 2008

Every time a story like this breaks it unfortunately paints the good guys in Congress with the same brush. However as long as Congress is an “Old Boys Club” and earmarks are spent like taxpayer-funded campaign candy we will be seeing more and more of this.

Senator Ted Stevens Indicted in Corruption Case

By Kate Phillips

Updated A federal grand jury has indicted longtime Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, on charges of failing to disclose receiving gifts of services and construction work as part of a wide-ranging corruption inquiry involving public officials and corporations in his home state. The indictment accuses Mr. Stevens of failing to report on his financial disclosure forms receiving gifts of more than $250,000 — in labor and construction materials — from Veco Corp. more …

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State of Life in the States

by Tom McClusky

July 29, 2008

Some good news on the life front in the states, all which show how the grassroots are where true success lies when we find hearts and minds can be changed. Victory can only be claimed when we stop thinking of the unborn child as a potential human being and, as a society, realize they are human beings with potential.

In Kansas a Sedgwick County judge ruled yesterday that the Kansas abortion statute on late term abortions is constitutional, denying a defense motion to dismiss a criminal case brought against George “the killer” Tiller, one of the most notorious abortionists in the country.

Meanwhile in Virginia the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will rehear a challenge to Virginia’s ban on a late-term abortion procedure. Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell was successful in convincing the court that it deserved review.

Finally over in South Dakota, for the second Monday in a row, no abortion doctor showed up for work at the only abortuary in the state. The reason is that any abortionist is afraid to comply with South Dakota’s Abortion Informed Consent Law. Normally an abortionist flies in on Mondays from Minnesota to perform abortions. South Dakota’s new law requires the abortionist to inform the expectant mother seeking an abortion that the procedure will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Failure to comply can have the abortionist face fines and/or jail time.

These state laws still face serious threats though if a pro-abortion Congress, as we have now, were to partner with a pro-abortion President and pass the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would effectively overturn all state laws in regard to abortion, as I discuss in my new paper on FOCA.

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Americans Stockpiling Stem Cells

by David Prentice

July 29, 2008

Not purposefully, mind you. A new study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery shows that lower belly fat is rich in adult stem cells. The study examined the concentration of stem cells in liposuctioned fat taken from different parts of the body. While each source contained adult stem cells, the highest concentration was found in fat from the lower belly and inner part of the thighs. Since many Americans are putting on extra pounds, the country has an almost unlimited supply of stem cells.

But before you dismiss stem cells from fat as unimportant and reach for that extra donut, consider that adult stem cells from fat have shown some important clinical results. As just a few examples, they’ve been used to grow new bone to correct a skull defect, for breast reconstruction following surgery, and are being used to treat heart damage (maybe an attempt to make up for leading to the heart attack in the first place.) Veterinarians are already using stem cells from fat to treat dogs and horses for numerous conditions, including repairing the tendon of a winning racehorse to put him back on the track and continue winning. Several companies are developing the technology for humans and animals, and one scientific society has focused on the applications of stem cells from adipose (fat) tissue. Stem cells from fat are actually an underappreciated source for potential therapies.

Okay, so how about that extra donut now?

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Dolly’s Daddy Sheepish About No More Cloning Around

by David Prentice

July 29, 2008

Back in November of 2007, Ian Wilmut, cloner of Dolly the sheep, announced his intention to give up on cloning and instead focus on the new technique of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells developed by Shinya Yamanaka of Japan. Yamanaka’s technique “reprograms” ordinary cells such as skin cells back to an embryonic state where they have characteristics similar to embryonic stem cells, but the technique does not use embryos, eggs, or cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer). In fact, Yamanaka never used any human eggs or embryos in developing the technique, only mouse. The reprogramming technique is also much easier to accomplish than cloning. In it’s August 2008 issue, Scientific American has published an article (originally titled “No More Cloning Around”) and an interview with Wilmut on his reasons for the switch in research direction. (Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, is quoted in the news article.)

The article notes that “practicalities… seem to be driving the SCNT exodus,” and “It is hard to escape the sense that SCNT research is on the wane. The ethical barriers and short egg supply remain daunting.” Not to mention the technical problems (it doesn’t work well at all, and is horribly inefficient; as noted by many scientists, including Wilmut in the article.) Bottom line: Wilmut has given up on cloning for practical reasons.

Still, there is an interesting discussion in the Wilmut interview about the possibility of using cloning to produce an embryo with its genetic defects corrected. What he actually describes is Embryo Cell Nuclear Transfer (ECNT). An embryo is first created by fertilization, one of the cells of this original embryo is genetically altered to correct whatever might be the problem, and then the nucleus of this embryo cell is transferred into an enucleated egg, to produce a new, cloned embryo. Wilmut doesn’t seem to have any problem with this.

This is what some have described as creating 3-parent embryos. But it’s still cloning.

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Cord Blood for Cerebral Palsy

by David Prentice

July 29, 2008

Another child has benefitted from umbilical cord blood treatment for cerebral palsy. Chloe Levine was diagnosed at age 1 with cerebral palsy. Her parents had saved her cord blood, and she had it re-infused in an experimental procedure at Duke University. Only two months after receiving her own cord blood stem cells, she is reported to have made a 50% recovery.

This is only the latest story where cord blood adult stem cells have helped children with cerebral palsy. Ryan Schneider and Dallas Hextell are a couple more. But it’s also important to keep in mind that while these are great feel-good stories, the treatment is still experimental; no peer-reviewed papers have been published yet on these clinical trials. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke cautions that “it’s impossible to tell at this point” just how much progress Dallas and others in the trial will make.

One other thing is of vital importance—that we collect cord blood and bank it. Private banks are good if people can afford it, but we also need many more public banks so everyone can have access to a match.

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Bob Morrison on John Adams Series

by Chuck Donovan

July 27, 2008

John Adams’ Pointed Prayer

By Robert G. Morrison

The great popularity of the recent HBO series, John Adams, is well deserved. The movie, unlike the fine David McCullough book, shows how good old honest John got himself in a peck of trouble as the first Vice President. He took up six weeks of the time of the first Senate with long and tedious lectures on titles. David McCullough, when he spoke at the National Press Club in 2000, airily dismissed Adams’ disastrous misstep. “Oh, he was a good, thrifty New Englander. He didn’t want to make the titles hereditary. But he knew everyone loves distinction and he thought titles would be cheap.” The HBO series shows the revulsion of many of the senators at the very idea. Adams wanted the President to be titled: “His high Mightiness, President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties.” Behind Adams’ back, the senators snickered at the portly, balding Vice President, calling him “His Rotundity.”

The series shows Adams in the best of lights, and he deserves much good light. Even when he’s wrong, even when he’s vain and prone to temper tantrums, we see the human toll of his brave labors for Independence. His son Charles dies of alcoholism. His beloved daughter Nabbie dies of breast cancer. Our hearts go out to him and to his beloved Abigail. McCullough told the National Press Club that the correspondence between John and Abigail is on microfiche—and the indelible record of their fidelity and love is five miles long!

When I take the Witherspoon Fellows to Monticello, I always speak of my reverence for Mr. Jefferson, that great defender of religious and civil liberty. But I always disagree with George Will. Will famously wrote that “Thomas Jefferson lived as a free man should live.” No, John Adams lived as a free man should live; he never freed his slaves because he never had any!

My favorite John Adams story dates to the year 2000. Then, Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office. That December, the Clintons invited their nearest and dearest friends to celebrate the two hundred years that the White House had been the Executive Mansion. They asked David McCullough to come and read from his wonderful biography of John Adams.

As the liberal Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory reported, McCullough ended with John Adams’ famous prayer, the one FDR had had engraved in the mantle in the State Dining Room:

I pray Heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

Miss McGrory wrote that when the prayer was read, all of Bill Clinton’s best friends looked at their shoes in embarrassment. Honest John Adams had crafted that inspiring petition in 1800. He hurled it like a javelin two centuries into the future and he punctured Bill Clinton’s pretensions with his pointed prayer. God bless John Adams!

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Perkins Perspective

by Tony Perkins

July 26, 2008

Earlier this week I returned from my first trip to the beautiful state of Alaska. I was a part of a double header service at Anchorage Baptist Temple where I preached the first service and Franklin Graham preached the second. Great folks. But I’ll have to say the highlight of the trip was a flight with two former Air Force bomber pilots who flew me in a float plane for a close up of some of Alaska’s most famous glaciers in Prince William Sound.

We flew over the Harvard Glacier at about 50 feet as it descended into the College Fjord. What an awesome view! Thumbnail image for Harvard.jpg

On the way we passed the Exit Glacier which my hosts pointed out has become a magnet for the Global Warming crowd. Global Warming alarmists point to the receding glaciers as evidence of the crisis. In fact, just a few months ago the Exit Glacier was the site where two presidential candidates pledged their support to stop Climate change. News reports say the glacier has receded a 1000 feet in the last decade.

According to my ace pilots, as the Exit Glacier, receded it uncovered trees that had been mowed down by the glacier when the big ice was on the move the other way, as the glacier was forming. The trees were reportedly carbon dated. Guess what? They weren’t 7,000 years old; they were 700 years old! That is similar to what was discovered in Switzerland. As the Schnidenjoch glacier was retreating a 4,700-year-old archer’s quiver was exposed in 2003.

This all suggested what many scientists have suggested; the planet operates in 1,500 year cycles of warming and cooling Of course you don’t hear too much from those who would proffer such a view and question global warming, because it has become modern day blasphemy.

By-the-way, most of the folks I was with in both Anchorage and Fairbanks were saying a little warming would actually be nice. Their summer has been unusually cold. Of course the explanation for that is as is the explanation for everything else these days, it’s caused by global warming.

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More Gossip

by Chris Gacek

July 25, 2008

Back on May 5, 2008, I posted a blog note about the sleazy TV show - “Gossip Girl.” Well, Gossip Girl is in the news again - see the article in Newsweek. It appears that the geniuses who produce this sleazefest have decided to quote the show’s critics in advertising posters promoting the new season of raunch. So, for example, one ad quotes Parents Television Council which had called the program, “Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate.” If you have the maturity of a 14-year-old boy this is probably mind-bogglingly clever.

I prefer to see these ads as another a piece of evidence that this country needs cable choice (a la carte) more than ever. Parents need to be able to block networks like CW - even though it is a broadcast channel - from entering their home. Perhaps then the folks at CW and Gossip Girl will be less like likely to mock the decent Americans who really do care about the welfare of teenagers and young adults more than the prospect of selling ads and making buckets of money. Oh, sorry, I should have said - producing great art.

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