FRC Blog

Time For Another ACT Press Release?

by David Prentice

July 17, 2008

The Boston Globe is reporting that Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), a Massachusetts biotechnology company, is running low on cash and may have to shut down or at least make severe cutbacks. ACT has been in the news in the past (usually first with their own press releases) for claims such as the first cloned human embryo, animal-human hybrid clone, creating organs by gestating clones, and for a technique that supposedly might produce embryonic stem cells without harming embryos. As the Globe story notes, “ACT has been dogged by complaints that it over-hyped its research”, and there has also been controversy about the way it has promoted some of its science, including its penchant in some cases for publication via press release. In 2002 auditors found it had mispent grant funds. It is also facing some other recent problems, including departure of many of its executives, including founder Michael West.

Though unrelated to its own troubles, ACT’s name was also in recent news about the mayor of Beaufort, SC being charged with insider trading by the SEC. According to the SEC, in 2006 an ACT executive told Mayor William Rauch, who had been a consultant for ACT, about a breakthrough embryonic-stem-cell technique the company was about to make public, after which he bought more than $11,000 worth of ACT stock, which gained 360% after the announcement was made public.

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A Limit to Judicial Activism

by Bill Saunders

July 17, 2008

They finally got one right!  After two of the worst, most politically motivated decisions in history, the California Supreme Court finally issued a rational decision. The Court threw out a challenge to this fall’s ballot initiative seeking to enshrine traditional marriage in the California constitution.  The challenge was the latest attempt by social leftists to prevent the people of California from deciding an absolutely fundamental issue - the definition of marriage.  Of course, the traditional definition of one man and one woman was thrown into dispute because the same California Supreme Court held that “limiting” marriage to one man and one woman was discriminatory against homosexuals who wished to marry one another.  They then followed that up by what might be the most undemocratic action of all: refusing to “stay” the legal effect of their decision until the people of California could decide the issue in the fall.

Apparently, the chief justice and others are convening meetings to, as they call, it “preserve impartial courts in California.”  It is hard not to laugh.  Exactly what is “impartial” about outlawing marriage as an “irrational” institution?  Or about refusing to stay that decision until the people can vote?

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IVF’s Past and the Next 30 Years of Reproduction

by David Prentice

July 17, 2008

The journal Nature has a news focus in this week’s issue with three articles on in vitro fertilization (IVF) and related technologies. An Editorial piece looks back at the impact of IVF, Ruth Deech, a member of the UK House of Lords and former chair of their Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) looks at the legacy of the U.K.’s early regulation of this reproductive technology, and Nature reporter Helen Pearson interviews several scientists about the future developments they foresee in the next 30 years. There is some interesting history here for those who are unfamiliar with the IVF industry and its beginnings, important questions are raised about the need for monitoring and registries of IVF-conceived children (as the Nature editors note, “safety concerns about IVF have still not evaporated” and little information is available, especially regarding newer practices such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis), and some thought-provoking and sometimes scary future scenarios (genetic engineering of babies, artificial gametes, artificial placentas, etc.) that deserve careful discussion about where we may be headed.

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A Taxing Proposition

by Tom McClusky

July 16, 2008

Representative Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) has a new proposal out that seems to be right on the dubious heels of the “Strip@Clothe” campaign to “help” the homeless. Rep. McDermott has just introduced legislation, H.R. 6501, that seeks to tax Internet gambling and use the “proceeds” to help those “in foster care and individuals in declining sectors of the economy.” This seems to be a typical liberal strategy - for who wouldn’t want to help orphans and such? (Perhaps those who believe it is the responsibility of people and not governments, however that is a different subject.) Who cares where the money is coming from if it is for a good cause?

Rep. McDermott’s bill does not seem to actually legalize Internet gambling in the United States, so apparently he would seek to tax illegal activities. Well it was Ronald Reagan who said “one way to make sure crime doesn’t pay would be to let the government run it” so this could be a way to stop Internet gambling - but the government would most likely find a way to eventually subsidize it. (As another great President Reagan quote (does he have any other?) goes “the government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”)

I am curious on how my Libertarian friends view the actions of some of those who support overturning the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the argument on all the money that would come into the government coffers by taxing online gambling. Having worked at one of the finer Libertarian-minded think tanks I know that most good Libertarians are opposed to taxing anything on the Internet. It is also highly dubious if such an action would be profitable. Taxing Internet gambling would place an enormous burden on Internet companies, at a time when the pro-Internet gambling forces say the current proposed regulations place an unfair burden on the banking companies. Why should a company be forced by the government to become a tax collector for more than 30,000 tax jurisdictions across the country? If that expense doesn’t put them out of business then the countless lawsuits from state governments claiming they didn’t collect a sufficient amount of taxes on their behalf will.

Hat tip: Friend on the Hill

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Targeting Tumors with Umbilical Cord Stem Cells

by David Prentice

July 16, 2008

Kansas State University researchers are developing a method to use umbilical cord cells to deliver cancer-fighting drugs directly to tumors. Dr. Deryl Troyer and colleagues note that these umbilical cord stem cells have a natural homing ability to areas of tissue damage, including tumors. “We are using the cells as stealth vehicles,” Troyer said. Their project involves loading the stem cells with nanoparticles containing the anti-cancer drugs, and letting the cells home in on tumors, where they would release their cargo.

The project, a part of Kansas State’s Midwest Institute for Comparative Stem Cell Biology, uses a type of adult stem cell that is not from cord blood, but is instead from the solid part of the umbilical cord, known as Wharton’s jelly. These adult stem cells have the ability to form various cell types of the body, including neuronal cells, and have already shown the ability in animal models to ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson’s diease.

There’s more than wheat and wind on the plains of Kansas.

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Feel Like A Million, or $6.9 Million?

by David Prentice

July 16, 2008

According to the EPA, that’s the current value for a human life (their value estimate has dropped over the last year.) The estimate is for the “value of a statistical life”, a number used in cost-benefit calculations. But before you brag you’re worth more than the $6 Million Man, note that other agencies have different figures for your value, so you may be worth more or less than that. Time magazine recently noted that the value of one year of human life was approximately $50,000. A different estimate, based on parting you out for transplants and biological reagents, puts the value at over $45 million. And of course there’s the old estimate that if broken down to basic elements, you’re worth a grand total of $4.50… But I prefer to think the value of an individual human life is, as the commercial says, priceless!

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More Testimony Supporting CIANA

by David Christensen

July 16, 2008

I blogged Monday about the Forum on the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) that Judiciary minority members held last Thursday, July 10th, and I posted the statements made by Representatives Franks, Lamar Smith and testimony given by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

I wanted to make sure you saw the testimony of the other witnesses who discussed the effectiveness and constitutionality of CIANA and it’s importance to protecting young girls. You can read Professor Teresa Collett’s submitted testimony about the legal and constitutional aspects of CIANA here, and submitted testimony by Missy Smith, a post-abortion woman who has since become pro-life and works to prevent trafficking of young girls seeking abortions. Michael New also testified and he posted a blog with his testimony here.

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The 5.9 Billion Dollar Man

by Tom McClusky

July 16, 2008

Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee has been reaping the rewards of his support for gambling online by a large increase of political donations from those who would profit from his efforts to de-legalize online gambling. In addition the gambling “industry” (which is estimated to be a $5.9 BaRNEY fRANK 2.jpgbillion industry - despite being illegal in the U.S.) is holding high end fund-raisers in his honor according to a story in the Boston Globe. One of those fundraisers was held in the home of a former Rep. Frank staffer whom now makes a tidy sum lobbying for online gambling.

One of his “fans”, a media relations director from an online gambling site referred to Rep. Frank as a God for his efforts. New donors to his campaign also include celebrity poker players like Annie Duke (“The Duchess of Poker”), Howard Lederer (“The Professor”), and Andy Bloch (“The Rock”). I testified against the “Duchess” last year over online gambling, and while she seems very nice I unfortunately was not given a cool nickname (or at least not one to my face or that could be printable here.)

Elsewhere a study conducted jointly by academics of the University of Western Ontario in Canada and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas — found that online gamblers tend bet more frequently and aggressively than they do in casinos (they needed a study to figure that out?) They also discovered that “online gambling is readily accessible via the Internet even though it is outlawed or in a “legal grey area” in United States and Canada.”

While the study might not be new news their unbelievable conclusion is. After concluding how different real live gambling and online gambling are the crackerjack study team “suggest legalizing and regulating online gambling, similar to the way casino gambling is regulated, may help reduce the incidences of problem gambling.” They give a laundry list of suggestions, some which have been automatically ruled out because of the anonymity of the Internet, such as “cross-checking new users with lists of pathological gamblers.” Or have proven to not be successful when tried in regulating online pornography.

They also “recommend online gambling casinos minimize use of flashing bold graphics to signal wins to lessen the emotional experience for gamblers.”

Please tell me this was not a government funded study.

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Platinum Engagement (Nose)rings?

by Michael Fragoso

July 16, 2008

In a recent letter to the Desert Sun the Rev. Kevin A. Johnson firmly asserts that “marriage has improved over history.”  I am of the view that in many ways marriage has changed, and for the better; however its fundamental nature of being between men and women has not and cannot.  Further, Pastor Johnson’s understanding of this “improvement” is silly and self-defeating.

He argues that we can find evidence of how much better marriage is today than it was before in the story of Isaac and Rebecca.  He says, “I was interested to note the customs reported and startled to read where the wedding ring was placed - not on a finger but in her nose. It was not a sign of unending grace and intended fidelity but a receipt of transferred ownership of the daughter from the father to the new husband.”  I am no expert in Sumerian mating practices, but this strikes me as fishy.  While contemporary secondary scholarship might say differently, I recall no indication in the Bible of Isaac turning Rebecca into Ferdinand the Bull.  King James and Douai-Reims both mention “earrings”-a term supported by St. Jerome in the Vulgate (“inaures”).  While the image of women brutally subjugated and treated like cattle under traditional “Biblical” marriage makes a convenient image for the Pastor to use in pillorying conservative Christians, it sadly seems to have little actual Biblical support.

What does have Biblical support in the time of Abraham and Isaac, however, is polygamy.  Polygamy’s relegation to the dustbin of social custom in the Judeo-Christian world is certainly one of the preeminent ways in which “marriage has improved over history.”  Yet, this same decision by the California Supreme Court, so celebrated by Pastor Johnson, opens the door to legalized polygamy in the United States.  (The ball here is already moving in cases like Holm v. Utah.)  I wonder, when some of his neighbors use the precedents set in California to return to the polygamy of the Patriarchs, if Pastor Johnson will see fit to preach on “irony”?

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