Category archives: Uncategorized

Daily Telegraph: Sex-Selection Abortions May Be Widespread in the U.K.

by Chris Gacek

March 14, 2012

In late February, several important articles were published in the Daily Telegraph (London) exposing the strong possibility that sex-selection abortions are widespread in Britain. The articles grew out of an investigative reporting series the paper conducted. Go here for some video of a provider ignoring the law this would be illegal in the U.K. Here for commentary by Allison Pearson (In the Third World, Unwanted Baby Girls Disappear. Its Called Gendercide. And Its Happening in this Country, Too). And, in another article a former medical director of the countrys largest abortion opined that it is well known that sex-selection abortions are fairly widespread.

Undermining Energy Production

by Chris Gacek

March 6, 2012

As the summer approaches families are facing greatly escalating gasoline prices. Summer estimates of prices reaching $5.00 per gallon are common. Time will only tell. The Obama Administrations hostility to domestic petroleum and coal production has been pretty clearly established, but that isnt the whole story.

Natural gas is one American energy bright spot. It is efficient and clean. More to the point: natural gas is very cheap due to the tremendous increases in production the nation has seen in recent years. America possesses huge natural gas reserves that are now producing usable product with the help of new technologies.

A worrying article by Ben Wolfgang points to dangers for natural gas also (Washington Times March 3, 2012 at p. A6). The headline tells much of the story: Natural Gas Producers Fear Rules Blitz: Scrutiny by EPA, CDC, Interior, Others Unprecedented. It appears that the Obama Administration is waging a multi-front war against natural gas:

At least 10 federal departments and agencies are investigating or crafting new rules to govern fracking, the popular gas-extraction technique that has led directly to the creation of thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Wyoming and other states.

EPA is leading the charge. The Department of the Interior has proposed raising royalty rates by 50 percent for oil and gas on public lands. The Centers for Disease Control has called for a wide study into potential health problems associated with gas drilling. Agriculture, Commerce, and Transportation are also getting into the act.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, since the 2008 the number of oil and gas wells on public lands in Western states Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming has dropped by at least 39 percent. Why is this not surprising?

Senator Santorum Only Told Part of the Story

by Chris Gacek

February 28, 2012

Much is being made of Rick Santorums criticism of the ideological tilt of college educations. Here is one story. We are supposed to believe that indoctrination doesnt occur on campus and that it doesnt undermine traditional mores and thought especially when they are religiously based. Theres even more to be unhappy about on campus.

Steve Forbes has written, During the past 30 years overall inflation in the U.S. was 106%; health care costs went up 251%. College tuition and fees? They soared 439%. Graduates of the college class of 2010 had acquired an average $25,250 in debt, but there were many students who had much higher levels. That was a 5% increase over the prior year. There is no indication that increases in tuition costs and indebtedness will grow more slowly.

Conservatives have an opportunity to provide hope to those who have not yet entered college. Because they are not tied to these massive institutions politically, conservatives can begin to offer true alternatives to the bricks-and-mortar educational behemoth. Of greatest importance should be a push for online educational options that can greatly reduce the costs of most college courses in particular, generalized lecture classes. Non-college options may also be preferable in technical fields that require the use of sophisticated machinery and equipment.

All things being equal, education clearly benefits society. In the world of the early GI Bill and the following decades one could afford to romanticize about the college experience, but in times of prolonged sluggish economic growth and high unemployment parents and prospective students need to be more realistic. When a good private college or university routinely charges $50,000 year, a new educational model is needed. Hopefully, the presidential campaign will provide an opportunity for more discussion of this critical issue.





Tough Economic Times for Millennials

by Chris Gacek

February 20, 2012

Patrice Hill of the Washington Times has published the first installment of a two-part series on the economic difficulties facing millennials (Millennials Forced to Put Lives on Hold). The unemployment rate is 15.8% for those ages 18-29 which is twice the national average. Among the problems facing Millennials is student debt an issue of great interest here at FRC:

The result was an explosion of student-loan debt as families stretched to send their children to school. Todays college freshmen are taking on twice the load of student debt as freshmen did 10 years ago, according to Standard & Poors Corp. It is becoming more common for students to take on as much as $100,000 in debt just to get a bachelors degree.

While taking on debt to get the education and training needed to obtain good jobs makes sense, the dearth of entry-level job openings since the Great Recession started in late 2007 has made it impossible for many graduates to pay off their loans, said S&P analyst Robert McNatt. Defaults among young graduates have escalated to levels near 9 percent.

While graduates can postpone payments on their loans until they get jobs, the debt cannot be discharged through bankruptcy and can become a serious burden for people who have had trouble securing regular work or high-paying jobs, Mr. McNatt said.


Sir Isaac Newtons Theological Writings Posted Online by the National Library of Israel

by Chris Gacek

February 17, 2012

Sir Isaac Newton was, most likely, one of the ten greatest scientist who ever lived. #1 is a distinct possibility. Newton also believed that theological and scientific investigations were not alien to each other. He was deeply interested in the Jewish people believing that that they would ultimately return to their ancient lands.

Aron Heller (AP) wrote a fascinating article this week describing how some 7,500 pages of Newtons handwritten notes have been placed online by Israels national library (National Library of Israel). The collection is available here or displayed here.

Hellers account of how Newtons theological papers ended up in an Israeli museum is fascinating:

How his massive collection of work ended up in the Jewish state seems mystical in its own right.

Years after Newtons death in 1727, his descendants gave his scientific manuscripts to his alma mater, the University of Cambridge.

But the university rejected his nonscientific papers, so the family auctioned them off at Sothebys in London in 1936. As chance would have it, Londons other main auction house — Christies — was selling a collection of Impressionist art the same day that attracted far more attention.

Only two serious bidders arrived for the Newton collection that day. The first was renowned British economist John Maynard Keynes, who bought Newtons alchemy manuscripts. The second was Abraham Shalom Yahuda — a Jewish Oriental Studies scholar — who got Newtons theological writings.

Yahudas collection was bequeathed to the National Library of Israel in 1969, years after his death. In 2007, the library exhibited the papers for the first time and now they are available for all to see online.

The widespread availability of these papers should make it easier for Christian scholars to examine Newton’s writings on science, theology, the Bible, and the Jewish people. One scholar noted that they have found “no negative expressions toward Jews” by Newton.

Planned Parenthood and Telemed Abortions in Iowa

by Chris Gacek

February 3, 2012

The Washington Times published an informative article this week (Wed., 2/1/2012) by Sue Thayer, a former Planned Parenthood clinic manager from Storm Lake, Iowa. Thayer ran the Planned Parenthood clinic in Storm Lake from 1991 to 2008. Originally, this clinic did not offer abortions, but in 2008 Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa required the clinic to perform telemed abortions.

Thayer made the following observations about telemed abortions:

…. Telemed abortion is the practice by which an abortion doctor from a remote location simply presses a button, which opens a drawer containing the dangerous abortion pill, after a brief teleconference call with the woman.

Telemed abortion doesnt only result in the death of an unborn child; it strips women of their dignity by denying them the courtesy of an in-person visit from a doctor concerned for their health and well-being. It risks their lives by sending them away with no support and a drug that has led to massive bleeding and hemorrhaging, infection and even death.

So what does Planned Parenthood, the trusted friend of women, love so much about telemed abortions? Low overhead costs.

My superiors justified telemed abortions, lauding the financial benefits of not having to worry about or pay for specialized equipment, staff and a traveling physician - all required with surgical abortions.

When I expressed my concerns, I was let go, supposedly because of downsizing.

Questionable Publication of Embryonic Stem Cell Results

by David Prentice

January 24, 2012

[An original, shorter version of this post first appeared at!]

Turning a blind eye toward both good science and good ethics, the embryonic stem cell and cloning company, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), has published a very preliminary online report regarding their first two patients injected with embryonic stem cell derivatives. The two patients, one who has age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness, and the other with a rare form of blindness called Stargardt’s disease, were injected with retinal cells made from human embryonic stem cells only 4 months before the report was submitted. This makes it far too early to know whether these embryonic stem cells will actually be safe or effective. In fact, it’s surprising that any reputable scientific journal would publish such very preliminary data, given the early stage of the clinical trial (which is supposed to last at least two years), the short period of time after the patients were injected, and the low numbers of patients and lack of controls.

Dr Martin Friedlander, Professor of Ophthalmology at Scripps Health in La Jolla, California pointed out the deficits and dangers of such early and incomplete reporting:

To reach any conclusions on the safety or efficacy of two patients treated for four months without a control population for comparison is unreasonable. This is why anecdotal reports like this are not published. This falsely raises the hopes of millions of individuals suffering from these diseases.

The paper published in the journal Lancet clearly reveals that the data are preliminary and uncertain. It mentions that one patient who showed improvement in her eye that was injected with the cells, also showed improvement in her eye that was NOT injected with the cells. The authors admit in the paper that there is a general lack of hard data:

At present, we do not know if the transplanted cells have reduced immunogenicity or whether they will undergo rejection without immunosuppression in the long term. Similarly, we are uncertain at this point whether any of the visual gains we have recorded were due to the transplanted cells, the use of immunosuppressive drugs, or a placebo effect.”

First author Dr. Steven Schwartz has noted the likelihood of the placebo effect in several interviews. Dr. Schwartz conceded that it was extremely unusual for researchers to publish a study after treating only two patients out of a planned 24. But he said that was justified by the huge interest in the stem cells. ACT has been criticized in the past for overstating results, in part because it has been desperate to raise money to stay in business. The companys stock rose 3.4 cents, or 23 percent, to 18 cents on Monday.

The safety of the patients is also still very much in question. Humans can take much longer to develop a tumor than lab mice, sometimes years. Previous research has shown that as few as two growing embryonic stem cells among millions of injected cells can lead to tumors, even if the cells are supposedly pre-differentiated. The concern regarding potential tumor formation and need for continued surveillance was noted by Dr. Sheng Ding of the Gladstone Institute:

If just a few undifferentiated stem cells are injected, you may not see [an effect] at all, or you may be able to see it over a much longer period of time. The 4-month follow-up received by the trial patients thus far is very short in this regard, and I think the patients need a much, much longer-term follow up to make sure theres no tumor cells.

It is indeed surprising that this paper was published. The preliminary nature of the paper reinforces the image of ACT noted in a recent story in Nature:

Since the late 1990s, ACT has gained a reputation as a renegade company, accused of overhyping results to raise attention and money. Critics say that the company has damaged the field more than once with its high-profile, controversial announcements, such as one describing the companys attempts to clone a human embryo in 2001…”

The embryonic stem cells (line MA09, currently pending review for NIH approval of taxpayer funding) used for injections into patients in the current trials are part of another embarrassing moment for ACT. Their derivation was described in a 2006 paper in which ACT claimed that they arose from single blastomeres that had been removed from human embryos, without destroying the embryos. However, the embryos had indeed been destroyed cell by cell, leading to several “corrections” to their published information. In a subsequent 2008 paper they again claimed to have accomplished derivation of embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo, creating what they termed their NED (no embryo destruction) lines, but their own published data showed only 80-85% of the embryos survived the laboratory manipulation, falsifying their claim.

There are certainly better alternatives to embryonic stem cells. Similar stem cells—iPS cells—can be derived without any use of embryos; their potential is noted in the accompanying published comment. In fact, ACT scientist Bob Lanza has already said that they are planning to use iPS cells in the future, which potentially could remove the need for immunosuppressive drugs and provide an ethically-derived source of cells. However, since iPS cells are pluripotent, with a penchant to grow and make lots of cells, they face the same practical problem of tumor formation as embryonic stem cells.

A practical, as well as ethical solution, would be the use of adult stem cells. Preliminary work has shown that retinal repair could be accomplished using adult stem cells from bone marrow, or possibly even adult stem cells from within the patient’s own eye. Adult stem cells from the patient’s own eye have already been used successfully to treat corneal blindness in people.

The Keystone Pipeline, Energy, and Family Economics

by Chris Gacek

January 20, 2012

On Wednesday the Obama Administration again rejected the construction of an oil pipeline, the Keystone XL, that would have carried oil 1,700 miles from Canada to refineries in the United States. The pipeline would have been the largest infrastructure project in the United States with an estimated cost of $7 billion. It is estimated that Keystone XL would have created 10-20,000 jobs.

President Obama apparently indicated to the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, that the pipeline would be approved after the November election. Environmentalists are a major constituency of the Democratic Party, and they oppose the pipeline for many reasons but primarily because they believe that killing the project will stop the production of unrefined oil from Canadian tar sands. This is folly because the Chinese are more than willing to buy the oil, so the oil will be produced, and it will be consumed somewhere.

The United States imports dangerously large volumes of crude oil, but it also has massive resources that could be used to reduce our dependence on unfriendly governments who produce oil. Yet, our current government has anti-energy policies that will inevitably lead to more importing and higher prices.

Oddly enough President Obama chose to go to Disney World on Thursday (1/19) to press the flesh and promote tourism in Florida. Florida has an unemployment rate of 10.0%, and it depends greatly on tourism. It has Disney World and all the nearby entertainment parks. It has a large cruise ship industry, and it has a wonderful climate and beaches that people visit from all over the world (e.g., South Beach, Miami).

How do people get to Florida to enjoy these various tourist activities? They consume a pretty substantial amount of fossil fuel like the stuff we wont be getting from the Keystone XL pipeline. As energy prices climb due to lack of production, the health of the vacation and entertainment industries will be imperiled. I hope some Floridians asked the president about that.

Furthermore, the political Left hates energy production and the economic productivity it brings. It doesnt seem to have occurred to them that one of the reasons our standard of living is so high is that we use these fuels to run engines that increase our real productivity. Take a look at the History Channels program Modern Marvels sometime. Almost all the episodes rely on the use of fuel or electricity to run machinery that expands human productivity enormously.

The environmental movement has a basic problem with this fact. Remember that in 1992, Al Gore wrote in his book, Earth in the Balance, that the internal combustion engine posed a greater threat to the United States than actual military enemies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Engines of various kinds have been one of the factors that have allowed mankind to escape the grinding poverty it had known for millennia.

The United States has 55,000 miles of oil-carrying pipelines, and Keystone XL would have expanded that total only marginally. That was not the problem for the environmentalists. They just want to shut down all new energy production except for inefficient renewable energy (wind, solar) that has no hope of powering our economy. The long-term continuation of policies like this will have profound effects on the ability of the United States to grow economically and increase the standard of living for American families. More basically, it will help determine whether many families will be able to heat there homes economically.

The American people are going to have to choose the vision of reality they endorse.

College Debt and 2012

by Chris Gacek

January 19, 2012

Bartholomew Sullivan (Scripps Howard News Service) has written an important article raising the possibility that the student college debt/loan issue may become a significant issue in the presidential race:

Outstanding student loan debt — which exceeds $1 trillion, more than what Americans owe on credit cards — is likely to be a major political issue this election year as students and their parents question the rising cost and value of a college education.

Sullivan presents some alarming statistics about loan defaults:

The rate of defaults rose from 7 percent in 2008 to 8.8 percent in 2009, the latest official figures available. Thats 320,194 of the 3.6 million people who began repayment that year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The rate in 2009 is about one in twelve a high rate. Concern runs from the political Right to the Left. As a Univ. of Pittsburgh English professor, William Scott, associated with the Occupy movement observed, Schools keep raising their tuitions because they know their students have easy access to these student loans. It’s almost become a type of predatory lending. At the same time, Rep. Ron Paul believes the loan programs should be abolished because they are “an absolute failure.”

Adult Stem Cells as Potential Fountain of Youth

by David Prentice

January 18, 2012

A couple of weeks ago a paper was published in Nature Communications, describing how scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have shown that adult stem cells from the muscle of young mice can improve the health and extend the life of aged mice. While the story didn’t make big news at the time, the news is surfacing again, e.g., in a video report by Dr. Marc Siegel on Fox News. The video includes interviews with two of the scientists who did the study, Dr. Laura Niedernhofer and Dr. Johnny Huard. Dr. Siegel does a good job of discussing the key points of the study, including the point that these were not embryonic stem cells, but rather adult stem cells.