Political MoJo

California OKs Stem Cell Research Funds

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 12:35 PM EDT

This is more like it! From the San Francisco Chronicle

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized $150 million in loans to the state's stem cell agency one day after President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

The governor's action Thursday quadruples the amount of money available in the state to begin research on stem cells, which scientists believe hold extraordinary promise to cure diseases. It also carries political benefits for Schwarzenegger, who has distanced himself from the deeply unpopular Republican president.

"With one stroke, the governor has energized stem cell research in California," said the president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine "This is the new frontier in biomedical research, and the United States needs to be working in it. California will become a surrogate for the nation's efforts." And the governor himself said: "We can no longer wait to fund this important research." Good for him.

PLUS: Though Bush's veto will hold back a lot of important work in the field, Forbes reminds that "Stem cell research is alive and well at a host of small companies and academic laboratories in the United States."

PLUS PLUS:"Illinois's governor announced yesterday he was diverting $5 million from the state budget for stem cell research, despite repeated objections from state legislators." (AP)

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Stem Cell Side Effects=WMD?

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 12:20 PM EDT

Over on NPR, Congressman Dan Lundgren is allowed, in an unchallenged piece of commentary, a few minutes of complete doublespeak on the stem cell debate, in which he claims that embryonic stem cell research (in addition to being a mortal sin, natch) would result in tumors and other side effects straight out of X-Men.

Despite Rep. Lundgren's intimations to the contrary, tumor growth is a problem bedeviling adult stem cell researchers, too. This shouldn't be surprising—with either adult or embryonic stem cells, scientists are dealing with, and manipulating, cell growth and death and division. All very complicated stuff, which is why a lot of research is key.

But I'd pay attention to this "tumor" meme. It has the feeling of "mobile weapons labs" to me.

Take Your Time, Condi. (End Timers' Take on Lebanon)

Thu Jul. 20, 2006 9:09 PM EDT

Bombs are falling over the Middle East, and the doomsday-ers of the Rapture Ready/End Times message board are giddy—the blood-dry spell in the holy land is finally over (cursed peace process!) and the prophesized destruction of Israel is, apparently, nigh. Harper's Ken Silverstein got to the site before it shut down for "database maintenance" (a little heaven packing?) this afternoon:

Praise God! We are chosen to be in these times and also watch and spread the word. Something inside me is exploding to get out, and I don't know what it is. Its kind of like I want to do cartwheels around the neighborhood.

* * *

In another thread, someone brought up the fact that the kidnapping of the first Israeli soldier that started this whole thing was on June 25th and if you count from that day to August 3rd.......it is *EXACTLY 40 days!!!!!* I find that to be a HUGE coincidence.

* * *

A question just popped in my head. Do you think children of around say 7 or 8 (but before the age of accountability) that have been indoctrinated up until that time by their parents religious beliefs will be raptured? . . . For example, would a 7 year old muslim be raptured? I know G-d will do right but I was just wondering everyone's thoughts. I hate to think of kids being left here.

* * *

Got that dancing feeling on the inside of me.

* * *

This is the busiest I've ever seen this website in a few years! I have been having rapture dreams and I can't believe that this is really it! We are on the edge of eternity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

* * *

Whoa! I can sure feel the glory bumps after reading this thread!

* * *

I too am soooo excited!! I get goose bumps, literally, when I watch what's going on in the M.E.!! And Watcherboy, you were so right when saying it was quite a day yesterday, in the world news, and I add in local news here in the Boston area!! Tunnel ceiling collapsed on a car and killed a woman of faith, and we had the most terrifying storms I have ever seen here!! But, yes, oh happy day, like in your screen name, it is most indeed a time to be happy and excited, right there with ya!!

* * *

I am excited beyond words that the struggle of this life may be over soon and I can finally be FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

* * *

This is so exciting....I'm having a hard time believing this is 'real'!

Vouchers: The new New Math

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 8:20 PM EDT

Last Friday, the Department of Education released a report showing that students attending public schools generally did as well as or better than comparable students in private schools.

According to the New York Times:

That report examined test scores of 700,000 fourth and eighth graders at public schools and those of 25,000 private school students. It found that when students of like economic, racial and family backgrounds were compared, public school students did as well as or better than those in private school in fourth grade reading and math and in eighth grade math. The exception was eighth grade reading, in which private school students did better.

Then on Tuesday, the Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, joined congressional Republicans in their proposal to spend $100 million on vouchers.

Asked about the DOE's own study, "Ms. Spellings, at the news conference, called the report's sample small and its results ''basically inconclusive.'"

Hmmm. I'm no statistician but…

Few Editorials Find Fault With the Bombing of Beirut. Say What?

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 8:13 PM EDT

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Lebanese civilians are overwhelmingly the victims of Israeli attacks, the U.N. concludes there are ground (on both sides mind you) for war crimes prosecutions, and few editorials find fault with the bombing of Beirut! Here's Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher:

While it's not surprising that nearly every editorial page in the U.S. has offered support for Israel's right to retaliate against Hamas and Hezbollah, it's a disgrace that few have expressed outrage, or at least condemnation, over the extent of death and destruction in and around Beirut -- and the attacks on the country's infrastructure, which harms most citizens of that country.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Lebanon, dozens of bridges and part of Beirut's airport destroyed, power stations and ports short-circuited. Latest reports put the number of refugees at half a million, with thousands of Americans waiting for evacuation.

Amazingly, criticism of the extent of Israel's bombing -- and its policy of collective punishment -- has actually decreased as the carnage has mounted. (Italics added)

This is unbelievable. Read on at E&P. (Photo: AP/Wide World Photos)

PLUS: "With Israel's bombardment of Lebanon, the fighting in Gaza has been largely overlooked. But people continue to die daily in the territory with 103 Palestinians killed so far, and Palestinian fighters continue to fire rockets into Israel." (AP)

Is Lebanon in for "Prolonged Instability"?

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 6:59 PM EDT

A few brief comments on the war in Lebanon. This article by Michael Young in Slate and this piece in The Jewish Week both make what seems to be the most crucial point: Israel simply cannot disarm—or even significantly weaken—Hezbollah through military force alone. Hezbollah is massively popular among the country's large Shiite minority, its rockets are hidden in thousands of homes across southern Lebanon, and even the upcoming "limited" ground offensive by Israel looks like it will be about as effective at uprooting Hezbollah as the flattening of Fallujah was at crushing the Iraqi insurgency. In other words, not at all.

So it's hard to imagine what the end result will be. Presumably Israel will cease its offensive at some point. Lots of civilians will be dead. Hezbollah will still exist, it will still have many of the 13,000 rockets it had before the war began, and it will likely be more popular than ever. The much-weakened Lebanese government isn't likely to confront Hezbollah now (especially if its army ends up fighting alongside the militia while trying to repulse an Israeli ground invasion). An international peacekeeping force might be deployed on the southern border, but if Hezbollah keeps its missiles hidden and refuses to disarm, then this gets us nowhere. No wonder Young predicts that "Lebanon is in for prolonged instability."

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"I understand that many African Americans distrust my political party"

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 6:51 PM EDT

Bush's address to the NAACP goes down...as you might expect.

Bush's remarks met with largely lukewarm applause from the crowd and at one point near the end of his speech, two hecklers threatened to disrupt the address. The president pressed ahead undaunted, though.

Apropos, Mike Davis wrote this piece for us a couple of years ago noting that on the fortieth anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, both Democrats and Republicans--indeed, the American people at large--seemed to have returned to "degree zero of moral concern for the majority of descendants of slavery and segregation."

Judge threatens illegal immigrant seeking a restraining order against her husband with deportation

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 5:26 PM EDT

Sam Quinones of the LAT reports that:

A substitute judge hearing the case of an illegal immigrant seeking a restraining order against her husband threatened to turn her over to immigration officials if she didn't leave his courtroom.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Bruce R. Fink told Aurora Gonzalez during last week's hearing that he was going to count to 20 and that if she was still in his courtroom when he finished, he would have her arrested and deported to Mexico.

In an interview Wednesday, Fink said that the woman had admitted in court that she was in the country illegally and that he didn't want her to get in trouble with immigration officials.

"We have a federal law that says that this status is not allowed," Fink said. "You can't just ignore it. What I really wanted was to not give this woman any problems."

He said he thought the couple "obviously wanted to get back together" and that he was trying to avoid granting a restraining order that would keep them apart for at least a year. He said he also thought the court order might lead to Gonzalez's deportation, because her husband would not be able to continue helping her get legal residency.


You can read the rest here.

Thanks to Charles Bowden for pointing this story out.

Executing Gays in Iran

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 5:02 PM EDT

If their nuclear ambitions and support for Hizbullah weren't enough, here's another reason to despise the regime in Teheran: they're one of a handful of countries where homosexuality is punished by death. Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the public hanging of two gay teenagers in the city of Mashad. Human Rights Watch reports that police commonly tap phones and raid private homes to catch gay men and lesbians, and LGBT activist groups (based outside Iran, natch) estimate that as many as 4,000 such sexual malefactors have been executed since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

The Stem Cell World Remains Flat

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 4:49 PM EDT

From the Center for American Progress:

Yesterday was a sad day for millions of Americans as President Bush and 193 Representatives in the House voted against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, a bill which would allow for the advancement of life-saving embryonic stem cell research. The House vote and presidential veto followed the Tuesday vote where 37 Senators voted against the legislation.

President Bush’s first veto of his presidency thwarts the will of bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate, countless state governors, former First Lady Nancy Reagan and more than 70 percent of the American people.

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act sought to change outdated federal policy to reflect new scientific developments. Under President Bush’s policy, only 21 stem cell lines are eligible for federal research funding and non of them can be used in humans due to contamination by mouse feeder cells. Researchers have since developed techniques to derive uncontaminated and better stem cell lines, which scientists in other countries are already using. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would have expanded eligibility for federal funding to research using uncontaminated stem cell lines derived from excess embryos in fertility clinics, allowing American scientists to more readily access to the best research tools available.

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) pleaded with his colleagues and President Bush to support the research, saying, “We have seen in our historical perspective where Galileo was imprisoned because he believed that the Earth was not flat...and a century from now, people will look back on what we are doing today in wonderment at how there could be any doubt about using these stem cells to save lives and save human suffering.”

Unfortunately for the millions of Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s, ALS, diabetes and countless other diseases that embryonic stem cell research might cure, President Bush, 193 Representatives and 37 Senators want the stem cell world to stay flat.

Amen. Read Mother Jones current cover package for more on the United States' frozen embryo glut and the (as yet) wasted promise of stem cell research.