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07.11 7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It [Fox News and Betsy DeVos never talk about this stuff so it must be Bull Shit, right?]

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07.16 US aid cuts to UN agency will hurt vulnerable women and children, critics say

07.16 Trump abortion restrictions in effect for taxpayer-funded clinics

07.15 The response to DRC’s Ebola crisis isn’t working. Here’s what we need to do

07.15 Extinction Rebellion protests block traffic in five UK cities [Non-corporate human animals make their annoying bleating sounds...]

07.14 A Glacier the Size of Florida Is Becoming Unstable. It Has Dire Implications for Global Sea Levels [The willfully ignorant needn't read more, Trump]

07.13 'Climate Despair' Is Making People Give Up on Life [Willfully ignorant governments—having fired many of their best scientists—have made themselves too stupid to despair]

07.13 Trump administration to approve pesticide that may harm bees [The worst government money can buy!]

07.12 These solar panels don’t just generate power—they produce drinking water

07.12 David Attenborough: polluting planet may become as reviled as slavery [1:34 video]

07.10 Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn't The Whole Story [Fixing our world begins by educating your consciousness with the best truth from trustworthy news sources—so you'll then insist truly bad things will get fixed. But if instead you are educated by untrustworthy news sources—then your consciousness could be warped to where you are hating and fighting with your best friends. Clue: untrustworthy news sources never seriously report news about the world's most critical emergency—Global warming.]

07.10 Molly Scott Cato: ‘It’s the wealthy who are causing climate change’

07.09 Judge reinstates Madrid's low emissions zone [Yeh!]

07.07 How Solar Panels Work (And Why They're Taking Over the World) [Hope they leave space between panels for wild flowers to grow so birds and butterflies can flourish!]

07.05 Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis

07.04 On reflection: how the 'albedo effect' is melting the Antarctic

07.04 US produces far more waste and recycles far less of it than other developed countries [As expected—and made worse by Trump—the U.S. is best at being the worst]07.03 Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal, experts warn

07.03 Deep-sea mining to turn oceans into ‘new industrial frontier’

07.03 Caravan of Americans battling diabetes heads to Canada for affordable insulin [3:36 video; Like Central Americans flee for their lives from criminal drug gangs, Americans flee for their lives for affordable pharmaceutical drugs]

07.02 American Medical Association sues North Dakota over abortion laws

07.02 'Committed' CO2 emissions jeopardize international climate goals, study finds

07.01 New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear

07.01 Freak summer hailstorm buries cars in Mexico's Guadalajara [0:50 video]

07.01 Climate Change is Devastating India With Heat Waves and Water Shortages [13:48 video]

06.30 American farmers can't afford this administration's climate apathy

06.30 The US military is a bigger polluter than more than 140 countries combined [Could a world-wide moratorium of military activity dramatically slow the climate crises?]

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07.16 Describing 'Future We Want to Live In' Scores of Groups Unveil New Blueprint for Reproductive Rights

07.16 'Do not take the bait': congresswomen denounce racist Trump attack [3:50 video]

07.16 Money Laundering Scandal Forces Puerto Rico’s Governor to Cut His Vacation Short — Just in Time for Another Scandal

07.16 Turnstile teaching [The problem is NOT the color of students skin, as our fake President reflexively thinks. The problem is the lax attitude and deficient funding by government to always do a much better job for a better future.]

07.15 Finding the Future in Radical Rural America

07.15 Sanders Accuses Biden of Parroting Pharma and Insurance Industry Script With Attacks on Medicare for All [Like Trump, Biden explains why he's unelectable every day.]

07.15 If there is an 'immigrant' who has failed to integrate in America, it's Donald Trump

07.15 Trump tells Ocasio-Cortez and other female progressives to 'go back' to 'original' countries

07.15 Trump Takes Pelosi's Side Against AOC and The Squad as Intraparty Fight Over Immigration Continues [Its about much more than immigration, its about the Corporate Dominance—by many of the same companies, even—over both major Political Parties. With too few exceptions, neither party has represented The Public since Nixon generously raised the minimum wage (Part D Medicare and ACA both became Frankenstein legislation due to excessive corporate price-fixing influence), and that has to change!]

07.14 Trump: People like Paul Ryan almost killed the Republican Party [Then it's too bad he didn't stay to finish the job!]

07.13 Trump's POS Labor Secretary, Acosta, Out. POS Number 2, Linked to Abramoff, to Fill Role [A willingness to perform criminal behavior seems the only competency required...]

Justice Matters

07.15 Australia 'deeply concerned' about China's treatment of Uighur people [What are the reasons, exactly, that justify harsh imprisonment of a million people?]

07.15 Zuma tells South Africa corruption inquiry he is victim of foreign plot [Unaccountable corrupt governments are so in fashion these days...]

07.14 Warren vows to probe U.S. crimes on immigrants if elected [Can you imagine living in a nation with a working Justice System? How far we've fallen!]

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07.15 China’s Economic Growth Hits 27-Year Low as Trade War Stings

International & Futurism

07.16 Trump’s race fantasy is clear: the US as home for whites fleeing Europe [1:09 video]

07.15 India’s Terrifying Water Crisis

07.15 Australia now has the highest minimum wage in the world [From 1960 to 2018 – the U.S. has fallen from 1st place to below the tenth place and off the chart]

07.14 Kasich: The chilling effect of British ambassador's leaked memos

07.14 'Just a matter of when': the $20bn plan to power Singapore with Australian solar

07.14 At least 24 Yellow Vests lost eyes in violent protests. Now they're more determined than ever [Protests of all kinds will continue until systemic inequality loses political dominance]

07.13 New Zealand Begins Gun Buyback Prompted by Mosque Attacks

07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning [Since so-called modern humans evolved there have been 10,000 generations of people. It is extremely far-fetched to think anyone is racially pure. SO ALL THIS HATE IS INCREDIBLY STUPID.]

07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning

07.13 Brazil’s President May Appoint Son, Friend to the Trumps, as Ambassador to U.S. [Friend of the Trumps, so we know they're all brain-dead except about near-term profits. They are clear-cutting the Amazon Rain Forest to feed-then-butcher millions of methane farting cows, over and over. Yep, that's there business plan. So therefore the rest of the world will hopefully plant billions of trees elsewhere to sequester CO2 to offset what the Bolsonaro family and investors are destroying. What's wrong with this picture?]

07.13 Trump’s Cruelty and Mexico’s Duty [Our president is immoral to his core and reacts to things like a child, not understanding that his actions are often crueler than they should be. And that cruelty will never completely be excused or forgotten—the people's hatred of Trump is growing, like the Texan's hatred when President General Santa Anna laid seige to the Alamo, which was Mexico's territory at the time...]

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  print view: Right Wing Forces Assault Embryonic Stem Cell Research
ILLOGICAL SUPPRESSION OF MEDICAL RESEARCH:

Right Wing Forces Assault Embryonic Stem Cell Research

“Mr. Obama has not taken a position on the ban and does not intend to.”

SOURCE: Defend Science
Judge Lambert's court ruling has sharply revealed the in-roads that Christian Fundamentalist anti-science thinking has made in the court system and in society generally. It is a major assault on science and scientific thinking.

On August 23rd, the Chief Judge Royce Lambert from the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C., issued a ruling stopping all federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. At the time of this writing, Lambert's ruling has itself been temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court - but everyone agrees that nothing is settled and extremely important questions involving science and religion are being pushed onto the stage once again. The heart of Lambert's ruling is based on the Dickey-Wicker amendment that precludes federal funding of "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

The Obama administration made it one of its key points during its election campaign to repudiate the anti-science policies of Bush, in particular around stem cells. This court decision shows how much influence Christian fundamentalist dogma still has in American political institutions, including the judiciary.

That dogma, which lies at the heart of Dickey-Wicker, states that there is something sacred about the fertilized human egg (i.e. the blastocyst, a clump of cells about the size of the period that ends this sentence), that it should be treated as a full human, which should set a barrier to important scientific and medical research, as well as abortions, medical treatment, etc.

What is at stake here is both the immediate and terrible practical impact of Lambert's ruling, and a fundamental assault on science. If Lambert's ruling ultimately carries the day, it will have a devastating impact on stem cell research and possibly sabotage potential cures for many devastating medical conditions. Beyond that, it is part of a broader continuing attempt to constrain science under the yoke of Christian fundamentalist ideology.

Immediate Impact of the Ruling

Judge Lambert's ruling was temporarily blocked, but key Federal funders of stem cell research had already announced major cuts in funding, and the Appeals Court decision blocking Lambert's ruling now leaves things in a state of uncertainty - stem cell research cannot just be turned off and on. Lambert's ruling has already caused immense wide-spread harm to stem cell research and other medical research as well.

Before the Appeals court stay, the National Institute of Health had announced that it was cutting off all new stem cell funding, and that all federally funded experiments already underway will be cut off when they come for renewal.

NIH Director Francis Collins said 50 requests for new funding that were being assessed were “pulled out of the stack” - another dozen requests totaling $15-20 million that had already gone through full review and according to him likely to have been approved are now frozen. And next month, 22 grants totaling about $54 million that would be up for renewal will be just cut off.

There are 199 other grants already granted worth about $131 million that are not yet impacted but of those 143 worth nearly $95 million would be up for renewal and face cut-off.

A recent N.Y. Times article gives a small glimpse at the scope and severity of this on human knowledge and health:

“Among the projects financed with this money is research by Dr. Doug Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, to find a cure for juvenile diabetes. His two children — a 19-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter — have the disease. Both must inject themselves with insulin, and he said they frequently ask about his work.

“Another study that is likely to be delayed is a clinical test of human embryonic stem cells in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Lorenz Studer, director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Stem Cell Biology, said that after 10 years of work, he was on the cusp of putting the cells in people.”

The impact on medical research could extend even beyond direct embryonic stem cell research.

“Beyond human embryonic stem cell studies, research on vaccines, viruses and lung disease could also be affected, experts said, because cells commonly used in such research were derived from either aborted fetuses or destroyed embryos.”

The Plaintiffs and Their Arguments - an Attack on Stem Cell Science and Beyond That, On Peer-Reviewed Science In General

The legal case that Lambert ruled on was based on the dubious claim that federal funding for embryonic stem cell research meant that adult stem cell research would lose funding. Commentators have pointed out that this is not in fact the case. Beyond that, and more essentially, from a scientific perspective, both embryonic and adult stem cells are areas of active, broad and often complementary research. Each type of stem cell has differing characteristics making them more or less suitable for various areas of research and potential therapies. And there have been recent initial promising advances reported in stimulating and inducing some adult stem cells to behave with more of the pluripotent flexibility of embryonic stem cells. But those driving this right-wing attack on embryonic stem cell science try to claim that embryonic stem cell research is not only “immoral” (from the viewpoint of their twisted ideology) but also “not needed” and can and should be replaced entirely by adult stem cells. This is simply not the case and in fact there is clear consensus that embryonic stem cells are the “gold standard” for stem cell research for pluripotency and differentiation. (see for example this article in The Scientist http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54749/)

Beyond this, there is additional danger involved in this court decision. The following statement by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology criticizing this ruling makes this very important additional point (that has not been yet widely reported) about the intrusion of right-wing extremist ideological agendas into the heart of peer-reviewed science, warning that:

“... this ruling strikes directly at the heart of the peer-review process used to identify the best scientific proposals. Allowing the judicial system to determine the merits of particular types of research based on an argument of competitive disadvantage is a blatant disregard of the expert-based system that is the gold standard of scientific review. Funding of basic biomedical research is not a zero-sum game in which particular lines of research are supported at the expense of others; rather, the system has evolved so that each proposal is evaluated on both its merits and its future benefits for easing the burden of disease. see http://www.asbmb.org/News.aspx?id=9348

Even Worse Than the Bush Years

If Lambert's ruling holds it suppresses research way beyond the limitations on stem cell research that were in place during the Bush years. During those years, stem cell research was subject to a two-prong form of governmental suppression:

  • first at the presidential level through executive orders
  • second via federal restrictions on funding from congress (the Dickey-Wicker amendment).

Under Bush's executive order, federally funded embryonic stem cell research was confined to 78 existing stem cell lines. Of those, only about 20 lines were even usable. Some were duplicates. Some weren't available to license. Some were dead, and others too difficult to work with.

Now even research on those lines approved under Bush would be cut.

The History and Role of Dickey-Wicker

The Dickey-Wicker amendment is a rider attached to congressional bills (usually appropriation bills) which precludes the NIH from funding any stem cell "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death”. This amendment has been attached by Congress every year since 1995 to appropriation bills, hanging as a constant threat to stem cell research. Up until now it has largely been kept in the background – never directly voted on, not directly invoked - but always there – as federal law threatening stem cell research. Here we are in the 21st century and we have Christian extremism setting the terms for what science can investigate, what is “moral” and “ethical”. This law “enshrines” (pun intended) Christian fundamentalist norms putting them in a position to control and suppress science.

It is in fact, the height of immorality and lack of ethics to deny thousands of people suffering from potentially curable diseases the needed medical research to bring these cures and therapies to the light of day.

And beyond the medical and therapeutic importance of embryonic stem cell research, the National Academy of Sciences report “Understanding Stem Cells” made this point about the overall importance to science of stem cell research:

"Stem cells offer opportunities for scientific advances that go far beyond regenerative medicine. They offer a window for addressing many of biology’s most fundamental questions. Watching embryonic stem cells give rise to specialized cells is like peeking into the earliest development of the many tissues and organs of the human body. Stem cell research may help clarify the role genes play in human development and how genetic mutations affect normal processes. They can be used to study how infectious agents invade and attack human cells, to investigate the genetic and environmental factors that are involved in cancer and other diseases, and to decipher what happens during aging."

But now with Lambert's decision, Dickey-Wicker has moved to front and center, as the central legal basis to shut all this down.

To read an earlier commentary written in May 2009 "Obama's Stem Cell Research Policy: Needed Science Remains Banned and Constrained by Christian Fundamentalist Ideology", click here...

The Obama administration reversed Bush's executive order replacing it with their own executive order which to some degree opened up stem cell research, within very careful limits.

But until now they have refused to put up any fight against the congressional law, the Dickey-Wicker amendment, even refusing to take a position on Dickey-Wicker. A New York Times article from March, 2009 “Obama Is Leaving Some Stem Cell Issues to Congress” reveals how Obama has tried to finesse and triangulate on this issue, frankly pandering to extremist right-wing opposition to stem cell research. His position on this has never changed:

“Mr. Obama has not taken a position on the ban and does not intend to,” Melody C. Barnes, his chief domestic policy adviser, said Sunday. “The president believes stem cell research "should be done in compliance with federal law,”she said, adding that Mr. Obama recognizes the divisiveness of the issue. “We are committed to pursuing stem cell research quite responsibly but we recognize there are a range of beliefs on this,”she said.

Judge Lambert's court ruling has taken many by surprise. It has sharply revealed the in-roads that Christian Fundamentalist anti-science thinking has made in the court system and in society generally - as well as the fact that these forces are actively going after science now. In summary this is a major assault on science and scientific thinking. There have been some important statements from the scientific community on this so far - there need to be many more.

You can sign the Statement on the Defend Science website. Just click here to add your name to the growing list.

Defend Science welcomes your comments.


In the United States today science, as science, is under attack as never before, mostly from uninformed evangelical organizations. Defend Science is an activist group to defend against illogical suppression of scientific research.



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This story was published on September 15, 2010.

 

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