July 7, 2008
Well, not exactly, but the ratio of males to females in some parts of China is climbing to extraordinary heights. Writing in the latest issue of The New Republic, Mara Hvistendahl observes the effects of the testosterone problem in one Chinese city:
Lianyungang, a booming port city in a Jiangsu province economic belt, is ground zero for some of these changes. According to the China Family Planning Association, it’s the city in China with the most extreme gender ratio for children under four—163 boys for every 100 girls. One sunny Saturday morning at verdant Cangwu Park, I count six boys and three girls bouncing on the inflatable castle. Near the ice-cream stand are a dozen sticky-faced kids, seven boys and five girls, feeding pigeons. The children running after kites adorned with Olympics mascots and China’s Shenzhou VII spaceship: three and two. The drivers of the cheerful little tanks circling an electric track: three and one.
These numbers work fine on the playground, but, for China’s many match- making services, they may prove troublesome. At the Good Luck Marriage Introduction Agency, in a town a few hours’ drive west from Liangyungang, two whiteboards mounted on the wall advertise the age, height, and income of available singles. On the day I visit, founder Tao Hui, a fortysomething woman with a bouffant, is watching soap operas in her sweatpants. She hasn’t felt the shortage yet, she says. On the whiteboards, a few dozen nameless men line up nicely to a few dozen nameless women. For now, many in the early wave of surplus men are marrying younger women.
“We’ll see real problems in eight or ten years,” Tao predicts. Her 17-year- old son, she assures me, has good prospects. But she already turns away a lot of single males from outlying villages with no money or education. “If they’re ugly and can’t find work, there’s nothing I can do. No one wants them.”
Unfortunately, it looks like the problems created by the combination of China’s one-child policy and a cultural preference for boys won’t be limited to ugly men. Hvistendahl reports that the crime rate among youth has doubled over the past decade — and youth interest in violent activities is on the rise.
It seems that as the first fruits of state intervention into Chinese family life reach maturity, the imbalance of the sexes is making lopsided more than just matchmaking services.The Chinese government’s attempt to control its population is in danger of becoming a population out of control.
July 7, 2008
One way of seeing that Bill is right about how the South Dakota decision reflects a growing change in abortion jurisprudence, is by looking at the reaction from some parts of the left. Emily Bazelon of Slate, is in a bit of a tizzy over it. The bee in her bonnet is the informed consent law’s provision that doctors must tell women seeking abortions that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
Apparently this is unacceptable. Bazelon informs us,
Planned Parenthood argued that the state is legislating morality because to call a fetus a “whole, separate, unique, living human being” is an ideological statement, not a medical one.
I was unaware that there was any debate in contemporary medical science as to whether or not a fetus- defined as a developing, distinct member of the species homo sapiens-was in fact a developing, distinct member of the species homo sapiens. (Bazelon refers to this line of thinking as “tautological.” Perhaps it is, but just because something happens to be true via tautology doesn’t negate the fact that it’s true.) Perhaps some long-suffering practitioners of Aristotelian medicine might argue that the fetus is a vegetable or an animal, and not yet a human? Surely this cannot be what Bazelon would count as a “medical” opinion.
She goes on:
The Supreme Court has told the states that it’s not for them to resolve when life begins-and it should certainly follow from this that they can’t force any such resolution on doctors.
Never mind that the authoritative medical textbooks and the longstanding orthodoxies of embryology and developmental biology are crystal clear about when life begins, the Supreme Court has told us that we can’t legislate based on those facts. It is reassuring to know that America has the likes of Anthony Kennedy and Harry Blackmun to be the arbiters of permissible scientific knowledge.
And the kicker:
As the 8th Circuit dissent by Judge Diana Murphy points out, the question “in some sense encompass[es] the whole philosophical debate about abortion.”
Judge Murphy and Ms. Bazelon don’t seem to understand the “the whole philosophical debate about abortion.” The question at hand is not whether or not the fetus is a human being, but whether or not, as a human being, it is worthy of respect and in possession of an inviolable right to life. As Bazelon notes, almost in passing, the Supreme Court has pronounced “no” on the matter of the fetus’ personhood and rights. Pace Bazelon and her liberal judge friends, the Supreme-or any-Court is incapable of pronouncing “no” on the question of the fetus’ fetushood and biological status as a human being. This is merely the factual starting point for any fair-minded and reasonable analysis of the abortion question. If Bazelon and Murphy want to argue that these young human beings lack dignity and are not deserving of our respect due to their age, their location, their dependency, or mere caprice, they are welcome to do so. Maybe now that in South Dakota misinforming pregnant women through omission or commission isn’t an option, they’ll have to.
July 7, 2008
I’m not quite sure how out of it you have to be to think the Democratic Party is wavering from its pro-abortion on demand stance that it has held for decades, however that is the fear expressed by Frances Kissling, former president of the oxymoronically named Catholics for Free Choice, and Kate Michelman, former head of the pro-abortion group NARAL, in a new op-ed at Salon.com.
The two ladies state that by adopting an “abortion-reduction strategy” the Democratic Party will lose voters this election. They argue this reduction strategy is wrong-headed while also pointing out the Democratic Party realizes it has a major problem attracting a large segment of voters due to its out of the mainstream positions on abortion.
The solution that Frances and Kate put forth is supporting a bill couched in sugary terms that would actually significantly increase the governmental taxpayer funded slush fund that Planned Parenthood currently receives. The bill, H.R. 1074, is sponsored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-0%) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-12%). They call Rep. Ryan a “pro-life Democrat,” despite his continued support of Planned Parenthood funding, embryonic stem cell funding, the sometimes abortifacient “morning after pill” (he had introduced an amendment that would have required EVERY medical unit in the Armed Forces to carry the drug) and taxpayer funding for organizations that support coercive abortions (Rep. Ryan received a 12% on FRCAction’s latest scorecard because of his vote on the Fairness Doctrine - otherwise he would have scored a 0%) .
The truth of the matter is not that the core of the Democratic Party is becoming more pro-life but that it is changing its rhetoric to cloud the issue. Can you name one prominent Democrat in power in elected office in recent history who is also pro-life? The most well known pro-life Democrat was Gov. Bob Casey Sr. (D-Penn.) who was shut out of speaking at the Democratic conventions. His son now serves in the U.S. Senate but also serves Planned Parenthood with a number of his votes. Only when the Democratic Party truly opens up to even listening to arguments for life will it sincerely be open to change.
July 7, 2008
NPR station WCPN is running a 3-day series entitled “Life’s Blood: How umbilical cord blood is being transformed from a wasted resource into life-saving therapies“. It started today in Morning Edition.
In the first installment, “Banking on Babies: The Potential of Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells“, reporter Gretchen Cuda interviewed doctors and pregnant moms about banking cord blood and differences between public and private cord blood banks.
As cord blood researcher Dr. Mary Laughlin notes: “While everybody is arguing over embryonic stem cells we’re doing cord blood transplants.” Cleveland OB Dr. Marcus Tower adds “There are probably over 80 existing diseases that we’ve proven that stem cells from the umbilical cord blood to be useful in treating. ”
Tuesday’s story is supposed to follow the cord blood stem cells from the cord to the clinic. Should be interesting, so tune in.
July 7, 2008
Pixar’s newest movie Wall-E is a gem. Technically brilliant to a degree even the excellent Finding Nemo and Toy Story movies did not achieve, this nearly silent film offers more food for thought than most adult fare, and it does so with a romantic heart that is never cloying. It may be a sign of our times that machines like the waste collection robot-hero Wall-E and a space probe (her name is Eve) in search of greenery-on-Earth exhibit more genuine emotion than most human actors. Then again this duo, who populate an empty planet with little going for it, sense their need for each other (Wall-E is inspired by a battered video of Hello Dolly he has preserved among his trash-trove and watches obsessively) without a hint of vulgarity or, it goes without saying, carnality. They are literally hard-wired for connection.
As for the movie’s politics, it transcends polarization while remaining decidedly pro-green, pro-life (babies abound), and pro-romantic love between opposite sexes capable of regenerating a blighted Earth. Rank consumption has never been skewered better, or with a gentler touch that bemoans how far humanity has sunk but does not succumb to self-loathing. These soft, slothful creatures are still “us” and still capable of renewal, which, opening themselves to intimacy and to, well, infants, they achieve. John Lasseter and his Pixar team have made some of the top feature films of the last 15 years, and Wall-E may be the best of them all. The score, crucial to the almost wordless atmosphere of the movie, is tremendous too.
July 6, 2008
Brazilian scientists say they have produced human sperm cells in the testes of mice. The researchers extracted stem cells from the dental pulp of a human male volunteer, and injected the cells into the testes of male mice. Later they found that human sperm were being produced.
There’s no way to know at this point, with just a press release, whether the sperm was mature and functional. The scientists will present their research this week at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona. If this process works, it would seem simpler to put the cells in the man’s own testes.
The article notes in great understatement that the process of growing human sperm in a mouse “could, however, prove controversial because it gives a separate species an intimate role in human reproduction.”
July 6, 2008
I have a strong feeling the ACLU would have less of a problem with something like this happening here in the United States than they would with even a moment of silence in the public schools.*
Report: Schoolboys Get Detention for Refusing to Pray to Allah
Saturday , July 05, 2008 FOX NEWS
Two boys were punished this week for refusing to kneel on prayer mats and worship Allah during a class demonstration on Islam, the Daily Mail reported.
Irate parents said a religious education teacher at the Alsager High School in England told students to wear Muslim headgear during a lesson on Tuesday. “But if Muslims were asked to go to church on Sunday and take Holy Communion, there would be war,” the grandfather of one of the students said.
The two boys belong to a class that includes 11- to 12-year-olds, and after their refusal to participate they were given detention, the story says.
Another parent, Karen Williams, told the Mail: “Not only was it forced upon them, my daughter was told off for not doing it right. They’d never done it before and they were supposed to do it in another language.”
Deputy Headmaster Keith Plant said the teacher has given her version of the incident but he declined to elaborate.
According to a statement from the Cheshire County Council on behalf of the school: “Educating children in the beliefs of different faith is part of the diversity curriculum on the basis that knowledge is essential to understanding.
“We accept that such teaching is to be conducted with some sense of sensitivity.”
* Update: I am referencing cases in the United States where the ACLU has been silent when it is Islam that is being proselytized (most notably with Islam being taught to seventh graders in California public schools and Muslim footbaths on the University of Michigan campus
July 6, 2008
The political debates produce a lot heat and hype regarding stem cells but when it actually comes to helping patients, adult stem cells continue to provide success and real promise.
Given the results as well as a view toward the bottom line, it’s not surprising that Big Pharma is investing in adult stem cells.
Pfizer recently invested $3 million in a new San Diego company, EyeCyte, which will develop adult stem cell treatments for eye diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The company is based on the work of Dr. Martin Friedlander, who has repaired retinal damage in animals using adult stem cells (here is one of the scientific papers)
In the meantime, Perkin-Elmer has established a cord blood research institute to investigate more clinical uses for these stem cells. They note that “Cord blood is a valuable, non-controversial source of stem cells with proven effect in treating more than 70 serious diseases, including many cancers and immunodeficiencies. To date, more than 10,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide. In the future, medical use of cord blood stem cells may be expanded to include treatment of cardiac disease, autoimmune diseases or neurological disorders.”
Other companies, such as Cytori, are already pioneering the use of adult stem cells for reconstructive surgery, as well as other uses including repair of heart damage. And the company Osiris is moving rapidly ahead with several applications, including for graft-vs-host disease, Crohn’s disease, and even chronic lung disease. Randall Mills, CEO of Osiris notes
“One of the pieces of rhetoric you hear all of the time is that the U.S. is far behind in stem cell research because of this or that but the fact is, we are not only the furthest along in the U.S., but the world.”
From the government angle, the real value of adult stem cells to patients has been recognized by the Department of Defense, which formed the $250 million Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine, with the goal of using wounded soldiers’ own cells in repair of damage. And in the U.K. the government has boosted the local economy with a 3 million investment in an adult stem cell lab at Durham University.
The recognition of adult stem success and the real benefits to health can only continue to help more patients.
July 5, 2008
Before you get picky and get your nose out of joint, this is a story about dog cloning.
Booger was a dog, a pit bull terrier that died in 2006. The lady that owned him wanted… more Boogers, so she hired a South Korean company, RNL Bio, to clone her beloved dog, and the clones are due to be born in a few weeks, at a discount price of $50,000 (their usual charge is $150,000). The company has also announced that it has produced four clones of a cancer-sniffing dog.
But now a rival cloning company in the U.S., BioArts International, has issued a cease-and-desist order to RNL Bio. BioArts says they hold exclusive rights to cloning of cats, dogs, and endangered species, and they don’t want RNL cutting into their business. Especially since they’re trying to launch their own dog cloning company, Best Friends Again, with an auction for the first five dogs cloned (bidding starts at $100,000.)
The whole thing brings to mind the pet-cloning company “Re-Pet” in the 2000 Schwarzenegger movie, The Sixth Day.
Looks like a cloning dogfight is underway.