FRC Blog

More on the Economy

by Chris Gacek

October 5, 2009

On Friday I wrote about the bleak unemployment numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the weekend, I heard some talking heads presenting a more optimistic economic picture (e.g., Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday). The preponderance of true expert opinion I heard over the weekend via internet streaming was much more gloomy than I bargained for. Because you probably wont have an opportunity to hear a detailed analysis of the numbers, I decided to provide links to audio streams that will do so.

The Korelin Economics Report is a weekly radio and internet webcast with a libertarian perspective with a distinct focus on precious metals. That said, Al Korelin, the host, interviewed former Labor Dept chief economist under George W. Bush, Diana Fuchgott-Roth for this past weekends program. Furchgott-Roth is a Stanford-trained labor economist who is a wholly mainstream conservative now working for the Hudson Institute in Washington. John Walter Williams is an economist and labor statistics guru. I recommend listening to them in this order: Furchgott-Roth, Williams segment 1, Williams segment 2 (you can stop around half-way through Williams / segment 2 when Korelin and Williams discuss whether gold is a good investment).

A main point both analysts make is that the most comprehensive unemployment number (U-6) now has a seasonally adjusted rate of 17.0%. Here is the definition of U-6 taken from Table A-12 of the BLS Household Data:

U-6 Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.

17.0% comes to about 1 in 6 as a truer measure of unemployment or underemployment. As Furchgott-Roth notes, it is most unfortunate that policy makers in Washington are not focused on doing those things that will create jobs, so the potential for a rapid improvement in economic activity and employment is not great.

In the final segment, Williams discusses the fact that the new report indicates BLS has greatly underestimated the decline in payroll numbers by 824,000. (BLS News Release, USDL-09-1180, p. 5.) This prompted Williams to conclude that in May (approx.) with this revision included the U.S. reached the steepest decline in payroll employment since the Great Depression.

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Living Will as Suicide Note

by Cathy Ruse

October 5, 2009

Read this story of a poor young woman, just 26 years old, who was depressed about not being able to have a child. Shes now dead, thanks to her Living Will which forbade emergency medical treatment to save her life after she swallowed antifreeze.

Whether the doctors were actually forbidden from saving her life or not, I dont know mightnt her depression have impacted her competency to refuse live-saving treatment? — but they believed they were and the result is now irrevocable.

The story calls this the first case of a Living Will used to commit suicide. How can we know this? Perhaps its only the first obvious case.

The point here: these are powerful legal documents, and Congress is poised to create a government-run health care system which will pay doctors to encourage patients to execute them. Think of the perils. People who are sick or in pain are inherently vulnerable. They are also often depressed. It would not take much to persuade them to sign away their right to future care. Remember, the Hemlock Society drafted this section of the heatlh care bill. I wonder what they think of the death of poor Kerrie Woolterton.

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2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine

by David Prentice

October 5, 2009

Awarded today to Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak, for their discovery of telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. Human chromosomes are long linear strands of DNA, which present problems regarding degradation from the ends. Telomeres are special sequences of DNA at the ends of the strands which protect the DNA from degradation and aging of the cell. The enzyme telomerase rebuilds these sequences at the ends of the chromosomes, thereby maintaining a cell’s viability. Cells that lose their telomerase activity show decreased growth, e.g., bone marrow stem cells in aplastic anemia, while cells with high levels of telomerase grow rapidly, e.g., cancer cells and embryonic stem cells.

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NIH Director Ignorant On Stem Cells?

by David Prentice

October 2, 2009

Does the Director of the National Institutes of Health not know the difference between embryonic and adult stem cells? Or is he just biased?

In an interview with the New England Journal of Medicine, Francis Collins talks about the number of “stem cell” clinical trials:

Steinbrook: What will the results of stem-cell research mean for human health?

Collins: My crystal ball is just as cloudy as everyone elses. However, the developments in understanding stem cells and how they could potentially be brought to bear for a whole host of medical problems are some of the more exciting things that have happened in the last decade. In terms of therapeutics, we are just so early on. The one clinical trial approved by the Food and Drug Administration - for spinal cord injury - is currently on hold.

What?!? The “one clinical trial” Collins refers to is the one embryonic stem cell experiment with patients that is out there. And it is indeed on hold.

But there are at least 2,000 clinical trials for Adult Stem Cells (this search term doesn’t capture them all).

By the way, there are quite a few done on the NIH campus itself.

Remember, it’s the National Institutes of Health

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FDA Hold on Embryonic Stem Cell Experiments

by David Prentice

October 2, 2009

Speaking of clinical trials, in case you missed it the FDA has put another hold on Geron’s proposed experiments to put embryonic stem cells into human spinal cord injury patients. Geron’s human experiment was approved back in January 2009, and they were supposed to start experiments with patients in July.

As an aside, one excuse offered by Geron as to why the trial had not yet started was car airbags… apparently the airbags in accidents are keeping patients from getting severe spinal cord damage to qualify for the trial.

Many have expressed concern about the risky nature of Geron’s experiments with patients, including some embryonic stem cell researchers. Evan Snyder, a leader in the stem cell field, has noted that “A clinical trial is nothing more than an experiment on a human,” he says. “Most experiments fail.” And James Wilson, gene therapy researcher, warns stem cell scientists not to repeat the mistakes of his own field, including rushing into unsafe clinical trials.

The FDA hold is likely due to further safety concerns with embryonic stem cells. That would seem to be the only grounds for a hold based on federal regulations under CFR sec. 312.42. Geron claims that no teratomas have been observed in animal studies, though they do admit “In some animals, human non-neural differentiated cell types were observed in the injury site”. After the current FDA hold was iissued, Geron put out a statement explaining that cysts developed at the injury sites of treated animals, and they are working with FDA to answer any questions. They claim no teratomas have been seen, and hopefully nothing like this.

Still, there is cause for concern. Dr. Steven Goldman says

Its not ready for prime time, at least not in my mind, until we can be assured that the transplanted stem cells have completely lost the capacity for tumorigenicity.

But with the political pressure in favor of embryonic stem cell research, the hold will likely be release and the experiments on patients move ahead. And Geron will likely claim success (to get another stock bump.) Despite the fact that adult stem cells have already shown documented evidence not only of their safety, but of their efficacy at treating spinal cord injury.

Evidence of adult stem cell success for spinal cord injury patients has already been published by groups in Portugal, Australia, and Ecuador. Adult stem cells—real hope and help now.

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A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life: Pregnancy Resource Center Service Report 2009

by Moira Gaul

October 2, 2009

Wednesday, September 30th, FRC was very pleased to announce the release of a groundbreaking report, A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life: Pregnancy Resource Center Service Report 2009 which coincides with the 40-year anniversary of the pregnancy resource center movement (PRC) in the United States. A collaborative project with the three major pregnancy resource center networks Care Net, Heartbeat International, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, and LIFE International the report tells the story of a movement contributing in significant ways daily to the enhancement of maternal and child health nationwide, as well as around the world.

Go to www.apassiontoserve.com to learn more about the PRC movement and the report, view news stories, to order/download a copy of the report, and/or to view the press conference web cast. My remarks from the release Wednesday afternoon at the National Press Club are below:

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Economy: Not So Good

by Chris Gacek

October 2, 2009

Todays economic news was not good. This from Reuters via Yahoo! Finance:

U.S. employers cut a deeper-than-expected 263,000 jobs in September, lifting the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent, according to a government report on Friday that fueled fears the weak labor market could undermine economic recovery.

The consensus was for a loss of 180,000 jobs. Furthermore, highly respected banking analyst, Meredith Whitney, wrote in yesterdays Wall Street Journal that credit available for small business, the job creator in the American economy is non-existent:

Anyone counting on a meaningful economic recovery will be greatly disappointed. How do I know? I follow credit, and credit is contracting. Access to credit is being denied at an accelerating pace. Large, well-capitalized companies have no problem finding credit. Small businesses, on the other hand, have never had a harder time getting a loan.

This is not a good sign for getting people back to work. This credit contraction in conjunction with the make-believe economy of zero percent interest rates, money printing, and too-big-too fail has to undermine ones confidence in any data about current economic relationships. That, in turn, will make a recovery far more difficult due to the increased level of risk and uncertainty. Its going to take a long time for things to work themselves out I am afraid.

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Praise for Tufts Universitys New Policy on Dorm Room Sex

by Cathy Ruse

October 2, 2009

The state of morality on the American college campus seems to be in perpetual decline, and I have shuddered to think about what it will be like in a dozen years when my own daughters will be getting ready for college. But from a liberal college in a liberal state comes a small ray of hope. Tufts University has revised its guest policy for dorm visitors for the new school year to include the following new rule: You may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room.

Shouldnt this be obvious? Word from my friends with kids in college is that, shockingly, its not. Nor is it a problem unique to Tufts.

So a tip of the hat to the Tufts administration for having the courage to draw a line. And if Tufts can do it, any school can.

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The Shame of the City

by Robert Morrison

October 2, 2009

Wednesday night, the Empire State Building in Manhattan shone red and yellow as a tribute to the sixtieth anniversary of the Communist takeover of China.

When lit, the Empire State is a lovely sight. Yet last nights display cast a rather ugly glow. Why? Because given the nation it is honoring, we must ask the sponsors of this celebration which highlights of Chinas history during those sixty years they especially want to honor.

Might it be the murder of Christian missionaries in the late 40s and 50s? How about the killing of millions of Chinese during Chairman Maos Great Leap Forward campaign of the mid-fifties? During those years, Communist authorities pressed rural Chinese to modernize, demanding such insanities as backyard steel mills.

China enveloped Tibet in the late 50s. That ancient Buddhist land is still being suppressed and its unique culture eradicated fifty years later. The Dalai Lama and many other Tibetans still live in exile.

In the mid-60s, Chairman Mao initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which left more millions dead. Fanatical Red Guards beat and brutalized anyone who had exposure to Western Cultureand even trashed Chinas revered cultural heritage.

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What Would LUTHER Do?

by Jeremiah G. Dys

October 1, 2009

Still stinging from a strong debate among ELCA pastors this summer, The Rev. Dr. Ralph W. Dunkin pushes to move his synod beyond the controversial topic and offer some reasons of support for the work of the ELCA. He begins:

The major news coming from the 2009 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Americas biennial Churchwide Assembly has been the change in policy related to persons in gay and lesbian relationships. The policy change allows congregations to determine for themselves if they wish to offer blessings of same-gender relationships and if they are open to calling a pastor who is in a same-gender relationship.

But, he then moves quickly past the issue, noting the ELCAs broad partnership of full communion with, the Reformed Church, The UCC, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Moravians, The Episcopal Church and now the United Methodist Church. Interestingly, each of these denominations have taken similar measures as the ELCA did this summer.

The point, the Rev. Dr. Dunkin is trying to make is that, regardless of the controversy, the ELCA is still doing some incredible things and, implicitly, the vote to ordain practicing homosexuals not only doesnt affect their overall ministry, but actually may improve their ability to link with others in an effort to do good deeds to this world.

Yet, the Rev. Dr. Dunkin fails to address a fundamental point vis-a-vis the recent ELCA vote: What would LUTHER do?

Continue Reading at The Family Council of West Virginia’s Engage Blog

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