FRC Blog

Are babies bad for the economy?

by Pat Fagan

August 6, 2008

A report from Austrailia’s Productivity Commission claims that an increase in the nation’s birth rate will hurt the economy.

However, if one looks at the Australian Government’s own charts it is clear that Australia is heading into a big demographic problem with way too few children to support an aging population.

The Commission’s suggestion is very shortsighted and parochial: loss of taxes for the government.

The reality view: The longer the fertility increase is delayed the greater the crisis eventually faced. Babies that are not born in a particular year cannot be made up in future years. Australia may later decide to import other countries’ people (but these people will likely be poorer and less well-educated than the children that could be born in Australia).

Furthermore, while the government may lose some taxes short term the average Australian household will likely not be much affected, except those where the mother brings in a very large salary (say over $110,000 per year). U.S. research shows that for married mothers with children who go out to work the income is virtually a wash when all the extra expenses and taxes are factored in (Aguirre M.S. 2006). And this without adding another loss: the loss of household productivity through which the wife adds value to her husbands income (it really is their income, but you get the point) by her own labor value added.

This is a case of an alliance between socialist and capitalist interests. Feed the market for the time being, bring in the taxes and forget the long term common good and definitely forget what women might want.

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No prize for religious freedom at this Olympic Games

by Bill Saunders

August 6, 2008

On the cusp of the Olympic games, we should pause to recall that, in order to win the right to hold the Games, China argued that hosting the Olympics would help it move toward democracy and respect for human rights. Now, the day before the Olympics, we know that is not the case. Human rights have deteriorated in the year leading up to the Games. In particular, religious freedom - for all religions - has been curtailed. Christians have suffered as well.

In a case in which FRC got involved last December, over 200 pastors were arrested, beaten, and 21 imprisoned for multi-year terms. Their crime? Holding an unauthorized Bible study. “House churches” have been targeted in a crackdown called the “strike hard” campaign. Likewise, Catholic members of the underground or unregistered or unofficial Catholic church have been imprisoned.

China remains a “country of concern” for violating the right to religious freedom on the short lists of the State Department and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. One Chinese Muslim likened these Olympics to Hitler’s - both showcased a totalitarian regime. It will be a sad day for human rights and religious freedom when the Games open tomorrow in Beijing.

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Way Down Mexico Way

by Tom McClusky

August 6, 2008

At least 116 U.S. federal employees at a cost to taxpayers of close to half a million dollars are in Mexico this week at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.

Senator Coburn, who has done quite a bit in both fighting HIV/AIDS and in fighting taxpayer waste, has the scoop:

Taxpayers will contribute almost a half-a-million dollars to the event, an amount that could have been spent to provide life-saving medication to every American on a waiting list for AIDS drugs or to prevent over 50,000 newborns from becoming infected with HIV.

In addition to some scientific and scholarly workshops, the event will feature a “Sex Workers Mini Film Festival,” and a session led by a pro-prostitution group that brags of being “proud” of its work and proud to bring in “lots of tourist dollars” for Thailand. There will also be a workshop on the “Sexy Life” after HIV infection and one entitled “Good Catholics Use Condoms: How to Answer the Tough Questions Surrounding HIV/AIDS Prevention and Religion,” which will be moderated by a woman whose D.C.-based group favors legalized abortion, gay marriage, and contraception — all positions opposed by the Catholic Church.

Thailand is well known as a stop for degenerates looking to have sex with minor boys and girls. You can read the full report here.

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One (More) Small Step for iPS Cells

by David Prentice

August 6, 2008

Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch and his team at MIT have upped the stakes in the race to perfect the iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cell technique first developed by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Japan in 2006. The technique directly reprograms a normal cell, such as a skin cell, using 3-4 genes added to the cell via viruses. The iPS cells behave like embryonic stem cells but do not use embryos, eggs, or cloning, thus bypassing the ethical problems inherent in deriving embryonic stem cells from embryos or clones. Yamanaka first developed the method in mice, then transferred the same process to use with human cells, without ever using human embryos or human embryonic stem cells in his research. One of the concerns with the iPS cell technique has been the use of viruses to reprogram the cells. While the added viral genes seem to be turned off once they have accomplished their job, use of viruses leaves a lingering doubt about normalcy or the safety of such cells (in addition to the safety problems of every embryonic stem cell.)

Now Jaenisch’s team has shown that they can use a soluble protein, Wnt, to stimulate part of the reprogramming. Using a Wnt solution and only 3 added genes, they were able to get enhanced efficiency at reprogramming mouse cells into iPS cells. They note that the mouse iPS cells they produced “are morphologically and functionally indistinguishable from ESCs.” There are still other factors to work out to eliminate viruses completely from the mix, but iPS cells continue to advance rapidly, while the dodgy cloning technology continues to fail and fall behind.

The results are published (subscription required) in the August 7 issue of Cell Stem Cell.

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Perkins’ Perspective: More from Honduras

by Tony Perkins

August 6, 2008

Today I was far away from the news whirl with all the prognostications about vice presidential picks. Our team here in Honduras was in a small village about 20 minutes from Tela called Tornabe. Our first challenge of the day was just getting there on the old American school buses that have been given a second life here in Honduras and serve as our transportation. These buses, which are the main means of transportation for most people in the area, had to navigate the craters in the dirt road and the occasional animal that would wander into our path.

Tornabe

Once we are on location it takes about 30 minutes to set up the various aid stations. The people are first registered where basic information is written on a form that will accompany them through the process. Their second stop is where I spent the bulk of my time with the gospel presentation. It was there we soon discovered our second challenge.

The folks in Tornabe do not speak Spanish; they have their own dialect called Garifuna. They understand Spanish well enough to communicate, but in some cases we had to interpret from English to Spanish to Garifuna. I am pretty certain some things got lost in translation. I am accustomed to some people not laughing at my jokes, but when they laugh and I didn’t say anything funny, that causes me to wonder.

I was able to find out a little bit about the origins of the Garifuna people. They were African slaves taken from the Island of St. Vincent who were then marooned on the Island of Roatan in 1797. The Spaniards later moved them to Trujillo where they dispersed along the coast of the Caribbean. They remain pretty segregated in their small communities like Tornabe.

Today we saw around 600 people, again mostly women and children, bringing the total that we’ve been able to help with food, medicine and the gospel to over 2,000. I am constantly amazed at the natural beauty of Honduras, but at the same time the poverty and despair. I’ve also noticed that most of the area is in need of a good anti-litter campaign.

tp_children.jpg

An unfortunate distinction of Tornabe is that it is reported to have one of the highest concentrations of HIV-positive people in the Western Hemisphere. The local church, under the leadership of Pastor Marvin, which hosted our clinic today, helps feed and clothe over 60 children of various ages who have been orphaned primarily because their parents died from AIDS. I have to confess that talking to these little ones, who have little more than the clothes they are wearing, was not easy. I thought of my own children having to survive on their own as these little ones do. But for a while we laughed with them, shared God’s love with them in word and in our actions, and brought smiles to their faces.

Before I shared the gospel with them I went to the back room of this cinder block building and watched as 60 children were given their one hot meal of the day. We were able to give many of the orphaned children clothes as well as leave Pastor Marvin enough food to feed the children for several weeks. We ended the day with a dinner and multi-church service at Centro Americano Iglesia where Pastor Luis Eucedo’s church made a great Honduran dinner for us. More tomorrow!

tp_terry-marvin.jpg

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The Most Effective Peacekeepers

by Michael Leaser

August 6, 2008

A former deputy director of children and family services in Illinois recently described her disturbing encounter with a bunch of young children witnessing, but apparently doing nothing to stop, a neighborhood fight. Visibly disturbed by the incident, she offers several solutions to reducing student violence, at the core of which is good parents building their own neighborhood.

The latest Mapping America lends support to these suggestions and demonstrates with federal survey data that married parents are the most effective peacekeeping force.

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Celebrity Stem Cells

by David Prentice

August 6, 2008

Thumbnail image for SuzanneSomersByPhilKonstantin.jpgActress Suzanne Somers has forged an alliance with the company Neostem for a multi-year awareness program. The idea is to educate the public about adult stem cell collection and storage. As part of the promotion campaign, she will have her adult stem cells (from her bloodstream, mobilized from her bone marrow) collected and stored, complete with filming of the collection procedure. The educational campaign, to start in September 2008, is apparently meant to coincide with the opening of several new Neostem collection centers.

There is certainly an increasing use of adult stem cells for treatments, with one estimate that approximately 11,000 patients in the U.S. have received adult stem cells as part of their conventional treatment in the past two years. The vast majority of these have been for various cancers and blood disorders, but an increasing number of adult stem cell clinical trials are seeing patients receiving treatment for autoimmune diseases and heart damage, which are showing published success in patients.

Still, it’s not certain whether it’s worth storing your adult stem cells at this point, especially given the cost. In most cases, your own adult stem cells can still be harvested even after diagnosis of cancer (see, e.g., Carol Franz’s story with multiple myeloma.) There IS a great need for storing cord blood, though, instead of throwing away the umbilical cord; for cord blood stem cells there is only the one chance for collection.

But Suzanne Somers is excited: “Stem cell therapy is the most exciting new breakthrough in medicine. It gives me great peace of mind to know that my own stem cells will be banked as bio-insurance for me.” So I guess having your cells already in the bank gives some people additional reassurance.

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Cloned Boogers!

by David Prentice

August 5, 2008

Five puppy clones of the deceased pit bull Booger were born July 28 and publicly unveiled today (requisite cute puppy pictures at above link, and also here.) Bernann McKinney of California paid the South Korean biotech firm RNL Bio $50,000 (a discount price from the usual $150,000) to clone her beloved dog. In cloning (technically termed “somatic cell nuclear transfer”, SCNT) the nucleus (DNA) of a body tissue cell is transferred into an egg (that has had its chromosomes removed), creating a new cloned embryo. The clones are then transferred to the womb of a surrogate mother for gestation.

Dogs have been cloned before, but these are the first commercial clones. RNL has been in a patent dispute with another dog cloning firm in the U.S. RNL was started by South Korean scientists who had worked with the cloning fraudster Hwang; Hwang (who was recently denied an application to clone humans) is the hired cloner of the U.S. firm. As a commercial cloning operation, RNL has had some orders for dog cloning, but still is searching for a big commercial payoff. Its CEO, Ra Jeong-Chan, says “For my next project, I will consider cloning camels for rich people in the Middle East.”

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