Guilt-Free Stem Cells?

Guilt-Free Stem Cells?

Guilt-Free Stem Cells?

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Oct. 18 2005 6:36 PM

Guilt-Free Stem Cells?

Bloggers discuss two new methods of harvesting embryonic stem cells; they also wonder about Vice President Cheney's involvement in the CIA leak scandal and gush over The Colbert Report, the new Daily Show spin-off.

Guilt-free stem cells?: Two new studies suggest there might be ways to harvest embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos. A team led by Robert Lanza has figured out how to pluck a single cell out of the embryo and then allow the embryo to develop normally. Additionally, an MIT team has used almost-embryos that have been engineered to be incapable of developing into embryos.

Some bloggers don't trust the nuances of the new findings. "Better to continue research utilizing ethical means of obtaining stem cells such as cord blood and bone marrow," writes Deborah at Pro Life Blogs. Others grapple with the ethics of the procedures. All Things 2 All's Catez Stevens, a Christian from New Zealand, claims the MIT method "would effectively be creating defective human embryos deliberately for the purpose of stem cell production," while Lanza's method might encourage IVF clinics to make embryos for the sake of destroying them. And over at The Corner, the conservative National Review's blog, Wesley J. Smith takes issue with a New York Times editorial claiming that the new research shouldn't distract from existing "proven" methods of harvesting embryonic stem cells. He writes, "The frequent assertion that ES cells 'can become any tissue in the body,' is scientifically unsubstantiated because it hasn't been done in experiments yet--and may never be."

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Cool Blue Reason's Pete Hill, a Princeton student, insists that the discussion over the ethics of these new methods only highlights the "absurdity" of the arguments against harvesting embryonic stem cells: "As a practical matter, researchers obtain human embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics, which have a large supply of excess embryos that will never be implanted in a woman…The new, 'non-destructive' technique for the derivation of stem cells would indeed 'preserve' embryos - right up to the point when they are discarded after the procedure.…In a similar vein, genetically modifying the leftover embryos to be incapable of implanting in a woman would change their moral status only if we choose to ignore their original destination: the dumpster in back of the IVF clinic."

Read more about stem-cell research; readStem Cell Research Progress Blog's news roundup.

And Cheney, too?: Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is scrutinizing Vice President Cheney and his aides in the CIA leak case, report today's Washington Post and New York Daily News. The Raw Story suggests that John Hannah, a senior Cheney aide, may be cooperating with the investigators after being threatened with indictment.

Most are skeptical about Cheney's involvement. The Washington Monthly's stalwart liberal Kevin Drum points out that the Post story "turns out to have no actual new information about Cheney being a target of the Valerie Plame probe."

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However, Dark Bilious Vapors' Len, a liberal, thinks Cheney should be worried, "Because from what I've read of Fitzgerald, he's a prosecutorial pit bull, and if Fitzgerald thinks Cheney's crooked, he wouldn't let Cheney's high profile stop him from from trying to make Cheney Bubba's next date to the prison prom."

Some conservatives remain unruffled. "Is this Hannah charge real? I don't think so. Did he turn on Cheney? Possibly. If the democrats thought going after Clinton in peace time hurt the reps - boy wait until they see what happens if they go after Bush and Cheney during a time of war on this silliness. Let's hope Fitzgerald is a truly serious prosecutor and not out to become the champion of the lunatic left," opines conservative blog The Strata-Sphere.

Read more about Cheney's possible involvement in the CIA leak case. Read Jacob Weisberg's take on how the Plame investigation hurts liberals in Slate.

Colbert Rapport: Steven Colbert, of fake-news favorite The Daily Show, launched his own show, The Colbert Report, last night.

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Many bloggers are delighted. The Reconstruction enthuses, "Steven Colbert is hilarious. … In particular, one clear dig at Lou Dobbs's 'Outsourcing of America' segment noted that Hurricane Wilma (yes, that's 'Hurricane' Wilma, as of about 15 minutes ago) will be the last Atlantic hurricane of the season to carry a designation based on 'American' letters. Any future hurricanes, Colbert noted, will be named after Greek letters. This prompted a tirade against the outsourcing of American spelling to low-wage Greek letters."

Better Than Fudge's Josh Horowitz also admires Colbert's innovativeness: "No, it's not a live show and yes, most of it is of course scripted to a tee but it seems to me to still be pretty out there for a performer to conduct interviews in character with 'real people' on a nightly basis."

Still, Adventures of a Graduate Student's Atalanta has some constructive criticism: "1) The intro music. It sounds like it wants to be the Daily Show theme, but everyone's playing it at different times -- it's a lot of noise. 2) It didn't help that during a conversaton with one of his crew members, the camera angling in on the crew member caught the teleprompter in the background, and you could read their conversation as it was going on. 3) Is it a news show? He only mentioned one... maybe two... current events headlines."

Read more about the Colbert Report; readSlate's Dana Stevens on the show; watch a clip from the show.

Got a question, comment, or suggestion? E-mail todaysblogs@slate.com.