By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Scientifically, Kass is correct, except -- and this is a big except -- SCNT stops short of transplanting that egg into a woman’s uterus. What Kass knows, but chooses not to acknowledge here, is that once that new egg begins to divide, one of two things can happen. The first is it could be implanted into a woman‘s uterus and develop those dreaded carbon copies. This process is called ”reproductive cloning,“ and almost every mainstream scientist the world over, including Weissman and Goldstein, opposes it.
The second thing that could happen is what opponents of this work like to call ”therapeutic cloning.“ Weissman prefers ”nuclear transplantation to produce stem cells.“ Either way, in this second scenario, once that very early embryo (a cluster of 100 or so cells called a blastocyst) is formed, there is a two-week window during which the stem cells are extracted. In doing this, the embryo becomes unsuitable for manufacturing the dreaded clones, or any other viable human form for that matter. If you wanted to create another human being, you would have about as much luck successfully implanting that enucleated embryo into a woman’s uterus as you would have growing a Buick by planting an engine block in the ground.
Kass‘ apparent attempt to equate SCNT with the ”production“ of cloned individuals becomes egregious because his knowledge and opinions are being used to enact legislation that will then affect the entire country.
A clear indication of Kass’ sway took place in the spring of 2001, when a pair of cloning bills was introduced, one in the House and one in the Senate. The original House bill went nowhere, but it was quickly rewritten and reintroduced by Dave Weldon (R-Florida). On July 31, 2001, after three hours of debate during which conservatives spoke about eugenics, commodifying humanity, the peril of private-industry control over the human genome, the need for science to operate within social and ethical norms, and -- of course -- the Nazis, the House of Representatives passed the Weldon Bill 265 to 162.
The bill (and its sister Senate bill, which was introduced by Kansas Republican Sam Brownback and is known as the Brownback Bill) seeks to outlaw all forms of cloning -- both reproductive and therapeutic -- with severe penalties of up to a $1 million and 10 years in prison for either doing research or receiving medical treatment based on that research. This means that if the French invent a stem-cell-based cure for Alzheimer‘s and you go to France and receive treatment and try to re-enter the United States, you’re not passing go, you‘re going straight to jail. The only good news is that since your Alzheimer’s is now cured, you‘ll remember the whole experience.
On August 9, 2001, President Bush, in his first address to the nation, echoed Kass’ fear-mongering and followed his lead: ”We have arrived at that brave new world that seemed so distant in 1932, when Aldous Huxley wrote about human beings created in test tubes in what he called a hatchery.“
Bush then issued an executive order restricting federal research money to the 60 previously harvested stem-cell lines. These lines were cultivated between 1998, when human embryonic stem cells were first isolated, and the moment Bush put the kibosh on further work. Never mind that the majority of these lines have not been studied enough to know if they‘re actually safe for use in humans.
”But the real problem with them,“ says Weissman, ”is that all 60 lines come from people who utilize in-vitro fertilization clinics. Part of the problem is IVF clinics serve a very specific segment of the American population. The stem-cell lines taken from IVF clinics are cell lines taken from rich, white, infertile people. We have no idea if stem cells possess ethnic, genetic variation -- and they might. One of the fundamental principles of bioethics is called distributed justice. That means when scientists work on medical cures, they want to develop cures for everyone -- not just for rich, white, infertile people.“
In other words, scientists want to study a rainbow coalition of stems cells, but by limiting research to existing lines, compassionately conservative George Bush has created a stem-cell policy much like his tax cut: The rich get richer, the poor get screwed.
Spend five minutes with Jerry Zucker and you’ll think that his life could have gone either way. One wrong turn and he would have ended up still working the coat check and living with his mother at 50. He wears cardigans. In conversation, his voice is several decibels below soft-spoken. Words hang up on his lips. He has soft features, bushy eyebrows, errant hair and, all told, looks like someone in constant, mild pain. The one thing he doesn‘t look like, and this may be his great genius, is Hollywood royalty, or at least its court jester.
Zucker created his own brand of movies, a genre of wack-job comedy that began with Kentucky Fried Movie, was perfected in Airplane! and which includes the Naked Gun and Police Squad franchises. He also a made a sweet movie about a dead guy, a live woman and a pottery fetish called Ghost.
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