The Kerry scandal du jour sounds like a lot of hooey to me. "Fantastic stories?" Fled to Africa? Taking loose cannon Wes Clark's off-the-record predictions as confirmation? Maybe something real will turn up, but the whole business sounds absurd. Drudge's evidence is more like anti-evidence.
Update: JohnEllis agrees. Bash the press all you like, but U.S. reporters do have standards. They may not always succeed, but they want the stories they print to be not just interesting but true. The British by contrast...
Scientists in South Korea have created a cloned blastocyst and extracted stem cells, publishing their results in Science. (Theoretically, you can read the article on the Science website, with a free registration, but I couldn't get the registration to work.) Here's the MSNBC.com report. Stem cells extracted from one of the blastocysts were tweaked to produce eye cells, muscle cells, cartilage cells, and bone cells.
In her NYT report Gina Kolata notes that researchers Woo Suk Hwang and Shin Yong Moon of Seoul National University had 242 eggs to work with, an extraordinary number.
The abundance of eggs enabled the scientists to experiment with ways of having the egg cells start to divide and of growing the embryos in the laboratory.
"They had an incredible amount of eggs and an opportunity to perfect the protocols," said Dr. Jose B. Cibelli, formerly with Advanced Cell Technology and now a professor of animal biotechnology at Michigan State University. "They tried 14 different protocols."
For background on just how precious eggs are in this research, read Kyla Dunn's compelling June 2002 Atlantic article, "Cloning Trevor," which features Cibelli's research.
Cibelli is a co-author of the Science article and, according to Kolata, "consulted with the Koreans toward the end of their work." His role is particularly interesting, not just because he was a pioneer in the field but because he now lives and works in Michigan, one of the states that ban research cloning. When he left ACT for Michigan State in late 2002, the WSJ reported:
In a mission statement he provided the university, Dr. Cibelli wrote that "no human embryos will be created nor destroyed at MSU." However, professors are allowed to spend one day a week on outside activities, leaving open the possibility that Dr. Cibelli could continue his work on therapeutic cloning in another state. According to Dr. Cibelli, officials at Michigan State told him: "We're not going to ask what you do with 20% of your time."
As the MSNBC.com report notes, "The research is sure to revive international controversy over whether to ban all human cloning. Critics say it involves destroying a human embryo, however tiny, and is thus unethical. The administration of President Bush and supporters in Congress are seeking to outlaw the technology both in the United States and worldwide."
This international effort demonstrates the difficulty of blocking potentially life-saving research that some individuals--or cultures--find morally objectionable and others believe morally benign, or even required. If it doesn't happen in South Korea, it will happen in China and Israel. But bans like the one in Michigan will slow down progress toward actual cures.
It's not just Westwood. Reader John Holton writes from the Atlanta suburbs:
Borders seems to be getting rid of the comfy chairs and places to sit in general in all of their stores. We live in Cobb County, Georgia (hardly an area with a huge homeless population) and the only place to sit is in the café (though they have left the benches in the periodicals section). Makes it kind of tough to check out a few chapters of a book you might be interested in buying. Maybe they've decided that they don't want to be the community gathering place anymore.
Reader Bruce McFadden is thankful for small favors:
I share your upset at the disappearing Border's comfy chairs. At least they let you plug in your laptop now (if you can find one of the approximately two outlets in the Cafe upstairs) -- they used to claim plugging in a laptop was a fire-hazard. When I asked when the last time was a laptop actually caught fire, they looked at me like I was a terrorist.
Here's the problem with the comfy chair revolution: It raises customers' expectations. The extreme case (so far as I know) is the woman who made a huge media fuss a few years ago because a clerk in the Westwood Borders told her not to breastfeed her baby in one of the comfy chairs. The store apologized, but I guess they don't have that problem any more.
The last few times I've blogged from the Westwood Borders, I've complained that they've removed their comfy chairs, lest the neighborhood's many vagrants make Borders their home away from homelessness. Now they've even removed the uncomfy wooden benches. I'm sitting on the floor under the T-mobile Hot Spot sign.
As many readers know, I serve on the board of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which is looking for a president. Here's the job description:
POSITION AVAILABLE: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) seeks a President. FIRE is a small, creative, exceptional, five-year-old and very well-regarded tax-exempt civil liberties organization, headquartered in Philadelphia. FIRE's mission is to protect, promote, and extend free speech, academic freedom, legal equality, due process, privacy, the rights of conscience, and, in general, liberty and individual rights on America's college and university campuses. FIRE's programs, activities, and significance are described on its website and its links to other FIRE sites at www.thefire.org. The President will have executive authority at FIRE, answerable to the Board of Directors. He or she will have responsibility for the strategic planning and implementation of FIRE's programs and for the expansion of its fundraising. The President will be FIRE's primary voice to donors, the public, the news media, and FIRE's allies. Applicants should be familiar with FIRE's work and be devoted to liberty. They preferably should have experience with not-for-profits, foundations, or the academic world. Candidates should be collegial, dynamic, well-organized, highly motivated, and principled. Salary will be commensurate with skills and experience. FIRE is an equal opportunity employer. Apply to:
Alan Charles Kors
Chairman, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
210 West Washington Square, Suite 303
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Maybe the LAT copy editor who wrote this headline is afraid of Indian competition in the Internet era. Or maybe he or she is just a partisan: Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas.
You can make a case that the headline is accurate, but it's a stretch. The story itself, which is reasonably good, is about the annual report of the Council of Economic Advisors, not some campaign speech by the president. While I'm sure the White House signed off on the report, Bush is not Greg Mankiw.
The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation, the Bush administration said Monday.
The embrace of foreign outsourcing, an accelerating trend that has contributed to U.S. job losses in recent years and has become an issue in the 2004 elections, is contained in the president's annual report to Congress on the health of the economy.
"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, which prepared the report. "More things are tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing."
More important than the election-year political bias is the subtle but extremely important difference between supporting "shift of jobs overseas" and supporting trade and specialization--the processes on which economic growth depends. Expanding the international division of labor doesn't shift "jobs" overseas. It shifts "some jobs" overseas, while creating new ones at home. The transition can be extremely painful for the workers affected, but the process itself is valuable. That's why government policies should address the specific problems of specific people, not attack the process as a whole.
Check out Live From Dallas, by Iraqi-American blogger Fayrouz Hancock.
Red Herring (yes it's still around) reports on a largely unnoticed, and certainly unmeasured, surge in tech entrepreneurship in weird places:
With the rapid adoption of inexpensive broadband technology, and the cost of urban living still high despite the downturn, tech communities are popping up in unlikely places. Migratory entrepreneurs have set up shop in places as diverse as Grand Forks, North Dakota, Wenatchee, Washington, Bozeman, Montana, and Amherst, Massachusetts--scrapping the rat race and cutting back on their business costs, to boot. Many of these businesses are home-based and unincorporated, literally hidden from view and flying under the radar of government statisticians. Still, these "hidden tech" communites are getting VC attention.
Steve Reynolds, a senior manager at AOL, moved to Amherst from Maryland in the summer of 2002. He set up shop in his attic, where he has been managing a portion of AOL's marketing support operations. News coverage on the area's tech community convinced him there was a good cluster of like-minded techies to provide camaraderie off hours. Almost two years later, he's happy to be off the D.C. Beltway and is spending more time with his family and the outdoors. "Commuting took a lot of years off my life," he says.
Nearby is the office of Larry Jackson, a veteran Hollywood producer/director who spent 23 years as an executive with the Samuel Goldwyn Company, Orion, and Miramax, and was a senior producer for films such as Silence of the Lambs and Mystic Pizza. Mr. Jackson now operates a distribution company for independent films from a home office--he says he got tired of the Hollywood hustle and decided to try the simpler life. Mr. Jackson, who signs emails with "Lawrence of Cyberia," says the move required some initial adjustment, but he has settled into the slower pace. And the move, he adds, has been great for his kids.
Then there are David and Myra Kurkowski, who left the Philadelphia suburbs several years ago to operate a pharmaceutical market research business in Cape May, New Jersey, a resort town on the state shore famous for its beachfront attractions. What has surprised them, they say, is the proliferation of recent transplants. "All of our permanent staff are immigrants to Cape May, as are we," Mr. Kurkowski notes.
I personally don't see the appeal of the boondocks. But this is yet another suggestion--admittedly anecdotal--that the economy may be shifting toward work that doesn't get counted in the jobs data. I'll have more on that subject next week.
Here's a story that illustrates how California has gotten in such a mess: Every cause produces a regulation or a subsidy. In a state where most citizens pay little attention to politics--civil society is actually primary--concentrated interests have disproportionate clout, even more than in most places.
State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, is expected to introduce a bill this week that would virtually prohibit foie gras by essentially putting the Western United States' sole producer out of business while denying chefs ready access to the hyper-fattened duck liver.
The idea is being viewed with alarm by high-end restaurants in California and across the nation that serve foie gras, a dish enjoyed by many who fancy haute cuisine.
I'm not a big foie gras fan, and I do think the way they feed the ducks is great, but this is the perfect sort of debate to leave to suasion. Californians are, after all, quite receptive to arguments that they shouldn't eat this or that.
How does that sound? Are you scared? Excited? Indifferent? That, more than specifics on issues, will probably determine the outcome of the presidential race.
We are still in the age of the in-box presidency. (It's amazing how well my editorial from four years ago still holds up.) As many people have noted, George W. Bush didn't run on a platform of activist foreign policy. World events, not personal plans, determined his priorities.
Of course, presidents do make a difference on policy--but not always the one you'd expect. If we'd had a Democratic president, the Republican Congress would probably have killed the expansion of Medicare. But with their man in office, enough conflicted Republicans went along with the program to give us a huge new entitlement with unknown, but predictable, consequences for government control of the pharmaceutical industry.