Monday, February 26, 2007

Adult Stem Cell Study May Be Wrong

Opponents of embyonic stem cell research like to cite a 2002 study that suggested adult stem cells might be as useful as embryonic ones. Turns out that study was flawed and its conclusions may be wrong.

Catherine Verfaillie, at the University of Minnesota, conducted the research and authored the oft-cited study.

But Verfaillie has acknowledged flaws in parts of the study after inquiries from the British magazine New Scientist, which first publicized the questions last week.

A panel of experts commissioned by the university concluded that the process used to identify tissue derived from the adult stem cells was "significantly flawed, and that the interpretations based on these data, expressed in the manuscript, are potentially incorrect," according to a portion of the panel's findings released by the university.

The panel concluded that it was not clear whether the flaws mean Verfaillie's conclusions were wrong. It also determined that the flaws were mistakes, not falsifications.

Tim Mulcahy, vice president of research at the university, said it would be up to the scientific community to decide whether Verfaillie's study still stands up.

"From her perspective, the findings stand. I think the scientific community will have to make their own opinion," he said.

Other researchers have been unable to duplicate Verfaillie's results since the 2002 publications, increasing their skepticism about her claims.

[. . .]

Her research was scrutinized after a writer for New Scientist noticed that some data from the original 2002 article in the journal Nature duplicated data in a second paper by Verfaillie around the same time in a different journal, even though they supposedly referred to different cells. Verfaillie told the Star Tribune that the duplication was an oversight and said she notified the University of Minnesota, which convened the panel to take a closer look at the research.

I'm sure these findings will be debated for some time.

Olbermann on Rice

No, not a recipe.

On Sunday, commenting on evoking the 2002 Iraq authorization, Sec. of State Rice said: “It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.”

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann provided a "Special Comment" tonight in response. If you haven't seen it, Think Progress has the video.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

First Baptist to Violate Copyright Law

Perhaps that's what the hed should be on this story from today's SnoozeLeader:

First Baptist to hold Super Bowl service
First Baptist Church will offer a Super Bowl Service at 4 p.m. today, followed by the game shown on a big projection screen.

Activities will also include food and board games. All attending are urged to bring a pot of their favorite soup andÊ a snack item to share with the group.

The church will also be collecting cans of soup or other canned goods to be donated to the Grand Oaks Mission.

There is a federal copyright law prohibiting public venues from showing NFL games on big-screen TVs. And several megachurches are being forced to cancel their Super Bowl parties:
....The law has been widely ignored for years....This year, however, a celebration sponsored by Falls Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis caught the attention of a National Football League attorney, Rachel L. Margolies.

....The intent of the law, which dates to the 1960s, is to protect the NFL's television ratings by preventing large crowds from gathering to watch games in public places -- where their viewing habits aren't measured by the Nielsen ratings. (The ratings only measure viewership at home.) Sports bars and other businesses that rely on televised sports to draw patrons are exempt.

Under NFL guidelines -- and federal law -- churches, schools and other public venues can hold football-viewing parties only if they use a single, living-room-size TV, no bigger than 55 inches.

I suppose First Baptists could argue that the First Amendment supersedes the copyright law and that they are simply peaceably assembling to freely exercise their religion, which just happens to involve the worshipping of football.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Raise the Federal Minimum Wage

Yesterday, the Senate voted on a House bill to increase the Federal Minimum Wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15 over two years. The amended bill passed 94-3, with 3 Senators [Johnson (D-SD), Schumer (D-NY), Inhofe (R-OK)] not voting. Coburn (R-OK), DeMint (R-SC), and Kyl (R-AZ) voted against the bill.

Last week, Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) introduced a bill that would have eliminated the Federal Minimum Wage entirely and left the wage rate for the lowest-paid workers to each state. In Kansas, this would mean that workers would revert to the state-mandated minimum wage of $2.65 per hour, which is currently superseded by the federal minimum of $5.15.

As of January 2007, twenty-states had a higher minimum wage than the federal wage. Five states had no minimum wage.

These 28 Senators voted to eliminate the Federal Minimum Wage on January 24, 2007:
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lott (R-MS)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thomas (R-WY)

Why did 24 of these Senators change their mind? Because Senate leaders added small-business tax breaks to the bill. House leaders say those tax breaks, worth $8.3 billion over 10 years, are unacceptable. They say businesses need no additional help after six years of breaks from the Bush administration.

Democrats were less effusive. After the vote, presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) lined up at a news conference with the bill's sponsor, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and bemoaned the complications. Earlier, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would prefer to pass a minimum-wage increase without "all these business pieces of sugar."

Reid predicts the differences would be worked out by a conference committee. House leaders have demanded that the tax measures be stripped from the bill. Negotiations could be lengthy.

As ThinkProgress noted, Republican objections to a clean minimum wage increase are based on myths:
MYTH #1 — Raising the minimum wage will hurt businesses. A study by the Center for American Progress found that employment in small businesses, the number of small businesses, and inflation-adjusted small business payroll growth grew more in states with higher minimum wages than federal minimum wage states. Almost 300 large and small business owners across the country have signed on to Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, which is pushing Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. A recent Gallup poll found that “three out of four small businesses said that an increase in the minimum wage would have no effect on their company.”

MYTH #2 — Businesses can’t afford to give workers a wage increase. In the past 10 years, Congress has “showered corporations with $276 billion in tax breaks, plus another $36 billion aimed exclusively at small businesses.” Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post adds that even though the Bush administration has gifted declining tax rates to small businesses over the past several years, “according to the Internal Revenue Service, small-business owners, sole proprietors and the self-employed are, as a group, the biggest tax cheats in America, responsible for $153 billion of the estimated $345 billion tax gap in 2001.”

It's worth noting that Congressional salaries have increased from $133,600 to $165,200 per year since the last Federal Minimum Wage increase. And a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it.

Supporting the Troops, Bush Style

Click for a larger view.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Same song, second verse:

What's less understood is that the same tactics have been in play with Iran. Once again, neocon ideologues have been flogging questionable intelligence about W.M.D. Once again, dubious Middle East exile groups are making the rounds in Washington—this time urging regime change in Syria and Iran. Once again, heroic new exile leaders are promising freedom.

Meanwhile, a series of recent moves by the military have lent credence to widespread reports that the U.S. is secretly preparing for a massive air attack against Iran. (No one is suggesting a ground invasion.) First came the deployment order of U.S. Navy ships to the Persian Gulf. Then came high-level personnel shifts signaling a new focus on naval and air operations rather than the ground combat that predominates in Iraq. In his January 10 speech, Bush announced that he was sending Patriot missiles to the Middle East to defend U.S. allies—presumably from Iran. And he pointedly asserted that Iran was "providing material support for attacks on American troops," a charge that could easily evolve into a casus belli.

"It is absolutely parallel," says Philip Giraldi, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism specialist. "They're using the same dance steps—demonize the bad guys, the pretext of diplomacy, keep out of negotiations, use proxies. It is Iraq redux."

Atrios, on a suicide bombing Thursday in a crowded outdoor market in a Shiite city south of Baghdad:
By tomorrow the Pentagon will tell us that this attack was unprecedented in its sophistication and something that dumbass Iraqis couldn't have possibly accomplished without help from some clever and canny Persians.

And the New York Times reports on an extension of Bush Policy As Usual:
President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.


The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Another Bush Lie

aWol has admitted he lied to about Iraq in the lead-up to the midterm elections. ThinkProgress has details:

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Bush acknowledged that as early as “September/October” 2006, he realized a major change was needed in Iraq:

WSJ: Was there a moment in the war when you said we have to make a major change in the way we’re doing things in Iraq?
GWB: Yes, there was.
WSJ: When was that?
GWB: September/October.

But even after Bush realized that a major change was needed — in the weeks just prior to the midterm elections — he continued to knowingly mislead the American public and claim U.S. was “winning” in Iraq and that the strategy was “working”:

QUESTION: Are we winning?
BUSH: Absolutely we’re winning. … We’re winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done. And the crucial battle, right now, is Iraq. [10/25/06]

BUSH: But I believe that the military strategy we have is going to work. That’s what I believe. [10/25/06]

QUESTION: But just to be clear: When the commanders on the ground tell the president, in the large picture, we are stepping closer to chaos, he believes that can also be a picture of winning?
SNOW: Yes. [11/1/06]

BUSH: We’ve got a lot going for us. We got a strategy that helps us achieve victory, and we got a military that is the finest military any country has ever assembled. [11/3/06]

Previously, Bush acknowledged lying about Rumsfeld’s resignation for political purposes in the lead-up to the elections.

The only surprise here is that aWol admits he lied. And, of course, it wasn't about anything important, like consenual sex between adults. For that, we could impeach him.