STEM CELLS….Stem cell research, an area of tremendous promise in fighting Alzheimer’s and other diseases, was gutted three years ago when George Bush cut off federal funding for all but a small handful of existing stem cell lines. The result? American research has stagnated while foreigners are forging ahead. As TNR’s Michael Crowley reports, even Republicans are not amused:

As rivals abroad make advances, frustrated U.S. researchers are pressing Congress hard. An aide to [Texas Senator Kay Bailey] Hutchison, for instance, says the Texas senator was swayed by entreaties from researchers at places like Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine–“a major part of the local economic engine,” as an aide puts it. (Social conservatives, in turn, imply that members are being bought off by greedy private companies: “The biotech industry is money-hungry enough to do anything they can to get members of Congress to sign onto these letters,” says Connie Mackey, legislative director of the Family Research Council.)

Bush’s reasoning for his decision, taken from the pages of his religious right supporters, was that an embryo smaller than the head of a pin is equivalent to a human life and therefore off limits to research. It’s hardly a tenable position, though. After all, the idea that a few strands of DNA surrounded by a bit of protective packaging is equivalent to a human life is actually profoundly degrading to the idea of humanity. It’s the most reductionist, materialistic view possible of what it means to be human.

But I suppose Bush doesn’t care much about that. What he does care about, though, is that the pharmaceutical industry is not very happy about his decision, people with ill relatives ? like Nancy Reagan ? are not very happy about it, polls in battleground states show that voters are not very happy about it, and quite a few prominent Republicans aren’t very happy about it. Perhaps they should all read this speech.

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