American Elephants


The Nobel Prize Awarded for Laying the Foundation for Regenerative Medicine by The Elephant's Child

Two scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday, and have helped to lay the foundation for regenerative medicine. They are Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan, and John B. Gurdon of the University of Cambridge in England. What is being called regenerative medicine is the idea of rebuilding the body with stem-cells generated from its own cells.

Dr, Gurdon, above on the right, was the first to clone an animal, a frog, in 1962. His work was at first greeted skeptically, because it contradicted the accepted dogma that adult cells are irrevocably assigned to their specific functions and cannot assume new ones. His technique was to extract the cell nucleus, containing the frog’s DNA, from a mature intestinal cell and insert the nucleus into a frog egg whose own nucleus had been removed. The egg was able to reprogram the introduced nucleus and direct its genes to switch from the duties of an intestinal cell to those appropriate to a developing egg. How this happened had to wait 44 years while molecular biologists gained a better understanding of genes and their controlling agents.

Dr. Yamanaka, above on the left,  discovered in 2006 that the reprogramming can be accomplished by just four specific gene control agents in the egg. The agents, known as transcription factors, are proteins made by master genes to regulate other genes.  By injecting the four agents into an adult cell, Dr. Yamanaka showed that he could walk the cell back to its primitive or stem cell form. Stem cells generated by this method are known as induced pluripotent cells, or iPS cells, which can then be made to mature into any type of adult cell in the body.

James Thompson isolated embryonic stem cells back in 1998, There was a prompt outcry from pro-life advocates, who saw it as a slippery slope into human cloning. Political liberals believed that religious believers must be discredited before they were able to undo freedom for abortion. Then you had the money part — trillions of dollars in research grants, biotech companies stock dividends. The people who rejected embryonic research didn’t want cloned embryos created and killed for stem cells, and what John Kerry denounced as a “ban on stem-cell research” was at the center of the attack. There was, of course, no such ban.  George Bush in August of 2001, allowed federal funds to be used for embryonic stem-cells, but only with existing lines of cells.

Private companies could experiment as they wished, State governments could fund what they chose. California, always ready to spend money, authorized $3 billion worth of bonds specifically for embryonic stem-cell research not funded by the federal government.

It became an article of faith among liberals that heartless Republicans were blocking miraculous cures, amazing therapies and fabulous healings. Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards stood up in 2004, pointed at the paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve, and proclaimed that a vote for the Democrats would mean that people like Reeve “are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.” Well, what delicious ammunition to use against the Republicans — those backward, bigoted pro-life people —want to keep people in their wheelchairs.

That summer, Ron McKay from the National Institute of Health, admitted that he and his fellow scientists had failed to correct the media’s false reports about the promise of stem-cells — but that was all right because ordinary people “need a fairy tale.” They require need a fairytale.” a story line that’s relatively simple to understand.”

As late as January 2007,  Senator Arlen Spector proclaimed, “It is scandalous that eight years have passed since we have known about stem-cell research and the potential to conquer all known maladies, and federal funds have not been available for the research.” At that same time, Dr. Yamanaka was working with mice to show that fully pluripotent stem-cells could be created directly from adult cells. Many of the nation’s most prominent stem-cell researchers openly joined one side of a partisan political debate.

Celebrities, Scientists, Big Money, Politicians, Abortion Activists, Media, Atheists, the Religious, and poor ordinary people who “need a fairy tale, “makes for a heady mix. Politics corrupted the science, but the scientists aided the corruption.

On March 9, 2009, President Obama lifted restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, and if I remember correctly (I am fallible) he said researchers had twenty people waiting for stem cell transplants to help them to walk again.  The twenty people were never heard from again. Geron Corporation was the company doing the first government-approved test of embryonic stem cell therapy.Their first-ever human trial using an embryonic stem-cell derived product for spinal cord injury made international headlines. But they have abandoned the field entirely eliminating 66 full-time jobs.  No interest from venture capitalists.

So congratulations to the two Nobel Prize winners. The work resulting from their discoveries proceeds with great success with adult stem cells. We posted this story about a great early success with adult stem cells taken from a burn victim’s own skin, in February of 2011. We hear a lot about the politics, but not enough about the progress with real patients. This is not a fairy tale, but real progress that will someday reach our local hospitals, if health care does not remain under bureaucratic control by the government. Ignore the initial picture on the video, and watch the whole thing.



There Are Some Controversies You Just Don’t Want To Stir Up by The Elephant's Child

Let’s review. During the debate last week, when asked what he planned to cut to help balance the budget, Gov. Romney responded by saying “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things.  I like PBS, I love Big Bird.”

But I’m not, he added, going to borrow money from China to subsidize Big Bird.

Everybody loves Big Bird, children love Sesame Street, Moms love Sesame Street, so of course the Obama campaign leaped to the defense of Big Bird. Lesson for Obama campaign: it always pays to do your homework.

In this case the facts lead to headlines like “Big Bird makes more money than Mitt Romney, but is still on the government dole.”

•The Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives about $450 million from Congress each year.
•About $280 million goes to PBS and the local stations.
•Federal funding makes up about 12 percent of the PBS budget.

The facts that a little homework might turn up, that the media never reveals:

Shows like Sesame Street are multimillion dollar enterprises capable of thriving in the private market.  According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales.

The Republican National Committee points out that in the last few days, Obama has mentioned Big Bird eight times, and Elmo five — and Libya not at all. So the always on top of everything Obama campaign quickly turned out this ad:

There is something deeply revealing about Obama’s blithe willingness to portray Wall Street as an enemy. Wall Street is key to American prosperity —even to American greatness.  Lots of important and impressive Americans have had careers on Wall Street. What Wall Street does is important. Wall Street matters, The Weekly Standard said. The Washington Examiner said “With the Big Bird ad, Obama plays the small politics he once denounced.”

At InstaPundit, a reader comments “Lost by Obama: Wall Street, Main Street and now Sesame Street.

Another reader emailed “Today’s Obama for President commercial was brought to you by the number ‘1.1 trillion‘ and the word ‘deficit‘.”

The Sesame Workshop has sent a cease and desist request to Team Obama:

Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down.

Jeff Emanuel comments: “nothing says “I’ve completely lost control of this narrative” like embracing …a seven-foot-tall yellow feathered multi-millionaire.”

ADDENDUM: Sesame Street received a grant of $1.067,532 in stimulus funds in August 2010, from the Department of Health and Human Services.  The funding was to promote healthy eating, according to the federal Recovery.gov website. “Sesame Workshop will carry out an expansion of its highly successful ‘Healthy Habits for Life’ initiative, which promotes improved nutrition and increased physical activity targeting low-income preschool-aged children and their families and care providers.”

The project created 1.47 new jobs, the website reported, which works out to $726,000 per new job created, which seems to be in line with the rest of the stimulus bill. Kathleen Sebelius has a lot to answer for, aside from violating the Hatch Act.



Mitt Romney Spoke of “The Mantle of Leadership” by The Elephant's Child

“If America doesn’t lead, others will.”

That simple declaration in his foreign policy speech today at the Virginia Military Institute, Mitt Romney demonstrated his membership in the reality-based community. If America is perceived to be weak, others will move into the vacuum. President Obama’s hope-based, timid, naive foreign policy has already shown that what he understands as a move to make America just one among the many nations of the world, is perceived as weakness by other nations. President Obama has confused popularity with the public with the national interest.

A central truth of the last 200 years of American history is that American weakness harms us, and harms the world. Tyranny arises when America is weak. Americans may be weary of war, but there are fewer wars when America is strong. The consequences of apology and appeasement are apparent.

Ninety minutes after news of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi reached Washington, Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, JCS Chair General Martin Dempsey and a national security adviser met for an oval office meeting in which they ultimately rejected U.S. military intervention. Instead, they decided to reach out to the Libyan government to ask them to send reinforcements.

Ambassador Stevens had begged for reinforcements. When the U.S. Personnel at the consulate left the main building for what was supposed to be a safe house, the deployment of forces seemed moot. In hindsight, we might have sent aircraft from the base in Sicily. a show of force might have given the attackers second thoughts. The State Department dismissed this option as “unrealistic.” When the ambassador and the other three Americans were killed, Obama headed off for a Las Vegas fund-raiser.

Lt. Col Wood, head of the Special Forces Site Security Team in Libya, says his team left Libya in August, although he met daily with Stevens and security was a constant challenge. He said they tried to communicate the danger to State Department officials in Washington, but officials denied requests to boost security.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban mock the U.S. claiming that NATO forces are “fleeing Afghanistan” in “humiliation and disgrace.” Courageous CBS correspondent Lara Logan delivered a speech to about 1,000 influential people from government, politics, media and the legal and corporate arena, in downtown Chicago. Her message was derived from years of covering our Middle East wars.

There is this narrative coming out of Washington for the last two years, Logan said. It is driven in part by Taliban apologists who claim they are just the poor moderate gentler, kinder Taliban. It’s such nonsense.

Eleven years later, ‘they’ still hate us, now more than ever. The Taliban and al-Qaeda have not been vanquished. They’re coming back.

I chose this subject because one, I can’t stand, that there is a major lie being propagated.

Logan stepped way out of the “objective,” journalistic role. The audience was riveted as she told of plowing through reams of documents, and interviewing John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and a Taliban commander trained by al-Qaida. The Taliban and al-Qaida are teaming up and recruiting new terrorists to do us deadly harm, she reports.

She made a passionate case that our government is downplaying the strength of our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as a rationale of getting us out of the longest war. We have been lulled into believing that the perils are in the past: “You’re not listening to what the people who are fighting you say about this fight. In your arrogance, you think you write the script.”

Our enemies are writing the story, she suggests, and there’s no happy ending for us.

Intelligence officials are angered by Obama administration cover up of intelligence on Iranian, al Qaeda surge in Egypt and Libya, reports Bill Gertz.  Numerous classified reports reveal clear Iranian support for jihadists throughout North Africa and the Middle East, as well as al Qaeda penetration into Egypt and Libya.

Some have been encouraged by Obama’s “kill list” and using drones to attack terrorists as a less costly way to wage war, but not even the White House knows the drones’ body count. Government officials claim they are very-precise killing machines that never miss their targets, but other estimates suggest many civilian deaths, including children. Nobody knows. There is no serious evidence.  The administration seems to consider every military-aged male in a hostile region to be a legitimate target. This may have long term repercussions.

Here is the transcript of Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech to VMI today.  It was titled “The Mantle of Leadership.” Read the whole thing.  I am encouraged.




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