Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009


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Happy days are here again for the embryonic stem cell (ESC) research community, or at least they should be. The day after Barack Obama was inaugurated as president in January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration green-lighted an application from Geron Corporation to pursue the first phase I clinical trial of an ESC-based therapy (in this case, for spinal cord injury).


President Obama, who ran on a pro-ESC research platform, cannot take credit for that regulatory first, which was largely a coincidence of timing. But he has already made good on his promise to lift the burdensome restrictions on federally funded ESC studies imposed by his predecessor in 2001.

Laboratories receiving federal money are once again free to work on the cell lines of their choice (with some important restrictions).
So scientists at last mostly have what they have been asking for. And the public should now prepare to be disappointed.

Perhaps “disappointed” is an overstatement, but a realistic recalibration of expectations is surely in order. The problem with turning a scientific issue into a political football is that the passionate rough-and-tumble of the game can leave the science itself rather scuffed.

When opponents of ESC research likened it to genocide and Nazi concentration camp experiments, its proponents countered by emphasizing how irreplaceable ESCs were and how miraculous the cures arising from them could be. Whether or not those claims wandered into rhetorical excess, at least a few false hopes and misimpressions have probably been left behind.

To address the most obvious one first: practicable ESC-based therapies are years away. The upcoming tests of Geron’s paralysis treatment, for example, will look only at how safely it is tolerated by patients; tests of its effectiveness are further off.

The therapeutic cells helped mice to partially recover from spinal injuries, but in humans they might fail to do the same or, worse, might induce tumors. It will take time to find out. New drugs often take five to nine years to progress from phase I testing to market.
Moreover, many if not most of those future therapies based on ESC research may not actually involve ESCs. Patients, after all, will not be able to supply embryonic cells directly from their own body.

Therapeutic ESCs would either have to come from immunologically matched stockpiles (the equivalent of blood banks) or be cloned for each patient individually. Both solutions would involve technological and legal headaches. Using adult stem cells or others reprogrammed for versatility from a patient’s own tissues may therefore prove much easier. (Adult stem cells are indeed already used to treat some blood-related and orthopedic disorders.)

Opponents of ESC research may howl that these facts only vindicate their long-standing position that it would be better simply to concentrate on adult stem cell therapies. But the hard-fought campaign against restricting ESC research was well worth it: ESCs will most likely be essential for developing sophisticated stem cell therapies of any kind because they offer the best clues to how the body naturally grows, repairs and regenerates demandingly intricate tissues.

Anyone who thinks that the public debate over ESCs is nearing an end is also in for a rude awakening. In March, 10 out of 18 members of former president George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics issued a press release criticizing the Obama administration’s policy as unethical.

Days after the president’s executive order, the Georgia State Senate approved the Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act, which would bar the deliberate creation of embryos for ESCs. Expect more of the same.

Stem cell research continues to be a pawn in a larger political game being fought over abortion, women’s reproductive autonomy, and the tension between individual rights and notions of public morality. And that fact, however inescapable, may be the most disappointing one of all.

Note: This article was originally published with the title, “Reality Check for Stem Cells”.Editors S.A. 27 may, 2009

The murder of Dr. George Tiller, who was shot to death as he stood in the foyer of his church in Wichita, Kan., on Sunday morning, was a reprehensible act of domestic terrorism directed toward the dwindling cadre of physicians who risk their safety to perform legal medical procedures.

Dr. Tiller’s death, the fourth killing of an American abortion provider since 1993, was the first since 1998 when a sniper gunned down Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home in the Buffalo area. For Dr. Tiller, and physicians like him, the threatening protests and incidents of violence and harassment never really stopped.
For his principled devotion to women’s health and constitutionally protected rights, Dr. Tiller was the target of protests at his clinic, his house and his church. In 1986, his clinic was bombed, and, in 1993, an abortion opponent shot him in both arms. He was forced to fend off trumped up legal challenges aimed at shutting down his operations. Last month, vandals attacked his clinic. Nevertheless, he somehow persevered in a state that is one of the battlegrounds in the fight to restrict abortion.
Responding to Dr. Tiller’s slaying, President Obama expressed shock and outrage and said that profound differences over issues like abortion “cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.” Mr. Obama recently called for Americans to find common ground on reducing the need for abortions. In that spirit, abortion opponents should refrain from the “baby killer” rhetoric that inflames an already heated debate.
Attorney General Eric Holder says the United States Marshal Service will begin protecting certain abortion clinics and doctors. Mr. Holder should consider taking the additional step of revitalizing the National Task Force on Violence against Health Care Providers that former Attorney General Janet Reno established during the Clinton years. There must be a sustained focus by federal and state officials to prevent further acts of violence and intimidation. If it turns out that additional laws are needed, Congress should take action.


Over time, the combination of anti-choice restrictions and ongoing harassment by protest groups even short of violence have served to make abortions harder and harder to obtain. That trend must be stopped.


* EDITORIAL New York Times (NYT), June 2, 2009

THERE is no abuse of government power more egregious than executing an innocent man. But that is exactly what may happen if the United States Supreme Court fails to intervene on behalf of Troy Davis.

Mr. Davis is facing execution for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., even though seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony against him. Many of these witnesses now say they were pressured into testifying falsely against him by police officers who were understandably eager to convict someone for killing a comrade. No court has ever heard the evidence of Mr. Davis’s innocence.


After the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit barred Mr. Davis from raising his claims of innocence, his attorneys last month petitioned the Supreme Court for an original writ of habeas corpus. This would be an extraordinary procedure — provided for by the Constitution but granted only a handful of times since 1900. However, absent this, Mr. Davis faces an extraordinary and obviously final injustice.

This threat of injustice has come about because the lower courts have misread the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, a law I helped write when I was in Congress. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s, I wanted to stop the unfounded and abusive delays in capital cases that tend to undermine our criminal justice system.

With the effective death penalty act, Congress limited the number of habeas corpus petitions that a defendant could file, and set a time after which those petitions could no longer be filed. But nothing in the statute should have left the courts with the impression that they were barred from hearing claims of actual innocence like Troy Davis’s.

It would seem in everyone’s interest to find out as best we can what really happened that night 20 years ago in a dim parking lot where Officer Mark MacPhail was shot dead. With no murder weapon, surveillance videotape or DNA evidence left behind, the jury that judged Mr. Davis had to weigh the conflicting testimony of several eyewitnesses to sift out the gunman from the onlookers who had nothing to do with the heinous crime.

A litany of affidavits from prosecution witnesses now tell of an investigation that was focused not on scrutinizing all suspects, but on building a case against Mr. Davis. One witness, for instance, has said she testified against Mr. Davis because she was on parole and was afraid the police would send her back to prison if she did not cooperate.

So far, the federal courts have said it is enough that the state courts reviewed the affidavits of the witnesses who recanted their testimony. This reasoning is misplaced in a capital case. Reading an affidavit is a far cry from seeing a witness testify in open court.
Because Mr. Davis’s claim of innocence has never been heard in a court, the Supreme Court should remand his case to a federal district court and order an evidentiary hearing. (I was among those who signed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Davis.) Only a hearing where witnesses are subject to cross-examination will put this case to rest.

 


Although the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution last fall, the court declined to review the case itself, and its intervention still has not provided an opportunity for Mr. Davis to have a hearing on new evidence. This has become a matter of no small urgency: Georgia could set an execution date at any time.

I am a firm believer in the death penalty, but I am an equally firm believer in the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution. To execute Troy Davis without having a court hear the evidence of his innocence would be unconscionable and unconstitutional.
By BOB BARR, NYT, June 1, 2009

Bob Barr served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990.

Overload is a real problem. There is a danger that even the most decent of people can grow numb to the unending reports of atrocities occurring all around the globe. Mass rape. Mass murder.

Torture. The institutionalized oppression of women.
There are other things in the world: a ballgame, your daughter’s graduation, the ballet. The tendency to draw an impenetrable psychic curtain across the worst that the world has to offer is understandable. But it’s a tendency, as Elie Wiesel has cautioned, that must be fought.

We have an obligation to listen, for example, when a woman from a culture foreign to our own recalls the moment when time stopped for her, when she was among a group of women attacked by soldiers:
“They said to us: ‘If you have a baby on your back, let us see it.’ The soldiers looked at the babies and if it was a boy, they killed it on the spot [by shooting him]. If it was a girl, they dropped or threw it on the ground. If the girl died, she died. If she didn’t die, the mothers were allowed to pick it up and keep it.”
The woman recalled that in that moment, the kind of throbbing moment when time is not just stopped but lost, when it ceases to have any meaning, her grandmother had a boy on her back. The grandmother refused to show the child to the soldiers, so both she and the boy were shot.

A team of female researchers, three of them physicians, traveled to Chad last fall to interview women who were refugees from the nightmare in Darfur. No one has written more compellingly about that horror than my colleague on this page, Nick Kristof. When I was alerted to the report that the team had compiled for Physicians for Human Rights, my first thought was, “What more is there to say?”

And then I thought about Mr. Wiesel, who has warned us so eloquently about the dangers inherent in indifference to the suffering of others. Stories of atrocities on the scale of those coming out of Darfur cannot be told too often.

The conflict has gone on for more than six years, and while the murders and mass rapes have diminished, this enormous human catastrophe is still very much with us. For one thing, Sudan has expelled humanitarian aid groups from Darfur, a move that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recently told Mr. Kristof “may well amount to genocide by other means.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict and the systematic sexual attacks on Darfuri women have been widely reported. Millions have been displaced and perhaps a quarter of a million Darfuris are living in conditions of the barest subsistence in refugee camps along the Chad-Sudan border.

The report by Physicians for Human Rights, to be released officially on Sunday (available at darfuriwomen.org), focuses on several dozen women in the Farchana refugee camp in Chad. The report pays special attention to the humanity of the women.

“These are real people with children, with lives that may have been quite simple, but were really rich before they were displaced,” said Susannah Sirkin, a deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights.
The conditions in the refugee camps are grim, made worse by the traumas that still grip the women, many of whom were witnesses — or the victims — of the most extreme violence.
“I don’t think I was prepared for the level of just palpable suffering that they are continuing to endure,” said Dr. Sondra Crosby, one of the four interviewers. “Women were telling me they were starving. They’re eating sorghum and oil and salt and sugar.”


Dr. Crosby and her colleagues had a few crackers or cookies on hand for the women during the interviews. “I don’t think I saw even one woman eat the crackers, even though they were hungry,” she said. “They all would hide them in their dresses so they could take them back to their children.”

The women also live with the ongoing fear of sexual assault. According to the report, rape is a pervasive problem around the refugee camps, with the women especially vulnerable when they are foraging for firewood or food.
“It is so much easier to look away from victims,” said Mr. Wiesel, in a speech at the White House in 1999. “It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes.”

But indifference to the suffering of others “is what makes the human being inhuman,” he said, adding: “The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.”

By BOB HERBERT, NYT, May 30, 2009

Photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse which U.S. President Barack Obama does not want released include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Thursday.

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The images are among photographs included in a 2004 report into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison conducted by U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba.

Taguba included allegations of rape and sexual abuse in his report, and on Wednesday he confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that images supporting those allegations were also in the file.

“These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,” Taguba, who retired in January 2007, was quoted as saying in the paper.

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He said he supported Obama’s decision not to release them, even though Obama had previously pledged to disclose all images relating to abuses at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq.

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one,” Taguba said. “The sequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

“The mere depiction of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Others are said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

The photographs relate to 400 alleged cases of abuse carried out at Abu Ghraib and six other prisons between 2001 and 2005.


LONDON, (Reuters) –
May 27, 2009
(Reporting by Luke Baker; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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no fotos de torturados