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Archive for October, 2010

The Politics of Cruelty

THE POLITICS OF CRUELTY: Wisconsin Republican Opposes Cure Research

By Don C. Reed

Imagine if you had the power to end a person’s suffering?

If you could reach down and lift a person out of their well of misery and suffering—would you do it?

Or would you say, “Sorry, I could have helped you, but it is against my political ideology”—and walk away?

That is no idle question.

It is the politics of cruelty.

What could be more cruel than to condemn a person to lifelong suffering, relieved only by premature death? The only thing worse I can think of would be to perpetrate that crime upon millions…

As Republican Senatorial candidate Ron Johnson would cheerfully do to America.  

Wisconsin is the birthplace of embryonic stem cell research. Here, in 1998, professor Jamie Thomson came up with the stem cell idea that may cure dozens of diseases and change the world—unless Senatorial candidate Ron Johnson succeeds in banning the research forever.

For the sake of political advancement, Republican Johnson appears willing to sell out the hopes of cure for suffering children and parents. (He doesn’t like health care either, calling Obama’s modest but real health insurance, “the greatest single assault on freedom in his lifetime”. He also says global warming is a myth, has plans to privatize Social Security, etc., etc..)

Johnson appears illiterate scientifically (he described research as “creating life through destroying it”—which makes absolutely no sense) but has memorized the ideological phrases on stem cell research, and says he only supports adult stem cells and cord blood—not embryonic.  

Why? He says he wants to eliminate the national debt.  

–”Johnson opposes funding for embryonic stem cells”, Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press, October 1, 2010.

Reducing the national debt is an admirable goal, to be sure.  

Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson is focused on a twig, and ignoring a forest.

He does not seem to have noticed the greatest cause of the deficit: skyrocketing medical costs, three-fourths of which come from incurable (chronic) disease.

An estimated one hundred million Americans have an incurable condition. As they never get well, we pay for their expensive care until they die.

This is a mountain of money. In 2009,, chronic disease cost America more than the deficit for that year– $1.65 trillion dollars for chronic disease; $1.6 trillion for the national debt.

(http://www.fightchronicdisease.org/media/statements/pfcd/ChronicDiseaseSpendingEqualsNationalDefici t.cfm).

No nation can long afford such costs.

What is the best way of lowering medical costs? Curing disease.  The polio vaccine not only saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but also vast amounts of money—an estimated one hundred billion dollars every year– because we no longer have to pay the polio medical bills.

Republican Johnson also wants to deny embryonic stem cell research because (he says) it is “morally objectionable” to a portion of the public, i.e. the Religious Right whose support he craves. Well, I found the Iraq war “morally objectionable”, does that mean he would have opposed George Bush’s invasion, a war which cost us over a trillion dollars—so far?

Oh no, Mr. Johnson says he would never “grandstand” by objecting to a war opposed by millions of Americans on moral grounds.

War is under no threat from Mr. Johnson; only the sick and suffering—
and their families— need be concerned.

And what about the majority of Americans (73%, Gallup Poll, 2010) who feel it is the right thing to save lives and ease suffering, with the help of biological tissues which would otherwise be thrown away?  Mr. Johnson seems to have no connection to their “moral objections”—to deny cure research.

Fortunately, there is a positive alternative; Wisconsin has a choice.

Senator Russ Feingold is as strong in defense of research for cure as Johnson is in attacking it.

In a recent debate, Feingold said “… Johnson’s opposition to using embryonic stem cell research would hurt the state’s economy and halt the creation of more jobs in the industry.

“It will destroy one of the greatest job creators in the state,” Feingold said, saying the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin were world leaders on stem cell research. (Then, turning to speak directly to Johnson, Feingold said:) “You are out of touch with the business community in this state….They want stem cell research. This is an attack on Wisconsin business.”

–”Johnson, Feingold clash…differ on stem cell research…” Don Walker, Journal Sentinel, October 8, 2010.

Is he right? In California, biomedicine IS the business community, a very strong part of it. Here, the research is protected, and biomedicine has already become the number two industry in the state.  We even had to pass a law to encourage the education and training of stem cell and biomed workers—because there is a concern there will be more jobs than job applicants.

But jobs are only one aspect of the stem cell support of Russ Feingold.

As he puts it, embryonic stem cell research:

“…could save pain and suffering for millions of people, and the lives of millions more.”

Sixteen years ago, my son Roman received a spinal cord injury in a college football game. His neck was broken, and he became paralyzed from the shoulders down.

He never complains, and he lives a full life.

But I am his father, and I see the hell he goes through, day after day after day.

We passed a law in California named after him, the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, which funded the paralysis cure research currently going to human trials through Geron. Human embryonic stem cells are turned into nerve insulating cells called oligodendrocytes, which will (we hope) help to heal new paralyzed people.

On March 1, 2002, I held in my hand a laboratory rat which had been paralyzed, but which could now scamper around its play area– and this while my son sat in his wheelchair, a few feet away.

I support that research– which Ron Johnson and his politics of cruelty would deny.

As my son Roman Reed always says, “Take a stand with us today. Take a stand in favor of research for cure. Take a stand—so one day, everybody can.”

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I just went to the online campaign headquarters of Russ Feingold, (http://www.russfeingold.org/) and contributed the magnificent sum of twenty-five dollars. I would have given more, but I am on Social Security, which Mr. Johnson has not yet had the opportunity to privatize.

Hopefully, he never will.

On, Wisconsin! Remember in November! Vote– and take a disabled friend to the polls!

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THE STEM CELL RESEARCH ADVANCEMENT ACT?

By Don C. Reed

Winston Churchill said, at a time when the Nazi bombs were falling on England, and it was by no means certain that the enemy could be defeated:

“Let us so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire last for a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour.”

Folks, this is our hour. Time is short. If we are going to PROTECT stem cell research from having its federal funding banned—and maybe the entire field of embryonic stem cell research criminalized altogether—we need to pass a stem cell research protection act during the lame duck session of Congress, after they return from the election.

That means we have to organize now.

The bill will be called the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act, and it will be very similar to the laws passed by the preceding two Congresses, each by strong margins, only to be vetoed by former President George Bush, on ideological grounds.

We need protection against further ideological attacks.

It will be difficult–but the stem cell research community is rising to meet the challenge.

At the bottom of this page are two letters from the flagship organization of our movement: CAMR, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research.

There are many fine groups I have supported over the years, too many to name here.

But there is only one CAMR. (visit www.camradvocacy.org)

It is the group of groups, nearly a hundred, large and small. Historically, it has been there virtually since the beginning of embryonic stem cell research. It was CAMR which organized the past two great attempts to pass the Stem Cell Research Act of 2005 and 2007—both of which passed the Congress and the Senate before being stopped by Mr. Bush—and it will be CAMR which takes us over the top.

In the House, we must pass the DeGette/Castle bill, HR 4808. The Senate counterpart is the Specter bill, SB 3766.

There will be adjustments made to both bills, to be sure they offer sufficient protections.

Here’s what matters. We face two giant threats.

First, the court case, Sherley v. Sebelius, which boils down to one wrong sentence: that it is the “unambiguous intent of Congress” that embryonic stem cell research should NOT be funded. This is false, and we must prove it so in law; the intent of Congress must be made absolutely plain—that the federal government IS authorized to fund embryonic stem cell research.

Secondly, some Republicans (not all: 58% of their membership supports embryonic stem cell research) but some among that party have called for a complete and total ban on embryonic stem cell research. We dare not forget that.

We need some insulation around our research, to prevent any change of political leadership from shutting down our field: stealing our hard-earned victories.

So, we need a law, and we need to organize for it now. 

It will be difficult to rouse a Congress, of course. But is there anything about our enterprise which is NOT difficult?  Every disease we are trying to fix has been called incurable, yet we fully intend to prevail, and we can do so here.

Three things we must do: first, contact our own Senator and Representative, and second, ask our groups to do the same, and third, our groups need  to coordinate with CAMR.

CAMR is in Washington, and they know all the players. We in the grassroots groups need to work together, and CAMR is the time-tested way to do it.

Now here is a message from Lisa Hughes, President of CAMR, followed by my friend Jennifer Poulikidas, with the latest update, and a simple but crucial action request.

“CAMR Members:

… it is critical that Congress act to ensure that federal funding for this important research is no longer vulnerable to political or ideological challenge.

CAMR urges all our member organizations to reach out to your own memberships quickly.  Ask your members to immediately contact their House and Senate representatives in strong support of H.R. 4808 in the House and S. 3766 in the Senate.  Ask for Representatives and Senators to cosponsor these bills and to insist on passing these bills this year.

As you know, during the 109th and 110th Congresses, the House and Senate both overwhelmingly passed bills explicitly authorizing the federal government to fund hESC research.  Unfortunately, neither bill was signed into law, as President Bush chose to veto them.

The 111th Congress must now act:  we call on Congress to pass a bill this year that explicitly authorizes the NIH to fund hESC research.

As Congress returns home until after the November elections, stem cell research advocates must reach out to their House and Senate Members and urge them to support stem cell research protective legislation. 

The Stem Cell Research Advancement Acts – H.R.  4808 in the House and S. 3766 in the Senate – would both codify President Obama’s Executive Order ensuring NIH support for hESC research.

These bills provide a basis for protecting the NIH’s ability to continue to support the important scientific  work that provides much hope to millions of patients and their families. As the bills progress, they may be further improved.  We cannot wait to make our voices heard. Our action must begin now and continue relentlessly until Congress passes important stem cell legislation.

CAMR will continue to be in contact with you throughout the October recess, with advocacy updates and further requests.  We need all your organizations and all your memberships to ignite the sense of urgency and passion that resulted in the Congressional victories during past Congresses.   We cannot win without full involvement of all your great organizations. 

And we must win.

Please reach out to your Members of Congress today and urge passage of important stem cell research legislation.  Ask your House Representatives to cosponsor and pass H.R. 4808 and your Senators to cosponsor and pass S. 3766 this year.  The “Stem Cell Research Advancement Act” will provide protection for NIH to continue to support the critical life-saving research that
provides hope to millions of patients and their families.

Congress has recently left Washington to campaign for the November elections.  This is a perfect time to reach out to your Congressional representatives at home.  They must hear from you loudly and clearly and often that stem cell research is a priority that you expect them to support
and act on.  After the elections, Congress will return to Washington to take care of unfinished business.  Stem cell research must be on their agenda.”

Lisa Hughes, President, CAMR
Now the latest from Jennifer Poulakidas, legislative VP of CAMR:

Dear CAMR Members:

Many thanks to those organizations which activated their memberships and encouraged contacts to Capitol Hill.  We need these contacts to Congress to continue and, frankly, to dramatically increase.

We are reaching out to you again, to urge your continued engagement in this effort  - and to suggest a slightly different approach over the next 10 days.  Since nearly all Members of Congress are in their home states and districts right now, a big push to the district offices would be ideal. 

Please ask your memberships to reach out to their Congressional representatives in their local offices.  Most Congressional member websites have contact information for those local offices – phone and fax numbers (see below for helpful links*).  Some of the district offices will transfer calls about legislation directly to DC, and that’s ok!  What we need to do is get the phones in the local offices ringing off the hook about stem cell research, even if the DC offices ultimately take the comments. 

We also need for people to go to town hall meetings and other campaign events and make the case in person to House and Senate Members that Congress take up stem cell research legislation during the “lame duck” session when Congress returns to DC after the elections. 

The message continues to be the same:

Ask House Representatives to cosponsor and pass H.R. 4808 and Senators to cosponsor and pass S. 3766 this year.  The “Stem Cell Research Advancement Act” will provide protection for NIH to continue to support the critical life-saving research that provides hope to millions of patients and their families.

The importance of this “local” activity cannot be overemphasized.  If Members of Congress don’t hear directly from constituents that this is important to them, the possibility of Congress acting to protect important stem cell research during the short remainder of the 111th Congress is virtually nil. 

As we move closer to Congress’ return to Washington, CAMR will be in touch with you at least weekly (and likely more often) with messages that we need for you to share with your memberships.  We need to build up some serious momentum of constituent interest to have any chance of prevailing this year.

Thank you, as always, for your action and involvement.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Poulakidas, CAMR, VP of Legislative Affairs 

*Individuals can use the following websites to link to the web pages of their local U.S. House and Senate representatives.  Once on a Member’s website, there will usually be a “contact” link.  That link will have information about local offices, including phone and fax numbers. 

LET’S GET THOSE LOCAL PHONES RINGING!!

http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

  Jennifer Poulakidas (jpoulakidas@aplu.org, 202.478.6053) for any questions or input.

 P.S.

For your convenience, here is a suggested alert to your membership:

“Please reach out to your Members of Congress today and urge passage of important stem cell research legislation.  Ask your House Representatives to cosponsor and pass H.R. 4808 and your Senators to cosponsor and pass S. 3766 this year.  The “Stem Cell Research Advancement Act” will provide protection for NIH to continue to support the critical life-saving research that provides hope to millions of patients and their families.

“Congress has recently left Washington to campaign for the November elections.  This is a perfect time to reach out to your Congressional representatives at home.  They must hear from you loudly and clearly and often that stem cell research is a priority that you expect them to support and act on.  After the elections, Congress will return to Washington to take care of unfinished business.  Stem cell research must be on their agenda.”

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WISCONSIN NEEDS YOUR STEM CELL SUPPORT—one paragraph, please!

Hi, folks!

You are not going to believe this.

Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s Republican candidate for Governor– opposes embryonic stem cell research.

And he wants to be governor of Wisconsin, where the research began?

Talk about out of touch with citizens you allegedly represent– like Hollywood being against movies!

Repeatedly refusing to answer the question if he would ban the research, Walker apparently made that promise to Pro Life Wisconsin, a group which will not endorse anyone who supports the research.

Walker is reportedly a “personhood” supporter, which (if true) explains everything. Personhood believers are extremist anti-abortion activists who believe every union of sperm and egg are entitled to full citizenship rights, including representation in a court of law. Personhood believers are so extreme that most of the major anti-abortion groups (including the Catholic church) will not associate with them.

 Personhood would criminalize all abortion, including cases of incest and rape, at any stage, including morning after.  It would ban most forms of birth control.  Personhood would criminalize the In Vitro Fertility procedure which has brought joy to millions of childless families—and it would end embryonic stem cell research.

Walker refuses to admit that he is basing his opposition to the research on ideological grounds.

Instead, he makes comments like: “… scientists have shown us the greater possibilities, and the real science movement has been with adult stem cell research, it has not been with embryonic.”

This is verifiably false.

If he is right, why did 518 scientific, medical, and patient groups put their good names behind the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act? That was purely to support embryonic stem cell research.

The opposition? 17 groups, every one religious or ideological. –RSC Republican Study Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensnarling, (R-TX), Chairman, 132 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515. Legislative Bulletin, January 10, 2007

(for the complete list of both sides, go to an article I wrote for Daily Kos, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/19/64022/9921/599/603501)

What can we do to prevent an enemy of research taking charge of Wisconsin?

I had a request from Ed Fallone, a friend and long-term advocate for medical research in Wisconsin, asking that  scientists and advocates SEND HIM ONE PARAGRAPH in support of embryonic stem cell research.

His email is: info@wistemcellnow.org

Below is my statement for Ed.

Don Reed’s statement:

As the father of a paralyzed son, Roman Reed, who inspired a California law, Assembly Bill 750, the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, embryonic stem cell research (escr) has a deep personal meaning.

“Roman’s Law” provided initial funding for the escr work Geron just took to human trials.

I have seen it work, held in my hands a rat which had been paralyzed but which walked again, thanks to embryonic stem cell research.

It is astonishing to me that Wisconsin, the state where the research began, would even consider a candidate for governor, Scott Walker (R), who is opposed to the research which may let my son walk again.

As I told Wisconsin’s great scientist Jamie Thomson, who began the research, “One day, when my son walks again, I will always believe he took his first steps in Wisconsin.”

On behalf of millions of Americans suffering from chronic disease and disability, I urge Wisconsin to reject the backwards-thinking of Scott Walker, and vote instead for a genuine supporter of the research, Tom Barrett.

–Don C. Reed, citizen-sponsor, Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999, co-chair, Californians for Cures, vice-President, Public Policy, Americans for Cures Foundation (credentials provided for identification purposes only.)

P.S. TWENTY-ONE STEM CELL CRUCIAL RACES

Here are 21 stem cell races, where a friend of the research (in bold) is at risk, and someone who opposes the research is close to : Find your state, or just pick somebody—in every case, we have a person who supports the research versus somebody who doesn’t.

HOUSE RACES:  PRO___________ ANTI_____________, DISTRICT

Friends of research come first, as they should—also, they are in bold, which we must be, in their defense.

CA:   Pro: McNerney, Anti, Harmer, District 11

CA: Bera vs.  Lungren  District 3

FL:  Garcia vs, Rivera, District  25

IL: Seals vs. Dold, District 10

MN: Clark v. Bachmann, District 8

NH: Shea-Porter v. Guinta, District 01

NV: Titus v. Heck,  District 3

NY: Hall v. Hayworth, District 19

OH: Kilroy v. Stivers, District 15

WI: Lassa v. Duffy, District 7

SENATE RACES: PRO____________, ANTI________________

CA: Boxer vs. Fiorina

CO: Bennet vs. Buck

DE: Coons v. Odonnell

KY: Conway vs. Paul

MO: Carnahan vs. Blunt

NH: Hodes vs. Ayotte

NV: Reid vs. Angle

OH: Fisher vs. Portman

PA: Sestak vs. Toomey

WA: Murray vs. Rossi

WI: Feingold vs. Johnson

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STEM CELL AWARENESS DAY—AT THE WORLD STEM CELL SUMMIT! Part one…

By Don C. Reed

“I’m so excited!”—words of an old song keep running through my mind, this morning, 3:15 AM, Michigan time.

This is the center of the Universe. Detroit, Michigan, USA, and the World Stem Cell Summit. (Don’t forget Wednesday is  Stem Cell Awareness Day,  go to www.cirm.ca.gov to find out how California is celebrating.)

Had a wonderful talk with the taxi driver, (everybody knows about the World Stem Cell Summit) on the way from the airport, and arrived at the Detroit Marriot Renaissance Hotel.

I got in too late for the tour of the Detroit Science Center, where Bernie Siegel had arranged a free all-day Public Education Day for everyone—raising awareness of Detroit’s involvement in the Biomedical revolution—but just walking to the room I met three stem cell celebrities. They were:

1. Stephen Davies of the University of Colorado was buzzing about—astrocytes! Astrocytes? “One astrocyte triggers a million synapses”, said Dr. Davies—and that matters for people (like my son Roman Reed) who are paralyzed. I had never really thought about this particular whatchamacallit before, but I will now!

2. Tom Okarma, the lion of stem cell research, whose company (Geron) is taking embryonic stem cells to the world’s first human trials. Okarma is muscular, active, and utterly determined—he had to be, to fight nine years to bring an idea from the laboratory to the bedside of paralyzed people—he and Hans Keirstead compiled 22,000 pages of correspondence with the FDA on their way to the trials just begun.

3. Somebody you don’t know yet, but you will—Keith Gurgui of New York. Keith is paralyzed, c4 quadriplegic, (which means paralyzed in both arms and legs) and it has only been 14 months since his accident.  But he is already involved in the fight for cure. He has business cards printed up, at the bottom it says, “attendee, World Stem Cell Summit, 2010”. He is intelligent, articulate, and I predict he will make a difference in our effort. Keith Gurgui (Gurg-way)—remember that name. If you want to get in touch with him, drop me a line.

In a couple hours, when the day officially begins, we’re going to be spending time with U.S. Senator Carl Levin, and Jennifer Granholm, Governor of Michigan.

And then—three days of adventure in the mind and for the body—as top people from around the world share thoughts about what we must do to protect and advance the research for cure…

I will be blogging throughout the event, so check back here, http://www.stemcellbattles.com

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