October 28, 2004

Scientists say Bush is hurting research

The Columbus Dispatch

Thursday, October 28, 2004

by Mike Lafferty

Taking a different tack on national security, two prominent researchers ripped the Bush administration yesterday for what they called scientific lapses that threaten the nation.

The scientists, speaking to about 40 people in Ohio State University’s Cockins Hall, said their worries extend far beyond concerns for stem-cell and climate-change research.

"We value things like peer review, data, evidence, argument. That’s not the kind of atmosphere and kind of procedures that have been noticeable with the (Bush) administration," Daniel Goroff, a Harvard mathematician and member of Scientists and Engineers for Change, said in an interview.

The group, which backs Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, was formed about a month ago by scientists, including 10 American Nobel laureates, concerned by what they call the politicization and manipulation of science. It now includes about 5,000 scientists and engineers, including 48 Nobel winners.

"Concern has risen in a crescendo," said former presidential science adviser John Gibbons, a member of the group who also visited OSU yesterday.

A spokesman for the White House science adviser dismissed their statements.

"This is a political organization with a partisan political agenda," Robert Hopkins said. "They’re entitled to their opinion. It’s a shame they’ve decided to inject science into the campaign."

Gibbons criticized administration decisions to limit stemcell research to existing lines and what he called an inadequate response to studies about global warming.

"We’ve kind of gone off track and we’ve been driven off track for political reasons," he said.

But Hopkins said the administration considers globalwarming research important and is making it a priority.

He added: "This president is committed to stem-cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line."

Goroff and Gibbons also attacked what they called the political vetting of scientists before they are appointed to federal commissions. They also said industry officials have been selected over scientists for advisory panels on issues such as lead and mercury regulation.

Gibbons also expressed concern that President Bush has downgraded the office of the White House science adviser, John H. Marburger, and moved it out of the White House complex. Losing the emphasis makes a huge difference, Gibbons said.

Hopkins responded that Marburger, a Democrat, is part of Oval Office decision-making.

Hopkins said Bush is dedicated to science. Nondefense research has grown 26.5 percent. Defense research has increased 62.5 percent.

Last week, Ray Orbach, head of the Department of Energy’s science activities, said funding under Bush has increased dramatically for big projects such as fusion power and hydrogen fuel after relatively flat funding under President Clinton.

But critics say science spending, especially for nondefense research, is likely to fall as budget deficits grow above $500 billion in the current fiscal year.

"Have you heard the president talk about the deficit?" Gibbons asked during his talk.

Posted by jmellicant at 12:40 PM

October 25, 2004

Scientists: Bush global warming stance invites stronger storms

by David Royse, Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A coalition of scientists and environmentalists is putting up billboards in the crucial swing-vote region of central Florida saying President Bush doesn't understand that global warming means stronger hurricanes.

The billboards, showing a satellite image of a menacing hurricane off the state's coast, come as many in central Florida are recovering from the state's worst hurricane season in generations.

The billboards say: "Global warming equals worse hurricanes. George Bush just doesn't get it."

The billboards are being paid for in part by "Scientists and Engineers for Change," an organization that includes 10 Nobel winners and two former presidential advisers. It has been critical of Bush in the past and has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences at Princeton who studies climate change, said the group wasn't contending that this summer's heavy hurricane season was caused by global warming, but that the intensity offers a warning of what future seasons might be like if something isn't done to stem the release of heat-holding greenhouse gasses.

Oppenheimer and other members of the group say that warmer climate means warmer water, which can make hurricanes stronger, and raises ocean levels, making storm surges more pronounced and dangerous.

"There's no doubt about it, Earth is warming," Oppenheimer said. "It's regrettable in my view that the Bush administration never took the science of this seriously, in fact scoffed at the science."

Officials from Bush's re-election campaign declined to comment, referring questions to the White House, which didn't immediately return a call for comment late Monday afternoon.

But in the past, administration officials have defended the president's positions on global warming, noting that he has called on voluntary reductions in greenhouse gases and a study of alternative sources of energy.

The government agency that studies long-term climate change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, takes the position that warming could lead to stronger storms.

"The strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth's climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere," NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory says on its Web site. "Although we cannot say at present whether more or fewer hurricane will occur in the future with global warming, the hurricanes that do occur near the end of the 21st century are expected to be stronger and have significantly more intense rainfall than under present day climate conditions."

Other scientists say that in theory, climate change would likely have an effect on storms, but that it's not clear what exactly it would be.

"There's other things at work there than simply warm water and warm air," said Jack Beven, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "The El Nino cycle ... the 20-40-year cycle that we believe exists. That's what makes it difficult to tie specific hurricane seasons to climate change or global warming."

Scientists and Engineers for Change and the environmental group Environment 2004 put up four billboards in Orlando and two in neighboring Seminole County. The two central Florida counties are part of a critical swing area that is expected to be a deciding region in Florida's presidential election. It's also putting up similar posters in Tampa.

The scientists' group has criticized the Bush administration's overall approach to science in the past, saying the administration sees research through an ideological lens.

But the new criticism takes advantage of the strong hurricane season to make a specific point about the White House's position on greenhouse gasses.

In 2001 Bush declined to sign the 1997 international climate treaty known as the Kyoto agreement. The president said the mandated reductions in industry emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases would disproportionately damage the U.S. economy in relation to other nations.

Bush has said he agrees, however, that global warming is "an issue that must be addressed," and has called for voluntary efforts to curb emissions from power plants, as well as for investment in alternative energy sources.

Kerry also opposed U.S. participation in the Kyoto treating, participating in the 95-0 Senate vote against ratifying it. But he has said he wants to restart talks on the issue to try and make the treaty more acceptable and backed mandatory emissions controls. He also has pushed for tougher auto emissions standards.

Posted by jmellicant at 11:02 PM

Vint Cerf: Concerns over packets and politics

IDG News Service

by John Blau, IDG News Service, Düsseldorf Bureau

For a technologist, Vint Cerf is plenty opinionated.

In a telephone interview, Cerf -- often called "the father of the Internet" for his co-authoring of the formidable Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) -- fielded questions on an array of topics, including his disdain for the current U.S. administration's handling of science and technology issues. He's one of a few IT executives of this caliber willing to attach their names publicly to a political cause.

In his current function as senior vice president of technology strategy at MCI Inc., Cerf still has his finger on the pulse of the Net. He's concerned about the rise of cyber attacks and encourages everyone to scream at developers of buggy software. He's confident that IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) will come soon if for no other reason than China alone could someday devour more than a third of the Net addresses currently available with IPv4. And he prefers to avoid contributing to what he calls "the current hype" over VOIP (voice over IP) because, in his opinion, this new service is just one of many available via the Internet, whereas telephony is the main service in circuit-switched public networks.

IDGNS: If you look at all the cyber attacks these days, what scares you most?

Cerf: The harder attacks are not the subtle "I'm going to break into your operating system attack" but rather the DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks where somebody has already broken into 100,000 PCs sitting on totally unprotected DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and cable modems and has all of them launch back at the target. This is really hard to defend against. We're now deploying systems that will detect these kinds of attacks and try to divert them before they get into our customers' access lines. Because when these DDOS attacks swamp access lines, then filtering at the other end doesn't help.

IDGNS: Some experts are truly concerned about cyber attacks on critical infrastructures, such as electricity and gas networks. How concerned are you about such terrorist threats?

Cerf: The purpose behind terrorism is to instill fear in people -- the fear that electrical power, for instance, will be taken away or the transportation system will be taken down. If the threat is credible, it can be used as a weapon to coerce people into doing things. So one of the most important things we can do in the industry is make sure that the threat of cyber attacks is minimized as much as possible. This understanding has driven us -- as well as our competitors and colleagues -- to build an increasing amount of robustness into our Internet implementations. Similarly the VPNs (virtual private networks) we construct for customers are increasingly resilient and redundant and resistant to various forms of attacks.

IDGNS: But attacks are still rampant, so what's missing?

Cerf: None of these things are perfect, as you can see from the long list of bugs that our friends at Microsoft (Corp.) and elsewhere pump out. Even if we go to the trouble to protect the network itself, what about the hosts? If these aren't adequately protected, they're vulnerable, and that's bad. So the monkey is on the operating system provider's back to produce much more robust and resistant operating systems.

IDGNS: And how are these companies doing on that front?

Cerf: Bill Gates (Microsoft chairman and chief software architect) has taken that up as an important mantra in his own company several years ago. Yet we still see continuous reports of bugs. It's scary that we keep finding them and that not everyone can update in accordance with the patch schedule. At some point, we all need to stand up and scream at the software companies: "How dare you release an operating system with these kinds of security flaws!" But this outcry hasn't happened yet.

IDGNS: How is work progressing on the next-generation IPv6?

Cerf: It's actually moving along. After having sat in a standardized state for 10 years, I now see some significant momentum. At MCI, we have made a full commitment to implement and deploy IPv6 during 2005. We have already been using it for a long time in the private academic vBNS (very high performance Backbone Network Service) system.

IDGNS: Who else is pushing hard for IPv6?

Cerf: There's a tremendous amount of energy in Japan and, increasingly, in China. You can understand why the Chinese are pushing IPv6. Their Internet usage is growing very rapidly, and even they can do the math: If everyone in China needed an IPv4 address -- just one -- this country would use up one third of the entire public IP address space. And if we ran out of IPv4 address space, it would be kind of like running out of oil.

IDGNS: What are the challenges of rolling out IPv6?

Cerf: It has to run in parallel with IPv4. We're going to have years of running both protocols at the same time. So that means double routing tables and more memory space for these tables and routing protocols and things like that. It's not going to be simple but we really need to do it.

IDGNS: Is the Internet any better today than at the height of the Net bubble?

Cerf: Yes, and for two different reasons. First of all, in terms of investment in Internet-related developments, venture capitalists -- once burned -- are now very cautious and are investing in areas that actually make business sense. Their determination to create equity value has been, in part, supplanted by the understanding that if they do it wrong, they lose all their money. That's good. This means that more care is taken with regard to how money is invested and which start-ups get the attention.

Second, despite the dot-boom and dot-bust, network capacity and connectivity continue to grow. There is an underlying, fundamental reliance on the Internet, which continues to grow in the number of users, country penetration and both fixed and wireless broadband access. Grid computing will also lead to more intercorporate online interaction, driving the continued growth and dependence on the public Internet.

IDGNS: What about VOIP?

Cerf: Yes, this is really happening. What is special about VOIP is that it's just another thing you can do on the Internet, whereas it is the only thing -- or nearly the only thing with the exception of the dial-up modem and fax -- that you can do on the public switched telephone network. This means that over time, any business model heavily reliant on generating revenue from simple voice calls must be carefully -- and maybe even quickly -- rethought. At MCI, we're committed to putting VOIP up virtually everywhere. However, we recognize at the same time that this development will have a major impact on our business model. If you ask me whether we're cannibalizing our historical business, my answer is yes. But if somebody is going to each our lunch, we want it to be us.

IDGNS: How do you envision the Internet by 2010?

Cerf: Today we have 1 billion users on the net. By 2010 we will have maybe 2 billion. I sincerely hope that we and everyone else in the industry will have deployed IPv6 by then and that penetration will be between 75 and 80 percent. I expect that the entertainment industry will have gone through its own convulsion in the same way the telecom industry will have gone through its. VOIP will be rampant everywhere and conventional telephony will only be visible at the edges of the network, presumably only in a wireless mode. But by 2010, wireless telephone services will probably be controlled the same way as VOIP is -- namely through SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). Voice content may continue to be transported through the older GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), but the control system will look like SIP. By 2010, most system architectures will be Internet-oriented.

IDGNS: And how pervasive will the Net be by the end of this decade?

Cerf: I expect to see a lot of household appliances on the Net by 2010, as well as autos and other mobile devices. We'll see many new businesses growing up around the ability to control appliances and use geographically indexed databases. Movie distribution may very well have migrated fully to digital form by then, making a huge dent in the need to print film and physically distribute content.

IDGNS: You are a founding member of "Scientists and Engineers for Change," a high-profile political group including 10 Nobel laureates and a former National Science Foundation director. The group is highly critical of U.S. President George Bush and his administration's handling of science, particularly in the area of stem cell research. How concerned should voters be?

Cerf: There has been a substitution of ideology for fact and scientific and engineering data in this administration. I find that alarming, frankly. We live in a very complex world. If you need to understand it to make policy, you should turn first to people who are scientists and engineers for factual information. If you're not willing to accept that information and base all your decisions on ideological principles, you run the risk of steering in directions that are not realistic. My reaction to a lot of the current situation that we're in is based in part on a serious concern that the present administration's course ignores reality.

IDGNS: Why, in your opinion, has President Bush decided not to listen to technology experts?

Cerf: I can't read the man's mind so I don't know. Some people think that his ideological views cover everything. If you read some of the comments from scientists on Web sites sponsored by the government, there is deep concern that these comments have been edited according to ideological perspectives -- they've been given the litmus test, so to speak. I consider these indicators to be pretty alarming.

IDGNS: Is Bush's major challenger John F. Kerry any different?

Cerf: Kerry shows substantially more willingness to take input from these quarters. He has been very clear about his intent that if elected, he will position the science advisor where this position has been in past. He has made a point of paying attention to scientific input. His comments on stem cell research, for example, illustrate this. Another four years of the present administration doesn't look wise. Kerry and (his vice presidential running mate) John Edwards are prepared to steer in a course that seems to be more capable of taking input, forming judgments and, in particular, changing the course when necessary.
John Blau is Dusseldorf correspondent for the IDG News Service.

Posted by jmellicant at 03:08 PM

Two Nobel scientists campaign for 'change'

The Sentinel

By Kristin Wilson, October 23, 2004

Two Nobel Prize-winning scientists visited Penn State Dickinson School of Law Friday to encourage people to vote on what they believe are critical election issues.

They are campaigning to increase awareness about scientific issues, including stem cell research.

"We see the Bush administration making important decisions in a totally nonscientific way," says Dr. Harold Varmus, who won a Nobel Prize in 1989 for studies surrounding the genetic basis of cancer. He is now president and chief executive officer of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Varmus and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Sidney Altman belong to "Scientists and Engineers For Change," formed to show the impact the 2004 presidential election could have on the future of U.S. science and technology. More than a dozen scientists will be visiting swing states leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

"We can tell that the process is wrong," Varmus says. "This administration is exerting its weight in ways that are tremendously inappropriate. We can't afford another four years."

'Denial of facts'

Varmus, who served as director of the National Institutes of Health under former President Bill Clinton, says he's witnessed a "real denial in facts" when the current administration tackles scientific issues.

He claims there is a general unwillingness to weigh all scientific viewpoints on critical issues.

Altman says he shares this view, particularly when it comes to stem cell research.

"What I'm worried about is a movement to cut off research in a basic area of investigation," says the 1989 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry. Altman is currently the Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University. "We have the freedom to investigate these questions as much as we want."

Altman says scientists and researchers are only starting to understand stem cells and what could potentially be gained by understanding how life-forming cells work.

Altman and Varmus say the Bush administration is trying to cut off all future research in this area and stifling the scientific environment in the U.S.

President Bush "talks about balancing science and ethics, but there is no balance," says Altman. "We've never had anyone try to outlaw questions of investigation of scientific fact."

2 sources of cells

Stem cell research involves the dissection of human embryos, which some people equate to abortion. Altman says these stem cells are "undifferentiated," meaning they have not yet formed into any of the 200 types of cells found in the human body. Bush's policy limits federal funding for this stem cell research to lines in existence as of three years ago.

Other stem cells are found in human bone marrow.

Altman and Varmus spoke to a crowd of about 100, including law school students and professors, Dickinson College students and members of the community. The speech was also broadcast to an audience of about 100 at Penn State Hershey Medical School.

Many in the audience say there seems to be little public knowledge of the scientific principles behind controversial issues such as stem cell research. Some say they attended Friday's lecture in an attempt to learn more about how the issue plays into politics.

"I thought the information was illuminating," says Penn State Harrisburg professor Meg Jaster. She says although she is a Catholic, she believes it's important to look at issues based on critical information, not just emotional responses. She says the presidential candidates have dealt with many scientific issues only with an emotional reaction.

"A lot of people take a stand about stem cell research, but they're kind of ignorant about what actually is being done," says Dickinson College student Annelies Rhodes.

'Not a moral issue'

Stem cell research "is not a moral issue," Altman says. "President Bush thinks it's a moral issue, but it's not."

The Bush administration is not alone in its concerns about stem cell research. The political, scientific, religious and social implications have been debated around the world.

Yet understanding such cells could lead to effective treatment for diabetes, heart disease and spinal-cord injuries.

This week, actor Christopher Reeve's widow, Dana, joined Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for a campaign speech to support Kerry's intention to expand federally-funded embryonic stem cell research.

Reeve became an advocate of spinal cord research, including looser restrictions on stem cell research, after a horse riding accident left him a quadriplegic for the last nine years of his life.

Altman and Varmus say regardless of religious or political beliefs, it's important for the American people to consider the scientific discovery process and how they want science to be developed in years to come.

© 2004 The Sentinel.

Posted by jmellicant at 10:59 AM

October 21, 2004

The Scientist: Scientists vow to vote out Bush

The Scientist

Still, despite press coverage of vocal opponents, there are Bush supporters among scientists

By Eugene Russo

RICHMOND, VA—If you've been following news coverage of how scientists plan to vote in this year's presidential election, you might be forgiven for thinking that many—if not most—are doing everything they can to unseat George Bush.

There's the Bush administration's stance on embryonic stem cell research, which many scientists say is too restrictive. And there's the scientific review process and the appointment process for those scientists who serve on committees. Speaking at an October 13 talk here at Virginia Commonwealth University sponsored by Scientists and Engineers for Change, Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach said that the administration has "put a political clamp" on the research enterprise with a "Soviet-style" handling of science policy. The group, many of whose members were among 48 Nobel Prize winners who signed a July letter supporting Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for president, has been hosting such meetings around the country in which speakers express various anti-Bush sentiments. Groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have issued reports condemning how the Bush administration has tackled science.

But is science really united against Bush? It appears not, based on a look through publicly available records at www.opensecrets.org that suggest that a number of scientists and engineers have donated to the Bush campaign. But being conservative in the typically liberal environs of academia can be difficult, especially for younger, less established scientists, according to Bush supporter William Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton University.

"If you look around you, you'll see that you're surrounded basically by the power structure of the Democratic Party," Happer told The Scientist, noting that he's not worried what colleagues think of his views at this late stage of his career. His top concern for this election is the war on terrorism, which he believes Bush will handle much better than Kerry.

Assistant professor of physics David Casper at the University of California, Irvine, a Bush supporter, recalls one incident in which a conversation with a senior colleague and the colleague's wife turned to the 2000 presidential election. A disagreement quickly became an uncomfortable and heated debate. Casper's political leanings have relatively little to do with science policy, he said, though he lauded Bush's funding for education and the accountability and performance measures that have been implemented.

Happer, a member of the Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Panel, suggested that the charges from the UCS and Nobel Laureates are largely overblown and out of context. He said that some scientists, who've garnered a sort of "deity complex" based on their scientific achievements, take their role to be akin to Plato's "philosopher kings," wise advisors who would tell citizens how to live. "They're extremely upset when the Bush administration doesn't call in the philosopher kings to be told what to do," he said.

"You are hearing a subsection," said Arizona State University infectious disease researcher and Bush supporter Charles Arntzen of the recent criticisms from scientists. "You are hearing a group that has an axe to grind." Arntzen said he believes that the more liberal fields, like biomedicine, typically generate complaints.

Richard Barke, an associate professor of public policy at Georgia Tech who specializes in science and technology, along with colleagues, and funded by the Department of Energy, has conducted as-yet unpublished surveys of scientists that support the stereotype: biologists tended to be more ideologically liberal than physicists, engineers, and to some degree chemists, as well as more cautious about imposing risk on people without their consent. Of the Nobel Laureates who signed the Kerry endorsement, 12 won their prize for chemistry, 17 won it for medicine, and 19 won it for physics.

Arntzen suggested that this election cycle's complaints from scientists are neither surprising nor unprecedented, but are unusual in their intensity. Noting that many scientists are part of a high financial stakes biotechnology constituency, he attributes the elevated level of criticism to the fact that science has become more of a big business, with more grants and jobs on the line.

A member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Arntzen said that many of the complaints from the UCS and others involve little more than the minutiae of science policy—e.g., whether or not an individual should serve on an advisory panel. More important issues should be the focus, he said—for example, whether the Department of Homeland Security is getting too much funding, or whether nanotechnology is not getting enough.

And other critics write off the scientists' activities as the re-emerging partisan politics of traditionally liberal university departments. Former Congressman Robert Walker, who spoke on behalf of the Bush campaign at a recent American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) science policy debate, said he does not see scientists' efforts this election cycle as particularly unusual, noting position statements by prominent scientists in the 1992 and 2000 elections. Barke notes other historical examples, including groups of scientists who officially opposed the Vietnam War and Star Wars missile defense systems.

Suggesting that protests from scientists are more related to politics than to science, Walker cautioned at an AAAS debate last month that the explicit involvement of scientists in political discourse could lead to a "pushback." "If you've discredited yourself in the political arena, you've also discredited yourself in your ability to give the public a clear view of science," he said. "Simply because you're an award-winning scientist doesn't give you license to be factually incorrect when you engage in the political process." When asked whether he was suggesting that scientists' grants would come under closer scrutiny if they publicly opposed Bush, Walker said that he doesn't believe there is a "cause-and-effect relationship between political participation and potential loss of funding."

David Guston, a Rutgers University assistant professor of public policy who specializes in science policy, says that the recent outrage from scientists regarding over the so-called politicization of science is disingenuous. "Science is shot through, top to bottom with politics," he said, in everything from decisions about billions in funding to the votes on tenure committees.

But Bush opponents say there is something different about this election, and they note that some of the Scientists and Engineers for Change are Republicans or Independents. "It's true that all the things we've seen happened here and there in other administrations, but not with this prevalence or this intensity or in this multitude," said UCS chair and Cornell emeritus professor of physics Kurt Gottfried at a University of California, Berkeley, symposium sponsored by the group. What sets this election year's science policy gripes apart, he said, is scientists' concern not just for particular policies within one's field of expertise, but a general worry about a pattern of abuses across several fields. "The abuses they're concerned about are infractions of the ethics of science," he said. "And that unites people in all kinds of scientific disciplines."

"I know these guys," Harvard professor of chemistry and Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach told The Scientist at the talk here, referring to the list of 48 Nobel laureates. "They're not wild-eyed radicals. But it's easy for politicians to characterize them any way they want because the public doesn't know them."
Links for this article
A. Harding, "US stem cell rules loosening?" The Scientist, May 20, 2004.

T. Agres, "NAS probes politics, science," The Scientist, July 22, 2004.

M. Anderson, "Bush dismisses council members," The Scientist, March 3, 2004.

Scientists and Engineers for Change

"48 Nobel Laureates endorse John Kerry: An open letter to the American people," June 21, 2004.

Union of Concerned Scientists, Scientific Integrity in Policymaking, February 2004.
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_environment/rsi/page.cfm?pageID=13 22

Open Secrets

Bush Science: Forum on the Bush Administration's Science Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism, October 12, 2004

Posted by jmellicant at 04:09 PM

October 18, 2004

Newsweek: Stem Cell Division


In this razor-thin election, the arcane subject of embryonic-stem-cell research has rallied lawmakers, scientists, patients, celebrities—and the candidates. The issue may cause some voters to swing

By Claudia Kalb and Debra Rosenberg

Oct. 25 issue - Stem cells may not have been the highlight of last week's presidential debate, but there in the front row, wedged between Teresa Heinz Kerry and Kerry's daughter Vanessa, sat a person who stands for the power of science better than words ever could: Michael J. Fox. Diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991 and visibly ailing, Fox is a staunch supporter of stem-cell research and has, in recent weeks, become Sen. John Kerry's ambassador for the cause. It didn't bother Fox that the subject barely came up or that his presence was largely symbolic. "I'm happy I could do it. If anyone saw me there, they know that the issue is important to [Kerry]," he told NEWSWEEK. A political junkie who watches C-Span as if it were reality TV, Fox was thrilled to have a ringside seat. He even had some fun: when Vanessa leaned over to tell Fox she was "trying to be Zen" as her father and President George W. Bush went after each other on jobs, the economy and health care, Fox put his hands into the lotus position and said, "Om."

Watching Fox, it was impossible not to think of Christopher Reeve, who died last week at the age of 52. A tireless advocate for stem-cell research—"Superman in a wheelchair," as one friend called him—Reeve's death refocused attention on an issue that has mobilized celebrities, activists, scientists, politicians and even regular folks who barely remember their high-school biology. Human embryonic stem cells, capable of morphing into any one of the more than 200 cell types in the human body, have become a wedge issue in a razor-thin election. For months the Kerry campaign has put biology front and center, vowing to overturn Bush's current stem-cell policy. In a radio address over the weekend, Kerry paid tribute to Reeve as a hero and friend, then charged the president with making "the wrong choice to sacrifice science for extreme right-wing ideology." The White House has been firmly fighting back, with Laura Bush, whose father has Alzheimer's, on the front lines. "Stem-cell research doesn't offer a cure right around the corner, and it's irresponsible to suggest that it does," she told a crowd in Milwaukee earlier this month. The president says his policy is a balance of science and ethics. That pleases social conservatives, who are firmly anti-abortion and adamantly opposed to research on embryos, even if they're manufactured in a petri dish. (According to a NEWSWEEK Poll, just over half of all Bush-Cheney supporters oppose using federal tax dollars to fund embryonic-stem-cell research.) For both camps, the phrase "stem cells" is about more than science: it's code for some of the most loaded vernacular of the culture war.

Embryonic-stem-cell research, while still in its infancy, has the potential to treat or perhaps even cure the more than 100 million Americans who suffer an array of illnesses and conditions, from heart disease to spinal-cord injuries. Scientists say the cells could be one of the greatest revolutions in modern medicine—and half of American voters support using taxpayer dollars to fund the research, according to the NEWSWEEK Poll. But because the cells are derived from days-old human embryos, the science raises thorny ethics questions, key among them: should taxpayers fund the research? As scientists and stem-cell activists push the envelope, the stakes only continue to grow. Last week Harvard researchers reported that they had applied for university permission to clone human embryos to study models of human disease like diabetes and Alzheimer's. Across the country in California, stem cells are the topic of dinner conversation and Hollywood cocktail parties, as supporters rally for votes on an initiative—on the Nov. 2 ballot—that would fund $3 billion worth of stem-cell research, creating a haven for science and a 21st-century gold rush for biologists and biotech companies.

The stem-cell issue is so divisive it has created opponents of those who would otherwise be allies. In the Reagan family, one brother, Michael, is an evangelical Christian ardently opposed to embryonic-stem-cell research; the other, Ron Jr., believes so strongly in the science he risked the wrath of his father's Republican Party by appearing at the Democratic National Convention to fire up support for research. Lesser knowns like Jim Kelly, 47 and paralyzed in a car accident seven years ago, hasn't voted since he was 18; this year he'll vote for Bush. A vocal opponent of embryonic-stem-cell research, Kelly believes the Democrats are spreading false hope among patients. Paul Bryant, meanwhile, a 56-year-old disabled by a rare neuromuscular disease and a registered independent in Cincinnati, will swing to Kerry—and he's taking 18 other family members, including his dyed-in-the-wool Republican father, George, 77, along with him. Ideology, he says, has no place in science.

Just a few miles away, in Liberty Township, Ohio, Lora Melin is the undecided voter both camps are after. A registered independent, she pulled the lever for Bush in 2000, but this year she's not so sure. The reason: her daughter, Maggie, 4, suffers from juvenile diabetes. Ten to 15 times a day, Maggie's blood sugar must be checked. And the little blond ballerina has to wear a portable insulin pump, which delivers insulin through a tube inserted into her abdomen or lower back. She carries the device to preschool in a fanny pack decorated with yellow and green ladybugs. "I wake up every morning and wonder if she's alive," says Melin. "We need the funds and we need the research."

For months John Kerry has been putting the heat on the stem-cell issue. On June 21, the very day 48 Nobel Prize-winning scientists endorsed the candidate, Kerry appeared at a rally in Denver, where he was introduced by Chris Chappell, 40, a registered Republican—and a quadriplegic advocating for stem-cell research. Thousands turned out in a drizzle to hear Kerry pledge to advance embryonic-stem-cell research. "What if we could cure cancer, Parkinson's, AIDS and Alzheimer's?" he said. Early on, Kerry aides thought stem cells would be too arcane an issue, but they discovered they were wrong: from Seattle to Appleton, Wis., the stem-cell lingo has triggered huge applause, as much as—sometimes more than—the topic of Iraq.

Since the Democratic National Convention in July, when Kerry branded embryonic stem cells with his political monogram, the campaign has compiled a database of 2,000 people who promise to make lots of noise about stem cells in their communities. In Pennsylvania, Richard Arvdon, whose daughter has juvenile diabetes, calls constituents who are sick or who have ailing family members and asks them, "Do you realize what the implication of the election is?" Even scientists are getting political: a group called Scientists and Engineers for Change, many of them Nobelists, are traveling to swing states to educate voters on issues from climate control to, yes, stem-cell research.

The furor over stem cells started soon after President Bush's August 2001 decision to restrict federal funding to embryonic-stem-cell lines that had already been created. A registry was set up at the National Institutes of Health, and the clusters of cells, derived from frozen embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics, could be shipped, for about $5,000, to scientists who wanted to study them. Initially the decision was viewed as a compromise, acceptable even to some scientists. But it soon became clear that the majority of the 78 lines touted by the government were unavailable; the final tally, says the NIH, is closer to 23. The lines also lack genetic diversity, and because they were grown in mouse "feeders" or cultures, they carry a risk of viral contamination. Scientists have angrily complained that their hands are tied; sick patients and groups like the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research have knocked down doors on Capitol Hill; celebrities have testified on behalf of the science, and legislators on both sides of the aisle have called on the president to relax his restrictions. "There is no greater way to promote life than to find a way to defeat death and disease," says pro-life Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. "Stem-cell research may provide a way to do that."

Bush has stayed firm and in recent weeks his campaign has been on the attack. The day Kerry appeared with Michael J. Fox at a town-hall meeting on stem cells in New Hampshire, the Bush team released a memo titled "Embryonic Stem Cell Misinformation," lambasting Kerry's use of the word "ban," when Bush's policy has actually provided more than $35 million for embryonic-stem-cell research so far. Just last week the campaign sent its favorite doctor, Sen. Bill Frist, into battle. Frist attacked a statement made by vice presidential candidate John Edwards ("If we do the work that we can do in this country ... people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again") as "crass" and "opportunistic." The promise of stem cells is hyped, he added. The Bush camp emphasizes that the president supports the research, as long as no more embryos are destroyed. "The government of the United States cannot just worship at the altar of science," says one White House aide. "We have other things to take into account."

Not a single person has yet been cured by embryonic stem cells, but the early science is tantalizing. If you're a rat with an animal variety of Parkinson's, embryonic mouse stem cells might help: after injecting these cells into rat brains, researchers at the NIH in 2002 found that they began to produce dopamine—the key neurotransmitter missing in Parkinson's patients. At the University of California Reeve-Irvine Research Center, Hans Keirstead is helping rats with spinal-cord injuries. Keirstead will report at a scientific conference next week that he coaxed human embryonic stem cells into highly purified brain cells called oligodendrocytes, then injected them into rodents with bruised spines. After nine weeks the rats regained their ability to walk and run. The results are both "thrilling and humbling," says Keirstead. "The humbling part is that the cells are so incredibly powerful."

Bush's policy limits the use of federal funds to create new embryonic lines, but it doesn't bar scientists from using private money. Already, that support is paying off. In March, Harvard researcher Doug Melton announced the creation of 17 new lines of cells from IVF embryos, almost doubling the NIH stockpile. His money came not from the government, but from Harvard, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Now he wants to create more lines through therapeutic cloning to study genetic diseases. At the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Susan Fisher says she's created human embryonic stem cells from human, rather than mouse, feeders—eliminating contamination concerns and taking scientists closer to clinical trials in people. Fisher's funding? A joint $800,000 investment from the University of California and the biotech company Geron.

Fisher and other scientists say the infusion of private money is indispensable, but it will never fill the gaps in funding created by the Bush restrictions. Relying on private money is "like saying we could open the public schools from 10 to 10:15, but you're welcome to send your kids to private schools," says Nobel Prize winner Dr. Peter Agre, of Johns Hopkins. If the president is truly worried about the ethics implications of embryonic-stem-cell research, these scientists wonder, wouldn't he want to keep it under the watchful eye of federal oversight and peer review? (The private sector can and should keep tabs on research, responds NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni.) Without more federal money, stem-cell scientists worry further that they'll lose some of the brightest young minds to less controversial fields of research—and that their most accomplished colleagues will follow others overseas.

Some stem-cell scientists may decide to go West. On Election Day, California residents will vote on Proposition 71, by far the boldest and most ambitious endorsement of stem-cell research in the nation. Designed to sidestep Bush's funding restrictions, the initiative was organized by California real-estate mogul Robert Klein and a glittering bipartisan coalition of Hollywood and Silicon Valley activists. On the lineup: producers Doug Wick and Jerry Zucker, Bill Gates and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. If Prop 71 passes (latest polls say 45 percent of voters favor it, 39 percent are opposed), it would provide $3 billion in state taxpayer money for research on any kind of stem cell, be it embryonic or the far less controversial—and, scientists argue, less malleable—adult stem cell. The $3 billion fund easily dwarfs even the $100 million pledged by Kerry.

At the heart of the stem-cell furor is the most fundamental question: what is a human life and when does life begin? Even Roman Catholics like Frank Cocozzelli, who has muscular dystrophy and is founder of the Committee for the Advancement of Stem Cell Research, says embryos that would otherwise be discarded should be salvaged for life: "There's no dignity in watching people die unnecessarily." Mary Tyler Moore, a pro-life Republican and international chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, equates using leftover embryos for research to organ donation. Chris Chappell frames the dilemma in a simple way: "For me, an embryo is not a human embryo until it's placed in a woman's womb. That's when it has the potential to become life." This year Chappell will vote Democratic for the first time.

For religious hard-liners—the base Bush dares not alienate—it's a black-and-white issue. There is no justification for tampering with embryos. Ever. And now, with news that Harvard scientists want to pursue therapeutic cloning, the alarm bells—and fears of "human embryo farms!"—are sounding louder. Although scientists draw a line between therapeutic cloning for research and cloning of human beings, which they expressly oppose, that distinction is irrelevant to Richard Doerflinger, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "There are elements to this agenda that make it even more serious than abortion," says Doerflinger. "You have the prospect of creating lives just to destroy them." Bishops can't endorse candidates from the pulpit, but the Conference has produced a booklet, circulated to thousands of parishes, that outlines the church's position on embryonic research.

Kerry supports therapeutic cloning; Bush opposes it. If elected, Kerry would lift restrictions on federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research. White House aides say Bush has no plans to change his stand. Heather Bace, whose 2-year-old son has juvenile diabetes, doesn't know what to do. "I've always been a staunch conservative Republican, but I'm undecided because of this issue," says Bace. "I would give my arms, legs and my brain to get this kid healthy. If Kerry can make it happen a little bit faster, I may just be persuaded." Once inside the voting booth, Bace will be alone with her political loyalty and her love for her child. As the election draws near, both candidates know they're fighting for a piece of her heart.

With Susannah Meadows, Karen Breslau, Julie Scelfo, Karen Springen, Joan Raymond and Holly Bailey

© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.

Posted by jmellicant at 03:12 PM

October 15, 2004

Scientists say Bush distorts knowledge to advance political agenda

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Thursday, October 14, 2004

by John Mangels, Plain Dealer Science Writer

Nearly lost in the campaign clamor over Iraq, the economy and the presidential candidates' Vietnam service, many of the nation's scientists are charging that the Bush administration has misused science to advance its political agenda.

More than 5,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel Prize winners and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences, have signed a letter calling on the president to end "the distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends." Some of the most prominent researchers, Republican and Democrat, recently formed a so-called "527" advocacy group to alert the public about their concerns.

The scientists cite such examples as censoring government reports on climate change and global warming, disregarding scientific assessments that raised doubt about Iraq's nuclear weapons capability, and favoring industry representatives over qualified scientists on government advisory panels.

"This level of political interference in the scientific advisory process, right from the White House in some cases, is unprecedented," said Lawrence Krauss, chairman of the physics department at Case Western Reserve University. "In many cases they've shown an unwillingness to let facts get in the way of what they thought was right."

Krauss, an author and lecturer who champions science literacy causes, has invited three Nobel laureates to speak in Cleveland Friday at a public seminar called "The Bush Administration and Scientific Integrity."

Representatives of the administration and the president's sre-election campaign have dismissed the scientists' complaints as either misinterpretation of the facts or partisan carping. They insist that Bush is pro-science.

"I can't see real difference between this administration and other administrations in the interface between science and politics," John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in an interview with Plain Dealer reporters and editors this summer.

"I do think it's important to listen to outstanding scientists when they have concerns," Marburger said. "What I hear are a lot of fairly disconnected things. The big objection I have towards this sort of sweeping conclusion . . . is I think it's sort of a conspiracy theory approach to everything going wrong in science."

In a comment that some participants at a recent Washington, D.C., science issues forum found threatening, lobbyist Bob Walker, representing the Bush campaign, said scientists who become political activists will reap political consequences.

"A lot of scientists who come out of the academic community come out of institutions that have a heavily liberal bias," said Walker, former chairman of the House Science Committee, which has jurisdiction over the government's science-related agencies and budgets. "I don't doubt that their politics and so forth reflects not only their judgment about science, but sometimes their personal politics inside of academia. Science does itself a disservice when it mixes those two things in a way that can engender a push-back at some point."

Though some of the scientists calling for reform have declared support for Democratic challenger John Kerry, several insist that their concerns transcend partisan politics. They also stress that their numbers include Republicans and Democrats, and people who in the past have shunned overtly political causes.

"This happens to be a Republican administration. I like to think that we'd be doing exactly the same thing if it was a Democratic administration," said Krauss, who has been a consultant to the Kerry campaign on science issues and is a founding member of the new 527 organization Scientists and Engineers for Change.

"Science isn't Republican or Democrat," Krauss said. "You can interpret it. You can say other issues are more important. But one has to be honest. This is about scientific integrity."

Leon Lederman, director emeritus of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois and winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for physics, said he followed scientific principles to conclude that the Bush administration is mishandling science in its policy-making.

"The more aware you are of your prejudices, the more objective the experiment must be, with all kinds of built-in safety features that prevent you from tilting the pinball machine," Lederman said via e-mail. "I want to do everything possible to avoid a second term for Bush. Having confessed to my bias, I had to insist that we have a very strong case. And I have a rich choice of examples of the 'policy first, then science' methodology in this administration."

The two examples Bush's critics cite most involve stem cells and Iraq's nuclear situation.

When Bush announced in 2001 that he would allow federal funding only for research that used existing colonies of embryonic stem cells rather than creating new ones, citing ethical and moral concerns, he said there were more than 60 such colonies, an adequate supply. There are only about 20, and researchers say some of those have problems such as contamination.

Regarding Iraq, Bush built his case for a pre-emptive war in part on that country's nuclear threat, claiming along with other senior administration officials that Iraq had attempted to obtain 60,000 aluminum tubes used in the process of enriching uranium to weapons-grade quality. That assessment came from the CIA.

The president's critics say he and other senior officials had access to but disregarded reports from technical experts at two of the government's own nuclear weapons laboratories, the State Department's intelligence branch, and a consultant for the International Atomic Energy Agency, all of whom disagreed with the CIA and said the aluminum tubes, which Iraq apparently never got, were intended for short-range artillery rockets, not for making nuclear bombs.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit watchdog group, contends those examples are part of a broad and systemic pattern by the Bush administration of ignoring, manipulating or censoring scientific information that clashes with the president's policies. UCS has issued two detailed reports this year documenting its claims, and is responsible for the letter signed to date by more than 5,000 scientists.

A report last year by the minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform, commissioned by Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman of California, had similar findings.

"The Bush administration repeatedly suppressed, distorted or obstructed science to suit political and ideological goals," the committee wrote. "These actions go far beyond the traditional influence presidents are permitted to wield at federal agencies and compromise the integrity of scientific policy-making.

Marburger, the president's science adviser, countered with his own report defending the administration's use of scientific information and addressing the Union of Concerned Scientists' charges point by point.

Copyright 2004 cleveland.com

Posted by jmellicant at 11:21 AM

October 08, 2004

Anti-Bush Bandwagon Rolling, but Does it Matter?

Inter Press Service News Agency

by Marty Logan

MONTREAL, Oct 7 (IPS) - Add the names of some of the most honoured ''brains'' in the United States to the rock & rollers and billionaires who have launched tours designed to beat President George W. Bush in November's election.

The scientists who include five Nobel Prize winners have assembled under the banner Scientists and Engineers for Change, ''to ensure that public policy issues affected by science and technology are widely discussed, and to mobilise the nation's scientists and engineers to participate in the political process,'' according to a news release.

Their lecture tour of 10 states where the race between the Republican Party's Bush and Democrat Senator John Kerry is tightest began last week, just days before Bruce Springsteen launched an all-star team of new and old musicians on a series of concerts in some of the same states.

By all accounts the race ahead of the Nov. 2 vote is too close to call in about a dozen key states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

The scientists set off on tour about the time that billionaire George Soros announced he will pump more money (for a total of 18 million dollars) into defeating Bush, and himself depart on a speaking tour of ''battleground'' states in the final weeks of the campaign.

This week, Michael Moore's Cannes Film Festival prize-winning, anti-Bush documentary 'Fahrenheit 9/11' was released for home rental, adding another spoke to the wheel of the growing, rolling anti-Bush bandwagon.

But does it all matter? Or will this election see a repeat of the irregularities that occurred in Florida four years ago, but on a larger scale in numerous states?

Spoiled ballots, names incorrectly taken off voting lists and other events in Florida meant that ''widespread voter disenfranchisement -- not the dead-heat contest -- was the extraordinary feature,'' according to a 2001 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Political scientist Robert C. Smith doubts that deceit will determine the outcome next month, but says his students buy into the notion that even the U.S. presidential election can be ''bought.''

''There's a widespread belief among young people and among African- Americans of all ages that Bush is not going to lose the election, that his (people) are not going to let him lose in Florida, for example. And so it really does not matter whether you vote or not,'' says Smith, a professor at San Francisco State University in California.

''And I don't think that's accurate, and I try to discourage that kind of thinking,'' he adds in an interview. ''People also were very confused about the electoral college (where, actually, the votes are cast for president, by the 'electors' chosen on voting day) and how a person who lost there could actually win; and the Supreme Court's decision (about Florida last time) is actually inexplicable to some.''

''I think (all) that has led to a kind of cynicism, an increased cynicism, just about the process -- not about the candidates or the issues -- the process of counting votes'' for example, says Smith.

Last week former Democratic president Jimmy Carter, now head of the Carter Centre international human rights body, wrote that Florida still lacked key mechanisms to ensure a fair vote.

Most significantly missing: ''a non-partisan electoral commission or a trusted and nonpartisan official who will be responsible for organising and conducting the electoral process before, during and after the actual voting takes place,'' said Carter in the Washington Post.

Also lacking in Florida, he claimed, is ''uniformity in voting procedures, so that all citizens, regardless of their social or financial status, have equal assurance that their votes are cast in the same way and will be tabulated with equal accuracy.''

''With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida,'' added Carter, whose group has monitored more than 50 elections worldwide but will not oversee November's vote there.

One organisation that will be monitoring the U.S. polls is the office for democratic institutions and human rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe, which was invited by the Bush administration to witness the vote.

After a pre-election mission to the United States in September it noted ''concerns expressed with regard to the right to vote, and the possibility that this right may not be evenly applied or protected throughout the country.''

Among the issues the office raised were the growing use of electronic voting machines, many of which do not allow for a manual audit and recount, and inconsistencies in the workings of a new 'provisional ballot' designed for people whose names are not on a voters' list.

The office also said it received submissions about declining voter participation resulting from ''inaccurate voter registers, purges of the register intended to remove ex-felons in some states, which may also de-register persons with no criminal record, inaccurate voter information and cases of voter intimidation.''

Smith believes extra scrutiny of this election by U.S. and other bodies makes it unlikely that what he calls ''mishaps'' will occur this year on as large a scale as in 2000.

''I know the Democratic Party and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) plan in various parts of the country to field a very large number of poll watchers and lawyers, so if anything is observed untoward, they plan to go directly to Federal Court,'' says the professor.

In Ohio state voters will see monitors inside and outside of every polling station, says Dan Kozminski of the Citizen's Alliance for Secure Elections (CASE).

His group lobbied hard so that no county in the northern state would adopt electronic voting machines that do not leave a paper trail. CASE succeeded, so in November all counties will use a previous voting method, mostly punch cards or optical scanners (which detect the mark made on a ballot with pen or pencil).

''We're very pleased with that, but it's only part of the battle,'' Kozminski told IPS. CASE is now opposing rules that prevented potential voters from registering unless they submitted their form on paper of a particular weight.

Another regulation would reject provisional ballots issued to a voter in a precinct that was not their ''home'' precinct. CASE says this rule violates federal law; the dispute will be heard in court next week.

''There are all kind of attempts to suppress the vote,'' says Kozminski. ''I am truly truly truly disappointed with a lot of our election officials...who have not taken their jobs seriously enough and don't realise that voting is the bedrock of our democracy.''

''I for one would question their motives,'' he adds. ''The question is: are people going to feel that it's not worthwhile voting?'' Kozminski suggests, optimistically, ''there will be a lot more watchful eyes out there (this year) and I think that's going to hearten some people.'' (END/2004)

Posted by jmellicant at 11:24 PM

October 06, 2004

Scientists and Engineers for Change

The Nation

by Katrina vanden Heuvel

They may not be as hot as Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, the Dixie Chicks and other musicians participating in the "Vote for Change" concert tour launching next month in swing states, but the newly-formed group, Scientists and Engineers for Change, plans to harness its formidable brainpower to make the case that Bush has manipulated and politicized science in dangerous and unprecedented ways.

Like their musical counterparts, these scientists--ten of them are Nobel Prize winners--will crisscross the battleground states to argue against a Bush election. They won't be singing or playing guitar but they will be educating voters about the threat a second Bush term poses for honest scientific inquiry in the 21st century. The group, which has no ties to the Kerry campaign, includes a registered Republican and several scientists who are not members of the Democratic Party.

As Nobel prize winner Dr. Douglas Osheroff put it, "I have never played a significant role in politics, but we must begin to address climate change now. To do so, we must have an Administration that listens to the scientific community, not one that manipulates and minimizes scientific output." In case, you needed to be reminded of the key elements of Bush's war on science, please click here to check out my weblog of last July 20.

Posted by jmellicant at 02:50 PM

Remembering Our History


In the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, historian Peter J. Kuznick has a must-read essay about the last election in which scientists got heavily mobilized. The year was 1964, and a vast number of leading American scientists decried Republican candidate Barry Goldwater for his nuclear bluster, which they considered a grave danger to the world. Most notably, many of the original makers of the A-bomb aligned against a political candidate they feared might use it. Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey had a powerful impact on the election and Goldwater's resounding defeat.

Fast forward to the present. Although Kuznick does not seem to agree, I would say that we find scientists more electorally motivated today than they've been since 1964. Granted, the issues are very different. Scientists are angry about embryonic stem cell research and climate change, as well as the administration's disregard for their expertise. Nuclear weapons policy provides part of the impetus for scientists' discontent, but only a small part.

What difference will it make this time? Well, I doubt that scientists today could have the same impact that they had in 1964. For one thing, I don't think America regards its its scientific community with the same sort of awe that it did during the early Cold War. We tend to distrust scientists more, and put them on a pedestal less.

Nevertheless, given the mobilization of usually quiescent scientists, 2004 does present a strong analogy with 1964. And Scientists and Engineers for Change are trying to make the most of the opportunity. It remains to be seen whether their activities will have any substantial effect. Next week I'll be in Ohio, attending this "S&E4C" event, and will report back my thoughts on whether it had any impact.

Posted by jmellicant at 02:47 PM

October 05, 2004

Presidential Candidates Speak Out on Science Policies

PhysicsToday.org 10-05-2004

During the 2000 presidential election, in that time before the September 11th terrorist attacks, the stump speeches of George W. Bush and his Democratic opponent, Al Gore, focused on protecting Social Security, saving American education, expanding Medicare, raising or lowering taxes, and readying the military. If science was mentioned at all, it was usually in the context of missile defense, global warming, or Gore's role in creating the internet.

With the exception of the debate over stem?cell research, science remains a background topic in the current campaign. Democratic candidate John Kerry has occasionally highlighted US science policy and used it against President Bush, charging that the administration has put politics and ideology ahead of science. "Let scientists do science again," a headline on the Kerry election website says.

Bush has responded, primarily through his science adviser, John Marburger, by pointing to the 44% increase in federal R&D since fiscal year 2001 and the record $132 billion in the administration's FY 2005 R&D budget. "Kerry ignores President Bush's record science investments," reads a headline on the Bush reelection website.

Kerry answers by noting that most of the R&D money is going for weapons systems and defense spending related to the war in Iraq, not basic science programs. Marburger and other administration officials point to several R&D initiatives, including new nanotechnology centers, the Moon/Mars space initiative, and the program to develop hydrogen fuel technology.

In an effort to get the candidates to specifically address questions of interest to the science community, Physics Today has continued a tradition begun in 1976; it asked Bush and Kerry nine questions covering a range of science topics. Their answers, sometimes direct and sometimes vague, show fundamental differences on several key issues.

On missile defense, Bush says his request of $10 billion in FY 2005 for development and deployment of such a system fulfills a pledge he made to the American people. Kerry says we should not be "falsely comforted by an untested and unproven defense system."

On global warming, Kerry talks of both near— and long?term programs to deal with the problem. Bush promotes his "comprehensive climate change strategy." The candidates also address a host of other issues ranging from space exploration to energy policy.
Jim Dawson

1. Missile defense: The present administration is requesting more than $10 billion this year for development and deployment of a missile defense system. Many scientists say the system, given current and foreseeable technology, cannot be effective. What proof of effectiveness should be required before the system is fully deployed? Given the low?tech nature of terrorist attacks and the limited missile capabilities of North Korea and other hostile nations, does missile defense continue to be a wise investment?

Bush Our policy is to develop and deploy, at the earliest possible date, a weapons system that would defend the United States homeland against nuclear attack, including ballistic missile defenses drawing on the best technologies available. Early in my administration, I called for the examination of the full range of available technologies and basing modes for missile defenses that could protect the United States, our deployed forces, and our friends and allies.

The FY 2005 Defense Appropriations Act provides $10 billion that I requested for systems to defend against the threat from ballistic missiles. Later this year, the first components of America's missile defense system will become operational, and we are on schedule for the next stages of the project. My administration will develop and deploy the technologies necessary to protect our people, fulfilling a pledge I made to the American people more than four years ago.

Kerry A missile defense that works is a wise investment, but one that pours money into defenses at the expense of other immediate national security needs is not. And that's what this administration has done.

Missile defense should be one element of a comprehensive national security strategy. But a single?minded focus on this technology and the threat it is designed to meet ignores the very real danger of terrorism and our greatest danger— terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

John Edwards and I will be committed to developing a missile defense system that works, is fully tested, and geared to the threats we face. But I will refocus our efforts on preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and dramatically accelerating the security of nuclear weapons and material in Russia and around the world. We will not sit by, falsely comforted by an untested and unproven defense system, while these threats continue to fester.

2. Climate change: Virtually all reputable research in recent years has reinforced the scientific conclusion that global warming is a real and growing crisis caused, at least in part, by the burning of fossil fuels. Do you accept that scientific consensus? Under what circumstances would you regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions?

Bush Global climate change is a serious long?term issue. In 2001, I asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to provide the most up?to?date information about the science of climate change. The academy found that considerable uncertainty remains about the effect of natural fluctuations on climate and the future effects climate change will have on our environment.

My administration is now well along in implementing a comprehensive climate change strategy to advance the science, expand the use of transformational energy and carbon sequestration technologies, and mitigate the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and in partnership with other nations. I created the new US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) to refocus the federal government's climate research programs, for which my 2005 budget seeks nearly $2 billion to fund research across the federal government. The NAS endorsed the CCSP strategic plan, noting that it "articulates a guiding vision, is appropriately ambitious, and is broad in scope."

I also committed the nation to a goal of reducing American greenhouse gas intensity by 18% over the next 10 years, which would prevent more than 500 million tons of carbon emissions through 2012. To help achieve this goal, I created the Climate Vision program in 2003 to reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by energy?intensive industrial sectors. Participants in the Climate Vision program account for between 40 and 45% of US greenhouse gas emissions. I have strongly supported over $4 billion in tax incentives for renewable and energy?efficient technologies, including wind and solar energy and hybrid and fuel?cell vehicles. Also, in April 2003, my administration raised the fuel economy standards for light trucks and SUVs [sport utility vehicles] for the first time since 1996, saving 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline. And in my 2003 State of the Union [address], I announced a $1.7 billion hydrogen fuel initiative to accelerate research that could lead to hydrogen?powered, no?emission vehicles within a generation.

Additionally, my administration is participating in robust international partnerships to promote clean, renewable, commercially available fusion energy and to construct the $1 billion FutureGen project, which will test the latest technologies to generate electricity, produce hydrogen, and sequester greenhouse gas emissions from coal.

Kerry I recognize the risk of climate change, and I have outlined a balanced set of programs that will have impact both in the near term and over the long term. My plan will also provide balanced support for technology that can increase the efficiency and cut greenhouse emissions in transportation systems, buildings, and industry that are attractive to consumers and US producers. Our programs will encourage the use of renewable fuels such as ethanol and renewable electric generation that produce little or no net greenhouse gases. I will expand the production tax credit for wind and biomass energy to cover the full array of renewable energy sources and increase Department of Energy (DOE) research into renewable energy sources and their applications. And I will propose an aggressive program of research, standards, and incentives to accelerate electric generation from renewable energy. Clean coal technology can play a critical role, given technology to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

My plan would encourage energy efficiency with programs such as updated fuel efficiency standards, new tax incentives for automakers to build the new, more efficient automobiles of the future, and tax incentives for families to purchase more energy?efficient cars, trucks, and SUVs.

3. Science investment: There is concern in the science and economic communities that the US is losing its world leadership in the sciences, which they say bodes ill for future economic growth and global competitiveness. To address that concern, should the US increase funding for basic science, and should the administration fully fund the 2001 bill, signed by the president, to double NSF's budget? How would you reinvigorate science education for US?born students? What is the role of foreign scientists and students in the US scientific enterprise?

Bush Including my FY 2005 budget request, total federal R&D investment during the first term will have increased 44% to a record $132 billion in 2005. My FY 2005 budget request commits 13.5% of total discretionary outlays to R&D, the highest level in 37 years. In the context of the overall economy, federal R&D spending in the FY 2005 budget is the greatest share of GDP [gross domestic product] in over 10 years. Funding for basic research, the fuel for future technology development, is at an all?time high of $26.8 billion in FY 2005, a 26% increase over FY 2001.

Funding for NSF during the four years of my administration has increased 30% over FY 2001 to $5.7 billion in FY 2005. NSF's broad support for basic research, particularly at US academic institutions, provides not only a central source for discovery in many fields but also encourages and supports development of the next generation of scientists and engineers. Moreover, in fulfilling its mission, NSF has used its funding efficiently and effectively.

As for the American scientific enterprise, it is important in this information and technological age that our students receive a first?rate science education, just as they receive quality instruction in reading, writing, and math. The federal government has no control over local curricula, and it is not my job to tell states and local boards of education what they should teach in the classroom. Nevertheless, the No Child Left Behind Act, one of my proudest legislative achievements this term, is improving our schools and, consequently, the teaching of science. NCLB requires, for the first time, assessments in science to give us better information about how our students are performing and how to improve instruction in science.

I have also proposed creating the Presidential Math and Science Scholars Fund to provide $100 million in grants to low?income students who study math or science. This will ensure that America's graduates have the training they need to compete for the best jobs of the 21st century.

I also value the contributions that foreign scientists and students make to our nation's scientific enterprise, while recognizing the importance of safeguarding our security. We will continue to welcome international students and scientists while implementing balanced measures to end abuses of the student visa system. My administration has already achieved several notable successes in reducing delays now being experienced by some visa seekers. We have increased security while speeding up the clearance process; approximately 1000 backlogged applications have already been cleared out.

Kerry For three years, the Bush administration has squandered America's leadership in the world, putting politics before science and doing nothing to create jobs while our workers fall further behind. The administration has proposed cuts for scientific research and grossly distorted and politicized science on issues from mercury pollution to stem?cell research. This approach not only limits the research that our scientists are doing today, it undermines important discoveries of tomorrow and threatens America's critical edge in innovation. I will reverse this course by restoring America's scientific leadership, helping find new cures, moderating health?care costs, and developing new technologies that will create good jobs. I will boost support for the physical sciences and engineering by increasing research investments in agencies such as NSF, the National Institutes of Health, DOE, NIST, and NASA. This funding will help with the broad areas of science and technology that will provide the foundations for economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century.

4. Nuclear weapons: Does the US need to develop a new class of nuclear weapons to deal with the changing threats of the 21st century? Is there any circumstance in which you would support the resumption of nuclear testing?

Bush The Nuclear Posture Review, released by my administration in January 2002, noted that the nation's nuclear infrastructure had atrophied since the end of the cold war and that the evolving security environment requires a flexible and responsive weapons complex infrastructure. To that end, my FY 2005 budget reflects an increase over the 2004 enacted level in the weapons activities account, which encompasses the stockpile stewardship programs. There is no current need for testing due to the sophistication of computer modeling and other new technologies, but we must maintain the capability to test in case such testing becomes necessary in the future to ensure the safety and reliability of our defensive arsenal. We have not identified any need for developing new nuclear weapons.

Kerry No, and a Kerry?Edwards administration will stop this administration's program to develop a new class of nuclear weapons. This is a weapon we don't need, and it undermines our ability to persuade other nations to forego development of these weapons.

5. Nuclear proliferation: There is serious concern among many experts that terrorists could release radioactive materials, or even detonate a nuclear device, in a US city. Do you believe the US is doing enough to secure and control existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fissile material both in the US and elsewhere?

Bush No administration in history has done more to secure and control nuclear weapons and fissile material than mine. US weapons and materials are exceptionally secure and both the Department of Defense and DOE are working to make them even more so. My administration has substantially increased funding to secure weapons and material in the former Soviet Union and has accelerated by two years the schedule the previous administration prepared for security upgrades in Russia. We are working with Russia to end the production of plutonium and to eliminate enough weapons plutonium for thousands of weapons. Outside the former Soviet Union, my administration established the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to eliminate or secure fissile and radiological material worldwide. We have already removed weapons material from several countries. Most recently, our policies resulted in Libya abandoning its long?standing quest for nuclear weapons.

To guard against so?called dirty bombs, we led the international community in a global effort to account for, secure, and dispose of excess radiological sources that could be used in such devices. We initiated activities in over 40 countries on this effort, as well as with international organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency. Through the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Container Security Initiative, and the Second Line of Defense program, we have dramatically improved our ability to interdict materials that could be a threat to us and to our friends and allies.

Finally, my administration launched the G?8 Global Partnership— a $20 billion initiative to support arms reduction, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and nuclear safety projects in the former Soviet Union. This extraordinary mobilization of the international community is leading to a safer, more secure world.

Kerry Our nation's highest priority must be preventing terrorists from gaining access to nuclear weapons and the material to make them. We must work in a global partnership with other nations to prevent the spread of these deadly weapons. Unfortunately, the Bush administration's policies have moved America in the opposite direction. They have alienated the allies we need to advance our security. Even after September 11th, they have not done nearly enough to secure existing stockpiles and bomb?making materials. They sat on the sidelines while the nuclear dangers from Iran and North Korea have increased. Our security requires an immediate change of course. I have proposed a comprehensive strategy to

* safeguard existing stockpiles of dangerous weapons and materials, including an acceleration of programs to secure all nuclear weapons and materials within the former Soviet Union, and at research reactors in countries outside the former Soviet Union, within four years.
* end production of new fissile material for nuclear weapons by negotiating a global ban on production of new material.
* reduce existing stocks of nuclear weapons and materials by ending development of the new generation of nuclear weapons, accelerating reductions in US and Russian nuclear arsenals, and reducing stocks of dangerous highly enriched uranium in Russia.
* end nuclear weapons programs in hostile states, including by prioritizing negotiations with North Korea to ensure the complete, irreversible, and verifiable elimination of its nuclear weapons program and leading a global effort to prevent Iran from obtaining the materials necessary to build nuclear weapons.
* enhance international efforts to eliminate illegal trafficking networks by toughening export controls, stiffening penalties, and strengthening law enforcement and intelligence sharing as well as improving the proliferation security initiative.
* appoint a presidential coordinator to prevent nuclear terrorism who will focus exclusively on directing a top?line effort to secure all nuclear weapons and materials around the world and prevent a nuclear terrorist attack.

6. Energy policy: More than two decades of discussions and proposals still have not resulted in a comprehensive US energy policy. Looking 25 years into the future, what do you believe the US energy mix should be? How would you move the US in that direction?

Bush Reliable and affordable energy is critical to America's economic, national, and homeland security. We will be more prosperous and more secure when we are less dependent on foreign sources of energy. The passage of a comprehensive and balanced national energy policy has been one of my top priorities. During my first six months in office, I proposed a national energy policy that would modernize our energy production and distribution systems, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, promote efficiency and conservation, increase domestic production from all forms of energy including renewable energy sources, and continue to strengthen our economy and create new jobs. We will continue to work with Congress on the energy legislation needed to carry out the remaining recommendations.

My administration has implemented nearly all of the more than 100 recommendations in the comprehensive national energy policy that did not require legislation&mdsash; such as increasing electricity reliability R&D to help prevent electricity disruptions and filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its capacity of 700 million barrels to provide energy security in case of major supply disruptions.

Kerry I have proposed an ambitious program of research, incentives, and standards that would sharply increase the efficiency of energy use and stimulate use of new energy sources that can ensure a prosperous and safe America while greatly reducing the risk of climate change. The program would be supported in part by a $20 billion energy security and conservation trust fund, capitalized from existing federal offshore oil and gas royalty revenues.

Unlike the Bush?Cheney policy, developed in secret by special interests, I have reached out to innovators around the country and developed a diverse portfolio of technical opportunities that can meet US needs both in the short term and for decades in the future. Given the long time required to turn over energy investments such as fleets of cars and trucks, industrial equipment, and building equipment, we must move a broad set of new technologies as quickly as possible if we have any hope of influencing US energy use in 25 years.

In the near term, many of the most promising technical opportunities involve using advanced materials, control systems, biotechnology, and other technologies to greatly improve the energy productivity of transportation, buildings, and industrial production. It's essential that the US move quickly to reduce its dependence on oil imported from the Middle East, and I will set ambitious goals for alternative fuels such as ethanol.

I will support research and incentives that will dramatically increase use of electricity from wind and other renewable resources. And I will encourage development of advanced clean?coal technology and nuclear generation consistent with high standards for environmental stewardship and security.

7. Nuclear power/radioactive waste: A recent report by MIT suggested that nuclear power is the best "clean" energy source to meet the US demand while protecting the atmosphere until renewable energy can be deployed on a large scale. Do you favor increasing the use of nuclear power? If so, what would you do with the resulting radioactive waste?

Bush I support the further development of nuclear power technologies as a clean, affordable, and realistic option to meet this nation's future energy needs. Nuclear power today accounts for 20% of our country's electricity. This power source, which causes no air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions, can play an expanding role in our energy future while meeting the environmental challenges we face with energy production.

My national energy policy contained several recommendations to encourage increased use of nuclear power and to handle the waste products that result. For example, through the Nuclear Power 2010 program, my administration is working with industry to pave the way for an order of a new US nuclear power plant within the next few years. Second, through the Generation IV International Forum, the United States is joining with countries around the globe to develop a next generation of safer, more economic, and more proliferation?resistant nuclear reactors that can also produce hydrogen and electricity. Finally, my administration has made a strong commitment to resolving the nuclear waste challenge and making the construction of a long?term geologic repository at Yucca Mountain achievable. We are moving ahead with the submission of a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the end of this year.

This administration is also committed to exploring and investing in advanced new technologies that will profoundly change the ways we generate electricity. For example, I committed the United States to join the international fusion energy experiment, known as ITER, early in 2003. ITER is a critically important experiment to test the feasibility of nuclear fusion as a source of electricity and hydrogen. Fusion holds the promise of a nearly limitless source of energy produced without the accompanying radioactive wastes that require long?term management.

Kerry Nuclear power can play an essential role in providing affordable energy while reducing the risk of climate change; however, key challenges such as nuclear waste disposal, nuclear nonproliferation, and plant security must be met. John Edwards and I will ensure safety and sound science come first. We oppose George Bush's plan to open Yucca Mountain over the objections of independent scientists. Instead, a Kerry?Edwards administration will

* proceed based on peer?reviewed science. John Edwards and I do not support Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste disposal site and will insist that nuclear waste disposal and transportation proceed only on the basis of rigorous peer?reviewed science and analysis that leads to public understanding and confidence.
* reject the Yucca Mountain license. John Edwards and I will immediately call upon George Bush and DOE to cease from submitting a license application for Yucca Mountain.
* initiate an NAS study to examine whether geologic disposal anywhere is still the best, safest option, as opposed to long?term storage and monitoring, or some other technology.
* establish an international independent blue?ribbon panel to recommend world?class, state?of?the?art scientific methods for nuclear waste storage and disposal.
* secure nuclear plants from terrorist attack. John Edwards and I will improve and strengthen security at nuclear plants. In addition, we will require nuclear plants to adopt adequate plans to improve security, including measures to reduce dangers to the public if an attack occurs.

8. National labs: Despite National Nuclear Security Administration oversight, the national weapons laboratories continue to be plagued with internal security problems, spending irregularities, and low morale. What steps would you take to improve conditions at the labs? Does the current plan of opening the labs' management contracts to competitive bids run the risk of disrupting the operations in the midst of the war on terrorism?

Bush Our national laboratories are doing great work to deal with the threats of the 21st century. These laboratories are a tremendous asset in our efforts to improve homeland security, are the source of unparalleled technological progress, and are helping America win the war on terror. With their budgets at the highest level in years, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories are also on the cutting edge of 21st?century defense research, like combating bioterrorism, protecting the nation's infrastructure from crippling terrorist attacks, and developing a laser that simulates the intense heat of a nuclear explosion.

This is why we spent $6.5 billion on weapons research and production in FY 2004 and why I am asking for $6.8 billion for FY 2005. We must keep morale and security high. My administration has made every effort to improve the way the weapons labs do business, and one of those efforts is allowing competitive bids like those that exist in all areas of government— including those central to the war on terror— so we can use our resources more effectively and let everyone focus on his or her own expertise.
Kerry Our national laboratories play a critical role in maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile and assuring that our nation's nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and reliable. The national laboratories also have an important role in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and in advancing science for our nation's security.

The laboratories have a proud history of advancing our nation's security, but this record has been blemished recently by poor management and sloppy security practices. Morale at the labs has been badly damaged. John Edwards and I are committed to strengthening laboratory management and oversight and restoring the morale at these critical national assets.

9. Space policy: NASA is being reorganized to reflect the president's long?term vision of manned missions to the Moon and Mars. Many scientists believe the reorganization will drain money from NASA's unmanned science missions. How do you define the relative importance of unmanned science missions versus manned exploration flights? What is the appropriate funding balance between the two?

Bush In January, I announced my vision for the future of America's space exploration program. Achieving this vision will require the combined strengths of both manned and unmanned science missions. Robotic missions will serve as trailblazers— the advanced guard to the unknown. Probes, landers, and other vehicles continue to prove their worth, sending spectacular images and vast amounts of data back to Earth. Today, we have unmanned systems on and around Mars, a system orbiting Saturn, and one on its way to Mercury. Yet the human thirst for knowledge cannot be completely satisfied by even the most vivid pictures or the most detailed measurements. We need to see and examine and touch for ourselves. And only human beings are capable of adapting to the inevitable uncertainties posed by space travel.

As we complete our work on the International Space Station, we are developing a new manned exploration vehicle to explore beyond our orbit. This vehicle will be tested by 2008 and conduct its first manned mission no later than 2014.

America will return to the Moon as early as 2015 and no later than 2020, and use it as a foundation for human missions beyond the Moon. We will begin with robotic missions to explore the lunar surface, researching and preparing for future human exploration. Manned lunar missions will follow, with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods.

Kerry John Edwards and I will continue America's long tradition of leadership in aeronautics, Earth sensing, and space exploration as part of a well?balanced NASA program closely tied to broad payoff for this country. It will not tie NASA to programs such as the Bush administration's Moon?Mars Program that emerged from closely held meetings in the White House with no clear objectives or cost estimates. It will invest in bold new programs tied to priorities, set by scientific experts, in exploring weather, climate, oceans, astrophysics, and other areas. Our administration will rely on the advice of the scientific community to select the most appropriate goals for research and the most appropriate tools for achieving these goals— including the question of whether manned or unmanned missions are most appropriate to the task.

Posted by jmellicant at 12:50 PM

Group says Bush has been hard on scientists

WCNC.com 10-05-2004

DES MOINES, Iowa — Nobel laureates and former presidential advisers are heading to battleground states with a message that President Bush is no friend of scientists. Mr. Bush "has used ideology to distort scientific integrity in energy policy, the environment, global warming, AIDS politics, bioterrorism preparedness and in a number of other areas," said Joy Howell, spokeswoman for the newly formed Scientists and Engineers for Change. Bob Hopkins of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy dismissed the group's message, which he said "has nothing to with science and everything to do with politics."

Posted by jmellicant at 12:46 PM

October 04, 2004

Kerry: Expand federal research using stem cells


Decries 'The president who turns his back on science'

HAMPTON, New Hampshire (AP) -- Democratic Sen. John Kerry said Monday that President Bush has sacrificed hopes for disease cures offered by stem cell research to "extreme right-wing ideology."

The Democratic presidential candidate, with actor and activist Michael J. Fox, promised to fund more embryonic stem cell research with federal money if elected. A new campaign ad says it's time to "lift the political barriers" blocking the exploration of stem cell therapies.

"The hard truth is that when it comes to stem cell research, this president is making the wrong choice to sacrifice science for extreme right-wing ideology," Kerry said.

Kerry criticized Bush's decision to prohibit federal funding for research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001. Some religious and conservative organizations oppose such research because days-old embryos are destroyed in the process.

Kerry called it "a far-reaching ban on federal funding for stem cell research, tying the hands of our scientists, driving some of them away from America."

Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, told voters gathered in a high school gym that Bush had "so restricted the stem cell lines available to us that it was kind of like he gave us a car and no gas and congratulated himself for giving us the car."

The Bush-Cheney campaign said the president's decision represents a federal commitment to using the promise of stem cell research in an ethical way. (Special Report: America Votes 2004, the issues)

"John Kerry's attacks on stem cell research are trying to mislead the American people by implying a ban that doesn't exist," said spokesman Steve Schmidt.

Bush limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to the 78 stem cell lines in existence on August. 9, 2001. Only a fraction of those initial 78 stem cell lines -- 21 at last count -- are yet available to researchers because of problems with the lines' growth or their ownership. In March, a National Institutes of Health count cast doubt on how many ultimately would be usable.

Kerry promises $100 million a year flowing into the research and strict ethical oversight.

The Massachusetts senator gets some of his biggest cheers at campaign rallies when he promises to fund more stem cell research, one aspect of a pledge to increase federal support of science.

Ticking off a list of scientific and environmental issues -- water quality, air quality, global warming, high-tech jobs -- Kerry said the president repeatedly ignores science and fact in favor of politics.

"This underscores, in my judgment, the perils of having the president who turns his back on science in favor of ideology and as a result abandons millions of Americans' hopes," he said.

Kerry also gave an abbreviated version of his typical stump speech to the high school students in an assembly decorated with campaign banners.

Stem cell research got national political attention this summer when President Reagan died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease and his wife and son Ron urged the administration to lift the funding restrictions. Kerry was among 58 senators who asked Bush to relax his policy.

Voters in California will be asked whether they support a proposition to borrow $3 billion and fund human embryonic stem cell research and cloning projects designed solely for therapeutic purposes. Fox has been active in efforts to pass the proposition along with other research initiatives.

Stem cells are master cells that can turn into all the cells, tissues and organs in the human body. Scientists believe they hold promise for treating many diseases.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.

Posted by david at 04:23 PM

New Voices Join Political Fray On War, Stem Cells, Gay Unions

(First published in the Wall Street Journal)

By Jeanne Cummings

WASHINGTON -- Provocative new voices are joining the presidential race this week, highlighting soldiers who died in Iraq, stem-cell research and gay marriage.

RealVoices.org, a new advocacy group, today is scheduled to roll out a commercial featuring the mother of a mechanic killed in Iraq. She accuses President Bush of misleading the nation and rushing to war. "How do you think we felt when we heard the Senate report that said there was no link between Iraq and 9/11?" asks a weeping Cindy Sheehan in the ad, which is to run nationally on Cable News Network.

Most of the organizations are following a new strategy this election cycle of buying only a small amount of air time for their spots in hopes of grabbing media attention and sparking online donations to finance more commercials. The first buy for the Real Voices commercial is just a couple of hundred thousand dollars, said Deane Little, a spokesman for the group. But he said he hopes it generates more money, and MoveOn.org, a liberal antiwar group, is going to appeal to its donors to make contributions to Real Voices.

In an interview yesterday, Ms. Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed April 4, said she got involved because "no other mom should have to go through what I'm going through."

President Bush's Democratic challenger, John Kerry, is taking shots, too. Americans United to Preserve Marriage, a new group organized by former Republican presidential hopeful Gary Bauer, this week began a $500,000 ad run in Michigan and Pennsylvania saying that Mr. Kerry supports gay marriage. The ad highlights Mr. Kerry's vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in the Senate and states: "That's liberal. That's John Kerry." Mr. Bauer said he hopes to generate more donations so "we can roll it out in other states" and force the candidates to debate the issue.

Rather than advertising, a group founded by Nobel Prize winners and technology leaders calling itself "Scientists and Engineer for Change," is dispatching members to deliver lectures in electoral "battleground" states. They say the Bush administration has appointed industry-biased advisers and restricted advancements in such critical areas as stem-cell research to appease the president's conservative Christian supporters.

"Science is being sullied by ideology and there is evidence it is being corroded by bias," said Margaret Hamburg, a former policy adviser to both the Clinton administration and Republican Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York.

431 words
29 September 2004
The Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 2004, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

Posted by jmellicant at 04:01 PM

S&E4C in the Blogs

Chris Mooney's Blog

"...Why all this attention? Well, Scientists and Engineers for Change has some pretty big names affiliated with it. The group's speaker list includes eight Nobel Laureates, among them Harold Varmus and Leon Lederman. Founding members include former presidential science advisers Neal Lane and Jack Gibbons."


"Pharyngula posted about a new independent political organization: Scientists and Engineers for Change (Chris Mooney has a good summary of the group's founding press conference). I really like this group..."

Posted by jmellicant at 08:48 AM

October 01, 2004

Scientists Hit Campaign Trail for Kerry

ABC News

10 Nobel Laureates, 2 Former Presidential Advisers Hit Campaign Trail on Behalf of John Kerry

DES MOINES, Iowa Sept. 30, 2004 — Mixing science and politics, Nobel laureates and former presidential advisers are heading to campaign battleground states with a message that George Bush is no friend of scientists and should be replaced by John Kerry.

"They feel strongly that President Bush has used ideology to distort scientific integrity in energy policy, the environment, global warming, AIDS politics, bioterrorism preparedness and in a number of other areas," said Joy Howell, spokeswoman for the newly formed Scientists and Engineers for Change.

The group, which includes 10 Nobel winners and two former presidential advisers, accuses Bush of spending too little on research and appointing people who aren't qualified for top government science positions.

Bob Hopkins, spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, dismissed the group's message, which he said "has nothing to with science and everything to do with politics."

"President Bush has been a strong and generous supporter for science," Hopkins said. "He has increased the federal R&D (research and development) spending by 44 percent to a record $132 billion."

Members of the scientists' group were among 48 Nobel laureates to sign a June 21 letter endorsing Sen. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Lyle H. Schwartz, recently retired director of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, said the nation's investment in science over the past half century had had a great impact on the economy and national security.

"That investment is seriously threatened by policies ... since the Republican takeover of Congress, and in particular over the past 3 1/2 years with the present administration, he said.

Schwartz said Kerry and the Democrats would provide more support.

Other participants include Vint Cerf, one of the Internet's founding fathers; Nobel laureate Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health under President Clinton, and Maxine Singer, president of the Carnegie Institution.

Scientists are taking their message to colleges and universities in battleground states, including Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Ohio's Pete the Penguin isn't the Bush supporter he was cracked up to be.

The Youngstown State University mascot appeared holding a Bush-Cheney campaign sign in a photo posted on the campaign's Web site until university officials asked that the photo be taken down. The caption read, "The YSU Penguin shows the student body's strong support for Bush/Cheney."

As a public university, Youngstown State cannot endorse any political party. No one asked the marketing office for permission to use the photo, licensing coordinator Debbie Lowe said Thursday, and a university attorney could not determine who took or sent the photo.

Kevin Madden, a Bush campaign spokesman, said the campaign removed the picture from its Web site this week after it was contacted by the university.

Posted by jmellicant at 02:39 PM

Does George Bush even know what science is?


The Bush administration is dead set on encouraging American citizens to believe that having an abortion can lead to breast cancer, that abstinence is the only way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and that the verdict is still out on global warming.

These are just a few of the notions that the Bush administration has promoted by stripping out facts that disprove those theories from documents produced by such federally funded agencies as the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

If this kind of ideological takeover of public policy makes you see red, imagine how the nation's scientists feel. Bush hasn't just figuratively kicked them out of the Oval Office, he's literally done it: demoting his own top science advisor and moving the Office of Science and Technology right out of the White House.

Politicians have always been choosy about what they want to believe, for purposes of playing to their constituencies, but this administration has set a new standard, says Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. Having worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations, Hamburg has served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was the commissioner of health for the city of New York.

"We've seen the intrusion of ideology much more forcefully into policies and programs," she says. "In biomedical research, healthcare services, public health, but also across a range of other domains -- environment, agriculture, education, missile defense -- you can see this intrusion of political philosophy into the evaluation and application of science."

For four years, scientists in the United States have become increasingly outraged. Now with just weeks to go before the election, one group is fighting back, launching a political advocacy and fund-raising organization called Scientists and Engineers for Change.

On Tuesday, the organization marked its creation by kicking off a speaking tour at the University of Oregon in Eugene headlined by Douglas Osheroff, a Stanford physics professor who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in physics. Osheroff was also one of the first recipients of the prestigious MacArthur "genius" award and is among the 48 Nobel laureates who've endorsed Kerry.

Osheroff, whose usually devotes himself to the study of quantum fluids and solids, told Salon why he felt compelled to go out on the stump to speak out against Bush.

How has the Bush administration demonstrated its disregard for science?

When it comes to energy policy we have an administration that has very sharp conflicts of interest. It's not just that these guys have made most of their money in the oil business, but it's that they have so many friends in the oil business.

What they've done is really tend to distort scientific evidence by picking and choosing those things that they like, that support the idea that we should continue to burn fossil fuels and let future generations worry about global warming.

There's been a pretty serious downgrading of the input that the administration gets from scientists ... You get the impression that George Bush doesn't understand what science is. You can't pick and choose. The administration commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to do a study of global-warming greenhouse gases. And they said among other things that there is very clear evidence that human beings are generating part of that problem: CO2. The other thing they said was: Look, the models are simply not good enough for us to predict what is going to happen. The administration ignores the first statement, and they seize on the second.

Government employees who are working on energy issues -- not just energy, but health issues, too -- are basically being silenced. They're not allowed to speak. Members of the National Institutes of Health are not allowed to visit the World Health Organization without permission weeks in advance. This is amazing.

How do you feel that energy policy would be different if they were listening to their scientists?

First of all, when George Bush became president he decided very quickly to deep-six the Kyoto accord by not supporting our participation in that. This was basically the first effort to constrain our emissions of CO2 worldwide, and I'm fairly certain the reason he didn't support it is that the accords put fewer controls on developing countries, particularly China.

If we had a different president who felt very strongly that we weren't on a level playing field he might have gone back and said, Let's negotiate this thing. But George Bush has provided no leadership in this at all.

Tony Blair recently said that global warming is the world's greatest environmental challenge. It's interesting that it has somehow not become a political issue in this election.

Certainly, Kerry does have an energy policy statement, and you can go read it on his Web site. I can tell you that after giving these talks yesterday that I would say that I swayed rather few voters, which is to say that few people are putting that near the top of their priorities. My guess is at this point global warming is probably not at the top of anyone's agenda. I, personally, am more concerned about what is going on in the Middle East right now. But that's a short-term thing, and I think we have to start planning for the future. The real problem is not with the developed countries.

I think through what ought to be a relatively easy focus on conservation and increased efficiency -- for instance, of automobiles -- we would be able to probably stay at the current level of production of greenhouse gas.

But you've got developing countries like India and China and Indonesia, and they're going to start doing two things: one is competing with the U.S. for oil. And we don't have the oil in the United States, despite what Bush says. Drilling for oil in Alaska will definitely provide a little bit of additional oil, but it's not going to solve the problem at all. And they're going to start emitting huge amounts of greenhouse gases -- CO2.

I think that is bound to happen. Right now, if you look at the CO2 levels in the atmosphere based on the ice-core samples both in Greenland and Antarctica, the highest level, typically, was not more than 300 parts per million.

We are now 375 parts per million. We are above what was geologically a historically high number.

The other thing is, petroleum is pretty limited. We can see the end of petroleum, particularly if you make what are plausible assumptions about the demand that's going to come out of India and China. I think that we need to be thinking right now about how to replace petroleum.

If you were going to ask a question of the presidential candidates in the debate Thursday night, what would the question be?

If I was going to ask a question about energy, I would simply say, What during your administration will you do to cut the emission of greenhouse gases?

In what other areas has this administration harmed science?

Certainly, stem cell research. What an opportunity we have! The idea that this undifferentiated cluster of cells is a human being is nonsense.

Here, Bush is basically caving into the religious right. You can ask the question: Can these undifferentiated cells think or respond, except chemically, to the environment around them? It's clearly not a human being. And I think that we're not talking about cloning human beings. I'm certainly against that.

Getting back to energy, isn't there an economic argument for it producing renewable energy?

A reasonable fraction of our balance-of-payments deficit is because of our importing foreign oil. I think that 60 percent of the oil that we use in this country is imported. Now, it's not all being imported at $50 a barrel, because there tend to be these long-term contracts. But this could go on for a long time, and frankly, I don't think that anyone sees an exit from Iraq. Cheney is talking about we need to be there for 10 years. Well, by that time, God knows what the cost of petroleum is going to be.

But getting back to the conflict-of-interest issue, Cheney and his friends make money when there is instability in the oil market.

That is the ultimate conflict of interest.

It is.

In any court of law, even at a university, this conflict of interest, the parties involved would simply have to recuse themselves from the decision-making process.

But quite the contrary happened. Dick Cheney was the one who formed our energy policy with input from people whose names we can't even get.

This is amazing because this is not a national security issue. Why on earth the American public is not allowed to know who contributed to our energy policy is absolutely beyond me. I find it amazing that the press hasn't made a big thing about this.

Posted by jmellicant at 02:35 PM

Scientists Begin Campaign To Oppose Bush Policies

The Tech 9/28/04

By Kenneth Chang

The New York Times -- While Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews and other rock stars sing on a “Vote for Change” concert tour, another disgruntled group -- this one of scientists -- will crisscross the well-worn landscape of battleground states over the next month, giving lectures that will argue that the Bush administration has ignored and misused science.

The group, Scientists and Engineers for Change, another addition to the flood of so-called 527 advocacy groups that have filled this year’s election discourse, announced its existence and plans on Monday in a telephone news conference. At least 25 scientists will give talks in 10 contested states: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Among the headlining lecturers are 10 Nobel Prize winners, including Dr. Douglas D. Osheroff, a professor of physics at Stanford; Dr. Peter C. Agre, a professor of biological chemistry at Johns Hopkins; and Dr. Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health.

Compared with more prominent 527s, like MoveOn PAC and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the scientists’ group will operate on a modest budget of $100,000, which will mainly pay for lecturers’ travel expenses.

Posted by jmellicant at 02:29 PM

Nobel Scientists and Tech Leaders Create New Group, Launch Speaking Tour Critical of Bush Science Policies

Common Dreams 10/01/04

WASHINGTON - September 24 - Concerned that critical issues involving the management of science and engineering are being drowned out in the election debate, leaders in the scientific and engineering communities including Nobel Laureates, a former science advisor to the President and the "Father of the Internet" will announce the launch of a new organization on Monday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. in a national teleconference call. They are concerned by mounting evidence that scientific integrity has been compromised and scientific priorities shortchanged by the Bush Administration.

The group will discuss its reasons for opposing the Bush Administration's science and technology policies and provide details of speaking tour focusing on 10 battleground states including Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin.


Media teleconference with some of the Nobel Laureates and distinguished scientists and engineers launching Scientists and Engineers for Change


-- Scientists and Engineers for Change

-- Dr. Vint Cerf, chairman of ICANN and principal architect of the Internet

-- Dr. Douglas Osheroff, professor of physics at Stanford and winner of Nobel Prize in physics in 1996

-- Dr. Margaret Hamburg, M.D., former assistant secretary, Health and Human Services

Posted by jmellicant at 02:26 PM

Scientists Form PAC To Speak Against Bush Policies on Stem Cell Research, Other Issues

Medical News Today 9/29/04

Scientists who have formed a new political action committee on Monday announced they plan to visit closely contested states in the presidential election during the next month to speak about how President Bush's administration "has ignored and misused science," the New York Times reports (Chang, New York Times, 9/28).

Scientists and Engineers for Change is the most recent group to allege that the Bush administration has disregarded science that "runs counter to the interests of his religious or business supporters" on issues such as public health, stem cell research, the environment and energy, according to the Washington Post (Weiss, Washington Post, 9/28).

The group is comprised of at least 25 scientists, including former NIH Director Dr. Harold Varmus and nine other Nobel Prize winners, who plan to hold talks in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The group has no direct ties to the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), but several of the scientists previously have signed letters endorsing Kerry or criticizing Bush's policies concerning scientific issues (New York Times, 9/28).

Posted by jmellicant at 02:24 PM

Scientists lecture against Bush

ABC News Online 9/29/04

US scientists, including 10 Nobel laureates, have launched a campaign in key US states to denounce the policies of President George W Bush.

Spokeswoman Joy Howell says the group, Scientists and Engineers for Change, was created at the beginning of the week.

She says 25 members of the organisation have scheduled a series of conferences, during which they will try to convince their audiences that the Bush administration has abused science.

The scientists will speak in states including Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin, where Mr Bush could be beaten by Democratic rival John Kerry.

"This administration's politicisation and misuse of science have made it increasingly difficult for science to play its rightful role in public policy-making," the group said.

They say this attitude is "not surprising from a President who said during his campaign that 'the jury is still out on evolution'."

According to the scientists: "This situation will not change until the American people elect a leader who respects the value and integrity of science more than the self-interest of his political allies and special-interest backers."

"President George W. Bush's economic policies have severely harmed prospects for utilizing the federal (research and development) portfolio as a tool for enhancing American economic competitiveness."

The founding members of the new group include Nobel Prize winners Peter Agre (Chemistry, 2003), Sidney Altman (Chemistry, 1989), Dudley Hershbach (Chemistry, 1986), Douglas Osheroff (Physics, 1996) and Arno Penzias (Physics, 1978).

They also include former National Science Foundation director and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Neal Lane.

Posted by jmellicant at 02:20 PM