- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2000

More than abortion issue at stake in stem cell debate

In his April 26 Op-Ed column, "The fountain of youth?" Tony Blankley characterizes the debate surrounding the use of stem cells from aborted embryos as an abortion issue. After describing some of the potential therapeutic uses for embryonic stem cells, the "best" source of which are "fresh" human embryos and fetuses (i.e., those that have just been aborted or that have died because fertility treatments did not succeed), Mr. Blankley surmises that "the moral issue of abortion forces us, once again, to balance our personal yearnings against the ancient admonition: Thou shall not kill." He then ponders what the response of the federal government should be given the "demand for the product of the abortionist's trade."
Mr. Blankley misses the point. The essence of the matter is the nature of a human being, not the abortion issue. If, as many of us believe, a human is an individual created by God in God's image and likeness at the moment of conception, then he or she possesses an inherent and immeasurable dignity. That individual can never be considered a mere "product" for manipulation or experimentation, even after death. Those who perform abortions treat embryos and fetuses as disposable biological material. Those whose laudable goal is to seek new treatments and cures for our most debilitating diseases and illnesses must not fall into the same trap.
Although stem cells from embryos and fetuses whose lives have been destroyed deliberately may indeed have the ability to treat diseases, their use would wound humanity on a far deeper level. Instead of fundamentally compromising our own nature, we must continue to devote our efforts to scientific advances that respect our dignity and that of our Creator. Given the ever-increasing ability of the medical community to discover and perfect ways to make our lives better, I am convinced those efforts will be successful.

Additional immigration facts needed in editorial

The May 4 editorial "Cuban-Americans welcome" cites a 1996 study on immigrants' use of welfare benefits. However, research by Harvard professor George Borjas shows that immigrants are 50 percent more likely than native-born Americans to accept government benefits.
This is in part because current immigration policies admit hundreds of thousands of individuals every year who lack a high school diploma although 90 percent of jobs require more than a high school education.
The National Research Council found that immigrants who have a high school education or less impose a net cost on taxpayers because of the government benefits they receive. Immigrants who have more than a high school education contribute more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
U.S. House of Representatives

Unclear 'lessons' about Vietnam

In essence, Georgie Anne Geyer is trying to tell us in "Lessons lost in the replays" (Commentary, May 5) that, contrary to generally accepted opinion, the Vietnam War could have been won after all provided the American people had been willing "to employ overwhelming force from the beginning."
That may have been true if we had chosen to incinerate the whole country with nuclear weapons, but then, I suspect, most of us would have been more than just a tiny bit reluctant to participate in something so callous that it later would have been called genocide.
The lessons to be learned from history are never entirely clear, even to the most learned and inquiring minds. Each set of past occurrences is sui generis, and as a matter of principle not readily transferable to the present except as argumentative interpretation. But then, where would journalists be without argumentative interpretation?

Mayor, control board dropped the ball on fire chief

I feel compelled to write about my disappointment over the resignation of D.C. interim Fire Chief Thomas N. Tippett. Following the recommendations of investigators after studying fire fatalities of firefighters at Kennedy Street NW and Cherry Road NE, Chief Tippett implemented the following safety precautions:
* Restored five persons on ladder trucks.
* Restored administrative battalion aides.
* Issued integrated pass devices on firefighters' breathing apparatus to help locate downed firefighters in emergency situations.
* Instituted training for a rapid-intervention team whose sole purpose is to assist with the removal of a trapped or injured firefighter.
Additional accomplishments include the streamlining of our procurement process. We are due to receive several pumping apparatus in the next six months. Chief Tippett placed four paramedic engine companies in service and staffed them with a paramedic 24 hours a day in the four quadrants of our city. He reorganized our Emergency Medical Services Bureau in an attempt to cross-train our firefighter paramedics and redeploy ambulances to our underserved areas. He ordered immediate and accelerated hiring to cut overtime costs. The chief has provided much-needed leadership on the implementation of the fire department's radio system to give us the technology to use a state-of-the-art communications system. In addition, he has instilled order and discipline in an organization that was in desperate need of it.
While I have a great deal of respect for the job Mayor Anthony Williams has done, I believe he has dropped the ball on this one. Chief Tippett, as a 32-year highly decorated firefighter, speaks the truth. The fifth person on our ladder trucks is a necessity, not a luxury. The administrative aide to the battalion fire chief also has a vital function. From personal experience, as a command officer on a call, I have seen that an administrative aide provides needed assistance and has a multitude of personal responsibilities. The mayor needs to find the funds requested by Chief Tippett and rehire him immediately. There is no one else on the horizon who can carry out Chief Tippett's plans. Mr. Williams says generals can't just pick up their marbles and go home. The mayor gave Chief Tippett no other option.
After the deaths of four D.C. firefighters in the past three years and with other firefighters suffering severe burns, Chief Tippett promised his firefighters he would fight for their safety. He has lived the past and sees the future. Without the fifth person on our ladder trucks and without our administrative aides, the past will be revisited. Firefighters and residents will pay the price for our understaffing. Firefighting is a dangerous job, and we can and should take all necessary precautions to minimize the risks. The mayor wants the fire department's performance to improve, and I believe it has. We will continue to be professional and place our lives on the line when needed. However, the best candidate to make our department a model for the nation's fire service just left. He should be rehired, but it may be too late.
The D.C. Control Board and chairman Alice M. Rivlin appear to take pleasure in attacking and slashing the fire department budget. The deaths of Sgt. John Carter and firefighters Lewis J. Matthews and Anthony S. Phillips appear not to have impressed them. However, the lawyers of the deceased firefighters' families surely will get their attention. Armed with investigative reports, these lawyers are lining up to sue the District for failing to implement safety recommendations. Chief Tippett asked for an additional $4 million annually to protect his firefighters and D.C. residents. I believe the lawyers will be asking for a sum that will make $4 million look like a drop in the bucket.
Michael Reilley is a captain with Engine 9 of the D.C. Fire Department

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