- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 21, 2004

An ‘800-pound’ champion

Mike Causey’s column Tuesday (“Legislative gifts likely await big bloc of voters,” Federal Report, Nation) was reviewed with interest here at the National Association for Uniformed Services, an organization representing all seven uniformed services — the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, NOAA Corps and the United States Public Health Service — and dedicated to a strong national defense through protection of earned benefits.

We as an association agree that the companion workers to the military in the federal civilian work force deserve a pay raise equal to the rise in the cost of living to the military, not the 1.4 percent advocated by the administration.

This would make the pay increase to federal civilian employees the same as included in the defense spending bill for the military: 3.5 percent. The cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security and the Veterans Administration will be 3.4 percent for the 2005 fiscal year.

As explained by Mr. Causey, the civilian employees have many champions — including Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, Virginia Republican Reps. Tom Davis and Jo Ann Davis and Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer — to look out for their interests.

What we are seeking is an “800-pound” champion (as labeled by Mr. Causey) to support a pay increase for the active-duty military that is above the rise in the cost of living — someone to introduce legislation to reward them for their service and sacrifices during this period of perilous duty.

This would be a token of our gratitude, so they won’t say, as a Marine wife quipped, “So being shot at means nothing?”



U.S. Air Force (retired)


National Association for Uniformed Services


Election observations

Rep. Lamar Smith’s criticism of the State Department for inviting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to observe the U.S. elections this fall (“Democratic observers,” Inside the Beltway, Tuesday) shows a lack of understanding about both the OSCE and the obligations of the United States under an important international agreement.

By inviting the OSCE to observe our elections, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is merely fulfilling the agreement of the United States and the 54 other nations that make up the OSCE to invite international observers to their national elections.

Indeed, it was under the auspices of this agreement that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly led the OSCE observation of the Russian parliamentary elections last fall, which resulted in a highly critical assessment of those elections.

It is also under this agreement that the OSCE and its Parliamentary Assembly will monitor elections in Kazakhstan in September, as well as in Belarus and Ukraine in October.

It also should be noted that the OSCE agreements that comprise what has become known as the Helsinki Process are the basis upon which the United States became the champion of human rights behind the former Iron Curtain. This includes consistently speaking out on behalf of political dissidents such as Anatoly Sharansky and Andrei Sakharov and Jewish immigration.

We should do no less than fulfill our own national obligations under this agreement.

We should proudly show our democratic system, warts and all, to the other 54 OSCE nations from which we demand the same performance. To do otherwise would be hypocritical and would severely damage the image and credibility of the United States on the world stage.

Mr. Powell deserves our support for his actions to keep America’s promise to promote free and fair elections in the OSCE area.


House of Representatives


Promise and peril

Morton Kondracke’s Thursday Commentary column, “A wedge issue?” highlights the fact that both candidates for president are obscuring the realities of embryonic-stem-cell research, to a greater (Sen. John Kerry) or lesser (President Bush) extent.

However, what is to be said of Mr. Kondracke’s own inability to frame the debate in the most honest of terms? First and foremost, he states: “I believe [human embryos] are potential life. I would not destroy them (or create them) for just any purpose.”

This raises the question of why. Human embryos are to be accorded either the status of property or the status of a person. There is no being that is somewhere between person and property.

However, we are reminded of the results of such a view, as black slaves once were considered three-fifths of a person during a darker chapter in American history. Should we not be reminded that the “other” is indeed a human being, even if he or she looks unfamiliar?



Though Morton Kondracke admits that the “potential” for embryonic stem cells to cure such diseases as spinal-cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes has been overhyped, he fails to mention — as many in the media often do — that adult stem cells are already successfully treating human patients for two of these ailments, and human trials for the third have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Compare this to the facts that, to date, embryonic stem cells have yet to treat one human patient for any disease and that their success in animal models has been extremely limited. In fact, after 20 years of experiments, embryonic stem cells have yet to cure one mouse or rat, let alone treat a human patient.

In contrast, adult stem cells have been used successfully to reverse Parkinson’s symptoms in one patient, allowing him to again pursue his hobby of big-game photography while on safari in Africa. Adult stem cells have been used to treat two young American women confined to wheelchairs because of spinal-cord injuries. They both were told by their American doctors that they would never get out of their wheelchairs; after an adult-stem-cell treatment they received in Portugal, they both can walk with the aid of braces. (All three of the patients were in Washington last month to tell their remarkable stories at a Senate hearing.)

Also, researchers at Harvard University have successfully reversed type 1 diabetes in animals using adult spleen cells. They have received FDA approval for human trials using this promising approach, but millions of dollars are still needed before they can do so.

By contrast, attempts to treat diabetes in animal models using embryonic stem cells have been disappointing — in some instances, not only did the embryonic stem cells fail to reverse the diabetes, but they instead went on to form tumors. So, while adult stem cells are on the brink of treating diabetes in humans, embryonic stem cells are not even close to treating it in rats.

Voters concerned about the direction of stem-cell research do indeed need the facts to make an informed judgment in the upcoming election. The fact is: Ethically noncontroversial adult-stem-cell research is treating human patients now, while ethically contentious embryonic-stem-cell research is mired in speculation. Voters need to ask themselves: Which avenue of research do they want their tax dollars to support?


Communications director

Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics


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