Senate says yes to stem cell research; Bush to veto

The bill passed 63-37, four votes short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override Bush’s veto. The president left little doubt he would reject the bill despite late appeals on its behalf from fellow Republicans Nancy Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The sticking point in the bill is the use of embryonic stem cells as opposed to adult stem cells. The latter are less ethically ambiguous but the former so much more likely to garner useful science. Wired has an excellent stem cell to buff up on the details.

I think it’s good that ethics are at the heart of modern scientific research, or at least that bit that’s in the public. There has been no similar debate or legislation of pharmaceutical nanotechnology, primarily because people don’t understand it, hence it’s not in the headlines. But you just can’t beat anything that might, in some tiny way, be in some way connected to babys to evoke a public reaction.

My own opinion? Well, it’s already illegal to create embryos for research purposes, which is a good thing. In other words the embryonic stem cells would be harvested from biological material that would otherwise be destroyed and hence would best be used for furthering science as long there is independent, objective ethical oversight.

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“Critics argue that school uniforms suppress individualism and are typical of authoritarian regimes such as the Third Reich.”

Wow. I always thought the justification was that school uniforms a) looked stupid and b) suppressed individualism but that they were a ‘leveling’ factor amongst the kids.

Germany is going to agonise over this. They won’t want school uniforms, but they (okay, fine, Bavaria) won’t tolerate the French-style banning of religious clothing and symbols in schools. The uber-Catholic Bavaria would have a fit.

So, we’re going to have a massive stalemate that will result in more issues as bureaucratic workarounds are sought.


This from the comments of local residents: “There are a lot of vulnerable people in society who like to indulge in
sexual fantasies. They can go on to become dangerous people.”

Let that be a warning to you! You morally debased sexual fantasisers! You should all be made to wear signs around your neck, stating that you have indulged in sexual fantasy and could, at any moment, become dangerous!

This has been a public service announcement. Thank you for reading.

I fear I’m beginning to sound like a broken record on ID Cards, but what can you do…

It looks like the Lords have accepted the latest compromise and the .

I was skimming through the . Basically, the report is where the Home Affairs Committee consider the Government’s proposals for an identity cards scheme and the draft Identity Cards Bill and make their comments.

Here are some choice excerpts:

The structure of the database, and how to set it up and manage it, are among the most important choices the Government has to make. We are greatly concerned that the Government’s procurement process appears to be taking these key decisions without any external reference or technical assessment, or broader public debate. We recommend the Government publishes details of consultations with any external bodies and also any technical assessments that have been undertaken.

The Finance and Leasing Association took the view that “the database should be available for all legitimate users of information to access either directly or indirectly to facilitate the uses of the card which an individual may make”.

The draft Bill effectively establishes a national fingerprint register covering 80% of the economically active population within five years of the scheme’s implementation, and 100% once the compulsory stage has been reached. It is a moot point whether Parliament would currently sanction the establishment of a comprehensive fingerprint register solely for crime fighting purposes: to date only the limited extension of finger-printing and DNA sampling for those arrested has been sanctioned. Nonetheless the Minister of State confirmed the Government’s intention to use the National Identity Register as a national fingerprint register to identify individuals.

Irrespective of the Government’s intentions, we can also expect media and public pressure to use the fingerprint register ever more extensively. The establishment of a national fingerprint register has never been a stated aim of the identity card system. Whatever the merits of such a development—and there has been no debate as to whether an identification through this means would be sufficient evidence to secure a conviction for example—we believe its use should be subject to proper Parliamentary scrutiny and decision and not developed through executive action.

It is also likely that that facial recognition technology will develop to the point where an individual captured on a CCTV camera could potentially be identified from the National Identity Register. Again, we doubt whether the pressure to use the system in this way could be resisted forever by future governments.

The British Medical Association did not want medical information recorded on identity cards, since they “want the public to be reassured that other people who had access to their identity card were not able to access personal health information” and because the information would not be updated sufficiently frequently. For the same reasons they argued in favour of keeping the National Identity Register separate from the planned national electronic health record. We agree with the BMA: it would not be either useful or appropriate to keep medical details on the Register. But it would be sensible for the identity card to be the mechanism that enables individuals to access their NHS records.

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: “‘I take the view that it is part of being a good citizen, proving who you are, day in day out,’ said Mr Burnham [a Home Office minister]. “

I see the arguments have moved on a little now. ID cards are no longer going to stop terrorists (they can’t stop British national terrorists as on July 7th and foreigners don’t need one), they won’t combat organised crime (ID cards will be linked to passports and those are easy enough to get hold of on the black market) and they won’t combat identity theft apart from maybe some benefits fraud. So what compelling argument are we left with by the government and their Tory allies?

Proving who you are, day in, day out, is part of being a good, obedient citizen. Hurrah!

In Britain we have the highest percentage of population (including uncharged individuals and minors) registered on a DNA database, the highest number of CCTV cameras per square mile and soon an inevitable and, lets face it, compulsory ID card linked to biometric data in a National Identity Register.

Better not complain about it though, as otherwise I’d be an ungood citizen and “those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear”.

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: “President Bush has made it a crime to post annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

The law is buried in the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.
Under the wording you are allowed to flame someone if you use your real name. But there are also a few problems with the wording.

The law makes it illegal for anyone who: ‘utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person.’ So getting a good conviction is dependant on people agreeing on what is the meaning of the word annoying.

The law is designed to prevent cyberstalking, but having a look on Usenet, I think this one is going to make for some very interesting court cases, if it is possible to enforce.”

Hurrah! Time to look forward to thousands of spurious court cases and more message boards and chat rooms closing down in fear of legal reprisals! After all, some cases have shown that unless a host, site or even sometimes ISP, can properly protect all users from illegal activity, they may in fact be complicit.

And due to the fact that the net is international and your servers might end up being in the US, you can’t just ignore this legislation just because you’re not American.

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: “There is growing pressure from MPs for ministers to shed light on claims that the CIA has used UK airports to move suspects to other nations for torture.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are not aware of the use of UK territory or airspace for the purpose of extraordinary rendition, nor have we received any requests, nor granted any permission for the use of UK territory or airspace for such purposes.”

Mr Straw has said he expressed concern about the claims about secret prisons on EU territory in his letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The US government has said its laws have not been broken.

But it has refused to confirm or deny the existence of “secret prisons” in third countries. “

Pretty serious allegations. It has already been established that the US Government exports it’s torture of terrorist suspects, but I don’t think people were expecting those places to be Farnborough and Luton (though the latter would be torturous enough).

Since the BBC article was written, Dr Rice responded to the German foreign minister that the US government will give an official response to the allegations. Germany has received even more of these mystery flights than the UK.


So, the that Rice has spoken to Merkel in Germany. “Ms Rice admitted that terror suspects were flown abroad for interrogation but denied they were tortured. “

But what I want to know is that if all US and international law is being followed, as Rice states, then why fly them to a different country at all? Rice said suspects were moved by plane under a process known as rendition, and that this was “a lawful weapon”.

What’s rendition? It’s not a word that’s well explained in the , but here’s the , which although seemingly clear is somewhat vague on what the legal term of rendition actually means.

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Okay, what I got for St Nicholas Day was actually an Orgasmatron head massager from Penny. And to be honest, compared to a new Tory leader, I got the better deal.
So today at 3pm the great shock will be announced that David Cameron will be the new Tory leader. There will some rejoicing and much grumbling in the lands and somewhere some Tory activists that are not yet completely jaded and resigned to election defeat after election defeat may even manage a glimmer of hope.
The Old Etonian promises to be a populist moderniser that will take his party into the 21st Century and resurrect it with modern electable policies. Say hello to St Tony II.
Happy St Nicholas Day, I’m off to do some work and looking forward to my head massage.