March 2006 Archives

« February 2006 | Weblog | April 2006 »

It's more or less official: The mainstream media have sided with the enemy

By Michael Fumento

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz asks in a piece today: "Have the media declared war on the war?" The answer is yes. Just as they converted the worst communist defeat of Vietnam, the Tet Offensive, into a stunning victory, they are now bound and determined to see the terrorists rule Iraq. "What is undeniable is that the tone of much of the coverage matches the public-opinion polls showing that a majority of the country has turned against the conflict," Kurtz writes, leaving out an alternative. Namely, with U.S. losses running at half the rate of last year and more and more of the country being turned over to the Iraqi Security Forces, maybe the public-opinion polls are matching the coverage.

Nevertheless, Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter told Kurtz it's unfair to say journalists have turned against the war. "You can find tough-minded stories in a lot of newspapers and magazines going back three years," he says. "It does a disservice to hardworking reporters, in some cases risking their lives, to make it seem like in one week they go from pro-war to antiwar." In other words, reporters are off the hook if they were against the war all along! Thanks for that nasty look inside the mind of a terrorist-supporter, Jonathan. Maybe you also get your rocks off by watching Al Queda in Iraq behead it's kidnap victims, but personally I don't want to hear about it.

March 27, 2006 07:43 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

Sometimes you just want to scream

By Michael Fumento

I have written repeatedly on how the media have thrown in their lot with embryonic stem cells (ESCs), quite often to the point of simply ignoring advances with adult stem cells while grossly exaggerating "breakthroughs" with ESCs. But this takes the cake. In the Washington Post, Rick Weiss writes of German researchers finding stem cells in mice testes (Actually, he writes "Male mice testes" as if a whole lot of female mice have testicles) and quotes the researchers saying that they are so pliable that they may be able to do absolutely anything that ESC backers claim ESCs can do. Weiss's headline? "Embryonic Stem Cell Success." Aaaaaaargh!

March 27, 2006 06:20 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Stem Cells

"Pacemakers" for the brain

By Michael Fumento

People think that since I've written a whole book on biotechnology that I'm less keen on other areas of life sciences. By no means. I haven't gotten around to writing on nanotechnology, but bionics is fascinating -- and the subject of my latest piece in TechCentralStation.

March 17, 2006 05:56 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

Woe is us in Iraq? Not hardly.

By Michael Fumento

The MSM, sitting on their fat butts in comfy offices in the U.S., would have us think Iraq is a tumbling house of cards. Oddly enough, journalists who go over there seem to have a different opinion. Among them is Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, whose March 17 column is "Fighting Smarter In Iraq." He agrees that for a long time we fought dumb in Iraq but, "Three years on, the U.S. military is finally becoming adept at fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq."

"I had a chance to see the new counterinsurgency doctrine in practice here this week," he wrote. "U.S. troops are handing off to the Iraqi army a growing share of the security burden. As the Iraqis step up, the Americans are stepping back into a training and advisory role."

Writes Ignatius, "A brutal stress test came on Feb. 22, when Sunni insurgents destroyed a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra. For a moment, Iraq seemed to be slipping toward civil war, but the Iraqi army performed surprisingly well. In many areas Iraqi forces -- backed up by overwhelming U.S. firepower -- helped restore order."

Ignatius concludes with the obvious, that he's only able to see so much of the war himself and "wouldn't pretend" it's "an accurate representation of the whole of Iraq. If that were so, the country wouldn't be in such a mess. But this is the way this war is supposed to be going. It's a few years late, but the new U.S. strategy is moving in the right direction."

I'll be going back to Iraq myself in early April with my primary mission being to observe the efficiency of the handoff to the Iraqi Security Forces. Unlike Ignatius, I'll actually be patrolling with the troops, both U.S. and Iraqi. I, too, will only be able to provide snapshots of what I see and hear; but my snapshots should prove interesting indeed.

March 17, 2006 01:32 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq

You found stem cells WHERE?

By Michael Fumento

It's been a few years since I observed that scientists seem to find adult stem cells wherever they look. Well now Japanese researchers have harvested stem cells from human menstrual blood, according to a report just released at a medical conference. That's not nearly as strange as it sounds, since it's been known for some time that placenta and umbilical cord blood are an excellent source for them. Besides, when I said "wherever" they look, I meant just that.

At the meeting of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers from Keio University in Tokyo collected menstrual blood from six women and harvested stem cells that originated in the lining of the uterus. They said they were able to obtain about 30 times more stem cells from menstrual blood than from bone marrow, which remains the most common source of adult stem cells. They then differentiated these into heart cells. (The use of marrow cells to repair heart muscle is on the cusp of becoming routine.)

What's the importance of this? To date, the much-celebrated embryonic stem cells have yet to cure or treat a single human being. Their "magic" lies strictly in their potential to become any type of the approximately 220 mature cells in the human body. One response to this is that beginning in 2002, almost countless teams of scientists began discovering adult stem cells that formed all three germ layers that give rise to those 220 cells. Another is that even if adult stem cells are less pliable, if you find them in enough places and can cultivate them easily enough then you don't need "one size fits all."

Get the word out: embryonic stem cells are the cold fusion of biology. And you men with an inordinate disgust at menses, maybe you'll have a new-found respect for tampons and sanitary napkins.

March 17, 2006 11:54 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Stem Cells

You're never too small (or too late) to smear

By Michael Fumento

It waited two months, but my hometown newspaper, the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, has finally gotten around to lying to its readers over why I no longer have a column with Scripps Howard. Or maybe it wasn't a lie. Judging by the accompanying photo of the writer, an alternative hypothesis is that his fingers are too pudgy to allow him to hit individual keys on his keyboard and thus look up anything on the Internet. In the event, here's my response:

Publisher John Foreman, in his March 12 column, "Political interference knocks informative column out of paper," begins by writing that I (and another columnist) "have been in the news themselves a bit of late, and readers deserve some information and explanation." Stunningly, in my case, he provides only misinformation.

Foreman writes that the Scripps Howard News Service "has severed its ties to Michael Fumento [because I] apparently wrote a number of pieces flattering to the giant Monsanto Corporation without disclosing a flagrant conflict of interest. As it turns out, Fumento had solicited a $60,000 Hudson [my employer, Hudson Institute] grant from the company."

"Apparently?" Foreman couldn't check the Internet to find out what really happened, rather than smear a hometown columnist whom he himself praised as "an excellent analyst on the issues."

In fact, the grant was solicited for and received in 1999 as support for my book BioEvolution. It was folded into my Hudson salary and exhausted that year. Five years later my Scripps column began. Of the well over 100 columns I wrote for Scripps, only three so much as mentioned Monsanto -- one in only a single sentence. The third column appeared this year.

Insofar as agricultural biotechnology is one of my main fields of interest, that's probably sub-par. In any case the idea that a book grant received and spent in 1999 not being disclosed in a 2006 column is a "a flagrant conflict of interest" is absurd.

What's flagrant is Scripps' cowardice in dropping my column without even consulting me when Business Week called and bluffed that they were going to do an expose. Had Scripps told Business Week to shove off, as Hudson did, there would have been nothing to expose.

Unfortunately, the mere thought of criticism terrifies Scripps. It was also they who ordered me fired me from the Denver Rocky Mountain News in 1991, the day my controversial AIDS book appeared.

Knowing all this, my largest Scripps newspaper, the New York Post, continues to carry my column even as I'm smeared by one of the smaller ones.

March 16, 2006 11:21 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

We're all smokers now

By Michael Fumento

Just came back from a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcanoes were terrific but the rain was incredible. If we'd looked at the sky for more than three minutes with mouths open we'd have drowned. As we got there Dana Reeve just died and suddenly it was "all Reeve, all the time" on CNN and other stations, with tons of talking heads and lots of callers. Reeve's lung cancer as well as those of callers or their deceased loved ones who had contracted cancer and claimed to be non-smokers were all blamed on passive smoke. The idea that anybody could possibly contract lung cancer without an airborne insult of some type occurred to absolutely nobody, yet until political correctness took over from science it's always been accepted that lungs so clean you can eat off them can nevertheless give rise to malignancies, and indeed studies such as one in 2004 have found clear distinctions between the types of malignancies in smokers and non-smokers, indicating that genetics were the culprit in non-smokers. Add to this that there is no good evidence that passive smoke causes any lung cancers.

All that said, if either me or my non-smoking wife ever contract lung-cancer we're going to blame it on breathing in vapors from Hawaiian volcanos and sue the National Park Service.

March 15, 2006 02:36 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Cancer