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Blastocysts and Other Human Trafficking

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Ever since our esteemed Bush administration decided it was in their political interest to protect the votes of the religious right over the hopes of the terminally ill it was a matter of time before someone else beat us to the punch over cloned embryo stem cells. It could have been Israel or England, two countries that, unlike the United States, decided government funding for stem cell research wasn’t the evil bugaboo so many made it out to be. As it was last week, the prize went to South Korean doctors Shin Yong Moon and Woo Suk Hwang.

“We report the derivation of a pluripotent embryonic stem cell line (SCNT-hES-1) from a cloned human blastocyst,” their paper stated. The rest of the world cried “Huh, what?” The media cried “Human Cloning!” And the Vatican’s bioethics adviser promptly hauled out comparisons to Nazi concentration camp experiments. Never mind the fact that Moon and Hwang stated in virtually every report that the end goal of their discovery was not to clone actual humans but only the creation of stem cells less likely to be rejected by the human immune system. Of course, the prospect of even the potential of human cloning is bound to freak people out, but isn’t it far more odd that a powerful group of lobbyists has decided that the fate of stem cells is somehow more important than people who suffer from Parkinson’s?

& ull; Darker Human Traffic: Of course, we could show much more concern over far more horrific events across the world, human trafficking being one. Imagine, for just one terrible moment, the life of a young girl shuttled from party to party, forced to have sex with strangers for the profit of her captors. A Jan. 12 article in Forbes noted that almost 1 million people are sold into slavery, sex or otherwise, generating $7 billion annually for the scum who sell them off as product. The United States has tried to do its part, but we could certainly argue whether it’s been enough to matter for a nation more incensed over Super Bowl halftime scandal and more obsessed over missions to Mars than young children who live lives of day-to-day hell. The U.S. Department of Justice worked hard to see the eventual prosecution of alleged Macedonian human trafficker Bojku Dilaver, but he escaped custody last June.

& ull; A $100 Million “Commitment”: Just this week the U.S. State Department announced it will write its biggest check ever to combat the worldwide problem of human trafficking. State Department Director John Miller said a lot about his recent trip to Asia where he commended certain nations for their progress in ending the problem, but chided others for dragging their feet. That’s par for the course. But other nations could rightly chide us for being so stingy with the problem ourselves. The world knows that, for us, $100 million is chump change. You’d think that, given the money we’ve saved by not funding stem cell research, we could afford a lot more. The religious right could stand to say a few words about this blight on humanity as well. The thought of selling young children out to sex parties should seem so much more evocative of a concentration camp than a petri dish full of stem cells.

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