Today's Blogs

Stem-Cell Standoff

Bloggers discuss the House’s support for stem-cell research; they’re also pondering whether Abu Musab Zarqawi was injured and debating if gambling markets have accurately predicted a key character’s death in the upcoming Harry Potter book.

Stem-cell standoff: The House approved a bill yesterday to expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research; it’s expected to clear the Senate, but President Bush promises to veto it.

Pleasantly surprised, the bill’s supporters are teasing out its implications. Mike the Mad Biologist’s Michael Feldgarden believes Americans support the measure because they “hate falling behind technologically.” Noting that the House vote comes on the heels of the filibuster compromise, BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis ventures, “I know it’s too much to hope for, but how I do hope that we have the stirrings of a moderate revolution against the fringers.” Two Babes and a Brain’s Lisa, normally a Bush supporter, observes, “I don’t understand the President’s thinking on this. These are embryos that are going to be destroyed no matter what. That is such a waste.” Pointing out that the House actually passed two stem-cell research bills yesterday, The Carpetbagger Report’s Steve Benen, a liberal and freelance writer, notes, “[O]ne is a serious bill to undo Bush’s restrictive policy on potentially life-saving research, the other was offered as political cover for Republicans.” He knocks the second bill, which supports umbilical-cord stem-cell research, and suggests that supporters of such research are practicing “junk science.”

Some conservatives are appalled because they believe the bill doesn’t value human life, and others make scientific criticisms. TMH’s Bacon Bits biochemist The MaryHunter claims there’s a U.S. “media blackout on adult stem cell research” and cites Australian research about its wonders. Noting that she worked to find a cure for cancer decades ago, she writes, “That Silver Bullet turned out to be a mirage, as reaserchers came to learn that essentially every kind of cancer is different. … Is there another similar yet just as ephemeral Silver Bullet taunting us now in the guise of embryonic stem cell research, causing us to foresake the perfectly reasonable though less shiny adult stem-cell bullet that is already locked and loaded?” And on open book, the blog of Catholic writer Amy Wellborn, a frustrated pro-life commenter asserts, “If right to life forces can’t get things accomplished with this President and this Congress, I don’t see how they’re ever going to get anything accomplished - we’ve got the most pro-life configuration in power that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Read more about the embryonic stem-cell research bill; readSlate’s coverage.

No. 1 most wounded?: A group calling itself “al-Qaida in Iraq” announced on a Web site that insurgent leader Abu Musub Zarqawi has been wounded and called for prayers; a second post noted that Zarqawi has been moved to another country. The U.S. has been unable to confirm this, leaving many wondering whether the statement is a trick.

Terrorism Unveiled’sAthena, a college student studying the Middle East who thinks Zarqawi is probably dying, writes of the second post, “Now, this would seem to be more of a disinformation ploy than the first allegation in order to stop troops from trying to locate the (hopefully) immobile Zarqawi.” And Sharp as a Marble’s former Marine Robb Allen takes up the request to pray for Zarqawi: “Lord, I pray that while laying immobilized on a makeshift bed of rocks in a cave that you will send to this man a thousand biting insects to keep him company. And, Allah be willing, when no one else is looking, may Abu’s bodyguard be overcome with joy and gaiety and brutally sodomize the bastard.”

Liberal Blogenlust laments the fact that verifiable bad news from Iraq is being ignored and asserts, “Don’t forget that al-Zarqawi has been our favorite bogeyman for years now. We kept him alive in the run-up to the war to justify our now unfounded claims that al Qaeda was operating in conjunction with Saddam Hussein. Now, we’re keeping him around to pin the blame on him for everything that goes wrong.”

Read more speculation about Zarqawi; readTracking Al Qaida, a blog that uses software to translate “Arabic forums where jihadis are known to hang out.”

Futures on Potter: Bloggers have been betting for months on which key character will die in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, scheduled for release in mid-July. Linking to this John Tierney piece about how a gambling market could predict the next pope (which it did successfully), Just One Minute’s Tom Maguire points to thisGuardian story (spoiler alert, and a clue: It’s not Harry!) that suggests gamblers have successfully identified the character. Maguire notes that this seems to support the “futures on terror” idea (readSlates explanation) which holds that gambling markets are a tremendously efficient prediction tool. But Pandagon’s Jesse Taylor demurs: Since the Harry Potter book is already finished, its outcome won’t change despite how gamblers bet. But “you start going into a betting room and dropping a few thousand bucks on the Golden Gate Bridge being blown up, you’re going to go into federal custody.”

Read more about Harry Potter and the Efficacy of Gambling Markets.

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