Human Nature

Gay Womb Mates

And other news from science and technology.

Latest Human Nature columns: 1) Bush’s hypocrisy  on stem cells and the death penalty. 2) Stem cells, judges, and filibuster fraud. 3) Cloning and media bias. 4) Grandma vs. a clump of cells. 5) The evolution of creationism. 6) Why GPS tracking is good for felons. 7) Why pro-lifers fear the morning-after pill. 8) If steroids are cheating, why isn’t LASIK? 9) Jews vs. Catholics in the stem cell debate. 10) The case for raising the retirement age.

A fertility expert claims to have derived patient-matched embryonic stem cells without creating embryos. He reportedly did it by fusing body cells with embryonic stem cells.

Nearly half of all U.S. surrogate pregnancy brokers are serving or seeking gay clients. Surrogates say gays offer more gratitude, more emotional engagement, and less jealousy than many straight couples do.

A small study suggestschemicals used in some cosmetics and plastics may cause male genital deformities. The chemicals are called phthalates.

California haltedstate-subsidized Viagra for sex offenders. New Jersey had subsidized the drug for 55 “high-risk sex offenders” over the past 12 months.

American insurers, patients, and policyholders spent$3.5 billion on weight-loss surgery last year.

An Alzheimer’s patient bought four organs in one day from the same salesman. (The organs were musical.)

Congress dropped plans to restrict women from combat. Republicans wanted to extend the existing combat ban to include positions related to combat. They retreated after the military said the bill would confuse and undermine troops in Iraq.

Moderate Republicans are seeking a compromise on stem cells. They want to spare President Bush a veto of the House-passed stem-cell funding bill, which they fear would damage him politically. Bush is rebuffing any talk of compromise. (For Human Nature’s take, click here.)

The House voted to expand federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. But the 238 votes for the bill were 52 short of the 290 necessary to override an expected presidential veto.

A company says its drug for premature ejaculators scored well in clinical trials. Men were given stopwatches to clock how long it took them to ejaculate during intercourse. Most clocked 7.3 minutes; premature ejaculators initially clocked 1.8 minutes. The drug caused a “three- to four-fold increase” in the latter time.

More news on Viagra for rapists: 1) Medicaid has spent nearly $100,000 on Viagra for 218 sex offenders in Florida since 2001. 2) The U.S. government told states they don’t have to subsidize Viagra for convicted sex offenders.

Airport screeners will soon be able to see nipples and genitals through your clothing. The government plans to install these “backscatter” machines at “a handful of airports.”

Medicaid has been subsidizing Viagra for rapists. Nearly 200 sex offenders in New York got the drug with reimbursement over the last five years.

Representatives of the American Psychiatric Association endorsed gay marriage. Their statement asserts the “positive influence of a stable, adult partnership on the health of all family members.”

President Bush pledged to veto a bill that expands funding of stem cell research. Analysts think Bush is using the threat to deter some House Republicans from voting for the bill, so it won’t pass and he won’t have to veto it.

Human therapeutic cloning has become as reliable as IVF. A South Korean lab demonstrated that “a single egg-retrieval procedure of the sort used routinely in fertility clinics is now adequate to produce a colony of personalized cells with the potential to treat a wide spectrum of diseases.”

NASA is offering $250,000 to anyone who figures out how “to extract breathable oxygen from simulated lunar soil.” The idea is to enable manned missions to other planets.

A congressman suggested that steroids may have caused a recent fight among pro basketball players. The NBA commissioner replied that “the guilt you seek to attribute to them … is ill-taken.”

Medicare will spent almost $2 billion on erectile dysfunction drugs over the next decade. An industry spokesman says such drugs should be covered because “products that treat erectile dysfunction are part of the overall treatment of patients.”

Israel will let parents choose their child’s sex through IVF preimplantation testing. Reasons may include “the social and family circumstances of couples” and whether they “have at least four children of the same sex.”

The Air Force is pushing to militarize space. Programs are in the works to 1) make radio waves lethal, 2) build planes that “strike from halfway around the world in 45 minutes,” 3) use blimps and mirrors to aim lasers at earth targets, and 4) fire heavy-element cylinders “striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.”

U.S. military associations are fighting restrictions on women in combat. A new bill would tighten the official ban. A retired general says it’s too hard to enforce the ban strictly, since troops can now be attacked anywhere.

Scientists are debating  the evolutionary logic of the femaleorgasm. Some think it motivates women to have sex; others think it improves sperm retention; others think it’s “phasing out.” Latest theory: Nature gives all human embryos the neural basis for orgasm because this promotes reproduction in boys. For girls, it’s a happy byproduct.

Fake acupuncture works as well as the real thing at averting headaches. Researchers suspect a placebo effect or “physiological effects of needling.”

Antibodies to nicotine help people quit smoking. At high levels, they nearly double the percentage of smokers who quit for at least half a year. The next step is to make a vaccine.

The military is funding projects to help soldiers regrow limbs, stop feeling pain, and function without sleep, food, or oxygen. A new book called Radical Evolution  discusses the research.

A CIA flying drone killed an al-Qaida operative in Pakistan. The drone was “operated from a secret base hundreds of miles” away. The Air Force will buy 59 more drones over the next five years and arm them with up to 3,000 pounds of precision-guided munitions.

Major drugstores will movemore than 100 cold medicines behind the counter to help stop methamphetamine production. The medicines include Advil, Benadryl, Contac, Claritin, Motrin, Sudafed, and Tylenol products. The companies want uniform policies because they can’t keep track of new state laws on these products.

Congressional Republicans are proposing to raise the retirement age for Social Security. One committee chairman indicates some manual laborers might be exempted. Scholars point out that Americans now spend one-third of adulthood in retirement. (For Human Nature’s take, click here.)

The President’s Council on Bioethics outlined four ways to get around the moral problems with embryonic stem-cell research. Scientists objected that the proposed routes would waste precious time with no guarantee that they’d work. The council’s chairman advised scientists to devote more ingenuity to making them work. (For Human Nature’s reports on the debate, click here, here, and here.)

Massachusetts is rethinking when life begins. The governor wants to preserve the state’s 1974 statement that life begins at fertilization. The legislature wants to define life as beginning at implantation. Embryonic stem-cell research requires embryo destruction after fertilization but before implantation.

An FDA staffer may have circumvented a scientific advisory panel to restrict a morning-after pill. David Hager, an evangelical member of the panel, said a staffer asked him to write a memo to the FDA commissioner opposing the panel’s advice to allow the pill. (The FDA denies it, but Hager is reportedly on the record.) The FDA then overruled the panel. Hager said of his intervention, “What Satan meant for evil, God turned into good.”