Dispatches > Quick Takes

QuickTakes

Issue: "Mounting a defense," May 25, 2002

Cloning cruelty

All cloned animals have genetic and physical defects, reports the London Times' Jonathan Leake. Arthritis, excessive growth, extreme obesity, and heart defects are just some of the problems, according to Ian Wilmut, the scientist who helped create Dolly the cloned sheep. "Nobody should be attempting to clone a child," said Dr. Wilmut, who conducted a worldwide survey of clones. "The widespread problems associated with clones has led to questions as to whether any clone was entirely normal." Chromosome damage, premature aging, and random defects are common. Human clones have simply died, never growing beyond six cells. Dr. Wilmut said the problem may be the cloning process itself, with DNA acting differently in adults than in embryos. "He believes this is why the genes of cloned animals seem to behave in unpredictable ways and suggests that human clones are also vulnerable to this problem," Mr. Leake writes.

Bush, the regular guy

President Bush's approval rating is still in the 70s. So why is he so popular? Peggy Noonan gives the topic her usual spry treatment, saying America likes him because people don't think he acts like he needs the job. "There is with Mr. Bush an almost palpable sense that he would rather be at the ranch," she writes in The Wall Street Journal. "He would rather be enjoying life and having fun with baseball teams, he would rather have privacy, he would rather go for a drive. He radiates a sense that he has given up a lot to be president. He radiates a sense that he will enjoy it when he gets back what he gave up. But right now he has work to do."

Cancer on the legal system

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The government banned asbestos decades ago, but lawsuits are still piling up. Amity Shlaes in the Financial Times notes that 90,000 new asbestos claims were filed last year. "Courts and juries began to grant large injury awards merely on the basis of smaller exposure, thus enriching many who will never experience asbestos disease," she argues. "Meanwhile, plaintiff lawyers, with acquiescence from judges, began doing what they could to expand the theory of what constituted injury. The U.S. Supreme Court has just agreed to review another such case: Norfolk & Western Railway Co. vs. Freeman Ayers, in which a West Virginia jury awarded six retired railway workers $5.8 million because of 'emotional distress' over fear of cancer after exposure to asbestos." Ms. Shlaes believes something has gone wrong with America's common-law system. "This system, with its incremental establishment of precedent through case law, is part of the Anglo-American tradition of freedom," she writes. "Yet here it has been revamped into a monster with a tyranny all its own."

No pain, lots of gain

Jennifer Portnick tried to get a job teaching Jazzercize but was rejected because she weighs 240 pounds. So she complained to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and intimidated the company to back down and hire her. Such is the tyranny of "fat acceptance," writes columnist Jacob Sullum. He compares Ms. Portnick to Kelly Brownell, who promotes the "Twinkie Tax" on junk food. Ms. Portnick loves fat, while Ms. Brownell hates it, but both want the government to demand public acquiescence to one or the other lifestyle. "Neither seems to consider the possibility that people are simply making ambivalent choices in a world of tradeoffs, where food tastes good but too much makes you fat, where exercise is a bother but helps you stay lean, and where it's good to be thin, other things being equal," Mr. Sullum concludes. "They rarely are."

Bruce for boss?

Was Bruce Springsteen born to run-for the Senate? Reuters reports that a former Jesse Ventura aide is helping a campaign to place the rock star on the New Jersey ballot. The story says that organizers didn't even tell Mr. Springsteen about the drive. "It took us seven months to get Jesse Ventura to run," Doug Friedline, who is helping a group called "Independence for New Jersey," told the wire service. "If Bruce Springsteen threw his hat in the ring and made a real serious run at this, I think you'd see thousands of volunteers coming out from all over the place." "Springsteen, whose songs often celebrate the blue-collar spirit of his youth in Freehold, N.J., now lives in the upscale community of Rumson near the northern end of the Jersey shore," according to Reuters. "The committee tried to reach him as long ago as December but has heard nothing."

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