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Getting to know Sotomayor May 29, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Commentary.
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We’re all trying to find out where President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, stands on our favorite issues. We’re looking at her record on Church-state issues, on reproductive freedom, on LGBT concerns. But we shouldn’t be worried that her judicial opinions have been reversed more than is usual.
A Huffington Post blog by Sam Stein points out that her opinions haven’t been reversed more than is usual. And in two cases where the U.S. Supreme Court overruled her, her opinion was shared by Justice David Souter, the judge she will replace.
In an 11-year career as an appellate judge, Judge Sotomayor issued 380 opinions, of which five were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and three were reversed. That’s a lower rate of reversal than the Supreme Court usually hands down–75 percent of cases in 2008 were reversals.
So far it seems that Judge Sotomayor is pretty much in the mainstream of legal opinion. Stay tuned as we learn more.

Join the call for Sotomayor! May 26, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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On Wednesday May 27 at 2:00 PM, there will be a national conference call on the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. If you would like to help get her nominated, send a message to grassroots@civilrights.org, giving your full name, organization and state to get the toll-free number and passcode for the national conference call.
This national conference call is organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the Alliance for Justice (AfJ), and People for the American Way, coalition partners with CFI’s Office of Public Policy.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor is an outstandingly well qualified woman with an inspiring life story. The Center for Inquiry has hailed her nomination, with a note of caution because her views on church-state separation are unclear so far.
Send that email, join the call!

Tell NIH to Go Ahead with Stem Cell Research! May 18, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Action Item.
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When President Obama issued his March 9 Executive Order lifting the Bush administration’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, he instructed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop guidelines for funding research using federal dollars. These guidelines have now been issued and NIH wants written comments on them by May 26. Please send your comments either by pasting in the accompanying letter or writing your own comments to http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm TODAY.
Please note: in order to submit comments, you have to paste them in. There is no other way to send comments
The Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy thinks the guidelines are scientifically sound and offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases including Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
But the guidelines don’t go far enough. They need to open up stem cell research to embrace all scientific approaches.
Let’s review what the guidelines permit:
 Federal funding will be granted for research using human embryonic stem cells that were derived from embryos created during in vitro fertilization and no longer needed for reproductive purposes;
 Research on adult stem cells will also continue, although there’s controversy about how promising this research is.
And here’s what the guidelines do not permit:
o Funding will be not available for the creation of human embryos—although creation of embryos is routine in private fertility clinics;
o It won’t be available for somatic cell nuclear transfer, a technique that could overcome rejection of implanted tissue.
The present NIH guidelines will expand the number of embryonic stem cell lines available for federal funding, but not as much as they could or should. Research on human embryonic stem cells, somatic cell nuclear transfer and adult stem cells needs to continue in parallel. All are part of a research effort that seeks to expand our knowledge of how cells function, what fails in the disease process, and how the first stages of human development occur. It is this combined knowledge that will ultimately generate safe and effective therapies. This should be funded with federal money in order to move the research as quickly as possible.
There’s a political angle to this, too: those who oppose stem cell research on ideological or religious grounds will try to overwhelm NIH with negative comments on the guidelines. They will raise preposterous images of clones and human-animal monsters in the minds of those who do not understand the scientific basis of stem cell research. We don’t want to lose any form of this research, so we must ensure that our approval of the NIH guidelines is heard loud and clear.
PLEASE SEND YOUR COMMENTS TODAY! Send the text below or write your own. But do it. The opportunity to see an end to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases is too precious to lose.
Thank-you.
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Sample letter to paste in http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm

I am a member of the Center for Inquiry, a transnational organization devoted to science and reason as the basis of public policy. I have read the NIH guidelines for federal funding of stem cell research and urge the NIH to promote the widest range possible of research in this field because of its potential for improving health and curing diseases.
Your present guidelines are admirable in expanding the number of embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding and maintaining research using adult stem cells. At a minimum, these guidelines should be maintained, especially because a large majority of the people in the U.S. report in polls that they support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
But I would like to see the guidelines expanded to allow federal funding of all avenues of stem cell research. Research on human embryonic stem cells, somatic cell nuclear transfer and adult stem cells needs to continue in parallel. All are part of a research effort that seeks to expand our knowledge of how cells function, what fails in the disease process, and how the first stages of human development occur. It is this combined knowledge that will ultimately generate safe and effective therapies. This should be funded with federal money in order to move the research as quickly as possible.
While approving the present guidelines as an excellent first step, I urge you to continue to monitor developments in the field and update these guidelines as the research progresses.
Thank you for your attention.

What’s at stake
Stem cell research of all kinds is the most promising field of biomedical research to treat diseases as varied as diabetes and heart disease, because stem cells—and embryonic stem cells in particular—may be induced to develop into any type of cell in the body. During the Bush administration, federal funding for this research was severely restricted on ideological grounds: scientists could only use stem cell lines already established and could not develop new ones.
On March 9 this year, President Obama issued Executive Order 13505 lifting the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. He asked the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop guidelines for federally funding research. These guidelines have now been issued and the NIH has asked for public comment until May 26.
Now this is a great opportunity for us, as members of the Center for Inquiry who want to see scientific research used to improve everyone’s health, to let the NIH know that we approve of stem cell research and that our tax dollars should support it.
BUT the request for public comment is also an opportunity for those who oppose stem cell research to tell the NIH they oppose it and do not want it federally funded. What’s at stake is the future of federally funded stem cell research.
The NIH guidelines have scrupulously avoided—too drastically, we think—any charge that embryos will be created only to be destroyed in research. They have also banned somatic cell nuclear transfer, a technique that might overcome rejection of implanted tissue; or any form of “cloning.” In other words, the guidelines are designed to permit federal funding of research that the majority of Americans would agree to.
We at CFI would like the guidelines to expand any and all avenues of research into stem cells because of their potential to cure diseases that now shorten or devastate life for so many people. We ask you to send your comments NOW telling NIH to go ahead, but to continue work on expanding the guidelines.
YES, OUR TAX DOLLARS SHOULD SUPPORT EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH!

Talking points
1. Stem cell research of all kinds should be federally funded under NIH guidelines.
2. Use of embryonic stem cells in research is not equivalent to abortion—the cells are no longer needed in reproduction and have been donated to research.
3. Stem cell research has immense potential to cure diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
4. Only federal funding under NIH supervision can assure that the research will go ahead with scientific objectivity.
5. Although these guidelines are scientifically sound and politically balanced, they should be revisited to expand their scope and make every possible avenue of research available.
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Civic Days at the OPP July 18-21! You all come! May 13, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Action Item, Annoucements, Press Release.
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Change has come to Washington DC—
and So Should You. Join Us!

The CFI Office of Public Policy invites you to participate in the second annual

Civic Days at the Capital, 18-21 July 2009

Come to Washington for four days of immersion in how Congress and the nation’s capital city work. You will hear about what’s on Congress’s agenda right now; about lobbying works; about The Credibility Project, an OPP-sponsored project exposing fake “scientists” who oppose global warming; visit the National Archives and other historical sites; go on a walking tour of Robert Green Ingersoll’s life in Washington; meet and hear from Congressional staffers; and lobby your own members of Congress. And you will also enjoy networking with other Friends of the Center from across the country.

The following is a tentative schedule of events. First lesson of Washington: Congress sets the agenda and we have to follow.

When: July 18, Saturday-July 21, Tuesday
Where: CFI Office of Public Policy, 621 Pennsylvania Ave. SE Washington DC 20003

July 18 Saturday
Informal welcome social at the OPP office from 12 noon to 9:00 PM.
Participants will be greeted by Toni Van Pelt, Director of Public Policy; Ruth Mitchell OPP staff associate; Melody Hensley, CFI/DC executive director; and members of the Civic Days Planning Committee.

July 19 Sunday
• What’s moving through the Congress. Briefing by Toni Van Pelt
• The Credibility Project, an analysis of the 650 global warming denier “experts.” Thomas O’Brien and Dr. Stuart Jordan, emeritus senior staff scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
• Private docent visit to the National Archives
• Ingersoll’s Life in DC, 1.5 mile, 2 hour walking tour. Steve Lowe, member of the Civic Days Planning Committee.Bring your favorite Ingersoll quotation to share.
• Private briefing with Friends of the Center congressional staff members.

July 20 Monday
• Briefing about current issues by a member of Congress (tba)
• Tour of Capitol Visitors Center
• Group Photo in front of Library of Congress
• Tour the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, on Capitol Hill, a museum devoted to the history of women’s emancipation
• Teaming up, role playing and coordinating our lobbying appointments.
• Dinner together at Union Station
• Evening walk round the monuments.

July 21 Tuesday
• Day in Congress, beginning with breakfast in a House Office Building cafeteria.
• Meetings with legislators, attendance at congressional briefings or hearings.
• Fly home tonight.

Accommodations
We have several suggestions for hotel and b-and-b accommodations which will be e-mailed to registered participants upon request. We’ll include maps for easy Metro, bus, and walking directions to the OPP office and our other destinations.

Registration
Please go to http://ga1.org/center_for_inquiry/events/civic_days.

The phone number for the CFI/OPP is 202-546-2330. Toni Van Pelt can be reached by email at tvanpelt@centerforinquiry.net.

We’re looking forwarding to introducing you to Washington and its ways!