Another sad anniversary

It?s been a summer of depressing anniversaries, but not until now have I had the occasion to remember, vividly, the actual events. I was too young to remember the first reports of linkurl:AIDS, 25 years ago.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23586/ Legionnaire?s disease, happened (just a few blocks from where I now work) linkurl:five years earlier;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/88/ than that. But I still remember quite vividly watching President Bush give his linkurl:firs

By | August 9, 2006

It?s been a summer of depressing anniversaries, but not until now have I had the occasion to remember, vividly, the actual events. I was too young to remember the first reports of linkurl:AIDS, 25 years ago.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23586/ Legionnaire?s disease, happened (just a few blocks from where I now work) linkurl:five years earlier;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/88/ than that. But I still remember quite vividly watching President Bush give his linkurl:first address that specifically affected the life science community.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/19830/ Five years ago today Bush said that he had spent months educating himself on the subject and searching his soul to finally decide that 60 was a good number of embryonic stem cell lines for people to work on with federal funds. It was one of those few times I ever experienced something both better than I could have hoped and worse than I could have imagined. I didn?t for a second suspect he would budge an inch on embryonic stem cells, so I was surprised to see him offering anything. But the announcement of freeing some funds, $250,000 at the time, for an arbitrary set of lines was a slap in the face to the hundreds of scientists he pretended to know better than. I find it striking how little has happened in five years. The optimist in me wanted to believe that this was, as some commentaries called it, a step in the right direction. But it wasn't. A vast majority of the lines were useless for research. Some got tied up in patent battles. States that have tried to pick up the funding slack have found their own share of landmines. Researchers who had to perform locational gymnastics to keep their federally funded work separated from their ES cell work still have to leap from room to room or building to building to stay 'legal.' And this past month, the first linkurl:Bush-vetoed bill;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23995/ from a Republican-controlled House and Senate was on the very same topic. This was no indication of future direction, just a flimsy bone for researchers to choke on. The decision, five years ago, struck me as a poor effort to make good on his inaugural promise to mend the deep partisan divide after a controversial election. Although the events that day pale in comparison to another five year anniversary we Americans will be mourning later this year -- 9/11 -- its imprint is etched in my mind, nonetheless. Does anyone else care to share their memories?

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