Obama's stem cell decision

March 9, 2009 1:03:25 PM PDT
We're in the middle of a horrible recession. It might be a depression, if we're to believe the growing chorus of experts. And the new president, whose first executive job is running the United States, is throwing just about everything against the wall, hoping it will stick and help turn the economy around. There are many who think he's done too much, many who think he hasn't done enough.

But let's put aside the depressing news about the recession, and focus on today's huge development that reversed the federal ban on human embryonic stem cell research.

How refreshing.

Finally. Mr. Obama, promising to "make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology," unleashed with one left-handed stroke of his pen the opportunity to explore cures for diseases that we can now only complain about.

The stem cell research will not, said the president, become a platform for human cloning. He called that science "wrong," and vowed not to have it happen on his watch.

Using embryos for research has been a flashpoint for anti-abortionists, who say it's no different than a woman having an abortion. But these embryos, typically in fertility clinics, would have been destroyed anyway - and they have been. Now, they might be put to use researching cures. No surprise, people in wheelchairs were in the audience for the White House signing.

And former First Lady Nancy Reagan, whose husband died from Alzheimer's, one of the diseases that scientists hope stem cell research will help fight, came out strongly in support of the president's action.

We'll have the latest on this bold step forward tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we're also following the economy - depressing though it might be. New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson today put out his analysis of the mayor's preliminary budget. He said 2009 will be "one of the worst years" for the local economy, "possibly since the end" of World War II. Thompson's comments follow the observations of the most respected investor in the country, Warren Buffett, who says that the economy has fallen "off a cliff."

Happy Monday.

We're also finding out more about the activities - or perhaps "lack of activities" is more accurate - of how supposed financier Bernard Madoff pulled off his alleged Ponzi scheme and ripped off investors to the tune of $50 billion.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a long-time aide to Madoff instructed two workers to generate trading tickets that authorities say were bogus. Most pyramid-type schemes involve clients getting false trading records - part of the scam that allows investors to think their money is actually doing something.

And from illegal schemes to questionable corporate practices -- Bank of America and Merrill Lynch is now being asked by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank to supply bonus information for their workers who received bonuses of more than $1 million last year.

Merrill apparently paid $3.6 billion in bonuses in the fourth quarter of 2008 - a period during which they had so many losses that Bank of America had to buy the company.

Both corporations have received a combined $45 billion from taxpayers, as well as $188 billion in taxpayer-funded insurance.

Stay tuned.

The tough economy means tough times for local governments. Tomorrow, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine presents his recession budget, and it includes some hard-to-swallow cuts. Tonight we'll preview the budget proposal. There is some sliver of good news for seniors and low-income residents -- their property tax rebates will continue.

Speaking of cuts, the business Web site called "24/7 Wall St." is out with a list of 10 newspapers that it thinks are prime candidates for shutting down in the next 18 months. Among them: The Philadelphia Daily News, The Miami Herald, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Sun Times and the New York Daily News, which it says is will lose upwards of $60 million over the next year and a half.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports, including the latest on Alex Rodriguez's hip surgery today. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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