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06.11.08

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Letters to the Editor


Designer Babies

Re "Human-Animal Hybrid Clones" (Techsploits, May 28): Annalee Newitz accurately notes that it's against U.K. law to let human-animal hybrid embryos develop past 14 days. In fact, the United Kingdom—along with some 40 other countries, including nearly all that have a biotech sector—prohibit any kind of effort to modify the genes of future children and generations. But here in the United States we haven't managed to put such a policy in place. That's one reason we should be alert to technical and political developments that could encourage "designer babies" and a Gattaca-style future.

Public-interest organizations including the U.K.'s Human Genetics Alert (which, contrary to Newitz's characterization, is run by a politically progressive Ph.D. geneticist) and the Center for Genetics and Society (where I work) recently criticized Cornell University researchers who created a genetically modified human embryo—the first ever—without any public discussion or consultation. In doing so, they crossed an ethical boundary that until now has been honored by scientists around the world. (Details in my "Crossing an Ethical Boundary" at www.geneticsandsociety.org).

Nobody thinks we're going to see winged human beings tomorrow or the day after. But we've already got online auctions for cloned pets, genetically re-engineered mammals in labs around the world, a "wild West" policy vacuum on human biotech in the United States, and a small but disturbing number of techno-enthusiasts who openly advocate a "designer baby" future.

Newitz describes herself as both "gloating" and "surly" in response to the news from the United Kingdom. Literary license and tongues in cheeks notwithstanding, are either of these helpful starting points for charting our biopolitical future?

Marcy Darnovsky

Oakland


More Fun With Bike Tickets

Re "World's Worst Spoke Cards" (The Fly, May 21): Beware of heartless CHP officers out to ticket bicyclists! And yes, I said CHP, not SJPD.

A couple of weeks ago, during the hottest weather on record this year, my kind-hearted, compassionate, hard-working and very responsible husband made it a point to partake in Ride Your Bike to Work Week, all week, even in 98 degree weather, much to my dismay.

Years ago he had been hit by a driver from behind, and left for dead roadside. So between that horror and the heat, I wasn't particularly pleased that he decided to bike-ride to work, but I did support him, as it was a wonderful socially conscious/eco-friendly/gas-saving endeavor.

Being the person that he is, my husband encouraged others to follow suit, and a few of his co-workers decided to cycle to work alongside him on Friday.

So at 8am, on Friday, May 16, he turned his bike in the opposite direction than normal, to meet two co-workers on the corner of Meridian and Willow.

That was when a CHP officer on a motorcycle swung a U-turn and cut him off at the path, in a rather menacing manner.

Now, mind you, this was in a residential area (not on an expressway or freeway), and my husband was wearing a helmet.

The officer immediately began lecturing my husband in a very condescending manner about riding with traffic.

He would not let him explain that he was meeting two co-workers on that corner, and that they would be traveling in the opposite direction momentarily ... with traffic.

I get that the law is the law, but given the circumstances you would think that the CHP officer would have had a heart, or at least been willing to let my husband speak long enough to explain the situation.

Moments later, his co-workers rolled up, and Mr. Belligerent proceeded to read them the riot act for riding on the sidewalk. He stated that no bicycle rider is ever permitted to ride on the sidewalk. OK, so by that logic, following the letter and not the spirit of the law, I guess that means parents should make sure their tricycle-ridin' tots head for the street, and go with traffic.

In the end, "Mr. Know-the-Law" wrote my husband a ticket, but could not answer his very basic questions, namely will this affect my driving record and insurance, and how much is the fine?

To borrow a quote from John Stossel, give me a break!

An aside: I can't help wondering if my husband's "MEXICO" soccer jersey and dark brown skin had something to do with the officer's attitude and over-reaction. I'm not saying it did, since I obviously cannot know that for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least, given the current anti-immigrant fervor. (Which is of course ironic, because my husband is an American, born and raised in San Jose.)

Jean S.

Willow Glen


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