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Letters to the Editor 

Week of Wednesday, August 3, 2005

The Stem Cell Institute Responds

And we respond back: I am writing to correct several inaccuracies in your article about the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine ["Onward, Christian Lawyers," News, July 27].

First, you state that "the state Attorney General's Office is wary of signing off on the first of the $3 billion in bonds for the institute." On the contrary, the bond sale was approved at the June meeting of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Finance Committee, whose members include the state treasurer and the controller. The bond sale does not require approval of the attorney general, nor has it been sought.

Second, the article's statement that the institute has not adopted conflict of interest policies is incorrect. In fact, the governing board of the ICOC (the institute's oversight committee) has approved, and CIRM has already implemented, conflict of interest policies and procedures that are stricter than those used by most other scientific research organizations, including the NIH.

While your article lauds the delay caused by the civil suits because it gives us time to adjust our administrative policies, it ignores the scientific and medical impact of the delay. Scientists in other countries are rapidly moving ahead with stem cell research; further delay risks a permanent loss in leadership for California and the nation in this new and important scientific area.

In spite of the threatened delay, the institute is proceeding with its scientific program. We meet in August to consider applications for training grants from 26 California research institutions, and will sponsor our first scientific meeting in October.

Zach W. Hall, Interim President
California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Ryan Blitstein responds: The CSCRC Finance Committee did approve bond sales, but the state Treasurer's Office says it is selling "bond anticipation notes" (a form of interim debt that would be retired when bonds are sold) rather than the actual, longer-term bonds. Although the attorney general doesn't formally have to "sign off" on selling bonds to fund the institute, investors generally won't buy such bonds with lawsuits pending unless the attorney general issues a "no-merit opinion" stating that the suits are very likely to fail. He hasn't. That said, "signing off on" was not the best choice of words; saying the attorney general is wary of "recommending" the bonds would have been better. On the conflict of interest front, CIRM has adopted some conflict policies but has not finalized them, due to some of the ongoing concerns mentioned in the article.

Sound Barrier

Kees to reduced suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge: Matt Smith's suggestion of a Weldon Kees memorial suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge sounds like a stroke of genius to me ["Kees to the City," July 27]. His suggested timeline of July 2006 seems unlikely, but Kees enthusiasts can look forward to a very exciting retrospective of the film work of Weldon Kees at the San Francisco Cinematheque around that time next year -- including Kees' rarely seen short, Hotel Apex (1951), and James Broughton's 1950 short, Adventures of Jimmy (with jazz score by Weldon Kees).

I, too, confess to becoming obsessed with Kees while researching my film The Joy of Life (which is in part a history of suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge); so obsessed that I chose one of his wonderful instrumental pieces, "The Coastline Rag," for my opening credits soundtrack.

Jenni Olson
St. Mary's Park

Don't Advertise, and They Won't Come

A letter likely to be studied in graduate logic programs for decades: Just want to say that I really enjoyed your article on document fraud and its connection with terrorism ["The Identity Makers," July 20]. I have a feeling that regardless of the amount of money spent on counterterrorism, someone will be out there who's able to get past it. So why do we bother? Couldn't we be spending our money on more worthy causes than people just trying to make some money to send back to their folks, or raise a family in the "land of the free"?

If we didn't keep saying we were the best and that everyone wants to be like us, perhaps there wouldn't be such a desperate scramble to get here. If you don't want people to demand your products, don't advertise. Kind of makes sense, don't you think?

Victoria Shepherd
Diamond Heights


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