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Debate heated over embryonic stem-cell bill

The state Senate – which, like most senates, has the reputation of being the cooler-headed “more deliberative” chamber – nonetheless turned quite hot Friday morning when the topic turned to embryonic stem-cell research.

The bill – EHB 1268 – sets ethical guidelines for stem-cell research, but does not allow creation of embryos for such research. The embryos come from leftover fertilized eggs donated for research by couples undergoing fertility treatments. Stem-cell research, proponents say, holds great promise for the treatment of many diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

The opening salvo came from Sen. Alex Deccio, R-Yakima, who said that as a soldier in World War II he went to the newly liberated Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp. There, he said, he saw emaciated Jews, dead and dying.

“They were embryos at one point, but somebody decided those people should be done away with,” he said. “It was government … We’re talking about the same thing.”

No, said Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle.

“This is a far cry from the Holocaust,” said Kline, who is Jewish. “I personally have a difficult time accepting any kind of political rhetoric that attempts to draw moral equivalency between science and murder.”

“This is about babies,” responded Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington. “We are talking about what goes on in creation.”

“These efforts may help relieve human suffering, may keep someone’s father or grandfather alive,” said Senate Majority Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. She noted that she was born and raised Catholic and said the social teachings of the church inspire her every day. “I find no contradiction between those essential values of wanting to reduce human suffering and advance – ”

She was cut off as fellow Catholic Sen. Joyce Mulliken, furious, jumped up.

“I am truly offended,” Mulliken said. “Please, please do not say there is no conflict with the beloved Catholic Church. The Holy Father does not teach – “

Mulliken was cut off by Senate President Brad Owen, who let Brown continue.

Brown apologized and said she was stating that there’s no conflict with her own values, not commenting on the official position of the Catholic Church. “I was simply trying to point to some of my personal motivation,” she said. “This bill is consistent with the idea of alleviating human suffering.”

Republicans tried unsuccessfully to defer the bill indefinitely but lost the vote, which indicates that the bill has enough votes to pass. But to cool things off, both sides agreed Friday morning to temporarily defer action on the bill.

Google your back yard

The online search company Google has put searchable satellite photos online at (Type the name of a city into the search box and click on “satellite.”)

The images vary in resolution. If you’re looking for a photo of the state Capitol, it’s pretty blurry. But the images of the Spokane region are quite good – it’s easy to make out individual rooftops of the big buildings in downtown Spokane, and you can almost make out the colors of individual cars.

A little fiscal transfusion

The House budget proposed last week has some good news for local hospitals. It would provide an estimated $2 million more in Medicaid reimbursements for Sacred Heart, Deaconess, Valley and Holy Family hospitals.

Voting for high school juniors?

Rep. Sam Hunt and three other Olympia-area Democrats want to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote.

The four are backing HB 2305, which would lower the minimum voting age – now 18 – to 16. At least 18 states have considered voting-age bills since 2001, according to research by House staffer Hannah Lidman. Several passed bills allowing people to register if they’ll turn 18 by Election Day. One proposal was to drop the voting age to 14; others would set it at 16 and 17. Iran allows voting at 15, Nicaragua at 16, Indonesia at 17. And Brazil allows voluntary voting from age 16 to 18, and mandatory voting from age 18 to 70.

An important caveat about Hunt’s proposal, however: It’s too late to be voted into law this year. And even if it passes next year, it would still require voter approval of a state constitutional amendment in November 2006.


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