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In brief: Pentagon hopes to end ban soon

Mon., Nov. 22, 2010

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia – The Pentagon’s top leaders warned Sunday that if Congress fails to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military, the courts may order changes that military leaders consider too fast or poorly thought-out.

The Pentagon is trying to make it easier for the Senate to consider lifting the ban in the current post-election session. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday he will release a study of the effects of repeal on Nov. 30, a day earlier than planned.

That could allow the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings on the ban the same week.

The Washington Post has reported that the study concludes the military can lift the ban with only minimal and isolated incidents of risk to the current war efforts.

“The timing and the legislative approach and so on, that is completely up to the Congress. All I know is if this law is going to change, it’s better to be changed by legislation rather than have it struck down by the courts,” Gates said.

Gates spoke in Bolivia, where he is attending a regional defense conference.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he supports Congress using its lame-duck session to end the ban, and that he backs action before the new Congress in January – if that’s what it takes to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as soon as possible.

Mullen said he supports ending the ban because asking people to lie about themselves “goes counter to who we are as an institution.”

Feds OK second stem cell study

NEW YORK – For only the second time, the U.S. government has approved a test in people of a treatment using embryonic stem cells – this time for a disease that causes serious vision loss.

Advanced Cell Technology, a biotechnology company based in Santa Monica., Calif., said the research should begin early next year, following the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Just last month another biotech company, Geron Corp., said it had begun preliminary testing in people for treating spinal cord injuries by injecting cells derived from embryonic stem cells.

Scientists hope to use stem cells to create a variety of tissues for transplant. But human embryos have to be destroyed to harvest those cells, which has made their use controversial.

ACT’s experiment will focus on Stargardt disease, which affects only about 30,000 Americans.

The disease typically starts in adolescence. There is no proven treatment.


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