Celera Wins Grant to Decode Rat Genome

Following its successes with decoding the genomes of humans, mice and flies, Celera Genomics recently announced it had been awarded a $58 million National Institutes Health grant, along with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, to sequence the DNA of rats. Since rats are widely used in medical experiments already, the rat genome could provide a lot of clues to understanding human and animal diseases.

The rat’s genome is believed to be about the same size as that of human beings. Rats are preferred over mice in medical research because, among other things, they have larger bodies which make it easier to study models of human diseases.

Celera’s Craig Venter told The BBC, “WE believe that by pooling our resources [with the Baylor College of Medicine] we can quickly unlock the mysteries of this important model organism which should aid researchers in their quest for a better understanding of basic human biology and health, and thus to find improved cures and treatments for disease.”


Rat genome is next. The BBC, March 1, 2001.

Protests In Texas Against Private School Scholarships

An example of just how heated and bizarre attitudes about vouchers are was evident at a recent protest in Austin, Texas, decrying scholarships for private schools. What made the protest bizarre is that the scholarships that were being protested are financed completely by private funds.

Dr. James Leininger of San Antonio used $45 million of his own money to finance the CEO Horizon Scholarship Program in San Antonio. The program gives money to students who live in the low-income Edgewood School District.

According to the Associated Press about 800 to 1,100 students have participated in the program, though not all of those students have been accepted by private schools.

This is a horrifying development to some in Edgewood, especially teachers unions. Diana Herrera, president of the Edgewood Classroom Teachers Association, summed up the anti-voucher argument quite well saying, “I don’t care if the words are going to be tax credit, opportunity scholarship, parental choice. Vouchers by any name will not be accepted.” Parents will simply accept the state school of their choice and learn to like it — even if their kids don’t learn much else.

Edgewood Superintendent Noe Sauceda complained that the students who took the CEO Foundation scholarships took $2 to $4 million annually away from the district since state funding is predicated on student enrollment.

But as Mary Havel of the CEO Foundation pointed out, if there are fewer students then presumably the school district’s expenses should also be lower (which is why funding is linked to student enrollment in the first place).

Leininger and The CEO Foundation should be saluted for doing their best to help poor students route around the damaged stated educational system in Texas.


Voucher foes rally at Capitol. The Associated Press, February 22, 2001.

Police Make Arrests in UK Letter Bomb Campaign

Police in the United Kingdom recently made several arrests as part of their investigation into a series of letter bombs mailed to animal-related enterprises. A police spokesman said they had arrested a 26-year-old man, a 36-year-old man, and a 31-year-old woman as part of their investigation.

Police also managed to recover three bombs that had been prepared and were about to be sent to animal enterprises in the UK. The bombs were recovered and rendered inoperable by bomb disposal experts.

In all 11 business were targeted by the bombs which were packed with explosives and nails designed to cause injury to anyone opening the letters. Only five of the devices actually detonated, but three of those explosions resulted in serious injuries.

A six-year-old girl suffered leg wounds on New Year’s Eve from a bomb sent to her father. He was apparently targeted because he owns a pest control service. A farmer suffered facial injuries after he opened one of the bombs as well. The most serious injury, however, was to a female employee of an estate agency who suffered facial injuries that caused serious damage to one of her eyes.

Hopefully police have discovered all those responsible and a dangerous terrorist cell has been taken out of circulation.


Police arrest three after letter-bomb campaign. Andrew Walker, The Scotsman, February 22, 2001.

Suspects arrested in letter-bomb case. Maria Breslin, The Independent (London), February 22, 2001.

Three held by letter bomb police. Mary O’Hara, The Guardian (London), February 22, 2001

Report: British National Health System Needs to Turn to Privatization

Great Britain’s National Health System has no choice but to privatize some medical treatment options if it is to survive. That was the conclusion of a recent report put together by representatives of the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, patients, private health providers and other stakeholders.

Barring some sort of privatization, the rationing which already exist informally within the NHS will have to be occur formally in order to avoid bankrupting the system.

Great Britain faces the same problem that all socialized medical systems face. When the cost of medical treatment is free to the end customers, the demand for medical treatment is extremely high. Since resources are not unlimited, something has to give.

Great Britain, like most socialized health care systems, keeps costs down informally through extremely long waiting periods. Surgical procedures that might take two or three months at most to schedule in the United States can keep a patient on waiting lists for a year or more in Great Britain. In addition many advanced treatments and expensive medications that are considered routine treatment in the United States are simply not available in Great Britain because they are simply too expensive.

But the bottom line is that delaying procedures and limiting treatment options has merely forestalled the day of reckoning. Without massive funding increases — which is a nonstarter politically — the system is in trouble.

And this is the system that folks such as Ralph Nader say the United States should adopt. No thanks.


Rationing ‘only option’ for NHS. The BBC, February 7, 2001.

ALF Founder — Victim of Violent Attack Got What He Deserved

Ronnie Lee, who founded the Animal Liberation Front but claims he is no longer associated with the group, this week sang the praises of the unidentified attackers who attacked Huntingdon Life Sciences
managing director Brian Cass with baseball bats last week. The Daily Telegraph reports that Lee had this to say about the violent assault on Cass,

This serves Brian Cass right and is totally justifiable. In fact he has got off lightly. I have no sympathy for him. I do not condemn this act. I condemn what Brian Cass does to animals. In fact, I would say I condone this. What surprises me is that this doesn’t happen more often

Robin Webb, a UK spokesman for the ALF, wouldn’t condone the act but did say he “understood” what motivated those who carried it out,

The Animal Liberation Front has always had a policy of not harming life, but while it would not condone what took place, it understands the anger and frustration that leads people to take this kind of action. Groups like the Animal Rights Militia and the Justice Department have said they are prepared to take this sort of action in the short-term for the long-term gain.

Whereas terrorism through arson and other acts of violence don’t phase Webb one bit.


Victim got what he deserved, says animal group’s founder. Richard Alleyne, The Daily Telegraph (UK), February 24, 2001.