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As the storm over federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research intensified last week, hope for an easy compromise faded. White House sources say it is unlikely that President Bush will announce his decision before he leaves for a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Europe next week. The delay could be part of a White House strategy to cast the decision as principled, not political. But doctors who met with the president last week told NEWSWEEK that Bush, who is known for his quick decision making, is taking his time over this one, listening to scientists and ethicists. "It's clearly weighing on him," said one.

Bush broached the topic at a Medicare meeting with members of Congress. Then, at a Wednesday sit-down with medical specialists to discuss the patient's bill of rights, he offered the clearest window yet into his thinking. Seated around an oval table with Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and two dozen specialists, Bush suddenly turned the discussion to stem-cell research. "I'm wrestling with this decision," he told them. "I honestly don't know what I'm going to do... This is very, very difficult for me."

The issues were further muddied when two separate laboratories announced major steps toward using embryonic stem-cell lines for medical treatment. On Wednesday, in the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine reported that they had created human embryos for the express purpose of destroying them and harvesting their stem cells.

The ethics of the experiment immediately rang alarm bells. Until now most researchers have proposed using frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertility treatments as a source of stem cells. Creating embryos so they can be destroyed was something else, even though the researchers obtained informed consent from the egg and sperm donors. "People have been moving toward a compromise involving already-existing embryos, [but] specially created embryos raise moral red flags," says University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan.

On Thursday a Massachusetts-based biotech outfit disclosed that it had been preparing in secret for nearly a year to create stem cells through cloning technology. Advanced Cell Technology has already obtained eggs from women donors, into which they plan to transfer nuclei from the cells of other adults. Theoretically the "activated egg"--ACT's term for it--should grow and provide stem cells just like an embryo. It is hoped these cells would be genetically and immunologically identical to the nucleus donor, thus better for medical applications for that patient.

Again, it's the ethics of this so-called "therapeutic cloning" that concern some observers. "What people worry about here is will this be an opening to the cloning of human beings?" says Dartmouth ethicist Ronald Green, the head of ACT's ethics board. He argues the cloned entities ACT is making aren't really embryos, since they aren't fertilized with a sperm cell.

Last week's revelations are sure to be fodder at this week's stem-cell hearings in Congress. For President Bush, the decision keeps getting harder.

--With Adam Rogers

((((((THE BUZZ)))))) Boy Bands Go Bust, Civilization Is Saved! When A.J. wants it "That Way," he means whisky, straight up. With a member in rehab, they should be called Backstreet Men-With-Young-Fans. And 'N Sync has a new album, but Justin's hair generates more buzz. Is teen pop in trouble?

Self-Loathing Even 'N Sync's Joey has a boy bands suck T shirt. Why can't his lyrics be that self-aware?

Stick a Fork in 'Em How can you tell that a fad is dead? When they're trashing it in Cleveland. We just 'hope "Bye Bye Bye" will become prophetic.' (Cleveland Scene)

He Sings. He Dances. He Diapers? It's kinda sick to market grown men to little girls. But it's even stranger now that two of these boys have babies. 'It sucks the cool right out of it.' (Entertainment Weekly)

Gentlemen, Place Your Bets A.J. may need more time to clean up his act. 'Thirty days of rehab is like using two aspirin to treat cancer,' says Dr. Dan Crane of NYC's ACI Clinic. Pace yourself. The tour can wait-- really. HistoryPassing the Hat For his son George W's birthday, the 41st president bought a cap stitched with the number 43. If such dynastic gift-giving seems odd to outsiders, to insiders, it's old hat. Before he died of pneumonia, William Henry Harrison (9) gave a thin, wooden walking stick with a tassel to his 7-year-old grandson, Benjamin (23). Democratic opponents resented the younger Harrison's lineage when he ran for president in 1888, writing campaign songs that claimed Tippecanoe's hat wouldn't fit "even a little bit on Benjamin Harrison's brain." John Adams (2) did not shower John Quincy (6) with presents, says Adams National Historical Park curator Kelly Cobble. Unless you count an ambassadorship to Prussia. ScienceChokehold Serving at match point in the Wimbledon final last week, Goran Ivanisevic felt the weight of imaginary sandbags on his arms. Why should nerves paralyze an athlete about to win? Being tantalizingly close to an unexpected victory can cause what sports psychologists call overarousal. The body produces excess adrenaline while restricting blood flow, tightening the muscles and depleting fine-motor skills. Oddly enough, Ivanisevic didn't have trouble lifting the Wimbledon trophy. The Ultimate Law Review Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods joins the ranks of Harvard Law School in "Legally Blonde," in theaters since Friday. Here's how she measures up against her fellow cinematic alums:

'Love Story'
1970
Credentials
Hockey stud, Harvard-grad millionaire's son, penchant for 'Cliffies
Interaction With Faculty
Harvard profs so distant we never see any
Showing Their Smarts
Oliver graduates third in his class and writes winning essay

'Paper Chase'
1973
Credentials
Shaggy hair, smug lips, unfortunate bow ties (oh, and top LSAT scores)
Interaction With Faculty
Professor Kingsfield makes Hart sweat, vomit and slave over extra work
Showing Their Smarts
Hart aces exams after three-day cramfest; wins prof's approval after telling him off

'Soul Man'
1986
Credentials
Overdoses on bronzing pills to snag minority scholarship
Interaction With Faculty
Mark tries jivin' with his 'brother,' Prof. James Earl Jones
Showing Their Smarts
'Mom! Dad! There's something I have to tell you. I'm black.'

'Legally Blonde'
2001
Credentials
4.0 GPA in fashion merchandising; danced in Ricky Martin video
Interaction With Faculty
Professor's inspiring words of welcome: 'Let the bloodbath begin'
Showing Their Smarts
Elle foils saleswoman peddling overpriced rayon; uses 'rules of hair care' to win caseSTYLE ICONSHigh Priestesses of High Fashion They're the women who taught us the virtue of pillbox hats, tailored jackets and double-stick tape. Women's Wear Daily is marking its 90th year with a list of the top-10 style icons of all time, said Bridget Foley, the fashion bible's executive editor. "They're each a generation's fashion star." PERI's sure we were omitted by mistake.

1.Jackie 2.Madonna 3.Babe Paley 4.Coco Chanel 5.Katharine Hepburn 6.Audrey Hepburn 7.Ali MacGraw 8.'The Supermodels' including Iman 9.The Dutchess of Windsor 10.'Icons in training' Gwyneth & J. Lo TOYSBig Bike, Baby Bike Top speed of the new Harley-Davidson V-Rod: 140mph. Top speed of the new Runt minibike: 3mph. But bikers are bonkers for both. The first new Harley design in a decade, the $17,000 V-Rod will be unveiled Monday, and on roads by October. "This bike looks fast sitting still," says Harley's Bill Davidson. Not the wobbly two-foot Runt--it looks silly sitting still and sillier in use. But the $100 bike is a hit at skateboard ramps. Competitors are racing to catch up--Huffy's $60 Monkey Bike is out in September. TRAVELFit for a King? That's Too Small. Mattress hogs, rejoice! And reserve a huge bed at a hotel abroad. Heather Graham likes London's Covent Garden's 8ft.-by-8ft. canopy bed. Paris's Royal Monceau wants $2,800 for a night on a 60-square-footer that's slept Robert De Niro. Too steep? At Thailand's Little Mermaid, 12ft.-wide beds are $45 a night. No stars here, says the owner, but "they'd come if we tripled the price." Not soon. All four beds are taken till 2003.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM Step Up to the Plate Edition Media ramps up missing-intern story to DEFCON 3. It's got a sleazy pol, mystery and did we mention sex? Let's just hope all the attention helps solve the case.

C.W. China + Delirious over '08 Games, but move in right direction or the C.W. will boycott. Condit - Poster boy for selfish womanizers. But odds are he's not guilty. Hastert - Gutless House speaker kills camp. fin. reform without vote. What a surprise. Bush = Unveils cards for seniors' Rx discount. Hey, W, they've already got 'em. N. Reagan + Supports stem-cell research. That could stem the debate with the right. MLB - Baseball brass tell umps to "hunt for strikes" to shorten games. Call them out.

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