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Missing the Big Picture

Also: Clarity in Smoke, Score for Science



Missing the Big Picture
So now we’re getting interested in the government’s data collection. It took news of Verizon’s buckling to demands that it secretly turn over customers’ call records to a government increasingly empowered by the post-9/11 Patriot Act. Whether or not you should be incensed by what some call an unprecedented breach of privacy, you should at least start wondering about just what data the government is collecting, why and with what ramifications. For some time now, Big Brother, aka the National Security Agency, has been building a $1.5 billion data center in Bluffdale, but it took Wired magazine to ask and answer the hard questions. The center will collect “all forms of communication,” the magazine wrote. And what is Utah worried about? Taxing its electricity consumption—$40 million a year. Well, that’s a start.

Clarity in the Smoke
Well, here we go again, trying to figure out whom to blame for the bad air we breathe. Despite all the official finger-pointing at vehicles, now, University of Utah researchers and environmental regulators have found that wood stoves, fireplaces and outdoor grills are the main bogeymen churning up winter pollution. Not that driving around is good for the air; gas and diesel engines cause just about as much pollution (37 percent) as those personal heating and grilling devices (38 percent). Oh, yeah, and then there’s the chlorine coming from the Great Salt Lake and US Magnesium. With this information in hand, maybe the state can come up with some real solutions to cracking the inversion.

Score for Science
Is it too optimistic to think that the controversy over stem-cell research is waning? Thanks to a Japanese researcher in 2006, scientists have been able to bypass embryonic cells and generate stem cells from skin cells—a slower but less controversial way of growing tissue. This week, friends of a man with Hodgkin’s lymphoma organized a stem-cell drive in Park City, where volunteers had their cheeks swabbed for possible matches for an eventual stem-cell transplant. Andy Washington, a Park City native, lives in Indianapolis now and has not responded to standard chemotherapy. Stem-cell transplants are also known as bone marrow transplants, peripheral blood stem-cell transplants or umbilical-cord-blood transplants, but it’s the umbilical-cord issue that’s been the game stopper, especially in areas like Utah, where the Eagle Forum has influence. With this recent outpouring of community empathy, science may be taking center stage.

Twitter: @KathyBiele

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