Tuesday, January 13, 1998

International ban on human cloning needed

RICHARD Seed may have inadvertently made a useful contribution to society by announcing his intention to clone humans. Although it is doubtful that Seed has the technical knowledge to accomplish this, his announcement drew such wide publicity that it threw a scare into the nation. President Clinton devoted his weekly address last Saturday to urging Congress to enact a ban on human cloning to prevent the Chicago physicist from carrying out his plan. Clinton called human cloning "untested and unsafe and morally unacceptable."

Last year, after Scottish scientists succeeded in cloning a sheep, Clinton sent Congress legislation to outlaw human cloning for at least five years. During that period, under that proposed legislation the National Bioethics Advisory Commission would assess the risks and the ethical and social effects of human cloning. However, Congress adjourned without acting on the measure.

Although Seed has carried out some embryo research, his background is in physics, not medicine. He has no affiliation with a hospital or university. According to his wife, he hasn't had a real job in 30 years. He shouldn't be taken seriously.

The danger is that better qualified scientists with the ability to obtain the necessary funding might attempt the procedure. The publicity Seed received might prod Congress into action to head off such attempts. The need is plain.

The ethical problems with the concept of human cloning are awesome. In addition, there are enormous dangers of mistakes in the process. Society would not tolerate the production of flawed children in cloning experiments. No issue has more potential to undermine public confidence in the whole field of genetic research than cloning people.

Yesterday 19 European nations signed an agreement to prohibit the genetic replication of humans. French President Jacques Chirac, in a speech before the European ethics committee, called for an international ban. Congress should enact a ban and authorize the administration to join in an international campaign to stop such efforts.

Maui improvements

A bit of history will be made Sunday with the holding of the Hooters Hula Bowl game on Maui. It will be the first time a national post-season game will be staged on the Valley Isle. It should also be a boost for Maui's tourism industry through network TV and a welcome chance for island residents to view an event previously held exclusively on Oahu.

Maui Memorial Stadium's capacity has been more than doubled to provide for nearly 20,000 fans for the game. A sellout is expected. That number is about the same as the turnout in recent years for Hula Bowls on Oahu, but the game is big news on Maui, where the population is much smaller and major sports events are a rarity.

When Mayor Linda Lingle proposed bringing the all-star game to Maui, local sports organizations feared the construction work would disrupt their schedules. But they say they are pleased with the county's efforts to accommodate them.

The enlarged stadium capacity will of course be available to hold other events and should increase Maui's ability to attract topflight entertainers.

Maui is getting another important facility with the opening of the Maui Ocean Center next month in Maalaea. It features a 250,000-gallon fish tank with a walk-through tunnel. It's the first facility of its kind on a neighbor island.

With an enlarged stadium and the ocean center, Maui has strengthened its position as a visitor destination.

Kamehameha union

THERE is a great irony in the position of the Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate that all of its teachers play a managerial role in the governance of the schools. An attorney for the Bishop Estate made this argument in opposing a petition to the National Labor Relations Board from Kamehameha Schools faculty who want to organize a union. Seventy percent of the faculty, about 260 full-time teachers, signed the petition.

The irony lies in the reason the teachers want to form a union. Far from participating in the management of the schools, the teachers seek union protection because they have been excluded from decision-making and feel threatened. Yet the estate's attorney contended at an NLRB hearing that all teachers are managerial employees - in other words, ineligible for union membership.

A report on the management of the schools, prepared by retired Circuit Judge Patrick Yim at the request of the trustees, found an atmosphere of fear and intimidation generated by the oppressive practices of trustee Lokelani Lindsey. In the wake of that report, for the trustees to contend that the teachers are included in the management of the schools is absurd.

It seems inevitable that the NLRB will approve the petition for an election on the question of union membership and that the union will win that election. For this the trustees have only themselves to blame. Without the furor generated by Lindsey's heavy-handed tactics, it is unlikely that the faculty would have taken this step.

Meanwhile Yim is being criticized for destroying his records of the interviews he conducted with faculty and staff at the Kamehameha Schools in the course of his investigation. We find this act defensible in view of the need he faced to guarantee anonymity to the persons interviewed because they feared retaliation.

This need was confirmed by statements by Lindsey rejecting Yim's findings critical of her and calling for substantiation of the charges against her. This could have lead to attempts to gain access to Yim's records, thereby endangering confidentiality. Yim couldn't let that happen.

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