[ OUR OPINION ]
FIRST indications are that the Christmas season was merrier at Hawaii stores than at those on the mainland, but still not worthy of a post-holiday celebration. While experts declared holiday shopping was its most dismal in more than three decades, Hawaii stores apparently were as busy as anyone had hoped. Continued recovery of the tourism industry should keep spirits only as high as a weak national economy and the expectation of war will permit.
Optimism is crucial
in fortifying economy
THE ISSUEStores in Hawaii reportedly fared better than those on the mainland during the Christmas season.
While corporate profits have been up substantially in this quarter of the year, retail sales for November and December rose only 1.5 percent, the lowest increase since at least 1970, when such statistics began to be kept. The National Retail Federation, normally an upbeat industry forecaster, changed its original estimated growth for December from 4 percent to 3.5 percent.
Macy's stores reportedly experienced strong sales during the Christmas season at its former Liberty House stores in Hawaii. However, its parent company, Federated Department Stores, said its sales in the third week of December fell below its expectations, and the company now is bracing for a similar showing in the tabulation of sales for November and December.
Hawaii shoppers may have been more active because of what appears to be a continuing revival of tourism, the state's vital economic engine. Visitor arrivals in November naturally were more numerous than the same month last year, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but were down 8.9 percent from November 2000, a more telling comparison.
"Hawaii's visitor industry is still experiencing weakness in arrivals from the Japanese market," says state economist Pearl Imada Iboshi. "As compared to other U.S. visitor destinations, however, we have made great progress over the past year. We are very encouraged by the continued strength in the domestic market and the resilience of the U.S. economy."
Congressional action may be needed to bolster that resilience. Tax cuts for all but those in the highest bracket and corporate tax breaks aimed at countering the rise in unemployment may be needed to bring about a happy new year.
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DISTINGUISHED scientists reacted with skepticism and outrage to an announcement by a strange cult that it had produced the world's first human clone, a baby girl named Eve. Other clones are claimed to be on their way, adding pressure on Congress to outlaw such practices. Legislation may be appropriate but it should not interfere with legitimate and valuable medical research.
Human cloning claim
THE ISSUEA cult-run Bahamas company has announced the creation of a human clone.
Brigitte Boisselier, a chemist with a Bahamas company, Clonaid, claims to have created the clone of the woman who gave birth to her at a secret location. Clonaid was created by a French race-car driver who adopted the name of Rael and formed a cult with more than 50,000 followers. The cult is premised on Rael's story about learning from a 4-foot space alien atop a French volcano that humans were cloned from space travelers 25,000 years ago.
A study completed more than a year ago by the University of Hawaii and Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that 90 percent of the clones of animals from embryonic cells die before or soon after birth. Those that survive have genetic abnormalities, according to the study. The Raelites maintained at that time that they would screen embryos for such abnormalities, although animal cloning experts said no such process exists.
Proof that the Raelites performed a human cloning -- in the form of DNA comparisons of mother and supposed child/twin -- won't be available for another week. If it is proved, the project was "absolutely abhorrent, unsafe and ethically questionable," said Robert Lanza, chief of medical development at Advanced Cell Technology, which has cloned a human embryo but never implanted it. Other experts agree.
The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates human experiments, plans an investigation into the Raelites' claim. If the supposed cloning was performed outside the United States, the FDA is powerless to act. The claim itself ignited calls by some members of Congress to ban all human cloning in the United States, including research using cloned embryonic cells.
Ryuzo Yanagimachi, who headed the UH research team that cloned 50 mice from a single adult mouse in 1998, has lambasted reproductive cloning. However, embryonic stem cells are regarded as potentially valuable in treating various ailments, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, heart problems and diabetes. The hysteria that is sure to follow the Raelites' bizarre experiments should not limit that important research.
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