Papers sound off on Senate race, stem cells, tobacco tax

Monday, October 23, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday endorsed state auditor Claire McCaskill for Missouri's next U.S. senator, citing "her independence, her attitude and her grasp of the real problems" faced by Missouri and the nation today.

The Post-Dispatch and The Kansas City Star both endorsed the stem-cell initiative, while the Springfield News-Leader urged its defeat. The Star also endorsed a constitutional amendment to increase the tax on tobacco, saying it would help Medicaid in Missouri.

All were published in the newspapers' Sunday editions.

The Post-Dispatch said the political positions between McCaskill, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Jim Talent are "poles apart" and their policy differences were "sharply revealed" in a series of debates.

In urging passage of Amendment 2, the stem cell initiative, both the Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star wrote of the promise of pursuing medical cures through stem-cell research as well as the benefit to world-class research institutions in Missouri.

The Star also urged passage of the ballot initiative that would raise at least $351 million a year through a tobacco tax increase.

Both newspapers cited attempts by opponents to mislead voters into thinking that embryonic stem-cell research is tantamount to cloning human beings.

"They omit vital information," the Star wrote. "The procedure in question involves fusing a human egg cell with the nucleus of an ordinary body cell to create a ball of about 200 cells in a laboratory dish. That organism cannot undergo the chemical and genetic process that causes cells to differentiate and form a human embryo unless it is implanted in a woman's uterus.

"Amendment 2 specifically forbids that implantation. Its passage would outlaw attempts to clone human beings."

The Springfield News-Leader, in urging defeat of Amendment 2, did not take issue with the science or the research in the stem cell initiative. Rather, the newspaper said it opposes "an attempt to change Missouri's Constitution to protect a form of science that is changing by the day.

"We believe the debate has just begun. Changing the Missouri Constitution would end the debate as far as our state is concerned, and that would be a mistake."

The Star also urged passage of the ballot initiative that would raise at least $351 million a year through a tobacco tax increase. Part of the money would be used for smoking prevention. The other part would be used to increase health-care access for uninsured and Medicaid recipients by improving state payments to doctors and hospitals.

Tobacco purchasers would pay taxes of 97 cents a pack on cigarettes, compared with the current 17 cents, and 20 percent more on other tobacco products.

"Missouri needs a better way to care for its uninsured and working poor," the Star wrote. "Amendment 3 offers that alternative."

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