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Smart Talk, May 6



Cheaper by the dozen

Donor eggs as a door prize? That was the idea of a fertilization clinic in Fairfax County, Va., which last month gave away a free cycle of in-vitro fertilization to a woman attending a British seminar organized to educate infertile women. If the winner chooses to collect her prize, she'd be implanted gratis with eggs donated by a woman from Washington, D.C., a procedure worth $23,000.

The egg raffle drew instant criticism from both British and American infertility experts, who found the offer of body parts as an enticement to use the clinic's services to be of questionable ethics, as well as in poor taste. A director at the clinic, Genetics & IVF Institute, one of the nation's largest infertility centers, defended the giveaway as not unusual and simply part of the clinic's business strategy.

The Arkansas connection: Infertility expert Dr. Stephen R. Lincoln, husband of Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, is one of the clinic's six practicing physicians.

Strings attached

The Washington Post reported last week that the Walton Foundation in Bentonville was among private foundations committing $64 million to Washington, D.C., public schools for teacher pay increases and other purposes, but that a string was attached in a proposed contract. The money might not be forthcoming if there was a change in leadership. The foundations like current chancellor Michelle Rhee. The Walton Foundation plans to contribute $25 million.

Arkansas understands how it works. In Little Rock, potential Walton support migrated from the Little Rock School District to the eStem charter school project when the School Board fired Superintendent Roy Brooks, who'd looked with favor on education initiatives favored by the Waltons.

The University of Arkansas has instituted a number of Walton-favored programs at Fayetteville (notably a department devoted to Walton-favored education theories) since its $300 million Walton gift. In Arkansas, the formality of contracts with strings are hardly necessary.

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