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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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national lead

February 27th, 2014
10:52 AM ET

3-parent IVF sparks 'designer baby' fears

(CNN) – U.S. health officials are weighing whether to approve trials of a pioneering in vitro fertilization technique using DNA from three people in an attempt to prevent illnesses like muscular dystrophy and respiratory problems. The proposed treatment would allow a woman to have a baby without passing on diseases of the mitochondria, the "powerhouses" that drive cells.

The technique is the focus of a two-day panel debate being held by the FDA.

"To repair those diseases – which are awful, most kids who have mitochondrial diseases die – and really take a shot at transplanting a few genes to let that repair go through, that seems reasonable to me," said medical ethicist at the New York University Langone Medical Center Art Caplan.

Right now, the technology is only being tested in monkeys. But critics fear we're on a slippery slope to an era of designer babies, where parents can pick and choose their child's genetic features.

Parents who currently pursue IVF procedures can screen for cystic fibrosis, but are also able to screen for gender, which concerns Caplan.

"You have to worry that we are going to march down a road using genetics toward designing our descendants," said Caplan.

"We're a society that values success, we're not anti-perfection. If we're going to stop that, let's make a rule that says: 'Fixing diseases yes, cosmetic stuff no.' But I wouldn't hold this experiment hostage to that worry," said Caplan.

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world lead

February 26th, 2014
06:47 PM ET

Is it beneath Pope Benedict to respond to rumors?

(CNN) – Pope Benedict broke his silence to call a recent rumor about him "absurd," after allegations surfaced in an Italian paper that Benedict had been forced to quit.

The pope emeritus denied it in a letter to the website Vatican Insider, writing: "The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculation regarding its validity is simply absurd."

Reverend James Martin, editor at large of America Magazine, and author of the forthcoming book, "Jesus: A Pilgrimage," joins CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" to discuss.

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world lead

February 26th, 2014
06:40 PM ET

Fmr. Pentagon official: 'I wouldn't rule out' Russia sending troops into Ukraine

(CNN) – Russia ordered surprise military exercises on Ukraine's doorstep Wednesday as tensions in that country's southern Crimea region simmered.

A big fear of the U.S., the European Union, and NATO is that Russia may send troops in.

"We urge outside actors in the region to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and end provocative rhetoric," the White House said in a statement today.

"They're trying to be fair. They're saying we're talking to Russia, we're talking to anybody else, but They're really talking to Russia. It's diplomatic happy talk," former Pentagon official Peter Brookes told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
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pop lead

February 26th, 2014
06:32 PM ET

Hollywood comes to Capitol Hill – but do celebrities help or hurt their causes?

(CNN) – When celebrities come to Washington, media and politicians take notice.

But does the spectacle of the star outshine, or shed light on the cause they've come to promote?

"Often hearings in Congress are not about members of Congress learning something that they don't already know. It's performance art. If they wanted to really learn about issues, they could get it from a briefing book," said The Washington Post's Emily Heil.

Oscar winner Ben Affleck arrived in Washington Wednesday to speak about the crisis in the Congo. The "Argo" director has brought his cause to the table time and time again.

"It's just a pleasure to be back at the real State Department. I had to fake it for "Argo." I get to see the real thing here," Affleck joked with Secretary of State John Kerry.
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politics lead

February 26th, 2014
06:19 PM ET

Sen. Gillibrand: Military rape, sexual assault survivors see 'horrible rates' of reporting and conviction

(CNN) – Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is trying once more to pass a bill that would take prosecution of sexual assault in the military out of the chain of command, a divisive measure that has opponents and supporters on both sides of the aisle.

Gillibrand's bill was blocked Monday, but survivors of military rape and sexual assault were on Capitol Hill today to support the effort, and to testify at a hearing chaired by the subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
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