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Vent-i your Feelings about the Shutdown at Starbucks

Starbucks petition takes on government shutdown

The nation’s coffee kingpin will become the weekend headquarters for folks who want to sign petitions that encourage lawmakers to reopen the government and reach a budget deal.

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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is urging consumers to invest in something more than designer coffee at his stores this weekend: citizen action.

Frustrated with the inability of the federal government to resolve its ongoing budget stalemate, the nation’s largest coffee chain will become a de facto headquarters in the next several days for a megapetition that Starbucks vows it will share with Washington officials.

Newspaper ads promoting the three-day petition signing will appear Friday in USA TODAY, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Starbucks is encouraging customers to tear out the ads, sign them and bring them into Starbucks stores this weekend.

Starbucks has increasingly found itself at the center of cultural issues. Last month, the chain advised gun owners that their guns were no longer welcome inside Starbucks stores.

GUN FIGHT: Starbucks CEO says guns not welcome in stores

Earlier this week, to foster a spirit of helping each other, it began offering a free tall brewed coffee — through Friday — to any customer who buys another person a drink at Starbucks. Now, Starbucks is trying to act as a corporate peacemaker of sorts between the federal government and its citizens.

“We are witnessing a level of disfunction and polarization in Washington, the likes of which we have not seen before,” says Schultz, in a phone interview. “So we asked ourselves: ‘What can Starbucks do, and how can we use our scale for good?’ “

Answer: Become a temporary hub for folks to sign “Come Together” petitions that express their outrage at the government.

The petition asks officials to:

• Reopen the government.
• Pay our national debts on time.
• Pass a long-term budget deal by the end of 2013.

Consumers also will be able to sign digitally beginning Friday at ComeTogetherPetition.com or “like” the petition’s Facebook post, which will count as a signature to the petition.

Schultz declined to estimate how many signatures he hopes to gather. “I don’t have a goal,” he says. “But I assure you, we’ll have a lot of signatures.”

Based on the company’s typical weekly business, roughly 20 million customers are expected to visit Starbucks’ 11,000-plus U.S. stores in the next three days.

The petition also will be shared with business leaders, Schultz says. In the past two days, Schultz says, he’s spoken with more than half the CEOs of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average, and there is 100% consensus “about concern and need for the American people to be heard.”

Schultz says his goal is not to make Starbucks a national hub to take on cultural issues. “This is not what we want to become,” he says. “But we don’t want to ignore what we believe are our responsibilities in the communities we serve.”

Even then, Schultz says, as he has said before, he has no plans to run for public office. “My responsibility is to the people of Starbucks.”

 

 

Has a “Dividing Line” on Stem Cell Been Eliminated? / USA Today

An international research team has achieved a scientific first by producing embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos, advancing the effort to generate replacement tissues for sick patients.

Embryonic stems cells are the starter cells to all others in the body, which means potentially they can grow into any type of tissue, from blood to bone to brain. For a decade-and-a-half, they have been seen as a potential source of rejection-free transplant tissues for ailments ranging from diabetes to paralysis. They were also the subject of a fierce political fight over the medical ethics of using human embryos in research during the Bush administration because the embryos had to be destroyed in the process of retrieving the embryonic cells.

“We have now refined the steps to come up with a process for generating these cells that is pretty efficient,” says Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health & Science University in Beaverton, who headed the cell cloning study released by the journal Cell. “There is no one trick to making this work. It is like winning the lottery, all the numbers have to line up the right way to win.”

The study team reports a number of steps perfected in monkeys allowed them to take eggs donated by women volunteers and successfully implant the chromosomes taken from skin cells of other people into the eggs. They successfully start the fused egg growing and dividing to become a human embryo. The cells of these embryos were as a result, genetic copies, or clones, of the cells of three different people who donated the skin cells, one of them a patient afflicted with a genetic disorder called Leigh syndrome.

In a first, Mitalipov and his privately funded team report that these cloned embryos were grown past an eight-cell size (where earlier attempts had stopped) into a full-blown early embryo, containing hundreds of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic cells taken from these cloned embryos were grown into six colonies of cells, the first successfully grown cloned human embryonic stem cells. The embryos were destroyed in the cell collection process.

Some of the cells were successfully prompted to become more specialized skin and heart cells. That is the next step in someday using the cells in “regenerative” medicine, where cells cloned from a patient would be used to grow into transplant organs to treat diseases and injuries such as paralysis.

“For stem cell biology, there will be history before this result and then history after it with the study as the dividing line,” says stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler of the University of California, Davis. “No doubt This is a real milestone.”

Since 1998, when a University of Wisconsin team first isolated embryonic stem cells grown from a human embryo, researchers have sought to use cloning techniques to create such cells that would be genetic copies of ones belonging to sick patients. The same cloning techniques, which essentially place a new set of genes into a hollowed-out egg, and then kick-start the combination to start dividing and become an embryo, have been used since the cloning of “Dolly the Sheep” in 1996. That helped to create genetic copies, twins, of animals ranging from prize bulls to an extinct kind of wild goat. In those cases, the embryos were implanted into a surrogate mother instead of being destroyed to harvest stem cells.

Knoepfler warned that fertility clinic operators outside the USA might try to replicate the team’s method to try to clone a human baby. However, Mitalipov says that his team’s technique would not likely create a cloned embryo that could be implanted into a surrogate mother’s womb and lead to a pregnancy. “The embryos we produce this way did not lead to pregnancy in monkeys,” he says. “We think there is something in the manipulations to make them that make a successful pregnancy impossible.”

Attention has drifted away from these once hotly contested embryonic stem cells since 2007, with the rise of “induced” stem cells. Those are grown using gene alterations to regular cells to become near-copies of embryonic stem cells, without the need for embryos. There have also been repeated failures (in one famous case, outright academic fraud by a South Korean researcher) to grow cell lines from cloned human embryos, until now.

 

With the announcement, a race of sorts starts between those who produce induced stem cells and cloned cells to see which type can most safely be grown into transplant tissues, Knoepfler suggests. Hundreds of researchers are working with induced stem cells, seeking ways to grow them into viable transplant tissues. Two clinical trials are underway sponsored by Advanced Cell Technology of Marlborough, Mass., that use retinal cells grown from embryonic stem cells to treat eye disease. The cells in those pilot trials are not cloned copies of the patient’s cells.

The real significance of the advance may be to re-ignite debate over human cloning, says bioethicist Insoo Hyun of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

“Basically, FDA has jurisdiction over clinical research using cloning technology to create a human being,” says the Food and Drug Administration’s Curtis Allen. “To date, FDA has not licensed such a therapy.”

“No legitimate scientists would want to use this technology for reproductive purposes,” says stem cell expert George Daley of Children’s Hospital Boston. “They would see it not only as unethical, but unsafe and probably illegal.”

Still, “This study shows that human cloning can be done,” said Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opposes research that destroys embryos.”The more important debate is whether it should be done.”

Doerflinger points to advances in induced stem cells, created without controversy, as a reason for leaving cloned stem cells on the shelf. “If these cells are the answer, then what was the question,” he asks.

Mitalipov, however, points to genetic abnormalities seen in induced stem cells that are absent from embryonic ones. He also cites the clinical trials already approved for embryonic-derived cells that set an easier regulatory path for them to be tested on patients, as reasons why cloned cells might prove more useful to patients than induced stem cells in some cases. “We would like to see other labs confirm our work as well,” he says, noting that outside labs have already requested copies of the cloned cells. Because of federal regulations, the cells are not eligible for research funding from the National Institutes of Health, which now lists 209 embryonic stem cell cell “lines” on its research funding registry.

What? And no, this is not an April Fool's Joke

What? And no, this is not an April Fool’s Joke

Princeton mom to female students: ‘Find a husband on campus’

A letter from a Princeton alum and parent, aimed at Princeton women, offers what the author feels is “what you really need to know that nobody is telling you.” Namely, to find a husband on campus.

A letter to the editor featured late last week in a student newspaper has provoked such impassioned interest it may have literally crashed the newspaper website on which it is housed.

The Daily Princetonian(whose website is currently down) published a letter Friday from Susan Patton, a Princeton University alumna who is also the mother of a current Princeton student and a young Princeton alum — both men. Patton’s missive, aimed at Princeton women, offers “what you really need to know that nobody is telling you.”

In the letter, she urges female Princeton students to quickly find a suitable husband from among the university’s undergraduate male population.

“If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them,” she writes, “For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you. Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”

Why is she advising Princeton women to grab a hubby with such haste? Because beyond the school’s Ivy-covered walls, it seems the world is lacking in brainy gentlemen.

“Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal,” Patton contends. “As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you. Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them.”

One other nugget: Don’t date younger.

In Patton’s words: “As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?”

The letter has inspired a bevy of snarky and intense putdowns in the press — and oodles of online comments.

As Nina Bahadur asks in a Huffington Post piece, “Do you really think Ivy Leaguers are the only smart people out there? … Princeton students are smart, but they’re not the smartest people in the world. Not everyone in the world applied to Princeton, and admissions criteria is definitely not just about your ‘smarts’… And let’s not belittle the intelligence of people who, for whatever reason, didn’t make it to college, or maybe even through any formal schooling at all. It’s a big world.”

For her part, in a follow-up interview, Patton expressed surprise at the letter’s virility, while sticking to her guns about the advice it contains: “I’m astounded by the extreme reaction. Honestly, I just thought this was some good advice from a Jewish mother. It’s not that I’m anti-feminist… I’m just saying, if as a young (Princeton) woman, you are thinking that you would like to have not just professional success but personal success as part of your life happiness, keep an open mind to the men that you’re surrounded with now. Because these are the best guys. You’ll meet wonderful men outside of Princeton, but you’ll never have the numbers in your favor the way you do now.”

Dan Reimold, Ph.D., is a college journalism scholar who has written and presented about the student press throughout the U.S. and in Southeast Asia. He is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Tampa, where he also advises The Minaret student newspaper. He maintains the student journalism industry blog College Media MattersA complete list of Campus Beat articles is here.