This feels a bit like deja vu.
Scientists report a major breakthrough in human stem-cell research. And then just a week later, the findings come under fire.
Biologists at Oregon Health & Science University said May 15 that they had cloned human embryos from a person's skin cell.
Researchers have been trying to do this for more than a decade. Many scientists in the field were heralding the discovery as the Holy Grail because now they could make personalized stem cells for treating an array of diseases.
But several images in the paper aren't quite right, a commenter said Wednesday on the website PubPeer.
Specifically, three pairs of photos are duplicated and then labeled as different results. There are also some questions about data demonstrating that the scientists had created stem cells.
Mitalipov claims the problems in the paper were innocent mistakes made because he rushed to publish the findings in the journal Cell.
Right now, the editorial team at Cell supports the study and Mitalipov's claims.
"Based on our own initial in-house assessment of issues raised ... it seems that there were some minor errors made by the authors when preparing the figures for initial submission," Cell's editor Emilie Marcus said on Facebook. "While we are continuing discussions with the authors, we do not believe these errors impact the scientific findings of the paper in any way."
The journal reviewed and accepted the paper four days after receiving it. The paper was then published online 12 days later. Typically, this process takes at least two months and can even last years.
With such a fast turnaround time, some scientists are being careful not to jump to conclusions. "I expect the errors above were also due to the rush to publish." Robin Lovell Badge, at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London, told Nature. "The authors should be given a chance to answer and correct mistakes,"
But others think the team should have been more diligent, especially given the past problems in the field.
Back in 2005 and 2004, South Korean veterinarian Hwang Woo-suk published two papers claiming to have cloned human embryos. By early 2006, a committee in Seoul concluded that Hwang fabricated the data in both studies and the journal Science retracted both papers.
"The four-day review process was obviously inadequate," Arnold Kriegstein, of the University of California, San Francisco, told Nature, referring to Mitalipov's study. "It's a degree of sloppiness that you wouldn't expect in a paper that was going to have this high profile. One worries if there is more than meets the eye and whether there are other issues with the work that are not as apparent."
Scientists will know soon enough. It's rather straightforward to confirm Mitalipov's results. If the embryos were indeed created by putting the nucleus of a skin cell into a donor egg, the stem cells will have the exact genetic fingerprint of the skin plus a tiny bit of DNA left over from the egg (specifically, its mitochondria).
A 3-D printer is being credited with helping save an Ohio baby's life, after doctors "printed" a tube to support a weak airway that caused him to stop breathing. The innovative procedure has allowed Kaiba Gionfriddo, of Youngstown, Ohio, to stay off a ventilator for more than a year.
The splint that changed Kaiba's life was implanted in February of 2012, when he was three months old. Resembling a vacuum cleaner's hose, with ridges to resist collapse, the splint is made out of bioresorbable plastics that will dissolve within three years, according to the University of Michigan doctors who developed the unique treatment. They wrote about the implant in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctors Glenn Green and Scott Hollister say that they created the splint after taking a detailed CT scan of the boy's bronchus, the airway leading into his lungs. That assured them of a reliable fit for the device, which they sutured onto Kaiba's left bronchus.
Kaiba suffers from tracheobronchomalacia, a condition in which airway walls are so weak that they collapse. He began experiencing problems at six weeks old, when he stopped breathing while at a restaurant with his parents, April and Bryan. Eventually, he began to stop breathing on a regular basis.
"We were very lucky," April Gionfriddo tells The Detroit News. "The doctors pretty much said he wasn't going to leave the hospital alive. His heart was stopping on a daily basis. If it wasn't for Dr. Green, he wouldn't be sitting here with us today."
The doctors say that before they could perform the procedure, which seems to be a first, they sought and received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The splint they implanted is made of polycaprolactone.
Now 19 months old, Kaiba "is about to have his tracheotomy tube removed; it was placed when he was a couple months old and needed a breathing machine," the AP reports. "And he has not had a single breathing crisis since coming home a year ago."
Kaiba's mom says that her youngest son is very active.
"He's getting himself into trouble nowadays," April Gionfriddo tells The Detroit News. "He scoots across the floor and gets into everything."
Paleface makes his first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. A product of New York City's 1990s "anti-folk" movement, the singer first learned to write songs and record demo tapes from iconic outsider musician (and West Virginia native) Daniel Johnston. Paleface went on to influence many important musicians, including his onetime roommate, Beck.
Throughout his career, Paleface has released more than two dozen records and appeared on The Avett Brothers' three most recent albums. This set includes his opening number, "Rock N Roll," which was not heard during the radio broadcast. He's backed by Mo Samalot on drums, along with guitarist Soren Mattson.
- "Rock N Roll"
- "Chewing On The Rind"
- "Little By Little"
- "Dancing Days"
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the booklets of money-saving coupons we use to light kindling in the fireplace is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, tips for obsessive music fans in an age of instant online gratification.
Paul Allen Hunton writes: "I used to pride myself on discovering music first — we all did, didn't we? But in the era of YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, discovering music first and then rubbing it in everyone's faces later isn't what it used to be. What is a music snob/elitist supposed to do in this new era of digital music delivery? Will we ever reign supreme again? From a guy who loved 'Thrift Shop' in August."
A lot of the fundamentals you describe won't change: We'll never again live in a world where tastes drift slowly and regionally; where a band that's big in Brooklyn will spend years in anonymity outside its own ZIP code absent an alchemic big-budget push from a label. As with any sea change of its magnitude, widespread digital availability has advantages (democratization, ease of discovery and distribution, the disempowerment of closed-minded gatekeepers) and disadvantages (threats to musicians' income, the decline of record stores and other in-person communities, the devaluing of music as a medium meriting ownership).
And, yes, for true music obsessives (snobs, elitists and experts alike), the rewards of in-depth knowledge are more easily duplicated with a Google search. As you note, it's gotten far more difficult to stay months or years ahead of trends, but on the other hand, is that really a bad thing — even for self-styled ahead-of-the-curve know-it-alls? For aspiring tastemakers, especially those who view themselves as evangelists rather than snobs, the good news is that the sheer volume of musical options (and the ease with which we can listen) will always make it possible to stay ahead of people with less free time to do so. If you do your job right, you can still be an early adopter — and, though trends are ephemeral, bragging rights are forever. You did it yourself, just now! You loved Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" months before most of your friends, and nothing stopped you from pointing it out!
Finally, I encourage you to remember that every piece of music on earth is new to someone: New fans are born everyday, many people with perfectly sound tastes steer entirely clear of social media and sites like this one, and no marketing campaign ever reaches anything approaching 100 percent saturation. Be a friendly, approachable, sharing, nonjudgmental resource for your busy and open-minded friends — the more you view "snobbery" as a playfully self-deprecating word for expertise, the better — and you'll be amazed at how easy it is to impress someone.
The biggest problem with pretending all of reality television is categorically odious is that it denies us the opportunity to identify and hold accountable what is actually odious. To those who insist that it's all gross — that no matter the documentary aspirations or good-natured competitiveness of plenty of unscripted television, it all belongs in the same giant dumpster — I am your Crocodile Dundee of distaste: Those aren't destructive and grotesque and irresponsible. This is destructive and grotesque and irresponsible.
And by "this," I mean Fox's new show, Does Someone Have To Go?
The premise of Does Someone Have To Go? is that we visit a troubled business and the employees are encouraged to "take over," which here means that they are given the authority to (supposedly) fire someone from within their ranks. This is presented as a very brave move by the owners, as if they are actually surrendering control, rather than refusing one of the fundamental tasks of management — making painful decisions — and pushing it off onto their employees.
This is essentially like claiming that because there's a food shortage at the zoo, you've let the lions "take over," by which you mean that they can decide which one of them will be killed and eaten by the rest. They can't leave the zoo, they can't get more food, they can't can the zookeeper and replace him with someone who will manage their environment a little better. But if they decide among them that one of the lions needs his neck ripped out, that's up to them, and nobody will interfere. The lions are "in charge."
It is in-group autonomy only — it gives people only the right to change the allocation of resources within the group of employees, not the right to change the fate of the group as a whole. Nevertheless: "We're going to put the power of this company in your hands," says the boss with a straight face in the first episode. The other boss says that they'll face "all kinds of difficult questions," which turn out to be: "Who should be demoted? Who should get a pay cut? Who needs anger management classes?" And, of course, they'll decide whether Someone Has To Go.
So, you know. Not all the kinds of difficult questions. Just the ones where the answer is, "Take it out of that guy's hide."
The company in tonight's opener is Velocity Merchant Services, or VMS, a firm that sells credit-card processing machines and is apparently featured here because Dunder Mifflin's depiction of paper sales as a simulacrum of American office life was considered too glamorous. Run by a husband and wife team, it has more than 70 employees, but is "a dysfunctional mess," says the grim but titillated announcer.
And why is it dysfunctional? "Often times," the announcer intones, "it's difficult to tell which of the employees is at fault." Is it the guy they call "Uncle Mike," subtitled "THE MOTORMOUTH"? Is it Shawn, "THE JERK"? Is it Zoe (a man), "THE SLACKER," who sometimes talks (oh, the humanity!) about wishing it were time to go home? Is it one of the members of the owners' family? Tina, "THE TATTLETALE"? Kout, "THE BOSS'S MOM"? The owners say that even members of their own family could be fired! If, that is, everybody wants to live with the boss after firing her mom. Want to place your bets?
The employees select three of their number to be imperiled — the reality-show standard "bottom three." How do they get there? First, they're herded into a room and shown footage of interviews in which the other employees dump on them. This isn't fun for anyone, obviously, even though when being interviewed on camera, they undoubtedly knew it would come to light eventually.
But then, they bring out the big guns: everybody gets to see how much money everybody else makes. Note that if the problems are personal dysfunction, as is claimed earlier, then employees knowing who makes what has no purpose. The reason for revealing salaries is to breed resentment and only to breed resentment — to suggest that the rungs of the economic ladder you need to worry about are the ones just above you that you can reach. Knock those people down to where they belong, and you're getting somewhere. "There's no better way to get everybody at each other's throats," says one employee, "than to expose what everybody makes."
The moral of the story is that when you feel frustrated at work and economically helpless, the problem is the person you bump into at the coffeemaker who is earning just slightly more than they should, doing just slightly better than they should, getting a little too much for a little too little, and that by rendering that person unemployed, or knocking him or down a peg, you will be better off. "Ask yourself," the bosses say, "who's undervalued ... and who's overvalued."
And what do the employees do? I will tell you that, asked to pick three people to get rid of, two of them are among the worst-paid in the company. They've just heard about everyone's salary, and what they decided to do was target people who don't make much, but who they think are still somehow getting away with something.
It's a similar nasty fantasy to CBS's also obnoxious Undercover Boss, which shows an unerringly kind, humble CEO joining the ranks of his employees just long enough to bestow Queen For A Day-style gifts on a few select employees with sob stories. If they change much, it's often to give a little talking-to to middle managers, on the theory that they're the real problem. It always turns out that company policy is to be good to employees, kind, generous, fair — it's that assistant manager who makes a tiny bit more money than you do who's twisting things around. You want to be mad at somebody, it says, be mad at that guy. (My friend and co-panelist Stephen Thompson talked about this on an early episode of our podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, in which he bemoaned the show's introduction with its simplistic view of every company CEO as "your benevolent daddy.")
Fox didn't show critics the end of the opening two-parter, so I couldn't tell you whether they fire someone even if I wanted to. My guess is that they don't, and that even if they do, they reach for a feel-good solution where they grow in understanding, where all this brutal treatment and disrespect turns out to be yet another Benevolent Parent move by the owners where everyone is better off than if they'd never been forced into a cage match that seems to have no motive other than making everyone miserable.
But I can tell you how Fox describes the second hour: "In this episode, the bottom three employees ... plead with the rest of the employees to keep their positions." People begging and pleading to keep their (in some cases) low-paying jobs from people who make (in most cases) a bit more than they do — doesn't that sound like a great big hoot?
The opening for Does Someone Have To Go? features an animation in which two figures are standing with what seem to be boxes of their possessions in their hands, waiting for a verdict. Suddenly, a trapdoor opens and one of them is dropped through it.
It's not that this is the most vile thing television has ever offered; I'm sure people could come up with much worse. But the idea of granting phony agency to employees to target and punish each other, as if fixing a troubled company means breeding resentment among those who probably stand to profit the least if things go better? It's pretty bad, and pretty gross, and pretty distasteful, and unlike a lot of "guilty pleasure" television, there's really not much pleasure to be found.