WASHINGTON — As society debates the ethics of cloning, scientists and ethicists say it is important to understand that cloning a human being could never produce an exact duplicate.
Everything from the cytoplasm of the egg cell where the DNA genetic blueprint is placed, to whether a cloned person remembered the Beatles would impose individuality on “borrowed” DNA.
Even identical twins, who are nature’s clones, are not totally identical. Clones made in a laboratory would be twins born years or decades apart, separated by generational and cultural chasms.
“By far the most mischievous misunderstanding is this idea that you can Xerox people,” said Harold Shapiro, president of Princeton University and chairman of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee which President Clinton has asked to evaluate the legal and moral dimensions of cloning.
“If you lost a child or parent, and wanted to bring a person back — you can’t do that,” Ian Wilmut, the scientist who cloned a sheep in Scotland, told a U.S. Senate panel last week.
Many experts, including Wilmut, are deeply troubled by the idea of cloning humans, a technology that could transform reproduction into replication; that could turn a parent and child into a pair of identical twins.
“If you take the DNA and, 20 years later, you put it in a different uterus, you couldn’t possibly replicate a person,” said Harvard University medical ethicist Lisa Geller.
“And if that’s what you’re trying to do, to replicate a person — you’re going to have a hell of a hard time with a teenager,” she added.
Ethicists, geneticists, biologists and psychologists argue endlessly about the balance of “nature” and “nurture” in human development, about which traits are inborn and which are shaped from environment and experience.
But even those experts tilting toward the “nature” end of the spectrum, like psychologist Thomas Bouchard of the well-known University of Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research, say human clones would look alike, but would not necessarily be alike.
“The difference in temporal experience would magnify the difference in personality,” said Bouchard, who believes about half of psychological tendencies are inherited.
Environmental factors come into play from the very start. The cytoplasm of the cell into which the DNA is placed will be different from the adult cell from which it is derived. Small pieces of genetic material, known as mitochondrial DNA, will also be distinct.
And once the clone is implanted into a womb, the prenatal environment will differ as well. The diet of the woman carrying the fetus, whether she smokes, what chemicals or toxins she encounters in her daily life all affect the child.
“Identical twins are usually brought up roughly together, and treated in similar ways. But if the clone and source differ by a generation … all kinds of things change over a generation, what’s allowed, what’s taught, our diet,” said Philip Kitcher, a philosopher at the University of San Diego and the author of The Lives to Come: the Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities.
A clone of Albert Einstein, taken out of 19th century Germany and placed, for instance, in late 20th century southern California would probably still be smart, and may well have the same wild white hair. But he would not necessarily become a physicist.
A clone of Michael Jordan would probably be tall, agile and have lightning reflexes. But he might not become a professional basketball player.
And a clone of any ordinary man or woman might look almost indistinguishable from the genetic parent, but could have a whole different view of the world, based on experience, luck or what theologians would call soul.
“Dolly (the cloned sheep) is a snapshot — not a snapshot of an adult sheep but one of that sheep’s cells,” said University of Pennyslvania bioethicist Glenn McGee.
Internet Case Presents Challenges for High Court, Lawyers
The institution that still presents quill pens to lawyers is ready to consider the propriety of restricting indecent materials on the Internet.
The case, which will go before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, presents a tough challenge to lawyers on both sides: trying to explain cyberspace to justices unfamiliar with the place.
“The court is called upon to apply the First Amendment to a form of communication it, in effect, knows nothing about, or at least has no hands-on experience with,” said David Sobel, a lawyer for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
At issue is the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act, the first attempt by Congress to regulate the freewheeling global computer network.
A three-judge court in Philadelphia blocked the law from taking effect shortly after it was enacted last year. The judges ruled the law would wrongly deny adults access to material that may be inappropriate for children.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule by July.
Interviews with current and former court employees, who insisted on anonymity, suggest that the Internet remains mainly a mystery for all nine justices. Lawyers arguing both sides of the case have tried to clear that hurdle by using their briefs as teaching tools.
They are also counting on input from the justices’ clerks.
“There is a hope on both sides that the law clerks to the justices will play an unusually pivotal role in deciding this case,” said Andrew J. Schwartzman, a lawyer representing the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition.
“The clerks … are likely to be very comfortable with this technology, and we hope they will be sitting down with their justices and explaining some of those concepts.”
Each justice has three or four law clerks — young lawyers chosen from among top graduates of prestigious law schools — who spend a year as research assistants.
While none of the justices is known to be a regular Internet user, computer technology is not new to them.
Justices John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas are veteran telecommuters, using word processors and facsimile machines to keep in touch with their chambers from home when the court is not in session.
But their computers are connected only to the court’s stand-alone system. For security reasons, their machines are not linked to computers outside the court’s stately workplace on Capitol Hill.
All justices except David H. Souter have computers in their offices.
And even though his office is not computerized, Souter has demonstrated an awareness of the technology. Last June the court struck down part of a federal law aimed at restricting children’s access to indecent programming on some cable stations. Souter’s opinion contained what is believed be the first Supreme Court citation of material from the Internet.
In that opinion, Souter fretted: “In my own ignorance I have to accept the real possibility that if we had to decide today just what the First Amendment should mean in cyberspace we would get it fundamentally wrong.”
Now that the cyberspace issue is before the court, lawyers are scurrying to help the justices get it right.
A coalition led by the American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the form of a CD-ROM. It demonstrates what the Internet is about and includes links to cyberspace sites.
Court employees would not say whether any justices have looked at the “brief.”
If so inclined, the justices can also rely on the lower court’s opinion, which is, in part, an Internet primer.
FTC Opens Staples Case To Internet Comment – WASHINGTON
The Federal Trade Commission, wrestling with a proposed $4 billion merger of Staples and Office Depot, took the unprecedented step today of opening up the Internet to public comment after a Ralph Nader group petitioned it.
The unusual action could add a new element to the decision, in which Office Depot and Staples have sought to make their case for merger through full-page advertisements in major newspapers.
“Awesome,” said James Love of Nader’s Center for the Study of Responsive law, who had written the petition, as he looked at the page. “I believed this is the first time the FTC has ever used the Internet to seek consumer comments on a merger.”
On Monday the commission voted 4-1 to ask a Federal District Court to block the merger of the two office superstores. Then Office Depot and Staples added a new dimension Wednesday with a highly publicized agreement to sell 63 stores to the other player in the office superstore field, OfficeMax.
Now the FTC is trying to decide whether to accept the divestiture and permit the deal to go through.
The new channel for public comment is easily reached from a link on the FTC home page at www.ftc.gov and marks another expansion of the commission’s presence on the Web, which has grown in the past year to include speeches, rulings and other information.
But in the past, although the FTC invited comments to its consumer complaint bureau on its Web page, it made no similar invitation on merger cases.
Then the Nader group asked the FTC to permit public comments on mergers, both generally and with a specific focus on the Staples case.
Until now public comment at the FTC has been a narrow affair. Senior officials there held the view that public comment need be considered only very late in the process, and when it was invited, there was not much. Even highly publicized cases, such as the deal that created media giant Time-Warner, drew only dozens of comments.
Pentium 9 to Debut Soon – Intel Inc advanced report
HANOVER, Germany — Computer chip maker Intel has announced its next-generation Pentium II processor will begin appearing soon in high-powered personal computers aimed at businesses.
“Between now and the end of June, we will be launching the Pentium II,” Intel product manager Tim Miller told Reuters at the CeBIT computer trade fair.
The chip — which combined Intel’s MMX multimedia technology with its existing Pentium Pro processor — would run at speeds “well above” the current top speed of 200 megahertz, Miller confirmed.
Last month Intel demonstrated a chip running at 400 megahertz at a technology conference in San Francisco.
Miller said the demonstration chip was not a Pentium II, but showed Intel had “head room” to raise speeds in future processors.
Pentium II would debut in PCs geared for producing 3-D graphics, complex simulations and special effects for movies. “This chip will open up new areas of visualization for the PC,” said Pat Gelsinger, Intel chief of desktop products.
Intel was expected to need faster chips to maintain its edge over challenger Advanced Micro Devices, which plans to launch a high-speed chip of its own in the second quarter. AMD has said its K6 chip will be faster than the 200 megahertz Pentium Pro now at the top of Intel’s line.
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