Thursday, December 23, 2004

First pet clone is a cat. John Sperling, the man behind the clone, is even more interesting.

Nearly 3 years ago, BBC News reported that researchers at Texas A&M University had cloned a cat named, naturally, copy cat.
CopyCat, or Cc for short, is a copy of her genetic mother, not of the tabby surrogate cat that actually gave birth to her. …

The Texas laboratory has already cloned a pig, bull and goat. Work is underway to clone a dog. …

Cats Protection, a UK feline welfare charity, said cloning was not the answer to replacing a lost pet.

Chief Executive Derek Conway said: "The cloning of cats interferes with nature and raises serious questions concerning whether a pet can ever be truly replaced."
However, not everyone agreed, especially cat owners whose cats have died. A number of news sources, including The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, reported today that
A Texas woman has paid $50,000 for a cloned cat. … Little Nicky, a 9-week-old kitten [was] delivered to a Texas woman who still missed the cat she had owned for 17 years. …

"He is identical. His personality is the same," the owner, Julie, said. She asked that her last name and hometown not be disclosed because she fears being targeted by groups opposed to cloning.…

The company that created Little Nicky, Sausalito-based Genetic Savings and Clone (GSC), said it hopes by May to have produced the world's first cloned dog — a much more lucrative market than cats.

And despite its whimsical name, the company has been working for more than four years on the cat-cloning process.

The founder of the company, Arizona billionaire John Sperling, funded the research at Texas A&M University that led to the cloning of the first cat in 2001, CC, or Carbon Copy.

Though based in the San Francisco Bay area, the company's cloning work will be done at its new lab in Madison, Wis.

Company spokesman Ben Carlson said four other people have cats on order, at $50,000 each. He said all the clones are expected to be ready by spring.
Moral: Research pays. The GSC website says, "GSC will not consider an IPO until after we add commercial dog cloning to our current services."



John Sperling himself has an interesting history. Here's what Inc.com writes about him.
The founder of the University of Phoenix and chairman of its holding company, the Apollo Group, Sperling is an 83-year-old billionaire and an unapologetic rabble-rouser whose long-term passion has been delivering meaningful, affordable degree programs to working adults."I've never been interested in making widgets or anything like that," he says hotly. "I want to improve the quality of life for my fellow men. I am, by nature, an improver--and a meddler."

Sperling was his own first student. Poor, dyslexic, and semiliterate upon graduating from high school, he joined the merchant marines, traveled the world, and taught himself to read. The material he absorbed--everything from Nietzsche to Henry Miller--formed the foundation of his philosophy. When war broke out, he joined the Navy. Upon returning to civilian life he earned a degree in history from Reed College. It was at Reed that he began thinking about the acute disparity between comfortable, upper-middle-class students--who fully expected to go on to become people of influence in academia, business, and government--and students like himself, young people with little or no support, financial or otherwise. With trademark blunt humor, he described it in his autobiography, Rebel With a Cause, as the "period of my life [that] might well be entitled, 'How I Learned to Hate the Middle Class.'"

After completing graduate work at Berkeley and a Ph.D. in economic history at Cambridge, Sperling taught in London, at Ohio State, and then at San Jose State. It was in San Jose that he launched his first program for working adults. His first students, a group of police officers, longed for access to advanced-degree programs that accommodated their schedules. Sperling designed a curriculum for them, but when he tried to bring the program into the university system, his plan met with opposition. His ideas were considered academic heresy: No one wanted to create or accredit a separate track for midcareer working adults.

To hell with them. He took his curriculum and in 1973 founded a company, the Institute for Professional Development, around it. In 1976 he folded that company into the new Apollo Group and moved everything to the desert hills of Arizona. The flagship University of Phoenix is now the predominant for-profit university in the country, with campuses in 29 states and 186,000 students (including those in online programs). The Apollo Group, largely a collection of educational enterprises, has a market cap of nearly $13.5 billion.

Sperling still delights in his role as agent provocateur, backing everything from drug-reform legislation to the genetic engineering of agricultural crops (and, as a matter of fact, house pets). "I'm indifferent to opprobrium and disfavor," he says cheerfully. "Risk just doesn't bother me at all; I don't know why."
Sperling works hard for a number of liberal causes. He is listed on the anti-drug legalization National Families in Action web site as one of the major proponents — along with an honor role of promonent liberals, including Jocelyn Elders (former Surgeon General), Ira Glasser (former executive director of the ACLU), Peter Lewis (sponsor along with George Soros and Sperling of the California initiative to treat rather than imprison drug abusers), and others — of drug legalization.

In an MSNBC pre-election interview in which Sperling was promoting his self-published book The Great Divide: Retro vs. Metro America, Sperling described himself as follows.
I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household in Missouri. So I did not have Metro values. I was raised in a poor household that was probably Republican. Then I went to sea, and met a lot of left-wing sailors. Not the Navy; these were the Merchant Marines. They were all loyal union members. That was starting in 1939.


Although Sperling lost the election, he is continuing the fight. The book is available online at the Retro vs. Metro website.



Here is a version of Sperling's early biography from the Washington Post.
Sperling grew up the youngest of six children in a log cabin in the Missouri Ozarks during the Depression. His parents were Calvinist fundamentalists. 'They didn't believe in instant damnation but pretty damned close.'

When he was 10, one of the preachers looked at him with pale blue eyes and asked, 'Son, are you saved?' Sperling looked deep into himself and knew that he wasn't, that 'I was going straight to Hell,' he recalls. At 16, he knew he would do something sinful, and 'I dared God to strike me dead.' He lived. 'That was it. That freed me from religion right there.'

There are other such moments in Sperling's biography that in retrospect look like bait to Republicans. For example, he says the only bright spot in his childhood was the day his father died. He rolled around in the grass giggling. 'I could hardly contain my joy.'

'I learned nothing from my childhood,' he writes. 'Except that it's a mean world out there and you've got to bite and scratch to get by.' Sperling's political awakening began at 18 when he joined the Merchant Marine. The ships were full of intellectuals escaping the Depression. They were Trotskyites who came with their libraries, Dostoevsky's 'Notes From Underground,' F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby.'

Sperling soaked up their endless discussions and subversive temperament. The GI Bill sent him to Reed College in Oregon and graduate school at University of California at Berkeley, where he studied English, history, philosophy and economics. Both places he remembers as an 'intellectual feast,' with people up all night debating.

1 comment:

russ said...

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Russ Dotson

Cat Grooming