Category archives: Uncategorized

China Evaluates University Curricula as Job Producers

by Chris Gacek

January 13, 2012

It seems that the United States is not alone in having colleges and universities that chronically graduate students who are unable to find work. Some countries find this situation unacceptable, however, and plan to make some corrections.

Jay Schalin, of the excellent John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (Raliegh, NC), has written an op-ed in the Washington Times discussing some educational reviews that may be coming in China:

Chinas state-run universities have been churning out graduates so quickly that many cant find good jobs, even in a booming economy.

In response, China will soon start evaluating college majors by their employment rates, downsizing or cutting degree programs in which the employment rate for graduates falls below 60 percent for two consecutive years, the Wall Street Journal reported recently.

Much is imperfect with this authoritarian approach, but it seems more sensible than having no feedback in a system like ours that continues to sink students in unproductive majors and degree programs with loads of debt. (See the Wall Street Journal article by Laurie Burkitt who writes from Beijing.)

As Schalin observes after noting that employment rates are not the only evaluative measure that should be used:

But using data on the employment of graduates is still a valuable evaluation tool, and it serves as a useful guide for reforming higher education.

The Chinese exhibit hard-nosed common sense by looking at the actual results of their higher-education system; forward-looking U.S. public universities should do the same. If they wont end their excesses voluntarily, perhaps its time for state legislatures to consider Chinese-style standards.

Results matter; its time to judge universities on how well graduates perform once theyve left the security of the ivory tower.

 

 

 

First Brief Filed in Appeals Round of Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Lawsuit

by David Prentice

January 13, 2012

Nature notes that the first brief has been filed in the appeal of the Sherley et al. v. Sebelius et al. case. Dr. James Sherley and Dr. Theresa Deisher have filed suit against HHS and NIH to stop federal taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell research. The initial appeals brief (Appellants’ Brief) was filed by attorneys for Drs. Sherley and Deisher.

The briefing schedule was set back in December, as well as the date for oral arguments in the appeal.

Another Life Saved With Artificial Trachea Using Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

January 13, 2012

A 30-year-old Baltimore man is now back home recuperating from surgery in Sweden that implanted an artificial trachea made with his own adult stem cells. Christopher Lyles was diagnosed with inoperable tracheal cancer. He found Italian Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, who is a Visiting Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, who has constructed and transplanted replacement tracheas, using the patient’s own bone marrow adult stem cells to build the new tissue. Lyles traveled to Sweden in November to have the surgery; he returned home this week with his new implanted trachea. In a telephone interview, Lyles said he was “feeling good”, and “just thankful for a second chance at life. He was looking forward to watching his 4-year-old daughter grow up.

He went home in very good shape, said Dr. Macchiarini. Macchiarini said that Mr. Lyles adult stem cells were placed onto the synthetic windpipe scaffold and grown in a bioreactor for two days, then transplanted into his body after removal of his tumorous trachea. The cells continue to grow and differentiate after implantation into the patient. Macchiarini pointed out:

Were using the human body as a bioreactor to promote regeneration.

Because his own adult stem cells were used, there was no need for drugs to prevent his body from rejecting the transplanted windpipe; use of anti-rejection drugs, which have numerous side-effects, is a common problem in transplants using donated organs.

This is the second synthetic trachea transplant. The first transplant occurred in June 2011, and the results of that first synthetic trachea transplant were published in The Lancet. Macchiarini had done eight previous artificial trachea transplants, using cadaveric trachea stripped of cells and then coated with the patient’s own adult stem cells. The synthetic tracheal scaffold was designed and built by a Columbus, Ohio company and the bioreactor used to initiate growth of the adult stem cells on the scaffold for two days was built by a Massachusetts company.

More Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Approved

by David Prentice

January 13, 2012

NIH Director Francis Collins has approved four more human embryonic stem cell lines as eligible for federal taxpayer funding. The latest approval brings the total to 146. The four new lines are all from UCLA. The new lines, designated by the deriving lab as “UCLA 7”, “UCLA 8”, “UCLA 9”, and “UCLA 10”, join six previous UCLA lines approved by NIH for taxpayer funding—UCLA 1-3 approved April 27, 2010 and UCLA 4-6 approved February 3, 2011. All of the lines were apparently derived from human embryos after the new NIH guidelines went into effect in July 2009. NIH doesn’t provide details on the cells themselves or their derivation.

In the meantime, Adult Stem Cells continue to provide the gold standard for patient treatment, and the only stem cell type with published positive results at improving health and saving lives.

Generation Y and the Youth Misery Index

by Chris Gacek

January 6, 2012

Praise needs to be given to recent work of the Young Americas Foundation. Ron Meyer and Nathan Harden of the foundation published an insightful op-ed in the Washington Times entitled Generation Y Asks Why Us?. The article begins by noting that President Obamas approval among the young has fallen by 30 percent. The authors believe that Americas youth are taking an economic beating. At FRC, we agree.

It isnt just that their unemployment rate is higher than that of any other group in the general populace, but the young are being subjected to record-smashing college debt levels. This is taking place while the national debt explodes. Youth employment stands at 17.4%, and college debt has reached $26,300 for the typical graduate. The national debt now stands about 100% of GDP 15 trillion dollars. More significantly in one sense: the interest payments alone are now equal to $3,000 per taxpayer.

Young Americas Foundation recognizes the economic problems facing the young and has developed a Youth Misery Index. The Index reflects a value for youth unemployment plus college debt levels and per capita national debt. This is a good idea, and I look forward to the Index’s release each year.

(One suggestion might be to adjust the national debt component to also reflect the finding of Reinhart and Rogoff (This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly) that debt levels above 90% of GDP have a detrimental effect on long-term growth and stability.)

 

 

Adult Stem Cells from Young Mice Help Old Mice Live Longer and Healthier

by David Prentice

January 3, 2012

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have shown that adult stem cells from muscle of young mice can improve the health and extend the life of aged mice. The research team tested aged mice that are a model of an aging disease called progeria; the condition leads to advanced early aging. The idea was that in aged mice, the adult stem cells may have lost their vitality, with problems in proliferation (growth) as well as differentiation into other tissue types. However, when cultured in the same lab dish as muscle adult stem cells from young mice, the stem cells from aged mice recovered their ability to grow and differentiate. When young adult stem cells were injected into the abdomens of aging mice with progeria, the mice lived two to three times longer than expected and were healthier than aging control mice. Instead of losing muscle mass and moving slowly, the animals grew as large as normal mice. The Pitt researchers found evidence that the young adult stem cells secret a growth factor that delays the aging process.

Senior investigator Dr. Johnny Huard suggested that human muscle-derived stem cells could be stored at an early age and used when people age, allowing some rejuvenation of tissues and slowing the aging process.

The study was published online in Nature Communications.

Planned Parenthood Releases Latest Annual Report

by Family Research Council

December 30, 2011

On December 27, 2011 Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) released it latest Annual Report for 2009-2010.

Here is some of the information included in the report:

  • PPFA performed a total of 329,445 abortions during this time period.
  • PPFA provided 841 adoption referrals during this same time (therefore for every adoption referral there were 391 abortions performed).
  • PPFA had a total budget of 1.0482 billion dollars.
  • PPFA had an excess of revenue over expenses of 18.5 million dollars (in other words, this billion dollar non-profit organizations profited 18.5 million during that time).
  • 46 percent of the total PPFA budget comes from tax payer dollars in the form of government funding.

I encourage you to take time to read through the report in its entirety at: http://issuu.com/actionfund/docs/ppfa_financials_2010_122711_web_vf?mode=window&viewMode=doublePage.

More Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Approved by NIH Director Collins for Christmas

by David Prentice

December 22, 2011

Just in time for Christmas, NIH Director Francis Collins has approved more human embryonic stem cell lines for taxpayer funding, bringing the total number of hESC lines at the federal trough to 142. Today’s approval is not all that surprising—the four new lines, from the University of Queensland, were recommended for approval by the Stem Cell Working Group at the December 9, 2011 meeting of the Director’s Advisory Committee. The Stem Cell Working group had also voted not to approve six lines from China.

The four new hESC linies that have been approved are not for clinical use, however. Subsequent to the meeting and before the latest approvals, NIH also approved two other hESC lines, from Mt. Sinai Hospital in Canada. Those two lines are also restricted:

NIH-funded research with this line may only be conducted at Mount Sinai Hospital and other Canadian laboratories affiliated with the Canadian Stem Cell Network for further research or potential clinical use.”

In the meantime, the current and future patient benefits of adult stem cells continue to be ignored.

Education News on NCLB and Virtual Schools

by Chris Gacek

December 20, 2011

As the year ends there is more news on the education front. An article by Ben Wolfgang in the Washington Times (12/15/2011, Record Numbers Fail to Clear No Child bar). At the outset of the article, Wolfgang notes, The numbers keep getting worse for the nations education system. In the 2010-11 academic year, the No Child Left Behind statutes standards were not met by 48% of public schools.

There is a great deal of debate even among conservative education scholars whether the NCLBs standards have become increasingly unrealistic. There is disagreement over whether NCLB should continue as a national guide. Whatever ones feelings about NCLB, it seems clear that many schools and students are not proficient in reading and math. Proponents note that the law require[s] states to publish test-score results in math and reading for each school in grades 3 through 8 and again in grade 10. Parents can see how their childrens school is doing, but see this article that argues the federal yardstick is defective.

The debate will continue next year as the NCLB law needs to be reauthorized by the Congress. That may not be possible in an election year. As with many other things much depends on the outcome of the presidential election.

One area in which there seems to be positive news is in virtual schooling. Virtual education refers to taking classes online using the internet as the teaching device. It seems completely obvious that online learning if packaged properly will revolutionize education. See the Khan Academy. A recent article notes the rapid growth in this new avenue for learning. I think it is a positive development for a market-based approach to make an appearance in schooling.

The New York Times published a lengthy incredibly negative article on virtual learning recently. Virtual learning probably has its difficulties, but it also strikes at the core of the modern public school power structures by giving parents more choices. Lindsey Burke at the Heritage Foundation has some good observations on this debate. One wonders if the Times is more worried about that than learning.

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