KERRY HUBARTT: Toys ‘R’ Us are disappearing, but cloned monkeys are appearing

Kerry Hubartt

“I read the news today, oh boy.”

— The Beatles

(Reflections on news stories from the past week):

TOYS “R” US, DON’T LEAVE US

You may remember the news last fall when Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 due to a $5 billion debt. The report this week is that the long-time favorite of toy shoppers everywhere is planning to close as many as 182 stores after the critical holiday season fell flat due to “operational missteps.”

The toy store chain has struggled with debt since 2005. It operates about 900 stores in the U.S., including Babies R Us stores. The closings, which will include only two in Indiana (one in Indianapolis and one in Greenwood), will happen between February and April.

Fort Wayne has one Toys “R” Us store in the plaza off Lima Road on the west side of Glenbrook Square as well as one Babies R Us on Coldwater Road near the east end of Glenbrook.

Toys “R” Us has been called a nostalgic favorite, part of U.S. shopping tradition for decades. It originated in 1948 when Charles Lazarus founded Children’s Supermart in Washington, D.C. The template for the way we know it today started to take shape in the 1960s.

While its sales numbers have been shrinking due to online sales, Toys “R” Us still sells about 20 percent of the toys bought in the U.S. And even though I’ve often resorted to the simplicity and convenience of buying online like the rest of the country, Toys “R” Us is still a special place for our family.

My wife and I take our grandchildren out to eat for their birthdays and then head to Toys “R” Us so they can pick out a gift. And we shop there for Christmas as well. I hope the local store (and others throughout the country) can survive this latest crisis.

MONKEYS CLONED; HUMANS NEXT?

The Associated Press story began: “For the first time, researchers have used the cloning technique that produced Dolly the sheep to create healthy monkeys, bringing science an important step closer to being able to do the same with humans.”

The fact that scientists have cloned various kinds of mammals since Dolly was born in 1996 is difficult enough to sort out in ethical terms. That they have created human embryos with this method gets even scarier. But now they have made baby primates, the category that includes not just monkeys and apes, but people as well.

Muming Poo of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai and his colleagues announced Wednesday that they successfully created two monkeys called macaques. Poo says the breakthrough shows that cloning humans is theoretically possible.

And while he insists his team has no intention of doing so and that other mainstream scientists generally oppose making human babies by cloning, I’m not naive enough to think someone won’t try. But I believe that would cross an ethical and spiritual boundary beyond our God-given right.

While Poo says cloning genetically identical monkeys for use in medical research is valuable because they are more like humans, he says society would ban cloning humans for ethical reasons.

I hope he’s right.

Kerry Hubartt is the former editor of The News-Sentinel.

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