ScienceScope

Science  28 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5419, pp. 1441
  1. Embryo Taboo Broken?

    President Bill Clinton may not be eager to receive it, but his National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) is ready to give him some provocative advice on human stem cell research. NBAC's draft recommendations—which hit the press last week—advise the government to end rules that now prevent federally funded researchers from deriving versatile stem cells from human embryos.

    NBAC's opinion—likely to stir protest from antiabortionists—calls for a limited repeal of the current ban on embryonic stem cell research on grounds that it may be “unjust or unfair” in blocking potential medical benefits. NBAC aims to approve final recommendations in late June.

  2. Spy Threat

    A new report has ratcheted up the pressure on programs that bring thousands of foreign scientists to the United States. This week, a House panel led by Christopher Cox (R-CA) released a long-awaited report concluding that China has used the exchanges to gather intelligence on U.S. nuclear weapons and supercomputers. It recommends that five agencies scrutinize the security risks and report to Congress by 1 July. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the American Physical Society have warned against clamping down too tightly on exchanges, which some lawmakers want banned (Science, 7 May, p. 882).

  3. Less Ravenous ITER

    Europe, Japan, and Russia continue to pursue a cheaper alternative to the moribund $10 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Last year, a U.S. pullout dashed hopes for the original fusion megaproject (Science, 9 October 1998, p. 209). This week, a new working group was to meet in Tokyo to begin mapping out a plan, sometimes called “ITER Light,” that would run half the original cost or less.

    Japanese officials say the ITER parties have ruled out the idea of scattering experiments among existing facilities. That means the panel will ponder a host of questions, such as a reactor's scale, cost, and location. It is not clear what combination will win out: “We don't know the positions of the other parties,” says Hiroshi Kishimoto, director of Japan's Atomic Energy Research Institute and working group co-chair. The panel has until year's end to hammer out recommendations.

  4. Jacques in the Box

    Jacques Crozemarie, once one of France's most powerful biomedical science funders, is fighting to stay out of prison.

    This week, the former president of the Association for Cancer Research (ARC), a charity based near Paris, went on trial for forgery and other charges stemming from allegations that Crozemarie siphoned off millions of dollars in ARC funds via sweetheart contracts with suppliers (Science, 18 October 1996, p. 336). He and 25 other defendants have pleaded innocent. If found guilty, Crozemarie and some other defendants could get up to 5 years in prison and be ordered to pay as much as $800,000 in fines.

    The trial has been eagerly awaited by current ARC president Michel Lucas, the investigator who exposed alleged irregularities in the charity's books, then took over after Crozemarie's arrest in June 1996. As part of his campaign to restore ARC's credibility, Lucas is making sure potential donors can follow the trial's every twist: The organization has set up a toll-free hotline that will regularly update callers on the proceedings, which are expected to last into July.

  5. Lab-Bench Diplomacy

    Scientists from India and the United States are working to ease tensions between the countries since India's nuclear tests last summer.

    Last week, two dozen researchers from both nations gathered behind closed doors in Bangalore, India, to discuss hot topics such as weapons monitoring and disarmament. The 3-day summit was organized by the Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington and the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore. Although CISAC has sponsored similar meetings of the minds in Russia and China, this was its first in India.

    Participants wouldn't discuss details, but the “free, frank discussions helped both sides better understand each other's positions,” says CISAC chair John Holdren of Harvard University. Both sides hailed the rap session as a “second track” of diplomacy that complements ongoing government talks. Organizers plan to hold a second get-together within a year.