ScienceScope

Science  20 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5431, pp. 1189
  1. Freedom!

    Pledging to work in “a legal way,” South Korean mathematician and political activist Ahn Jae-Ku is savoring his release after 5 years of solitary confinement in Taegu prison (Science, 30 July, p. 649). The 65-year-old former professor at Kyoung-buk University was convicted in 1994 of violating the country's notorious National Security Law after forming a discussion group that allegedly was helping North Korea. He was also jailed in the 1980s for criticizing the then-military government.

    Ahn was pardoned with 1742 other prisoners as part of the country's annual Liberation Day on 15 August. He says he won't return to his work on differential geometry because it would take him too long to catch up with new developments after being denied scientific literature in prison. But he plans to continue talking with like-minded people on issues of national reunification and says that he is looking forward “to another chance to work for Korean society.” He also expressed his gratitude to the scientific and human rights groups around the world who lobbied Korean President Kim Dae Jung for his release.

  2. Data Rule, Round Two

    Scientific groups seem to be pleased with the White House's latest version of a proposal that would require researchers to give the public access to raw data that federal agencies use to develop regulations. This second attempt (www.whitehouse.gov/OMB/fedreg/2ndnotice-a110.html) is similar to but more detailed than a July draft (Science, 23 July, p. 511), defining data in a way that rules out, for instance, public access to lab samples. It also says the rule applies only to studies published in a “scientific or technical” journal or cited in a regulation.

    But even this proposal may not be the final word. Louis Renjel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says his group is unhappy that researchers—and not just government officials—could withhold information that they think threatens privacy, and that the law would apply only to regulations with an economic impact of at least $100 million. “Completely unacceptable,” Renjel says about the new version, which is open for comments until 10 September. To counter the critics, George Leventhal of the Association of American Universities says it's “very important that the academic community weigh in” on the proposal. The final rule is expected to be out by 1 October.

  3. Mongrel Salmon?

    Salmon genes are back in the spotlight. Two conservation groups last week filed suit in Washington, D.C., to force the federal government to list Maine's few remaining Atlantic salmon as endangered, charging that a 2-year-old voluntary plan to protect the fish doesn't go far enough. Less than 100 salmon returned to seven Maine rivers last year to spawn, down from at least 20,000 a century ago.

    The suit—which joins similar complaints filed earlier by other groups—could force a replay of a scientific tussle. In 1997, federal officials declined to list the Maine fish, in part because genetic studies suggested that they were not “distinct” enough from nearby Canadian runs to merit protection under the Endangered Species Act (Science, 6 February 1998, p. 800). State officials—who fear listing could force restrictions on timber harvesting and farming—insist the fish are mongrels produced by inbreeding with stocked fish and don't deserve listing.

    But new studies “undermine the state's position,” says Steve Moyer of Trout Unlimited in Washington, D.C., which is suing along with the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Salmon science is expected to go on trial this fall.

  4. Compelling Enough?

    Scientists have come up with 10 reasons for restarting the Fast Flux Test Facility, which has been idle since 1993 (Science, 4 April 1997, p. 28). But politicians hope the arguments won't sway Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, who must decide by next month whether to spend as much as $400 million to bring the nuclear research reactor back to life.

    Earlier this month, a DOEadvisory panel said the Hanford, Washington, facility—part of Pacific Northwest National Lab—had 10 potential uses, including fusion and materials research, and urged Richardson to begin an environmental study of its restart. But opponents, including lawmakers from nearby Oregon, are concerned that it might add to Hanford's serious environmental problems. Heartened by Richardson's rejection last year of a plan to use the reactor to produce tritium gas for nuclear weapons, they now hope “he kills it once and for all,” says an aide to one Oregon senator.

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