Science  18 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5554, pp. 421

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  1. Closer to the Edge

    The viability of the Coulston Foundation in Alamogordo, New Mexico, once the nation's largest chimpanzee research and housing facility, is in question after a local bank filed suit to recover $1.2 million in defaulted loans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also said it will reject six product-testing studies carried out at the troubled facility since 1999. Coulston and FDA declined to comment. But animal activists who have followed the foundation's sinking fortunes say they would like the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take custody of the 250 to 260 chimps believed to still live there. Last summer the National Institutes of Health relocated 285 Coulston chimpanzees to Charles River Laboratories, ended Coulston's funding, and let lapse the foundation's permit to experiment on federally owned animals (Science, 24 August 2001, p. 1415).

  2. Super Agency

    The British government plans to overhaul its health bureaucracy to focus on emerging diseases and the heightened bioterror threat. Over the next year, four agencies will be combined into a new National Infection Control and Health Protection Agency, according to a report last week from the U.K. Department of Health. It targets many areas for improvement—from registering research projects that involve dangerous pathogens to beefing up disease surveillance. “When we get outbreaks of disease, we often don't know what's caused them,” says the U.K.'s chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson. The health department intends to pool the $50 million a year in research funds and devise a new strategy for spending the money.

  3. Mine Disaster?

    Executives and politicians involved in an effort to convert a South Dakota gold mine into the world's deepest underground laboratory say the plan could collapse unless Congress alters a new law that would transfer part of the site to government ownership. Homestake Mine officials last week said the law, crafted last month by Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Representative John Thune (R-SD), doesn't do enough to reduce the company's liability for potential pollution and safety problems associated with the proposed $300 million lab. Thune is organizing a meeting later this month to discuss solutions and ways to prevent the company from permanently flooding the mine in March. Earlier this month, ScienceScope (4 January, 27) failed to note that the new law requires the National Science Foundation, which is reviewing the proposal, to approve the project before the land transfer can take place.

  4. FAME Flames

    NASA last week abruptly cancelled a mission to obtain precise measurements of 50 million stars. The Full-sky Astrometric Mapping Explorer (FAME) was slated for a 2004 launch, but burgeoning costs prompted the space agency to abandon the project.


    FAME's price tag had grown from $160 million to $220 million, primarily because of design and delivery problems with two dozen digital imaging cameras. And the final cost was likely to go higher, according to NASA officials and Kenneth Johnston, principal investigator and an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. “It's a great disappointment,” says Johnston, who had hoped to convince the Department of Defense to cover the additional costs. The mission, selected in a tough 1999 competition, would have helped astronomers understand stellar evolution and the distance scale of the universe.

  5. Accidental Death

    Tennessee authorities say that Harvard biochemist Don Wiley died in an accident. Wiley mysteriously disappeared on 15 November 2001 from a Memphis bridge over the Mississippi River; his body was found on 20 December 2001 some 480 kilometers downstream (Science, 4 January, p. 31). This week, Shelby County Medical Examiner O. C. Smith ruled out both foul play and suicide. Instead, Smith believes Wiley fell from the 35-meter-high bridge after leaving his rental car to check it for minor damage. Smith says alcohol consumption, a seizure disorder, and a gust of wind caused by a passing truck all may have caused Wiley to lose his balance and fall over a thigh-high guardrail. He died from the impact on the water.

  6. High Eye on the Sky

    Champagne flowed atop a remote mountaintop this week as astronomers dedicated the new 8.1-meter Gemini South telescope at Cerro Páchon in the Chilean Andes. The new $184 million telescope joins its identical twin, Gemini North, at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Together, they give astronomers from the seven nations footing the bill—the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Australia, Argentina, and Brazil—access to the entire sky.