Science  15 Aug 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5635, pp. 903

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  1. New Sequencing Giant

    1. Elizabeth Pennisi

    The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) is essentially giving up on what made its reputation: sequencing microbial genomes. TIGR recently turned over that job to a new production facility, one that will do almost all the sequencing work needed by TIGR and by its much younger sibling organizations, The Center for the Advancement of Genomics and the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, founded by J. Craig Venter. Venter is head of the board that overseas the three genomics facilities.

    From now on, TIGR researchers—who will concentrate on analyzing genomic data—will be taking their DNA by shuttle bus three-quarters of a kilometer from their Rockville, Maryland, headquarters to the new center, which has 125 of the latest sequencers and room for 275 more. That's enough to make a microbial genome a day's work, says Venter. This efficiency is necessary, as he is now going head to head with the large sequencing centers that deciphered the human genome for major sequencing grants. It's a gamble, but Ari Patrinos, chief of genome research at the Department of Energy, thinks Venter will be quite competitive. “He may very well end up with the most successful sequencing [operation] in the world,” says Patrinos.

  2. Utah Governor to Head EPA

    1. Erik Stokstad

    Longtime Utah Governor Michael Leavitt, a moderate Republican, was tapped this week by President George W. Bush to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He replaces Christine Todd Whitman, who resigned in May after several run-ins with the White House (Science, 30 May, p. 1351).

    During three terms in office, Leavitt, 52, has felt his share of heat. Environmentalists criticized him for undoing wilderness protections and for supporting building a highway through wetlands along the Great Salt Lake. But Leavitt won kudos for aiding a regional effort to clean up haze in national parks, working to stop nuclear waste storage on Indian lands, and trying to establish a new national monument in southern Utah.

    Leavitt doesn't have much of a track record in regulatory decisions but is known as a compromiser, says Michael Lyons, a political scientist at Utah State University in Logan. “He is going to listen to scientists and try to find a middle ground,” he predicts. “He stays away from contentious positions on controversial problems.” It's unclear whether Leavitt—if confirmed by the Senate—will be able to do that at EPA.

  3. Low-Quality Climate Report?

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    A pro-industry group is suing the White House over a climate change report that it claims lacks scientific rigor. The suit could test the reach of the federal Data Quality Act, which allows citizens to challenge government information that does not meet certain standards for “quality” and “objectivity” (Science, 21 March, p. 1837).

    The lawsuit targets a 2000 national assessment of global warming's regional impacts in the United States. The Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) claims that the report is based on flawed computer models and has asked the government to withdraw or correct it. But the White House earlier this year rejected CEI's administrative challenge, saying the report was written by an advisory committee and therefore not a government document subject to the law. CEI challenges that verdict in its 6 August lawsuit—and now a federal judge will decide who's right.

  4. Fish Kill Spurs Fears

    1. Robert F. Service

    Endangered fish are turning belly-up again in the Klamath Basin on the Oregon-California border. Every summer, hot weather and nutrient-rich waters threaten populations of two species of endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and surrounding rivers. In the mid-1990s, such conditions helped kill thousands of fish, fueling a contentious battle over the Klamath's water (Science, 4 April, p. 36).

    Late last month, the cycle may have started again. Following a spate of hot weather, biologists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Bureau of Reclamation found about 175 dead suckers. Now, they are “in a wait-and-see mode to see” if the toll grows, says USGS fisheries biologist Rip Shively.

  5. Iraqi Dam Plans Collapse

    1. Andrew Lawler

    U.S. officials say they have canceled Saddam Hussein's plan to build the massive Makhool Dam across the Tigris River. Archaeologists feared that the project would have drowned at least 65 major unexcavated Assyrian sites, including Ashur, the capital of the ancient empire (Science, 22 March 2002, p. 2189).

    “Makhool simply didn't rank high” on postwar priority lists, says Eugene Stakhiv, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official in Baghdad. His team last week eliminated funding for the dam, which is under way. That's “good news,” says archaeologist Arnulf Hausleiter of the Free University in Berlin. But until there is an official Iraqi decision, “it is too soon to rejoice.”