Science  17 Dec 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5704, pp. 2021

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  1. U.S., Kazakhstan Ink Pact for Bioweapons Monitoring

    1. Richard Stone

    ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN—A $35 million effort to help fight global bioterrorism moved ahead last week with the signing of an agreement between Kazakhstan and the United States. The initiative—part of the Pentagon's Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program—aims to secure dangerous pathogens, guard against the emergence of new strains, and help keep former Soviet bioweapons experts peacefully occupied at facilities that were key cogs in what was once a vast R&D network.

    The money will be used in part to create a disease surveillance and diagnostic lab at the Kazakh Science Center for Quarantine and Zoonotic Diseases in Almaty, a former Soviet biodefense institute that tracks endemic plague. Construction is expected to begin in early 2005 and last 2 years. One major challenge for the new lab, says center director Bakyt Atshabar, will be surveillance of a former bioweapons test site on Vozrozhdeniye Island in the Aral Sea.

  2. Two SARS Vaccines Move Ahead

    1. Martin Enserink

    This week the first of 10 volunteers received a jab with a candidate SARS vaccine as part of a trial at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland. The vaccine, the second to be tested in humans, consists of a small circular piece of DNA expressing a protein resembling one on the surface of the SARS coronavirus. A study reported in Nature last spring demonstrated that the vaccine works in mice; the NIAID trial aims to find out whether it's safe for humans and able to elicit an immune response.

    Meanwhile, Sinovac, a biotech company in Beijing, has announced the first results from a similar trial with 36 people using a vaccine produced from killed SARS virus. The study, which has yet to be published, established safety and antibody production, Sinovac said in a 5 December statement. But the company must wait for a new outbreak to test the vaccine's efficacy, says managing director Yin Weidong. Since SARS was brought under control worldwide in July 2003, only a handful of new cases have occurred, most of them as a result of lab accidents.

  3. School Board Sued Over "ID"

    1. Constance Holden

    This week the parents of 11 Pennsylvania students sued their local school officials for requiring children to learn “other theories of evolution including … intelligent design (ID)” (Science, 5 November, p. 971). The suit, filed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, says that the policy, adopted this fall by the Dover (Pennsylvania) school board, violates their religious liberty.

    The school board policy is widely seen as violating a 1987 Supreme Court ruling on the separation of church and state, one that creationists have tried to sidestep by focusing on so-called scientific objections to Darwinism. Even the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Washington, the movement's think tank, says the Dover policy is muddled and “raises serious problems from the standpoint of constitutional law.”

  4. USDA Eyes Plant Imports

    1. Erik Stokstad

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed tightening regulation of imported live plants—a major vector for pests and invasive weeds. Except for a limited blacklist, any plant can currently be imported if it is inspected before export and checked for disease upon arrival. But USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) worries that better safeguards are needed. The toughest option that APHIS proposes in the 10 December Federal Register is to restrict large shipments of some plants until the agency is sure they will not spread pests or become troublesome weeds.

    “The potential is to greatly improve protection against invasive species,” says Richard Orr of the interagency National Invasive Species Council in Washington, D.C. Comments are due by 10 March.

  5. ACS Sues Google

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but the American Chemical Society (ACS) isn't pleased with Google Scholar, an academic research tool that ACS says is too similar in name and function to Scifinder Scholar, the society's own search service.

    The society's suit, filed 9 December in federal court, claims that Google has infringed on ACS's trademark and is competing unfairly. ACS wants Google to immediately change the name and pay unspecified damages. Google spokesperson Steve Langdon says the company is “confident” in its use of the chosen name.