Science  18 Feb 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5712, pp. 1025

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  1. White House Nominates New FDA Chief

    1. Jennifer Couzin

    The longtime acting head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been nominated for the agency's top post. Lester Crawford, a 66-year-old pharmacologist and veterinary medicine specialist, served as FDA's deputy commissioner during the brief tenure of Mark McClellan and has been acting commissioner since then. But some agency watchdogs have criticized his leadership. “We strongly oppose” his nomination, says Sidney Wolfe, director of the health research group Public Citizen in Washington, D.C., who cites Crawford's delays in removing the diet drug ephedra from the market and slapping warnings on the painkiller Vioxx.

  2. Boost for African Science Academies

    1. Amitabh Avasthi

    The science academies of Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa have been selected to team up with the U.S. National Academies in a new $20 million project to help African scientists provide their governments with advice on science and public policy. The 10-year program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will tackle some of the continent's most serious health issues, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, chronic malnutrition, and malaria. The hope is that these academies can eventually fill the same role for their governments that the National Academies perform for U.S. policymakers. “We are hoping all of sub-Saharan Africa will benefit,” says Patrick Kelley, director of the academies' Board on African Science Academy Development.

  3. Astronaut to Keep NASA Aloft

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Former astronaut Frederick Gregory was named interim chief of NASA last week. He will fill in for NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, who left the agency on 11 February. The White House is expected to nominate O'Keefe's successor shortly, but it may take some time for Congress to confirm that candidate. Gregory, a former Air Force colonel, has served as NASA's deputy administrator since 2002. In 1985, he was the first black commander of a space shuttle mission. O'Keefe will become chancellor of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

  4. Stem Cells Hit Snag in Massachusetts

    1. Constance Holden

    A campaign in Massachusetts to smooth the path for stem cell research and explicitly sanction so-called therapeutic cloning suffered a setback last week when Republican Governor Mitt Romney declared himself opposed to all cloning.

    Massachusetts is home to many leading stem cell researchers, but its laws on research with human embryonic stem cells are vague. Advocates are pushing for a state law that would allow research on surplus embryos generated at fertilization clinics and embryos created by cloning and would also set up a new ethics body to oversee the research. Although scientists and lawmakers had hoped for the governor's support, Romney declared that any law “should prohibit all human cloning and the creation of new human embryos for the purpose of research.”

    In response, Harvard stem cell researchers George Daley and Leonard Zon deplored efforts to “criminalize” what they characterized as vital research. “This throws everything up in the air,” adds Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technologies Inc. in Worcester.

  5. Alaskan Coral Preserved

    1. Erik Stokstad

    The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has voted to ban a destructive fishing practice called bottom trawling from 960,495 square kilometers of sea floor around Alaska's Aleutian Islands—the largest area ever afforded such protection.

    Bottom trawling involves dragging heavy nets across the sea floor, a process that destroys coral, sponges, and other creatures. In 2002, researchers probing the deep waters around the Aleutians discovered rich gardens of corals, which they believe provide a habitat for many fish species. Last week's decision to protect that coral is “a significant advance in ocean management,” says David Allison of Oceana, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

    The management council is one of several such regional bodies chartered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to manage fisheries off United States' coasts. Later this year, the Pacific council will decide whether to vote for a similar ban for fish habitats off the West Coast thought to harbor similar coral gardens.