ScienceScope

Science  18 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5716, pp. 1705
  1. Tsunami Survivors Sue

    1. Charlene Crabb

    PARIS—About 60 European survivors of the 26 December 2004 tsunami and relatives of victims have sued the U.S. and Thai governments for failing to issue appropriate warnings before the monster waves came ashore. A preliminary hearing is expected next month on the suit, which was filed 4 March in a New York district court and targets the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.

    Patricio Bernal, executive secretary of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, says the center “was not in a position to issue a tsunami warning” for the Indian Ocean because the region lacks a monitoring network.

  2. Mammalian RNAi Library Set Up

    1. Jennifer Couzin

    A team of scientists and drug companies is creating a publicly accessible RNA-interference library for studies on 30,000 mouse and human genes.

    The RNAi Consortium is a collaboration among six institutes and hospitals affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, four companies, and a Taiwanese academic consortium. The Taiwan group and the companies—Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Co., Novartis, and Sigma-Aldrich—are footing most of the $18 million bill.

    The library, announced this week, will house tens of thousands of small RNA molecules embedded in lentiviral vectors that can infect cells. The RNA molecules, in turn, can shut down genes with a complementary sequence, allowing scientists to discern gene functions.

  3. EPA Issues Mercury Rule

    1. Erik Stokstad

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week announced its first regulation of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States. The controversial regulation would allow power companies to trade pollution credits, an approach that EPA claims will cut emissions by 70% by 2018.

    Environmentalists say that faster, better progress could be made by mandating industry-wide reductions (Science, 11 February, p. 829). They also argue that the Clean Air Act prohibits trading of hazardous pollutants such as mercury. “There's a very strong prospect of litigation” within the 60-day time limit, says John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.

  4. Forgiving Science Majors

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    The chair of a House spending panel that oversees several U.S. civilian science agencies says he wants to do something “dramatic” to attract more students into science, math, and engineering.

    Last week Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) won endorsements from presidential science adviser John Marburger and National Science Foundation Director Arden Bement, both new to his panel's jurisdiction, for a bill he's drafting. It would forgive interest on college loans for students earning science-related majors and working for 3 years in the field until their salaries exceeded four times the median U.S. income ($32,000). Borrowing an idea from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Wolf said he's looking for ways to reverse the one-way flow of students from engineering to political science or business. “I think it's the right kind of program,” said Marburger, calling it a “creative idea.” Bement went even further: “I've read Newt's book, and I liked it.”

  5. New Threat to Station Science

    1. Andrew Lawler

    An effort to reduce the number of shuttle flights needed to build the international space station could be bad news for researchers. A possible cut from 28 to as few as 15 flights could jeopardize the centrifuge, now being built in Japan and designed to provide important animal data about variable gravity on places such as the moon and Mars. Other animal research facilities also might get the ax, although players on Capitol Hill are gearing up to protect station science.

    NASA spokesperson J. D. Harrington says the new science plan will be released next month. In the meantime, he says, “we're assessing all science needs to see if they are aligned with the exploration objectives” set out by President George W. Bush in January 2004. The shuttle is due to resume flying in May after a more than 2-year hiatus following the Columbia tragedy.

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