Science  13 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5758, pp. 159

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  1. Help for Libyan Children

    1. John Bohannon

    ROME—With the lives of five foreign medics in the hands of a Libyan court rather than an executioner, the plight of more than 350 children infected with the HIV virus is drawing global attention. Late last month, a coalition of governments including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Bulgaria agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to improve conditions at a clinic in Benghazi, Libya, treating the children. In spite of ample funding, says a European ambassador who requested anonymity, the clinic has been plagued by “unnecessary delays, substandard laboratory supplies, and poor management.” Libyan officials declined comment.

    The medics, four Bulgarians and one Palestinian, won a reprieve in late December when the Libyan Supreme Court lifted their death sentences and ordered a retrial. The medics stand accused of deliberately infecting the children with HIV in a Libyan hospital where they worked. European AIDS researchers familiar with the case are expected to testify that the evidence points to poor hospital hygiene instead (Science, 8 April 2005, p. 182). “I am ready to testify,” says Vittorio Colizzi, an Italian molecular pathologist at Tor Vergata University in Rome, who was an expert witness in the earlier trial. The medics have been in jail for 7 years and say the Libyan police tortured them into making false confessions.

  2. Cells Sell Quelled?

    1. Constance Holden

    In a Missouri court next week: the first hurdle to getting a pro-stem cell research amendment into the state constitution. A pro-research coalition wants to put a measure on the ballot next November that would sanction human research cloning, or somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), while outlawing reproductive cloning. But a group called Missourians Against Human Cloning has asked the Cole County Circuit Court for an injunction against the ballot measure, and a judge will hear arguments on the issue on 19 January.

    The measure specifies that to “clone a human being” means “to implant in a uterus” a cloned embryo to initiate a pregnancy. The anticloning group argues that that language is “unfair and deceptive”; they say a blastocyst created by SCNT is a human being. Supporters of the amendment disagree.

    Coalition spokesperson Connie Farrow says if their language is rejected, they'll reword it. The deadline for signature collection is 9 May.

  3. Canada Targets Chemicals

    1. Rebecca Renner

    Canada has decided to examine all chemicals that could break down to perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs), which cause cancer and developmental problems in lab animals. In 2004, Canada temporarily banned four polymers that contain precursors to PFCAs; those and similar polymers are widely used in products including stain repellents and paint additives.

    The broader review comes as the country's regulatory body, Environment Canada, releases risk assessments that say PFCAs can bioaccumulate; previous studies have shown increasing levels of the chemicals in Arctic animals. The chemical industry argues that PFCAs are a legacy of past pollution, but University of Toronto chemist Scott Mabury says up to 4% of PFCAs come from human-made products.

  4. Shakeup at CNRS

    1. Martin Enserink

    PARIS—Physicist Catherine Bréchignac is returning to the helm of France's largest research institute. The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) announced this week that Bréchignac, the institute's director-general between 1997 and 2000, will return as CNRS president. She replaces physicist Bernard Meunier (below), who stepped down last week.


    It was widely known that Meunier was at odds with CNRS director-general Bernard Larrouturou over an ongoing reorganization. Both men declined comment, but in a letter to center staff, Meunier said he had hoped to cut red tape and make CNRS “strong, reactive, daring, and open to society.”

    A CNRS spokesperson says the agency's dual leadership structure will be replaced with a single director in the next few months, but it's too early to say who.

  5. At NIH: The Inevitable

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    The 0.1% cut to the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will soon hit investigators' bottom lines. This week, NIH decided to trim the 2006 payout for continuing grants by 2.35%, the first cut in recent memory. New grants will be funded at equivalent 2005 levels, with student and postdoc stipends mostly level. Advocates wince, citing biomedical inflation of at least 3%.