ScienceScope

Science  03 Feb 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5761, pp. 591
  1. Iranians Seeking Uranium

    1. Richard Stone

    Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program may founder on one key issue, Vienna-based diplomats tell Science: whether Iranian researchers will be permitted to work side by side with Russians on uranium enrichment.

    With Iran's referral to the U.N. Security Council looming as Science went to press, negotiators are pushing Iran to relinquish its right to enrich uranium. Under a Russian proposal, Russian centrifuges would boost the percentage of fissile uranium in Iranian hexafluoride gas. It's hoped that would deter Iran from using its own centrifuges to produce even higher percentages of fissile fuel for bombs. The plan, sources say, restricts Iranian scientists' presence at the facility to thwart leakage of knowledge that might accelerate Iran's alleged weapons program.

    Iran has vacillated on the Russian proposal, and negotiations are expected to resume next week. Iran “will insist on learning more about enrichment technologies if the deal goes through,” predicts Jack Boureston of nonproliferation research group FirstWatch International.

  2. Fish Science Center Cast Off

    1. Robert F. Service

    In a controversial move, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)—the U.S. federal agency that oversees Pacific Northwest hydropower—has appointed new groups to count salmon returning to upstream spawning grounds. Last week, BPA announced that it will cut ties in March to the Fish Passage Center (FPC), an 11-person, $1.3 million operation that has long provided data to biologists who determine fishing seasons and salmon-recovery plans.

    BPA will give fish-counting duties to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, with routine analysis to be done by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. But Rebecca Miles of the Nez Perce Tribe, which has rights to the fish, says that now is the wrong time for changes, as comprehensive salmon-recovery plans are under negotiation. The move blocks access to “the best scientific data,” she says. But the replacements say they're qualified, and BPA's Greg Delwiche says separating the data gathering from the analysis will strengthen the underlying science.

    A federal judge cited FPC data last July when he ruled that additional water needed to be released from Columbia River dams, a move that cost BPA $79 million and triggered the ire of Senator Larry Craig (R-ID). He inserted a provision into a spending bill forcing BPA to jettison FPC.

  3. Chinese HIV Offensive

    1. Gong Yidong

    BEIJING—Although China has fewer people with HIV than previously estimated, the health ministry is about to expand efforts to curb new infections.

    Last week, the ministry and two U.N. bodies announced that China in 2005 had approximately 650,000 HIV carriers, including 75,000 AIDS patients. That's 190,000 fewer than in 2004, a decline largely attributed to better data collection. But the number of new infections is increasing, with 70,000 having contracted the virus last year. The ministry now plans to expand condom distribution and methadone and clean needle provision for heroin addicts. One high-risk group that will get extra help is China's 120 million migrant workers who travel from villages to cities, says ministry official Yao Deming.

  4. Biotech Knockoffs Hit Europe

    1. Eliot Marshall

    LONDON—A synthetic human growth hormone called Omnitrope—a generic version of an out-of-patent drug by New York-based Pfizer called Genotropin—may soon be available in European pharmacies. It's expected to be the first so-called biosimilar drug to be marketed here or in North America and could lead to a flood of less costly biotech products. Pfizer had argued that regulators should be wary of approving any such biosimilar drugs because quality and safety depend on unique properties and exquisite control of batch processing. But a scientific panel of the European Medicines Agency gave the green light last week, and the European Commission will likely follow in 90 days.

    The European vote raises the stakes at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been sitting on a similar appeal from Sandoz.

  5. Clouds of Silence?

    1. Andrew Lawler

    The chair of the House Science Committee has criticized NASA for what he sees as its heavy-handed treatment of James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, a longtime voice on the dangers of global warming. “Good science cannot long persist in an atmosphere of intimidation,” says Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) in a letter to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin sent this week after news reports that the agency is trying to muzzle Hansen. “NASA is clearly doing something wrong,” wrote Boehlert. NASA officials insist that all agency employees are subject to the same rules, and that Hansen is not being singled out.

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