Science  10 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5766, pp. 1359

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  1. Knock Hockey

    The heat was on a 12-person National Research Council committee last week as it tackled the politically charged debate over how scientists have gauged temperatures from the past millennium or two. Chair Gerald North of Texas A&M University in College Station kept the audience on a tight leash, including principal protagonists Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in State College and his critics, Stephen McIntyre of the University of Toronto, Canada, and Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph, Canada. House Science Committee Chair Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) had requested the study in the wake of attacks on Mann's “hockey stick” temperature curve showing an abrupt, presumably human-induced warming over the last century (Science, 1 July 2005, p. 31).

    Mann made himself scarce throughout the proceedings, even abruptly departing as McIntyre stood to make a final comment. Others, however, had already provided independent support for temperature trends resembling Mann's, and Mann himself pointed out that he had sworn off the criticized analytical method years ago. The committee has promised a report on the science of millennial temperatures in June.

  2. Species Law Backed

    Thousands of biologists and the Union of Concerned Scientists are asking the U.S. Senate to heed “sound scientific principles” and preserve the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Last September, the House narrowly passed a bill that would overhaul the ESA, taking private economic interests into account when deciding which species to protect and how (Science, 30 September 2005, p. 2150). Now it's the Senate's turn to weigh the proposed changes.

    “There is a great deal right with the Endangered Species Act,” says conservation biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Pimm is a leader of the effort, which has garnered 5738 biologists supporting a letter calling for a “strengthened” ESA that is fully funded and implemented. They say the ESA is “the ultimate safety net in our life-support system.” Opponents say the ESA hinders development and is ineffective at species recovery. But supporters say that less than 1% of listed species have gone extinct, as opposed to 10% of species waiting to be listed. Senate legislation is expected to be introduced in the next few weeks.

  3. White House Sticks to The Basics

    High-energy physics is certainly basic science. But it's not what the Bush Administration is promoting when it talks about doubling basic research in the physical sciences over 10 years at three federal agencies. “There are exciting opportunities in high-energy physics, … but these are not emphasized in the ACI [American Competitiveness Initiative],” presidential science adviser John Marburger told the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which is included in the ACI (Science, 17 February, p. 929). ACI focuses on nanotechnology, high-end computing, and basic energy sciences that promise a direct technological payoff, Marburger explained. University of Chicago physicist Melvyn Shochet, the panel's chair, called Marburger's words “sobering … and honest.”

  4. Slammer Awaits Science Terrorists

    Six members of an animal-rights group will be sentenced in June after a federal jury in Trenton, New Jersey, last week found them guilty of stalking and harassment. Their target was Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a British animal testing company that moved most of its operations to the United States several years ago to escape the group's activities. Called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, the group's now-defunct U.S. Web site had listed “terror tactics” and personal information about HLS employees.

    The case is the first to be brought under a 2002 federal law that covers “animal enterprise terrorism.” Individual charges carry maximum sentences ranging from 3 to 5 years and $250,000 fines.

  5. Glug, Glug, Go U.S. Subs

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is trying to keep open five undersea research facilities caught in a budget squeeze this year. The facilities are run by several East Coast universities and offer diving and robotic equipment needed for studies including deep-sea fisheries research and coral science. Last fall, Congress cut $8 million from NOAA's $12 million National Undersea Research Program, which also supports two West Coast centers. NOAA's Barbara Moore says internal money could keep at least one center open. And the White House has asked Congress to restore the funds for 2007.