ScienceScope

Science  20 Oct 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5798, pp. 399
  1. New Controls on North Korea

    1. Richard Stone

    Japan is likely to go beyond United Nations sanctions in an effort to clamp down on trade with North Korea in the wake of its underground nuclear test.

    Four years ago, Japan introduced a catchall system to prevent exports to North Korea of technologies useful for developing weapons of mass destruction. The small yield of last week's explosion has prompted speculation that it was a test of a bomb miniaturized for placement on a missile. Japanese officials had already tightened export controls after North Korea's missile tests last July, adding large cranes and trucks to the list of sensitive items that could be used for missile launchers. “We placed a very close watch on North Korea-related entities in Japan,” says Naoyuki Hasegawa, director of the security export control policy division at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Since July, Hasegawa says, investigators have detected “a few cases of possible or plausible diversion” of such items via Singapore. He says the ministry is now reviewing ways to further tighten its export regime.

  2. They're Resolute on Institute

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    Despite a resounding lack of support from almost every group it is supposed to reach, the planned European Institute of Technology (EIT) is still moving forward. This week, European Union leaders issued formal plans for spending €2.4 billion ($3 billion) over 5 years on the university, which is supposed to help close what politicians see as Europe's “innovation gap.” Initially floated in 2005 by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, the EIT has been roundly criticized by scientists and university leaders as ill-conceived and a potential waste of money and effort (Science, 3 March, p. 1227).

    Now comes news that industry isn't impressed either. Last week, Barroso's office confirmed that €800 million in hoped-for financial support from companies had not materialized. Yet this week, the commission presented its proposed regulations for governing the institute, via a board that would choose European researchers to form networks called “knowledge and innovation communities.” The proposal still needs approval from the European Parliament and the council of ministers, but critics have largely given up hope of blocking the school's creation, says Geoffrey Boulton of the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. He hopes now “to try to steer it” in a productive direction.

  3. Pass the Hat for Alien-Hunting

    1. Andrew Lawler

    With NASA scaling back funding for astrobiology, scientists are turning to California's Silicon Valley to keep hope alive. The SETI Institute in Mountain View, whose more than two dozen researchers rely on NASA astrobiology grants, plans to create a new privately funded center devoted to the study of life in space. Organizers are looking for up to $6 million over the next 3 years, says SETI's Scott Hubbard, with funds aimed at retaining staff and expanding research at the newly named Carl Sagan Center. The community took a similar approach after lawmakers refused to fund extraterrestrial intelligence research a decade ago.

  4. Crawford Pleads Guilty

    1. Jennifer Couzin

    A former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pleaded guilty this week to owning shares of stock in companies the agency regulates and filing false financial disclosure forms saying he had sold them. Lester Crawford, a pharmacologist and veterinary medicine specialist who resigned his post suddenly last fall after just 2 months, was charged with two misdemeanors for withholding financial information. The Justice Department complaint states that Crawford, who spent 8 years at FDA in three separate stints, or his wife owned shares in soft-drink maker Pepsico while he chaired an FDA obesity working group.

    “There's little that we can do if people do not provide honest disclosures of financial interest,” says Jeremy Sugarman, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Sentencing is set for January.

  5. Biosafety Lab Delayed

    1. Eli Kintisch

    A U.S. nuclear-weapons lab must conduct another environmental review before opening a biosafety level 3 lab on its grounds, a federal appeals court ruled this week. The move is a win for activists led by the Livermore, California, based Tri-Valley Cares, which had sued the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory over the proposed facility in 2003. Such a review, which must consider the possibility of a terrorist attack on the lab, could take a year. Livermore says it is mulling its options; activists hope the decision will bolster efforts to thwart other planned biosafety labs at government facilities. Livermore had planned to open the lab as soon as next month (Science, 13 October, p. 235).