Dealing With Mesopotamia
- Andrew Lawler
When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, they received a deck of playing cards showing the faces of Saddam Hussein and other top Baathists as a guide to capturing Iraq's most wanted criminals. Now, the Pentagon intends to use the same approach to educate troops about Iraq's endangered archaeological heritage.
The 40,000 decks depict four different aspects of that heritage: diamonds for artifacts, spades for archaeological sites, hearts for encouraging soldiers to win over the locals, and clubs for preservation. Archaeologists say raising such awareness is critical: Thousands of ancient sites, mostly unguarded, have been damaged in the past 3 years, while artifacts continue to be smuggled out of the country in unknown numbers. Archaeologist Elizabeth Stone of Stony Brook University in New York state says the cards “seem like a good idea, but [the program] also seems to me to be too little, too late.”
Earth to NASA
- Andrew Lawler
NASA is eyeing the moon and beyond, but Congress wants to bring the agency back to Earth—or at least Earth's orbit. Under pressure from lawmakers, the space agency released a report this week on how it intends to use the international space station as a U.S. national laboratory. In the past few years, NASA has slashed the station's research funding, and the study emphasizes pulling in more terrestrial agencies—such as the National Institutes of Health and the Pentagon—as well as private companies to conduct the bulk of research on the station. NASA, naturally mindful of its budget, wants to make sure outsiders fund their own station research. Lawmakers reacted cautiously to the report, with House Science and Technology Committee Chair Bart Gordon (D-TN) calling for a “meaningful return on our [space station] investment.”
Issues With Tissues
- Jocelyn Kaiser
To the relief of universities, a U.S. appeals court has found that tissue samples belong to a researcher's institution, not to the investigator himself or the patients who donated them. Washington University (WU) v. Catalona arose when about 6000 prostate cancer patients asked WU School of Medicine to let WU urologist William Catalona take their blood and tissue samples with him when he moved to Northwestern University in Illinois. After WU sued to challenge the samples' transfer, a U.S. district court ruled in WU's favor last year (Science, 21 April 2006, p. 346). Last week, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling. WU had not distributed the tissue samples while the case was on appeal, but the school will now consider proposals from researchers to use them. Catalona is mulling an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Color Green Unites Them
- Hao Xin
The Swiss agbiotech giant Syngenta will collaborate with the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to identify and develop new traits such as drought tolerance, the company announced on Monday. Financial details of this 5-year agreement were not disclosed. China has approved more than a dozen genetically modified plants, such as rice and soybean, for commercialization or field trials since 1997 and designated modified crop development a “major engineering project” in its science and technology plan for 2006 to 2020.