ScienceScope

Science  21 Dec 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5858, pp. 1853
  1. New Animal-Rights Attacks

    1. John Travis

    Last week, British police arrested well-known animal-rights activist Mel Broughton in connection with arson attacks last year and in the spring against the University of Oxford. The police have not, however, charged him with setting fire to two Oxford professors' cars in early November, actions that also appear related to animal-rights protests. Someone posting on the Animal Liberation Front's Web site has claimed credit on behalf of the group for those previously unreported fires at the homes of “researchers connected to the [university's] notorious Department of Experimental Psychology.” A university spokesperson confirmed the car fires but declined to reveal the professors' names.

    The car arsons reflect a trend of more-personal attacks by animal-rights extremists (see p. 1856). In contrast, Broughton was arrested in relation to attempted arsons on university facilities. He's charged with two counts of possession of an explosive substance, two counts of having an article with intent to damage, and one count of conspiracy to blackmail. Broughton's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

  2. Save the Fish

    1. Virginia Morell

    For the first time, scientists at the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle, Washington, have recommended a cut in Alaska's commercial harvest of pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). Although the move will cost this billion-dollar industry tens of millions of dollars, fishing interests have accepted the scientists' reduction. Next year's harvest will be decreased from nearly 1.4 million metric tons to 1 million metric tons—an almost 28% drop and its lowest level since 1999. A further cut may be required in 2009. The reduction stems from annual surveys that track the size and health of different age classes of this groundfish.

    For 5 years in a row now, the number of juveniles successfully attaining adulthood has been below average, possibly because of unusually warm bottom waters. Some science advisers to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, an 11-member panel charged with regulating commercial fishing off the coast of Alaska, think that the harvest should be reduced even further, to 555,000 metric tons, citing concerns from many fishers that the large aggregations of pollock in the Bering Sea that have fueled the fishery for 30 years are difficult to find. “It's time to alter course and further reduce the harvest to save this incredibly lucrative fishery,” says Juneau, Alaska, ecologist Michelle Ridgway, a council adviser.

  3. Researchers: Folly in Bali

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Last week's United Nations meeting in Bali, Indonesia, broke little new ground on mandatory emissions targets, say disappointed scientists who attended the conference. The meeting was held to discuss how to follow up the 1997 Kyoto agreement on climate change, which expires in 2012. It was extended for 1 day so that delegates could issue a joint call for negotiations to achieve a “long-term global goal for emission reductions.” The conferees also agreed to allow developing countries to protect rainforests now and get credit later.

    Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, called the U.S. role at the meeting “obstructionist.” Trenberth joined more than 200 scientists in supporting mandatory caps of at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050, a position that the Bush Administration opposes.

  4. Moon Shot Gets Nod

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Astronauts may someday again walk on the moon, but before then, a new mission will look deeply into the lunar interior. NASA last week backed a $375 million effort to measure the moon's gravity field using two orbiting spacecraft. The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission, led by geophysicist Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, beat out 24 other proposals in NASA's Discovery competition. The spacecraft is slated for a 2011 launch, and NASA science chief S. Alan Stern says the approach could be used on future missions to Mars and other solar system bodies.

  5. New Euros Flow

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    The fledgling European Research Council has selected 300 applicants to receive its first set of grants, aimed at those in their first decade of independent research. Chosen from more than 9000 applications, the winners represent 32 nationalities working in 21 countries and will receive total funding of approximately €290 million. The United Kingdom will host the most awardees with more than 50 planning to work there. Martin Bergö of Göteborg University in Sweden, who was awarded €1.7 million to study the proteins involved in cancer and premature aging, says the application process was “absolutely flawless” and devoid of the infamous European Union bureaucracy. The application process for the second round of grants is now under way.