Science  25 Jan 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5862, pp. 397

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  1. Election '08 Moves Online

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Scientific groups are working hard to bring their issues before the U.S. presidential candidates. Going live last week was, funded by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, which offers letter-writing tools and advocacy materials. Also this month, AAAS (which publishes Science) launched, which examines where the candidates stand. Then there's the richly sourced Science, Health And Related Policies ( Network, from Scientists and Engineers for America, with links to voting records and a wiki for readers to contribute.

    Meanwhile, a campaign by science journalists and academics for presidential science debates has picked up the endorsement of the chair of the House Science Committee, Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN). But David Goldston, former chief of staff to Gordon's predecessor as committee chair, Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), worries that a debate could “politicize” the issues and even prompt some candidates to oppose more funding for research.

  2. Judge Modifies Sonar Ruling

    1. Benjamin Lester

    A U.S. judge has decided that silence is not golden for marine mammals. Last week, District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper temporarily suspended some restrictions she had placed on the Navy's use of mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar, continuing the legal battle over a series of antisubmarine warfare exercises off the southern California coast.

    Cooper acted 2 days after the Bush Administration granted the Navy waivers from two environmental laws covered under her 3 January ruling. MFA sonar has been linked to strandings of marine mammals, and environmental groups brought suit last March to force the Navy to limit its use in the exercises. Cooper's most recent ruling suspended her previous order that the Navy maintain a 2000-meter marine mammal “safe zone” around sonar sources and restrict the system's power under certain conditions. Other restrictions remain intact, however, including a 22-kilometer-wide no-sonar zone along the California coast.

    The latest development is “a step backward,” says Linda Weilgart, a bioacoustician at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, who gave expert testimony in the case. Cooper herself had called the Navy's own plans, which are similar to what the waivers allow, “grossly inadequate.” More briefs are due this week, and whichever side loses the next ruling is expected to appeal.

  3. Bearing Down on Oil Drilling

    1. Erik Stokstad

    A leading Democratic legislator wants the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to delay the sale of drilling rights in polar bear habitat until its Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decides whether to add the species to its endangered species list. Last year, FWS proposed listing the polar bear within 12 months, because rising temperatures are melting the sea ice it uses for habitat (Science, 5 January 2007, p. 25). After the agency said earlier this month that it couldn't meet the statutory deadline, environmentalists sued. Meanwhile, DOI's Minerals Management Service plans on 6 February to auction the rights to drill in prime polar bear habitat in Alaska's Chukchi Sea. Legislation proposed last week by Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, is meant to let DOI know “how serious the chairman is,” says an aide.

  4. Hubble Trouble

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Space shuttle delays could postpone the August mission devoted to repairing and upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA science chief S. Alan Stern warned last week. Technical problems last month forced the space agency to delay launch of the orbiter carrying the European Space Agency's Columbus module to the international space station until early February. That has backed up other space station assembly missions, including the three required to put Japan's module in orbit. An extended hold on Hubble repairs worries project managers, who note that some of the telescope's aging systems are on their last legs. NASA has promised to retire the shuttles and complete the station by 2010.

  5. China Reaches Dome A

    1. Richard Stone

    BEIJING—A 17-person team led by the Polar Research Institute of China last week struck camp at the highest bulge on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in search of the best astronomical viewing on Earth. The team is installing an automated suite of instruments to measure atmospheric turbulence, moisture, and other parameters and is setting up four 14.5-centimeter optical telescopes that will start snapping images after night falls in March. “Everything is going smoothly,” says Cui Xiangqun, an astronomer at the Nanjing Institute of Astronomical Optics and Technology, which built the telescopes. China hopes to have a year-round base at Dome A up and running by 2010.