Science  29 Aug 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5893, pp. 1145

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  1. Anti-Extremist Bill Progresses

    1. Greg Miller

    California state legislators are aiming to complete work next week on a bill to protect researchers and their families from animal-rights extremists. The legislation would make it a misdemeanor to publish personal information about academic researchers and their immediate family members that is likely to incite acts or threats of violence against them or to trespass on a researcher's property in order to interfere with his or her work. “This legislation is an important step toward preventing increasingly threatening and destructive tactics employed by extreme animal-rights activists,” said University of California (UC) President Mark Yudof in a 6 August letter to the head of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

    This month, the home of one UC Santa Cruz researcher and the car of another were firebombed, the latest in a recent string of incidents (Science, 8 August, p. 755). The American Civil Liberties Union dropped its opposition to the bill after lawmakers narrowed the definition of actions subject to prosecution. If the bill does not pass this week, when the legislature's term ends, lawmakers will try to pass the bill in December, when the new term opens.

  2. Whales to Receive Protection

    1. Erik Stokstad

    The U.S. government has taken a step toward protecting North Atlantic right whales from ship collisions, a major cause of death for the endangered species. In 2006, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Marine Fisheries Service proposed reducing ship speeds in important whale habitat over the objections of shipping trade groups. Last week, NOAA released its final Environmental Impact Statement on the regulations.


    NOAA favors a 10-knot speed limit for ships plying feeding grounds off the northeastern United States and in calving areas farther south. But the traffic-calming zone would now begin 37 kilometers from major ports rather than 56 kilometers as under the earlier draft rule. NOAA plans to issue the rule “expeditiously” after the public comment period closes on 29 September. Although environmentalists wanted tougher rules, whale researcher William McLellan of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, calls moving forward with regulation “a hugely positive step.”

  3. EPA Is Going Down the Drain

    1. Erik Stokstad

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking a closer look at the health or environmental impact of pharmaceuticals and personal care products that get flushed down the toilet. Earlier this month, the agency asked for public comment on its plans to collect data from hospitals and nursing homes. The agency has also asked the U.S. National Academies to run a 2-day workshop in December about possible ways to assess the risk to human health when the drugs get into drinking water. Meanwhile, EPA is revising its procedures to account for the effects of disposed drugs on aquatic life. The potential impact on health of these chemicals “is definitely a big deal,” says environmental scientist G. Allen Burton of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. “It's gratifying to see EPA moving ahead with this.”

  4. National Medals Awarded

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    Three physicists, two biologists, a chemist, a computer scientist, and an electrical engineer have received the 2007 National Medal of Science, the U.S. government's highest scientific honor. Most already have a bagful of laurels, including Andrew Viterbi, the father of wireless communications, and molecular biologist Robert Lefkowitz, who in recent years has won the $1 million Shaw Prize for his work on cell receptors. As in previous years, men predominate. Nuclear physicist Fay Ajzenberg-Selove is the only woman, joining Mustafa El-Sayed, Leonard Kleinrock, Bert O'Malley, Charles Slichter, and David Vineland as the other laureates.

    The White House last week also named the winners of the 2007 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, including two California-based companies—eBay and Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works—and six individuals.

  5. Climate Call

    1. Eli Kintisch

    A coalition of U.S. organizations that study climate and weather want presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to bolster U.S. climate science efforts once in office. In a 12-page document released last week, the groups advocate more research funding and computing resources for climate change studies, including a strengthened emphasis on the societal impacts of “severe weather and climate change.” They back a report issued last year by the National Research Council that called on the government to commit a total of roughly $7 billion through 2020 for Earth-observing systems.