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Science  12 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6129, pp. 126-127
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6129.126-b
1 - Washington, D.C.
Rallying Against Research Cuts
2 - Washington, D.C.
Next Up for NASA: Exoplanets and Neutron Stars
3 - Klamath River, California and Oregon
Klamath Dams Should Go, Interior Dept. Says
4 - Ottawa
Canada to Investigate Alleged Muzzling of Scientists
5 - Abu Dhabi
Camel Connection to New Coronavirus?

Washington, D.C.

Rallying Against Research Cuts

CREDIT: C. SMITH/SCIENCE

Thousands of scientists and patient advocates poured into a square in downtown Washington, D.C., earlier this week in what organizers called the largest-ever rally to call for more funding for biomedical research. The event, which drew many researchers who were in town for the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), highlighted the 5% cut to the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) $31 billion budget imposed by Congress last month through sequestration, as well as the flat growth of NIH's budget over the past decade.

AACR attendees and others from more than 200 supporting organizations chanted "more progress, more hope, more life" and listened for nearly 2 hours as members of Congress, patient advocates, and celebrities spoke in support of increasing NIH's budget. Emcee Cokie Roberts of ABC News and NPR declared that "it could not be a stupider time to cut back on funding for medical research." The event was "historic and really unprecedented," said AACR CEO Margaret Foti. For a while, she added, tweets with the rally's tag #RallyMedRes were second to only tweets about former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's death.

Washington, D.C.

Next Up for NASA: Exoplanets and Neutron Stars

NASA's Astrophysics Explorer Program on 5 April announced it has selected two missions—an exoplanet-hunting satellite and an instrument to study neutron stars—for launch in 2017. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will use wide-field cameras to survey the brightest stars in the sun's neighborhood, searching for gas giants and terrestrial planets, particularly those that are Earth-sized. Those planets, researchers hope, could be candidates for follow-up studies of their atmospheres by the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018.

The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), which will be deployed on the International Space Station, will observe x-rays flashed by neutron stars, helping researchers understand the nature of matter contained in these dense, spinning objects that result from the collapse of massive stars. TESS will get up to $200 million, and NICER will receive up to $55 million.

Klamath River, California and Oregon

Klamath Dams Should Go, Interior Dept. Says

Worth a dam.

The Copco 1 Dam is one of four dams recommended for removal to restore salmon habitat.

CREDIT: JEFF BARNARD/AP PHOTO

Remove four aging dams along the Klamath River in northern California and southern Oregon, the U.S. Department of the Interior advised in an environmental impact statement (EIS) released last week. The dams, completed between 1918 and 1962, block salmon migration and raise water temperatures and algae levels, changes that also lower salmon survival.

Habitat restoration and sediment removal, together with the dams' demolition, would cost about $1 billion. But that's cheaper than the other three options that the EIS panel considered, which leave some or all of the structures in place. If the dams remain, the operators will be required to pay for maintenance and upgrades, including installing expensive new fish ladders.

The EIS was carried out as part of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), an agreement reached in 2010 by 40 stakeholder groups—including the states of California and Oregon as well as three Native American tribes—to determine whether removing the dams would restore salmon fisheries. KHSA also requires authorization by Congress before the dams can be removed. But there is now little momentum for such legislation on Capitol Hill.

Ottawa

Canada to Investigate Alleged Muzzling of Scientists

Legault

CREDIT: CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS/LANDOV

Since Stephen Harper was sworn in as Canada's prime minister in February 2006, reporters and government scientists have bristled at the government's restrictions on communications with the press and public. On 27 March, Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault confirmed that she has opened an investigation into whether scientists in seven government departments are being muzzled by senior politicians.

The government's policy, which it says is to ensure that government employees speak with "one voice," requires federal civil servants and scientists to get permission for press interviews from their minister or the Privy Council Office (Harper's central shop) and that questions be submitted in advance. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans also recently required department scientists to get approval from senior officials before publishing papers.

Critics contend that these policies are tantamount to a gag order, and in February, two groups—the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and Democracy Watch, a nonpartisan group that advocates for government accountability—asked Legault to investigate. The timeline on Legault's investigation, or whether a final report will be submitted to Parliament, is unclear. http://scim.ag/Canmuzz

Abu Dhabi

Camel Connection to New Coronavirus?

Hump hypothesis.

An nCoV patient from Abu Dhabi had been in close contact with a sick racing camel.

CREDIT: LARS PLOUGMANN/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Scientists in Germany are hoping that a camel owned by a man from the United Arab Emirates who died in Munich on 26 March will give them clues to the origins of a new coronavirus that has killed 11 people so far. The patient, a wealthy 73-year-old man from Abu Dhabi, was taken to the Klinikum Schwabing in Munich on 19 March and was confirmed to suffer from the new virus, nCoV, 4 days later (Science, 5 April, p. 17).

The patient owned racing camels and had been in close contact with a sick camel shortly before he fell ill, says Clemens Wendtner, a physician at the Munich hospital; a male relative also became sick after contact with the same camel. Researchers from the group of Christian Drosten, a virologist at the University of Bonn, are planning to travel to the United Arab Emirates to take samples from the camel, Wendtner says, to find out if it was infected with nCoV. Previous anecdotal reports had linked the virus to livestock, but so far, its origins remain a mystery. http://scim.ag/CamelCor

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