Science  16 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5413, pp. 409

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  1. Sold!

    Elsevier Science of the Netherlands has bought Cell Press, publisher of the journal Cell and its sister publications Immunity, Neuron, and Molecular Cell. Clearly regarding the acquisition as a coup, outgoing Elsevier CEO Herman Bruggink told shareholders this week that the purchase will help the journals move strongly into electronic publishing.

    Benjamin Lewin, Cell's editor since 1974, will stay at the helm. “Ben Lewin is Cell,” says George Yancopoulos, a reviewing editor for the journal. It “is dominated by [his] view of what is hot.”

  2. All in the Family

    Astronomers have discovered another star that is orbited by more than one planet. Two teams announced this week that a pair of giant planets is circling the star Upsilon Andromedae—bringing the number of known planets in this “stellar system” to three. The find means that three stars, including the sun and a distant pulsar, now have confirmed planetary families (Science, 17 January 1992, p. 290).

    The researchers, who have submitted their findings to Astrophysical Journal, also estimated the planets' temperatures. The middle planet is probably above the boiling point of water, says Timothy Brown of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, whereas the most distant one is below freezing. As for the scorched innermost planet, which whirls around its sun in just 4.6 days, Brown says it is “undesirable real estate.”

  3. Bucket Brigade

    A 20-liter plastic bucket may not be high-tech, but California engineer and former nuclear weapons designer Bill Wattenburg says it's a cheap, clean, and mobile way for Kosovo refugees to dispose of their waste. Wattenburg, who has an enviable track record of promoting the creative use of everyday materials to confront crises, including airdrops of food to help Bosnian refugees, was stirred by recent images of squalor to propose that refugee families be given buckets to use as latrines.

    The idea is winning over former colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. “There's often a giggle factor to his ideas, but they work,” says Milton Finger, a senior Livermore administrator. And it may even be implemented. According to the Pentagon's Colonel Jay Erb, military brass have passed the plan along to relief teams in the Balkans.

  4. Skating to Extinction

    Marine researchers want international action to save the barndoor skate, which they fear could become the first saltwater vertebrate to be fished to extinction. Last year, Canadian biologists Jill Casey and Ransom Myers concluded that trawlers targeting other seafood had unintentionally wiped out most of the North Atlantic's barndoors (Science, 31 July 1998, p. 690).

    Now, after reaffirming the fish's plight at a 19 March technical workshop at the New England Aquarium in Boston, 10 scientists are calling on U.S. and Canadian authorities to restrict bottom fishing in the skate's few known strongholds. They also tacitly endorsed a bid by two environmental groups to get the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to list the skate as endangered. “Without strong measures,” says Myers, “I doubt the species will survive.”

    Commercial fishing interests are promising to fight any proposed listing. NMFS officials, meanwhile, have a year to ponder the issue.

  5. Mob Rule

    In an 11th-hour campaign to tip the scales in their favor, supporters of a controversial new data-access law flooded the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in early April with letters supporting its implementation. Many scientists oppose the provision, pushed by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), which would force taxpayer-funded researchers to hand over raw data to the public on request (Science, 2 April, p. 23). But when a public comment period closed on 5 April, supporters appeared to have cranked out the majority of more than 10,000 comments sent to OMB, although no exact count was available.

    Stacks of pro-rule comments were identical letters from members of Gun Owners of America, which says the rule will help it “expose all the phony science used to justify many restrictions on firearms.” Members of English First also backed the plan en masse, saying it will open to scrutiny studies supporting bilingual education.

    Whether OMB will give greater weight to the mass-produced missives or to the fewer personal appeals from researchers detailing how the law could disrupt their work was unclear. A spokesperson said that both the “amount of interest” and “substantive arguments” will influence a revised proposal due later this year.

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