Science  19 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5810, pp. 315

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  1. Wall Stall

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Construction of a portion of Israel's defense barrier is on hold. Amid several lawsuits as well as pressure from environmental activists and prominent ecologists, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz announced last week that he will hold up work on the 300-km separation fence into the southeastern Judean Desert. Work on this section, which includes ecologically sensitive territory, began in December.

    Tel Aviv University zoologist Yoram Yom-Tov wants the government to build a chainlink fence that would allow small animals to pass through what in most places is an 8-meter-high cement barrier. He also says a well-considered route could protect the movement of ibex, wolves, and other animals in the area.

  2. Three's a Crowd Pleaser

    1. Dennis Normile

    Researchers stand to benefit from a new cooperative agreement signed last week by the science ministries of China, Japan, and South Korea. Scientists in the three countries have long shared personal connections, but officials hope the new agreement will foster joint work on the environment, epidemic disease, disaster prevention, Oriental medicine, and new sources of energy. In March, experts will gather in Tokyo to discuss environmental and energy research. The initiative is part of efforts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to improve relations with regional neighbors.

  3. Saving Superfreaks

    1. Erik Stokstad

    The Zoological Society of London announced a $975,000 conservation campaign this week to focus on endangered mammals that are evolutionarily distinct. Researchers have come up with a priority list both by analyzing the status of endangered animals and by creating a “supertree” of evolutionary relationships, to be published shortly in Nature.

    Topping the list of 100 species is the Yangtze River dolphin, which is near extinction (Science, 22 December 2006, p. 1860), followed by the long-beaked echidna. Lead scientist Jonathan Bailie says there were also some surprises: Number three is a riverine rabbit of South Africa's Karoo Desert. In addition to expanded efforts to study and protect animals and habitat, the society plans to sponsor 10 research fellows in countries where the endangered mammals live.

  4. The Demise of the Eyes in the Skies

    1. Richard A. Kerr

    The U.S. satellite sensors monitoring a rapidly changing planet Earth will inevitably shut down in coming years as orbits and equipment decline. But neither NASA nor the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has plans to replace enough of them to avoid a collapse of the U.S. observing system, warned a committee of the National Academies' National Research Council this week.

    “Things have gone downhill” since a 2005 interim report that issued a similar warning, says committee co-chair Berrien Moore of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, citing the government's recent decision to remove climate sensors from the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) mission. A NPOESS test satellite is scheduled for launch in 2009.

    The committee's solution to the federal belt-tightening is 17 missions between 2010 and 2020, at a cost of $3 billion per year. “These are affordable numbers” in line with 1990s annual budgets for Earth observation, says co-chair Richard Anthes of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. The White House told The New York Times that space observations remain a top priority.

  5. U.K. Takes Eggstra Time

    1. Constance Holden

    The U.K.'s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will hold a public “consultation” before deciding whether to license scientists who want to create research embryos by putting human DNA into cow eggs.

    Several scientists have applied to use the procedure to generate new lines of human embryonic stem cells, but in December, a government report advised banning such research, at least until new regulatory legislation is passed (Science, 12 January, p. 173). Stem cell scientists were worried that HFEA would decide against the applications. But HFEA chief Angela McNab says “we have a duty to judge this work under the current law.” She says the applications will be taken up in the fall.

    “The very encouraging thing is the HFEA didn't kowtow to government pressure,” says Stephen Minger of King's College London, one of those who has applied to do the cow-egg research. But “we're obviously disappointed” at the delay, he adds.