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New Details on Accused Scientist Spy, Largest AIDS Vaccine Study Offers Hope

20 October 2009 (All day)
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Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:

A former government scientist with a top security clearance has been charged with attempted espionage. Stewart David Nozette of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was arrested Monday afternoon and will appear in federal court today. Before being arrested, Nozette was hot on the trail of lunar ice.

The fog around the largest AIDS vaccine study ever conducted began to lift today, as Thai and U.S. researchers for the first time publicly presented a detailed analysis of their data to over 1000 scientists gathered here at an annual meeting. The study results, also published online by The New England Journal of Medicine today, received widespread attention 3 weeks ago, when researchers touted them during press conferences in the United States and Thailand as the first success in a real-world test of an AIDS vaccine. But that pronouncement came under intense scrutiny because of concerns that it omitted negative analyses that challenged the upbeat conclusions. Read more here.

A new analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of severe disease caused by the novel H1N1 virus again emphasizes that people under age 65 suffer the bulk of hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. This is exactly the opposite pattern seen with seasonal influenza, which primarily causes severe disease in the elderly.

The U.S. Congress will explore deliberate tinkering with the climate in its first ever hearing on geoengineering early next month, ScienceInsider has learned. Congressional committees have shied away from focusing hearings on the controversial topic until now. One reason might be that talk of a technical fix could distract from needed emissions cuts, especially with the U.S. Senate and international negotiators debating new controls on carbon pollution.

Colleagues are offering new details on Adléne Hicheur, the French physicist arrested 8 October on charges of having ties to Algerian terrorists. He did not hide his religious convictions. The acknowledgements in his 2003 doctoral thesis in particle physics begins: "First of all, I would like to thank Him who gave me the strength, perseverance, and endurance necessary to bring this work to its completion." The devout Hicheur was friendly and easy to work with, say former colleagues. Read more here.

After 13 months of repairs and modifications, the world's largest particle smasher is once again ready to start circulating particles, officials at the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, announced late last week. The guts of the Large Hadron Collider's more than 1700 large superconducting magnets have been cooled with liquid helium to a frigid 1.9 K, and now that the 35,000 metric tons of hardware are cold, physicists can soon resume feeding particles into the machine's twin rings, says CERN spokesperson James Gillies.

For more on these stories and the latest science policy news and analysis, visit ScienceInsider.

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