Solar Telescope Soars, Supercomputer Snags

Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider continues to provide up-to-the-minute coverage of the H1N1 outbreak as public health officials and scientists around the world take steps to stop the virus. As of 18 May, WHO reported 8480 confirmed cases in 39 countries, with the number of H1N1 cases in Japan rising from four to 129 in 2 days.

Austria's chancellor has overturned a decision by his science minister and decided that the country will remain a member of CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.

The National Science Foundation has decided to begin building a research ship, a solar telescope, and a network of ocean observatories with an investment of $400 million from the agency's $3 billion pot of stimulus money. Officials hope the allocation of $148 million will be enough to build the ice-enabled Alaska Region Research Vessel. Another $106 million will kick off the Ocean Observatories Initiative, and $146 million will build 60% of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope in Hawaii.

A Japanese plan to build the world's fastest supercomputer hit a roadblock last week when NEC and Hitachi announced they are withdrawing from the $1 billion project for fiscal reasons. Their departure may require officials to reconfigure the computer, which is supposed to be completed by 2012.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is planning to institute new security requirements for the shipping of pathogens. The move could lead some courier companies to stop accepting shipments of pathogen samples for delivery. That step, in turn, could hurt collaborations between research labs and impede responses to public health emergencies. The proposed measures include requiring packages to be tracked at all times and mandating background checks for all employees of the courier company who might have access to the packages.

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