Staring at Goats, Geoengineering the World

Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:

A petition submitted earlier this year to the American Physical Society's leadership council to change the society's official statement in 2007 on climate change has gone down in (carbon neutral) flames. The 2007 statement warned that "if no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur."

Leading African science academies contend in a report released yesterday in Ghana that scaling up affordable medical interventions such as immunizations by 20% could save the lives of about 770,000 children and young mothers each year in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the new movie The Men Who Stare at Goats, George Clooney plays a former member of a secret sect of soldiers trained by the U.S. military to deploy a host of paranormal weapons against the enemy. Their deadly talents supposedly include the ability to kill a goat via psychokinesis--by staring at the beast they can make its heart stop with thought alone. The movie takes some liberties in the name of comedy, but the program it's based on is real.

Scientists and policy experts will meet in March next year to hash out rules for conducting field experiments on the controversial topic of geoengineering. Styled after the landmark 1975 Asilomar conference on recombinant DNA, the conference has drawn support from top climate scientists and environmental groups. But it also faces questions and criticism about its openness and the backgrounds of some of the organizers.

Senator Tom Coburn (R–OK) finally got his long-awaited roll-call vote to strip out political science research from the 2010 budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF). And while his amendment was soundly defeated, 36 to 62, it wasn't strictly a party-line vote. Five moderate Democrats--Senators Max Baucus of Montana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Jim Webb of Virginia--apparently agree with Coburn's argument that NSF, with a budget of $6.9 billion, is "wasting" federal dollars by spending $9 million a year to support research in the field.