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The Independent Online
Patents again: a US district judge ordered CellPro, based in Seattle, to pay $7m in damages to Johns Hopkins University and two companies, Becton Dickinson and Baxter International. CellPro was found to have infringed patents on a machine that sifts blood or bone marrow and eliminates cancerous cells. The system could increase survival chances for cancer patients who get transplants. A federal court ruled in April that CellPro violated Hopkins' patents and, in effect, stole the university's research; the jury recommended damages of $2.3m. But the court last week granted a request to raise the damages.

Fraud rears its head in the US. A former student at the Center for Human Genome Research has been banned from state-funded research for four years and refused a doctorate in human genetics. Amitov Hajra admitted fabricating between 75 to 90 per cent of the data in his thesis, about a possible genetic cause for leukaemia. The falsified data was used to produce five published articles in 1995 and 1996, and a faked nucleotide sequence was entered into the GenBank database. A review committee said: "On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most severe, the committee concludes that the academic misconduct here rates 10." Hajra is still trying to get his medical degree from the University of Michigan.

Genetic weapons sound like science fiction, and according to an eminent researcher they are. The idea of making them "cannot be discounted, but at this stage it is bunk", Matthew Meselson of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University told Nature. The Biological Weapons Convention may include prohibitions on their use.

Should we dam the Mediterranean? Yes, says Bob Johnson of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, because otherwise the dense, saline water inside it could trigger a new Ice Age. He told New Scientist that it's a "pretty far-out idea" but there is fossil evidence that a stronger outflow from the Med could slightly but significantly warm the Labrador Sea, west of Greenland. That would increase evaporation and snowfall; then the increased ice mass would reflect more heat back into space, leading to more cooling in a positive feedback loop, and thus an Ice Agen

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