Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

November 30, 2006

Blog anniversary, and latest news

This blog is 1 year old today. I’d like to say thanks to all of you for visiting, and often getting in touch.

It’s been an eventful year, with content mostly a mix of posts — too-infrequent 🙂 — on GIS, avian flu and public health, computing, and, of late, the venue for disseminating information on the Libya HIV case, and the campaign to free the six medical workers facing the death penalty — see here and here.

I’ve an article in today’s Nature — Amazon puts network power online — on an interesting form of computing-on-demand from Amazon, that might appeal to many scientists — it is in beta. It costs $0.10 per computing hour, and to store data for $0.15 per gigabyte per month. To get started, see the FAQ, and a guide here.


November 15, 2006

Article on WHO’s new DG — Margaret Chan

Filed under: avian influenza,Uncategorized — admin @ 10:26 pm

With the death penalty trial in Libya and the Nature supplement on Islam & Science, I’ve had to put avian flu and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the backburner over the past few weeks.

In this week’s Nature, though I take at look at Margaret Chan’s election as director general of WHO, and what this might mean for global health.

Update on Iraq kidnapping

Filed under: Justice — admin @ 7:55 pm

I’ve published an update to yesterday’s news item in Nature.

Almost all those taken hostage in yesterday’s mass kidnapping in Baghdad, now appear to have been freed in a series of security force operations.

November 14, 2006

As many as 150 kidnapped at science ministry in Baghdad

Filed under: Justice — admin @ 5:48 pm

I’ve written here before about the assassination of Iraq scientists. Today as Nature went to press as many as 150 were kidnapped at the science/education ministry. We have published a short article online — “Gunmen seize academics at Baghdad ministry.”


November 8, 2006

Scholars at Risk calls for action against murders of Iraqi academics

Filed under: Justice — admin @ 10:37 pm

I’ve written here before about the targetted assasination of academics in Iraq. Tonight, Scholars at Risk has launched an appeal. I’ve appended its text below.


November 4, 2006

Libya HIV trial ends: verdict 19 December

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 1:52 pm

The trial of 5 Bulgarian nurses, and a Palestinian doctor, accused of deliberately injecting 426 children with HIV in 1998, has just ended in Tripoli. The court said that the verdict would be announced on 19 December.

More to come later (Update; I’ve just published a very short article in Nature on the end of the trial). For background, and recent news on the case, see Nature’s Focus on the trial, and my “Resources page.“.

November 2, 2006

114 Nobel laureates call for fair trial for Tripoli Six

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya,Uncategorized — admin @ 7:50 pm

More than one hundred Nobel laureates have written to Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi to express their concern over the death-penalty case of 5 Bulgarian nurses, and a Palestinian doctor, accused of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV in 1998.

In the letter, to be published online this week by Nature, 114 laureates affirm the need to ensure a fair trial, and for the appropriate authorities to permit evidence from internationally recognized AIDS experts to be used in this case. It notes that: “Strong scientific evidence is needed to establish the cause of this infection. However, independent science-based evidence from international experts has so far not been permitted in court.”

The next, and probably last, session of the trial is scheduled on 4 November, with a verdict expected shortly thereafter. If the six are convicted, the case would go to appeal in the Supreme Court.

For background, and recent news on the case, see Nature’s Focus on the trial, and my “Resources page” for the trial.

Update on status of Libya HIV trial

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 12:26 pm

Apols for not posting earlier, but past 48hrs have been busy. I’ve posted a very brief update on the adjournment of what should have been the last session in the Libya HIV trial here.


The death-penalty trial of six foreign medical workers in Libya, which was scheduled to end yesterday, 31 October, has been extended until this weekend at the earliest.

The medics are accused of deliberately injecting 426 children with HIV at the Al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in 1998. Yesterday’s hearing — the eleventh of the trial that began 11 May — was the first time that the defence had argued its case.

The sitting was scheduled to be the last day of the trial, but the prosecution argued that they needed a further extraordinary court sitting to respond to the defence arguments. This has been granted for 4 November.

Special issue on Islam and Science

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:03 pm


Nature today published a huge special on Islam and Science. I’ve listed it’s contents below, with direct links to the pdfs. It is also available on free access here.

The special, which will also be translated into Arabic, covers a series of issues dealing with science in the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Producing the special, the brainchild of Philip Campbell, Nature’s Editor-in-chief, has involved substantial work and preparation by the Nature team. Many of the themes emerged in a meeting earlier this year — held under Chatham House rules — organized by Nature at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre in Italy, where Nature editors, and eminent scientists, intellectuals and politicians, from several Muslim countries, spent 4 days in fascinating discussions of the many issues.

I’ve been involved in the preparation of the special, and also have written two of its articles, one an analysis of science and other statistical indicators for OIC countries, and the other a Q&A with Mostafa Moin, a medical researcher, former minister of Iran for higher education and for science, and the reformist candidate in Iran’s presidential election last year.

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