Friday, 14 April 2000
1. FLASH!! DUMA RATIFIES START II BY 288 TO 131.
A vastly more
serious threat to the U.S. than an attack from a rogue state is
still an accidental or unauthorized launch from Russia. That
danger was cut in half this morning when the Duma, after stalling
for six years, followed the urging of President-elect Vladimir
Putin and ratified START II. The cost of maintaining Russia's
aging nuclear arsenal may have been a major factor
(WN 20 Nov 98).
It is, nevertheless, a major victory for the new Russian
leader, demonstrating that he is firmly in charge just two days
before his debut trip to the West. This opens the way for a
discussion of Start III, and U.S. plans for a missile defense
system that would undermine the 1972 Missile Defense Treaty.
2. MISSILE DEFENSE: COUNTERMEASURES REPORT CALLS FOR DELAY.
panel of senior scientists convened by the Union of Concerned
Scientists has concluded that the National Missile Defense system
currently being tested is ineffective, and called for deferring a
decision on deployment. A government intelligence report issued
last September acknowledged that emerging missile states are
capable of using decoys. Alas, the NMD system, has so far not
proven to be effective even against targets without real
(WN 24 Mar 00).
The Pentagon plans just one more
attempt at a clean hit before the President's scheduled October
decision on deployment. The system has no prospect of defending
against missiles delivering chemical or biological weapons, which
would likely be divided into hundreds of small warheads for
better distribution (though why a rogue nation would bother with
missiles for delivery of such weapons remains unclear). If there
is an explicit and credible missile threat from a rogue state,
the panel noted, its missiles could be destroyed before they are
launched, in accordance with the right of self-defense. The only
real defense against missile attacks is still deterrence. The
report and an animation are available at
3. CREATIONISM: OKLAHOMA HOUSE CASTS A VOTE FOR MONOTHEISM.
will recall that last fall the Oklahoma state textbook committee
voted to affix a statement to any biology text warning unwary
students that "evolution is a controversial theory"
(WN 12 Nov 99).
The Oklahoma Attorney General, however, ruled that the
committee lacked the authority to require such a statement. This
week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted unanimously for
a bill that gives the committee authority to insert "a summary,
opinion, or disclaimer" into any textbook they please. What's
more, the textbook committee was directed to "ensure that the
textbooks include acknowledgment that human life was created by
one God of the universe." The Representatives showed admirable
restraint in not specifying which God they had in mind. They
then voted narrowly to send the bill back to a House-Senate
committee, whose chair vows she will not allow it to resurface.