Friday, 28 April 2000
1. MISSILE DEFENSE: CLINTON GETS IT FROM ALL SIDES.
Vladimir Putin have in common with Jesse Helms? They both oppose
any modification of the ABM treaty. Helms, however, wants to
kill the ABM treaty outright, while Russia insists there will be
no further negotiations on arms reduction if the treaty in its
present form is violated. That's OK with Helms who vows to block
any "grand treaty initiatives" in the remaining months of the
Clinton Administration anyway. In the meantime the Congressional
Budget Office now estimates the total cost at $60B for a limited
missile defense system that most experts say will provide little
if any protection. With this background, a lame-duck president
is preparing to travel to a summit in Moscow to negotiate changes
in the ABM treaty. Secretary of State Albright is optimistic.
2. ISS: IT'S BEGINNING TO SOUND A LOT LIKE MIR.
remained on the ground this week due to bad weather, the orbit of
the uninhabited station continued to decay by about 1.5 miles per
week. The faster-than-usual decay is blamed on increased solar
activity. Because the Russian service module is two years behind
schedule, Atlantis is needed to boost the orbit. Another try may
not take place before May 18, due to a heavy launch schedule.
Meanwhile, the station is down to four functioning batteries and
another is failing--at least three are needed to keep the station
from tumbling. While on the station, the crew will have to wear
ear plugs because of the poor acoustic design and use personal
fans to circulate the stale air that sickened the last crew. By
comparison, Mir, which Russia hopes to convert into a tourist
hotel, should be able to charge for luxury accommodations.
3. NUCLEAR PHOBIA I: NO EXCESS CANCERS FROM THREE MILE ISLAND.
A 13-year study of people living within five miles of the Three
Mile Island nuclear plant found no increase in cancer deaths due
to the 1979 accident. You will not be surprised to learn that
the University of Pittsburgh researchers called for continued
monitoring of the resident's health, while nuclear activists
insisted the study must be flawed and called for expanding it to
ten miles from the plant. There have been no calls for similar
studies around coal-fired power plants, which deposit vastly
greater amounts of radioactivity as well as other carcinogens.
4. NUCLEAR PHOBIA II: CHILDREN KEPT AWAY FROM HALL OF SCIENCE.
The Alameda County Board of Education called for a moratorium on
field trips to the Lawrence Hall of Science where hundreds of
children are shown the wonders of science each day. The Board
acted at the urging of the Berkeley-based Committee to Minimize
Toxic Waste which claims the area is contaminated by tritium from
the nearby National Tritium Labeling Facility. Astounded LBL
and EPA officials explained to the Board that levels comply with
federal guidelines, but the Board was unmoved.