19 January 2001
1. DEPLETED URANIUM: THESE WERE NOT SMART WEAPONS.
We now have a
Balkan-War syndrome. It's being blamed on U.S. use of depleted
uranium in armor-piercing projectiles. One scientist we know
uses a block of depleted uranium as a door stop, but our Allies
were warned to wear protective clothing if they got near the
stuff. Countries that took the trouble to analyze troop data,
such as France, found no increased risk. But many European
countries panicked. Greece threatened to pull 1500 peace-keeping
troops out of Kosovo after a sergeant, who had handled a
fragment, developed leukemia. What military advantage, you might
ask, justified weapons that carry such a warning? And why do we
squander U-238, which we may need for energy some day, on armor-
piercing bullets and ballast for high-performance aircraft?
2. CELL PHONES AND CANCER: THE EYES HAVE IT.
Although two recent
studies found no link between cell phone use and brain cancer
(WN 22 Dec 00),
a relatively weak German study now says regular users
are more likely to develop eye cancer. By itself, evidence of a
statistical association is not enough a plausible mechanism
must also be identified. No mechanism is known by which
microwaves can induce cancer. It's not like they haven't been
looking for one. In 1977, long before Paul Brodeur set off the
false alarm over power lines and cancer, he almost destroyed the
budding market in microwave ovens by claiming that "leakage" from
ovens causes cataracts. Microwaves do heat tissue, and might
cause cataracts at high enough power levels, but they cannot
create mutant strands of DNA. Soon to be released studies should
end the controversy but they won't.
3. OSTP: TRIAL BALLOON CRASHES IN FLAMES.
To bifurcate or not to
bifurcate? Last week, WN carried a story that OSTP might be split
into separate offices of science and technology
(WN 12 Jan 01).
There was an immediate outcry. This week, a transition official
over-heatedly declared there was no substance to the rumor.
4. DOE LABS: LIE DETECTOR TESTS LINKED TO LOW LAB MORALE.
Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, Energy Secretary-Designate
Spencer Abraham expressed great concern about the morale of
scientists at DOE's Weapons Labs. In response, Senator Pete V.
Domenici (R-NM), a congressional heavyweight, suggested that
Abraham have DOE review its plan to conduct "10 to 20 thousand
lie-detector tests" of lab employees. Domenici called the plan
"borderline ludicrous" and damaging to the atmosphere at the
labs. Meanwhile, following a seven-month FBI investigation, Bill
Richardson said that no criminal charges would be filed against
any Los Alamos employee in connection with the missing hard
drives. And speaking of criminal charges, former CIA director
John Deutch is negotiating a misdemeanor plea to avoid a year of
hard time for his mishandling of classified information.