21 December 2001
1. REMOTE CENSORING: HHS IS GIVEN AUTHORITY TO CLASSIFY.
secret that restricting the spread of scientific knowledge is one
of the responses to terrorism being considered in Washington at
the highest levels. The story is that the head of one scientific
society was summoned to the White House and admonished that a few
papers published in the society's journals might have aided
terrorists. It's reminiscent of the 1980's, when societies were
pressured to exclude papers from open scientific meetings if they
dealt with "sensitive but unclassified" information that might
aid Soviet weapons scientists. What's different today is that
the society feeling the pressure is in the biological rather than
physical sciences. Marty Blume, the APS Editor in Chief reports
that he has not been contacted since Sep 11. Although he's not
unhappy to be ignored, Blume was somewhat chagrined that physics
has become so irrelevant. According to the New York Times, the
President just granted the Secretary of Health and Human Services
power to classify information as "Secret." So much for Clinton's
policy of reducing reliance on classification. As for WN, some
people still think it should be censored, but that's not news.
2. SECRECY: APS POSITION ON FREEDOM OF SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION.
In 1986 WN carried the first report of what the FBI called "the
library awareness program." FBI agents, who resembled Elliot
Ness less than Inspector Clouseau, asked a University of Maryland
librarian for circulation records of "persons with East European
or Russian sounding names"
(WN 3 Jun 88).
The librarian refused.
The APS council had already affirmed its support for "the
unfettered communication of scientific ideas and knowledge that
are not classified"
3. BUDGET: CONGRESS IS STRUGGLING TO ADJOURN TODAY.
But it still
hasn't finished three of the 13 FY 2002 appropriations bills.
Unappropriated programs are running on the seventh continuing
resolution. It expires today. Meanwhile, the White House is
already working on its 2003 budget request. The darling seems to
be NSF with its strict peer review and low overhead. More than
95% of the agency's budget goes to support research. However,
the 8.5% budget increase is not quite what it seems. For
example, it includes the transfer of several laboratories and
programs to NSF, including three Smithsonian programs: the
Astrophysical Laboratory, the Tropical Research Institute and the
Environmental Center. You may or may not find that to be a good
idea, but it's not new money.
4. OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY: SPECTACULAR LATE DECEMBER WEATHER.
Even as I type these last words (2:22pm) we reach the winter solstice. Meanwhile,
Francis Slakey is in his official running garb to run a leg of the torch
relay from the Capitol steps (WN 14 Dec