Friday, March 28, 2003
1. SECRECY: WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE IS HIDDEN IN THOSE DOCUMENTS?
Last week WN reported on the draft of new rules for the
release of secret documents (WN 21 Mar 03). Under an executive order
signed by President Clinton in 1995, most government documents more than
25 years old were to be automatically declassified on April 17, 2003.
The new executive order, signed on Tuesday by President Bush, postpones
automatic declassification to December 31, 2006. Under the new order,
information supplied in confidence by a foreign government will be born
classified, and classifiers are instructed that, "when in doubt, classify," reversing
the policy that has been in place for decades. Even the signing was announced
somewhat surreptitiously, coming at the very end of a day dominated by
news of the war in Iraq.
2. SPACE SHUTTLES: TAKING CREW REDUCTION AS FAR AS IT CAN GO.
Progress of any society can be measured by the extent to which technology rather than humans performs those tasks that would be dangerous or menial. The manned space program has therefore been the antithesis of progress. With the International Space Station now in orbit, the plan is to use the Shuttle just to ferry supplies and crew. But according to a New York Times article, consideration is now being given to using the shuttle as an unmanned supply vehicle, with crew replacement dependent on the Russians or eventually a new space plane. This would require little Shuttle modification, since it is already controlled by the computer over almost the entire flight, and the Russian version, Buran, made its only flight unmanned. On the ISS, the crew will soon be down to two (WN
14 Mar 03). If nothing more meaningful than sniffing flowers or watching spiders spin webs in microgravity is found for them to do (WN
7 Feb 03), still more social progress may be on the way, with the ISS crew cut to zero.
3. BIOSPHERE-2: ACRIMONY THRIVES IN THE GIANT TERRARIUM.
When the crops failed, Columbia University stepped in,
promising to find an educational use for the costly project. Its owner,
Texas billionaire Ed Bass, got educated in January when Columbia announced
it was bailing out (WN 24 Jan 03). Bass, described by the New York Times
as an "environmentalist," began the project thinking a colony on Mars might offer an alternative to life on an Earth headed for social disaster. $200M later, the message was that we'd better save Earth; there's no place else to go. Now Bass is suing Columbia for "bad faith" in
abandoning the project.
4. WORLD PEACE: "UNIFIED CONSCIOUSNESS FIELD" IS NOT WORKING.
In September of 2001, John Hagelin, string theorist and
perennial presidential candidate, held a press conference in Washington
to call for donations of $1B to train a corp of 40,000 Yogic flyers to
go forth and meditate in unison, thus creating permanent world peace
(WN 28 Sep 01). Judging from the news out of Iraq, he must have come
up a little short. Last week, Hagelin issued a press release announcing
that he won't be a candidate in 2004. Instead he is throwing his support
behind Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).