Friday, April 11, 2003
1. PATRIOT ACT: LIBRARIANS DENOUNCE ASSAULT ON THE RIGHT TO READ.
The USA PATRIOT Act, passed in haste after 9/11, gives
the FBI authority to examine all library circulation records. The law
also forbids libraries from informing patrons that their reading habits
are being monitored. Libraries across the country began shredding circulation
records and posting signs warning patrons that "anything you read is now subject to secret scrutiny by federal agents." The
American Library Association urged Congress to repeal the provision in
the Patriot Act dealing with library records. Contacted by the Vermont
Library Association, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last week introduced
the Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157). So far, there are 70
2. 17 YEARS AGO IT WAS THE FBI'S "LIBRARY AWARENESS PROGRAM."
Unfortunately, the goal of the program was not to improve
the literacy of agents. WHAT'S NEW stumbled on the story first in 1986
after a trench-coated FBI agent asked a student working at the University
Physics Library for the record of all books checked out to a visiting
foreign scientist. The agent resembled Inspector Clouseau more than
Elliot Ness. The
student called the science librarian. Maryland is one of 38 states in
which library records are protected by law, and in the absence of a
court order, the
librarian refused. After the New York Times picked up the story a year
later, the FBI ran checks on 266 people who had been publicly critical
to see if they
were part of a Soviet plot to discredit the program. The full story
of the infamous Library Awareness Program is told by librarian Herb
"Surveillance in the Stacks" (Greenwood
3. FUSION: SANDIA PULSED-POWER MACHINE PRODUCES FUSION - BRIEFLY.
At the APS meeting in Philadelphia last week, scientists
from Sandia National Laboratory announced that Sandia's Z machine had
created a hot dense plasma that caused deuterium fusion. Fusion was
confirmed by a burst of neutrons from a BB-sized deuterium capsule.
The question, as it always is in controlled fusion, is whether the process
can be scaled up. In the Z machine a huge pulse of electricity is used to
generate X rays, creating a shock wave in the target deuterium capsule,
compressing the deuterium. This must be done over and over in rapid succession
while extracting the energy. Well, that's
just an engineering problem.
4. ENVIRONMENT: HOUSE VOTES FOR DRILLING IN THE WILDLIFE REFUGE.
The Senate had already narrowly rejected the plan to open the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. But the Senate will likely reconsider.
This is a major energy initiative of the Bush administration, granting big tax
breaks to oil and gas companies. The House also soundly defeated a proposal to
require a 5 percent reduction in automotive fuel consumption that supporters said
would save more oil than the refuge can produce.