Friday, May 30, 2003
1. WASN'T THE WAR TO RID IRAQ OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION?
Remember the televised presentation of Secretary of State Powell to the UN Security
Council in February laying out the massive body of intelligence on Saddam's weapons
of mass destruction? That was the justification for going ahead with the war without
the United Nations. OK, so the aluminum tubes, which Powell said were for a centrifuge,
were in fact for rocket launchers, and maybe documents describing Iraq's efforts to acquire
uranium turned out to be fake. And those trucks the Army found in Iraq, initially described
as mobile bio-weapons facilities, contained no trace of biological agents. Thus far, no trace
of weapons of mass destruction has been found, but we know they had them, so the war to rid Iraq
of such weapons has been a total success.
2. COLUMBIA: INVESTIGATION BOARD LOOKS INTO USE OF CONTRACTORS.
It has been reported that at the time of the Columbia crash there were no NASA employees in
the mission control center. The United Space Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed and
Boeing, is the main contractor, and runs all facets of shuttle operations. Adm. Harold
Gehman, head of the investigation board, points out that United Space Alliance gets a
bonus for launching on time. There is no bonus for delaying a launch out of safety concerns.
3. SHUTTLE: LOOKS LIKE MORE OF THE SAME OLD THING.
The new NASA space shuttle manager, William Parsons, an engineer from the University of
Mississippi, who has been heading the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, is focused on
getting the remaining fleet of three shuttles back into operation as soon as possible.
He says he'll run things like his predecessor, Ron Dittemore. Any hope that NASA or Congress
might take a hard look at the value of microgravity research, which is used to justify the
shuttle and the International Space Station, is fading.
4. IRRADIATED FOOD: WILL SCHOOL LUNCHES STAY WITH THE HOT DOGS?
The Agriculture Department announced that local school districts will have the option to use
irradiated ground beef in school lunches in 2004. The use of irradiation to kill E. coli on
beef was approved by the FDA six years ago (WN
5 Dec 97), but there are consumer groups that
continue to claim the process may lead to cancer and birth defects.
5. GAS GUZZLERS: TAX BILL INCLUDES A BREAK FOR MONSTER SUVs.
Language in yesterday's tax deal making the cost of heavy pickup trucks fully tax
deductible immediately for small businesses will also apply to humongous luxury
SUVs weighing more than 6000 lbs. Meanwhile, a low-income child credit provision
that would have benefitted many low-income working families was dropped to stay
within the $350B limit. As a House Ways and Means Committee spokesman explained,
"adjustments had to be made."