Friday, August 22, 2003
1. HOMELAND SECURITY: REPORT CITES FAILURE TO SHARE INFORMATION.
British diplomats used to receive hardship pay for being sent to either Washington or Calcutta in August. Congress is on August recess, and only congressional committee staff and the people who bring you What's New are left in Washington (WN
8 Aug 03). The Minority Staff of the Senate Government Affairs Committee, under Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, issued a 46 page report alleging the Administration has failed to inform state and local officials about terrorist threats, watch lists, and investigations in their jurisdictions. The problem may be real, but the motivation for the report is unquestionably political. After all, it's August.
2. FULL DISCLOSURE: SCIENTISTS OR "ACADEMIC ENTREPRENEURS"?
In letters sent yesterday to editors of both Science and Nature, a group of 30 prominent scientists urged the journals to require authors to disclose any financial ties to companies or products that stand to benefit financially from their articles. It was on the letterhead of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy organization, and cited specific examples of recent articles or editorials that omitted disclosure. The APS Guidelines for Professional Conduct are Clear: "Any professional relationship or action that may result in a conflict of interest must be disclosed." www.aps.org/statements/02_2.cfm
3. ENVIRONMENT: WANT TO STOP FOREST FIRES? GET RID OF THE TREES.
The WN editor is qualified to comment on anything having to do with trees. The President was in Oregon today raising campaign funds and promoting his Healthy Forest Initiative. He did well on the fund raising. His forest experts are lumber companies. They offered to help and promised to thin out all those old-growth trees that are the real problem. The White House images of a "healthy" forest always look like a manicured park, while the environmentalists conjure up a tangle of undergrowth choking the unshaded ground. It reminds WN of Ronald Reagan's comment when asked about a plan to log a redwood preserve: "When you've seen one redwood," he said, "you've seen 'em all."
4. MARS: IT'S NEVER BEEN A DAY AT THE BEACH.
Mars enthusiasts have been quick to infer from the scantiest of evidence that Mars was once warm and wet. Not to worry, they insist, once we're there we'll be able to tap into all that subterranean water for drinking and even convert some of it into rocket fuel for the trip home (WN
7 Jun 02). Uh, before you go off to Mars with no water for the trip home, maybe you should take a look at the Science magazine issue that came out today. At an International Mars Conference at Caltech in July, planetary scientists threw frozen water on the warm-Mars myth: "Although water has at times flowed across the Martian surface, it has not lingered as a liquid long enough to alter the planet much chemically."
(Our thanks to Andrew Essin, the 2003 What's New Summer Intern. This year he will be on a scholarship at Cambridge University.)