Friday, September 5, 2003
1. CTBT: HOLDOUT NATIONS AGAIN URGED TO RATIFY TEST BAN.
The U.S. is offering major concessions to North Korea if it will drop plans to test a nuclear bomb and is seeking a U.N. resolution to restrain Iran's nuclear arms program. Meanwhile, a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty conference opened today in Vienna. The U.S. declined even to send a representative. A dozen nations have refuse to ratify the treaty: China, Columbia, Congo, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Vietnam and the United States. Thanks to the Stockpile Stewardship Program, the U.S. has the most reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons on Earth and would seem to have the most to gain by a test ban. However, the leaked Nuclear Posture Review (WN
15 Mar 02) reveals that the U.S., like North Korea and Iran, is planning to test a new nuclear weapon. Instead of a ban on nuclear tests, the United States has pursued a costly and ineffective missile defense, as if missiles were the only nuclear delivery system.
2. POLYGRAPH ROULETTE: DOE HAS MASTERED "THE EXPECTATION GAME."
A two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, "The Polygraph and Lie Detection," showed polygraph testing to be less than worthless (WN
18 Apr 03). You might have expected at least a token decrease in testing by the Department of Energy. Instead DOE boldly reissued the old policy, which would subject about 20,000 employees to random character assassination. There was an immediate outcry from employees, and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) convened an Energy Committee oversight hearing on Thursday, where DOE announced that a mere 4,500 employees with top-secret clearance or positions in intelligence will now be subject to having their careers trashed by polygraph roulette. It was a victory for Sen. Domenici, who praised DOE for its enlightened policy. But nothing in the NAS study says the polygraph works better if you have top-secret clearance.
3. THE POWER GRID: IS IT A METAPHOR FOR THE MODERN WORLD?
The lights over most of the northeastern United States and parts of Canada began to flicker at 4:11 pm on Thursday, August 14. It was the most extensive electrical blackout in history, yet no one seems to understand how it happened. At least five electric power organizations that share a common grid are pointing fingers at one another. The purpose of the grid is clear: because electric power cannot be stored, power companies must generate the exact amount of power that is being used, literally responding to every electrical switch that is thrown. Linking power companies in a vast grid relies on better statistics to smooth demand, thus reducing local blackouts. But the grid has grown so complex no one understands it. That makes it perfect for congressional hearings. This week Energy Secretary Abraham and two governors testified before the House Energy Committee, chaired by "Billy" Tauzin (R-LA), without clearing anything up; more hearings today.