Friday, December 22, 2006
In the quaint euphemism of the Authorized Version of the Bible,
no male had "known" Flora, a female Komodo dragon, before she
laid her clutch of 8 eggs at the Chester Zoo in England. The
genetics of self-fertilization in lizards dictates that the
hatchlings will all be male. Claims of human parthenogenesis are
frequently advanced at this time of year, but confirmation has
been lacking. By some weird coincidence the eggs are expected to
hatch about Christmas.
Five years ago the school board in Cobb County, GA put stickers
on science textbooks warning that "evolution is just a theory,"
(WN 27 Jun 02) . The legal
battle opposing the stickers was led by Americans United for
Separation Church and State, with the help of the same team that
defeated the Philistines last year in Dover, PA. In a consent
decree signed on Tuesday, the School Board agreed never to use a
similar sticker or undermine the teaching of evolution in science
class. In a separate agreement the School District agreed to pay
a substantial portion of the plaintiff's legal fees. That more
than anything else will discourage similar actions elsewhere.
Last week WN commented on the government's curious use of a grand
jury subpoena to force the ACLU to turn over a classified
document. The subpoena has since been withdrawn and the totally
innocuous document declassified. What's not a secret is that the
overwhelming use of classification is to hide mistakes. Secrets
are as incompatible with democracy as they are with science.
WN wagered last week that the government would bail VacGen out of
its $877M contract to supply 75 million doses of a modern anthrax
vaccine. Instead, they terminated it. The FDA put clinical
trials on hold over concerns about the vaccine's stability. This
was largest component of the Bush Administration's $5.6B Project
BioShield to build a stockpile of modern vaccines and drugs to
counter a terrorist attack, which is now in a shambles.
Midnight on Dec. 31 hundreds of millions of documents will be
automatically declassified under a law President Clinton signed.
The Everest of classified documents grew faster under Bush who
set out to reclassify everything that had been declassified.
Some are surprised that Bush didn't use his national security
powers to block the law. No need. Mt. Classified has become
unscalable. It passed the critical point beyond which there is
no mathematical possibility of extracting information.