Friday, 6 July 1990 Washington, DC
1. A WISHY-WASHY EPA REPORT ON 60 HERTZ HAZARD ADDS TO CONFUSION.
It sounded pretty scary back in May when Dan Rather, on the CBS
Evening News, first leaked word of a draft report on the hazards
of alternating electromagnetic fields. According to Rather, the
Environmental Protection Agency report, which is expected out
later this summer, warns that power line fields could be linked
to cancer. The Washington Post gave it a different spin, with a
headline reading "EPA Study Fails to Link Electricity to Cancer."
The New York Times headline read "U.S. Sees Possible Cancer Tie
to Electromagnetism." Both headlines are accurate, but they sound
very different, which must have pleased the report's author, who
writes, "With our current understanding, we can identify 60 Hz
magnetic fields from power lines and perhaps other sources in the
home as a possible, but not proven, cause of cancer in people."
Bold stuff! The same, of course, can be said for artichokes.
2. "IDEAS NEEDED FOR MANNED EXPLORATION OF MOON AND MARS,"
an ad in Monday's Los Angeles Times. "Scientists, Engineers,
Space Buffs, cut loose your creativity! President Bush has called
for an ambitious program of manned and robotic exploration of the
moon and Mars. NASA is seeking innovative approaches." Is this
the same NASA that gave us the Apollo program? Vice-President
Dan Quayle started it all last January
(WN 19 Jan 90), when he
appealed to the National Academy and the Aerospace Industries
Association for innovative ideas. ("Innovative" in this context
means "cheap.") Not to be outdone, NASA threw the competition
open to "space buffs." To what end it's not clear. The House
already killed funding for moon/Mars
(WN 29 Jun 90) and cut the
budget of Quayle's White House Space Council by $363,000 to $1M.
3. THE UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA HAS MANAGED LIVERMORE AND LOS ALAMOS,
the nation's two nuclear weapons labs, since they were founded,
but the appropriateness of that relationship has been repeatedly
challenged. Last fall a faculty advisory committee recommended
against renewal of the University's five-year contract with DOE.
But in May, a Scientific and Academic Advisory Committee, drawn
largely from outside the University, recommended unanimously that
the arrangement be continued. They argue that as the main purpose
of the labs broadens into non-weapons areas, the labs will become
more compatible with the academic tradition of openness. The UC
regents are expected to decide the issue in Sept. Both committees
urged the University to strengthen its oversight. Basketball
recruiting practices get more oversight than Livermore and Los
Alamos, but the labs have the same potential to embarrass the
University. This week, the GAO reported that items worth $45M
are missing from Livermore's inventory. The GAO is looking into
charges that items were sold to pay for drugs, but the DOE said
today it has already located 98% of the missing property.
Concerns over stolen nuclear material and classified documents
will be addressed in a second GAO report later in the year.