Friday, 29 Jan 93 Washington, DC
1. GIBBONS IS CONFIRMED FOR SCIENCE ADVISOR BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT!
The outcome was never in doubt; his confirmation hearing before
the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was a
love-in. Confirmation hearings are not the place to go looking
for bold policy pronouncements, but some idea of his anticipated
role in the Clinton White House emerged. He described that role
as an "honest broker" to the President on issues with a science
or technology component, but noted that he will work most closely
with the Vice President. He will also have a seat on the powerful
Economic Council. "Our future lies more in inner space than outer
space," he commented, citing materials science as an example. The
best indication of Gibbons' importance in the new Administration
is the speed with which he was nominated and confirmed. He has
already been advising the President on the other 77 appointments
to S&T positions. Better make that 78--Director of NSF is open!
2. WALTER MASSEY IS LEAVING NSF FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA!
The Director of NSF is appointed for a six-year term, and is not
expected to submit an automatic resignation when the White House
changes hands, but Erich Bloch was the only director to serve the
full term. There have been rumors for several weeks that Massey,
who has been director for only two years, was seeking an academic
post. Massey, who was vice president of the University of Chicago
before he took the top job at NSF, will become the vice president
for academic affairs and provost of the troubled University of
California system. The American Physical Society elected Massey
vice president in 1991, but he resigned to take the NSF job.
3. WOMAN WHO TALKED A LOT ON CELLULAR PHONE DIES OF BRAIN CANCER!
She put the phone against her head, her husband explained on the
Larry King Show. Confronted with data like that, investors dumped
their stock in cellular phone companies. "Bodies are resonant and
can act like antennas," explained W. Ross Adey of the VA Medical
Center in Loma Linda. And what are the resonant frequencies? Bad
luck! Adey finds resonances at just the frequencies we pick for
our technologies: 900 MHz (cellular phones), 145MHz (ham radio),
down to 60Hz (US powerlines), and 50 Hz (European powerlines).
4. THIS AFTERNOON, THE CELLULAR INDUSTRY LAUNCHED A COUNTERATTACK
The industry has grown to 10 million subscribers in nine years,
about a third of them use the small hand-held sets. According to
an industry spokesperson, existing studies have found cellular
phones to be safe. However, since industry-sponsored research is
suspect, the industry is asking the federal government to appoint
a "blue-ribbon" panel to review their methodology and findings.
Meanwhile, Rep. Edward Markey, chair of the Telecommunications
Subcommittee, has called on the General Accounting Office for a
"comprehensive overview of the state of scientific knowledge"
regarding the safety of cellular phones. All of this in response
to a single product reliability suit by the grieving widower.