Friday, 14 May 93 Washington, DC
1. THE "STRATEGIC DEFENSE INITIATIVE" IS OFFICIALLY TERMINATED!
It has been 10 years since President Reagan called on scientists
"to give us the means of rendering nuclear weapons impotent and
obsolete." The low point came in 1986 at the Rejavik summit when
disagreement over SDI scuttled disarmament. The turning point
came six months later when an APS panel chaired by Kumar Patel
and Nico Bloombergen reported that Star Wars weapons fell several
orders of magnitude short of posing a threat to missiles. In a
classic bait-and-switch maneuver, directed energy weapons were
replaced with Brilliant Pebbles, and Reagan's impenetrable shield
became Global Protection Against Limited Strikes. Little trace
remains of the $32B spent on SDI except a plan to upgrade Patriot
missiles in case Canada launches a Scud attack on North Dakota.
The "termination" seems to be mostly symbolic; SDI reverts to its
pre-Star Wars name of Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, but
the FY 94 budget request still calls for a Star Wars-sized $3.8B.
2. COALITION IS FORMED TO OPPOSE EARTH-ORBITING BILLBOARDS.
No sooner do you get rid of Brilliant Pebbles than someone comes
up with an idea to clutter space with advertising. Environmental,
scientific, and consumer organizations joined forces this week to
oppose a plan by Space Marketing, Inc. of Roswell, GA, to launch
a mile-long inflatable billboard. Mike Lawson of Space Marketing
estimates that it would be seen by five times as many people as
the Super Bowl. Lawson says he will hang ozone monitors on the
billboard, which he calls the "Environmental Space Platform."
Space marketing is working with engineers from the University of
Colorado and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Hmmm. LLNL
was also involved in Brilliant Pebbles and the inflatable space
station (a.k.a. "the flying condom"). The American Astronomical
Society warns that the space billboard would hamper Earth-based
astronomy, and Alice Harding, chair of the APS Division of
Astrophysics, points out that it would also set a dangerous
precedent for the unregulated commercialism of outer space.
3. NEW "GREEN CARD" RULES PROPOSED TO RELIEVE SCIENTIST SHORTAGE.
No, really! Physics is not on the list, but the Labor Department
wants to make it easier for employers to hire foreign scientists
and engineers in certain fields, including chemistry, computer
science and materials engineering. The proposed rules, published
in the March 19 Federal register, would automatically certify
aliens in these fields for permanent residence in states said to
have a shortage. Employers would not have to advertise openings
to Americans before hiring aliens. How are shortages determined?
From the number of "labor certifications" filed by employers. The
comment period on the proposed rules is extended to 30 May 1993.
4. WE NOW HAVE AN INTERNET CONNECTION--AND A NEW E-MAIL ADDRESS!
Glitches in sending out WHAT'S NEW should be less frequent. Your
comments on WN, or anything else, should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.