Friday, 16 Sep 94 Washington, DC
1. HOG HEAVEN: SCHOOLS JOSTLE FOR A PLACE AT THE FEEDING TROUGH!
Academic earmarks are back! The HUD/VA/IA appropriations bill
passed by the House in June was free of pork. A month later, the
bill came out of the Senate with 102 earmarks that totaled $135M.
A House/Senate conference then agreed to a "compromise" -- 259
projects totaling $290M! $70M of that is for academic earmarks.
A new strategy was evident: in the past, academic earmarks were
typically divvied up among the conferees in $10M chunks; now the
biggest projects are only $5M, and most are under $1M. Instead
of keeping the loot all to themselves, the conferees spread some
of it around to buy support--it worked like manure. George Brown
(D-CA) and Harris Fawell (R-IL) sought to strip the pork when the
bill reached the House floor -- they lost by nine votes. The $5M
winners: Shepherd College (West Virginia), Marshall University
(West Virginia), West Virginia University, West Virginia State
College and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. I
looked for a pattern here, but I couldn't find a thing. Senate
Appropriations Committee chairman is Robert Byrd (West Virginia).
2. UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY DIVIDED OVER SCHEDULING OF PORK HEARINGS!
Why have so many universities succumbed to the lure of earmarked
funds? Why have federal agencies been so easily intimidated by
appropriators? What have we gotten for all that money? George
Brown scheduled two days of hearings next week to try to get some
answers. What worries some craven university administrators is
that the conference on the DOD appropriation bill will be going
on at the same time. You will recall that John Murtha (D-PA) had
stripped $900M from university research to chastise Brown for his
criticism of pork
(WN 24 Jun 94). The Senate
(WN 29 Jul 94),
and the hand wringers don't want Murtha riled up in
conference. The University of Pittsburgh, Murtha's alma mater,
is now number one in pork, having made off with $140M since 1980.
3. LOS ALAMOS SUED FOR FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE CLEAN AIR ACT.
A citizens group in New Mexico claims that the laboratory has
released radioactivity into the environment, which is certainly
true at some level. But 95% of the off-site dose came from LAMPF;
the two stacks involved are now in compliance. The emissions are
below limits. Public anxiety results from linear extrapolations
of the effects of huge doses. A Science editorial by Phil Abelson
points out the fallacy of such extrapolations: there are natural
mechanisms for repair of damaged DNA. A 1991 study of nuclear
shipyard workers, for example, found cancer rates lower than the
general population. The press did not find that worth reporting.
4. THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL'S "RED BOMB" PRODUCED EVEN LESS FALLOUT.
Ten minutes of Sudoplatov's "memoirs"
(WN 29 Apr 94) was packed
into three hours of reenactment. When the Terletsky actor asked
the Bohr actor about the bomb, Bohr shrugged, "I'm a theorist."