Friday, 7 July 95 Washington, DC
1. "DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE DISMANTLING ACT" WOULD NOT SPARE NIST!
Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) has introduced a bill to abolish the
Department of Commerce, as called for in the Domenici budget plan
(WN 12 May 95). The Senate bill (S.929) calls for the transfer
of NIST to NSF. But there won't be much left to transfer -- the
bill specifically requires NIST's laboratories to be privatized.
In past years, legislation introduced by a freshman senator would
not have been taken seriously, but this bill has presidential
politics stamped on it; Bob Dole and Phil Gramm are cosponsors of
the measure. In the House, Dick Chrysler (R-MI), also a freshman,
introduced a similar bill, even though the Kasich budget calls
for preserving NIST as a separate agency (WN 12 May 95).
2. LAB CLOSURE COMMISSION? MAYBE WHAT WE NEED IS ANOTHER STUDY.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) would create
an independent commission to decide which DOE labs to eliminate.
The advantage of such a commission, which would be patterned
after the military Base Closure Commission, is that there are no
fingerprints on the axe; no other mechanism has ever succeeded in
shutting things down. But not even the Base Closure Commission
will work if President Clinton yields to political pressure to
overrule its recommendations. Bartlett's plan will go nowhere as
a free-standing bill, but it may be included in legislation to
abolish DOE, which freshman Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) plans to
introduce next week (WN 2 Jun 95). With Sandia in his district,
none of this sits too well with Rep. Steve Schiff (R-NM), chair
of the Basic Science Subcommittee, who is preparing legislation
of his own calling for a review of the proper roles of the labs.
3. BAIT AND SWITCH: WHY A WEAPONS LAB NEEDS ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMS.
In testimony last month, Sandia Lab director Al Narath explained
that "Many young people simply do not want to work in this area
[nuclear weapons]; they prefer to direct their talents to careers
in environmental or energy research and development. With a few
years' experience and a more seasoned perspective, they are often
eager to contribute their talents to national security programs."
4. UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT GETS A ONE BILLION DOLLAR UPGRADE!
Science is the big winner in the University-wide UConn 2000
project approved by the legislature and Governor John Rowland.
The project represents a major upgrade in facilities at a time
when most state and private universities face severe cutbacks.
5. US-RUSSIAN SPACE CRAFT FIT BETTER THAN O.J. SIMPSON'S GLOVES!
In a practice for space station assembly, space shuttle Atlantis
mated with Mir. Astronauts and cosmonauts exchanged toys, and
played with them on live TV. When it was time to go home, the
Americans collected their friend, who has been playing with the
Russians for months, and waved goodbye through a porthole.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's
and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)