WHAT'S NEW by Robert L. Park Friday, 1 Dec 95 Washington, DC
1. HOUSE REJECTS VA/HUD/IA CONFERENCE REPORT IN A STUNNING UPSET.
The President had vowed to veto the VA/HUD/IA appropriation, but it didn't even get out of Congress. The House voted to send it back to conference with instructions to restore veterans' medical care to the House level, but David Obey (D-WI), who introduced the motion, said a lot of members would have voted for any motion to recommit because "it's a lousy bill." Hopes that a deal could be struck to shift money to VA/HUD/IA from Defense were dashed last night when the President agreed to sign the Defense spending bill to support his Bosnia plan. So the $213M needed for veterans health must come from elsewhere in VA/HUD/IA, but there are also demands for increases in housing, EPA, and National Service. And the space station is exempted from any cuts. That leaves NSF and space science as the only programs nobody is speaking up for.
2. A NEW MEASURE OF FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR R&D -- AND A NEW PROCESS.
On Wednesday, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, headed by its past president Frank Press, released a remarkable study of how federal funds for science and technology should be allocated. Undertaken at the request of the Senate, it proposes a bold plan.
First, it argues that U.S. investment in R&D, usually put at $70B annually, is only about half that. The $70B figure includes funds for such things as testing and evaluation of weapons that do not result in new knowledge or technologies. Second, the report calls for considering the $35B to $40B spent on basic and applied research in terms of an aggregated federal science and technology budget (FS&T), obviating the need for a Department of Science. In addition, the report bluntly states that: a) funding should favor academic institutions, b) federal labs should stick to agency needs and c) the federal government should stay out of technology development, except in special areas such as weapons development.
3. CCNY PHYSICS PROFESSOR RECEIVES MAYOR'S AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE in Science and Technology.
Myriam Sarachik was honored for her research and teaching in superconductivity and metal-insulator transitions. Previous recipients include I.I. Rabi and C-S Wu.
4. GROAN! "PSYCHIC SPYING RESEARCH PRODUCES CREDIBLE EVIDENCE," according to a news release from UC Davis.
"The case for psychic functioning has been scientifically proven," statistics professor
Jessica Utts explained, "resources should be directed to the pertinent question of how this ability works." Whoa! She based her claim on a 20-year program of "remote viewing" conducted by the CIA. The CIA views it a little differently--it wants to shut the program down as worthless. Kept alive at the insistence of a few members of the Senate, including Claiborne Pell (D-RI), who has reportedly been in touch with loved ones "on the other side," the program was directed by nuclear physicist Edwin May. Why, I keep asking myself, does it always have to be a physicist? Sigh.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)