Friday, 09 Feb 96 Washington, DC
1. ALTERNATIVE BUDGET: PRESIDENT SUBMITS MINIATURIZED FY 97 PLAN.
This is usually a period of intense excitement in Washington, as policy
wonks rush from agency to agency for briefings on 2,000 or so pages of a
budget request, which Congress then declares to be dead on arrival. But
it's hard to talk about FY 97 when FY 96 is still unsettled, so the White
House just put out a skimpy 20-page outline, with details promised in mid-March.
Republicans didn't like the plan when Clinton first proposed it last month,
and they still don't. Most of the cutting is delayed until late in the
seven-year period, by which time Clinton will be safely out of office.
In reality, a seven-year plan doesn't mean much anyway; Congress can undo
everything next year, or the year after, or....
2. ALTERNATIVE FUNDING: WHO ELSE IS PAYING FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH?
More than a decade of tuition increases prompted 22 members of Congress to
request a General Accounting Office review of tuition inflation. A study
by the University of Rhode Island concludes that deficits from scientific
research are a major factor. "Even the best programs in science don't pay
their own way," according to Robert Carothers, URI president--and cuts in
the indirect cost rates are on every budget hawk's list. Meanwhile, a report
in the New England Journal of Medicine raises serious ethical alarms over
growing dependence of academic research on corporate funds.
3. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: READY FOR A REMAKE OF PONS & FLEISCHMANN?
An ABC News story this week followed a familiar script: credulous reporter
interviews smiling man in white smock, who explains that when he coats tiny
beads with copper, nickel and palladium, puts them in salt water, and then
runs a current through the mess, he gets 100 times more energy out than he
puts in. Reporter touches cell and exclaims, "It's warm!" How does it work?
Inventor says he has no idea. Reporter puts on his serious face and looks
into the camera: "There have been dozens of claims of ideal energy sources,
but this device is different. It has attracted serious interest from major
companies and been verified by scientists at prestigious universities."
Now insert a seven-second sound bite from a skeptic for "balance," and then
one final shot of the inventor, James Patterson, writing science stuff on a
4. ALTERNATIVE PARTICLE PHYSICS: SMALLER ENTITIES WITHIN QUARKS?
Fermilab issued a statement on Wednesday suggesting that quarks might not
be fundamental. That's one possible explanation of anomalous scattering
reported in a paper submitted to Physical Review Letters by a 450-member team.
"So, naturalists observe, a flea hath smaller fleas that on him prey; and
those have smaller still to bite 'em; and so proceed ad infinitum." (Jonathan Swift)
5. START OVER: LAST WEEK'S START II STORY REFERRED TO "WARHEADS."
The treaty, of course, deals with delivery systems, not warheads.