Friday, 8 March 96 Washington, DC
1. TRAIN WRECK? HOUSE PASSES FY 96 SPENDING BILL FOR BILL'S VETO.
Hearings are already being held on the FY 97 budget, but a raft of federal agencies, including NSF, NASA, NIST, NOAA and EPA, are still operating on a temporary spending measure that expires in one week (WN 26 Jan 96). Yesterday, the House passed an omnibus spending bill to provide funding for the remaining half of FY 96, but it falls well short of the President's demands and includes a number of objectionable riders. The Senate will go a little further next week, but apparently not far enough. That could shut down the government again, but no one seems to have the stomach for that, so if new legislation can't be agreed to in time, the current CR could be extended for the rest of the fiscal year.
2. SO WHERE WILL SCIENCE FUNDING BE IN SEVEN YEARS? WHO KNOWS!
Based on the Budget Resolution Congress passed last spring, the AAAS projected a 33% cut in non-defense R&D by 2002. At hearings last week on Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology (WN 1 Mar 96), Frank Press, who headed the NRC study, suggested AAAS might revise that estimate based on FY 96 figures. Maybe not, AAAS said: "We won't really know what the outyears look like until we see another budget resolution or similar projections in the President's budget." Not even then! One Congress cannot tie the hands of the next -- in Washington, seven years is forever.
3. POLITICAL SCIENTISTS: RECORD NUMBER OF PHYSICISTS SEEK OFFICE.
Well, it doesn't take much to set records in this field. The only PhD physicist in Congress, Republican Rep. Vern Ehlers, a Fellow of the APS, is seeking reelection from Michigan's 3rd District. John Morgan, last year's APS Congressional Fellow in the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is the GOP nominee to oppose incumbent Rep. Steny Hoyer in Maryland's 5th District. Another former APS Congressional Fellow, Rush Holt, left the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab to seek the Democratic nomination in the 12th District of New Jersey. In the South Carolina Republican primary, physics teacher Charlie Thompson lost to 93-year old Senator Strom Thurmond. In the Presidential race, string theorist John Hagelin heads the ticket of the Natural Law Party (WN 10 Nov 95).
4. TELEPATHY SURE, BUT DOES SONY KNOW HOW TO TELEPORT GOULASH?
Sony's previously hush-hush "Institute of Wisdom" is also working on spoon-bending, but it's in the body's "qi," or "energy field," that the Japanese giant sees the greatest commercial promise. Much of traditional oriental medicine is based on getting your qi balanced. According to a story in the London Independent, Sony decided to go public with its paranormal research after the nerve gas attack by the Aum Shinri Kyo cult aroused public suspicion of secret research. In the US, qi research is supported by the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine, but with Toyota supporting Pons and Fleischmann, concern mounts over a pathological science gap.