Friday, March 29, 1996
1. CONGRESS PUNTS: 12TH CONTINUING RESOLUTION OF FY 96 IS PASSED.
Congress passed a lot of legislation this week, but the big one, the FY 96 omnibus spending bill, got away. With the current CR due to expire at midnight (WN 22 Mar 96), and anxious to leave town for a two-week Easter break, Congress agreed to a three- week stop-gap spending measure to keep the government operating.
2. LINE-ITEM VETO PASSES! OKAY, SO WN FINALLY CALLED ONE WRONG.
WN had consistently sneered at the prospect of Congress yielding the President line-item veto authority (WN 11 Nov 94). Anyway, it doesn't take effect until January 1, so it won't affect FY 96 or 97--unless we're still on CRs--and it's certain to face a court challenge. Many legal experts think it will be struck down.
3. FY 97 BUDGET: NSF BUDGET DISCREPANCY IS CLEARED UP -- SORT OF.
Last week, we noted that whereas NSF announced a whopping 8.7% increase in its request for Research and Related Activities, the Office of Management and Budget put NSF's R&D increase at only 4%. We correctly pointed out that the NSF figure includes $50M that used to be in Academic Research Infrastructure, thus making a cut in ARI look like an increase in R&RA. That only accounts for half the discrepancy. It also turns out that "R&D" includes some funds from education and facilities accounts that aren't in R&RA. Finally, OMB and NSF used different numbers for FY 96; OMB assumed the FY 96 omnibus spending bill (WN 22 Mar 96), which includes a $40M NSF "addback" requested by the President, will be enacted. Now if we could figure out why, in an era of downsizing, NSF chose to exaggerate the increase in its research budget.
4. LHC: U.S. TO SPEND A HALF-BILLION BUCKS ON CERN ECONOCOLLIDER.
Negotiations over US participation in the Large Hadron Collider are making progress, according to DOE Energy Research Director Martha Krebs. The US share in the project will be about 20%, with DOE putting up about $450M and NSF another $80M. DOE funds will be split between the accelerator and the two large detectors. The key issue of governance is yet to be resolved; for political as well as geographic reasons, the US cannot be a European member. DOE wants to send a package to Congress before the FY 98 budget.
5. SCIENCE TOYS: THE DR. DREADFUL RADIOACTIVE DRINK LAB, $19.99.
"Looks gross...Tastes great!" Ever mindful of our responsibility to inform readers of the latest advances, the entire WN staff volunteered to test Tyco Toys' claim. Procedure: "Monster warts" grow 'em on the back of your hands--then nibble 'em off--and vile blue "nuclear sludge" were produced in the apparatus. Results: 33% of those participating in the study declared the stuff tasted like it looked, 33% couldn't go through with it and the other one ran to the bathroom before she could be questioned. Conclusion: science has come a long way since the Gilbert Chemistry Set!