Friday, 5 April 96 Washington, DC
1. BUDGET: BOB LIVINGSTON SAYS "IT'S TIME TO DECLARE VICTORY!"
With half the federal government, including NSF, NASA, NIST and
NOAA, limping along week after week on continuing resolutions,
the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee points with pride
to the reduction in discretionary spending. Regardless of what
happens to the omnibus spending bill, he boasts, taxpayers saved
$23B. Alas, if the omnibus bill is not passed, the NSF stands to
lose $73M. But Livingston, in a letter to Republican colleagues,
urges them to "share this success story with the press."
2. U.S. HISTORY: THE REVISED TEACHING STANDARDS DISCOVER SCIENCE.
The only mention of "science" in the version issued 18 months ago
was in a list of professions from which women were systematically
excluded. The Senate condemned the politically-correct document
by a vote of 99-1 (WN 20 Jan 95), jeopardizing the whole concept
of national teaching standards. But a revision released Wednesday
is vastly improved. In Standard 8, "Major Discoveries in Science
and Technology," students are expected to "understand how postwar
science augmented America's economic strength, transformed daily
life and influenced the world economy," and "explain the advances
in medical science and assess how they improved the standard of
living." Name searches for famous American scientists turned up
only Benjamin Franklin, but even Ben was left out of the earlier
version. The Wright brothers were the only inventors to make the
cut. Fortunately, the 2,700 PC sample history lessons are gone.
3. UNABOMBER: FBI ARRESTS A DROPPED-OUT BERKELEY MATH PROFESSOR.
Just one year ago, in a letter to the New York Times, (WN 12 May
95), the self-styled anarchist, who has been killing and maiming
for two decades, wrote that, "We would not want anyone to think
that we have any desire to hurt professors who study archaeology,
history, literature or harmless stuff like that. The people we
are out to get are the scientists and engineers." Now it seems
it might work the other way, since the government's case is
likely to be built around evidence such as DNA analysis.
4. COLD FUSION: ITALIAN COURT FINDS FRAUD CHARGE IS REASONABLE.
When the Italian newspaper La Republicca called Fleischmann, Pons
and three Italian researchers "scientific frauds," and compared
them to "fornicating priests," they sued La Republicca and its
science editor for $5M (WN 28 May 93). La Republicca asked CERN
physicist Douglas Morrison to be their scientific advisor. Last
week, Morrison's view prevailed; in a 14-page decision the court
rejected the complaint and ordered the five to pay the paper's
legal expenses. The court cited such standard examples as the
gamma ray peak that moved when F&P were told it was at the wrong
energy. But in the unkindest cut of all, the court noted that
nothing has happened (Fleischmann still brews his tea on a hot
plate), and concluded that F&P are "separated from reality."