Friday, 25 October 96 Washington, DC
1. DIGITAL AGENDA: INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY OR PRIVATE
Few people in the academic community noticed when the
"Database Investment and Intellectual Property Antipiracy Act of 1996"
was introduced last spring. Not many are aware of it yet; H.R.3531 has
been the subject of no votes, no debates, no hearings. Yet, it would
create a new form of intellectual property protection for compilations of
information, ending the policy of full and open exchange of scientific
data. Database publishers would have an absolute monopoly on their
compilations, and the information highway would have a toll booth every
few miles. It gets worse: even if H.R.3531 never passes, we may still
get the toll booths under an international agreement. At the insistence of
the U.S. delegation, a "Draft Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect to
Databases," incorporating the same provisions as H.R.3531, is
scheduled to be taken up at a Diplomatic Conference in Geneva in
December -- without the views of the US academic community ever
having been solicited. The "digital agenda" is being opposed by the
Association of American Universities, the National Academy of Sciences
and the Association of Research Libraries among others.
2. ENVIRONMENT: GEORGE BROWN BLASTS "FRINGE SCIENCE" IN
THE 104TH CONGRESS.
On Wednesday, the ranking minority member of
the House Science Committee issued a scathing report on hearings held
one year ago by the Environment and Energy Subcommittee. The
hearings implied that environmental scientists are engaged in a
conspiracy to exaggerate threats from pollution, climate change and
ozone depletion (WN 13 Oct 95). In "Environmental Science Under Siege:
Fringe Science in the 104th Congress," Brown observes that the
Subcommittee, chaired by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), not only failed to
substantiate charges of scientific misconduct, but achieved just what it
purported to condemn: the politicization of science.
3. EVOLUTION: THE POPE COMES AROUND--BUT THE LAKOTAS
Following the course set in his 1992 exoneration of
Galileo, John Paul acknowledged yesterday that evolution is "more than
just a theory." He cited "new knowledge" as the basis for elevating
evolution from the "serious hypothesis" status Pius XII gave it in 1950.
Alas, he didn't say what new knowledge he had in mind. The statement
is regarded as an important symbol in the effort to ease tensions
between science and religion. However, the Lakota Indians are having
none of it. They are blocking archaeologists from tracing the origin of
ancient American human remains by DNA analysis. The Lakotas
emerged from a spirit world inside the earth (maybe through the mouth of
a giant frog) and that's that.
4. MISSILE DEFENSE: IT HASN'T SURFACED AS A CAMPAIGN ISSUE -
It's been rumored all week that North Korea is preparing to test the
ND-1 (max range of 600 miles). It's now rumored that, if they do, Dole
supporters are prepared to test the Star Wars issue.