Friday, 13 December 96 Washington, DC
1. EMF: BIOELECTROMAGNETICS SOCIETY FEARS LOSS OF RESEARCH FUNDS.
Last month, an NRC panel declared that "the current body of
evidence does not show that exposure to [EMF] presents a human
health hazard" (WN 1 Nov 96). The Bioelectromagnetics Society
has since attacked the competency of the NRC panel; a letter to
congressional leaders begins by invoking such dread diseases as
leukemia, breast cancer and Alzheimer's, and then sniffs that
"As leaders of the largest international scientific society
studying biological effects of electric and magnetic fields, we
are concerned about a potential decline in research in this area,
due in part to public statements by those who we believe are
lacking in the requisite multidisciplinary expertise." Uhhh,
just a minute! The first signature on the letter is that of BEMS
president, Richard Luben, a member of the NRC panel that reached
a consensus on its conclusions. BEMS was formed 18 years ago
following reports linking childhood leukemia to power lines.
2. PLUTONIUM: ADMINISTRATION PLAN WOULD BURN SOME--BURY THE REST.
Three years ago, a National Academy of Sciences panel chaired by
Wolfgang Panofsky called for prompt action to deal with weapons
plutonium (WN 28 Jan 94). It recommended either use as fuel in
power reactors, or vitrification in combination with high-level
waste and burial. The Clinton administration has decided to do
both. Simply storing the plutonium would encourage the Russians
to do the same, which carries an unacceptable risk of diversion.
3. SPACE SYMPOSIUM: THEOLOGIANS JOIN SCIENTISTS AT WHITE HOUSE.
Vice President Gore, who was clearly on top of the technical
issues, met on Wednesday with a group of tough-minded scientists,
clergy and fuzzy romantics to discuss the questions raised by
evidence of extraterrestrial life. For physicist/astronomer John
Bahcall, the remarkable thing was not that such questions were
being asked, but that we have the tools to answer them.
4. DIGITAL AGENDA: INTERNET COMPANIES JOIN IN CONDEMNING TREATY.
In a letter to President Clinton, the CEOs of the eleven leading
American online, Internet and communications companies complain
bitterly that their concerns over the database treaty, now being
negotiated in Geneva (WN 6 Dec 96), have been ignored. If the
treaty is agreed to, they vow to fight ratification by Congress.
5. ITER: FUSION LEADERS ISSUE SOFTER RESPONSE TO SCIENCE ARTICLE.
Disavowing the statement sent to WN from the Director's Office at
the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory last week (WN 6 Dec 96),
fusion leaders issued a softer statement that does not attack the
validity of the Science article. Instead, it questions whether
any theoretical model can accurately predict ITER's performance.
In other words, there is no credible analysis that predicts ITER
will work. The ITER design will be reviewed early next year.