Friday, 28 Mar 97 Washington, DC
1. CHEMICAL WEAPONS: HELMS SOFTENS HIS OPPOSITION TO THE
"Maybe it has some good points that are hard for me to find,"
doesn't sound like much of an endorsement, but Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC),
crotchety chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, now seems willing
to allow a vote on ratification of the treaty banning chemical weapons.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) had threatened to block all
legislation unless Helms set a date for a vote, but a "charm offensive" by
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is generally credited with Helms' change
of heart. The treaty, already signed by 70 countries, takes effect on April
29 with or without U.S. participation. The position of the American Chemical
Society in support of the ban has been endorsed by APS President Allan Bromley
(WN 7 Feb 97).
2. NUCLEAR WEAPONS: SUMMIT AGREEMENT TO START ON START III.
President Boris Yeltsin pledged in Helsinki to press for quick ratification of
START II by the Russian Parliament so the U.S. and Russia could get started on
a new treaty permitting each nation to watch the other actually dispose of
warheads. Yeltsin also accepted a new understanding on theater missile
defense, but not everyone seems to have the same idea of what constitutes a
"theater." The agreement was attacked in the Russian Parliament as a crushing
defeat for Moscow and by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as "a deliberate
weakening of our national defense."
3. THE BUDGET: DOES GEORGE BROWN HAVE THE ONLY PLAN IN TOWN?
Budget War of the 104th Congress ended with everyone agreeing to balance the
budget by 2002. Agreement ended there. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
says White House budget projections are too rosy, the Republican say the
President's budget skimps on tax cuts, the Blue Dog Democrats say they won't
buy anything with a tax cut, and the Republican leadership left town for the
Easter break with no budget resolution in sight. Now comes George Brown
(D-CA) with the Investment Budget Plan. It calls for annual increases of 5%
in R&D to keep pace with the GDP, improved transportation to raise
productivity, and a new education program to provide the workforce. It
offsets these expenditures by freezing defense spending, reducing the Consumer
Price Index by 0.5% and adopting the Blue Dog plan of entitlement reforms
without tax cuts. CBO has confirmed that the Brown Investment Budget Plan
would produce a $3B surplus in 2002.
4. ETHICS: STUDENT EXONERATED IN DEATH OF 35 RESEARCH ANIMALS.
15-year old California high school student had been ejected from a science
fair competition for cruelty to animals after it was revealed that during
studies of radiation effects 35 of his 200 research subjects had, as they say
in California, "shed their containers." He was reinstated after autopsies
revealed that the 35 dead fruit flies had succumbed to a bacterial infection.