Friday, 26 September 97 Washington, DC
1. MIR: SO WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE NASA WAS THINKING ABOUT?
there's been no science on the space lemon since June, the crew
spends more and more time huddled in the Soyuz escape module, and
the computer's name turns out to be "Hal." Not to worry, said an
ex-Mir astronaut yesterday on Canadian TV, Mir is safer than the
trip up on the shuttle. Oh, good! Any hint that NASA lacks
confidence in our Russian partners would raise awkward questions
about the International Space Station. No space station, no
astronaut program. So NASA relied on three internal review panels
headed by astronauts and one external assessment by the just-retired
VP of Lockheed Martin. They all concluded Mir is safe.
2. NIH: HEARINGS TO BE HELD ON QUACK MEDICINE CENTER.
amendment to elevate the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine to a
National Center (WN 19 Sep 97) was dropped
from the FDA bill with
agreement that hearings would be held on the measure in early
October. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), a cosponsor, said that
some years ago she had very serious illnesses for which "Western
medicine was of limited utility"; acupuncture helped her get
well. She did not indicate what sort of control group she used
in her study. The measure calls for an advisory council for the
Center that would include at least one practitioner from each
alternative therapy. They may have to meet in the Superdome.
3. CRYPTOGRAPHY: SOCIETIES UNITE TO OPPOSE RESTRICTIONS.
of leading scientific, mathematical and engineering societies are
urging Congress not to impose new restrictions on cryptography
research, arguing that American leadership in the field would be
sacrificed and the future of electronic commerce jeopardized.
The restrictions are sought by the FBI to facilitate monitoring
of terrorist activity. Terrorists have replaced the evil empire
as the justification for restrictions on freedom. The American
Mathematical Society, Association for Computing, AAAS, and IEEE
were among the societies opposing the action. The APS was not.
4. CARBON: STUDY SAYS REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS COULD SAVE MONEY.
Amid increasing reports that greenhouse gases may have less to do
with global climate change than solar variations -- something
opponents of emission controls have claimed for years -- a study
conducted by five DOE labs concludes that costs of technological
reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be offset by improved
efficiency. It has happened before with the switch to the
"smokeless jet engine." The study, which was led by Oak Ridge and
Lawrence Berkely, is consistent with 1991 studies by NRC and OTA.
5. OSTP: PRESIDENT NAMES BIENENSTOCK TO KEY SCIENCE POST.
Bienenstock, director of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab
and a Fellow of the APS, has been picked to be Associate Director
of OSTP for Science. He must still be confirmed by the Senate.