Friday, 26 December 97 Washington, DC
1. INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION: THERE IS NO FREE LAUNCH.
United Space Alliance, the private company that now runs the shuttle
program, has been told by NASA to reduce costs another $100M,
which translates to about 300 jobs. It's only fair. The cuts
are needed to make up for huge space station overruns incurred by
Boeing, which joined with Lockheed Martin to create United Space
Alliance. Shuttle costs have been reduced a fourth since 1993,
while space station overruns are expected to reach $1B by the
re-scheduled 30 June 98 launch date. NASA has already moved $460M
from the space science account to the space station. To keep the
launch date from slipping even further, Congress had to cough up
an additional $230M, but balked when NASA wanted to transfer
another $200M from other accounts
(14 Nov 97). Because the space
shuttle and the space station are both under the "human space
flight" account, shuttle savings can be used for the station
without consulting Congress, but $100M still may not be enough to
keep the 30 June launch date from slipping even further.
2. NUCLEAR WEAPONS: GOVERNMENT ENDS "BORN SECRET" POLICY
the authority of the Atomic Energy Act, it had been the policy
for more than 40 years to automatically classify all information
pertaining to nuclear weapons. Initially, even university faculty
engaged in basic nuclear research needed a government clearance.
The new rules call for higher fences around less information and
greater whistle blower protection. Secretary of Energy Pena also
released newly declassified material on such quaint weapons as a
60-pound one-kiloton mini-nuke that a parachutist could deploy.
Presumably, the parachutist would also be issued track shoes.
3. COMPETITIVENESS: EUROPE LAGS BEHIND THE U.S. IN PRODUCTIVITY.
According to the UK's National Institute of Economic and Social
Research, manufacturing productivity per worker in Germany is 76%
of that in the US, and in the UK it's only 62%. This, in spite
of the fact that US manufacturers employ a higher percentage of
"low-skilled" workers. How does the US do it? The NIESR report
attributes our success to higher R&D spending, investment in the
education of highly skilled engineers who organize the efforts of
semi-skilled workers, and greater investment in automation.
4. BROOKHAVEN: DOE SENDS THE LAB A CHRISTMAS GREETING.
With just a month to go until a new contractor takes over
(WN 28 Nov 97),
DOE cited the lab for minor safety violations that occurred back
in June. The infractions, which were unrelated to the tritium
leak, would have incurred a civil penalty of $142,500, DOE said,
except the contractor was exempt under the law. Yawn!
5. POSITION OF PLANET DETERMINES THE FUTURE!
Based on a precise
knowledge of the alignment of our planet, WN predicts daylight
tomorrow will last a heartbeat longer than today. Best wishes.