Friday, 30 January 98 Washington, DC
1. 21ST CENTURY RESEARCH FUND IS PROPOSED BY PRESIDENT CLINTON.
It would be, the President said in his State of the Union speech,
the largest funding increase in history for NIH, NSF and NCI.
Good news for science had been expected, and it was clear that a
major announcement would be made when NIH Director Harold Varmus
was seated next to the First Lady. It was not until almost the
end of the speech, however, that science finally came up. While
the President's words, and the high visibility of Varmus, put the
focus on biomedical research, a gentle purring sound can be heard
coming from all science agencies. The actual budget request will
be released on Monday, showing large increases across the board
in civilian research programs, including Energy Research. Even
NASA Space Science and DOD 6.1 will show good increases. Noting
that past environmental programs have not harmed the economy, Mr.
Clinton called for tax incentives and R&D to encourage renewable
energy, fuel-efficient cars and energy efficient home
2. CTBT: CLINTON CALLS FOR 1998 RATIFICATION OF TEST BAN TREATY.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has flatly stated that
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will not come up for a vote in
1998, and the betting had been that the President would not bring
it up in the State of the Union. However, a recent poll shows
over 70% of the American public favoring the treaty, and Clinton
got backing from four former Joint Chiefs for early ratification.
Sen. Helms (R-NC), the chair of Foreign Relations, made it clear
a week ago that CTBT wasn't getting past him
(WN 23 Jan 98). It's
believed that Helms is after softer tobacco industry penalties in
exchange for consideration of CTBT. The White House included the
the tobacco settlement in its balanced budget calculation.
3. LOW-LEVEL RADIATION: NRC PANEL SAYS IT'S TIME TO REASSESS.
Policies concerning low-level radiation currently rely on the
1990 Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation report (BEIR V).
BEIR V assumed a linear no-threshold model that everyone knows is
wrong. Citing new information, an NRC panel, convened at the
request of EPA, calls for a comprehensive reanalysis of health
risks based on new information. It's expected to take 36 months.
4. THE MARS EFFECT: PUZZLED WN READERS WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT IS.
My only information comes from Good Morning America: "People born
when Mars is rising or directly overhead are more likely to
become athletes, military officers, or executives; in the case of
Saturn, scientists and physicians are more likely; with Jupiter
it's actors." Astrology, according to my dictionary, is: "The
study of the positions and aspects of celestial bodies in the
belief that they have an influence on the course of natural
earthly occurrences and human affairs." Dr. Ertl, one of the
"serious-minded scientists" on Good Morning America
(WN 23 Jan 98),
says he believes in the Mars effect, but not in astrology.