Friday, 13 February 98 Washington, DC
1. LINE ITEM VETO: NEW RULING SETS UP SUPREME COURT SHOWDOWN.
Remember the "Contract with America"? It called for giving the
President the power to veto individual appropriations. This was
supposed to be powerful medicine to cure the practice of
earmarking funds for specific projects in the districts of
well-placed members of Congress, including research projects that
had not faced peer review. President Clinton used it 82 times,
but no one could figure out how the lines were chosen. A year
ago, a federal judge declared the act to be a ploy by Congress to
duck "vexing choices"
(WN 11 Apr 97).
The Supreme Court ducked
the constitutional issues, ruling that the group challenging the
law, led by Sen. Byrd (WV), a big-time porker, had not been
(WN 27 Jun 97).
Now someone has been injured -- potato farmers who were denied
a subsidy. A federal judge
ruled yesterday that the President "cannot single handedly
revise" the work of Congress. The high Court may hear the case
this spring. It can't duck this one.
2. NSF: HEAD OF EDUCATION AT SCIENCE FOUNDATION IN HOT WATER.
In a story first broken by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the
Inspector General charged that Luther Williams has broken federal
conflict-of-interest laws. Williams is said to have personally
approved the award of a grant at the same time he was negotiating
with the recipient organization for a job. It appears that
Williams may also have accepted several honoraria payments for
speaking to institutions that receive NSF funds. The talks,
moreover, were directly related to his NSF duties.
3. CLONING: "ARROGANT PHYSICIST BILL" FAILS IN SENATE.
The congressional response to physicist Dick Seed's claim that he was
going to clone humans
(WN 9 Jan 98),
was a flurry of hasty bills
to ban the procedure. The Senate this week killed a bill
sponsored by Sens. Bond (R-MO) and Frist (R-TN) that would have
imposed a total and permanent ban. Scientific groups complained
that the overly-broad legislation could have dire consequences
for research. Cloning specific human cells and tissues, which
could be important in life-saving research, does not raise the
same ethical concerns as cloning humans. Sen. Feinstein (D-CA)
has proposed an alternative that would protect research and
self-destruct in ten years.
***FLASH: CLINTON NAMES NEAL LANE TO BE SCIENCE ADVISOR.***
At the AAAS meeting in Philadelphia, just minutes ago, the President
announced the long-expected resignation of Jack Gibbons as
Science Advisor and Director of OSTP, a post he held for 5 years.
He also announced that he will nominate Neal Lane to replace
Gibbons. To replace Lane as Director of NSF, the President said
he will nominate microbiologist Rita Colwell. It was a boffo,