Friday, 10 April 98 Washington, DC
1. 21ST CENTURY RESEARCH FUND: TOBACCO DEAL GOES UP IN SMOKE.
Led by RJR Nabisco, tobacco firms pulled out of their agreement
to work with Washington to reach a settlement, accusing Congress
of seeking "punitive" action. (Now why would anyone want to
punish the tobacco industry?) The White House and congressional
leaders vowed to go forward with legislation, but some observers
think it will be tough to get it done this year if the industry
is balking. A few scientists have warned that linking science
increases to tobacco was not a good idea, and Congress should
pass the National Research Investment Act S.1305
(WN 3 Apr 98).
2. CTBT: ADMINISTRATION TAKES AIM AT HELMS--WITH AN UNLOADED GUN.
On Tuesday, Undersecretary of State John Holum met with the press
to urge the Senate, which isn't in town anyway, to ratify the
test ban treaty, which it couldn't if it were in town because
Jesse Helms won't let it out of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Holum said he should, because if he doesn't the US won't get to
go to the 1999 conference that will try to get non-signers to
sign. According to Holum, the administration has the votes in the
Senate to ratify, if Foreign Relations ever releases it. Sure.
3. EDUCATION: TEACHING ABOUT EVOLUTION AND THE NATURE OF SCIENCE.
It is a great irony, as well as a tragedy, that as we enter what
is already being called "the century of biology," teachers are
increasingly reluctant to teach the great organizing principle
without which biology can not be understood. Yesterday, the
National Academy of Sciences released a new guidebook to help
teachers integrate evolution into classes K-12. The book details
how to discuss evolution with students and respond to parents.
As it explains evolution, it also explains the nature of science.
The need for such a guidebook is evident from the appendices,
which include such resources as excerpts from court opinions on
the evolution/creationism issue. At Thursday's press conference,
Don Kennedy of Stanford, chair of the Working Group on Teaching
Evolution, addressed the issue of equal time for creationism:
Just as long, he said, as it's not in a science classroom.
4. MARS: GIGANTIC ICON HAS BEEN DE-FACED!
After NASA's Mars
Observer fell silent in 1993, demonstrators outside the Jet
Propulsion Lab charged that it was a government cover-up of "the
face" that showed up in a 20-year old Viking photo. Three years
later, NASA was forced to respond to rumors that it planned to
turn Surveyor's camera off when it points at the Cydonia region,
promising to release images as soon as they are received
(WN 8 Nov 96).
Sophisticated image enhancement of the Viking photo had
convinced WN that the face was that of Michael Jackson, but NASA
says the first pictures from Surveyor show that it's just a Mesa.
Jose Mesa? The ace reliever for the Cleveland Indians? Sigh.
Understanding extraterrestrials is not going to be easy.