Friday, 22 May 98 Washington, DC
1. NUCLEAR VIAGRA: INDIA TALKS MORATORIUM AS QUESTIONS MOUNT.
Still swaggering after its performance, India said yesterday that
it's now ready to discuss a moratorium with the major powers -- as
an equal of course. But weapons experts are increasingly skeptical
about India's claims, as WN first reported last week
(WN 15 May 98). There is no doubt
that there was a nuclear blast on the 11th, but as one arms control
wag put it "Prime Minister Vajpayee's device is 43 kilotons shorter than
he wants you to think it is." India described the only explosion that
could be detected as "thermonuclear," but given the yield, it is more
likely that it was a hydrogen-boosted fission bomb, since small
thermonuclear devices require great sophistication. The claim that
three devices were detonated simultaneously makes no sense from a
testing standpoint. There is speculation that the two "sub-kiloton"
tests on the 13th were either duds or imaginary. Experts recall that
India also exaggerated its 1974 test.
2. CAMPAIGN VIAGRA: SENATE RESOLUTION IS FIRM ON TEST BAN.
Most observers speculated that the Indian tests ended any hope of early
Senate ratification of the test ban treaty
(WN 15 May 98). That didn't
stop Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) from circulating a
"Dear Colleague" letter asking for co-sponsors of a Sense of the
Senate Resolution calling on the Foreign Relations Committee to hold
hearings on the treaty so it could be debated and voted on as soon
as possible. Specter is facing reelection this fall, and it's not good
to have a limp position on nuclear tests. The CTBT was signed by the
US two years ago and sent to the Senate for ratification last fall.
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee has
refused to hold hearings. Specter reportedly wants to bring the
resolution up in the Senate later today, before everyone leaves for
the Memorial Day break, but it's not likely to be voted on until after
the break. Which is just as well: the Dear Colleague went out on
Tuesday, and so far the resolution has just 21 cosponsors. It seems
that Specter has rounded up only one other Republican. Senate offices
contacted by WN asked, "What resolution?"
3. BUDGET: APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR BACKS INCREASES FOR RESEARCH.
Bob Livingston (R-LA), House Appropriations Committee chair told a
gathering of the National Association of Manufacturers on Wednesday
that research is a priority of Speaker Gingrich. "We have been
increasing funding for research. That trend will continue, and not
just for medical research." Meanwhile, a $101B budget-cutting plan
cleared by the House Budget Committee on Wednesday is given no
chance of passing Congress. Chairman John Kasich (R-OH) produced
the plan, which calls for major tax cuts, to give Republicans a
popular agenda to run on this fall. Specific cuts, including
abolishing both DOE and Commerce were eliminated after moderate
Republicans said they were too severe.