Friday, 17 July 98 Washington, DC
1. SCIENTIFIC FREEDOM: VISA DENIALS POSE A SERIOUS THREAT.
The American scientific community has reacted with alarm to reports
of Indian scientists being denied entry into the US to attend
open scientific conferences. Scientific exchange between the US
and the USSR was maintained throughout the Cold War and is
generally credited with being a major factor in keeping the war
cold. The issue surfaced with word that R. Chidambaram, who heads
the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, was denied entry to address
the International Crystallography Union, which he also chairs.
Now there are reports that other scientists and physics students
accepted into US graduate schools have also been denied visas.
2. STAR WARS II: BALLISTIC MISSILES POSE A GROWING THREAT.
A Congressional commission has concluded that rogue nations could
attain ballistic missile capabilities within 5 years of deciding
to do so -- 10 years faster than recent intelligence reports
predicted. In explaining the discrepancy, Donald Rumsfeld, the
panel chair, explained that the commission "used a somewhat
different approach...we considered not only what was known, but
what was unknown." Although one commission member warned that
"the most dangerous thing would be to rush to judgement from our
findings," it's possible Congress may do just that. Speaker
Gingrich is calling the report the "most important warning about
our national security since the end of the Cold War."
3. NATIONAL IGNITION FACILITY: A VIOLATION OF THE TEST BAN?
A group called the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
released a report this week claiming that research at NIF could
result in "pure fusion" weapons, eliminating the need for costly
uranium or plutonium ignition devices. There has been a growing
concern on the part of scientists that such weapons could be a
possibility. The IEER report contends that certain pure fusion
research projects planned for NIF may violate the CTBT accord.
4. ISS: BIOLOGISTS DUMP ON SPACE-BASED CRYSTALLOGRAPHY PROGRAM.
On Wednesday, Rep. Tim Roemer (D-IN) held a press conference to
call for termination of the International Space Station. This is
an annual event, and Mr. Roemer was, as usual, joined by other
House members, taxpayer groups and scientists critical of NASA
priorities. The new element this year was a report on NASA
life-sciences research. Approved unanimously by the Council of the
American Society for Cell Biology, it bluntly urged cancellation
of the space-based crystallography program, declaring "no serious
contribution" had been made to knowledge of protein structure or
drug development. Meanwhile, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI), told an
industry group that microgravity had been used to develop drugs
that reduce complications of heart attacks. Scientists snorted
that the protein crystals could have been grown anywhere. The
only unique feature of space-grown crystals is their cost.