Friday, 4 September 98 Washington, DC
1. STAR WARS II: NORTH KOREAN MISSILE LANDS IN THE U.S. SENATE.
Democrats have filibustered the American
Missile Protection Act of 1998(S.1873)since
May. It seemed Republicans would be able to
cut off debate after India carried out
nuclear tests, but they lost by one vote
(WN 15 May 98).
Now, another vote on cloture has
been scheduled, which must mean they have
picked up more Democratic defectors. They may
pick up more still as a result of the North
Korean test of a two-stage medium-range
missile. The bill is expected to reach the
floor sometime next week.
2. CTBT: ADMINISTRATION WINS A VOTE -- AND FAILS THE TEST.
Timing, they say, is everything, and this was
not the time. The vote was on an amendment
approving a $29M U.S. contribution to
Prepcom, the international commission
established to monitor compliance with the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The money is
needed to upgrade the monitoring system that
detected the May 11 Indian test. Majority
Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) was only too happy
to have a vote on Prepcom, which he declared
to be a test vote on CTBT. If it failed to
get the 67 votes need to ratify CTBT, Lott
said, there was no point in bothering with
the treaty. In fact, it was more of test
vote on Bill Clinton. He lost. The measure,
which would aid U.S. intelligence at a
bargain price, should have been
noncontroversial, but it got only 49 votes.
If there was any doubt, CTBT will not come up
in this session.
3. SPACE STATION: COUNTING, YES, BUT IS IT COUNTING UP OR DOWN?
This morning, the launch clock for the first
ISS element said "76 days and counting," but
with the Russian economy in meltdown, few
people believe it. NASA is urging the White
House to eliminate dependence on Russia, and
James Sensenbrenner, Science Committee chair,
is offering to push a supplemental
appropriation through Congress, but the White
House says it's "premature." Part of the
problem is that no one has figured out what
it would cost. It's not just the still-unfinished
Service Module, but also concern
over whether Russia can deliver enough
Progress and Soyuz flights to carry out the
monthly reboosts needed to keep ISS in orbit.
NASA plans to modify shuttles for the job.
Maybe they should just put the space station
in space instead of the upper atmosphere, and
concentrate on reboosting the Russian
4. NIH: SENATE BILL BOOSTS NIH TO $15.6B -- CREATES DILEMMA.
The Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations
Subcommittee marked up its FY 99 funding bill
this week. It calls for a pulse-quickening
$2B increase over last year. The bipartisan
measure was crafted by the chairman, Arlen
Specter (R-PA) and ranking member, Tom Harkin
(D-IA), two of the Senate's leading advocates
of quack medicine. The bill elevates the
Office of Alternative Medicine to a Center of
Complementary and Alternative Medicine, while
increasing its budget from $20M to $50M.
None of this is in the House bill.