Friday, 2 October 1998 Washington, DC
1. EMF: APS EXECUTIVE BOARD REAFFIRMS SOCIETY'S 1995 STATEMENT.
No wonder the public is confused about science. A panel convened
by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences claims
to have detected a pulse in the decaying corpse of the 19-year
controversy over health effects of power line fields
(WN 3 Jul 98),
voting to make EMF a "possible" carcinogen. Several panel
members are involved in projects whose continuation depends on
public concern about EMF. Their finding contradicts a 3-year NRC
(WN 1 Nov 96)
and monumental NCI epidemiological studies
(WN 4 Jul 97).
The APS had earlier concluded
(WN 5 May 95)
that "conjectures relating cancer to power line fields have not been
scientifically substantiated." Saturday, the E-Board reaffirmed
the APS position, adding that "in the period since, additional
scientific studies and exhaustive epidemiological surveys have
uncovered no evidence of health effects from power line fields."
2. MYSTERY FORCE: IS RTG WASTE HEAT RESPONSIBLE?
A paper in
Physical Review Letters by J.D. Anderson et al. noted that an
unexplained force appeared to be tugging distant spacecraft
toward the sun
(WN 18 Sep 98).
The authors acknowledged that
while the force might be new physics, it was more likely old
physics that had not been properly accounted for. A comment on
the paper by Jonathan Katz suggests that radiation of waste heat
from radioisotope thermoelectric generators might be responsible.
Thermal radiation from RTGs was discounted in the Anderson paper,
which assumed that the radiation would have been isotropic. Katz
says that even a 10% asymmetry would be sufficient. If there is a
fifth force, somebody better check to see if it's carcinogenic.
3. DOE: APPROPRIATIONS BILL GOES TO THE PRESIDENT.
The final bill split the difference between the House and Senate
numbers on most physics-related programs. Fusion Energy got
slightly more than the request, but the report language grumbled
about continued emphasis on tokamaks and pushed for "innovative
confinement concepts." DOE was directed not to extend the ITER
agreement beyond FY 98 without congressional approval.
4. CTBT: CLINTON SCRUBS NOVEMBER VISITS TO INDIA AND PAKISTAN.
The prime ministers of both countries say they're ready to sign
the test ban
(WN 25 Sep 98),
but the White House, by cancelling
the President's trip, made it clear that the two countries can't
get off the hook that easily. Senate Republican leaders had made
it clear in a letter to President Clinton that they opposed a
swap of eased sanctions for signatures. Automatic economic
sanctions went into effect after the May tests
(WN 29 May 98).
Meanwhile, a bill that would allow the President to grant
a one-year waiver of sanctions was agreed to by House and Senate
conferees, but remained bogged down by a totally extraneous
amendment involving U.S. approval of the so-called abortion pill.