Friday, 4 December 1998 Washington, DC
1. Y2K BUDGET: ARE GRIM PROSPECTS SHRUGGED OFF BY SCIENTISTS?
Politicians love to spend money just before elections
(WN 16 Oct 98).
So what do they do when there's a budget cap? In effect
they spend next year's money. The White House is in the process
of preparing a FY 2K budget request to Congress that has to make
up for a $28B overdraft on FY 99
(WN 30 Oct 98).
At such times,
the bean counters look to see who did well last time. Science
did well -- and the word leaking out of the budget deliberations
is that science did NOT do at all well in the Y2K pass back.
Forget all the warm feelings expressed by the Frist-Rockefeller
Research Investment Act
(WN 9 Oct 98).
That shows good intentions;
this is reality. The Administration must be persuaded all over
again that science rates priority -- and so far, the White House
is just not hearing from the scientific community
(WN 27 Nov 98).
For details on where and what to write, e-mail
2. JUNK SCIENCE: COURTS TURN TO SCIENTIFIC PANELS FOR ADVICE.
The term "junk science" refers to scientific testimony that is
intended to bamboozle scientifically naive jurors. To stem the
growing tide of junk science cases, the Supreme Court, in its
landmark 1993 "Daubert" decision, instructed federal judges to
serve as "gatekeepers," barring evidence that is not based on
"scientifically valid principles." But the Court didn't provide
judges with much guidance in how to carry out their role. One
year ago, in Joiner v. General Electric, the Court ruled that
evidence must also be interpreted scientifically
(WN 19 Dec 97).
In an important concurring opinion, Justice Breyer, noting that
"judges are not scientists," urged judges to appoint independent
experts to serve on behalf of the court. Last week, a panel of
scientists appointed by a federal judge reported that no credible
evidence could be found of a link between silicone breast
implants and any disease. The report is expected to have a major
impact on thousands of implant lawsuits. But if the judge is not
a scientist, how could he know who the independent scientific
experts were? He had appointed another panel to identify the
experts. How do you suppose he selected that panel? Nah!
3. DOE: PACKARD TAKES OVER ENERGY & WATER APPROPRIATIONS.
The retirement of Joseph McDade (R-PA) allows Ron Packard (R-CA) to
move up from Military Construction. He has a proven talent for
bringing home pork, but in a district with little science, it's
likely to be in the form of water projects rather than energy.
4. BURTON RICHTER STEPS DOWN AS DIRECTOR OF SLAC.
After 14 years
as head of the Stanford Linear Accelerator, Richter will end his
stint on August 31, 1999. The Asymmetric B Factory, his latest
accomplishment, will be operating by then. In 1994, Richter
served as President of the APS. Oh, and he shared the 1976 Nobel
Prize with Sam Ting for discovery of the J-Psi particle.