Friday, 25 June 1999 Washington, DC
1. PHYSICS WITH AN ATTITUDE: WHAT'S NEW IS 15-YEARS OLD TODAY.
Let us know what's right and what's wrong with What's New.
2. SPY DETECTOR: DOE PREPARED TO BEGIN POLYGRAPH SCREENING.
An estimated 5000 nuclear weapons scientists and other employees
will be tested. Yet, "There is almost universal agreement that
polygraph screening is completely invalid," FBI polygraph expert
Dr. Drew Richardson asserts. (Richardson taught his 10-year-old
son to beat the test.) In 1997 Senate testimony, Richardson
warned, "To the extent that we place any confidence in the
results of polygraph screening, and as a consequence shortchange
traditional security vetting techniques, I think our national
security is severely jeopardized." Critics contend that the test
measures general anxiety, nothing more. In addition, there is a
potential for false confessions from traumatized examinees. Mark
Mallah, a former FBI agent deemed deceptive by a polygraph exam
and cleared after a 2-year investigation, says, "In all its
history, the polygraph has not detected one single spy. Ever."
3. DOE: WHAT LIES AHEAD?
Former Senator Warren Rudman and DOE
Secretary Bill Richardson testified before the House and Senate
this week. Describing the "dysfunctional department," Rudman
says that while it took less than 3 years to build the atomic
bomb, it takes the DOE more than 4 years to fix the lock on a
door to a secure area. Rudman is pushing for a semi-autonomous
nuclear weapons agency within the DOE, while Richardson is
struggling to keep the weapons labs under his full authority.
Congress, it appears, is preparing to do some restructuring of
the department. Rep. Floyd Spence (R-SC) sums it up, "The bottom
line: fundamental change is necessary and long overdue."
DOE Assistant Secretary Victor Reis, in charge of
the nuclear weapons complex, is being forced to resign today.
5. EMF: "NOTHING YET, BUT LET'S KEEP LOOKING."
In 1992, Congress
created the EMF Research and Public Information Dissemination
(EMF-RAPID) program. DOE pulled the plug on RAPID two years ago
(WN 4 Apr 97)
after an NRC report concluded that there are no
(WN 1 Nov 96).
The NRC now has completed a review
of the RAPID program and recommends that "no further special
research program focused on possible health effects of power-line
EMF be funded." But the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences issued its own review last week concluding that
although there is no laboratory evidence of health effects, the
possibility that a weak statistical association between EMF
exposure and leukemia is due to EMF "cannot be completely
discounted"; therefore, "meritorious" research should continue.
(Helene Grossman contributed to this week's WN.)