Friday, 9 July 1999 Washington, DC
1. DOE: SECRETARY RICHARDSON CAVES IN ON WEAPONS AGENCY.
A plan to create a semi-autonomous agency within the Energy Department to run the vast nuclear weapons complex seems ready to whiz through the Senate, now that Bill Richardson has dropped his opposition
(WN 25 June 99).
Its fate in the House, however, is less certain. The House has been tossing around ideas ranging from creating a fully-autonomous agency to transferring control of the labs to the Pentagon. Whatever is finally agreed to, this will be the first major reorganization of the nuclear weapons complex since the DOE was created two decades ago.
2. MORE DOE: BEEFING UP SECURITY...OR PUBLIC RELATIONS?
Secretary Richardson has repeatedly expressed his desire "to send a signal that we take security seriously." It may be a smoke signal. Take the June 21-22 security stand-down at LANL, LLNL, and Sandia, which cost taxpayers an estimated $15M in lost labor. According to Livermore sources, the two days were devoted to consciousness-raising briefings and discussions. Some scientists reported that their only assignment for the second day was to read a one-page memo. This comes on top of Richardson's decision that some 5,000 employees must submit to polygraph screening
(WN 25 June 99).
3. MISSILE DEFENSE: THE BENEFITS OF A LIMITED EDUCATION.
The Safeguarding America For Everyone (SAFE) Foundation is launching a campaign to educate the public on the ballistic missile threat. Called the National Mission to Defend America (NMD America), the drive plans to focus on big questions, like whether we should defend ourselves against ballistic missiles and if so, how soon. SAFE hopes to avoid getting bogged down in technical feasibility, cost and arms control, says President Kevin Generous. Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter has been chosen as a SAFE spokesman. Maybe he'll do "What A Fool Believes."
4. ALTERNATIVE FUNDING: STONY BROOK DEBATES ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE.
SUNY at Stony Brook, already under fire for its controversial Center for Complementary/Alternative Medicine, is now debating establishment of an Independent Practice Association composed of alternative medicine practitioners. Members of the IPA would be credentialed by the university and could negotiate with managed-care companies. Promoters argue that since people already use alternative medicine you may as well certify the practitioners. But critics cry foul: How can the university endorse treatments with no scientific basis, especially when the idea for the IPA comes from the owner of a line of herbal products?
Correction to last week's What's New: The investigation of Dr. Liburdy involved his research on calcium-ion cell fluxes.
(Helene Grossman contributed to this weeks What's New.)