Friday, 13 August 1999 Washington, DC
1. EVOLUTION: "TOTO, I'VE A FEELING WE'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE."
Uh, sorry Dorothy, it's Kansas all right--Oz is not this strange. The tireless foes of reason employed a new strategy this time. Rather than insisting that "creationism" be taught, or banning evolution from the classroom, both of which face constitutional obstacles, the elected state school board simply deleted any reference to evolution from the curriculum. And it wasn't just biological evolution; any mention of "big bang" theory was also explicitly eliminated. The chair of the school board defended the decision on NBC News last night: "Where is the evidence for that canine-looking creature that somehow has turned into a porpoise-looking creature," she asked, "or the cow that somehow has turned into a whale?" How do these people get on school boards? Philistines are much better organized than scientists. "I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog too." Scary story.
2. ECONOMICS 101: MEANWHILE, MICHIGAN INVESTS IN BIOTECHNOLOGY.
Using $1 billion of its tobacco settlement money, Michigan aims to become tops in life sciences research, attracting the sort of industries that Kansas seems determined to drive off. Back in Kansas, today's Topeka Capital-Journal says a software company has already crossed Topeka off a list of possible locations for a regional headquarters. The company's CEO says the education board's action "isolates Kansas and handicaps its children in a competitive and unforgiving world." Governor Bill Graves expressed disappointment and said the boards's action has left people across the country wondering "What's going on in Kansas?"
3. PALEONTOLOGY 101: EUKARYOTES ARE MUCH OLDER THAN SUPPOSED.
On the same day the Kansas school board put the age of the Earth at less than 10,000 years, scientists in Australia were reporting evidence that eukaryotes existed 2.7 billion years ago.
4. CIRCULAR A-110: COMMENT PERIOD COMES AT A BAD TIME.
OMB's call for comments on changes in the rules on public access to research data comes just as scientists are flying off to international conferences and vacations. The comment period ends on Sep 10. If you're back, you can view A-110 at
Otherwise, the final version will be waiting for you.
5. LOS ALAMOS: FORMER DIRECTOR ON THE PUNISHMENT LIST.
Secretary of Energy Richardson announced yesterday that he was recommending that John Brown, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, take disciplinary action against two former counterintelligence officials and Sig Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos. No criminal charges have ever been filed against Wen Ho Lee.
Helene Grossman contributed to this issue of WHAT'S NEW.