Friday, 27 August 1999 Washington, DC
1. DEVOLUTION: WILL NO ONE STAND UP FOR DARWIN?
True vertebrate fossils first appear in the Middle Ordovician some 500 million years ago. It's not clear just when the spine began to disappear among presidential wannabes, but little trace seems to remain. Last week, when WN asked Gore's campaign office for his reaction to the Kansas School Board action, his spokesperson dodged behind local control
(WN 20 Aug 99).
This week, Reuters posed the same question: "The Vice President favors the teaching of evolution in public schools," a spokesperson replied. He should have stopped there. "Obviously that decision should and will be made at the local level, and localities should be free to teach creationism as well." Gasp! The Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional in 1987. Informed of that, the spokesperson called Reuters several hours later with a clarification, "The Vice President supports the right of school boards to teach creationism within the context of religious courses and not science courses."
2. SPY HYSTERIA: THE CASE AGAINST WEN HO LEE APPEARS TO COLLAPSE.
On Monday, Notra Trulock, who triggered the investigation into suspected Chinese espionage, resigned amid charges that ethnicity led to his singling out of Lee. It has been clear for weeks that there was insufficient evidence to charge Lee with espionage, now it seems unlikely that he will be charged even with mishandling classified information, particularly since the government has decided not to prosecute former CIA director John Deutch for similar violations. Meanwhile, the Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers, a 26-year old employee organization at Lawrence Livermore, has called for reexamination of the decision to impose widespread polygraph testing
3. BUDGET: ACADEMIC PORK GOES UP AS SCIENCE BUDGET GOES DOWN.
What is going on in the House of Representatives? As former APS President D. Allan Bromley pointed out in a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday, House appropriators have slashed NASA science $678M; science at DOE is cut by $116M; and the NSF budget is $275M below the president's request. As if that weren't enough, a front page story in the New York Times on Tuesday, picking up on a WN story
(WN 6 Aug 99),
points out that a lot of what remains is earmarked for projects in the home districts of the appropriators without benefit of proposal submission or peer review.
4. CHANDRA: X-RAY TELESCOPE SENDS BACK ITS FIRST IMAGES!
Amidst all the gloomy news of budget cuts and human foolishness, NASA released the glorious first image from Chandra. The picture of Cassiopeia A supernova remnants may show not only that Chandra works, but also the long-sought compact mass at the center. As a measure of confidence, Chandra is in a highly elliptical orbit to avoid radiation from the magnetosphere and cannot be serviced. Chandra images are posted at
Helene Grossman contributed to this issue of WHAT'S NEW.