Friday, 19 July 96 Washington, DC
1. DOE: PHYSICS PROGRAMS HOLD THEIR OWN IN FY 97 SPENDING BILLS.
Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate finished work on Energy and Water Appropriations. The Senate bill would just about offset inflation for most physics programs, which is not bad considering the prospects at the start of the process. DOE is still a prime political target and may yet be eliminated as a cabinet level department, but no one wants that fight in an election year. Instead, DOE must compete with dozens of popular pork-barrel projects. Nevertheless, under the Senate bill, Basic Energy Sciences would increase about 1.3%, Nuclear 4.6%, High Energy 1%, and Fusion 5.5%. House numbers are marginally lower.
2. TRAIN WRECK '97? REPUBLICAN LEADERS BACK AWAY FROM EARLY CR.
The leaders have been urging passage of a continuing resolution before the August break to avoid getting hung up this fall when members need to be campaigning. The CR would keep the government running till March without an appropriation. But Bob Livingston (R-LA), House Appropriations Committee chair, hates the idea. Appropriators get their power from appropriating. In an angry meeting Wednesday night, Senate Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) agreed to wait at least until September. Meanwhile, the Senate broke a filibuster (WN 12 Jul 96) and passed a Defense spending bill that includes $10B for pet weapons the Pentagon doesn't want.
3. GLOBAL WARMING? U.S. SWITCHES POLICY ON GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS.
At the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Geneva, the Clinton administration said it now supports a binding agreement to reduce industrial emissions in the developed countries. The U.S. had previously called for voluntary measures. The reversal is seen as endorsing the International Panel on Climate Change, which concluded that greenhouse emissions are a probable factor in warming. The IPCC has been under fire from the Global Climate Coalition and other industry groups. However, the attack was focused on the integrity of the IPCC (WN 21 Jun 96), which may have served only to divert attention from questionable science.
4. RADON: FINNISH STUDY CONFIRMS YOU CAN BREATHE A LITTLE EASIER.
A major new study found no link between residential radon levels and lung cancer, confirming several earlier studies (WN 13 Jan 95). American homeowners have spent about $400M on detection and mitigation of radon. They were responding to EPA warnings that radon is responsible for as much as 10% of all lung cancer, based on a linear extrapolation from the massive exposures experienced by uranium miners. But it has been clear for years that the linear model fails at low exposures due to DNA repair mechanisms.
5. WASHINGTON SHUTTLE: ANNE PETERSEN LEAVING NSF AFTER TWO YEARS.
NSF today confirmed rumors that the Deputy Director is leaving to become a senior vice president of the Kellogg Foundation.