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Policies in the News: January 2001
By Dr. Joel P. Rutkowski

Table of Contents

The American Voice Institute Policy Statement on Education

U.S. Scores Still Lag Behind the Rest of the World
Students Receive Extra Time on SAT's
Phonics Teaching Students How to Read

The American Voice Institute Policy Statement on Environment

Global Warming: Over Before It Began
Ozone Hole Will Start to Shrink
Climate Talks End in Failure

Health Care
The American Voice Institute Policy Statement on Health Care

Chronic Illness in United States on the Rise
UnderEstimation of Health Care Costs

Medicare Ignored Firms Involvement in a Massive Fraud Case
India Is Selling Cheap Copycat 'Generic' Drugs

International Issues
The American Voice Institute Policy Statement on International Issues

Deadly Weapons Stockpiled by Saddam
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Could Spread Warns Cohen)
Report: In Any New Korean Conflict, U.S. to Deploy 690,000
Squandering U.S. Aid

National Defense
The American Voice Institute Policy Statement on National Defense

In a Test-Ban Era Testing the Aging Stockpile

The American Voice Institute Policy Statement on Regulation

Executive Orders Result in More Regulation

To read March 2001 — Policies in Today's News, Click Here.


U.S. Scores Still Lag Behind the Rest of the World

Despite efforts in the past several years to improve in subjects that are crucial to competing in the global marketplace, eighth-graders in the United States continue to lag behind many of their counterparts in math and science performance, particularly those in Asia.

A study was released on December 5, 2000, that is a follow-up to the widely reported Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) of 1995, comparing academic performance of eighth graders around the world. Although U.S. eighth grade students exceeded the international average on tests in both math and science, they still fell well below students from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore as well as students in Australia and Canada.

The newly released 1999 report found "no widespread, substantive change" over the past four years said William H. Schmidt, national research coordinator for the 1995 TIMSS study. Schmidt, a professor of applied statistics at Michigan State University and the U.S. coordinator of the study said, "I certainly think these are disappointing results. This really does say something about our children's chances for securing good jobs. The world's economy is now truly international." Corporations will look to other nations for qualified workers if U.S. students are not prepared to fill demanding high-tech jobs.

In the 1999 assessment, coined the TIMSS-R, the "R" standing for repeat, 38 nations participated. The United States did better than 18 nations in science and 17 nations in math. However, overall it fell below 14 countries.

Some of the nations that participated in the 1995 study dropped out in 1999, while other new nations joined up. Researchers from the Department of Education cautioned that comparing results from the two studies is difficult.

The latest report looked at student achievement only in the eighth grade while the TIMSS covered students in the fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades. Researchers argued that the middle school years were the crucial times when students' math and science performances often begin to wane.

The report, released by the department's National Center for Education Statistics, said that over the four-year period between the two studies, there was no statistically significant change in eighth grade mathematics or science achievement in the United States. However, testing better than the eighth graders who took the test four years ago, were U.S. eighth graders in 1999.

The latest TIMSS results were called "a disturbing trend," by Representative Bill Goodling (Republican-Pennsylvania) and chairman of the House education committee.

Representative Goodling said, "These test results are indicative that for too many years, we place a priority on process."

The average score for all nations was set at 500 by the TIMSS-R. The report said math scores ranged from a high of 604 in Singapore to a low of 275 in South Africa, and in science a high score of 569 in Taiwan to 243 in South Africa. U.S. students scored 515 in science and 502 in math.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said U.S. students exceeded the average in three of five math subjects and were at the international average in two others. Algebra, geometry, fractions and numbers sense, data representation, analysis and probability were the test areas in math. Earth science, chemistry, scientific inquiry, environment, life science and physics were the six science content areas. Secretary Riley said U.S. eighth graders exceeded the world average in five of those six subjects in science.

U.S. educators must make rapid changes in the way math and science are taught in middle schools if they want to see significant progress on a global scale said Michigan State's Schmidt, "We have not taken seriously the message of change that needs to take place in our middle school curriculum." He added, "In 1995, we found out middle school students in other countries study geometry, algebra, chemistry, and physics. In this country, we're still teaching elementary arithmetic and elementary science."

The TIMSS-R puts the focus on the need to improve teacher quality said Rita R. Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation citing findings from both the 1995 and the 1999 studies that U.S. eighth grade math and science teachers are less likely to have majors or minors in their teaching fields than their counterparts abroad. She said the nation's educators can learn plenty from other countries in this area. Compared to their international peers, U.S. eighth grade students are less likely to be taught by teachers who majored in the subject (41 percent versus 71 percent) they are teaching.

"We know kids can't learn what their teachers don't deeply understand," she added.

Chuck Williams, director for teacher quality at the National Education Association said, "If we're going to look at international math and science scores, we've got to look at the extent to which all children in America have access to qualified teachers in these areas." He added, "Youngsters in urban communities have less chance to have a teachers who is licensed in math and science than in any other area."

Also, in teaching styles and curriculum, there are considerable differences. U.S. classrooms, for example, compared to other countries attempt to cover many more subjects in a year than their peers in high-performing classrooms. Compared to their international peers, U.S. eighth grade students spend less time outside class studying mathematics and science.

Gathering new information to sort out these academic issues was one of the main reasons the U.S. officials backed a repeat of the TIMSS-R.

A key question for policymakers is why U.S. students' performance decreased in relationship to the global average as grade levels increased.

The TIMSS-R, which was available in 34 languages, was taken by more than 180,000 eighth graders, including 9,072 U.S. students. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement conducted the study. In both 1995 and 1999 studies, twenty-three of the participating nations gave the math and science tests. During that period, most of those countries including the U.S. demonstrated no significant gain.

A wide achievement gap between whites and Latinos and African Americans was demonstrated by an analysis of the U.S. test results. Also, as parent education levels increase, test scores increase.

Other findings revealed by the study include the following:

1. As U.S. eighth-graders progressed through the school system, they fell behind their international peers. Compared to fourth graders who were tested in 1995, eighth graders last year had lower average scores. Fourth graders were not included in the 1999 study.

2. Reaching the highest levels on the math test - the 90th percentile and above eluded most U.S. eighth graders. Just nine percent achieved that level. In Singapore, nearly 50 percent of the eighth graders reached the 90th percentile.

3. In math, only African Americans demonstrated gains among ethnic and racial groups. The department cited a significant increase in the average math scores for the nation's black students which rose 25 points.

4. In math, U.S. boys and girls earned comparable scores; however, in science boys scored higher.

James Stigler, professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles said, "Some U.S. teachers have the idea that most kids can't learn algebra; even parents believe it. But that's not true in other countries. You end up holding yourself to a lower standard than is necessary, and ultimately that's not good for the nation."

An example of a math question:

A club has 86 members, and there are 14 more girls than boys. How many boys and how many girls are members of the club?

Show your work (answer given in the test)

X + (14+x) = 86
2x + 14 = 86
2x + 14-14 = 86-14
2x/2 = 72/2


Answer: There are 36 boys and 50 girls.

This question was answered correctly by 29 percent of U.S. eighth graders; in Singapore - 72 percent ; in Taipei, Taiwan - 66 percent; in Russia - 40 percent.

(Source: Boston College, International Study Center, Third International Mathematics and Science Study Center - Report, International Average is 33 percent.)

(Gail Russell Chaddock, "U.S. eighth-graders beat global average in math," The Christian Science Monitor, December 6, 2000; Diana Jean Schemo, "Worldwide Survey Finds U.S. Students Are Not Keeping Up," The New York Times, December 6, 2000; Duke Helfand, "U.S. Math, Science Students Still Trail Top Ranks," Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2000; Andrea Billups, "U.S. Students lag in math, science," The Washington Times, December 6, 2000)


Students Receive Extra Time on SAT's

The California State auditor reported on November 30, 2000, that a disproportionate number of white students from wealthy families received extra time on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) college entrance exam. (This number also includes some who may not have deserved it.) At the same time, less affluent minority students, needing more assistance due to learning disabilities, received no help.

The three-hour examination that weighs heavily in admissions decisions to the nation's most selective colleges and universities revealed "wide demographic disparities" among 1999 high school graduates claiming a learning disability and received longer time which was usually four and a half hours.

Auditors concluded that a lack of awareness of their rights under disability laws or weaknesses in their school's procedures for identifying and screening students with suspected disabilities prevented some deserving students from getting the accommodations obtained by the affluent at many public high schools.

Auditors found questionable and potentially unwarranted cases of students receiving special treatment in six of seven districts in wealthy areas, including Beverly Hills, Palo Alto and Encinitas. According to their assessment, students rated four times higher than that of their public school counterparts.

The auditors concluded that, "Some undeserving students may have received extra time on standardized tests, possibly giving these students an unfair advantage over other students taking the same test."

After an article in the Los Angeles Times reported an increase over five years of more than 50 percent in the number of students who claimed a learning disability in order to get extra time or other accommodations, state Senator Richard Alarco (Democrat-Sylmar) requested the audit.

To make sure that California high schools give no student a special edge and that all students have equal access to their rights under disability laws, Senator Alarco promised to reintroduce legislation next year and said, "It's not just the media pointing out a problem. Now, we have a state audit pointing out the same problem. So we ought to fix them."

A Los Angeles Times Computer analysis demonstrated that those receiving special treatment are concentrated in the wealthiest communities although only a small percentage of students - about 1.9 percent nationwide get special accommodations. However, in poor inner city schools in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, it is a rare occurrence.

The analysis demonstrated that three to five times as likely as other to get extended time are students in elite private prep schools as well as students attending the richest suburbs public high schools.

The audit reported, "Although having extra time on a college entrance exam does not guarantee a higher score, it may provide students with the opportunity for a better score. For some high-achieving students, a small to moderate score gain could potentially mean the difference between acceptance and rejection at the most competitive schools across the country."

Critical of the College Board, which owns the SAT, for relying so heavily on high schools to determine whether students qualify for extra time was the 49-page report of the auditors. Appeals were heard by the board which grants only about one out of five.

College admissions officers and high school counselors were taken aback to watch some parents shop around for a psychologist who will supply them with the documentation they require to prove their child has a previously undiagnosed learning disability that warrants testing accommodation.

Pressure is exerted on the local high schools that are more likely to give in than the nationwide network of College Board experts for the most part.

These reports were confirmed by the audit that indicated at one district a student was allowed "to obtain questionable accommodations on a college entrance exam, [as a result of] the threat of litigation."

However, that problem has been handled by the American College Testing Program (ACT), an organization with a competing college entrance exam that requires within a year of the exam that any student diagnosed with a learning disability submit documentation for review. The number of requests have declined for extra time as a result.

It was acknowledged that such gamesmanship concerns Brian O'Reilly, executive director of the College Board's SAT program and his colleagues. To make sure "students are not slipping in for reasons that do not really deserve accommodations," he said they work hard.

Of California's public high schools, nearly 70 percent had no graduating senior who took the SAT with extended time. In addition, 73 percent of California's private high schools gave permission to students for extended testing time on the SAT.

However, the practice was prevalent and sometimes questionable for some schools, the auditors found. The audit said, "We reviewed the files of 330 California students from 18 public schools, most of whom obtained special accommodations on standardized tests and found the basis for their accommodations questionable in 60 cases or 18.2 percent." Most students were from wealthy suburbs.

It was found around the state that white students received a disproportionate amount of extra time on the exam. Of those receiving extra time on the SAT, 55.5 percent of the graduating seniors were white although only 37.8 percent of California's students are white.

In comparison, 42 percent of California's student enrollment is Latino. But only a fraction of that population received extra time on the SAT - only 6.3 percent.

Regional differences among students who received special accommodations were also noted by the audit. Compared to some wealthy enclaves along the East Coast, California does not take advantage of the program with as much frequency. Compared with five percent in Connecticut and 6.8 percent in the District of Columbiah, only 1.2 percent of California's students received extra time.

(Kenneth R. Weiss, "Audit Confirms Disparities in SAT Testing," Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2000)


Phonics Teaching Students How to Read

In Indianapolis, as teacher Kathy Alfke selects the next word for the class to spell 14 pairs of inquisitive eyes are glued to the chalkboard.

"Seafood" is seized upon by the second-graders as they pronounce the word with ease. To emphasize the word's syllables and know there are two sets of vowels amid the consonants, the children clap hands.

In sing-song unison, the children recite "When two vowels are together, the first one usually speaks its name, and the second is silent."

Through a time-tested method of instruction, these eight-year olds are learning reading and writing at this Indianapolis Public School (IPS) 44.

This method works as can be seen by much-improved test scores in reading and writing.

The debate over phonics in recent years has taken on political overtones. Sounding the loudest of all for phonics instruction are reform-minded conservatives. However, more typically, liberals are advocates of the rival whole-language approach.

Whole language, for the most part, uses a sight-word approach to reading, relying more on memorizing an entire word then breaking it down into simple sounds. Phonics is just the opposite - children learn to sound out words, matching each letter of the alphabet to its particular sound. A variety of scattershot approaches in elementary reading education have resulted as both methods have been debated for much of the twentieth century.

Phonics is already integrated into whole language reading instruction claims the National Council of Teachers of English, based in Urbana, Illinois. The Council says it is silly to argue that either is an absolute or superior to the other.

Kathy Egawa, assistant executive director of the Council and a former elementary school teacher said, "You can't read without phonics. It's a basic skill."

Since it was not working, the concept of whole language instruction was stopped in 1996 in Switzerland County schools. Currently, elementary students in the Vevay school district learn to read by using phonics. Tragically proving to be a catastrophe there was whole language. Superintendent Chester Meisberger said, "It was a faster method, but a poorer method."

Until the depression era, phonics instruction was common. About 1940, the "look-say" reading method was introduced into the American public education system and eclipsed the phonics reading methods. As a result, the rote method of learning (instead of phonics) became a mainstay until the 1950's when the book Why Johnny Can't Read, Inc. reintroduced phonics to the American public. Despite sharp criticism from the American public education system, Why Johnny Can't Read became popular among American parents and was considered to be the bible of phonics.

Due to its renaissance in the 1950's, phonics re-emerged in some schools (about 20 years later), with flash cards to teach suffixes, prefixes and consonant and vowel combinations.

Gaining a foothold more than ten years ago however, was a slightly modified form of the look-say method with a new name - whole language. The steady shift of the pendulum from one reading method to the other has even the experts baffled.

Eighty-year-old retired teacher Mercedes B. Russow says, "There is more idiocy in the educational system. The education system is weird, from top to bottom." The Direct Approach to Reading and Spelling, a more intense method of phonics instruction that generations ago was widely used by IPS and other school districts throughout the nation, was developed by Russow's mother, Pauline Banks. Russow, like many other ardent phonics supporters, suspects ulterior motives in efforts to keep the methods out of the classroom, "If people cannot read and spell, they cannot think. I think the government is keeping the people ignorant so they can be led by a dictator. I do."

During the last session of the General Assembly, Indiana lawmakers dabbled in the phonics issue. A bill that would require new elementary school teachers by July 2001 to be trained in phonics prior to being licensed was passed by the legislature. Two years ago, a State Department of Education Policy started reviewing phonics instruction. All licensed teachers received phonics tool kits last spring from the state education department. At a cost of $3.50 each, the kits were distributed to 15,000 teachers, school administrators, and state university schools of education. The department was prompted to order 5,000 more for distribution as a result of high demand for the kits.

Alfke considered quitting, teaching four years ago because she was so frustrated with teaching methods that did not work and principals who jumped from one experiment to another. Alfke, at the time, did not know how to reverse the trend of many of her fourth-grade students' poor reading skills. To reflect, she took a year off. Alfke heard about Russow's phonics tutoring at the one-room schoolhouse during her leave and was trained in the Direct Approach by Russow herself. Later, Alfke returned to Indiana's largest school district to teach the newly approved phonics method.

School 44 had one of the worst academic records in the district, and she was assigned to it. On "double probation" and in danger of being forced to close, the school was in a decaying neighborhood with half the student body living in poverty. Phonics, slowly resulted in test score increases at the school. This year, more than 50 percent of the 60 third graders taking the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) passed English.

Phonics has become so successful that children taking it have resulted in the benefits to be doubled. Principal Rubie Crockett, a 32-year IPS veteran who had been assigned to the troubled school to turn it around said, "We had a student who used phonics to teach his mother to read. She didn't know how to read. That is so sad. If you can't read, you will definitely not succeed."

The school's phonics program was credited for instilling a love of words and language in 12-year-old Kyle Jones. For two years, Kyle attended the elementary school and thought reading outside the classroom was boring at first. Then, he entered Alfke's classroom. Presently, the sixth-grader who has moved on to Attucks Middle School pesters his mother to make frequent visits to libraries and bookstores.

At present, Alfke teaches two days a week; the rest of the time she trains teachers in phonics. The National Right to Read Foundation recently recognized Alfke for her work by naming her Teacher of the Year. (Kim L. Hooper, "Phonics creates sound of success. Sometimes - controversial way of teaching reading has passed the test in one struggling IPS school," Indianapolis Star, October 25, 2000)



Global Warming: Over Before It Began

It appears that the world had warmed in the half century or so up to 1940 but has not warmed since says S. Fred Singer, a meterologist at the University of Virginia. The notion that it was a result of human activity is discounted by Singer, but he admits he does not know the cause of the warming then.

The basis for Singer's conclusions are studies of coral reefs, ice-core bore holes and tree rings. There has been an increase in greenhouse gases concurs Singer. However, he theorizes that was the result of a "greening of the planet,,more vigorous forest growth and improved agricultural yields. Temperature readings which appear to show a pronounced warming since 1975 may have been distorted by "heat islands" caused by urbanization speculated Singer. However, satellite records of temperatures three-miles above the earth's surface - which demonstrate no evidence of warming - also do not confirm surface temperature data which supports the warming theory.

During a United Nations sponsored conference at the Hague in November that attempted to draft rules requiring reduction in greenhouse gases, Professor Singer made his remarks. As the United States and Western Europe twice failed to agree on the fine print of a plan, the conference on climate change collapsed in an embarrassing international fiasco after overnight parleys on November 25, 2000.

(John-Thor Dahlburg, "Climate-Change Meeting Fizzles After Flare-Up," Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2000; "Skeptic Rebuts Warming Premise," The Washington Times, November 24, 2000)


Ozone Hole Will Start to Shrink

According to an international panel, the hole in the Southern Hemisphere's ozone layer will begin shrinking within a decade and in the next 50 years should close completely. Just three months after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) revealed that the size of the ozone hole in the Southern Hemisphere had grown to 11 million square miles and had reached the tip of South America for the first time, the data unveiled at a conference in Argentina suggests that the global effort to reduce the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) - the main menace to the ozone layer - is succeeding.

A reduction in levels of ultra-violet radiation around the globe should result from the recovery.

For the first time since scientists from the British Antarctic Survey discovered the ozone hole in 1985, data from the Cape Grimm monitoring station in Tasmania demonstrate that CFC-levels in the lower atmosphere are beginning to decline.

There will be a similar decline in the stratosphere over the next decade, leading to a recovery in levels of ozone according to a new mathematical model, the most accurate yet devised.

During the meeting in Argentina of the Stratospheric Processes and their Role in Climate panel, a project of the World Climate Programme, it was explained that the dramatic recovery could, however, be slowed by as much as 30 years by global warming or by severe volcanic eruptions. It would also depend on continued efforts to keep ozone emissions low by the global community. Additionally, before recovery begins, the hole could also grow slightly over the next five years.

The news was a "triumph" for global cooperation said professor Alan O'Neill, the director of the Centre for Global Atmospheric Modelling, University of Reading, and chair of the panel. He said the 1987 Montreal Protocol, in which most governments pledged to reduce their use of CFC's, could be attributed to the success.

Annual ozone output has declined from 306,000 ozone depletion potential tones (ODP tones) to 2,500 by the United States. Japan has reduced its output from 118,000 ODP tones to zero and the 12 nations that were then members of the European Union have declined their use from 301,000 to 4,300 ODP tones.

(Mark Henderson, "Ozone hole will heal, say scientists," The [London] Times, December 4, 2000)


Climate Talks End in Failure

The United Nations (U.N.) conference on climate change at The Hague in November was convened to write the detailed rules for carrying out the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty forged in 1997 in Japan that, by 2012, would require three dozen industrialized nations to have reduced their combined emissions of greenhouse gases to five percent below 1990 levels.

Since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, several meetings have occurred to establish standards for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. These meetings have met many challenges as the negotiators try to regulate the burning of fossil fuels - affecting the energy that fuels most modern conveniences.

A central issue of the meetings was whether developing nations would be accountable for emission reduction at Kyoto. However, in fewer of the sharp disputes between the United States and the European Union where the Green Party holds substantial say, issues quickly slid to the back burner.

One highly contentious debate, for example, centered on how much credit toward emissions targets nations should get for using farmland or forests to absorb the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

Initially, the U.S. tried to reach its emissions-reducing target half-way by using its forests as a carbon dioxide "sink." However, the U.S. was met with strong objection from the European Union, claiming that this ploy was a backhanded way for the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases to reduce its target.

Agreeing to a pared-back proposal, the U.S. met with three negotiators representing Europe, early on the morning of November 25, 2000.

Unfortunately, the agreement was summarily rejected when the rest of the European Union examined the deal, which included complicated calculating of forest acres and carbon tons.

Immediately following the meeting, a news conference was held by environmental groups associated with the European position. Bill Hare, the top climate campaigner for Greenpeace International said, "We're better off with no deal than a bad deal." The United States and other nations that sought forest credits including Japan, Canada, and Australia, were denounced as trying to weaken emissions targets by the groups. However, the focus of the most vitriol was the United States. A Greenpeace leaflet said, "The U.S. remained immovable in its desire to placate business and industry back home."

In Ottawa, Canada, officials said that although a final accord remained elusive, the United States, Canada and the European Union vowed on December 7, 2000, to continue their efforts to salvage an international agreement on curbing global warming. David Sandalow, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for oceans, environment and science, who led the American delegation in Ottawa said, "We made progress on technical issues and clarified matters that had been discussed at The Hague, but lots remains to be done. It wasn't just a few tons [of pollutants] that separated the parties at The Hague. It was the lack of common understanding and some key issues…I would characterize [the meeting] as useful, but much more needs to be done."

The chief topic of discussion was the issue of carbon sinks said Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson. He said, there was "some recognition by the European Union," that "a ton of carbon taken out of the air by agriculture practice has the same effect as … carbon taken out of the air by industry … There was discussion on how you would measure it. We believe those concerns can be met. They are less optimistic than we are."

A global reduction in greenhouse gases by at least five percent below 1990 levels is called for by the agreement reached in Kyoto. The United States agreed to a seven percent reduction, Japan six percent, and the E.U. agreed to reduce emissions by eight percent. Developing nations including China, a huge emitter of greenhouse gases, were exempted. Until they establish rules to meet, the target nations have been generally unwilling to ratify the accord.

There is tremendous scientific uncertainty about how much climate is likely to change in the future and what precisely man's role in that change is although there is a consensus among scientists that the world has warmed in the last 25 years.

Pointing to data from land-based monitoring in the United States, a group of seven scientists brought together by S. Fred Singer reported that Europe demonstrated no warming in recent years. S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist who was the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and most recently chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Transportation, led the group's meeting outside The Hague. Additional data from the group revealed that severe weather events had not increased, contrary to popular claims.

Unanimously, a resolution was passed by the U.S. Senate prior to Kyoto requesting that any climate treaty the administration submitted to it must involve developing nations in reductions as well as the United States. Also, the benefit of the treaty outweighing its economic harm would have to be demonstrated by the administration.

Annually, an estimated 1.5 billion tons of carbon is released into the atmosphere by the United States. Originally, U.S. representatives wanted to credit America's woodlands with sponging up annually 310 million tons of carbon. That figure was reduced to 125 million tons when faced with international and environmental opposition. People familiar with the negotiations said the Clinton administration's representative further reduced the number to 75 million tons and went even lower to 40 million which reportedly was an unanswered offer.

In May 2001 in Bonn, delegates are scheduled to convene at the U.N. conference. The next full-blown negotiations are scheduled to occur in October 2001 at Marrakech, Morocco.

Senator Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement after the failure of The Hague conference, "I believe a new approach to dealing with the risk of climate change is necessary - one that adopts a longer-term, global perspective to emissions reductions and relies on investments in domestic and international clean energy technology research and development."

During the week of December 18, 2000, the U.S. declined to attend a meeting with European Union ministers on the issue of global warming. To allow the two sides an opportunity to settle the disagreements over reductions in greenhouse gases that led to the failure of last month's U.N.-sponsored talks in the Hague, Norway had offered to host the meeting. However, the U.S. had already made it clear that it would not be represented in Oslo if a successful outcome was unlikely.

It was fortunate that there was no agreement at The Hague. The best thing that could have happened was the collapse of the climate change negotiations. Adoptions of such an agreement would have empowered the U.N. and done more harm than good for the United States.

("US 'spurns' global warming talks," BBC News, December 18, 2000; DeNeen L. Brown, "Global Warming Accord Remains Elusive," The Washington Post, December 8, 2000; Tom Cohen, "Progress Reported in Pollution Talks," The Associated Press, December 7, 2000; Andrew C. Reskin, Odd Culprits in Collapse of Climate Talks, The New York Times, November 28, 2000; James K. Glassman, "Climate Treaty Deadlock Shows Lack of Consensus and Common Sense," Tech Central Station, November 27, 2000; John-Thor Dahlburg, "Climate-Change Meeting Fizzles After Flare-up," Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2000)



Chronic Illness in United States on the Rise

Researchers indicate that in everything from allergies to heart disease, nearly 50 percent of Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, which for this year is 20 million more cases than doctors had anticipated.

By 2020, the fast-growing toll, now at 125 million among a population of 276 million, will reach 157 million. Complicating their care and making it more expensive, 20 percent of Americans have two or more chronic illnesses.

On November 29, 2000, Dr. Gerard Anderson of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University told a meeting of 1,000 chronic disease specialists that the nation is unprepared to cope with the growing burden of chronic disease, with annual medical bills alone expected to almost double to $1.07 trillion by 2020.

Anderson said, "We think it's the major public health challenge that could affect all Americans."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which convened to explore ways to better prevent and fight long-term illness, reports that while doctors have made major advances in treating certain chronic illnesses, they cause 70 percent of all U.S. deaths.

Partly since so many different diseases qualify, it is a difficult subject to analyze. Someone may not be killed by simple allergies but may require a lifetime of doctor visits and medication. Even more complex drug therapy, surgery and testing can be required for heart disease. Alzheimer's disease that eventually will require round-the-clock care is at the other extreme.

Many chronic diseases can be stalled by preventative care such as weight management, disease screening, exercise, nutrition and geriatric assessments. However, according to Anderson, preventative health care maintenance takes longer than writing a prescription, and few insurers reimburse this activity. In addition, many Americans would rather demand payment for convenience and luxury than preventative health measures. An insurance director argued to Anderson that his clients were not interested in payment for procedures to prevent illnesses they might not get for decades but demanded payment for many optional procedures such care as in vitro fertilization.

A rural Maryland physician's lament about his diabetic patient was then cited by Anderson, an overweight farmer whose insurance pays for a 20-minute visit, just enough time to adjust medication and to test his blood sugar. Helping the man lose weight would do more good, but he is not paid to do that said the doctor.

Anderson reported that already suffering multiple chronic illnesses are 60 million Americans, a number expected by 2020 to reach 81 million as the population ages.

Anderson also said that in out-of-pocket expense, someone without a chronic illness pays an average of $182 annually compared with $369 in out-of-pocket payments from patients with one chronic illness. For someone battling three or more diseases, payment often exceeds $1,106 annually.

He concluded by comparing a healthy person's total annual health costs with someone with chronic illness - $1,105 versus $6,032. The second figure is likely to rise even higher, the more disabling the chronic illness becomes.

(Lauran Neergaard, "Chronic Illness Burden Rising," The Associated Press, November 29, 2000)


Underestimation of Health Care Costs

A federal agency panel has concluded, partly as a result of advances in medical technology, that the long-term financial outlook for Medicare is less rosy than previously thought. As a result, health cost will grow faster than the government assumed.

On November 20, 2000, the findings were presented to Donna E. Shalala, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, by the chairman of the panel, composed of three economists and three actuaries.

"We think health care costs will grow somewhat faster than the trustees now assume. That means that the current long-term projection of Medicare spending over the next 75 years are low," said Dale H. Yamamoto, the chairman of the panel.

The hospital insurance trust fund, which pays hospital bills for Medicare beneficiaries, would be solvent until 2025 said the trustees of the Medicare program in April. However, the trust fund would run out of money four years sooner, in 2021 under the new assumptions recommended by the advisory panel.

To 39 million people who are elderly or disabled, Medicare is the primary care provider. Expected to double by 2010 is last year's cost - $218 billion in the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2000.

To evaluate the assumptions, estimates and forecasts made annually by the trustees, the panel, known as the Technical Review Panel on the Medicare Trustees' Reports, was created by Dr. Shalala.

Conclusions made by the panel will be presented by Shalala to other trustees of the Medicare program, including Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers and Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman.

Medical devices, diagnostic products, drugs and surgical procedures are included in the new technology which range from everything from angioplasty to hip replacement to the radioactive "seeds" used to tract prostate cancer from digital mammography to laser surgery to artificial skin.

For new benefits, like coverage of prescription drugs, the panel did not discuss proposals. However, as Congress considers such expansions of the program, this report is likely to reinforce the need for caution.

It has been assumed by Medicare trustees that average health costs for each beneficiary will grow after 2025, at the same rate as the gross domestic product for several years. However, Secretary Shalala was told "that assumption is not necessarily reasonable," by Yamamoto, an expert on employee benefits at Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire, Illinois.

"Members of the panel believe that health care costs per beneficiary will grow about one percentage point more than the annual increase in gross domestic product per capita," in the long term said Mr. Yamamato.

"This is an important change. The current assumption by the Medicare trustees, in their last report, was that per capita G.D.P. would grow 1.2 percent a year over the next 75 years," said panelist Len M. Nichols, an economist at the Urban Institute.

Panel members said if the higher estimates are accurate, they imply that the annual cost of Medicare, after 75 years, would be 60 percent higher than currently assumed.

"Health spending is currently about 13.5 percent of gross domestic product. In 75 years, under the assumptions suggested by our panel, it would be 30 percent of G.D.P." said panelist David M. Cutler, a professor of economics at Harvard.

(Robert Pear, "Health Costs Underestimated, Experts Say," The New York Times, November 30, 2000)


Medicare Ignored Firms Involvement in a Massive Fraud Case

The General Accounting Office (GAO) said in a report released on December 1, 2000, that the agency running Medicare had renewed services with a firm to fight fraudulent claims against the government, despite the knowledge that the firm had been implicated in its own massive fraud case.

KPMG was directly involved with the allegations of fraud against Columbia/HCA, a health care company accused of massively bilking Medicare. The two companies, KPMG and Columbia/HCA were linked because of cost reports KPMG advised Columbia about which later were found to be fraudulent. Columbia agreed to pay a $750 million fee to settle the case, a fact the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) should have known when it renewed KPMG's contract.

The GAO said, "Senior HCFA officials should have used the information that was available to make an informed decision about KPMG's continued performance.

Representative Thomas Bliley (Republican-WA) chairman of the House Commerce Committee, who has been highly critical of HCFA, had requested the report. Pete Sheffield, representative spokesman, said, "It's beyond comprehension that HCFA, in trying to attack Medicare fraud, would hire KPGM, a company that's been associated with one of the largest fraud cases in the Medicare program's history. The little red devil that was sitting on the shoulder of Columbia is then given a contract to fight those very actions."

The agency has not reviewed the report yet but will "take action as appropriate," said Peter Ashkenaz, HCFA spokesman.

Due to lack of funding, the KPMG contract and four others like it were terminated in September. However, the organization, which used to be known as KPMG Peat Marwick, still works with HCFA on other contracts. In fact, the HCFA awarded KPMG the initial contract in September 1997, giving the agency authority to renew it annually before the allegations against Columbia/HCA and KPMG were ever made public. However, agency officials "knew or should have known" about pending civil and criminal actions when it renewed it in September 1998 and 1999.

The report said that none of the agency's staff had all the available information involved with the KPMG contract to terminate the relationship. Contrary to this claim, the GAO report stated that the officer handling the contract extension had heard a news account of the allegation but "had not taken it seriously."

Later, a related complaint against KPMG was filed by a whistle blower who gave the information anonymously to the officer. The allegations were discussed with KPMG officials and the officer who said the unit working on the current contract was not involved with the Columbia case. The HCFA concluded that the contract could be renewed based upon KPMG's satisfactory work and sufficient effort to resolve the allegation.

In the contract file, the HCFA officer did not include any of the negative information which later was "effectively lost," when she left her position early this year until GAO investigators interviewed her.

The agency wound up asking KPMG to audit the same company that employed the whistle blower since the information from the whistle-blower was never passed on. After the Justice Department learned of it and asked for the change, they took the firm off that assignment.

(Laura Meckler, "GAO: Medicare Ignored Fraud History," The Associated Press, December 1, 2000)


India Is Selling Cheap Copycat 'Generic' Drugs

Pharmaceutical giants in America spend fortunes on their billion dollar industry. In India, their products are copied and sold for a fraction of their price in America. Yusuf K. Hamied is one of these copycat manufacturers. Using pharmaceutical and medical journals (costing him $150,000 annually), Hamied carefully copies the carbon ring diagrams representing new molecules being tested in prescription formulas. From these he creates drugs to replace today's most common and profitable medications. His company, Cipla, Ltd., displays the 400 drugs currently made. In glass cabinets can be found Amlopres, a knock-off of the hypertension drug Norvasc, Forcan, a knock-off of the antifungal drug Diflucan; Nuzac, a knock-off of Prozac; Lomac, a knock-off of the ulcer drug Prilosec and Erecto, the company's knock-off of Viagra.

For the western companies that hold the patents, some of these compounds make $1 billion or more annually. However, in India that is not the case. Cipla, Ltd. sells those drugs for one-twentieth to one-fiftieth of the price paid in the United States. And at least under Indian law, they are all perfectly legal.

Yusuf K. Hamied, said, "We did a little study. Our turnover is $200 million. If we sold our products at the American-originator prices, our turnover would be $4 billion."

Dr. Hamied embodies the enemy to pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, Glaxo Wellcome and Aventis, which in research invest billions of dollars.

According to Indian law, only manufacturing processes are covered by patents, not the products themselves. Therefore, best-selling drugs can boldly be reversed-engineered by Indian drug companies and copies sold cheaply. Mr. Hamied boasted, "I make every Pfizer product."

Indian patent law is "designed to punish importers of patented technology into India and to coerce local production," says the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Unfortunately, the experience of some American drug makers "has been so negative that most companies have abandoned efforts to obtain or enforce patents in India," say PhRMA and calls India's licensing practices "infamous."

In dispute is exactly how much money Western pharmaceutical manufacturers lose in India, Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, and Thailand that fly the Jolly Roger of drug piracy. Of the $400 billion in annual world drug sales, a tenth of that or about $40 billion is lost according to some executives.

However, at the prices they charge Americans and Europeans, it is also true that Western pharmaceutical companies would sell very little in the developing world. The total of lost sales would be about $3 billion by Harvey E. Bale, Jr., director of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, a Geneva-based industry trade group.

It was also found by a PhRMA study released in February that losses in India were $69 million annually, which covered just 20 common knock-off drugs. The total loss figure for India was probably $100 million annually said Bale.

(Donald G. McNeil, Jr., "Selling Cheap 'Generic' Drugs, India's Copycats Irk Industry," The New York Times, December 1, 2000)



IRAQ — Deadly Weapons Stockpiled by Saddam

Western intelligence reports indicate that Saddam Hussein has chosen schools and hospitals to become the new locations for illegally stockpiling an arsenal of deadly chemical and biological weapons.

Large quantities of growth media are listed among items used to make biological weapons such as anthrax so potent that one teaspoon is enough to dissolve the kidneys, livers, and lungs of a million people and 610 tons of precursor chemicals for the production of VX, a nerve agent so deadly that one drop can kill.

"We have good reason to suspect that Iraq is still hiding chemical biological and weapons of mass destruction in a range of locations," said Peter Hain, the Foreign Office minister of the United Kingdom.

The Republican Guard, Saddam's elite force, apparently is shifting the weapons to new hiding places which satellite imaging has not revealed. These disclosures, based partly on the debriefing of defectors, have come despite the increase in tension between Saddam Hussein and the Western world leadership.

As the measure has failed to unseat Saddam, there is mounting opposition from Arab states and some in Europe such as France to maintain peace and control.

To the newly reopened Baghdad International airport, there have been many "humanitarian" flights in October carrying food, medicines and doctors from France, Ireland and Bulgaria. However, artists and politicians were included in one flight from France. Businessmen were carried by other flights from Russia, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

According to critics, only the old and sick are hurting from the sanctions, imposed in 1990 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. However said Peter Hain, "There's no reason at all for anyone in Iraq to be suffering." He pointed out that Iraq is now receiving £16 billion annually under the Oil for Food Program. This amounts to three times per capita what Egypt spends on food and medicines. If there are shortages, it's because of stock piling."

Iraq had admitted that it was hiding chemical and biological weapons and missile parts in the desert caves and railway tunnels before expelling the United Nations weapons inspectors in December 1998 noted Hain, "Sanctions are not a perfect mechanism. We want to see them suspended but only under the terms agreed at the U.N. which would allow back the weapons inspectors. If we just turned our back on Saddam who would defend the Kurds in the north as well as other countries in the region from Kuwait to Israel who he constantly threatens."

(Christina Lamb, "Saddam stockpiling deadly chemical weapons," The [London] Telegraph, November 19, 2000)


ISRAEL — Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Could Spread Warns Cohen)

During a Gulf tour, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen warned on November 18, 2000, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could spread into neighboring countries and run out of control.

The Defense Secretary told U.S. soldiers in Qatar, "The problem is that there is so much violence going on in the Middle East. Every day brings a new funeral, every funeral brings outrage, until someday it goes out of control."

The violence could spread to other countries in a region that has raged in the Palestinian territories since the end of September.

He told the soldiers at the Qatari base of Al-Saliyeh near Doha where the U.S. military has prepositioned arms, including 100 tanks, "When you have American soldiers on duty and on call, it gives them [the Gulf states] a level of comfort."

Earlier the same day, he held talks with United Arab Emirates (UAE) armed forces chief of staff, General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi.

One official told reporters traveling with Cohen that the UAE was a longstanding "good friend" of the United States and "the Middle East crisis has not derailed our relationship."

Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon said, "They [the UAE] want the U.S. to stay involved. They understand that the only option is to stop violence and to go back to the negotiating table. They…are supporting our efforts."

According to U.S. sources stationed in the UAE, there are around 300 U.S. aircrew that are involved in "Operation Southern Watch" to enforce a no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

The UAE was interested in purchasing U.S.-built Apache helicopters and wanted the return of U.S. sailors who used Dubai as a liberty call up until last month's bombing of the USS Cole in Yeman said Bacon. He continued to say that prior to a security alert in the Gulf states raised by the October 21, 2000, bombing in the Yemeni port of Aden killing 17 sailors U.S. sailors on shore leave spent a total of $50 million annually in Dubai.

Despite revenue from America's soldiers, the UAE has sided with Iraq in strong support of Baghdad's campaign to lift the embargo imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

(Jean-Michel Stoullig, "Cohen warns Israeli-Palestinian conflict could run "out of control." Agence France-Presse, November 18, 2000)


KOREA — Report: In Any New Korean Conflict, U.S. to Deploy 690,000 Troops

According to a South Korean defense ministry white paper published on December 4, 2000, the United States would deploy up to 690,000 troops on the Korean peninsula if a new war breaks out.

Despite the North-South reconciliation process launched this year, the United States remains concerned about North Korea's military strength. Currently, in the South, the U.S. has 37,000 permanent troops.

The number of troops that would be deployed in any new Korean conflict has been increased considerably by U.S. defense chiefs. The policy document said that the figure has increased from 480,000 in plans made in the early 1990's to 630,000 in the mid-1990's.

According to the policy update, "The latest Time Phased Forces Deployment Data for any contingency on the Korean Peninsula is comprised of 690,000 soldiers, 160 navy ships and 1,600 planes."

An accord to move toward reconciliation was produced by a summit in June between the South's President Kim Dae-Jung and the North's supreme leaders Kim Jong-Il. However, according to U.S. and South Korean military chiefs, it has done little to reduce military tensions.

A U.S. military official told Agence France-Presse, refusing to give details on the deployment of extra troops and equipment planned by the Pentagon, that "We always have various options."

However, the increase was described by the South Korean defense ministry as the result of a new U.S. "win-win strategy," which would require the United States to have the capability to fight two wars simultaneously, such as in the Middle East and East Asia.

The White Paper said, "This shows a strong U.S. determination to guard the Korean peninsula despite its plan to reduce the entire number of troops."

It also said that the U.S. plan focused on the deployment of aircraft carriers and advanced aircraft to attack enemy artillery units in the early stages of any war along with equipment to counter weapons of mass destruction.

A strong military partnership between the allies to deter war on the Korean peninsula was also called for by the White Paper. It said, "South Korea's partnership with the United States will ensure peace and deterrence of war on the peninsula and create an atmosphere for peaceful unification. And with sights beyond unification, this partnership will contribute to the stability of Northeast Asia. Based upon a robust combined defense posture, [South Korea] and the United States continue close consultation in implementing a policy of reconciliation and cooperation toward the North." The withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea was insisted upon by North Korea until the June summit.

U.S. troops are wanted to remain permanently said President Kim and agreeing on the need for a U.S. military presence on the peninsula was his North Korean counterpart. This has resulted in speculation that after any eventual reunification, the U.S. troops in South Korea could become a regional peacekeeping force.

("U.S. to deploy 690,000 troops in any new Korean conflicts: report," Agence France-Presse, December 4, 2000)


RUSSIA — Squandering of U.S. Aid

According to a General Accounting Office (GAO) study, the Clinton administration greatly under estimated the difficulty of reforming Russia's economy. International aid to Russia in the mid-1990's was tailored to help favored politicians such as then President Boris Yeltsin.

There was no coordinated strategy directing some $66 billion in Western aid to Russia in the 1990's with some areas of the Russian economy, such as banking, still requiring a major overhaul concluded the GAO report, released by House Banking and Financial Services Committee Chairman James A. Leach.

Chairman Leach said in releasing the report on November 1, 2000, that "Recent U.S. and Western efforts to promote free-market economics in the former Soviet Union have been at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive."

In light of reports that Vice President Al Gore and the Clinton Administration had made secret deals with then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in 1995 not to impose U.S. nonproliferation sanctions in exchange for a halt to Russian weapons sales to Iran, the GAO findings were "especially troubling" said Leach in a speech on the House floor.

"To facilitate a Russian aid policy that resulted in the squandering of American tax dollars for the benefit of a kleptocratic elite, rather than the Russian people, " was the "apparent purpose" of the Gore-Chernomyrdin deal said Leach.

He added, "It is now self-evident that U.S. policy failed and the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission is a symbol of that failure."

The GAO report included the following findings:

1. In many aid programs and International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans to Russia, political considerations had played a crucial role. Primarily to demonstrate political support for Mr. Yeltsin - not to promote structural economic reform in 1994 and again in 1996, the IMF approved major loans to the Russian government.

2. The United States and other Western countries were too lenient in regard to the "loan-form shares" privatization program that created windfalls for a few insiders as Russia privatized some of its biggest state-owned assets in the mid-1990's.

3. Progress in strengthening Russian banks has been "limited" although the Russian banking system was targeted early on as a primary engine for reform.

4. Explicit anti-corruption efforts have represented a relatively small share of international assistance to Russia, despite widespread concerns about corruption in Russia.

A recent upturn has occurred in the Russian economy leading to the adoption of a long-term plan by the Russian State Duma to address its structural problems despite the policy failures. The report said, "Donors can take some credit for helping develop this capacity."

However, it was concluded by GAO analysts, "The challenge of Russia's transition was enormous and greater than generally appreciated by the West. In hindsight, expectations within Russia and among the donors of achieving quick results were unrealistic."

(David Sands, "GAO Says U.S. aid was squandered," The Washington Times, November 3, 2000)



In a Test-Ban Era Testing the Aging Stockpile

Both to test new types of bombs and to be certain that old bombs still functioned as they had been designed, the guardians of the nation's nuclear stockpile exploded bombs for forty years beneath the sand at a test site in Nevada. They called the testing "shaking the desert." Prior to a treaty that banned the practice in 1963, many of those tests also shook the desert from above in the atmosphere.

However, the desert has been still since 1992, when the United States (U.S.) declared a moratorium on all nuclear tests. In a program called science-based stockpile stewardship, the U.S. uses computer simulations, experiments on bomb components and other methods to assess the condition of the weapons without actually exploding the thousands of warheads in its aging arsenal.

Until recently, officials from the stockpile stewardship program had expressed complete confidence that the stockpile was safe and secure and that the stewardship program could fully maintain the weapons. Now, some of the masters of nuclear weapons design are expressing concern over whether the program is efficient.

These program stem from the fact that the experts do not speak with a single voice, the program's underlying technical rationale is under suspicion and warnings have surfaced that the program's base of talented scientists is eroding.

Also, many of the researchers are complaining of the tedious new security rules put in place after the arrest of Dr. Wen Ho Lee, the scientist who pleaded guilty to one count of mishandling nuclear secrets, have damaged the program by hampering research. The rules are also discouraging young researchers from entering the field at a time when weapons designers of the testing area are nearing retirement and must transmit knowledge to a new generation.

Going even further is the intrinsically flawed concept of trying to assess weapons in the absence of nuclear tests. Experts can never reach clear-cut conclusions about the continued reliability of a given weapon without exploding a sample of the bombs.

Dr. Merri Wood, a senior designer of nuclear weaponry at Los Alamos National Laboratory said a stewardship program with no testing is a "religious exercise, not science." It was becoming impossible to say with certainty that the stockpile was entirely functional as the weapons aged said Dr. Wood. She also mentioned the possibility that some weapons could become unreliable, "I can't give anybody a safe period. It could happen at any time."

Doubts about the stewardship program were widespread among weapons designers said Dr. Charles Nakhleh, another weapons designer at Los Alamos. He said, "The vast, vast majority would say there are questions you can answer relatively definitely with nuclear testing that would be very difficult to answer without nuclear testing." Doubts about the stewardship program helped defeat the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would ban all nuclear tests only a year ago.

The directors of the nation's three major weapons laboratories testified that the program was working well during debate of the treaty. However, the treaty debate itself appears to have encouraged some scientists within the program to begin to speak out although few weapons designers spoke openly about the topic at the time.

The designers' willingness to discuss their concerns were strongly praised by Senator Pete V. Domenici, (Republican-New Mexico) who voted against the treaty and whose state contains two of the three major weapons laboratories. Senator Domenici said he would consider holding hearings on "possible shortcomings" in the stewardship program, stressing his own neutrality on the issue.

Each year has generated increasingly intense scientific discussion and debate over the effects of materials aging, deteriorating and cracking in the stockpile.

Even those in support of the program admit that science-based stockpile stewardship can never offer the certainty of the big explosions. The program is a fiendish technical challenge.

These highly complex devices contain electronic and missile components which surround a sort of atomic fuse holding chemical explosives and a fission bomb with plutonium-like fuel. Thousands can be found on the stockpile. Also, when the primary explosives are triggered, there is a "secondary" explosive whose thermonuclear fusion reaction is set off.

A shelf life was not planned when most of the weapons in the stockpile were built. Until weapons production abruptly ceased in 1992, it was expected that they would be replaced by a continuing stream of new and improved designs, checked in tests. However, receiving crucial tests in the 1970's and becoming fully designed by the mid- 1980's was the basic design of the newest of the bombs, a version called the W-88. By 1991, production of the weapon had ceased and the oldest in the stockpile of the bombs dated back to 1970.

Extremely difficult are the assessments on bomb modifications. The symmetrical components shaped like spheres or cylinders are turned into irregular shapes whose properties are a nightmare to model in computer simulations. As a result of the material age and because they are exposed to the radioactivity of their own fuel, weapons components deteriorate in various ways. Inspectors typically tear apart one weapon of each design annually and check the others in a much less intrusive fashion.

Any serious problems as the stockpile ages can be addressed as they turn up by regular inspection of the weapons say supporters of the program. However, challenging this view are other experts at the nation's weapons laboratories. The sensitivity of the bombs to slight modifications means that age could modify the bombs so that they do not work as they are supposed to say designers. While these problems can be found and fixed, virtually everyone agrees that if any major redesigns are required, those new bombs could not be certified as reliable under the current program.

"To consider putting those things in the stockpile without testing is nonsense," said Dr. Harold Agnew, a former director of Los Alamos. Many of the issues surrounding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, including stockpile stewardship will be examined by a new study by the National Academy of Sciences of which Dr. Agnew is on the panel.

Dr. Carol T. Alonso, a weapons designer for two decades who is now assistant associate director for national security at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California said, "In a blink, I would prefer to go back to testing."

In regards to the reliability of the stockpile under the current program, "I think you accept the fact that you're going to have to decline," said Thomas Thomson, a weapons designer at Livermore. He added, "You try to make it as gradual as possible."

In the fiscal year that started October 1, 2000, the Stockpile Stewardship program will cost the nation about $5 billion. It has cost more than $20 billion since the mid-1990's. From guards to chemists perhaps 25,000 workers of all kinds participate estimates an official at the Energy Department. Thousands of engineers and scientists and about 50 senior designers are included.

This is also where some of the most powerful computers in the world are utilized. Tests of bomb components and data like that produced by the $260 million Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Center at Los Alamos, where flashes of X-rays study exploding primaries from which the fission fuel has been removed is required by the program. Expected to create even more extreme conditions by crushing pellets of fusion fuel is a $4 billion laser, under construction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Crucial questions about the performance of aging bombs must still be answered directly by data from older tests, even with all these tools, say critics. They say, computer simulations cannot definitively determine the seriousness of new types of changes resulting from continued aging because bombs this old were never tested.

It would be "at least 10 years" before scientists would be able to say for sure whether the approach could replace nuclear tests said Dr. Michael R. Anastasio, associate director of defense and nuclear technologies at Livermore and a supporter of the stockpile stewardship program. Dr. Anastasio said, "We've said all along that the science-based stockpile stewardship program is the best program we know how to construct to meet the goals of sustaining confidences without nuclear testing. But we've always said, there's no guarantee that it will work."

However, the new computer simulations have already been able to answer questions about the stockpile that in the past would have required tests said Madelyn Creedon, the top official for day-to-day management of the stewardship program at the Energy Department. She said, "We keep pressing ahead and we keep having successes. The evidence shows that stockpile stewardship is doing the job."

At all three of the major American weapons laboratories - Los Alamos, Livermore, and Sandia - serious questions about the operation of the stockpile program are being heard. Los Alamos is where an especially intense focus on tightened security has resulted because of the Wen Ho Lee case and a later security lapse. As a result, the laboratory has been vulnerable to widespread criticism. In September, when Dr. Lee pleaded guilty to a single count of mishandling of nuclear data, several investigations including the one involving the apparent theft of plans for the nation's most advanced warhead (the W-88) were still proceeding.

New security restrictions have made what would have been a difficult job under any circumstances even harder say even the weapons designers who support the stockpile stewardship program.

(James Glanz, "Testing the Aging Stockpile in a Test Ban Era," The New York Times, November 28, 2000)



Executive Orders Result in More Regulation

With major actions on the environment, labor rights and other matters that his successor may find difficult to undo, President Clinton's administration is rushing to put in place the final pieces of his legacy during his last days in office.

Recently, federal agencies and departments have issued a slew of new regulations protecting millions of workers at risk for repetitive-stress injuries, expanding the food stamp program and clarifying the rights of employees enrolled in company health plans. In addition, an executive order creating the largest naturally protected area in the United States - an 84-million-acre ecosystem around Hawaii that will be off limits to oil drilling - was signed by the President on December 5, 2000.

A Presidency that has established Clinton as one of the strongest defenders of the environment in decades would be capped by this deluge, which is expected to result in a record 29,000 pages of new regulations in the administration's final 90 days. However, by Republicans and business groups who see a return to the "midnight regulations" promulgated prior to the time when former President Jimmy Carter turned over the reins of government to Ronald Reagan in 1981, the activity is being roundly criticized.

Washington attorney C. Boyden Gray, an unofficial advisor to Texas Governor George W. Bush and a top White House aide to Reagan and President Bush said, "This is very reminiscent of the midnight binge, which took months to sort out and was extremely disruptive."

Poised for a counterattack, however, are business groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups sued the government on November 13, 2000, the day the administration issued its final repetitive stress, or "ergonomics" rules, calling the regulations unconstitutional and vague. Also, awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on its challenge to curb smog and soot ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1997 is the American Trucking Association.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesman Frank Coleman said, "There are more legal matters running in this town preparing to fight anti-business regs in the closing days of the Clinton administration than there are attorneys in Florida." Every means to block proposed new federal regulations announced on December 1, 2000, curbing cod, mackerel and pollock fishing that threatens Alaska's endangered Steller sea lions was vowed by angry Alaska officials, including Democratic Governor Tony Knowles.

Arguments that the nation's viewpoint on the final burst of activity is unusual or unexpected is disputed by Administration officials. In reams of scientific studies, hundreds of public hearings and mountains of comments, emails and statements from citizens and business, the groundwork has been laid over the course of months or even years for this final push say officials.

A sense of urgency has been added due to the new incoming Bush administration. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman for example is poised to give final approval this month for protective regulations that are even more far-reaching than those planned six months ago to new roads in 58.6 million acres of national forests that include Alaska's Tongass.

One of the crowning environmental achievements of Clinton's Presidency would be the roadless areas initiative, which he ordered to be undertaken more than a year ago. It is no easy matter for a President to rescind a regulation although Governor Bush has vowed to review the administration's land management policies.

The whole process that led to the regulation in the first place, including public hearings and comments followed by extensive legal review, would have to be restarted by the new administration. A veto-proof majority in Congress is required for rescission.

Robert E. Litan, a former Clinton administration senior budget official now with the Brookings Institute said, "There's ample discretion to do it, but [Presidents] have to do their homework and their lawyering."

In 1983, the Reagan administration learned that the hard way when it was sternly rebuked by the Supreme Court for the way it revoked a Carter-era requirement that new cars be equipped with automatic seat belts or airbags. Saying it had been "arbitrary and capricious," the court overturned the Reagan action in a precedent-setting ruling.

The White House is still weighing the possibility of using the President's authority to protect vast public lands for posterity, as he did in 1996 when he established the 1.7-million acre Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument in Utah. Unfortunately, for Clinton and fortunately for American business, time is running short.

Furthermore, the 150 miles of precious grasslands along the Missouri River in North-Central Montana known as the Missouri Breaks may be given reserve status if Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit can persuaded the President.

A similar designation for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be even more dramatic. This is in total opposition to Governor Bush's expressed support for carefully mentioned oil exploration there. Oil industry officials and state politicians in both parties would be bitterly opposed to this action.

President Clinton could act on his own - though some attorneys question whether his power extends to Alaska law - under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which enables the President to transform "historic" public lands into national monuments. After he leaves office, the divided new Congress might have difficutly overriding his action whatever the legal merits.

Ranging for new energy efficiency standards for washing machines to testing requirements for foreigners working on U.S. railroads, dozens of actions are underway in the regulatory area.

Focusing primarily on its broad economic impact, the national business community is tracking much of the pending regulation. A new EPA clean air regulation that will force a 95 percent reduction in the amount of sulfur in the diesel fuel used by most large trucks and vehicles is paramount. The final pollution control rules that will force drastic reductions in heavy-duty truck emissions over the next decade was approved by the President on December 20, 2000.

Largely resigned to the regulation is a coalition of groups representing truck and bus companies, engine builders, form organizations, bakers and oil companies. However, they are lobbying for EPA to allow 50 parts per million instead of the 15 parts per million of sulfur proposed earlier. This regulation would result in higher prices and possibly temporary shortages of diesel fuel say industry officials. However, according to EPA officials, it is a logical final piece in a methodical strategy to reduce pollution from vehicles.

A host of other actions dealing with mercury release from utility plants, waste runoffs from animal feedlots, toxic sediment in the Hudson River and the impact of dredging around wetland areas are also near completion at EPA.

Already preparing for the major new regulations are business groups across the nation, bracing themselves for the worst.

Foods labeled as organic would be required to meet a first-ever national certification standard. For example all meat and poultry packages would have to carry new nutritional labels.

These actions at the end of President Clinton's eight-year Presidency could result in billions of dollars added to regulatory-induced costs, through enormously expensive new ergonomics rules.

Already preparing for a counter-attack, hoping that the incoming Bush administration as well as Congress and the courts will soften some of the new regulations and roll back others, are several business groups.

Bill Kovacs, vice president for environment and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce complained, "What Clinton is trying to do is put the next administration into a regulatory straight jacket. Once those regulations are in effect, it's very difficult to change them."

A law that allows Congress to overturn any rule by majority vote within 60 days of the rule being issued was enacted six years ago. However, on any of the thousands of regulations that have been issued, it has never been used.

The recent regulations and executive orders have affected some of the following areas:

1. Health record privacy
2. Labeling standards for foods that are organically grown
3. Benefits available to coal minors with black lung disease
4. Pollution from the feedlots of cattle and pigs
5. Mercury pollution from power plants
6. Tighter environment rules enforced on hard-rock mining industries

By all accounts, the President is still not finished.

In recent days, the President rescinded his own eight-year-old order prohibiting top administration officials from lobbying their former agencies for five years after leaving their positions. Additionally, to temporarily put the first black judge in the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves several Southern states bypassing the Senate's confirmation process. The nomination of the new judge from Virginia— Robert Gregory — had been stalled in the Senate.

A requirement to ban road building on 58 million acres of federal forests was finalized by President Clinton on January 5, 2000. He also signed an executive order for the reorganization of national counterintelligence efforts. Other regulations close to being tightened by the Environmental Protection Agency are lead levels in soil, arsenic levels in water and wetlands protection.

The diesel rule and forest road ban have been characterized by GOP lawmakers as a threat to future energy supplies with energy prices high. Environmentalists, however, scoff at such claims.

However, President-elect Bush, a former Texas oilman, will be urged by refiners to convince Congress to rollback the diesel rule and raise the amount of sulfur that will be allowed, they said.

Also vowing to try to reverse many of the other Clinton executive orders and regulations are business groups, utilities and mining interests. The fight likely will be an uphill battle in many cases.

Pietro Nivola, an expert on regulatory policies at the Brookings Institute said, "It's not going to be easy for the new Bush administration to take a really hard line on these decisions. Bush has precious little political capital at the moment and he's not going to squander it."

(Editorial, "The Gridlock Myth," The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2000; Dan Morgan, "Clinton's Last Regulatory Rush, The Washington Post, December 6, 2000; "Clinton Creates Hawaiian Ocean Preserve," The Associated Press, December 5, 2000; Kevin McCoy, "Flurry of Regulation Set to Kick in as Clinton Exits," USA Today, November 27, 2000; H. Josef Herbert, "Clinton Departs in Regulatory Rush, The Associated Press, December 22, 2000; Douglas Jehl, "Clinton Approves Rules to Curb Emissions of Big Rigs and Buses," The New York Times, December 21, 2000; Tom Raum, "Bush Team May Undue Late Changes, The Associated Press, January 5, 2001)