American Voice Institute Policy Statement on Education
Scores Still Lag Behind the Rest of the World
Students Receive Extra Time
Phonics Teaching Students How
American Voice Institute Policy Statement on Environment
Global Warming: Over Before
Ozone Hole Will Start to Shrink
Talks End in Failure
American Voice Institute Policy Statement on Health Care
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
American Voice Institute Policy Statement on International Issues
Weapons Stockpiled by Saddam
(Could Spread Warns Cohen)
Report: In Any New Korean Conflict,
U.S. to Deploy 690,000
American Voice Institute Policy Statement on National Defense
a Test-Ban Era Testing the Aging Stockpile
American Voice Institute Policy Statement on Regulation
Executive Orders Result in
read March 2001 Policies in Today's News, Click Here.
Scores Still Lag Behind the Rest of the World
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
latest TIMSS results were called "a disturbing trend," by Representative
Bill Goodling (Republican-Pennsylvania) and chairman of the House education
Goodling said, "These test results are indicative that for too many
years, we place a priority on process."
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
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.
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."
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.
know kids can't learn what their teachers don't deeply understand,"
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."
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.
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.
key question for policymakers is why U.S. students' performance decreased
in relationship to the global average as grade levels increased.
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.
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.
findings revealed by the study include the following:
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.
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.
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.
In math, U.S. boys and girls earned comparable scores; however, in science
boys scored higher.
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."
example of a math question:
club has 86 members, and there are 14 more girls than boys. How many
boys and how many girls are members of the club?
your work (answer given in the test)
+ (14+x) = 86
2x + 14 = 86
2x + 14-14 = 86-14
2x/2 = 72/2
There are 36 boys and 50 girls.
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.
Boston College, International Study Center, Third International Mathematics
and Science Study Center - Report, International Average is 33 percent.)
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)
TO THE TOP
Receive Extra Time on SAT's
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
R. Weiss, "Audit Confirms Disparities in SAT Testing," Los Angeles Times,
December 1, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Teaching Students How to Read
Indianapolis, as teacher Kathy Alfke selects the next word for the class
to spell 14 pairs of inquisitive eyes are glued to the chalkboard.
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.
sing-song unison, the children recite "When two vowels are together,
the first one usually speaks its name, and the second is silent."
a time-tested method of instruction, these eight-year olds are learning
reading and writing at this Indianapolis Public School (IPS) 44.
method works as can be seen by much-improved test scores in reading
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.
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
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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)
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."
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.
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)
TO THE TOP
Warming: Over Before It Began
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.
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
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.
Dahlburg, "Climate-Change Meeting Fizzles After Flare-Up," Los Angeles
Times, November 26, 2000; "Skeptic Rebuts Warming Premise," The Washington
Times, November 24, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Hole Will Start to Shrink
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.
reduction in levels of ultra-violet radiation around the globe should
result from the recovery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Henderson, "Ozone hole will heal, say scientists," The [London] Times,
December 4, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Talks End in Failure
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.
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
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
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.
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.
to a pared-back proposal, the U.S. met with three negotiators representing
Europe, early on the morning of November 25, 2000.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
'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)
TO THE TOP
Illness in United States on the Rise
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.
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
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.
said, "We think it's the major public health challenge that could affect
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.
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.
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
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.
reported that already suffering multiple chronic illnesses are 60 million
Americans, a number expected by 2020 to reach 81 million as the population
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.
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
Neergaard, "Chronic Illness Burden Rising," The Associated Press, November
TO THE TOP
of Health Care Costs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pear, "Health Costs Underestimated, Experts Say," The New York Times,
November 30, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Ignored Firms Involvement in a Massive Fraud Case
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
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.
GAO said, "Senior HCFA officials should have used the information that
was available to make an informed decision about KPMG's continued performance.
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."
agency has not reviewed the report yet but will "take action as appropriate,"
said Peter Ashkenaz, HCFA spokesman.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Meckler, "GAO: Medicare Ignored Fraud History," The Associated Press,
December 1, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Is Selling Cheap Copycat 'Generic' Drugs
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.
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.
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."
Hamied embodies the enemy to pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, Glaxo
Wellcome and Aventis, which in research invest billions of dollars.
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."
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).
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."
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
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.
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
G. McNeil, Jr., "Selling Cheap 'Generic' Drugs, India's Copycats Irk
Industry," The New York Times, December 1, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Weapons Stockpiled by Saddam
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.
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.
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.
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
the measure has failed to unseat Saddam, there is mounting opposition
from Arab states and some in Europe such as France to maintain peace
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.
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."
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."
Lamb, "Saddam stockpiling deadly chemical weapons," The [London] Telegraph,
November 19, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Conflict (Could Spread Warns Cohen)
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.
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
violence could spread to other countries in a region that has raged
in the Palestinian territories since the end of September.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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
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.
Stoullig, "Cohen warns Israeli-Palestinian conflict could run "out of
control." Agence France-Presse, November 18, 2000)
TO THE TOP
In Any New Korean Conflict, U.S. to Deploy 690,000 Troops
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
to deploy 690,000 troops in any new Korean conflicts: report," Agence
France-Presse, December 4, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Squandering of U.S. Aid
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
added, "It is now self-evident that U.S. policy failed and the Gore-Chernomyrdin
Commission is a symbol of that failure."
GAO report included the following findings:
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.
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.
Progress in strengthening Russian banks has been "limited" although
the Russian banking system was targeted early on as a primary engine
Explicit anti-corruption efforts have represented a relatively small
share of international assistance to Russia, despite widespread concerns
about corruption in Russia.
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."
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."
Sands, "GAO Says U.S. aid was squandered," The Washington Times, November
TO THE TOP
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
year has generated increasingly intense scientific discussion and debate
over the effects of materials aging, deteriorating and cracking in the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
Glanz, "Testing the Aging Stockpile in a Test Ban Era," The New York
Times, November 28, 2000)
TO THE TOP
Orders Result in More Regulation
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.
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.
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
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
preparing for the major new regulations are business groups across the
nation, bracing themselves for the worst.
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.
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.
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.
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.
recent regulations and executive orders have affected some of the following
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
all accounts, the President is still not finished.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
"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)
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