What's New for Oct 25, 1996 (fwd)

James H. Beach jbeach at NSF.GOV
Tue Oct 29 09:08:54 CST 1996


This from the American Physical Society's Robert L. Park.  Item 1
refers to Karen Wilson's e-mail on the proposed international treaty on
copyright for databases.  This is a very serious issue for scientific
database providers.  More on that soon to the Taxacom list.


Jim Beach



Subject: What's New for Oct 25, 1996

WHAT'S NEW by Robert L. Park   Friday, 25 Oct 96   Washington, DC

1. DIGITAL AGENDA: INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY OR PRIVATE TOLL ROAD?
Few people in the academic community noticed when the "Database
Investment and Intellectual Property Antipiracy Act of 1996" was
introduced last spring.  Not many are aware of it yet; H.R.3531
has been the subject of no votes, no debates, no hearings.  Yet,
it would create a new form of intellectual property protection
for compilations of information, ending the policy of full and
open exchange of scientific data.  Database publishers would have
an absolute monopoly on their compilations, and the information
highway would have a toll booth every few miles.  It gets worse:
even if H.R.3531 never passes, we may still get the toll booths
under an international agreement.  At the insistence of the U.S.
delegation, a "Draft Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect
to Databases," incorporating the same provisions as H.R.3531, is
scheduled to be taken up at a Diplomatic Conference in Geneva in
December -- without the views of the US academic community ever
having been solicited.  The "digital agenda" is being opposed by
the Association of American Universities, the National Academy of
Sciences and the Association of Research Libraries among others.

2. ENVIRONMENT: GEORGE BROWN BLASTS "FRINGE SCIENCE" IN THE 104TH
CONGRESS.  On Wednesday, the ranking minority member of the House
Science Committee issued a scathing report on hearings held one
year ago by the Environment and Energy Subcommittee. The hearings
implied that environmental scientists are engaged in a conspiracy
to exaggerate threats from pollution, climate change and ozone
depletion (WN 13 Oct 95).  In "Environmental Science Under Siege:
Fringe Science in the 104th Congress," Brown observes that the
Subcommittee, chaired by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), not only failed
to substantiate charges of scientific misconduct, but achieved
just what it purported to condemn: the politicization of science.

3. EVOLUTION: THE POPE COMES AROUND--BUT THE LAKOTAS STAND FIRM.
Following the course set in his 1992 exoneration of Galileo, John
Paul acknowledged yesterday that evolution is "more than just a
theory."  He cited "new knowledge" as the basis for elevating
evolution from the "serious hypothesis" status Pius XII gave it
in 1950.  Alas, he didn't say what new knowledge he had in mind.
The statement is regarded as an important symbol in the effort to
ease tensions between science and religion.  However, the Lakota
Indians are having none of it.  They are blocking archaeologists
from tracing the origin of ancient American human remains by DNA
analysis.  The Lakotas emerged from a spirit world inside the
earth (maybe through the mouth of a giant frog) and that's that.

4. MISSILE DEFENSE: IT HASN'T SURFACED AS A CAMPAIGN ISSUE - YET.
It's been rumored all week that North Korea is preparing to test
the ND-1 (max range of 600 miles). It's now rumored that, if they
do, Dole supporters are prepared to test the Star Wars issue.

THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY  (Note: Opinions are the author's
and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)




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