|FAS Public Interest Report
The Journal of the Federation of American Scientists
Volume 57, Number 3
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FAS In the News
The Federation continued to be in the news this spring. FAS’ Government Secrecy Project was cited almost daily; its unique expertise in intelligence, classification, and the Freedom of Information Act was in high demand. News about the Secrecy Project is on pages 11 and 12. Sample coverage of other FAS projects is below.
CNN and New Scientist were among the media featuring FAS’ calls for tighter control of nuclear materials. In July when the Department of Energy announced it had carried out of Iraq 1.77 metric tons of low enriched uranium and “1,000 highly radioactive sources” to a secure location in the United States, FAS Strategic Studies Director Ivan Oelrich praised the move on CNN, Fox Newswire and other media. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which favors stronger controls over uranium and plutonium, had urged that Iraq’s stash of uranium be secured. The system of tracking and controlling other radioactive materials used in industry and medicine is “incredibly loose” FAS President Henry Kelly said in a June 5 New Scientist article.
In the online edition of Technology Review, FAS Biology Issues Director Stephanie Loranger warned about the amount of money and effort going for new biosecure laboratories in the aftermath of 9-11 and the anthrax attacks. TR quoted her as saying “It’s hard to say that this is a bad thing,” but “it’s difficult to know how many labs are enough or how many are too many.” There is concern that basic biomedical research may suffer, she and others explained in the article. Besides advancing health and basic knowledge, such basic research is the only way to find yet-unknown pathogens. The larger issue which FAS is posing in its project work is this: How to spend the enormous sums the government is allocating for biodefense research, so those doing the research grasp the new ethical and policy issues they face. (See article)
The need for the United States to ratify the OAS Firearms Convention was a principal theme of an FAS report released in June. La Prensa, the big Panama City daily, wrote up the report June 20, citing its examples of how the black market in small arms aids international crime, the drug trade, and terrorism. In the report, the Panamanian police force was named in one bogus transaction.
The Christian Science Monitor in a July 15 feature about armaments fueling conflict in Venezuela, quoted the author of this FAS report, Matthew Schroeder, as dismayed by the U.S. Senate’s failure to pursue ratification of the Convention this session. The Convention “so clearly ties in to the war on terrorism” that failure to proceed with ratification is “baffling,” Schroeder said. (See article)
Forbes magazine featured FAS’ project for safe, energy-efficient housing in an article titled “Foam Home” in the June 21 issue. Traditional flat-roofed mud huts, used by Afghans for thousands of years, become "death traps" during the earthquakes that regularly plague the war-torn country. "We decided to try to do something about it," said FAS President Henry Kelly in the article. Forbes recounted how FAS challenged a nationwide group of housing experts from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, MIT and elsewhere to find a better way to build houses in Afghanistan—while keeping construction techniques simple and using a sustainable, wood-free design. The answer appeared in the form of structural insulated panels, a simple composite of cement and expanded polystyrene, which is best known as Styrofoam. Forbes reported on FAS’ plans to demonstrate construction techniques and materials to builders in Afghanistan as well as the United States.