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The Senate worked through the weekend for the second time in
order to complete the Department of
Defense (H.R. 3326)
appropriations bill which the House had
agreed to on Wednesday of last week. The conference report, passed
Saturday, contains $82.6 billion (3.2% increase over request, 0.7 %
increase over FY 2009) in R&D investment for the Department of
Defense; $80.5 billion (2.4% increase over request, 0.6% increase over
FY 2009) of that would go for Research, Development, Test, and
Evaluation programs (excluding medical research and construction). The
Science and Technology portion (6.1 - 6.3 plus medical research)
accounts for $14.8 billion, a 20.7% increase over the President's
request and 1.8% over FY 2009 appropriations. FY 2009 figures do not
include funds appropriated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act (ARRA). With the Defense conference complete, Congress wraps up its
work on the FY 2010 budget. For details on final Congressional Action
for all the individual agency FY 2010 R&D budgets, see the AAAS
R&D Budget Web site.
As the U. S. Treasury nears the current national debt limit of $12.104
trillion set in ARRA, the House passed a bill (H.R. 4314)
to raise the
limit by $290 billion to $12.394 trillion. This is lower than the $1.9
trillion increase originally proposed and will force Congress to
address this issue again in 2010.
Introduced. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins
(R-ME) introduced a "cap-and-dividend" climate bill that will auction
permits to emit greenhouse gases and return the bulk of the revenue
(75%) to taxpayers to offset the higher energy costs. The Carbon
and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act designates 25% of the
revenue for an energy and climate fund for R&D and adaptation
programs. Like other congressional climate bills, the CLEAR Act aims to
cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
Immigration Reform Bill
Introduced. Last week, Reps. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) and Luis
Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill
4321). Although the primary purpose of the legislation is to
address border security and enforcement, it also includes language that
would exempt international students that have received an advanced
degree in science, engineering, technology or mathematics from the
numerical caps that restrict the number of students who may remain in
the U.S. after graduation. In other news, the Association of
International Educators (NAFSA) issued a report
calling for major
reforms in U.S. visa and immigration policy. Among the recommendations
were revising the security clearance process for visiting scientists,
expediting the visa approval process for frequent low-risk visitors,
and eliminating the cap on international students who can remain in the
U.S. after graduation.
House Extends R&D Tax Credit.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R.
extend approximately $31 billion in tax breaks for one year. Included
in the package is $7 billion for the research and development (R&D)
Copenhagen Accord Reached.
Led by the United States, China, India, and South Africa, the Copenhagen
Accord calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep
temperatures from rising more than 2.0 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above
preindustrial levels. It contains a commitment by developed nations to
invest $30 billion over the next three years to help developing nations
adapt to climate change and pursue clean energy development as well as
a provisional commitment to develop a long-term $100 billion global
fund for developing countries by 2020. It calls for pledges by nations,
including major developing countries, to commit to emissions
reductions, report emissions levels, and allow international "analysis"
of these emissions. The conference decided to "take note" of the accord
instead of formally approving it, which will allow it to go into effect
despite the opposition of seven countries, led by the Pacific island
nation of Tuvalu.
Expansion of Clean Energy Tax
Credit Proposed. The White House has proposed increasing the
amount available for a tax credit to encourage the manufacturing of
clean energy technologies in the United States. The original program in
the ARRA allowed the Departments of Energy and the Treasury to award up
to $2.3 billion in tax credits. The new proposal calls for an
additional $5 billion and must be approved by Congress.
Obama Appoints Cybersecurity
Chief. The White House officially announced the appointment of Howard
Schmidt as the administration's cybersecurity coordinator.
Schmidt, who will report to the deputy national security advisor, had
served as a cybersecurity advisor in the Bush Administration. He has
also been head of information security at both Microsoft and eBay.
NIH Approves More Stem Cell
Lines--With a Catch. As expected, NIH Director Francis Collins
officially approved 27 new stem cell lines for federally funded
research, bringing the total number of eligible stem lines to 40.
However work with the lines must focus on diabetes-related pancreatic
research as stipulated in the informed consent forms. The NIH
director's advisory committee has suggested that NIH devise a general
policy to address broader uses.
CDC, NIH Addressing Conflicts of
Interest. A new report
by the Department of Health and Human
Services Inspector General has found that 64 percent of the experts who
served on vaccine advisory panels for the CDC in 2007 had potential
conflicts of interest that went either unidentified or unresolved by
the agency, according to The
York Times. In other news,
NIH Director Francis Collins
announced in a C-SPAN
interview that NIH would issue a proposed rule
this winter to prevent drug companies from ghostwriting research papers
and require them to publicly disclose financial relationships with
NIH-funded scientists and institutions.
Regulating Public Health
Threat of Cell Phones. Both the city of San Francisco and the
state of Maine are considering
legislation that would require cell
phones to carry warning labels that they may cause brain cancer. This
despite the fact that there has been no long-term scientific study of
the health risks associated with cell phone use and that the FCC has
declared them safe.
AAAS and Hastings Center Host
Event on Comparative Effectiveness Research. On December 15,
AAAS and The Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics think tank,
hosted a briefing called Beyond
Mammograms: Perspectives on Comparative
Effectiveness Research. Slides from the event are on the AAAS Web
(see link above) and a video will be posted in early January.
People in the News. - Eric
J. Barron is stepping down from his position as the director of
the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to assume the
presidency of Florida State University.
- Former Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie
Gerberding has signed on as the head of Merck Vaccines.
Current and archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Patrick Clemins,
Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Kasey White
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to
inform them of developments in science and technology policy that may
be of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered from
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