-- C.A. Beard
On last month's Fix;
the answer to last month's Fix,
"Given the budget won't be balanced, Clinton will be reelected and chaos will come by the year 2050, explain how you and yours will evade the coming catastrophe."is
No doubt there are those reading this very journal who hold Congress to blame for the govt. shutdown. Polls show the bulk of the populace does. Media pundits say that Rep. are irritating their constituents to the point that they will be thrown out in the next election - and they are probably right. What have the Reps. done to deserve this acrimony? They have committed the only sin that politics can never forgive, they are attempting to live up to what they campaigned on.
In the weeks just before the 94 election, Newt and other Reps. flaunted their "Contract with America." To refresh our memories, this is basically what the Contract contained:
- Force Congress to live under the laws it passes on the rest of us. - Cut 1/3 of congressional staffers - cut the congressional budget - Balanced budget amendmant and line item veto - Stop violent criminals - Welfare reform - Protect our kids - Tax cuts for familys - Strong national defense - Raise senior citizens earning limit - Roll back govt. regulation - Legal reform (eg torte limits) - Term limitsTypical mean spirited Rep. stuff, Anyway, after their sweep of the Senate and House, Reps pointed to the Contract as the reason for victory. In my analysis of that time, I mentioned that polls showed the bulk of voters had no idea that there even was a contract.
Nevertheless, the incoming Rep. class held themselves to it and have tried to deliver. They have kept their word to bring all the points to a House vote in the first 100 days, but as we all know, passage in the House does not guarantee passage through the Senate or a Presidential signature. Nevertheless, the struggle to pass the arguably most important part of the Contract, a balanced budget, continues. Clinton himself promised during the campaign (then again, what didn't he) that he would institute budget schedules that would lead to a balanced budget at the end of his 2'nd term. Gee, that would have been a balanced budget in 8 years, so why is a Rep. plan to do it one year faster so heinous?
Well, of course we all know how many balanced budgets Bill has prepared - none. And the folks who actually are trying to do so are being villified by (to put it nicely) a somewhat biased media who call Rep. plans to increase Medicaid spending by more than what would have occurred under the Clinton Health plan "... the equivalent of a death sentence for the nation's poor and elderly." So here we are. The single best chance to stave off national bankruptcy will be lost, Clinton will be reelected if Dole is the Rep. alternative and Americans will get what they deserve. Good for us I say.
On the Wager
For those new readers out there, on the eve of Clinton's election I made a bet with the readership of this rag that the misery index, computed by adding up all the changes in the figures listed below, would be worse after Clinton's first term. The wager was that if the Misery Index (MI) got worse by x %, I would collect that portion of income from the admitted Clinton voters and divvy it up among the rest of us as an apology. If the MI was lower after Clinton, I would take that percentage of my personal income and spread it among the admitted Clinton voters. Oddly, not one Clinton voter had the courage to risk their own money as they did the nation's, but I track the MI anyway.
---- Clinton budgets* -------- | | | 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 --------------|---------------------------------------------- Unemployment | 7.2% 6.6% 5.6% 5.7 | Inflation | 4.7% 2.8% 2.9% | Interest | 7.7% 8.3% 9.1 7.9 | Fed. Inc. Tax | 28% 48% 48% 48 (top margin) | | FICA | 15% 15% 15% 15 | Cap Gains | 28% 28% 28% 28 | Gasoline | $0.15 $0.20 $0.20 $.20 (per gallon) | (0) (+33%) (+33%) ------------------------------------------------------------ MI (totl) 90.6 141.4 141.6 *The astute reader will notice that Clinton is assigned 5, not four, budgets. Why? Because while Bush assembled most of the 93 budget, Clinton made his tax changes retroactive to before he was President. Nice huh?On the Media
OK, some long time readers may have the impression that I think the major media markets are liberally biased. Let's assume for a moment that I'm wrong. Explain the following:
The three wise men supposedly brought the baby Jesus gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Why myrrh, an embalming fluid? Science has the answer. The current JAMA (J. of American Medical Assoc) announces that the herbs in myrrh are a pain killer. Mice on a hot plate with myrrh oinment on their feet took 3-4 times longer to start dancing around than those without.
On the State of the Union
On Jan. 23. President Clinton gave his state of the union address and was in full campaign mode. Among the major points in his speech:
The family values President wants a censorship chip. What the hell - why not? Under this Admin. we've seen moves to tap fiber optic phone lines, put govt. approved (read weak) encryption chips on personal computers, and internet snooping and censorship all go forward. Yet let Dan Quayle simply suggest that 2 parent families are better off than single, Christ, boiling in oil is too good for the baby hating, homophobic, sexist, racist (insert other cliches as appropriate) Nazi.
Raise the minimum wage. Better be careful here. May raise that unemployment rate that he's so proud of.
Put an army General in charge of the War on Drugs. Hmmm. I seem to recall a Constitutional prohibition against employing the military against domestic civilians, unless of course the RIKO laws wiped those limits away. Besides, I guess after Waco, anything is fair game.
Russian missiles are not pointed at us anymore. This Admin (including VP Algor, inventor of the internet, oops, InfoBahn) has a great talent for taking credit for things they had nothing to do with. Did Clinton preside over the dissolution of the "Evil Empire", the collapse of the USSR, or negotiate the missile reduction treaties? Besides, Russia still has (fewer) missiles and our subs still play tag with theirs in the oceans. The truly funny part is, Clinton tried to get away with this statement last year
"For the first time since the Cold War, Russian missiles are no longer aimed at America's children." -- Bill CLinton, Jan. 24, 1995, State of the Union. (2 days after 60 Minutes' Ed Bradley interviewd the Russian General of the Strategic Rocket Forces who stated his missiles are still aimed at the US)Maybe Bill thought no one would remember, given the contagios amnesia which seems to afflict all of the principals in the Whitewater affair.
People from non-english speaking nations are complaining that most of the things on the internet are in English. What did they expect, when the internet was invented by english speakers, namely Americans? Wouldn't it have been nice if the internet had been created by people who spoke every language in the world? Of course. This is just one of the many nice things that could have occurred if time and money were unlimited. The claim that non-English speakers will be at a disadvantage ignores the whole process by which economic and other benefits are created. The very reason that people invented the internet is that they intended to be better off afterwards. Should they be punished that their hopes were fulfilled?
This issue is important insofar as the fallacies that it represents are rampant in other issues as well. There is a tendency to take many benefits for granted, complain that they are not improvements and whine about what exists and what can be imagined. Since imagination is easier and cheaper than accomplishment, these people give themselves airs of idealism for being able to imagine something better than what exists. They celebrate a cheap substitute for reality. Underlying this is the assumption that wealth just exists and the only question is how to distribute it fairly. This mode of thought is typified by notions of the "rich" and the "poor" as if people were born with these fates stamped upon them. Comparisons of uneven distributions of wealth are made with no regard to the uneven distribution of contributions to that wealth.
Given this world view, it is not surprising that many journalists, academics and judges think there is something sinister about the fact that all groups are not statistically represented in all occupations and institutions. It also leads to little knowledge of the major institutions in this country, or the history of their development. Its as if these organizations just came into existence somehow to be tools of the powerful. Above all, there is little sense of how much damage can be done to the entrepeneureal spirit by loading it down with the idea that any resulting wealth has to be distributed as manna from the govt.
From email@example.com Thu Jan 4 15:36:48 1996 Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 15:36:25 -0500 (EST) From: "Bruce Steinert, PhD - Urology Research"
Subject: FW: Bosnia Airlift! (fwd) To: Steve Langer MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII Yo Steve, So how are ya der hey. Thought you would find this amusing. Bruce > > CLINTON DEPLOYS VOWELS TO BOSNIA > > Cities of Sjlbvdnzv, Grzny to Be First Recipients > > Before an emergency joint session of Congress yesterday, > President Clinton announced US plans to deploy over 75,000 vowels to > the war-torn region of Bosnia. The deployment, the largest of its kind >in American history, will provide the region with the critically needed >letters A,E,I,O and U, and is hoped to render countless Bosnian names > more pronounceable. > > "For six years, we have stood by while names like Ygrjvslhv and >Tzlynhr and Glrm have been horribly butchered by millions around the >world," Clinton said. "Today, the United States must finally stand up >and say 'Enough.' It is time the people of Bosnia finally had some > vowels in their incomprehensible words. The US is proud to lead the >crusade in this noble endeavour." > > The deployment, dubbed Operation Vowel Storm by the State > Department, is set for early next week, with the Adriatic port cities >of Sjlbvdnzv and Grzny slated to be the first recipients. Two C-130 > transport planes, each carrying over 500 24-count boxes of "E's," will >fly from Andrews Air Force Base across the Atlantic and airdrop the > letters over the cities. > > Citizens of Grzny and Sjlbvdnzv eagerly await the arrival of >the vowels. > > "My God, I do not think we can last another day," Trszg Grzdnjkln, 44, >said. "I have six children and none of them has a name that is > understandable to me or to anyone else. Mr. Clinton, please send my >poor, wretched family just one 'E.' Please." > > Said Sjlbvdnzv resident Grg Hmphrs, 67: "With just a few key >letters, I could be George Humphries. This is my dream." > > The airdrop represents the largest deployment of any letter to >a foreign country since 1984. During the summer of that year, the US > shipped 92,000 consonants to Ethiopia, providing cities like Ouaouoaua, >Eaoiiuae, and Aao with vital, life-giving supplies of L's, S's and T's. > >
2. Paul Campbell writes:
From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon Jan 15 11:34:35 1996 I just read through a very long "liberal media rip" on Rush Limbaugh in which (egads!) they actually used FACTS to rebut Rush's claims. There are still gaping holes in a lot of parts (the parts that aren't just standard straw man arguments and mud slinging). But there is some substance there. The whole thing is available as: http://www.igc.apc.org/fair/limbaugh-collection.txt I read through the other "anti-limbaugh" crap on the net..but there was nothing else of substance. The "anti-Limbaugh" people seem to spend most of their effort creating crude, tastless anti-limbaugh "art" (pictures, text, animations), with nothing that could be called substance. The above piece actually does have some factual content interspersed with the usual list of suspects (substanceless attacks; relying on similarly flawed sources such as the New England Journal of Medicine, other journalists, or anonymous "experts"). I won't even bother with any other pointers because the stuff doesn't deserve advertising. If you are so dead set on finding anti-limbaugh crap, then go ahead and find the links on http://www.yahoo.com/ As for myself, I find that Rush's claims are similarly rotten, but come on. Some of the "evidence" is so stretched it is almost laughable. Here are some examples from the report cited above: LIMBAUGH: "Banks take the risks in issuing student loans and they are entitled to the profits." (Radio show, quoted in FRQ, Summer/93) FAIR: Banks take no risks in issuing student loans, which are federally insured. Reality: Both are totally wrong. The student takes the risk entirely. FDIC pays pennies on the dollar if you can ever manage to collect. The banks are paid by the federal government to make up the "lost interest". And we all get screwed because the whole sham accelerates currency devaluation by supporting the fractional banking system. LIMBAUGH: "It has not been proven that nicotine is addictive, the same with cigarettes causing emphysema [and other diseases]." (Radio show, 4/29/94) FAIR: Nicotine's addictiveness has been reported in medical literature since the turn of the century. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's 1988 report on nicotine addiction left no doubts on the subject; "Today the scientific base linking smoking to a number of chronic diseases is overwhelming, with a total of 50,000 studies from dozens of countries," states Encyclopedia Britannica's 1987 "Medical and Health Annual." Reality: CRAP! I went looking for a SINGLE substantial report on exactly what the effects (and addictiveness) of nicotine are. I can't find anything, anywhere. There is currently a raging debate IN THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY on the effects of nicotine. The Surgeon General is hardly recognized as a "leading authority" in the medical community..especially when he has an appointed (political) office and the current office holder has maintained the same substantially disproven myth about condom usage as an "effective" preventative measure against A.I.D.S. My personal hypothesis is that above and beyond the nicotine itself, I would guess that smoke particles cause most of the trouble (which is in line with other RECOGNIZED lung problems) for smoking, and that constant irritation of tissue in the mouth causes problems with chewing tobacco (try sticking grass or hay in your mouth as per the usual "chewing" methods and try to tell me you don't have problems with irritation..I used to have a bad habit of chewing on alfalfa when baling hay and small fibers would work their way into my gums and cause problems over the next couple days). LIMBAUGH: "If you have any doubts about the status of American health care, just compare it with that in other industrialized nations." (Told You So, p. 153) FAIR: The United States ranks 19th in life expectancy and 20th in infant mortality among 23 industrialized nations, according to the CIA's 1993 World Fact Book. The U.S. also has the lowest health care satisfaction rate (11 percent) of the 10 largest industrialized nations (Health Affairs, vol. 9, no. 2). Reality: The U.S. has the lowest "health care satisfaction rate" precisely because of a bunch of loonies running about screaming about how hideous the whole health care system is. This is aside from the fact that this is a measure of public opinion and has no basis in reality. Second, the only other two claims are infant mortality rates and life expectancy rates. Both of these factors have more to do with lifestyles than with health care. For instance, it is well recognized that the unusually long life spans in Italy are caused by diet. It is also well recognized that there are a large number of vehicle-related fatalities, but more people drive in the United States than other countries. Valid comparisons would be by mortality rates in hospitals, measures of physician malpractice, or survival rates for various types of treatable serious ailments. None of that was done. Some of the claims do have a basis in fact, though, such as: LIMBAUGH: Denouncing Jeremy Rifkin of the Beyond Beef campaign as an "ecopest": "Rifkin is bent out of shape because he says the cattle consume enough grain to feed hundreds of millions of people. The reason the cattle are eating the grain is so they can be fattened and slaughtered, after which they will feed people, who need a high protein diet." (Ought To Be, p. 110) REALITY: Sixteen pounds of grain and soy is required to produce one pound of edible food from beef (USDA Economic Research Service). As for needing a "high-protein diet," the World Health Organization and U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that from 4.5 percent to 6 percent of daily calories come from protein. The amount of calories from protein in rice is 8 percent; in wheat it's 17 percent (USDA Handbook No. 456). Right on the money! Regardless of what the currently "recommended protein requirement" is (I really question the claims of most dieticians these days since there seems to be no general agreement among dieticians of anything at all except "everything in moderation"), animals just add an extra layer of processing (and food value loss) to the system from sunlight/soil minerals to your mouth. If that was all there was to it, then why don't we use plants in sterile, controlled environments when necessary and otherwise convert soil in a chemical plant to little blocks of "generic nutrient bars"? After all, the whole issue of "taste" is pretty much out the window now (textured vegetable protein is all the rage these days with food engineers). Also, cat fish have a "food to weight" conversion of about 2:1 vs. much larger numbers (I forgot the exact figure..about 20:1 comes to mind) for mammals in general, and cattle are way up there on the scale. When they start selling LURPS (the current form of those "generic nutrient bars") at a competitive price, I will probably buy them for lunch 3 days out of the week. If they start making LURPS more interesting (currently they all taste about like a cross between a hard biscuit like "Milkbones" and a granola bar) so that they are at least enticing to eat, then I'll probably switch to them for breakfast and lunch. But I seriously doubt they'll ever improve the variety problem to the point where I will eat them for all three meals. The only other problem with LURPS right now is that you have to drink lots of liquids with them or they will give you the worst case of constipation you ever experienced. What would be competitive? Well, $2-$3 a bar would be about right. Also, since this is right up Steve's alley, what are the potential problems with living permanently on a needle and not eating at all other than finding new places to stick the thing because of collapsing veins? Could a little tube be surgically inserted somewhere and you just plug in a fresh "cartridge" whenever the old glucose bag runs out? This is a serious question since I can see the potential application for invalids and people who are vegetables but their families (or the doctors living off the insurance money) won't voluntarily pull the plug.
Ed: What I know about medicine would not crowd a pack of matches. Perhaps Dr.'s Donahue and Potts can address this last point.
3. NC State Jeff writes;
From email@example.com Mon Jan 22 14:36:04 1996 Dear Stevey, Leigh and I plan to survive the coming catastrophe by moving in with you. Can you send me your phone number so that I can contact you when the catastrophe arrives? hope things are fine, Jeff P.S. I also would like your phone number so that I can bother you with questions about linux and find out how you're doing.
4. Texas Tom writes;
From ApogeeTom@aol.com Mon Jan 22 15:55:01 1996 From: ApogeeTom@aol.com Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 15:55:18 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: No Subject >"Given that Clinton will be reelected, teh govt will go broke, etc. >how will you and yours survive the coming catastrophe?" If Clinton gets reelected, I don't think it will matter as much as whether the Republicans in the Congress and Senate are reelected. Clinton will probably stop some riders on bills and stuff, but in general, big business will probably run rampant all over everything. I wish all this Balanced Budget stuff would leave education alone, regardless of party. --Tom P.S. Why does the Rochester Rag get sent to the hero from Clear and Present Danger?
Ed: Jack Ryan is the nom-de-plume of a reader who is aliasing himself for reasons of national security.
5. Doug Wilken has some historical perspective.
From email@example.com Tue Jan 23 10:51:33 1996 My Dear Steven, I see that you are predicting a collapse similar to the German Republic of the 1920's. I think our economic system is in much better shape and that you are overlooking something very important: regardless of what happens to the Republicans -- and I think they have done some incredibly stupid and short sighted moves in all of this -- they have forced the issue of balancing the budget into prominence. The consensus is now that the budget must be balanced. That is an accomplishment in and of itself. Now we are going to have quite the national hangover as we recover from this rather excessive drinking bout. We could have gone thru recovery almost painlessly back in 1980. It's gonna hurt now, but I think that we will do it. I am of the opinion that President Clinton does want to balance the budget, he just does not want the opposition to get the credit for it. Gingrich comes across the same way. I must admit that when recently Gingrich and Dole were bending over a log trying to get Clinton to agree to a budget and Clinton essentially moved his proposed budget numbers even farther away I did feel (and still do) a certain level of disgust...... Have you noticed that the DFL has gone into campaign mode? We were watching the CBS sitcom's last Monday and an ad came on how the Gingrich and Dole were trying to poison the environment, starve children, cause old people to die from negligence, etc. Good grief, we are starting to see levels of falsehood similar to those propagated by the British Empire on the American media during the 1st world war. And I was disgusted by the "willie horton" ads run by the Bush campaign. How can any thinking being (hopefully the general public) think that a minor change in a program is going to lead to mass extinction? Good grief, have any of these people being polled bothered to run any numbers through a calculator? You want to know aggravation? Senator Wellstone was on the St. Cloud State Campus two weeks ago and I could not attend the public forum due to class stuff. He is one of the most outspoken accusors of republican "plans to crush the helpless". I wanted to get a question in to actually pin him down on some numbers rather than sharp yet vague accusations. I'm not sure too many of the media types have run any decent analyses of budget numbers either. They quote figures in the range of $200 Giga and neglect to state that these are over a seven year interval and amount to about 2% of our $1.5 trillion "budget" right now. Argh. Got to love those federal furloughs. All this media attention on the poor suffering gov't workers. If I were a gov't worker being furloughed here is my survival procedure: (1) call my creditors and (2) explain that I am temporarily furloughed but all backpay will be forthcoming in short order so not to worry. Creditors will work with you if you have a good track record and run into problems. How much attention did the AT&T layoffs really get? How about USWest layoffs? I walked into Fingerhut (my 2nd job) and got a pink slip -- they loved my work, they were just cutting back and I was the new guy. I didn't notice NBC out there bemoaning the fate of the droves of Fingerhut layoffs either. Any of us in the private and semi-private sectors have the same insecurities. Obviously, the solution is that everyone have a federal job, right? -Doug Wilken
Ed: I seem to recall a similar level of euphoria during the passage of Gramm-Rudman. Yahoo.
6. Our man in Britannia writes;
From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Jan 24 07:13:19 1996 > "Given that Clinton will be reelected, teh govt will go broke, etc. > how will you and yours survive the coming catastrophe?" Steve, don't get me wrong, but I thought the government was broke years ago! Therefore, this is nothing new. The last 2 times in recent history that the US government had a chance at balancing the budget was JFK and Nixon. Under JFK, there as actually a surplus one year, but that situation was quickly remedied. Nixon's attempt was stopped by the Supreme Court since it was unconstitutional, which is different than being right or wrong. Well to survive the "coming catastrophe", I will stay in the U.K. where the Tories (Conservatives but not like Republicans) will loose the next election (whenever that is) to the Labour Party (Liberal but not like the Democrats and recently a lot more like the Tories). The UK probably won't join the single European currancy until it is too late and will cost the country much more. So who knows where it will all end up. At least Hillary is not running the Government over here. Cheers, Dave -- David H. Gay email: email@example.com Royal Institution of Great Britain http://www.ri.ac.uk/DFRL/D.H.Gay 21 Albemarle Street Phone: +44 (0)171-409-2992 LONDON W1X 4BS, UK Fax: +44 (0)171-629-3569 *** "640K ought to be enough for anybody" -- Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, 19817.
From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Jan 24 10:50:25 1996 My Answer: I hope that Bill Clinton's winning the '96 election is not a forgone conclusion. I'm desperatly looking toward other Republicans to bear the standard of conservatism in govt. Perhaps Forbes, Dornan or Keyes? We'll see how they shake out in the coming months. Even Dole would be better than Clinton. As to the second part of the question: too late! The govt. is already broke! That's why we're presently trying to downsize govt. and balance the budget, etc. Let us not forget the countrie's moral bankruptcy as well... Conservatives stand the best chance of dealing with these issues as well (in as much as a govt. can. It's really up to us to be responsible for our own actions. WE must be the moral agents of change. We lead by example.) In the meantime, Exercise all the tax deductions and loopholes you can and keep smiling! :) Joe Nottoli _____________________________________ email@example.com _____________________________________ "Caffeine is the fuel of creativity!"
Ed: Problem is, I don't think any of the announced Reps. have a chance.
-- Jan. 23, 1996. Bill Clinton's State of the Union Address. Explaining why it doesn't matter if he and his wife are congenital liars.
2. Rochester, Jan 27. : Snow fell in record amounts this month leading to lots of snow days from school, and very busy bars.
Ed: By the way, I also saw a cover of Newsweek (Jan. 22 1996) that laid the blame for the snow on global warming. Recall I predicted this in the last issue.
2. Jan 4: XMas sales showed subnormal growth this year as consumers were reluctant to use credit for purchases.
3. Jan. 9: Paula Jones, who gained notoriaty during the 92 Presidential election by claiming that she was one of Clinton's lust interests during his governorship, won her case in federal court to sue Clinton for sexual harassment while Clinton is still President.
4. Jan 19: Hillary Clinton has been subpeoned for story on the Whitewater affair.
5. Jan 30: Polls show consumer confidence at a two year low. The White House claims that this is due to concerns about the Congress halting the govt. and causing another recession.
Ed: Of course, last week in the State of the Union, Clinton said it was the best economy in 27 years due to his policies. Tough to keep up with this guy.
PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News Number 253 January 4, 1996 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein ANTIHYDROGEN ATOMS HAVE BEEN CREATED at CERN. Physicists from a Julich/Erlangen-Nuernberg/GSI/Genoa collaboration passed a beam of antiprotons through a jet of xenon gas. Occasionally, some of the antiproton's own energy can be converted into electron-positron pairs. In the case of nine events, the newly created positron's motion was well matched to that of the antiproton and they formed an atom, in effect an atom of antihydrogen. Antimatter has been produced in the lab artificially for decades; antiprotons, for example, were first produced in the 1950s. The positron was first discovered in the 1930s. But not until now have anti-atoms been made and detected. The Low Energy Antiproton Ring (LEAR) at CERN makes it possible to slow antiprotons down sufficiently to perform a variety of physics experiments, including the insertion of antiprotons into ordinary atoms and the creation of anti-atoms. In the present experiment, the anti-hydrogen atoms were not trapped, and very quickly annihilated with ordinary matter in the vicinity. Scientists at CERN hope soon to actually capture and study the new exotic atoms. First of all, one wants to be sure that all the physical laws that pertain to atoms---such as quantum mechanics---also govern the behavior of antimatter as well. (CERN press release, 4 Jan.) A FEYNMAN THOUGHT EXPERIMENT HAS BEEN DEMONSTRATED IN AN ATOM INTERFEROMETER. In his lectures, Richard Feynman imagined an experiment that explored what would happen when you shine light at an object passing through an interferometer, a device that can split the object into a pair of wavelets which are later recombined to produce an interference pattern. This experiment has been unrealizable in electron and neutron interferometers because neither type of particle interacts strongly with light. Now, using their atom interferometer, an MIT team has shone single photons on atoms inside the interferometer. As Feynman correctly described, scattering a photon from an object inside the interferometer can destroy its wave properties. If one can in principle determine a pathway for the atom by detecting the position of the scattered photon, then the object acts as a particle. On the other hand, if the two atom-wave paths are separated by less than about one-half the wavelength of the light, a scattered photon can no longer provide information on which path the atom traversed, so the wave properties are not destroyed. In a variant of the experiment, the group detected only those atoms that scattered photons in a narrow range of directions. As it turns out, the once-washed-out interference patterns reappear at the sacrifice of information about the paths the atoms took. (Michael Chapman et al, Phys. Rev. Lett., 20 November 1995.) A GIGANTIC CELESTIAL MASER provides evidence for the presence of a supermassive black hole in an active galaxy. Theorists believe that in galactic masers coherent microwaves are produced and amplified within gas clouds; the energy supply would come from a nearby black hole. The new maser is ten times more powerful than any previous specimen. Furthermore, the astronomers at the Max Planck Institute (Germany) who discovered the new water-vapor giga-maser believe that it hints at the existence of yet more powerful masers at higher red shifts and that the study of such distant objects may facilitate an alternative measurement of the Hubble constant. (Koekemoer et al., Nature, 14 December 1995.)