To calm the uproar that followed when he suggested that innate sex differences may account in part for the paucity of women in the sciences, Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers, established two task forces to tackle faculty gender disparities. They are due to report back today, with recommendations expected to go into effect this fall. Probably on the agenda: a new senior administrator responsible for gender representation; faculty searches focusing on women; and new measures to help faculty members balance work and family commitments.
With North Korea emerging as a pugnacious nuclear power, Iran suspected of having a weapons program, and the United States pre-emptively invading a nuclear hopeful even as it develops new nuclear weapons at home, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty faces a crisis of noncompliance. Every five years the treaty signers meet for a review conference; the latest, which kicks off today, promises to be fractious. The man charged with enforcing the NPT, Mohammed ElBaradei, has proposed a five-year moratorium on new uranium-enrichment facilities in exchange for a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel to affected states. The Bush administration envisions a stricter version of this formula.
Most anticipate that the Labour Party will continue in power after the elections expected today, as will Tony Blair—despite a struggle over succession with his powerful chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown. The expectation of a handover to Brown was triggered by the worsening situation in Iraq last spring, and reinforced by Blair's heart troubles and his purchase of an expensive new home (presumably for retirement) near Hyde Park. Last fall, however, Blair announced that he would serve a full five-year term if Labour won, and conservatives were forced to shelve their taunts of "Vote Tony, Get Gordon." Next up on the Blair-survival watch: a contentious yes/no vote on the European Union constitution, expected by the spring of 2006.
Germany's far-right National Democratic Party rattled mainstream politicians by winning nearly 10 percent of the vote in the economically depressed eastern state of Saxony last year. Its representatives stalked out of their state legislature during a moment of silence for Holocaust remembrance. And in February its supporters conducted a highly publicized march to memorialize the bombing of Dresden, which they compared to the Holocaust. Party members plan to march to the Brandenburg Gate—a block from the new national Holocaust Memorial, for which opening ceremonies will be held on May 10—to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the Nazi surrender. The German government has tried in the past to ban the party, and continues its efforts to ban the march.
The Pentagon has estimated that perhaps 25 percent of the nation's military facilities are unnecessary, so military towns are bracing for recommendations today by the Defense Department to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission—the first round of proposed cuts since 1995. From 1988 to 1995, 20 percent of the country's facilities were closed, saving $16.7 billion through 2001 and reducing future costs by another $7 billion a year. If the Pentagon has its way, this highly fraught process may cut 20 percent of remaining facilities, much to the consternation of members of Congress with bases in their districts.
James Wolfensohn, the ambitious Australian-born financier in charge of the World Bank, steps down today in the first of three changes of leadership over the next two years at top international financial organizations (the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will follow). Wolfensohn earned praise for paring the Bank's notoriously bloated bureaucracy and broadening its mandate to include social and environmental agendas. Detractors claim that he spread the organization too thin and ignored its core mission of stimulating growth. The Europeans—who have traditionally chosen the International Monetary Fund's head, while the United States has chosen the World Bank's—have nursed a grudge since America blocked the last IMF pick, and could make selecting a successor difficult.