MOTHER's Newsworthies: James Leach, Melvin Calvin and the New World Quartet

Learn about Congressman James Leach and the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, plus discover Melvin Calvin and the copaifera langsdorffii and the New World Quartet.


| May/June 1980



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Learn how the New World Quartet uses Yoga to become more in-tune as a band and win the Naumberg Chamber Music Award.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Brief: Congressman James Leach  

There are quite a few Washington bureaucrats who wish that Iowa Congressman James Leach had never been assigned to the House Civil Service Committee. As he sat in on the organization's hearings, the Hawkeye Stater learned the wondrous ways of the bureaucracy: how it grows ... and grows ... and grows. Leach soon decided that work-force bloat didn't have to be a progressive disease, and he proposed that a remedy be tacked onto the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The congressman suggested that the government reduce — by the end of fiscal year 1979 — the number of federal workers to 1977's level.

Much to everyone's surprise, Leach's amendment passed. And to everyone's even greater astonishment, the program worked! When the Office of Personnel Management made its government employment study last December, it discovered that there were then 2,204,000 federal workers ... 68,000 fewer than in 1978! The resulting saving to the taxpayer has been estimated at one billion dollars.

Now Leach has another concern. He's discovered that there are millions of "quasi-employees" of the government ... folks who are engaged in what's called "contracted employment". The nice thing — say the bureaucrats — about hiring people on contract is that such workers aren't counted as being federal employees. The not-so-nice side of the coin — says Leach — is that it's almost impossible to get a true idea of the size of the government work force ... and that the people in contracted employment are not subject to the normal checks and balances of the civil service. Right now, there are 70 percent more people working for the government on contract than there are on the regular federal payroll (excluding the military and the postal service), so bringing them under some kind of control seems like a pretty good idea.

Leach has a bill in the hopper that would do just that.

Brief: Melvin Calvin 

Dr. Melvin Calvin won the 1961 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on photosynthesis. And now, Calvin is about to earn the gratitude of the motoring public ... because the American scientist has discovered a plant that actually yields diesel fuel!

Calvin was already studying Brazil's hydrocarbon-producing plants when he heard that the sap of a local bush — Copaifera langsdorffii — could be used as a fuel in diesel engines ... just as it came from the tree! Dr. Calvin was understandably skeptical, but he soon discovered that the reports were, indeed, correct. The plant — which grows both along the Amazon river and on the Brazilian plain — can be tapped to yield up to 30 liters (per tree) of high-quality diesel fuel twice a year.





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