STOP CASSINI Newsletter #53 -- October 6th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #53 - October 6th, 1997


Latest news about stopping Cassini -- the final chances to stop the launch are upon us! If we cannot stop the launch, we WILL continue to try to stop the flyby in 1999! Hearings won't take forever. We need hearings BEFORE we run this risk!

Sincerely, Russell D. Hoffman, Editor, STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #53, October 6th, 1997 *****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #53 October 6th, 1997 ******

By Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman

*** Cassini: Front Page News Across the Country! The Internet Rules!!!! (Part 1))

Important anti-nuclear Cassini protests last weekend in Florida (more on them below) and a (brief) but well-balanced 60 Minutes piece featuring Dr. John Gofman were probably the impetus for some page one Cassini coverage around the nation on Monday, including an AP wire service article titled "Stringent testing unable to stem worries over launch" by Marcia Dunn, October 6th, 1997, seen in the North County Times, (California) had the following quote:


But in a scene straight out of a conspiracy thriller, anti-nuclear activists, pacifists and even a retired NASA safety officer have joined forces to expose what they believe are government lies. They want to stop Cassini's Oct. 13 launch, which they fear could kill or maim thousands.

It's the biggest, loudest crusade against a nuclear-powered space shot ever. Then again, it's the most plutonium for a space shot ever -- 72 pounds of the highly radioactive, highly carcinogenic stuff, compressed into a nonpulverizing ceramic form so it cannot be inhaled in the event of a launch accident.

By mail, by phone, by rally and especially by Internet, the anti-Cassini crowd is gaining attention, if not momentum, as the launch date nears.


The article goes on to quote JPL's Richard Spehalski, Cassini program manager: "Their techniques are very much like walking into a crowded movie theater and yelling, 'Fire!'"

If it sometimes appears that way, or if some of us are more fearful than others and/or express that fear more strongly, that is probably because Cassini contains somewhere around 270 Billion potentially lethal doses of firey-hot black death, and planet Earth is crowded, Mr. Spehalski. So one could say we are, indeed, yelling fire in a crowded theater. With justification.

*** C|NET reports online about Cassini. The Internet Rules!!!! (Part 2)

C|NET did an interview with the author of this newsletter last week, about what the effect of the Internet has been on the Cassini battle. Here's the URL:,4,14916,00.html

The article states:


NASA has responded to what it considers
exaggerated fears with a section on its site devoted
to the nuclear safety issue. Traffic to that part of the
site accounts for 4 percent of its hits, which have
totaled 200,000 per day in the past week or so.


The word "section" above links to the NASA/JPL Cassini section where an article called "Cassini Mission False and True" is offered:

But we actually answered that article many moons ago, and that answer is at this location:

Our article is called "FALSE, TRUE... and TRUER. An answer to a NASA/JPL document" and was written in May, 1997. (I've learned a lot since then. Have they?)

But the real question, of course, is not whether NASA has answered my charges. Answering me would mean nothing. It would degrade them. I'm a cheap shot. A charlatan, a fraud. My "crudentials" are less than paper thin, they do not exist. I write educational software, I am an Assembler language computer programmer, and in my profession, I must think logically. And I must know how to listen to experts. But other than that and the fact that I have put my business on "autopilot" (filling orders and handling support calls, but not upgrading software or creating new products) during 1997 to study the Cassini issue, there is no reason anyone should trust me. I mean, unless they want to anyway, that is...

What NASA has not done, is to answer the detailed charges of the likes of Kaku, Poehler, Wilcock, McCluney, Kohn, Caldicott, Sternglass, Rosin, Blockey-O-Brien, Kiedel, Sea, Gofman, Grossman, WSOPJ, WILPF, Downwinders, FCPJ and hundreds of other groups representing millions of people. NASA continues to ignore these people. NASA has not satisfied Peg McIntire. Of course they ignore me, that is -- perhaps -- gulp -- even understandable. But I'm only the last in line. I jump up and down and scream, but I am not the leader. I am not even next to the leader. I am nothing but a bunch of hot electrons buzzing out of a screen, created by one concerned citizen. I don't count. Answer me, NASA, and you answer practically nothing. Even I know this.

But where are the answers to the hundreds of individual charges leveled by respected American and internationally recognized scientists, humanitarians, peace organizations, grandmothers, mothers and children? Where? Has NASA comforted these people? Last weekend 87 year old Peg McIntire, of Grandmothers for Peace, tiny, frail, spicy Peg, as darling a woman as I have ever met in my life (I met her in London last March), Peg would have CLIMBED THE FENCE if NASA had not, in its final desperate moment, opened the gates to let her and her grandmothers in last weekend. Has NASA comforted Peg?

Actually, they arrested her and a couple of dozen others.

During Tiananmen Square, China's lead tank driver just couldn't bare to run over it's citizen hero. But we have yet to see that brave driver on world T.V.! We should make it a condition of further trade with China to meet that man so we can give him an international medal! But I digress. Here, I vote that whoever it was that opened the gates for Peg McIntire's heroic old ladies is last weekend's hero for American style justice.

*** These two emails speak for themselves:

Sometimes it becomes clear that this is not really a matter of knee-jerk reactions, thoughtless and unbalanced opposition to progress, or simple fear of the word "radioactive". Sometimes, it becomes not just possible, but wise to reach out to the other side and seek common ground. These two emails, both from the same person, arrived today and need no commentary.


I reviewed, and was disgusted with the pseudo-science in the NASA Final EIS for the Cassini Mission. As a former nuclear safety analysis "expert", I have extensive background in "guessing at" accident releases. This includes release fractions as well as particle sizing.

Over all, the absolute lack of supporting BASIS in the selection of values used for both the probabilities and release fractions is astounding. If this information had been presented, it would easily have been shot-down by even the most rookie of peer reviewers. I know NASA can produce better analysis. This "report" leads me to believe either the real experts have left, were not used, or management's manipulation of the final documents.

This is a sad note for The United States of America, and I call on all of science to speak up!

END OF EMAIL #1 of 2



You may use the e-mail in a newsletter, so long as most of it stays intact. [Note: Not one word has been omitted, except the author's name.]


I worked for a major contractor to the DOE, the owner of the RTG's. We did safety analysis on the facilities where nuclear material is processed as well as stored.

As a former scientist, I learned that humans do not "know" as much as they like to think they know. The same can be said for science!

Some people tend to be mesmerized by technical documents. Huge documents are mainly blanket statements will very small sections of analysis, supported by an even smaller technical basis. One must review those supporting "stand-alone" documents.

It is the experiments from the past, the empirical evidence, and determination of the proper and "suitable" use to new cases, that is the real essence of proper study. Analysis only builds a case for moving ahead with already commissioned projects.

END OF EMAIL #2 of 2

*** A reminder that there are good scientists on BOTH sides of the debate:


At 05:07 PM 10/6/97 "K" wrote:

I've been following this debate with great interest (as I'm a NASA funded mechanical engineer working for U.C. Berkeley), and one thing that bothers me is the style you (as the "opposition") have chosen.

The pro-Cassini forces have lots of awards, credentials, etc, etc, behind them, as does Dr Kaku, et al. The difference comes in the debate, both in your writings on your page, and the debates I've heard on NPR.

3 or 4 weeks ago, there was a 1/2 hour segment on "Science Friday" about the use of RTG's on Cassini. Dr Kaku was very rude, and interrupted both the NASA person (who's name I forget) and the other expert in nuclear biochemistry who had 40 years experience in the field. His behavior was childish, and it seems to me that people who truly have the facts behind them don't need to resort to that type of behavior to make a point.

Trying to belittle your opposition only hurts your cause. The pro-Cassini people are all well educated, concerned scientists and engineers. They feel they have properly addressed the issue at hand. They feel your data is just as "false" as you feel theirs is.

Personally, after reading all the info out there, I feel that Cassini should launch as planned. However, future use of RTG's should be thoroughly justified and publicly debated at the START of the project.

Anyway, you've obviously put a great deal of time and hard work into your page. While I disagree with you, I think your effort should be applauded.




This is a tough letter to answer, perhaps as tough as any I have ever received. Because I know he's basically right.

I have learned that there are good people on both sides, and there are fools on both sides, and there are obstinate fools and fools that try very hard not to be fools, but still remain fools. And I am undoubtedly one of the fools at least some of the time. I am shocked sometimes when I look back at what I have written (which I have had very little time to do, these days). Could I really have been that angry?

I wonder what it is like being on the receiving end of my more acerbic remarks. After all, no one invited me to comment on their life's work...

I hope, in having played some part in waking America up to the need to discuss the effects of low lever radiation and the dilution solution to pollution in general, that I have not helped also, to divide this country into scientists versus humanitarians, or scientists versus peaceniks, or scientists versus doomsdaysayers. I hope instead to have helped awaken America and the world up to the fact that we have a debate going on between scientists and scientists which has NOT been resolved in favor of the current policies. We are doing things as if we knew what we are doing, and we do not. The best scientists I have ever met, all agree how little we know.

There are many people crying over Cassini right now. I will proclaim that there is more science yet to be found in the reasons we cry, and the sheer amazing mechanics of it, than we will ever get out of Saturn. That's putting things into perspective. We have much science left to learn, and we must learn it without blowing up too many labs in the process. And without risking wide-spread plutonium contamination.

In my opinion, NASA, with all its power and money and ingrained public willingness to support it, needs some control, needs a way for opposition scientists, especially environmental and health related scientists, to speak their piece. NASA needs to start linking to the opposition web sites, they need to start presenting the information on the Internet themselves, and not wait for us to have to do it. (i.e., the famous 1981 JPL Rockey report on solar arrays.)


*** Thursday, October 9th protest in Cleveland, Ohio:

Cleveland Women Speak Out for Peace & Justice (WILPF) plans downtown leaflet urging President Clinton to stop the launch; Thursday, Oct. 9th at noon.

All other groups, organizations & individuals are asked to endorse, support and join this last-minute effort to prevent possible worldwide plutonium contamination.

Call and add group name(s) to media release: 216- 932-2109 WSOPJ / WILPF or other groups involved in similar actions before Sunday. Contact other local, state & national groups to support activities where they are.

*** Saturday, October 11th rally in Seattle Washington:

============= Begin forwarded message ===========

SAT OCT 11, 1 p.m., Westlake Park, 4th & Pine. STOP CASSINI! [ 72 pounds of plutonium being launched in an accident prone rocket, which if released could cause cancer in everyone! ] Participatory street theatre, marching to Pike Place Market & other downtown sites, to draw public attention to the planned Oct. 13 launch of the Cassini space probe at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with 72.3 pounds of plutonium aboard. Contact Bill Clinton *today* to demand cancellation: 202-456-1111; Info: Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia, 206-547-0952.

From a participant yesterday "Despite the wind and rain, the Cassini street theatre went so well that people decided to do it again next Saturday. ... A real testimony to how much fun people have with participatory theatre things!"

*** What is Dr. John Gibbons, Science Advisor to Clinton, missing?

Geoffrey Sea, radiological health physicist and director of the Atomic Reclamation and Conversion Project of the Tides Center, sent a fax to Clinton Science Advisor Dr. John Gibbons recently which brings up some interesting points about how NASA cannot ultimately win public support for their actions, even if the launch is successful. NASA is in a quagmire, and cannot even focus on the real problems presented to it. While they complain about the complaints that are spreading around on the Internet, they ignore the substance of the complaints. Worse, they ignore the fact that the Internet is a substantial representation of the people, imperfect, since it has mostly better-educated and somewhat better-off users than average, but still the best place to put your finger if you want to get a pulse on what the country is thinking... NASA will learn this, some day.

Here's the URL of Mr. Sea's wonderful fax:

*** Contact Dr. Donna Shalala, Secretary, Health and Human Services

A fax sent to Dr. Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C. by Pamela Blockey-O'Brien, Environmentalist, Human Rights Advocate makes for very interesting reading and others may want to print it out and fax it to her as well at: (202) 690-6247.

Pamela Blockey-O-Brien, an Environmentalist and Human Rights Advocate, was introduced in Newsletter #49. Her fax to Dr. Shalala is full of interesting quotes, many of them from sworn testimony, such as by Dr. Karl Z. Morgan regarding NASA's SNAP-9A mishap in 1964.


Dr. Morgan said: "During the 58 years I have been working with ionizing radiation I have seen so many mistakes, misstatements, cover-ups and untrue statements by members of our government agencies (e.g. AEC, DOE, NRC, NASA etc.) and by representatives of the nuclear industry that I seek independent safety evaluations of radiation risks before I trust their accuracy." He goes on to describe the US space launch made in 1964 (that he and others protested) carrying just over two pounds of plutonium 238, and the assurances received that there was a risk of only one chance in ten million of an abortive mission and Earth re-entry, and how that ended in a ghastly incineration over the Indian Ocean and how "We of course do not know how much of this Pu-238 resides in persons now living, or dead and in children to be born in the next 100,000 years, but it is not unreasonable to assume it will have caused many thousands of deaths."


*** Do I think there is a chance Clinton will stop the launch? Maybe, if he reads this:

Hello Mr. Hoffman:

During the past few weeks, I have spent some time on the Internet reading about the planned Cassini space launch. I am confused and scared. The facts presented pro and con are so divergent, it is difficult to assess what the real danger is. None the less, I have concluded that even the most conservative estimate presents a risk that is not worth the benefit (in my opinion). Why risk any lives on our beautiful planet to explore a 'dead' planet, especially when the same knowledge can be gained if the space program would only be patient and wait for a safe alternative. I have written letters to President Clinton and Vice President Gore, but I have a feeling that they have no intention of stopping this launch. I am scared, not just about this launch, but because of the intended fly-by in two years of the Cassini craft, and of the intended launches carrying plutonium in the future. I really feel that this is the moment to take a stand and let NASA know that it has to find a safe alternative.

I have never attended a rally or demonstration of any sort before, but I plan to attend the candle light vigil on Sunday 12th. I will have to bring my two young children with me (5 and 3), please let me know if you think this will be unsafe. [No, not for a minute. I am sure it will be safe. --rdh]

Also, do you think there is any chance that President Clinton will stop the launch? [Yes, I still do.--rdh]

I pray and hope for the sake of our planet and its inhabitants that our leaders will learn the lessons from the past and come to their senses.


*** More from the electronic mailbag...


I believe you are doing this more for self promotion than for a just cause. I also believe your claims are overstated and are intended to play on the fears of those who fear technology. You are doing a great disservice to man kind.


Townsend, MA




Well, another party heard from. I do what I do because I believe Dr. Gofman is right and has been unfairly silenced, I do what I do because I believe Dr. Kaku is right and has been unfairly silenced. I do what I do... you get the point. I can't help it if people like to read what I write, can I? No one needs to visit the web site, or tell others to, but they do. I do what I do because I believe the hidden health effects of the world's nuclear policies need to be exposed, and NASA bad science needs to be given up for good, wholesome, humane science in the public interest. If NASA will not do that, we should give the money to an agency that will.

One more point: If I were doing what I do to "play on fears of those who fear technology" it would certainly not explain the rest of my actions in life, which you say I am promoting. I have lectured FOR technology (including before National Academy of Sciences grant holders in Washington DC) for over a decade.

Thank you for writing,

Russell Hoffman


*** Chernobyl: Environmental, Health and Human Rights Implications

This book sounds good. There was testimony from dozens of doctors and professors and quite a few concerned citizens as well:


Chernobyl: Environmental, Health and Human Rights Implications

This landmark book, published by the International Peace Bureau, reports the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal Hearing on the consequences of the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

New scientific studies reveal a growing legacy of harm from low dose radiation. This book has important implications for the future of life and biosphere - and the nuclear industry.

Includes testimony from Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Prof. Jay Gould and many other distinguished scientists.



Please feel free to post these newsletters anywhere you feel it's appropriate! THANKS!!!

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for reading,
Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI webmaster.


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