STOP CASSINI Newsletter #152 -- July 15th, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

To: Subscribers, Press, Government Officials

Subject: World Atomic Safety Holiday (Y2K WASH Campaign): STOP CASSINI #152

Date: July 15th, 1999

Time Frame: Cassini is scheduled to do the flyby of Earth August 18th, 1999 (August 17th in the USA) near Africa.

Today's Subjects:

(1) Nobody, but nobody, and nothing, but nothing, we have ever made is perfect:

As reported in the Houston Chronicle, the head of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum was killed in a motorized glider crash yesterday. Formerly of the FAA, Donald Engen, 75, and internationally known pilot William Ivans, 79, died after their glider broke apart at about 11,000 feet. The article states that there were no apparent weather disturbances at the time.

According to the article, Ivans "was considered a soaring pioneer who had won top soaring awards for high-altitude flights." It also states that Larry Sanderson, president of the Soaring Society of America, said the plane they were in was "an extremely well-built aircraft. So it had to be a very unusual set of circumstances that stressed the aircraft."

Here were two people who surely could have been expected to have done everything right that they could have. Who knows? Maybe they should have had parachutes strapped on too, just in case of "an unusual set of circumstances". Maybe Cassini will suffer from "an unusual set of circumstances".

For more information, here is the Houston Chronicle article:

(2) Whenever, wherever: Conflicting statements about the Venus and Earth flybys

Here are some of the various values which NASA has given for the projected Earth flyby time and altitude, and for the previous (Venus 2) flyby last month:

From NASA/JPL status report for June 24th, 1999: "[The] Venus flyby will be followed by a 1,166-kilometer (724-mile) flyby of Earth on August 18 (August 17 Pacific time at 8:28 p.m. PDT)"

From: "Aug. 18, 1999, 1170 km"

From: " altitude of 1173 km"

As we pointed out previously (newsletter #137), NASA has available to it, excellent control of the time of the flyby. Of course, NASA prefers that the probe be unlikely to come down on America, in part because they have placed it under the Price-Anderson Act (an absurd act to begin with, absurdly applied to Cassini). Price-Anderson limits the payments for damage from Cassini which the United States would make to any other country to just $100,000,000 dollars. That won't buy a lot of chemotherapy machines or lung transplant operations, let alone pay for the permanent loss of a very large parcel of land. Only a few acres in some towns.

Here are some of the various times and altitudes NASA gave for the second Venus flyby. Note, in the end, their wondrous claims of awesome accuracy:

From (Venus Closest Approach: 20:35)

From: "617 km"

From NASA/JPL Mission Status Report, June 23rd, 1999: "The Cassini spacecraft will perform its second scheduled Venus flyby (or Venus 2 swingby) with its closest approach at 1:30:05 pm, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) (4:30 pm EDT) on June 24, 1999."

From: NASA/JPL Cassini Mission Status June 24, 1999: "As planned, Cassini came within 600 kilometers (about 370 miles) of the planet at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time".

From: NASA/JPL Cassini Mission Status June 25, 1999: "closest approach to Venus occurring at 13:29 PDT"

From: NASA/JPL Cassini Significant Events for 06/25/99 to 06/29/99: "Closest Approach occurred on June 24, at 20:29:55 UTC at an altitude of 602.6 kilometers above the surface of Venus. This is only two seconds earlier and four kilometers higher than the flyby trajectory that was targeted by the last pre-Venus TCM 37 days earlier on May 18, 1999."

The claim of extreme accuracy is being made after the fact; the claimed calculated trajectory was not published and cannot be confirmed (as far as the editor of this newsletter can tell from his review of NASA/JPL Cassini reports). It also conflicts with the June 23rd published predictions from NASA/JPL itself!

In truth it doesn't matter if the Venus flyby occurred at 602.6 KM or 617 KM or at 20:39:55 UTC or a few minutes earlier or later. The point is that NASA should not pretend it has proven that it has pinpoint accuracy.

-- Russell Hoffman

(3) Who cares about space? Harris Corp. poll suggests most people don't

The San Diego Union Tribune published an article recently (June 29th, 1999) stating that a survey of 1,000 people from around the United States found that the most important technological invention of the 20th Century, according to those polled, is the computer! (40% of respondents picked it). Television and the refrigerator tied for second with 12% each. Then came "medical advances such as antibiotics and vaccines" which garnered 6%. Then came "the airplane and space flight" which each got a measly 3% of the votes.

If NASA were not so arrogant and were more democratic and served society's needs better, space flight might have gotten 4% or maybe even 6% -- who knows? But with all their free publicity from a media full of astronaut wannabes (like me), 3% was all they could muster.

All in all, I think these rankings are rather reasonable and I cheer my favorite high tech device -- the computer -- once again! Long Live the Internet! (And the computers on which it runs.) And, (3%), long live honest space exploration!

(4) Cassini can't kill everyone: Really it can't.

I would like to assure my readers of something some people appear to be in some degree of doubt about. It is this: Cassini alone CANNOT kill everyone on Earth. Oh sure, statistically it is POSSIBLE, but not very possible. That is, it is not like NASA's infamous "one in one million" odds which are not really all that good even if they are accurate (which is highly debatable!). But to kill everyone, is a different matter entirely. The odds that Cassini will kill everyone are probably more like "one in two to the one millionth power" or something truly trivial like that, not like the mere "one in one million" which NASA proclaims are the odds for a reentry accident.

Even NASA admits that 5 billion people 5,000,000,000) might receive a dose from a Cassini reentry, but of these, they claim only a few hundred would die. We do not disagree that not all would die. The question is, how many? A million? 10 Million? More? How can NASA be so sure it will only be a few hundred? They can't, but they can be honestly sure it won't kill everyone and so can we. The argument is whether or not "one in one million" is accurate, and how many deaths will occur should that "one in one million" accident occur despite the odds against it (whatever they may actually be.)

Cassini's potential is in the 10's of millions according to Dr. Ernest Sternglass, perhaps millions according to Dr. John W. Gofman, and, since I think both of these learned Doctors are assuming a widespread (if not perfectly even) dispersal, I say 50,000,000 is possible if it comes down over a rainy New York City -- which most certainly could happen. All 50,000,000 would not die the next day, but they would be condemned within minutes to a horrible fate such as cancer, leukemia, and birth defects (and for what?). That is an example of a true "worst of the worst" worst case scenario.

Once the 400,000 Curies of plutonium disperses, it kills one by one, randomly. It could even kill millions and NO ONE COULD PROVE IT HAD KILLED ANYONE AT ALL and that, in fact, is what scares me the most. That Cassini will reenter Earth's atmosphere, vaporize, and then NASA will start to say "See? No one died from Cassini!" If that happens, the future will be bleak indeed. The next item is something that even the editor of the STOP CASSINI newsletter thinks makes Cassini look like a walk in the park -- the issue of Y2K and nukes.

Y2K can perhaps kill us all. How? By causing nuclear war to start by accident! (As J. R. Nyquist of World Net Daily will happily point out, not all nuclear wars kill everyone, but as he is reluctant to point out, SOME can!) Nuclear war can wipe out humanity without the help of an accidental Y2K launch to start it. Even errant asteroids can wipe out human life on Earth. But Cassini's potential, grave though it is, is still not in that league under any circumstances.

-- Russell Hoffman

(5) Y2K and Nukes: November is not soon enough!


Return-Path: (
Date: Thu, 08 Jul 1999 17:43:24 -0400
From: Mary Olson (
Organization: NIRS

Greetings! The following is a NIRS Press release and AP story on status of US nuclear reactors and the Y2K problem. Japanese activists have launched an international initiative called Y2K WASH Campaign -- or Y2K World Atomic Safety Holiday -- a call for all nuclear facilities to be off-line for New Years, be subject to strict criteria of Y2K compliance, given robust back-up power systems and also the de-alerting of nuclear weapons.

If you want more information or are ready to adopt this campaign, contact Mary Olson at NIRS (202)328-0002 or Yumi Kukuchi at

P.S. NIRS lacks a press fax capability at the moment, so please do release this to your local press...they won't see it any other way!

1424 16th Street NW, #404, Washington, DC 20036
202.328.0002; fax: 202.462.2183;;

July 8, 1999 or
Paul Gunter


The Nuclear Information and Resource Service gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Y2K program failing grades today, based on the agency's admission that 35 nuclear reactors still haven't resolved their problems with the well-known computer bug.

NIRS noted that several of these reactors aren't even scheduled to complete their fixes until November 1999-or even later--which leaves virtually no time for testing and further adjustment to their repairs.

"The NRC's program is unacceptable," said NIRS' executive director Michael Mariotte. "It's what we feared all along-this agency is waiting until the last minute and then just hoping that everything will work out ok. But with nuclear reactors, there is no margin for error. Simply hoping for the best is a sure indication that the worst can happen."

According to the NRC, which released preliminary information about the status of nuclear reactors and the Y2K issue yesterday, 35 reactors are not yet "Y2K ready," although all were supposed to be ready by July 1, 1999. Moreover, as noted yesterday by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the concept of Y2K ready does not mean "Y2K compliant." In fact, for the nuclear industry, "Y2K ready" can mean simply turning back the clock to 1972 and hoping everything works properly.

"Obviously, the nuclear utilities still have an enormous amount of work to do to repair their computer systems for the next century," said Mary Olson, NIRS' Y2K specialist. "The NRC is trying to put the best spin possible on this problem, but the fact is some utilities just aren't going to be ready in time. Experts agree that no nuclear power will be needed in the U .S. on January 1, 2000-there will be plenty of electrical generation available. For that reason, we join with our colleagues across the globe in calling for a nuclear moratorium on January 1-a shutdown of all nuclear facilities across the world. Who knows, we may find we can live without them permanently?"

Among the U.S. reactors that do not even intend to meet minimal Y2K issues until after November 1, 1999 are: Brunswick-1 (NC, 11/30/99); Comanche Peak-1 & 2 (TX, 11/30/99); Cook-1 & 2 (12/15/99); Farley-2 (Al, 12/16/99); Salem-1 (NJ, 11/6/99). Many others have a Y2K-ready date of the end of October 1999.

In December 1998, NIRS submitted three petitions for rulemaking to the NRC. One would require any utility not fully Y2K-compliant by December 1, 1999 to be closed until it can prove it is Y2K-compliant. Thus far, the NRC has not indicated that any reactor will be Y2K-compliant by December 1, 1999.

NIRS is also actively working to provide assistance to Eastern-bloc utilities that suffer from Y2K problems with their reactors and electrical grids.

"More U.S. assistance is necessary for many Eastern countries to ensure that January 1, 2000 is not a time of meltdown, but of celebration," said Olson. "The U.S. Congress needs to recognize that several Eastern countries need help in basic Y2K work and in enabling the implementation of meaningful contingency plans. Such assistance is of little cost to the U.S., but will be of great benefit if meltdowns and electrical grid disruptions can be avoided."


(6) Depleted Uranium: A philosophical reply to New Scientist


To: Editor, New Scientist
From: Russell D. Hoffman, Carlsbad, California, USA
Re: Depleted Uranium

Date: July 14th, 1999

To The Editor:

Regarding your column on Depleted Uranium (This Week, June 5th, 1999, page 20), I just wanted to state that I don't think any RAND study is to be believed!

In this instance, they are stating that since no "peer reviewed" studies have SHOWN an increase in cancer rates, there is therefore nothing to worry about. This is an abuse of statistical reasoning because it is in fact rather difficult to show a statistical correlation between low level radiation and cancer, and amidst the turmoil of everyday life it is hard enough to do the proper studies, let alone during/after a war. So no RAND-approved study does NOT = no problem!

Instead one should start at the other direction -- IF there could be a problem, how would we know? Well, one way would be if we have proof that low level radiation exposure IS dangerous. If we are sure that's true, then the fact that an imperceptible increase in cancer rates is, in fact, not perceptible (statistically speaking, for "peer review") should NOT be taken to mean there is no danger! It could just as well mean the RAND-approved researchers did proper studies, which of course, were unable to prove something that is, statistically, virtually impossible to prove anyway because studying the real world is mighty, mighty complicated. Look how many centuries (yes, not decades!) it has taken to "prove" (and some still argue it) that cigarette smoke is dangerous to one's health!

As it happens, in the case of radiation dangers, Dr. John W. Gofman has recently outlined for us the scientific ("peer reviewed" for RAND's pleasure) evidence that even a single decaying atom of radioactive material can cause mutation in living cells. Please see my STOP CASSINI newsletter #127 for the Gofman statement, where is was first published:

An interesting thing about statistical reasoning is that it is difficult to work with large samples in the real world. The reason is that "confounding factors" clutter up the equations and it becomes impossible to prove a correlation. As the proponents of nuclear horror like to point out, a few thousand cancer deaths when a billion of those now living WILL die of cancer "anyway", is not very many extra, percentage-wise.

But where the nuclear proponents and I (and most other anti-nuke activists, I presume) differ is that we feel that those extra deaths that DU might cause are worth preventing and they don't! We feel that they are NOT "mixed in" with the other billion cancer deaths, but rather, "added to" them! Sure, we all must die some time, but why hasten that awful moment for anyone? And worse, stretch it out into painful months and even years of cancerous torture (we should all die quietly in our sleep, in our 90's or beyond). Or destine us to a lifetime of deformed cruelty. That is what we are asking, is it not? Why do this to others around the planet at random, just because when you are fighting someone here and now? DU kills unborn noncombatants who don't even live near the war zone! Science has proven that it CAN, and therefore it MUST do that (if it is used)! To deny it simply because there has so far been a failure of statistical reasoning to show such a complex and subtle correlation is absurd, and totally without compassion. It is philosophically weak, it is illogical, it is criminally insane. It is as if to say, "I shot an arrow in to the air, and since where it lands I know not where, THEREFORE it couldn't have killed anyone!" Poppycock!

RAND-approved studies have disproved nothing! The nuclear proponents will claim (as they have to me and to others), "but how can you expect us to PROVE nothing happened?!? It's impossible to prove a negative!" and the answer is simple: Since radioactive materials have already been proven harmful in any dose, there is nothing more that needs to be said, because logic dictates that you are not allowed to use weapons which kill indiscriminately, even many years or centuries after the war they are used in. It is not so complicated as RAND studies would make it out to be. Unless you put a bullet in the breach, a gun cannot go off accidentally. On the other hand, NOTHING humans can do will stop a radioactive decay from happening and NOTHING humans can do lets us predict the exact moment of decay for a particular atom of radioactive material.

It is exactly like the issue with land mines, which should of course be banned worldwide not because they are not an excellent weapon, which they are, but because they kill indiscriminately, even many years or even perhaps centuries after the war they are used in.

In Cambodia, in Kosovo -- all over the world -- do you know how peasants clear fields of land mines?

They put animals out to pasture in the fields. The animals step on the mines eventually and blow themselves (sometimes painfully, sometimes instantly) to bits.

In RAND's "peer-reviewed" studies of death, they start with an immoral premise, then they arrange the discussion so that THEY appear to be the ones being asked to do the impossible by proving a negative, and then THEY claim "so how could it be bad if no one can prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt?" when the real question is, "so how could it be good if logic, philosophy, reason and compassion all say it's crazy?"


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


It is my conclusion after roughly six months of subscribing, that although New Scientist has many good articles, it is generally weak on environmental issues, especially regarding low level radiation dangers. And they haven't got a clue about the problem of manmade orbital space debris and its historical and geopolitical causes. -- rdh

(7) Delivering bad news is no accident: The undelivered Apollo 11 speech

Recent news reports indicate that William Safire, formerly a speech writer for President Richard "I am not a crook!" Nixon and now a columnist for The New York Times (once a bastion of righteousness in this editor's eyes, but no longer), penned a speech to be used in case the first moon landing resulted in failure and a loss -- by stranding, still alive -- of the crew. (Actions included cutting off communication before the "bitter end".)

The following comment on the subject was found in something sent in by Larry Klaes and was written by Dwayne Allen Day :

"I am reminded of the comment that Buzz Aldrin supposedly made when asked about what he and Neil would do in their last moments on the moon if the engine did not ignite: "I suppose we would have spent most of the time trying to fix the engine." "

I wonder who is writing NASA's "Oops, folks, Cassini failed, but don't worry, no one will get hurt anyway because the dose will be TOO SMALL TO HARM ANYONE" speech? I wonder if anyone is writing one for Clinton as well, or does he plan to pretend it's too small a matter for him to bother with? (Actually, I just wrote it for them! I would hope they would add in "sorry" but I doubt it.)

(8) What you can do today to stop the Cassini flyby of Earth:

To learn about the absurd excuses NASA used to launch Cassini in 1997, ask them for the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini mission and all subsequent documentation. At the same time, be sure to ask them for ANY and ALL documentation available on future uses of plutonium in space, including MILITARY, CIVILIAN, or "OTHER" (just in case they make a new category somehow!). To get this information, contact:

Cassini Public Information
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
(818) 354-5011 or
(818) 354-6478

NASA states that they do not have the resources anymore to answer most emails they receive. Liars! They have $13 billion dollars to play with. They can answer the public's questions!

Here's NASA's "comments" email address:

Daniel Goldin is the head of NASA. Here's his email address: or

Here's the NASA URL to find additional addresses to submit written questions to:


Be sure to "cc" the president and VP and your senators and congresspeople, too.

Always include your full name and postal address in all correspondence to any Government official of any country.

(7) Subscription information

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Published by Russell D. Hoffman electronically.
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