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Clinton Confronts Governors

When it came time for the benediction, King rose again, and mumbled, "Mercy on them, Jesus," and collapsed.

Let Us Spray
EPA's Revolving Door

When it was launched in 1970 to clean up out-of-control air and water pollution, there were great hopes for the Environmental Protection Agency. Since then it has become a snake pit of unenforced lawsuits in which bureaucrats cut one friendly corporate deal after another. Recent reports have documented a steady increase in pollution, along with the agency's apparent inability to enforce the laws. Now comes a report by the esteemed Environmental Working Group, an independent watchdog organization, that portrays the EPA as a virtual testing lab for the nation's pesticide companies.

Scrutinizing former top pesticide regulators at the EPA, the EWG found that two-thirds of the highest-ranking agency officials who have left the agency since the pesticide program was set up in 1977 receive at least part of their pay from pesticide interests actively fighting EPA efforts. Some of these revolving-door workers were negotiating their new jobs while they were involved in key pesticide regulatory decisions at EPA, the study found.

Five former EPA staffers now work for Jellinek, Schwarz & Connolly, a top pesticide-consulting firm. Steven Jellinek was a Carter-era assistant administrator for pesticides at the EPA. Other former EPA officials have gone on to work for Monsanto, the Tobacco Institute, and the pesticide manufacturer ABERCO.

Ringing Indictments
Orbit of Plutonium Probe Stirs Concern

As if allegations of thousands of workers at government weapons labs having been exposed to plutonium aren't enough, a NASA plan to whip a plutonium-powered satellite around the Earth later this month is raising new fears.

Antinuclear activists are concerned that one "slingshot" orbit of the Cassini space probe on August 18, to generate enough power to send the craft to Saturn, poses the ominous possibility that the craft's fuel could leak into Earth's atmosphere. Launched in 1997, the Cassini carries 72 pounds of plutonium 238— a man-made substance similar to the plutonium in nuclear bombs and reactors— as fuel. It is scheduled to orbit Earth and dip to within 725 miles of Earth's atmosphere at 11:28 p.m. on August 18 west of Chile in the area of Easter Island.

To reach Saturn, Cassini needs to feed off Earth's momentum. However, the "slingshot" maneuver is highly controversial. Although NASA claims the chances for reentry into the atmosphere are less than one in a million, Professor Frank von Hippel, who was a White House adviser on science and technology policy in 1993 and 1994, is less optimistic. Von Hippel points out that while Cassini's heat shield was designed for reentry at Earth's orbit speed (about seven kilometers a second), it will be going well over that rate— closer to 20 kilometers a second, or approximately 42,000 miles an hour.

"My concern is that the packaging isn't robust enough, and it will burn up completely in the case of reentry," says von Hippel. If the craft burns, its plutonium fuel will be released in potentially inhalable particles. NASA scientists claim that the amount of plutonium would be negligible in terms of its effect on the world's population, positing a worst-case scenario in which perhaps "120 to 2300 people would develop bone or lung cancer if inhaled." Some independent scientists claim those figures are grossly low. They cite a 1997 NASA report that estimated deaths in the tens of thousands in a similar scenario.

Alan Kohn, a former NASA emergency preparedness officer, is disillusioned with the continued use of plutonium to power space vessels. NASA is currently studying the feasibility of eight space probes similar to Cassini between 2000 and 2015. "The intention is to use this for the indefinite future," Kohn says. "In an indefinite series, there are no such things as odds of failure. Failure becomes inevitable."

'Chicken' Hawke Turns Tail

After nearly 1500 cops cleared a corridor for a neo-Nazi march in Washington on Saturday at a cost of $1 million, Davis Wolfgang Hawke's American Nationalist Party called off the demo because only four people showed up. "I can't imagine Britt going down there," his mother, Peggy Greenbaum, told The Washington Post, using her son's former name. Turns out Hawke grew up Jewish. "Number one, he'a a chicken," Mrs. Greenbaum said. "I don't like to say that about my own son, but he is a chicken."

Additional reporting: Ginger Adams Otis

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