Why has NASA strategically placed 25 freight-rail cars between the Kennedy Space Center's giant launch pad and the pristine Florida beach 200 yards away?
NASA confirms the boxcars are playing an instrumental role in "Operation Dark Dune." No, it's not a top-secret space mission. Rather, their height is keeping the glowing lights of the launchpad, where space shuttles are silhouetted against the dark night sky, from disturbing nesting sea turtles and their newly hatched offspring.
The space agency explains that the light emanating from the pads can deter adult turtles from coming ashore to lay eggs, and disorient hatchlings as they emerge from their nests and head toward the moonlit sea.
Still holding in limbo is a congressional bill introduced in January that would direct the National Park Service to designate the William Jefferson Clinton birthplace home in Arkansas as a national historic site, once the Clinton Birthplace Foundation donates the house to the federal government.
Built in 1917, the house is located at 117 S. Hervey St. in Hope, population 10,467, which is 25 miles northeast of Texarkana, or 120 miles southwest of Little Rock. The house belonged to Mr. Clinton's maternal grandparents, Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, and the future president lived there from his birth in 1946 until his mother, Virginia Kelley, married Roger Clinton in 1950.
According to the legislation, the house is owned by the nonprofit Clinton Birthplace Foundation, and has been restored to the same state as when Mr. Clinton lived there. The foundation has offered to donate the site to the National Park System.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the costs of preparing and operating the site would be about $1 million a year.
Wealth and culture
"Good suits, balding middle-aged men, and lots of women wearing pearls: All of the ingredients of a good conservative audience were in place, and this overwhelmingly white audience had come to feast on a veritable buffet of interrelated conspiracy theories."
Or at least that's how Calvin College's Cara Boekeloo, writing for Campus Progress, described this summer's Heritage Foundation presentation by conservative author Phil Kent, entitled (like his recent book): "Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal Super-Rich Undermine America."
A former Georgia newspaperman and press secretary to the now-deceased South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, and today president of his own consulting firm while serving as executive director of the American Immigration Control Foundation, Mr. Kent has grown accustomed to such criticism. Indeed, he has rattled some big cages with his book release in May.
Foremost on the "super-rich" list of American "underminers," after all, is the second-largest grant-making foundation in the United States: the Ford Foundation. Arguing that "wealth controls culture," Mr. Kent has charged that the influential Ford family-of-donors has steered so far to the left since the capitalistic days of Henry Ford that it's been funding "communist organizations" and now "radical Islamic organizations" alike.
And he doesn't stop there, bringing unprecedented scrutiny to financially supported causes of hundreds of tax-exempt organizations. He similarly singles out the Rockefeller Foundation, which just this month, earmarked $70 million to "build the resilience of communities most likely to be hardest hit by climate change", and relative newcomers, such as George Soros, the philanthropist-turned-political activist who spent millions of dollars trying to prevent the re-election of President Bush in 2004.
Headquartered in New York, the Ford Foundation this month issued a statement saying that Mr. Kent's accusation "that the foundation is un-American and that it supports terrorism is completely untrue and irresponsible."
"The Ford Foundation would never support groups or organizations involved in violence or terrorism, and there is no evidence to the contrary," it states. "The work of our grantees in the midst of conflict is aimed at building greater respect for democratic values, human rights and peace."
For now, the dust appears to be settling. Then again, we were told by Mr. Kent's publicist yesterday that the author is on a Mediterranean cruise until the end of August. The Ford Foundation, meanwhile, is busy announcing its selection of San Francisco-based media consultant Luis Ubinas as its next president, succeeding Susan V. Berresford, who will retire in January after 12 years.
Mr. Ubinas will be only the ninth president in the foundation's 70-year history, though given this divisive and dangerous new age and with so many emotions running high, he will no doubt be the first president to have every foundation dollar examined under a public microscope.
• John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.