- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2000

Supersonic turtle

We observed yesterday that Congress, during debate on selling federal property outside Las Vegas to build a new airport, cited the impact of aircraft noise on the desert tortoise.

One study concluded that turtles reacted to subsonic aircraft noise in "a typical reptilian defense" that is, hiding head in shell.

Now, as far as we know for the first time in military aviation history, Neil Fox, of Haughton, La., reveals to Inside the Beltway: "For what it's worth, at least one turtle has been supersonic."

Come now, Mr. Fox.

"One of my pilot training classmates took a desert tortoise I found at Webb Air Force Base, Texas, supersonic in 1964, in a T-38 Talon aircraft. We named the tortoise 'Lightning,' which was also our section instructor pilot's call sign."

Sir, was there any injury to the turtle's hearing that Congress should be made aware about?

"The tortoise endured supersonic flight without a scratch. He messed up my friend's helmet bag a bit, though."

Dying Democrats

Democrats might have turned out for John McCain in the open primaries, but they didn't turn in large numbers for Al Gore and Bill Bradley.

"There was too much and too ill-founded euphoria about the McCain-driven turnout increases," says Curtis B. Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.

Democratic turnout was only 10 percent in states that held primaries through Super Tuesday 50 percent lower than Democratic turnout in 1968 and 1972, and 25 percent lower than 1988.

Mr. Gans cites a "progressive and continuing erosion" of voter interest among young adults, with only Democrats aged 65 and over maintaining a high level of voter participation.

He blames schools for not teaching civic education, and increasingly "weaker and misaligned political parties."

Gore sponsors

Who erected the oil derrick in front of Gore 2000 national campaign headquarters in Nashville?

The Green Party of Tennessee, we're told, doing some exploratory drilling for scruples. Except the well came up dry.

Party members decry the influence of corporate money on public interests and want full public financing of federal elections. As for the derrick, it's to draw attention to Gore family ties to Occidental Petroleum and its late chairman, Armand Hammer.

Upon retiring from the Senate, the late Al Gore Sr. became a vice president of Occidental, a primary source of Gore family wealth. It's been estimated that Mr. Gore has received more than $300,000 in income from a land deal brokered years ago by his father and Mr. Hammer.

The vice president was behind a Clinton administration proposal to sell 47,000 acres of the federal Elk Hills, Calif., oil reserve, which also went to Occidental.

In January, police in Manchester, N.H., removed eight protesters from Mr. Gore's campaign headquarters, including several from Amazon Watch, who opposed Occidental's plans to drill in South America and turned to Mr. Gore for help.

Campaigning in Maryland last week, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader also called Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, a wholly owned subsidiary of the business community.

Party member Cathy Logan wants politicians to reveal their sponsors by wearing patches, like NASCAR drivers, so voters know what actually drives them.

Nuclear reaction

A memo distributed last week at one of the Energy Department's nuclear-weapon facilities suggests to some bureaucrats that Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, a vice presidential prospect, is eager to make amends with the Asian-American community in the wake of DOE's handling of the Wen Ho Lee case.

The former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee was indicted several months ago on 59 felony counts of illegally downloading more than 800,000 pages of top-secret computer codes.

Since his arrest, high-profile members of the Asian-American community have rallied behind the nuclear scientist, raising thousands of dollars for his defense while blasting his prosecutors.

"It seems that Asian Americans working for DOE have made known their feelings of hurt," says one source at Energy. "This is the third so-called stand-down, the first two being hastily called and ill-prepared stand-downs that were to be used to supposedly enhance the security consciousness of DOE laboratory personnel."

The memo from DOE headquarters doesn't mention Asian Americans by name, only that a two-part mandatory nationwide Diversity Stand-Down training program featuring an appearance by Mr. Richardson is scheduled for April 5.

Mr. Richardson will address bureaucrats through a variety of methods, according to the memo, including satellite downlink, PC-TV, teleconferencing and conference call.

"Each federal and contractor supervisor will be called upon to certify that all individuals in his/ her organization have received diversity training including viewing the national program by a certain date," the memo adds.

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