Wednesday, September 17

DC WEDNESDAY

Sometime between now and your editor's last jury duty they did away with the large and varied cafeteria at the DC Superior Court. It wasn't great but there was enough choice to find something good to eat. Now they have dismal pseudo Starbucks with one of the driest egg salad sandwiches we've ever eaten. At least we got to share it with fellow jurors Jerry Stern - whose book about 15 widows of a Kentucky mine disaster just came out - and Dan Glickman, head of the MPAA.

The DC council is back and feeling tougher so maybe the days of Fenty treading all over it are finished. The body passed an emergency bill halting the closing of the Franklin School shelter until it knows what's happening to the 300 men who live there and what sort of services they'll get when they move. Reports the Post: "The vote came less than a week after almost 60 men signed leases to move into apartments mostly in Northeast and Southeast Washington -- far from the Franklin School Shelter at 13th and K streets NW. But council members complained that they have little information about the ambitious relocation effort, part of the mayor's plan to end chronic homelessness. Fenty's goal is to move 400 individuals and families into apartments by Oct. 1. "There are concerns, however, about closing a downtown shelter that's been a haven from cold weather, moving the homeless to unfamiliar areas of the city and concentrating them in poorer neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. 'You cannot close this shelter until we know the names and addresses of 300 men,' said Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). Gray said he had only seen a list of about 50 names and addresses, and no document that explains how the men will get what they need, such as food, health care, mental health services and drug treatment."

The Post had some nifty details on the lifestyle of DC Tax Office embezzler Harriette Walters: "Walters wrote at least 236 fraudulent property tax refund checks from 1989 through 2007, when the scam was uncovered, stealing $48.1 million. . . She doled out gifts, cash and checks to her co-workers. She wrote them $1.2 million in checks alone between 2001 and 2007. . . She made 28 trips to Las Vegas, where she paid for a friend's wedding in 2006, visited Atlantic City 13 times, and financed a family vacation to Paris in August 2005. . . She charged more than $2.3 million on credit card purchases at high-end department stores, such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus."

Cab drivers are complaining about the fares their getting out of the new meters. Don't be surprised if you find taxis harder to find. Another Fenty triumph is developing.

Here's the story on that polar bear that got the cops so upset. . . .


Greenpeace - Greenpeace has unveiled a collaborative art project with well-known street artist Mark Jenkins. The project highlights the shared plight of polar bears and humans in the face of global warming. We hope these polar bear street art installations help people draw a deeper and more immediate connection to the reality of the crisis. Jenkins, a Washington, D.C.-based artist who creates sculptures primarily from packing tape, has earned international recognition for his street art installations, many of which feature astoundingly realistic human figures. For this series, Greenpeace and Jenkins added polar bear heads and ragged clothing to human figures to convey a sense of displacement and homelessness. To date, four sculptures have been deployed throughout the D.C. area in locations chosen to reach a variety of audiences and address different aspects of the global warming crisis. One bear bore a sign reading "S.O.S.," while another had signs saying: "Victim of Oil Addiction" and "Global Warming Refugee. Help a brother out?"

The fourth piece in the series, featuring a homeless bear foraging in a trash can [the one that got the cops so excited], was deployed Tuesday, coinciding with an announcement by the National Snow and Ice Data Center that Arctic sea ice has reached its second lowest annual extent in recorded history. The Arctic sea ice has fallen to a low of 1.74 million square miles, roughly 0.86 million square miles below the long-term average. That's an area of polar bear habitat three times the size of Texas lost this summer as a direct result of global warming.


Back story from Channel 4 -
A "polar bear" caused a commotion outside the Columbia Heights Metro station Tuesday morning. A bomb squad was called to the area after reports of what appeared to be a large, stuffed polar bear dressed in clothes beside a trash can. Louis Alexander e-mailed a picture to News4. . . Alexander said the bear was cut open by the bomb squad to see what was inside. The Columbia Heights Metro Station was closed during the investigation. Trains continued to operate through the station but did not stop there.

DC Examiner - The prevailing attitude in elite education circles these days seems to be: "We've tried everything else and that didn't work, so let's try bribing students to learn." So starting October 3rd, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee will begin doling out up to $100 per month to 3,000 middle school students for doing what other children around the nation are expected to do for free - show up for class, behave, do their homework. . . New York University Professor Pedro Noguera questioned the value of financial incentives after the percentage of New York high school students who earned Advance Placement credits decreased from 35 percent in 2007, when no cash incentives were offered, to 32 percent this year, when students received cash bonuses of as much as $1,000.

The George Washington business school is adding ethics to its curriculum. GW has made the shift just as the take no prisoners approach to business education which produced Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers is being found a little faulty. According to one news story, "Administrators say they are taking a huge risk. They acknowledge that many future MBAs are in it mostly for money." Yep, there are few things so scary and novel in DC as being honest.

WTOP - Nationals Park is Major League Baseball's first ever "green" stadium, and several environmental groups would like to keep it that way. Environmental groups have been outside the park all season long making sure the club doesn't not grant stadium naming rights to the park's largest advertiser: ExxonMobil." Give it to a company that has a better environmental record," says Keith Harrington of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. "Name it after a good public figure, but not Exxon.". . .The Nationals haven't commented on the issue of naming rights.

It's not too early to mention that those wanting some real change in the city council by supporting David Schwartzman should remember to bullet vote, which is to say cast just one ballot of the two at-large votes you get. This is so you don't dilute the vote by increasing the count of one of his opponents.

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