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October 24, 2014

Posts in "Around Washington"

October 23, 2014

WMATA: Current Procedures ‘Sufficient’ for Countering Ebola

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WMATA will not institute new protocols to address Ebola. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the wake of concerns about the Ebola virus in the U.S., leaders in the D.C. transit system met last week to review protocols for preventing the spread of infectious diseases on the metro system and determined current procedures were sufficient to counter the virus.

Richard Sarles, general manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, sent an email to WMATA employees Monday, explaining that he met with “senior leaders in our Rail, Bus, Safety, MetroAccess and Police departments” to review the protocols.

Sarles did not say that any new policies would be put in place to respond to Ebola, but instructed employees to continue to follow existing procedures to prevent infections.

“We reviewed both standard operating procedures for routine cleaning, as well as more extensive responses to address health hazards throughout the system,” Sarles wrote in the email, obtained by CQ Roll Call. “Given the fact that we are entering flu season, as well as rising concerns about the transmission of the Ebola virus, I want to remind all of us about the protocols we must follow.” Full story

October 20, 2014

Late-Night Terrorism Drills Test D.C. Officials

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Homeland security officials staged a shooting similar to the 2013 Navy Yard tragedy. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Police in the District of Columbia responded to a staged suicide bombing shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday, on the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site in Northwest Washington.

“Where’s everybody going? Can you help us?” a woman shrieked from a curb near the scene of the explosion.

The actress whimpered, putting on a dramatic display for observers from the FBI and other government agencies watching one act in the District’s full-scale overnight emergency preparedness drill from a nearby hilltop.

The cop who rescued the actress rushed back up to the doorstep of the brick building, avoiding the body of another faux victim who did not survive the blast. Within minutes, a firetruck pulled up and firefighters unrolled a hose, preparing to decontaminate the area in case the improvised explosive device turned out to be a chemical bomb.

“Anybody who can walk comes this way,” instructed one of the first responders near the fire truck, after getting a rundown on casualties and injuries from an officer. So far, police had found at least seven victims in the staged terror activity, including some amputees.

The dramatic exercise was staged to test the District’s public safety capabilities. The emergency responders and actors from this scene would be followed in the next few hours by the hazardous materials team, bomb squad and other specialized teams who would be reacting to multiple terrorists attacks for the training event.

Full story

October 17, 2014

National Christmas Tree Lighting Lottery Starts

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Decorations might stay off the shelves until after Halloween, but if you want to see the Dec. 4 National Christmas Tree lighting on the White House Ellipse this year, you better get your head wrapped around the holidays at least for this week.

The lottery for tickets to attend the annual event opened Friday and will close on Oct. 20.

Full story

Grazing Wars: Grass March Cowboys Ride to Capitol Hill

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Martin poses by his horse trailer parked southwest of the Capitol. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

A Prius driver pulled up next to the horse trailer parked on Maryland Avenue midday Thursday, a block southwest of the Capitol, and asked Nevada ranch hand George Martin what issue brought him to Washington.

“Regulation without representation,” responded Martin, 69, who was keeping a watchful eye on a dozen horses and three of his great-granddaughters, while the rest of the crew that rode with him for nearly 2,800 miles paid a visit to the Hill. Capitol Police rules ban the Grass March Cowboy Express from saddling up on Capitol grounds, so the two horse trailers and a chuck wagon stayed parked outside the National Museum of the American Indian.

Full story

October 16, 2014

Official Confirms 12 Ebola Investigations in D.C.

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CDC Director Tom Frieden appears during a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At least a dozen Ebola cases have been investigated in the District of Columbia, the director of the city’s Department of Health disclosed Thursday, but no one has tested positive for the disease.

Dr. Joxel Garcia told reporters officials were able to rule out the disease after isolating the patients, and said no one is currently in isolation. Unlike a widely-reported Oct. 3 scare at Howard University Hospital, most of these cases flew under the radar of local news media. Without going into specifics, Garcia said things should have been handled better.

“I think that we have to start learning if a patient is at risk or not before we start telling people that we have a patient or not,” Garcia said. “The number one thing is to protect the people in the District.” Full story

October 15, 2014

Obamacare Lawsuit Challenges Congress’ ‘Small Business’ Status

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DC Health Link enrollment under attack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The conservative group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that members of Congress and congressional staffers who enrolled in health care via the D.C. small business exchange did so illegally.

At a press conference at the National Press Club Wednesday, Judicial Watch claimed the House and Senate should not have been classified as small businesses in the health care exchange. The group said the classification violated D.C. law, which characterizes small businesses as those with fewer than 50 employees.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton pointed to documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, showing House and Senate applications to the D.C. Exchange Authority categorized the institutions as small businesses with 45 employees.

“The documents we obtained from D.C. Health Exchange show that every member of Congress who has enrolled in Obamacare has obtained their insurance coverage — and any taxpayer subsidies — through fraud,” Fitton said Wednesday.

When asked for a comment on the lawsuit’s charges, a spokesperson for the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority said, “We cannot comment on pending litigation.” Full story

October 8, 2014

Krepp Campaign Tired of ‘Being Blown Off’ by Norton

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Krepp is challenging Norton to a public debate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

Congressional hopeful Tim Krepp has repeatedly called on Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to participate in a debate before Election Day, so  far, to no avail.

The tour guide and historian, running as an independent, faces a steep uphill battle to unseat the 12-term congresswoman who won her seat in 2012 with 88.5 percent of the vote. Despite the challenge, Krepp hopes his message that it’s time for a change will resonate with D.C. voters. And one way to relay that message would be in a public debate.

“I felt like we were just kind of being blown off,” Krepp’s campaign manager Brian Pate told CQ Roll Call in a Tuesday phone interview. “I’ve never been contacted by the scheduler and it’s been almost four weeks. So I feel like we’re rapidly running out of time to have a debate.” Full story

October 7, 2014

DC Vote Taxi Ads To Be Replaced … for Now

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Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., tries to hail a taxi. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Between paid advertisements and weather updates on cab monitors, D.C. taxi riders have also heard a message about District voting rights. But those videos, which aired over the past seven months, are in the process of being replaced with a public service announcement about D.C. libraries.

Neville Waters, a spokesman for the D.C. Taxicab Commission, said the DC Vote public service announcements discussing District voting rights should have been replaced last month. However, the PSAs are still airing in some cabs as the monitors transition to the new content.

DC Vote is planning to create new videos next year to be used specifically in cabs and they hope the ads will air in taxis again in 2015. Waters said the commission “would certainly consider DC Vote” when evaluating PSAs for the cab monitors.

The most recent DC Vote videos, which first popped up in cabs in March, consisted of two 15-second spots, one featuring civil rights activist Julian Bond and the other featuring DC Vote’s executive director, Kimberly Perry.

“The goal of the PSAs, from our standpoint, was to educate the 20 million visitors that come to our city and ride in a cab every year,” Perry said in a phone interview Monday.

The D.C. Taxicab Commission deemed the videos as “non-commercial in nature” which qualified them as public service announcements, so DC Vote was not charged a fee for airing the clips.

Perry said the ads were also relatively inexpensive for DC Vote to create, thanks to discounted and donated resources. Perry also said the PSAs were very effective in informing visitors, residents and government employees about their cause, citing an increase in DC Vote memberships since the PSAs aired in March.

The PSAs directed viewers to visit the organization’s website and featured Bond and Perry making a similar statement noting, “D.C. families pay federal taxes, our sons and daughters fight and die in wars, but we have no vote in Congress. Isn’t it time we ended this injustice?”

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October 3, 2014

Second Senator Quits Eisenhower Memorial Commission

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Reed served on the Eisenhower Memorial Commission from 2001 until this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A second senator has quietly cut ties with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

Two weeks after Kansas Republican Jerry Moran submitted his resignation, the EMC received a letter from Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed notifying them of his exit. By law, the commission is composed of four presidential appointees and four members of each chamber, appointed by leadership. Reed’s resignation leaves the 12-member panel with 10 commissioners.

In a statement to CQ Roll Call, the senator’s office indicated he decided to pull out after Moran stepped down on Sept. 17. The move is aimed at introducing some fresh viewpoints on the long-delayed project. “Senator Reed has been honored to serve on the commission for over a decade,” Chip Unruh, press secretary for the senator, said in an email.

“Now is a good time to give someone else a chance and bring in new perspectives,” he continued. “And with the departures of both Senators Moran and Reed, it restores parity. Senator Reed has the utmost respect for all parties involved. He believes the commission will continue working to build a fitting monument to President Eisenhower.”

Reed abstained from a Wednesday vote that sent architect Frank Gehry’s revised design to the National Capital Planning Commission for preliminary design approval. The NCPC advanced the design during its Thursday meeting, by a 10-1 vote.

Moran, who was appointed to the commission as a member of the House in 2001, came to the conclusion that his staunch advocacy for making Kansas part of the design was blocking the memorial from completion. He was a fan of the tapestries depicting scenes from the Kansas prairie. Gehry revised the design this summer by cutting two of three tapestries.

Rocco Siciliano, chairman of the EMC, announced Reed’s resignation in a statement issued Friday.

“As one of our founding commissioners, Senator Reed has selflessly served on the Commission with great energy and attention since its inception in 2001,” he said. “As a military veteran and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he provided keen insight into the importance of President and General Eisenhower’s military experience and leadership to the fundamental core of Eisenhower’s roots and legacy. I and the other Commissioners appreciate his long, dedicated service, and his counsel will be sorely missed as we press forward with this important project.”

Related Stories:

They Like Ike on a 10-1 Vote

Members of Congress Skip Confusing Eisenhower Memorial Meeting

It’s Time to Finish Ike’s Memorial | Letter to the Editor

It’s Time to Bury Frank Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial | Commentary

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October 2, 2014

Hindu Leader Condemns D.C. Yoga Tax

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Hindu leader said yoga tax is “a religious infringement.” (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Calling it a “religious infringement,” Hindu leader Rajan Zed says the Hindu community is against the so-called yoga tax in D.C.

“Yoga was one of the six systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy whose traces went back to around 2000 B.C.E.,” Zed said in a statement released on Oct. 1. He later added, “Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche and regulating it was kind of a religious infringement.”

The wellness tax took effect Wednesday and the D.C. yoga community has raised questions about whether the 5.75 percent sales tax should apply to yoga studios. The tax applies to membership of a health club, defined as a “facility for the purpose of physical exercise.”

Members of the yoga community have argued that the tax should not apply to yoga studios, since the main purpose of yoga is not physical exercise. Zed echoed that argument by stressing that yoga is “a mental and physical discipline by means of which the human-soul (jivatman) united with the universal-soul (parmatman).”

Despite calls to exclude studios, the Office of Tax and Revenue will include yoga studios in the sales tax. Action by the D.C. Council would be necessary to alter the tax regulations, though that does not appear likely. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said yoga studios should be included in the tax and it was never a question whether they would be.

Related:

Yoga Community Argues ‘Yoga Tax’ Does Not Apply to Studios

Wonks Go Into Warrior Pose to Defend D.C. Yoga Tax

Tax Proposal Draws Protest From Capitol Hill Gyms, Yoga Studios

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