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Posts by Hannah Hess
August 28, 2014
Forget cold water — bring on the dirt and sand.
Activists in the District of Columbia plan to repurpose the viral “Ice Bucket Challenge,” during a Thursday night demonstration in front on the White House to show support for residents of the Gaza Strip.
Turmoil between Israel and Hamas means water is a scare resource in Gaza, but debris is plentiful. Organizers say 15,671 homes have been demolished or damaged since conflict began on July 7. To draw awareness to the destruction they will launch a “Rubble Bucket Challenge” at 6 p.m.
Maysam Yusuf, a Palestinian youth from Gaza, initiated the tongue-in-cheek campaign. The Facebook page she founded on Aug. 22 has generated nearly 10,000 likes. She explained it as a way to “raise awareness about the horrors that families of Gaza experience when they are bombed inside their houses.”
Instead of donating to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research, as millions have done during the past month, participants are asked to give money to help rebuild Gaza. CODEPINK and New Generations for Palestinian Children & Youth organized Thursday’s event.
“As silly as the ice bucket challenge for ALS seemed at first, it generated a lot of attention for a neglected disease,” said Pam Bailey, a freelance writer who has lived in Gaza and founded New Generations as a nonprofit. “Gaza has been neglected by the world as well, and we hope our response to the Rubble Bucket Challenge will both show our support for the Palestinians’ freedom and help educate passersby.”
The challenge will be taped and posted online. HOH will keep an eye out for Capitol Hill denizens dumping buckets of dirt and sand.
May 22, 2014
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., retained his title as the fastest male in the 113th Congress, running the 3-mile course of the 33rd Annual ACLI Capital Challenge in 18:29.
Cotton’s pace was fast enough to score the Cotton Tail Rabbits second place among House teams — Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s team Red White & Blumenauer took the top prize, with the Oregon Democrat clocking 29:51 — but not as quick as his previous record.
May 13, 2014
Less than a week before he became the Senate’s chief law enforcement officer, Sergeant-at-Arms Drew Willison had an ego-bruising incident with Capitol Police.
Willison arrived at work on April 30 without an ID and was told by officers guarding the doors that he would need to get a visitor badge before going into the Capitol.
Being shooed along under standard protocol by the rank and file likely led to what happened next. Around 6:30 that evening, the SAA’s office sent an email to Capitol Police brass with mug shots of Willison and incoming Deputy SAA Michael Stenger, instructing him to “please ensure” that the photos were posted at each division in the department’s Uniformed Services Bureau.
“Obviously, we would like to avoid this in the future,” wrote Ronda Steward, senior program manager for police operations with the Senate SAA.
Deputy Chief Donald A. Rouillier passed the email along with a simple “FYI” note to his team. Soon, the one-page memo explaining the incident was posted around the campus and at police headquarters to help officers recognize their incoming boss.
Willison seemed to take it all in stride. “I forgot my Senate ID at my desk when I ran over to the credit union that day. The officer did not recognize me, so he did the right thing and stopped me. It wasn’t a big deal. I don’t know if the photos (standard practice for new officers of the House and Senate) help or not because I almost always wear my Senate ID,” he said.
April 3, 2014
It sounded like Kenny G was visiting the Senate chamber around noon on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got a brief saxophone serenade from the president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who bumped into the Nevada Democrat during the “GRAMMYs on the Hill” lobbying day.
“I whipped out my saxophone and just said, ‘I’ll play you a song,” saxophonist and vocalist Mindi Abair told CQ Roll Call. She picked a song called “Summertime,” which she said Reid appeared to enjoy.
Abair, who has toured and recorded with artists ranging from the Backstreet Boys and Duran Duran to Adam Sandler and Aerosmith, was visiting Capitol Hill with about 200 other recording industry advocates to push for legislation that would ensure songwriters and composers are fairly paid for their work.
Abair and other advocates had a full day of meetings with the California delegation. They were saying goodbye to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., when they bumped into Reid outside the chamber.
They will be pushing for the Songwriter Equity Act of 2014, and perhaps playing a few impromptu serenades.
April 2, 2014
House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., adjourned Wednesday’s panel on the future of the National Zoo with a joke about ranking member Robert A. Brady “wearing his khaki shorts … with his whip ready.”
The safari outfit fits perfectly with Brady’s childhood ambition of being a zookeeper. The Pennsylvania Democrat shared his dream of riding around with the wild creatures that populated Philadelphia’s zoo, the oldest in the nation, during his opening statement.
The panel of management officials from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park were also treated to some footage of Bao Bao the panda during their visit to Congress.
Miller, who claims to be “addicted” to the zoo’s “Panda Cam,” requested that committee staff play a brief clip of the panda cub. Afterward, she released a statement saying, “The National Zoo has a unique role as a federal zoo supported by the taxpayers. It is truly a zoo provided by and for the people.”
Especially for Brady, the hopeful zookeeper.
March 28, 2014
A suspicious substance found in Amtrak’s main office in Washington, D.C., drew nearly a dozen emergency vehicles to Union Station on Friday morning, but it turned out to be nothing more than a scare.
D.C. Fire and EMS responded to the scene at 10:58 a.m., according to Fire Department spokesman Oscar Mendez, and a hazardous materials unit began investigating. Police were also on the scene and officers with K-9 units stood on guard outside gates to the train tracks.
Trains appeared to be operating as usual inside the station Friday morning, but outside traffic was crawling around Columbus Circle. Capitol Police warned people to avoid the area shortly before noon, throwing some lunch plans into flux around the Capitol community.
Kimberly Wood, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said in an email that first responders were “investigating an unknown substance found on the premises” and directed further questions to D.C. Fire and EMS.
By 12:30 p.m., ambulances were starting to pull away from the scene. Mendez confirmed that nothing hazardous had been found.
March 27, 2014
Capitol Police stationed outside the Senate gallery got a surprise Thursday afternoon when they asked one visitor to empty his pockets in accordance with procedure.
Sherman Tyrone Edwards Jr., 32, placed a bag of marijuana on the stand next to the security checkpoint, manned by three uniformed officers.
According to sources on the scene, Edwards pulled out a bag of bud big enough that the U.S. Attorney could probably hold onto it and bust him for distribution, rather than tossing the evidence, as normally happens when lesser amounts — such as joints — are confiscated.
Sources also said that based on his demeanor and expression, they were not too shocked that this particular Capitol visitor would be in possession of large quantities of dope.
He looked stoned, apparently, but the prediction on distribution charges turned out to be bogus.
Edwards was arrested at 2:33 p.m. on Thursday, then transported to Capitol Police headquarters. He was charged on two counts — possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to a Capitol Police spokesperson.
March 25, 2014
The Washington Monument sheds its final layer of scaffolding later this week in preparation for the monument’s May 12 re-opening.
Repairing the 150 cracks caused by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked D.C. in August 2011 shut down the monument to visitors for 32 months. It is now in the final stages of the $15 million restoration.
“We are delighted to be in the homestretch with the repairs to the Washington Monument almost complete, and we look forward to the re-opening on May 12 so we can once again welcome visitors to this iconic monument to our nation’s first President,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a statement.
Because of the nearly three-year closure, the NPS plans to begin extended operating hours on May 12. The monument will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through the end of summer.
The NPS and the Trust for the National Mall will host a re-opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on May 12, and the first tour will kick off at 1 p.m. Those who want to be a part of the opening day tours should plan to come early. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. that day at the Washington Monument Lodge, located on 15th Street between Madison and Jefferson drives.
Tickets for May 13 and all future dates will be available online, starting on April 16 at 10 a.m.
Jarvis thanked philanthropist David Rubenstein for his $7.5 million donation, made via the trust, which funded half of the repair bill. Rubenstein’s support “sets a high standard for park philanthropy nationwide and is appreciated by every visitor who will learn something about President Washington or simply enjoy the view from the top,” Jarvis said.
March 20, 2014
The Congressional Budget Office says hosting the 73rd annual Greater Washington Soap Box Derby on the Capitol grounds won’t cost the federal government any significant money, clearing the way for the June 14 competition.
Enterprising young builders will careen down Constitution Avenue in home-assembled vehicles this summer, pending a green light from the House and Senate.
Unlike other derbies around the nation, the D.C. event requires an act of Congress to authorize the Architect of the Capitol, the Capitol Police Board and the Greater Washington Soap Box Derby Association to negotiate the necessary requirements to hold the race at the Capitol. Full story
March 18, 2014
Police have identified the teen who died following a gun fight with authorities that took place a few blocks northwest of Union Station Tuesday morning as a 19-year-old from Hyattsville, Md.
Daquan Hendrix was wanted in the Feb. 27 homicide of Tykia Dickerson in Northeast D.C., according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
The shootout ensued shortly after 6:17 a.m., when officers from a fugitive task force showed up on K Street Northwest with an arrest warrant. Full story
A homicide suspect was killed in a gunfight with D.C. Police a few blocks north of Union Station early Tuesday morning.
Officers reported to the suspect’s home on K Street NW shortly after 6:15 a.m. Full story
March 12, 2014
A brief outage of some of the exterior lights on the Capitol Dome, likely caused by tornado-like winds, jump-charged some local pranksters.
The parody “Uncle Earl” account — established in the wake of a political corruption scandal involving many of the District’s top elected officials, including Mayor Vincent Gray — jumped into the midst of the 30-minute spell of darkness claiming he’d cut the lights as part of yet another pay-to-play scheme.
D.C. statehood activist Josh Burch, who blogs for the51st.org, also made a joke out of the blackened Dome. Burch invited D.C. residents to “seize equal representation under the cover of darkness!”
In reality, no one is quite sure what caused the lights to go down from about 8:15 p.m to 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday.
Matt Guilfoyle, a spokesman for the Architect of the Capitol, told CQ Roll Call that the AOC was aware of the power outage and working to address the problem.
The Capitol Police continued patrolling inside and outside the Dome, checking for power outages and damage to report to the AOC, according to Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for the department.
HOH tipsters working inside and burning the midnight (or late evening) oil reported that lights were flickering in the press galleries but never actually went out.
March 7, 2014
Capitol Police have cleared the scene of a fatal single-car crash that propelled a silver SUV into a tree south of the Capitol early Friday morning.
No details have been released on what may have caused the high-speed collision as the driver headed northbound on South Capitol Street. The car hit a large, decorative flower pot — ironically designed to deter crashes and traffic — with such force that the vehicle was flung airborne, ripping branches nearly 30 feet above the ground from two nearby trees.
Updated 6:42 p.m.
First responders arriving on the scene around 3 a.m. found the silver SUV vertically wrapped around a tree, about 50 feet from the cracked pot. The force of the crash catapulted pieces of the car into the intersection with D Street Southeast. The Metropolitan Police Department identified the driver, who died in the accident, as 19-year-old Hunter B. Harries of McLean, Va. A toxicology report is “pending autopsy,” said MPD spokesman Hugh Carew.
Update 11:53 a.m. | A high-speed crash at the intersection of South Capitol and D streets Southeast landed a driver in the hospital early Friday morning — and the car in a nearby tree.
Capitol Police responded to the scene of the crash at approximately 3 a.m., according to department spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider.
The car hit one of the massive, round decorative flower pots outside the barricade on the South side of the Capitol campus and went airborne before landing in the tree, Schneider reported. The vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed northbound on South Capitol Street. The car was still in the tree as of 7:37 a.m. Friday.
Immediate street closures remain in effect until the scene is cleared. Due to the traffic accident investigation, nearby streets are closed including portions of Washington Avenue, New Jersey Avenue and South Capitol Street Southeast.
Update 11:53 a.m.
The cause of the crash remains unknown and Capitol Police have not yet released any information on the driver’s condition or whether drugs or alcohol were involved.
Officers were already on the scene when D.C. Fire and EMS responded to a single, overturned vehicle around 3:02 a.m., according to D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Oscar Mendez. The driver was transported to George Washington Medical Center at 3:28 a.m. with life-threatening injuries, Mendez said.
The single-car accident involved a lone driver and no passengers. There was no chase involved, according to Schneider.
Debris from the crash, including the small engine of the small, silver SUV littered the intersection, and officers on the scene said car parts had been found on the roof of the nearby Longworth Office Building Parking Garage.
Read our new post on the investigation finishing here.
More photos below.
February 25, 2014
In August 2011, a 5.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Union Station, cracking the ornate, vaulted ceiling above the transportation hub’s Main Hall.
Structural repairs began immediately, and it was soon realized that the iconic building, where generations of powerful people have arrived by train and walked to Capitol Hill to lead the nation, would need further work to preserve its historic integrity. More than 100,000 people pass through the station each day, and it is the busiest Metro stop in the District, serving about 32,000 Red Line riders every weekday.
On Tuesday, the groups behind a $350,000 grant to regild the aged ceiling and restore its original grandeur — American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation — gave the media a peek at the ongoing repairs.
The team led reporters on a climb to the surface of the 96-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling, up a scaffolding tower constructed by the same company that raised scaffolding for projects at the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.
To date, only 20 percent of the ceiling has been restored and regilded with a 23-karat goldleaf material, promised to be more lustrous and more durable than the current 22-karat finish. As repairs continue, the scaffolding will roll the entire length of Main Hall, from east to west.
When repairs are completed in 2016, officials promise the Main Hall will be returned to the grandeur and elegance it had when it opened to the public in 1908.