Saturday, July 29, 2006

$1 Million in Art Sought for Future Metro Stations

The Washington Post reports:

The long-sought Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport is still awaiting federal funding, but transit officials say it's not too early to decide what riders will look at as they begin and end their commute.

Metro has put out an international call for artists to put their aesthetic stamp on four train stations planned in Tysons Corner and one at Wiehle Avenue in Reston, the terminus of the project's first leg. The artist's medium can range from sculpture to lights to murals. But Metro insists that applicants have experience creating public art and that the art be three-dimensional, durable and vandal-resistant.

"We want the artist to have an absolutely clean palette and be totally creative," said Michael McBride, manager of Metro's Art in Transit program, which has installed 23 works in the system's 86 stations since 1995.


Arts in Transit has grown into a popular feature of the subway system, and Metro officials have made a commitment to include art in all future station designs.


The budget for each of the five stations is about $200,000, McBride said, which covers the cost of heavy materials such as steel or copper.

If I've seen much of this "art" it hasn't been very distinctive.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, July 23, 2006

U.S. Navy Renames the Persian Gulf

Observant Observations has an interesting follow-up to a previous post, "Iran Gets Something Right." Apparently the U.S. Navy has renamed the Persian Gulf as well.

Click here for the details.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Maryland's We-Hate-Wal-Mart Law Thrown Out

The Washington Post reports:

A federal judge struck down a Maryland law yesterday that would have effectively forced the nation's largest employer, Wal-Mart Stores, to spend more money on health care for its employees here.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz ruled that the "Wal-Mart Law," which won overwhelming support in the General Assembly this year, ran afoul of a 32-year-old federal statute intended to protect corporations from having to navigate a patchwork of benefits requirements from state to state.


Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark said yesterday that the company welcomed the judge's ruling. She said the law, which called on [four] large companies to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health benefits, would have done "nothing to control the cost of health care or improve access to health care."


Over the past year, the retail giant has announced several changes to its benefits package, including a reduction of the two-year waiting period for part-time workers to become eligible for benefits; an expansion of its cheapest health plan, which costs $11 a month; and a provision allowing children of part-time workers to become eligible for coverage. In addition, Wal-Mart is opening low-cost health clinics at select stores for customers and employees.


[Judge Motz wrote in] a 32-page opinion that the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act prevails when determining the types of health and pension plans companies can offer. It also allows companies to create a uniform system of benefits across several states.

The Maryland law, Motz wrote, "violates ERISA's fundamental purpose of permitting multi-state employers to maintain nationwide health and welfare plans, providing uniform nationwide benefits and permitting uniform national administration."

For more information, check out:
Wal-Mart: Fire Your Greeters (Jan. 12, 2006)
Maryland Wal-Mart Update (Jan. 14, 2006)
Unions Are Batting Zero with the Wal-Mart Tax
The court's opinion granting summary judgement (pdf)

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


After far too many chances, President George W. Bush has finally issued his first veto:

(WaPo) President Bush issued the first veto of his five-year-old administration yesterday, rejecting Congress's bid to lift funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research...

At a White House ceremony where he was joined by children produced from... "adopted" frozen embryos, Bush said taxpayers should not support research on surplus embryos at fertility clinics, even if they offer possible medical breakthroughs and are slated for disposal.

The vetoed bill "would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," the president said, as babies cooed and cried behind him. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect." Each child on the stage, he said, "began his or her life as a frozen embryo that was created for in vitro fertilization but remained unused after the fertility treatments were complete... These boys and girls are not spare parts."

Within hours of Bush's announcement, the House, as expected, fell short in a bid to override the veto, extinguishing the issue as a legislative matter this year...

Bush did sign a bill, unanimously passed this week by the House and Senate, to ban the creation of human fetuses for the sole purpose of harvesting organs. But the House thwarted prompt passage of another bill he had hoped to sign yesterday. It would have promoted efforts to conduct stem cell research without destroying human embryos...

Bush has threatened vetoes on numerous issues over the years, but he and the Republican-controlled Congress had always worked out their differences. On stem cells, however, the president drew a sharp line during his first nationally televised address, on Aug. 9, 2001, banning government funding for research using human embryonic stem cell colonies created after that date.

The AP adds:
Bush has made 141 veto threats during his time in office, and the Republicans controlling Congress typically respond by changing bills to his liking. His single veto is a departure from the practices of other recent presidents - Bill Clinton had 37, Bush's father had 44 and Ronald Reagan had 78.
Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all faced Congresses controlled by the opposing party. The long wait for George W. Bush's first veto shows his success in making deals with Congress.

And from Reuters:
Bush is the first president to complete four years in office without a veto since John Quincy Adams in the 1820s. He had threatened vetoes before but refrained after reaching compromises with the Republican-controlled Congress.
The President was right to veto this bill. The veto doesn't even prohibit embryonic stem cell research, it just continues to deny increased (and possibly useless) federal funding. Advocates have been claiming the ambiguous research would benefit as many as 110 million Americans - if that's true they'll have no trouble raising money the old fashioned way: by actually raising it.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Senator's Wife Declared "Distracting" in Alexandria

Commonwealth Conservative reports on a report from Alexandria's birthday celebration Saturday:

Virginia senatorial wife Susan Allen and Republican operative Mary Matalin, accompanied by their respective daughters, were asked to leave a birthday celebration for the city of Alexandria on Saturday evening because they were “distracting.”

That says a close friend of Mrs. Allen, the wife of Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen, who is seeking re-election to a second term.

“They were asked to leave the public event by Alexandria’s Parks and Recreation Department because they were told they were ‘distracting,’” the friend states. “That was the exact word [officials] used. Perhaps these Alexandria servants should be reminded that politicking at public, community events is a time-honored, American tradition, not to mention a First Amendment right.”

Actually, the two women weren’t so much politicking as they were attracting attention while strolling through the waterfront festival, held at Oronoco Bay Park...

Alexandria is known for being a Democratic bastion. The current mayor, vice mayor and council members are all Democrats. In addition, Old Town is home to former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat who has his own eyes on the White House in 2008. Mr. Allen resides in the Mount Vernon section of Fairfax County, just south of Alexandria.

Click here for more, and comments.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Capitol Visitor Center Delayed Again

From the Associated Press:

The projected opening date of the Capitol Visitor Center has been pushed back again, from September to summer 2007, because of continued construction problems.

The $584 million project is already more than two years behind schedule and $200 million over budget, but architect Alan Hantman told a Senate subcommittee last week that problems with the fire protection system, gift shops and utility tunnel will cause more delays.


The 580,000-square foot underground center on the Capitol's east side is the largest addition in the building's history, increasing its size by two-thirds.

It will include an exhibition area twice as big as the rotunda where visitors can see artifacts, documents and the catafalque that supported the caskets of people who have lain in state. There will be galleries where visitors can see live feeds of congressional business and use monitors to scan voting records, and a 600-seat cafeteria.

Just Barely Inside the Beltway reported on some of the odd components of the expansion back in January.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Metro Express Lanes?

From the Associated Press:

Metro intends to duplicate the success of EZ Pass toll lanes by creating "express lanes" at toll gates for passengers who use SmarTrip -- the microchip-embedded cards used to pay for bus and rail fares and parking.

The Metro board will vote Thursday on a pilot project to dedicate some toll gates at busy stations to SmarTrip users.

SmarTrip cards allow users to move through the gates 45 percent faster than passengers who use paper fare cards, transit system officials said.

Fare cards, which must be inserted in the gates and removed, often get crumpled or demagnetized, preventing the gates from opening.

Regular commuters complain that tourists and others who have problems with fare cards cause too many delays.

It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure if it will work. I can already imagine confused travelers trying to get through with fare cards. Notable backups must vary by time and station, because I haven't noticed any in the last two weeks that I've been working in an undiclosed location.

The proposed pilot project would dedicate some fare gates to SmarTrip users at the Anacostia, New Carrollton and Vienna/Fairfax-GMU stations.

The stations all have high ridership, with 80 percent using SmarTrip, Metro officials said.

They also each have 10 fare gates, enough to allow several to become "express lanes."

The "express lanes" would be designated by overhead signs and graphics on the gates. If the program is successful, Metro could expand it to other stations with enough gates, Mr. Couch said.

The Washington Post also reports.

Technorati Tags: ,