Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pro-Illegal Immigration Protestors Lack the Dedication to Protest in Summer

Following last April's Laziest Protest Ever, the Washington Post reports that more pro-illegal immigration protests are planned, but not until the weather cools down.


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Monday, August 28, 2006

The Schools That Eats Post-it Notes

The Washington Post reviews some of the random crap area students are expected to bring to school this year. Among them are Post-it Notes, a French-English dictionary that serves as a Spanish-English dictionary, and a single dry-erase marker from each student.

The interesting bits are too spread out to quote effectively, but a few observations are needed:

1. Post-it Notes? Really?

2. It's terribly inefficient to have students supplying their teachers. A school can probably get 300 markers for what 30 students pay for one each. And relative to teacher and staff salaries, the savings are probably beyond minimal.

And a bank had a good idea that went horribly wrong:
Huntington National bank, based in Columbus, Ohio, introduced last month what it called a Backpack Index, and projected that parents would need $307 to supply an elementary-age student for school. The Backpack Index excluded clothing but factored in more than $200 in fees for various activities, such as renting a musical instrument.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Next "Survivor" to be Segregated

The BBC reports:

The 20 "castaways" in the 13th season of US reality show Survivor will be divided according to their ethnicity.

The contestants will be segregated into four "tribes" of blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos when the hit CBS programme returns on 14 September...

Organisers said they were addressing complaints that previous series had not been sufficiently ethnically diverse.

So their answer is to sponsor a contest for racial supremacy.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

NASA "Loses" Original Moon Landing Film

The Washington Times reports:

The original film footage of astronaut Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, one of the most important artifacts of the 20th century, has been lost.

The television broadcast seen by about 600 million people in July 1969 is preserved for posterity, but the original tapes from which the footage was taken have been mislaid, most likely in NASA's vast archives at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

The footage could transform our view of the moon landings, offering images far sharper than the blurred, grainy video shown around the world. It also could lay to rest the conspiracy theory that the landings were faked on a Hollywood soundstage.

Despite its iconic status, the television footage was the equivalent of a photocopy of a photocopy. It came from a camera that had been pointed at a black-and-white monitor on Earth. The image on the monitor, in turn, had been stripped of much of its detail.


Those tapes, although nowhere near the standard of normal television transmissions, would be of far better quality than the video we have today, especially if processed using modern digital techniques.

Rather than prizing the tapes as vital recordings, NASA simply filed them away. As personnel retired or died, the location of the tapes was forgotten.

Such problems are not unique to NASA.

"I just think this is what happens when you have a large government bureaucracy that functions for decade after decade," said Keith Cowing, editor of the Web site "It's not malicious or intentional, but I think it's unfortunate that NASA doesn't have maybe just one more person whose job it is to look back at its history."


Goddard is also home to the only equipment that can still play the tapes, which use an obsolete 14-inch format -- equipment that was due to be dismantled in October until [a senior engineer at NASA] intervened.


Update, Aug. 15: The Washington Post also reports:
"We haven't seen them for quite a while. We've been looking for over a year, and they haven't turned up," [NASA spokesman Grey] Hautaloma said.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tourists Trapped in Metro Elevator

The Washington Times reports:

D.C. firefighters [on Friday] rescued a family of five, including three children, who were trapped for more than two hours in an elevator about 65 feet below ground at a Metro station in Northwest.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the family got stuck at 3:46 p.m., when an elevator serving the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station stopped as it was heading up to street level.

Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. fire department, said the family from the Dominican Republic included a 1-year-old boy and two girls, ages 9 and 12 years old.

"They were tourists here in D.C., and they were getting ready to go to the zoo," Mr. Etter said.


Three firefighters were lowered into the shaft on cables to assess the condition of the family members, who were outfitted with a harness and pulled up to street level individually after Metro officials were unable to get the elevator moving.


Firefighters brought up the mother first, then the children and the father last, Mr. Etter said.

He said the family was in good spirits through the ordeal and that the two girls seemed to enjoy the ride up the shaft.

He said the 1-year-old cried all the way up the shaft until he was reunited with his mother.


Metro operates about 250 elevators, of which about 20 are out of service on any given day, according to the agency's Web site at

The elevator at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station was expected to be out of service until at least Monday.

I've never taken a Metro elevator -- even when the Tenleytown escalators were out of service for a week -- they're just too creepy. Having 8% out of service on any given day isn't very reassuring either.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Maryland Judge Strikes Down Democrat-Only Early Voting

The Washington Post reports on a recent development of the Democrat-controlled Maryland legislature's attempt to create early voting just for Democrats:

An Anne Arundel County judge invalidated Maryland's early voting laws... in an opinion that could substantially alter the political tactics used by campaign teams across the state this fall.

Circuit Court Judge Ronald Silkworth ruled that it would be illegal for Maryland elections officials to open polling stations during the week before Election Day because the state constitution strictly sets the timing of elections. The 2005 and 2006 laws also improperly permitted voters to cast ballots outside their precincts, he wrote.

"This court finds that the General Assembly exceeded its constitutional authority in enacting the early voting statutes," wrote Silkworth, a Democratic appointee whose ruling favors Republicans in one of the State House's most partisan disputes.

Silkworth agreed to stay the decision until the case could be heard on appeal by the state's highest court, probably before the Sept. 12 primary. State election officials said they will continue to prepare for voting to start as early as Sept. 5.


Republican lawmakers said they had warned Democrats that in their view, passing early voting laws would require amending the constitution, much as the legislature did when it allowed for absentee voting.


Yesterday, [Maryland Governor] Ehrlich [said] he might have supported the concept of extending voting hours, or even opening polls for "two or three days."

But he said he was appalled by the Democrats' bill, which spelled out 21 addresses where polls must be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week leading up to Election Day and also enhanced the power of the state elections administrator, a Democratic appointee, to oversee actions of local election officials appointed by Republicans.

The court ruling -- as did the one striking down a law requiring Wal-Mart to provide health benefits to its workers -- helps him convey his message that the legislature has "overreached," he said.

As we reported back in April, the plan was developed by Democrats to give special voting rights only to Democrats to help elect Democrats. The court's ruling is only the start of what is wrong with it.

Update, Aug. 12: The Washington Times also reports:

"The sanctity of Maryland elections must not be eroded for the sake of one party's political advantage," Mr. Ehrlich said. "Nonetheless, I remain supportive of the concept of early voting and look forward to working with Maryland lawmakers next year to craft a sensible and nonpartisan approach ... to ensure that Maryland conducts fair, accessible and accurate elections."

The early-voting law is the third law passed this year over Mr. Ehrlich's veto that has been struck down by the courts.


The state's electoral process has been a frequent point of contention between Mr. Ehrlich and lawmakers, beginning with legislature's intervention in 2003 to save the job of [Linda H. Lamone, administrator of the State Board of Elections], the state's longtime top election official under Democratic administrations.

The governor also clashed with the legislature in his failed push to require a paper record of votes cast on the state's new touch-screen voting machines.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

DC Utility Gave Squatters Free Water for 22 Years, Wants Libya to Pay

The Washington Times reports:

The Libyan government took 25 years to repair diplomatic ties with the United States to be able to reopen an embassy in the District, but it can't because the District's utilities authority refuses to turn on water service.

At issue is more than $27,000 in outstanding water and sewer bills for the property where the Libyan government is trying to reopen its embassy on U.S. soil for the first time since 1981.

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) has filed liens and shut off sewer and water service for the property, located at 2201 Wyoming Ave. NW.

The dispute prompted Libya last week to file a lawsuit against WASA in federal court in the District. The suit demands that water and sewer service be turned on and that WASA pay $1 million in damages.


In its lawsuit, Libya says it hasn't occupied the Wyoming Avenue property since 1981, when the United States cut diplomatic ties with the country and shut its embassy.


During the years Libya had no embassy in the District, the United Arab Emirates took control of the property. For several years, "squatters" stayed there without permission from Libya or the United Arab Emirates, the suit says.

The United Arab Emirates evicted the squatters in 2003 and ordered water and sewer service to be shut off, the suit says.

No explanation of why WASA let unpaid bills reach $27,000 over a period of 22 years without shutting off service.


The Washington Times adds:

The Libyan government has settled a federal lawsuit with the District's water authority in a dispute involving more than $27,000 in outstanding bills.

The settlement allows Libyan officials to move ahead with plans to open an embassy in Northwest.


The lawsuit, which accused WASA of violating a provision of the Vienna Convention, sought $1 million and the immediate restoration of water and sewer service.


WASA spokeswoman Michele Quander-Collins said the settlement calls for the Libyan government to pay "a nominal fee" that is significantly less than the $27,710 in outstanding bills.

Miss Quander-Collins said WASA agreed to the deal late Tuesday after meeting with attorneys for the Libyan government who provided information about "mitigating factors."


D.C. court records show that the United Arab Emirates assigned a driver to live at the property to keep it from being continually vandalized, but the driver rented out rooms without permission from Libya or the United Arab Emirates.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

So It's Hot Out

The Washington Post and Times agree: it's hot out.

(WaPo) The sweltering heat and humidity continued to smother the Washington region today, with the National Weather Service forecasting a high of 101 degrees. As of 5 p.m. the weather service reported a temperature of 97 degrees, with a heat index of 106 degrees, at Reagan National Airport.

Local transit officials said riders should expect delays on their afternoon commutes because of heat restrictions that will slow Metrorail, VRE and MARC trains. Metro is handing out free water at some stations with escalators are on the blink.

An excessive heat warning remains in effect for the area and the weather service is predicting 100-plus degree temperatures tomorrow and Thursday...

For the afternoon rush, Metro will be slowing trains to 45 mph in the above-ground sections, instead of running at the top speed of 59 mph. In addition, Metro, which has an electrified third rail that powers trains, is adding two to three minutes between them. Both measures are intended to conserve electricity.

This despite the Post's report:
Unlike the electricity transmission grid in California, which has not built power generating plants fast enough to meet growing electricity demand, the regional grid that includes Washington has enough generating capacity, officials said.
But who doesn't love slower, hotter, and more crowded trains?