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The museum's collection will go to the National Gallery of Art, while the college will become part of George Washington University, effectively ending the 145-year-old Washington institution. By Benjamin Freed
The Corcoran Gallery. Photograph by Flicker user SBC9.

It’s official: The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design will be dissolved in October after a District judge upheld the financially failed institution’s plan to be taken over by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University.

In the ruling issued Monday afternoon, Judge Robert Okun of DC Superior Court rejected a last-minute case by Save the Corcoran, a group of Corcoran students, staff, and benefactors seeking to block the 145-year-old institution’s bureacratic death. Okun’s ruling allows the Corcoran’s cy-prés petition to move forward, meaning its 17,000-item collection will fall under the auspices of the NGA, while the art school is absorbed into GWU. The university will also take over the Corcoran’s building, an iconic Beaux Arts landmark from 1897 that needs as much as $130 million in repairs.

Because the Corcoran is a nonprofit organization, changes to its charter need to be approved by a judge. In his opinion, Okun seems sensitive to founder William Corcoran’s desire that the museum bearing his name remain “an institution in Washington City,” as Corcoran wrote in the original 1869 charter.

“[T]he Court is aware that the GW/NGA proposal is inconsistent with Mr. Corcoran’s intent in one important respect—unlike the UMD proposal from February 2014, the GW/NGA proposal effectively eliminates the Corcoran as an independent institution, leaving behind only an untethered Board of Trustees to advise GW and NGA on future plans for the College and Gallery,” Okun writes. “Undoubtedly, Mr. Corcoran would not be pleased by this turn of events. It seems likely, however, that he would be pleased to see that the College will be preserved through its partnership with the very university to which he donated both property and his company’s archives, and where he served as Chairman of the Board for several years, and that the Gallery will be preserved through its partnership with one of the country’s pre-eminent art institutions.”

The Corcoran has been struggling for years under its current management. Save the Corcoran argued in court that the museum’s board, led by Harry Hopper, raised just $4 million in 2012 and spent $3.7 million of it. The Corcoran also attempted to raise money by selling off some of its most prized items, such as the Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet, a Persian rug that went for $33.8 million in a 2013 auction.

Under terms of the arrangements with the NGA and GWU announced in February, the museum will close around October 1. Students, now enrolled in GWU’s Columbian College, will continue to attend classes at the Corcoran building, though current students’ tuition will remain the same. While most of the current galleries will be closed to the public, parts of the building will eventually reopen with exhibits presented by the NGA under the banner “Corcoran Contemporary, National Gallery of Art” featuring small selections from the Corcoran’s vault.

Save the Corcoran, led by former instructor Jayme McLellan, has been brief so far in its obviously disappointment.

“The Corcoran as we know it is gone,” the group says on its Facebook page. “We fought the good fight.”

Closing out his ruling, Okun writes that his decision, while “painful” to issue, likely staved off complete disaster given the Corcoran’s unsteady leadership.

“[T]his Court would find it even more painful to deny the relief requested and allow the Corcoran to face its likely demise—the likely dissolution of the College, the closing of the Gallery, and the dispersal of the Gallery’s entire collection,” he writes. “Fortunately, two internationally recognized institutions, with strong and enduring commitments to education and the arts, have agreed to sustain the College under the Corcoran name, and to provide the same educational and employment opportunities to its students, faculty, and staff; to maintain the Gallery and much of the collection under the Corcoran name, and to keep it open to the public; and to renovate the iconic building which houses both the College and the Gallery.”

Read the full opinion below.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

237147270 Corcoran Ruling

Posted at 05:56 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
After a series of slip-ups, airport security workers across the US will learn what a District ID looks like. By Benjamin Freed
Image via DC Department of Motor Vehicles.

In the wake of numerous instances of DC residents not being able to fly home because airport security personnel did not understand that a driver’s license issued by the District counts as valid identification, the Transportation Security Agency will start training its employees to recognize that, in fact, a DC license is as good as any state’s. Licenses issued by the city will be part of TSA agents’ daily shift briefings, according to a press release from Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office, which is taking credit for the change.

Norton met again with top TSA officials last week, as she had done several times already in 2014 following reports of District residents getting held up at airports around the country, but it appears the most recent sit-down finally produced results.

Beside the daily briefings, TSA employees who check travel documents—the blue-shirted ranks who sift you through security gates—will also go through a four-hour training session in September that will feature a special emphasis on driver's licenses, especially those issued by DC’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Residents are sensitive about invidious treatment, considering what Congress throws at them,” Norton says in the press release. “I appreciate the remedial actions led by top officials at the TSA.”

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 04:55 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
An annual report shows that homicides and sexual assaults were up in 2013. Plus, a look at the demographics of DC's police force in the wake of Ferguson. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Flickr user Matt Johnson.

One of the many issues at play in the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer there shot and killed an unarmed black teenager is that the police department in the St. Louis suburb is 94 percent white in a town where two-thirds of the population is black. The disparity has exposed deep faults that can arise when a police force is not representative of the community it serves.  

For all of the Metropolitan Police Department’s faults, though, that doesn't appear to be one of them, according to an annual report made public Monday. Fifty-seven percent of the department’s nearly 4,000 sworn officers are black, 33 percent are white, and seven percent are Hispanic. Two of the department’s six assistant chiefs are black, as are six of the seven district commanders.

The Metropolitan Police Department investigated 35,499 crimes in 2013, about the same number as in 2012, according to an annual report made public Monday. Beneath that generally stable number, though, were sharp increases in homicides, sexual assaults, and rapes.

One hundred four people were murdered in DC last year, an 18 percent jump over the 88 who lost their lives in 2012. While the 104 slain last year includes the 12 victims of the September 16 massacre at Washington Navy Yard, it picks at a general uptick in the city’s homicide rate after several years of decline. The District has recorded 73 murders so far in 2014, up from 57 at this point a year ago, or a jump of 28 percent.

Via Metropolitan Police Department

For yet another year, an overwhelming majority—78 percent—of DC’s homicide victims were black men.

Police also report a 15 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults reported citywide, from 259 to 298. Meanwhile, the number of reported rapes leaped from 236 in 2012 to 393 last year. But MPP spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump tells Washingtonian via e-mail that those figures cannot be accurately compared because last year’s figure reflects a long overdue update in how the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system, which police departments use to record crime data, defines “forcible rape.” The new definition covers any penetration, no matter how slight, without consent of the victim; the previous terminology, defining rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will,” hadn’t been changed since 1927. Crump says 27 percent of rapes reported last year fell under the new definition.

The 41,747 arrests MPD made last year is a slight drop from the 42,471 in 2012. Of the total arrests, 3,177 were of juveniles. What were the most common causes of arrest?

  • Simple assault: 6,720
  • Narcotics: 5,866
  • Traffic violations: 4,656
  • Warrant charges: 4,624
  • Other: 2,210
  • Disorderly conduct: 2,194

Arrest data is not broken down by race, but external reports in years past show deep racial divides among who gets arrested. More than eight out of ten people arrested in DC between 2009 and 2011 were black, according to a report issued last year by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The division is even more extreme for drug arrests, with blacks accounting for nearly 90 percent of marijuana-related arrests, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union. With a decriminalization law now in effect for possession of one ounce or less, the number of drug-related arrests could fall greatly in next year’s MPD report.

The annual report also contains a few other fascinating statistics about the city’s crime rate and the police department that patrols it.

Traffic fatalities:

Via Metropolitan Police Department

There were 10 more deaths caused by motor vehicles in 2013 than the year before, including 12 pedestrians and two cyclists.

Use of force:

Via Metropolitan Police Department

District police officers shot and killed five suspects last year, including Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis, who was taken down by Officer Dorian DeSantis. DeSantis and 55 other officers who responded to the massacre were given MPD’s Medal of Valor in February.


There were 358 complaints lodged against police officers in 2013, but of those, only 66 were sustained upon review, while another 75 remain under investigation. Of the total number of complaints filed, 50 were for abuse of authority, 34 were for excessive use of force, and 53 were for rude and unprofessional behavior. There were also eight complaints of illegal searches. The report does not break down which complaints were dismissed and which were verified according to category.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 03:06 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The seven-year-old female was euthanized this weekend. By Tanya Pai
Photograph of Shama (pictured here in 2009) courtesy of National Zoo's Flickr feed.

Brace yourselves for sadness, animal lovers: Shama, the National Zoo’s seven-year-old female red panda, was euthanized on Saturday at the zoo’s facility in Front Royal, Virginia. According to a press release, a necropsy turned up evidence of severe cerebral edema caused by “encephalitis associated with a microscopic parasite.” Zookeepers noticed something was amiss with Shama the Wednesday before, and her condition worsened rapidly. “Shama was euthanized due to her worsening clinical condition and poor neurological function, which was likely attributed to accumulation of fluid in the brain,” says the zoo. 

Shama and Rusty, her male companion, gave birth to their first litter of cubs together earlier this summer. The three cubs are now being hand-reared by staffers, and appear to be developing normally, though one is being treated for pneumonia. Escape artist Rusty also appears to be healthy. 

“Shama’s death is a big loss for all of us and for those who study and care for red pandas everywhere,” says National Zoo director Dennis Kelly in the release. “I have a lot of confidence in the team caring for the surviving cubs and hope this creates an opportunity for scientists to research infectious diseases that affect red pandas.”

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 02:10 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
How to have the best fan experience possible. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.

Dedicated Washington Nationals fans know baseball demands strategy, this wisdom of experience, and flinty economic calculation. And that’s all before you find your seat. Here’s a guide to getting to, eating at, and having the best fan experience around Nationals Park.

  • Parking close to the stadium can cost up to $47. Those willing to walk a few blocks can try the lot under the Southeast Freeway, which costs $10. Looking for an upscale spot? The Capitol Skyline Hotel’s garage, an eight-minute walk away, sets you back $20.
  • Escape high prices at the stadium by eating and drinking before you go in. Justin’s Café, tucked into a bland apartment building at 1025 First Street, has a strong beer selection and is less mobbed than Bluejacket and less fratty than the bro-filled Fairgrounds.
  • Fans who come on two wheels get valet treatment. An attendant below the parking garage on First Street will park and watch over about 200 bikes during every game, free of charge. Just remember to retrieve your ride no more than an hour after the last pitch.
  • Be sure she’ll say yes: The Nats will hit you up for a hefty donation to the team’s Dream Foundation before putting your proposal on the scoreboard. A live camera shot will likely cost as much as the ring.
  • The line for mass-market suds can cost as much as a half inning—and industry-leading prices. Better beer is quicker. It took us less than three minutes to get a locally made brew from District Drafts kiosks behind sections 119, 139, 223, and 309.
  • Nats Park is “actually kind of tough” for catching foul balls, says Zack Hample, a professional “ballhawk” who has snagged only one during 20 visits since the park opened in 2008. Hample recommends sections 120 and 125 ($200) or, one level up, 211 and 216 ($65 to $80) so you can run down for stray balls.
Illustration by Todd Detwiler.

When to hit Shake Shack: The popular burger outlet can be a half-hour commitment at Friday-night games—about five outs in baseball time. Line up in the second inning, when the Nats score least (on average) this season, and you’ll be back in your seat for the statistically high-scoring sixth.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed. This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The social network briefly blocked ads from the DC government's condom distribution program, which helps prevent HIV infection. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph via Shutterstock.

Like any advertising platform, Twitter reserves the right to regulate the content its customers want to promote. The social networking platform’s policy for “promoted tweets”—posts that appear high up in certain users’ feeds, whether they ask for them or not—prohibits “adult or sexual products,” a category that covers pornography, prostitution, sex toys, and mail-order spouses. It also outlaws most contraceptives, although condoms are permitted when the point of the ad is not explicity sexual.

But as DC’s Department of Health discovered this week, Twitter’s policy is applied inconsistently, and can derail publicity for things with public value, like the city’s programs aimed at reducing infection rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

On Thursday, the publicity company that helps promote the health department’s seven-year-old free condom distribution program attempted to buy a promoted tweet for the account @FreeCondomsDC, but was rebuffed. An automated reply informed them the tweet violated of its content guidelines.

The ban was short-lived, with Twitter spokeswoman Genevieve Wong saying that @FreeCondomsDC was approved Friday morning (a few hours after Washingtonian had inquired about why it had been refused). “We allow advertisers to run campaigns that promote condoms and safe sex,” she wrote.

But the temporary ad-block raised questions about how consistently and effectively Twitter applied its condom ban. At least one condom retailer has run into a wall after Twitter prodded then to advertise. In June, Think Progress reported that, an online condom store, finally tried to buy a 140-character ad but was rejected on the grounds that its tweet was too sexy. (Lucky Bloke’s basic pitch—“Tired of lousy condoms?”—seemed to us relatively tame for prophylactics.) Meanwhile, manufacturers like Durex have been able to advertise, making the logic of their ban even fuzzier.

There’s no evidence that Twitter targets sexual-health tweets. The health department had been able to place sponsored tweets in June to advertise its presence at DC’s annual Capital Pride parade. In fact, it reports encouraging results from its social media efforts. @FreeCondomsDC doesn’t have many followers—only 804 at last count—but promoted tweets can increase that audience four or five times, says Michael Kharfen, the director of the department’s HIV/AIDS office.

“We’ve recognized that social media is a critical way for us to reach the public with information and access to services and resources,” Kharfen says. “We’re getting across information that’s on the leading edge of public health.”

Kharfen says social media has been critical growing the program from giving out 500,000 rubbers in 2007 to 6.9 million last year. And in Washington, where 2.5 percent of the total population is HIV positive—one of five highest infection rates among major US cites, Kharfen says, and an epidemic by World Health Organization standards—safe-sex promotion needs as much daylight as possible. 

The tweets intended for next week include a link to the health department’s order form for condoms.

“We tend to get increases [in orders] when these ads go out,” Kharfen says. “We get more people that check out the tweet. They click through.”

It’s likely that Twitter’s uneven condom policy has more to do with hypersensitive keywords than human squeamishness. Perhaps it would be better to err toward allowing the occasional French tickler to get through the filters than to frustrate a valuable public health resource.

Posted at 05:01 PM/ET, 08/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Is it better to have paper books--or to have real stores in which to buy them? Our Books Editor considers this question. By Bethanne Patrick

A couple of weeks ago I attended a small but strong gathering of minds from various areas of digital book production, collection, curation, and distribution. The #altbookstore conference sought to develop a working e-bookstore alternative to Amazon, that elephant in everybody's living room bookshelves. 

I won't attempt to report on the proceedings, because others have already done so, and much better than I could. Besides, this is a general-interest magazine's blog, not a digipublishing geek's 'zine (which I would be happy to read!). But today one of the participants on the listserve that generated attendance at the conference said something that truly struck me as Your Books Editor.  He said "I am happy to give up print, but I don't like giving up bookstores." (A small caveat: I prefer to use the term "paper books" rather than "print books," because text on a screen, IMO, is still "print.")

As it happens, I agree with him. While this year the books I read are equally divided between paper and screen, as more and more publishers provide critics like me with electronic galleys, I know I will find myself reading online more frequently. As the #altbookstore crowd discussed, this probably means that excellent online book-buying experiences are necessary. However, much as I love being able to download a novel and read it instantly, I shudder to think of no longer being able to visit a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in which I can look at lots of novels (and biographies, and cookbooks, and...) in juxtaposition and talk directly with lively, engaged booksellers. 

Here's why: Although recent research tells us that information may be retained differently when read on a screen instead of a page, that may change as humans evolve. What doesn't seem to be changing is the way we discover new books in any form. Word of mouth remains the most effective way to hear about (and sell) books. 

My choice: No paper books, lots of real bookstores. But you might disagree. In fact, please! Do so! Tell me what you think in the comments. 

Posted at 03:22 PM/ET, 08/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The parallels between RGIII and Johnny Manziel are uncanny—but is that a good thing? By Carol Ross Joynt
Shanahan working with RGIII in 2012. Photograph by Flickr user Keith Allison.

When Kyle Shanahan, the Cleveland Browns’ new offensive coordinator, returns to Washington Monday night for a pre-season game, his star quarterback will be a rookie sensation who won the Heisman with a major Texas college program, who’s been anointed to lead his team out of a playoff drought. Washington fans have seen this movie before. And it’s one that should scare Johnny Football half to death.

Robert Griffin III, Kyle’s last quarterback of this description, is still speaking to Kyle—according to the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg (“It’s not that type of relationship where we wouldn’t talk,” the quarterback assured Steinberg.) But that’s as warm as RGIII could get about the man who got kicked to the curb with his head-coach dad, Mike, after a dreadful 3-13 season, and a QB/O coordinator partnership that had deteriorated past petulant to nonexistent.

(It’s another question whether the FedEx faithful will be even that generous. “I think he won’t get booed,” former Washington defensive back Fred Smoot told Washingtonian. “The Redskins are a classy organization; we have an educated and passionate fan base. It’s not like Philadelphia, where they don’t like anybody, not even their own players most of the time.” One man’s opinion.)

More worrying than last year’s record for Manziel may be the how Griffin’s rookie year wound up, in a calamitous playoff game against Seattle, when Griffin almost crawled off the field with a knee injury that required surgery and rehabilitation.

The two Texans’ similarities, after all, extend to their on-field play. “Both of us are real fast, guys that can play backyard football at times,” Griffin says on Steinberg’s SportsBog blog. That style, and the lack of protection, often left RGIII exposed.

“Kyle has to be very happy,” says Smoot. “He’s got two of the same kind of athletes. They are not just athletes—they are rock stars.”

Let’s see if Shanahan can keep his new frontman out of the mosh pit.

Find Carol Ross Joynt on Twitter at @caroljoynt.

Posted at 02:31 PM/ET, 08/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Here are our nominees who might have saved a format gone stale.
Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, and David Gregory on Meet the Press. Photograph by Justin Lubin/NBC.

The news that MSNBC’s Chuck Todd will replace David Gregory as host of Meet the Press deflated a bubble of speculation that had grown as ratings for NBC’s Sunday chat show, once helmed by the beloved Tim Russert, tumbled. (Rumors spiked in mid-July after Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski bought a Georgetown condo.) We like Todd, but in an age when Americans have soured on insider-y Washington TV types, we were hoping for someone who could shake up the entire Sunday-morning genre.

Jill Abramson
A former New York Times Washington bureau chief, Abramson was canned this past spring as the paper’s top editor, in part for being too prickly. The kind of questions that made her Times bosses unhappy would likely do the same for top officials—to the delight of viewers.

Simon Cowell
Dismiss Cowell as an entertainment-industry lightweight, but we say Piers Morgan was simply the wrong Britain’s Got Talent judge. Cowell is far removed from the US political wars, but after a thousand hotel-ballroom auditions, he knows the American voter intimately.

Marc Maron
The comedian has shown himself to be a capable, dry-eyed interviewer as host of his WTF podcasts. But can he channel his “river of rage” performing style without his signature flood of F-bombs?

Susanna Quinn
The wife of superlobbyist Jack Quinn and a socialite who doesn't take no as an RSVP, she already runs the hottest off-the-record political salon in Washington. If we can’t escape Sunday-morning guests’ incestuous wonkery, we can at least ensure that it’s interesting.

Jorge Ramos
Univision’s Anderson Cooper is ready for his crossover. Unafraid to chide President Obama in a 2012 interview for whiffing on immigration reform, Ramos would bring alien demographics—Hispanics and those who don’t eat at the Palm—to the table.

David Letterman
Cranky even with movie stars whose work he’s supposed to be plugging, Letterman wouldn’t sit quietly when political blather gets “hinky,” as they say back in Indiana. And with Meet the Press shooting in Washington, John McCain could read the Top Ten list every week.

Carole Coleman
In 2004, George W. Bush sat down with this Irish TV journalist for what he assumed would be a softball session. Instead, she asked tougher questions than a Russert would dare. “We have a spunky one here,” he said before she grilled him about Iraq. We’d like to see that uneasy grin on more faces.

Bill Nye
Having honed his debating skills defending Darwin’s theory in his anti-creationism campaign, the Science Guy is used to refuting slickly drawled malarkey. Bonus: He might even be able to explain carbon credits in a way we can understand.

Posted at 06:00 PM/ET, 08/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Most people living in DC, Virginia, and Maryland are from other places, especially New York. By Benjamin Freed
Excelsior! New Yorkers (whose state flag is pictured here) make up 4 percent of DC's population.

The “native Washingtonian” appellation carries a lot of totemic power to some District residents, and for good measure. People to whom that term applies have accounted for less than half the city’s population going back to at least 1900. According to Census Bureau data sifted through by the New York Times, 43 percent of DC’s 278,718 residents at the turn of the 20th century were born here. In 2012—with the District’s population eclipsing 632,000—that percentage fell to 37 percent.

The broad data befit Washington’s reputation as a largely transient city, but the Times’s report also digs into microdata that show where everyone else came from. And unlike most states, DC’s transplants aren’t led by people from just over the nearest state lines. Of District dwellers today, 5 percent—including, full disclosure, the one writing this post—are native New Yorkers. Maryland and Virginia are next, each representing 4 percent of the current population, while California, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina all claim 3 percent of the city’s residents. And 16 percent come from outside the United States.

Only Nevada and Florida have smaller percentages of native-born residents, though DC is hardly the retirement destination those two states are. (However, like the District, Florida’s biggest segment of transplants also comes from New York.)

The District’s Beltway-hugging neighbors also have more than half their populations come from somewhere else. Virginia, where 51 percent of the population comes from out of state, also appears to be a favored destination for ex-New Yorkers, who now make up 4 percent of the Commonwealth. Overall, 18 percent of the newcomers are federal employees.

In Maryland, where 52 percent of current residents moved from elsewhere, DC has been the leading source of new people since 1970. Native Washingtonians account for 9 percent of Maryland dwellers going back to the 2000 census; that figure peaked at 10 percent in 1990. Pennsylvania and New York are next, claiming 4 percent of the state’s population. Like the rest of the region, federal jobs are the biggest incentive to move, with 17 percent of non-native Marylanders working for the government, according to the Times’s analysis.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed

Posted at 04:21 PM/ET, 08/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()