The Federal Communications Commission said today it intends to propose allowing commercial airliners to install equipment making it possible for passengers to make phone calls during flight.
“Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a news release. The FCC will discuss the proposed rule change at its December 12 meeting.
The FCC’s announcement comes just a few weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration came around to the fact that iPads and laptops do not disrupt aviation equipment. But the FAA’s rule change kept in place longstanding restrictions on using cellular signals during flight.
In order to make it possible to use a cell phone during flight, airlines would install equipment that carries wireless signals via satellite from the ground to planes, similar to a system already in place in Europe. The European Commission last week approved allowing air passengers there to make calls during flight.
Despite demands for DC city planner Harriet Tregoning’s resignation and blood oaths being sworn to stop changes to the city’s building height restrictions, the District government is submitting its proposed modifications to the 1910 Height Act to Congress, less than two days after the National Capital Planning Commission voted to leave the statute virtually unchanged.
Tregoning’s recommendations would allow buildings in DC’s historic downtown core to rise as tall as 1.25 times the width of the streets they face, and would lift building height limits entirely in a few higher-growth pockets throughout the rest of the city. The District’s plan still includes the NCPC as a stakeholder in modifying height limits, it would just shift more of the responsibility for governing the skyline to local authorities than federal overseers.
“This approach shifts more decision-making to local control—especially in areas where the federal interest is less significant—in order to accommodate future population growth while at the same time protecting prominent national monuments, memorials, and the unique character of local neighborhoods,” the DC Office of Planning said in a press release last night.
Ron Machen, the US attorney for the District of Columbia, isn’t really allowed to talk about the particulars of his job, especially when he’s leading investigations into, among other things, shady government contractors, national security whistleblowers, and, of course, DC Mayor Vince Gray’s 2010 campaign.
But Machen was still willing to talk about the broad strokes last night at the Hill Center in Southeast DC, where he sat down with NBC4’s Tom Sherwood in front of a small audience. Over the course of about 45 minutes, Machen commented—and declined to comment—on many issues, though on his most well-known case, he’s still keeping quiet on the details.
But Machen said even with a mayoral election coming up, his investigation isn’t slowing down. And in what might be the most unsettling thing for occupants of the John A. Wilson Building to hear, Machen said that even though his almost-four-year tenure as a US attorney is long for the position, he’s not planning on quitting any time soon.
On whether a recent lack of charges means the “shadow campaign” investigation drawing down:
“It’s not like we’ve been looking at this for three years and there’s no there there. I mean, there’s there there and we’re trying to gather information.”
On whether DC fosters a “culture of corruption”:
“The business of DC is politics. Corruption is the name of the game here. You can’t ignore that you have had three Council members [Harry Thomas, Jr., Kwame Brown, Michael A. Brown] plead guilty, but I judge those individuals on their own.”
Three psychiatric hospitals said they had room for Gus Deeds a day before he apparently stabbed his father, Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, and fatally shot himself. So why wasn't he hospitalized before? [Post]
In case Playbook, the Hotline, CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, MSNBC First Read, District of DeBonis, District Line Daily, and DCist's Morning Roundup aren't enough for you, you'll soon be able to get an "early-morning tip sheet" from the New York Times. [Capital New York]
The Potomac River gets an "A" for effort in wastewater management, but a "C" overall in its latest environmental report card. [Well + Being]
DC Mayor Vince Gray isn't the only one hedging about running in next year's elections. Meet some of the other potential candidates for various races. [Loose Lips]
If you're going to be caught up in a federal drug sting, don't tip your dealer like Representative Trey Radel did. [Capital Comment]
Go to the intersection of First and M streets, Southeast, check out the giant mural covering an abandoned government building. [After Hours]
Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser is going to UMD next year, a move that might also get him involved with the Corcoran. [Capital Comment]
Happy hour of the day: Lovers of inexpensive French red wine should head to Bistro Du Coin (1738 Connecticut Ave., NW) for a Beaujolais Nouveau release party.
It was a day of tribute to John F. Kennedy in Washington on Wednesday, when some of the most notable names in politics and culture came together with members of the Kennedy family at the White House, Arlington Cemetery, and, later, the National Museum of American History to pay homage to the 35th President. The week ends with the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Dallas.
The occasion also marked the 50th anniversary of the Medal of Freedom award, the nation’s highest civilian honor, which Kennedy created, though he died before the first medals were handed out. This year President Obama bestowed the medal on 16 people including former president Bill Clinton, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, journalist Ben Bradlee, and, posthumously, astronaut Sally Ride. Attending the ceremony in the East Room were Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, and JFK’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg. Schlossberg’s mother, Caroline Kennedy, was in Japan, where she presented her credentials as the new US ambassador to Emperor Akihito on Tuesday.
President Obama praised each honoree, but there were some light moments, too. He noted that when Winfrey started her career in television her advisers suggested she change her name to Suzy. He said he was also advised to change his name when starting in politics—“though not to Suzy,” which earned loud laughter from the audience.
Afterward, Obama and Clinton, along with First Lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gathered at the Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath near the eternal flame. They stood with their hands over their hearts during a mournful playing of “Taps.” Across from them stood Schlossberg, Ethel Kennedy, her daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and other members of the Kennedy family. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is also buried at the gravesite, along with two deceased Kennedy children. Nearby is the grave of JFK’s brother, Senator Robert Kennedy.
President Obama will host a dinner to honor the Medal of Freedom recipients and further pay tribute to the legacy of JFK Wednesday evening at the National Museum of American History.
In addition to Clinton, Winfrey, Bradlee, and Ride, the other recipients of the Medal of Freedom include jazz musician Arturo Sandoval, who is scheduled to perform at the evening dinner, activist Gloria Steinem, Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, singer Loretta Lynn, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, environmental scientist Mario Molina, Judge Patricia Wald, civil-rights acitivist Cordy Tindell Vivian, former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, former senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, and the late senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii.
If Representative Trey Radel completes the one year of probation he was ordered to serve as the penalty for purchasing cocaine from and undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent, he'll have the charge expunged from his record. But he might not be able to shake the embarrassment that he overpaid for the 3.5 grams he bought outside a Dupont Circle restaurant during an October 29 sting.
Authorities honed in on Radel, a Florida Republican, when an ongoing investigation into cocaine trafficking in the Washington area led to information that a member of Congress was buying the narcotic for personal use and sometimes to share it with others, says the office of Ron Machen, the US attorney for the District of Columbia.
According to a statement of offense against Radel, he and a friend met with an undercover DEA agent on October 29. Radel and the friend had done cocaine several times together, according to court documents, and Radel invited the friend and the undercover cop back to his place for a few lines. The friend and the agent declined the invitation, at which point the agent said he had cocaine to sell.
Radel and the agent went back to the agent’s car, where Radel agreeded to pay $250 for 3.5 grams of cocaine. But he forked over $260, at which point federal agents showed up to bust him. The feds recovered their bait cocaine, as well as a vial Radel had been stashing in his apartment.
Court documents do not specify whether Radel forgot to ask for change, or if he was simply trying to tip the dealer.
The American Ingenuity Awards gala on Tuesday was just another innovative, unusual, and memorable night out with those ingenious folks from Smithsonian magazine. Where else would guests paint their dinner, a scientific honoree swallow his own invention, and another attendee ask everyone to stand up, turn around, and pose a question to someone else?
Handing out the evening’s nine awards were two Nobel laureates, an astrophysicist, musician David Byrne, and artist Jeff Koons. The host was outgoing NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro, who had three words to sum up the occasion: “Electricity. Kite. YOLO.”
Words were the driving force of the program, which was essentially three hours of back-to-back speeches. Rather than being tedious it played like a succession of master classes, with the National Portrait Gallery’s Kogod Courtyard as the classroom. Remarkably for a Washington dinner, the 250 or so invitation-only guests remained seated and attentive from the first presentation to the last. Wayne Clough, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, said the concept was simple: “Find the great; get them all in the same room for an inspiring evening.” He also praised the location: “This beautiful 1836 Greek Revival building we’re in was originally home to our first patent office, and was called a ‘temple to innovation.’”
Smithsonian magazine editor in chief Michael Caruso, who created the Ingenuity Awards last year, chose to invoke President Abraham Lincoln and the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, “the greatest speech in American history.” He called Lincoln “one of our most cutting-edge presidents,” and “our first electronic president,” because he used the telegraph to send short messages, often of 140 characters or less. Caruso made clear he was not saying Lincoln created Twitter—“we all know Al Gore invented that”—but he did give him credit for being an early adapter and for exploiting the innovation of telegraph, or “T-mail.”
Shapiro, in one of his last public appearances in Washington before heading to his new assignment in London, gave a tutorial on the timeliness of the awards, but with a caveat. “There’s something that strikes me as almost mercurially defiant about having these awards celebrating ingenuity at this moment in Washington, DC,” he said. He derided “partisan fighting,” which, he said, means fewer resources to promote innovation and less funding for education and training programs, resulting in “very real problems” of low measures for literacy, problem solving, and math. “In this city that sometimes seems unable to deal with even the most basic problems,” he said, “let’s pause tonight and appreciate this opportunity, celebrating people who are moving immovable objects and breaking through impenetrable walls.”
The honorees included mechanical engineer Adam Steltzner, a self-described former “wannabe rock-and-roll star,” whose personal aesthetic is “hipster Elvis” and who devised the technology that enabled the Curiosity rover to land on Mars. In accepting the technology award he told the story of his journey from “college reject” to a prominent role at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory.
Stanford University professor Caroline Hoxby received the education award for targeting and helping talented students from poor families to find colleges. Another Stanford professor, historian Caroline Winterer, won the historical scholarship award for innovative studies of Benjamin Franklin.
Developmental biologist Michael Skinner received the natural science award for identifying how exposure to man-made chemicals can be passed through generations. Dave Eggers and Mimi Lok, both San Francisco-based writers, received the social progress award for creating the Voice of Witness project to highlight the individual stories of people suffering human rights distress throughout the world.
After more than four hours of angry, sometimes bizarre, testimony in defense of the Height Act, the National Capital Planning Commission voted to go with its original plan—not changing the law controlling DC’s skyline at all, save a few perfunctory nitpicks.
Tuesday’s hearing was another slog of dozens of witnesses, mostly senior citizens, lining up to defend downtown Washington’s federally protected skyline and swipe away the increased housing demand created by a growing population. It voted 7-3 against sending to Congress the draft it released Sunday night potentially allowing taller structures outside downtown DC.The vote followed testimony that ranged from the petty to the inane.
Kathy Henderson, a neighborhood activist from Northeast DC, used her podium time to demand the resignation of Harriet Tregoning, DC’s director of planning who authored the District’s proposal on the Height Act that calls for significant, but still rather measured, alterations to the Height Act.
Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser will head to the University of Maryland when his time running the performing arts center expires next August, the university and the Kennedy Center announced today.
Kaiser, 60, plans to transplant his side project, the DeVos Institute for Arts Management, to College Park, and go fulltime as an adviser and consultant to arts organizations.
Since taking over the Kennedy Center in 2001, Kaiser has spent a significant amount of time advising other institutions as well as foreign governments on artistic programming and funding. That effort received a financial boost—and name—in 2010 from Michigan philanthropists Dick and Betsy DeVos, whose family founded Amway.
Elected officials accused of using cocaine aren't just for Canadians. Representative Trey Radel, a Republican from Florida, will appear in DC Superior Court on Wednesday to face a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession, according to court records.
Radel was arrested October 29, Politico reports. Misdemeanor drug possession is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, according to DC's criminal code.
"I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel," Radel said in a statement released by his office.
Radel, 37, was elected to his first term last year with Tea Party support, and represents the Fort Myers and Naples areas on Florida's Gulf Coast. Before joining Congress, Radel was television and radio talk show host.
UPDATE, 11/20/13: Radel pleaded guilty Wednesday morning and was ordered to serve one year of probation. He was arrested last month after buying $260 worth of cocaine from an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent.