One hundred days after her birth, the National Zoo's giant panda cub was named Bao Bao today at a zoo ceremony gorged on panda pageantry.
Bao Bao—which translates into "precious" or "treasure"—won an online vote of five Chinese names, including Mulan, as in the Disney animated movie of the same name. Consistent with Chinese tradition, the zoo allowed 100 days to pass before giving the female cub its name. More than 123,000 votes were cast over three weeks.
The naming ceremony packed zoo visitors and Smithsonian officials in the plaza outside the panda exhibit, though the bears themselves were not on display. Speakers included Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough and Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai. First Lady Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan, the wife if Chinese President Xi Jingping, delivered video messages.
Bao Bao, born August 23 following an artificial insemination procedure, and her mother, Mei Xiang, will finally go on public display in early 2014. The cub will live at the National Zoo through 2017, when she will be returned to China.
Getting DC's fleet of 6,500 taxicabs to accept credit cards has been a turbulent saga to date, and taxis face another deadline next week when they will be required to be outfitted with credit card readers mounted in the back for easy customer access.
Although taxis have come into compliance with the requirement to take plastic since September 1, the rollout has been uneven, with many cabbies only carrying credit card devices attached to a mobile phone or tablet computer mounted near the driver's seat. But come Sunday, the DC Taxicab Commission will require all cabs to have backseat-mounted readers equipped with video screens that show advertisements and weather reports.
And unlike with other benchmarks that taxis have had to meet, such as the mere introduction of credit card payments, the commission will not be granting any extensions. DCTC spokesman Neville Waters says several drivers have asked, though.
"The expectation is that the vehicles will be outfitted," he says. Taxi inspectors take Sundays off, but next Monday, Waters says, they will on the lookout for cabs without backseat credit card readers.
The rollout of credit card payments and other modernizations such as rooftop lights have been met with stiff resistance from cab drivers. More than 1,000 cabbies recently signed up for a drivers' association organized by the Teamsters union, which is currently suing the DC government to stop enforcement of new taxi regulations.
An audit released today about the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department contains unsettling news for anyone whose house is on fire or who needs to be transported to the hospital. The department’s fleet of 369 fire engines, ambulances, and other vehicles is in “overall poor condition,” according the 200-page report.
The fire and EMS department orderd the audit this past summer, following several embarrassing moments for the agency and its chief, Kenneth Ellerbe, who is deeply unpopular with the 1,800 rank-and-file firefighters and paramedics. In one notable incident, city ambulances were unavailable to pick up a Metropolitian Police Department officer injured in a motorcycle accident, instead leaving the job to Prince George’s County paramedics; during one summer weekend when many ambulances were out of service, the city was forced to hire private ambulances to pick up the slack; an ambulance on a call spontaneously caught fire; and in September, a paramedic was reprimanded after he publicly blamed the ambulance fleet’s poor condition for the death of a five-month-old girl.
The argument over whether the District should relax restrictions on its skyline will face its most important test next week when competing proposals submitted by the DC government and the National Capital Planning Commission finally come before Congress.
The House Oversight Committee, which oversees all things releated to the District, will hold a hearing Monday to hear arguments from the NCPC, which advocates leaving the 1910 Height Act virtually unchanged, and the DC Office of Planning, which is pushing for significant alterations.
The committee’s chairman, California Republican Darrell Issa, scheduled the hearing less than two weeks after a prolonged NCPC session in which members of the public tore into the DC government’s proposal for slightly taller buildings downtown and no limit on building height in a few other parts of the city. Some witnesses called for the resignation of city planning director Harriet Tregoning, who coordinated the District’s report on the Height Act. Others swore blood oaths against ever changing the Height Act.
The hearing, titled “Changes to the Heights Act: Shaping Washington, D.C., for the Future, Part II,” comes a little more than a year after Issa asked the District and the NCPC to look into amending the Height Act as Washington’s population continues expanding. A spokesman for Issa says the only witnesses at next week’s hearing will from Tregoning’s office and the NCPC. Members of the public looking to submit their written comments—blood oaths or otherwise—are invited to e-mail them to Ali.Ahmad@mail.house.gov.
Paul Zukerberg says he isn’t going to obey a message from the DC government ordering him to shut down his attorney general campaign, which he has been waging despite a very good chance the position won’t be on next year’s ballot.
Zukerberg, a criminal defense lawyer by trade, received an email today from the city’s Office of Campaign Finance telling him to stop raising or spending any money in his pursuit of becoming the District’s first elected attorney general. But in an interview, he says there’s little chance of that happening.
“I’m not suspending anything,” Zukerberg says. “I’m not going to stop campaigning.”
The National Zoo on Sunday will announce the name of the giant panda cub born in August. The ceremony is open to the public, who helped choose the name in an online poll. No reservations are required, but the zoo says space is “extremely limited.”
The date of December 1 was decided by Chinese tradition, which celebrates the name of a new life on the 100th day since birth. The female panda was born on August 23. The chosen name will appear in English and Chinese on scrolls hanging from a 12-foot arch.
The name selection was put to the public in an online vote. The zoo said more than 123,000 votes have been cast for one or the other of five proposed names: Bao Bao, Ling Hua, Long Yun, Mulan, and Zhen Bao. The panda cub itself will not make its first public appearance until January.
Here’s what you need to know if you plan to attend the naming ceremony:
Time: 1 PM
Where: Panda Plaza, between bus parking lot and parking lot B
Who: Scheduled participants are Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Wayne Clough; National Zoo director Dennis Kelly; Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai; and, from the State Department, Kerri-Ann Jones, the assistant secretary of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. A video message from First Lady Michelle Obama is planned.
Additionally: There will be entertainment and food provided by the Chinese Embassy.
It's not quite pay-to-pray, but the Washington National Cathedral needs to shore up its coffers, and to do that, it's going to start charging its tourists, the historic church announced today.
Starting next year, the cathedral will begin charging $10 for adults and $6 for children, seniors, and members of the military who aren't visiting for religious reasons. The new admission fees are being implemented in part to cover the $26 million cost of repairing the damage it sustained in the August 2011 earthquake that rattled the Washington area.
The cathedral suffered extensive damage to its central tower in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake, and still needs to raise $19 million to fix it, NBC4 reports.
Entry to the cathedral will remain free on Sunday, and on weekdays for anyone coming for the cathedral to pray or worship.
Two cakes and a room full of political supporters weren’t enough to get DC Mayor Vince Gray off the fence on at his birthday party Friday night. Despite a crowd that probably would have become even more fawning, Gray, celebrating his 71st birthday again passed up the opportunity to say if he plans to seek a second term. But he sure was a tease about it.
“If I were to possibly run, is there anybody in this room that would help me?” he said at the end of his speech, prompting a refrain of “Four more years!” from the folks packed into Lost Society, a restaurant and nightclub at 14th and U streets, Northwest. Council member Yvette Alexander, one of only two sitting DC Council members to attend, had already started one chorus urging Gray to run for another turn in office.
Ask any local to name the most annoying thing about Washington on the weekends, and a leading answer is likely to be the glut of tour buses that swarm downtown and around the Mall. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put them out of sight?
That’s the hope of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, a group of philanthropists dedicated to enhancing and enlarging the Mall. The organization opened a showroom this week for a proposed parking garage and visitors’ center to be built underneath a swath of the Mall.
It’s an ambitious project, and unlikely to begin in the next few years, but it would do a lot more than get those pesky buses out of the way. An garage under the Mall could also serve as a stormwater drainage facility sorely needed by the flood-prone buildings that line Constitution Ave., Northwest.
The District council seems to be nearly unanimous in raising the minimum wage for most hourly workers to $11.50. But waiters and busboys are likely to get stiffed when the deliberations begin next Monday.
The Council’s Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs is set to report on a bill calling for gradual increases in the minimum wage over a three-year period, eventually giving DC workers one of the highest minimum wages in the country. But the draft legislation excludes a specified wage hike to waiters’, bartenders’, and busboys’ current minimum of $2.77 per hour before tips.
“We have to think of jobs in the restaurant industry not as poverty jobs but as good jobs that can support families in our city,” says Elissa Silverman, an analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, which supports bringing wages for tipped employees closer to parity with other workers. “We need to think of them as living wage jobs. And it’s difficult when most earnings are in tips.”