City Desk

The Needle: Silent Lawsuit

Celebrity-Themed Bar Woes: Shaw's brand new Charlie Chaplin-themed bar, The Chaplin, has to change its name due to a threat of a lawsuit from the real Chaplin's estate. Keeping true to its theme, the bar will now be called Chaplin Restaurant & Bar. +/-0

Good Start: The Washington Post editorial board says it will no longer use the Washington football team's name. Now for the rest of the paper? May we suggest using Pigskins instead? +1

Dog Days of Summer: Summer is almost over, which means D.C. pools will soon shutter. But wipe those tears away and get ready for some serious good Instagram opportunities. The city will open Randall, Upshur, and Francis pools to the District's dogs on Sept. 6. +2

Swan Song: Violin-makers aren't too happy over Maryland's new ban on grain alcohol, which they use to make varnish. Do they have the numbers to overturn the ban? -4

Yesterday's Needle rating: 26 Today's score: -1  Friday Bonus: +2 Today's Needle rating: 27

Buy D.C.: Capitol Hill

Each week, Buy D.C. will highlight shops and items you can only find in the D.C. area, curated by Kaarin Vembar, owner of personal shopping and wardrobe editing service Closet Caucus.

 

Pigskins Shame Spiral: Washington Post Editorial Board

Pigskins Shame Spiral: FingerwagThe Pigskins Shame Spiral is an occasional feature tracking developments related to the name of D.C.'s beloved football team.

WhoThe Washington Post editorial board.

Change the name? Yes.

Read more Pigskins Shame Spiral: Washington Post Editorial Board

Woman Falls From Erratic Segway, Sues Bike and Roll

Here's some further proof that tourists and Segways in D.C. can be a dangerous combination.

A New York woman was ejected from her erratic Segway while on a guided tour of D.C.'s tourist attractions, according to a suit filed in U.S. District Court for D.C. Thursday against Bike and Roll Washington D.C. The suit states that Jordana Casciano was on a Bike and Roll tour in October 2013, rolling on a Segway Personal Transporter named "Millie."

Casciano was taking in the sites near the U.S. Botanic Garden with her husband when her Segway started to reverse and spin violently without command, crashing into the cement sidewalk and causing her to be ejected.

"Plaintiff JORDANA CASCIANO was riding experienced a control malfunction causing a large excursion from controlled operation and loss of control, each of which caused it to accelerate backward unexpectedly without command, spin violently, and crash into the cement sidewalk surface, which resulted in her being violently ejected from the Segway PT and thrown to the ground in the vicinity of the United States Botanic Garden located in Washington, D.C," the suit states.

According to the suit,  the crash wasn't Casciano's fault. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had recalled the Segway PT in 2006 because it had "unexpectedly applied reverse torque to the wheels, which has caused riders to fall." Read more Woman Falls From Erratic Segway, Sues Bike and Roll

RIP, Snowy Owl

The daredevil snowy owl who liked to fly low over the District's busy streets this year was found dead in Minnesota, the Raptor Center announced today. It appears the owl was, yet again, hit by a vehicle.

The rare snowy owl, which City Desk had tried to give a proper name, gained celebrity status in D.C. when he decided to perch downtown in January, posing for urban bird lovers' iPhone cameras.

The owl, however, couldn't stay still for long and was hit by a bus on 15th and Eye streets NW one morning about a week after he first alit here. He sustained some head trauma, but luckily, survived the collision.

The bird was eventually transported to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota for rehabilitation and was released back into the wild on April 19.

But now the Raptor Center says the owl's body was recovered on the shoulder of a Minnesota highway, near where he had been released last spring. Read more RIP, Snowy Owl

District Line Daily: School’s Out

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

The deputy mayor for education released the new school boundaries Thursday, ending a nearly yearlong process of city proposals on the overhaul. The new rules will give each student one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school that she or he can attend as a matter of right. For the majority of students, this will mean no change in their school assignments. Still, get ready for a charged public reaction, D.C.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • The interim fire chief is unhappy with the light punishments handed to the three firefighters who did not come to the aid of Medric Mills, an elderly man who collapsed outside their fire station and later died. He says he will only accept the punishments "begrudgingly." [Loose Lips]
  • Chuck Brown Memorial Park, in Langdon Park, will be unveiled Friday, which also happens to be Chuck Brown's 78th birthday. [News4]
  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell takes the stand in his corruption case to talk about his unraveling marriage in the governor's mansion. [Post]
  • Is Stadium Club a "sexually-oriented business establishment?" It might be after all, according to a new court ruling. [City Desk]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

Read more District Line Daily: School’s Out

Photo: Gathering for Solidarity for Ferguson, Mo.

Gathering for Solidarity in Columbia Heights, 14th and Park Road, NW., Aug. 21st.

Gathering for Solidarity in Columbia Heights, 14th Street and Park Road NW, Aug. 21.

Is Stadium Club Strip Club a “Sexually Oriented Business Establishment?”

High-end strip club Stadium Club could lose its ability to operate under the zoning rules for its location, after the D.C. Court of Appeals vacated the club's status as a non-"Sexually Oriented Business Establishment" and sent it back to the Board of Zoning Adjustment to reevaluate.

A sexually oriented business wouldn't be permitted in the commercial zone where the club is located, on Queens Chapel Road NE, and neighborhood activists have claimed for years that the strip club shouldn't be allowed, either.

The ruling on Thursday by the three-judge appeals panel is the latest setback for the purported high-end "gentleman's club," which has been the backdrop for allegations of sexual extortion of a dancer; a lawsuit against a former Baltimore Ravens football player and a D.C. police officer for allegedly beating up a pair of security guards; a parking lot stabbing; and a million-dollar case of fraud involving misuse of government funds.

In remanding the case, the panel chastised the BZA for ignoring the club's actual operations, failing to conduct sufficient fact-finding, and deferring to the "opinion" of Zoning Administrator Matthew LeGrant, who granted non-SOBE certificates of occupancy in 2010 and 2011, despite explicit testimony of investigators posing as patrons of the club.

Club owners James "Tru" Redding and Keith Forney could not be reached for comment.

Read more Is Stadium Club Strip Club a “Sexually Oriented Business Establishment?”

The Needle: Hellish Island

Hot Hot Heat: D.C. has the sixth-most intense heat island in the United States, according to a report by Climate Central. The study found that, on average, the D.C.urban area is 4.7 degrees warmer during summer than its neighboring, rural areas since 2004. -4

Child's Play: How do you get the D.C. Department of Transportation to pay attention to a large sinkhole in your neighborhood? Put your child in it, take a picture, and tweet it. -3

Read more The Needle: Hellish Island

D.C. Cab Commission May Launch New Van Service East of the River and in Other Neighborhoods

D.C. taxicabs have long been criticized for failing to serve low-income neighborhoods, particularly east-of-the-river neighborhoods in wards 7 and 8. But today, D.C. Taxicab Commission Chair Ron Linton says the commission  has a plan to put independently operated vans in these underserved areas.

The vans would take people anywhere from two to 20 blocks for a fixed rate of $5 or $6, with specific boundaries dictating where they could operate. The idea is that these vans would be used to take people—multiple people at once—to the nearby grocery store or a friend's house in places where it's nearly impossible to hail a cab. In addition to east-of-the-river neighborhoods, the vans may also operate in parts of wards 5 and 6 and even around upper 16th Street NW, where there are service gaps.

Linton says he expects low-income seniors to account for a large portion of the vans' customers.

The commission is still studying the boundaries and feasibility of the plan, which isn't definite. He hopes the mayor can officially announce the van service this November, with a launch date sometime next summer.

Linton said at a press conference today that during his tenure as chair of the cab commission, one of the "most perplexing matters has been that we have four to five distinct areas in the city where the people who live in those areas are underserved by public vehicles for hire."

Just like standard cab drivers, drivers of these vans would own their vehicles and meet the same requirements needed to be a standard cab driver. Linton says the city would work with the potential drivers to obtain loans to purchase the vans. The vans, however, would not have meters, which means they could only operate in their designated areas for flat rates.

Read more D.C. Cab Commission May Launch New Van Service East of the River and in Other Neighborhoods

District Line Daily: The Education Issue

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to citydesk@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

The Education Issue is on stands today. Read it to find out about social activism at Howard University in the wake of Ferguson, the intense NIMBYs fighting the construction of AU's new dorms, and what's behind D.C's most troubled law school.

LEADING THE MORNING NEWS:

  • The D.C. Department of Transportation has installed 7.5 miles of bikes lanes this year, including the first in Ward 8. [Post]
  • Former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt draws comparisons between the 1991 Mount Pleasant riots and Ferguson. [WAMU]
  • The Supreme Court issued a last-minute order delaying gay marriage in Virginia—the day before the state was scheduled to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples. [New York Times]
  • U.S. Park Police have identified a suspect in connection with an April sexual assault at a park near the Georgetown Waterfront. [Post]

RECENT CITY PAPER STORIES TO HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR DAY:

Read more District Line Daily: The Education Issue

Social Justice Still Drives Howard University

Howard-1

Hundreds of student volunteers arrived on Howard University’s campus a week early to help freshmen move in to their new dorms. They lugged their belongings to their new homes, directed them around campus, and caught up with friends before classes started.

It was the kind of scene that was repeated on university campuses around the country over the last couple of weeks. But while everyone was settling in at Howard, law enforcement officials clad in military gear were in Ferguson, Mo., confronting people who were protesting the death of Michael Brown—the unarmed black teenager shot by a white police officer at least six times on a Saturday afternoon. Before he was killed, Brown was also slated to start college this month.

Illustration by Robert Meganck

So a few hours before an assembly for freshmen move-in volunteers started last Wednesday, Howard University student government leaders decided they had to say something about Brown—a teenager that Howard University Student Association Vice President Ikenna Ikeotuonye said “could have been any one of us.”

The 300 students were instructed to stare straight ahead and pose with their arms up and their palms forward—a gesture that, particularly in the aftermath of Brown’s death, is universally understood to mean “don’t shoot.”

“After we explained to them what that photo was about, the room went from a lot of chatter to just dead silence. It was somber,” says Ikeotuonye, a senior.

Ikeotuonye snapped the photo on his Canon camera, made some edits on his computer, and sent it to his staff on student government. It eventually landed on Twitter, was retweeted tens of thousands of times, and got nods in local and international papers (including in one post on Washington City Paper’s website).

The sheer number of students in that small-framed photo is striking. But it’s more than just the packed auditorium that makes the picture so powerful. These are Howard University students, students who had just arrived at the Mecca—with a capital M, as it became known during the Black Power movement in the 1960s—of black intellectualism in the U.S. The thought that even these top-tier students have to worry about walking down the street and getting shot by the police in this country resonated with people.

“No matter where they are from, no matter what their story is, these kids are black kids, which is why they had their hands up in the first place,” says Gregory Carr, the head of the Afro-American Studies department at Howard. “Can they ever jailbreak this identity that basically communicates a different humanity? I don’t know that they can, I don’t know that they can ever do that.”

But, Carr says, “the Howard brand means you can’t assail these kids.” Read more Social Justice Still Drives Howard University

Why Did American University’s Law School Plunge in the Rankings?

au_lawschool-2

American University’s law school woos its students with a chance at the kind of international law jobs in which they might handle classified documents. In the spring of 2012, however, one graduate says his classmates got some practice being secretive about something decidedly less important to national security: their own job prospects.

In order to avoid offending classmates who faced unemployment after racking up more than $150,000 in student debt—nine months after graduation, just 42 percent of the class had jobs that required passing the bar—students who actually had offers had to engage in their own cover-ups. “Everything was sort of hush-hush,” says the graduate, who asked not to be named to avoid so as not to damage his new, nonlegal career.

Illustration by Robert Meganck

Lately, the prospects for American University’s Washington College of Law have looked just as grim. Since 2013, the school has plummeted down the U.S. News and World Report law-school rankings, dropping 23 positions from 49th in the country to 72nd. Thanks to its graduates’ dubious employment prospects, meanwhile, Washington College of Law has become a target for activists who see it as one of the worst examples of a law school that dupes students with unlikely legal ambitions, only to stick them with a mountain of inescapable debt when they graduate.

All the same, the school has started construction on a new campus in Tenleytown that the university expects will cost $130 million. As the Washington College of Law expands its goals in the face of its ratings collapse and a nationwide drop in law applications, it looks headed for a collision between its aspirations and the realities of what a mid-tier law school can realistically offer its students.

In AU recruitment videos, a juris doctor degree from the Washington College of Law looks like the first step toward a glamorous career like the one enjoyed by law school dean Claudio Grossman, a Chilean polyglot who moonlights as a United Nations human rights official. As students hold up meme-friendly signs in one video—“International Networks,” “Global Education”—Grossman intones about how world institutions based in the District offer his students a jump into international law.

University of Colorado Law School professor Paul Campos has his own, less-exalted idea of what Washington College of Law’s promotional materials should look like. Campos’ dream pamphlet for the school would show what he says even a moderately lucky AU law graduate faces: a career picking up drunk-driving and divorce cases in the suburbs, making a mid-five-figure salary to pay off more than $150,000 in debt.

Read more Why Did American University’s Law School Plunge in the Rankings?

The Needle: Nope, Not for Lovers

 

Nope, Not for Lovers: The Supreme Court put a hold on a ruling that overturned the same-sex marriage ban in Virginia Wednesday, meaning that same-sex couples can no longer wed in the state Thursday as planned. The state's attorney general, who supports overturning the ban, says he supports the stay as way to prevent further complications down the road in case the court eventually decides to keep the marriage ban in place. -5

Shame Spiral: A longtime NFL referee avoided working Washington football games because of the team's offensive name. +5

Read more The Needle: Nope, Not for Lovers

Gear Prudence: My Building Hates Bikes!

gearprudence

Gear Prudence: Before each bike commute, I want to make sure I have the essentials with me. What do you think are the minimal necessities a bike commuter needs? Is a patch kit and a Metrocard enough? —Packed, Ready, Ever Prepared

Dear PREP: The minimal necessities will vary depending on the length and terrain of your commute and your individual preferences. A patch kit is a good idea, but then you’d also want to bring along tire levers and a pump. Might as well also take a spare tube. If you can fix a flat tire, you’re probably handy enough to fix other things and could carry a multitool. A backup tire? Sure! Two? Twice as good! Carry a folding bike on the rack of your normal bike “just in case?” Shark repellent because you can never be too cautious? Hard to say no. At this point, you’re probably driving a Subaru hatchback to work just to carry all of your bike contingency “essentials.”

Travel light. If you’re not handy and never too far from a bus stop, leave the tools at home. Nothing ruins an already ruined commute more than trying to fix a busted bike on the side of a road. Don’t bother. Put your bike on the front of the bus and sort it out later. Aside from bus fare, always carry some ID. That’s important. —GP

Read more Gear Prudence: My Building Hates Bikes!

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