City Desk

The Needle: Trees and Leaves Edition

Barack Obama's Easter Church, Shiloh Baptist in D.C., Gets Death Threats

Outfoxed: When President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama went to Shiloh Baptist Church for Easter services, it should have been a boon for the Shaw house of worship—publicity is always nice, after all, and a presidential visit brings a lot of good publicity. And also, apparently, a lot of hate mail. After the Obamas visited, Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity apparently decided to make Shiloh Baptist's pastor, the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, into the next Jeremiah Wright in the right-wing imagination. The church has now received death threats, faxes with monkey images, and vulgar phone calls. Happy Easter! -3

Twist and Shout: The horrific weather responsible for killing more than 100 people across the South moved through the D.C. region last night and today; tornadoes were spotted in Virginia and Maryland counties, and a watch extended over the entire area for most of the day. Mayor Vince Gray sent condolences on behalf of the District. If a tornado had devastated D.C., we don't think it would make us feel much better if the mayor of Huntsville, Ala., sent along a note. But it's always nice to be polite. -2

Mow the Lawn—Or Else: The smell of freshly cut grass isn't just a nice luxury in the summertime; starting this weekend, it's also mandatory. D.C. government officials can fine homeowners whose lawns reach heights of 10 inches or more up to $500. A few years ago, the District issued 1,400 citations. (Note: Mowing the Gray administration's "D.C. One City" slogan into the lawn, while encouraged, is technically optional.) +1

Trick or Tree: Meanwhile, though the city is quite careful to patrol your treatment of your lawn, it's not so good with its own flora. Casey Trees just gave the District a C for its tree care, dropping from last year's B- mostly because D.C. officials took $539,000 from a tree fund to cover budget shortfalls. The city's records have apparently lost track of 10,000 trees planted since 2002—so no one even knows whether they're alive. Or for that matter, if they were planted at all. Which reminds us of the famous Zen koan: If a tree is planted in the city, and no one writes it down, does it make a sound? -2

Yesterday's Needle rating: 68 Today's score: -6 Today's Needle rating: 62

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