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Contributor

Amy D'Onofrio

was the 2010-2011 metro news editor at The Hatchet, with a major in journalism with a minor in history. She previously was a staff writer for the metro news section and began writing for The Hatchet her freshman year as the crime log reporter. She is from Marietta, Ga.
adonofrio@gwhatchet.com

The National Christmas Tree in 2009

Tickets for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree will be distributed through an online lottery system starting today, offering a lucky selected few the ability to see the national holiday symbol come to life during the Dec. 9 ceremony.

The 13,000 free tickets will be distributed through an online lottery between Nov. 5 and Nov. 7.

Of the 13,000 tickets, 3,000 will be for seats, and 10,000 for standing-room only space on the Ellipse, located just south of the White House.

Tickets can also be requested via telephone by calling (877)444-6777 or for TDD (877)833-6777.

Applicants can check to see if they won tickets beginning Nov. 10 online or through the call center.

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and first daughters Sasha and Malia will help light a large Christmas tree on the Ellipse after the event begins at 5 p.m.

NBC 4 announced Thursday night that B.D. King, Maroon 5 and Sara Bareilles will join the first family for the celebration. Last year, performers included Sheryl Crow, Common and Ray LaMontagne.

The traditional tree lighting began in 1923 with President Calvin Coolidge’s administration.

Like last year, energy-efficient light bulbs from General Electric will adorn the tree, marking GE’s 49th consecutive year decorating the national tree, according to the National Christmas Tree’s website.

Along with the main tree, 56 smaller trees will be set up to form the “Christmas Pathway of Peace.” The trees represent all 50 states, five territories and D.C.

The National Menorah will also be part of the display on the Ellipse. In celebration of Chanukah, the lighting of the menorah will occur Dec. 1 at 4 p.m.

The United States Navy Band and the group “The Three Cantors” are set to perform. Food and games will also be part of the event.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010 1:53 p.m.

District Roundup-Week of April 26

Man vs. drunken college students

This week the story behind the blog drunkengeorgetownstudents.com was everywhere. The Washington Post interviewed the man behind the website, which features photos of people partying in his neighborhood near Georgetown University. Burleith resident Stephen R. Brown told the Post Tuesday ”If the university would let me have a night’s sleep, I might take it down,” referring to his blog. The 62-year-old also told the Post he hoped negative publicity about Georgetown would hurt the university. Luckily for GW students,  there’s no GW version of the website.

Soda tax proposed

On Wednesday D.C. Council member Mary Cheh proposed a new tax on soda products sold in the District. Cheh, who represents Ward 3, wants a 1-cent tax per ounce on soda and other beverages to help fund the Healthy Schools Act, legislation that has already been approved by the D.C. Council and goes up for a final vote May 4. DCist has more details on the soda tax that will be voted on May 25.

Metro prepares for another fare increase

On Thursday, Metro’s Board of Directors met to discuss a fare increase coming this summer to make up for the $189 million operating budget deficit it faces. Plans are expected to be finalized by mid-May which include a 15 percent increase in Metrorail fares, a 20 percent increase in Metrobus fares, as well as an increase for MetroAccess service, The Washington Post reported. Ways to reduce service or increase  fares from a revised budget proposed in April were addressed at the meeting. One proposal was to close the rail system at 2 a.m. on weekends, an hour earlier than it currently does. Board member and D.C. Council member Jim Graham called for that plan to be eliminated. Other board members also opposed a proposal for a $4 flat rate fee on late-night weekend Metrorail rides.

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Monday, April 26, 2010 6:39 p.m.

D.C. court rules drunken biking prohibited

Warning: don’t drink and bike.

A recent ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals means that District law allows for the arrest of  intoxicated bicyclists.

Last week the court upheld the conviction of a man who was arrested in 2007 for being under the influence of alcohol while riding a bike, which he argued did not qualify as a vehicle under the D.C. Traffic Act of 1925.

However the judge in the case pointed to the law’s language, defining a vehicle as “any appliance moved over a highway on wheels or traction tread, including street cars, draft animals, and beasts of burden,” according to the blog of the Legal Times.

While DUI cases involving bikes are not as common as those involving motor vehicles, The Washington Post reports that in 2008 nearly a fourth of the bicyclists who died in road accidents with alcohol in their bloodstreams had blood-alcohol levels of .08 or higher.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010 11:24 p.m.

District Roundup-Week of April 19

Civil rights leader passes away

On Tuesday, civil rights leader Dr. Dorothy I. Height died at Howard University Hospital. She was 98. A cause of death was not disclosed, according to The Washington Post. Though Height was not as well known as other civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 1960s, she was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years. Her activism began in the 1930s, and in 1994 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama called her “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement” in a statement. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty also declared April 20, 2010 “Dr. Dorothy I. Height Day” in the District.

D.C. voting rights bill momentum stalled

Despite the support of President Barack Obama for D.C. voting rights, the issue never came to the House floor this week. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Congress would not consider a bill to give District residents voting rights this session because of issues surrounding a gun amendment. The legislation including the amendment would have eliminated many of D.C.’s gun control laws.

New rules proposed for pedicabs

The Washington Business Journal reported Friday that new rules were proposed by the District Department of Transportation April 23 for pedicabs in D.C.  When the rules are adopted in about 30 days, each passenger must wear a seatbelt. Certain lights, reflectors and brakes must be on the part bicycle, part taxi vehicles too. The driver will be required to wear a reflective vest at all times, and pedicabs will be restricted from being on sidewalks. Pedicab operators also will not be able to drive on D.C. roads with posted speed limits over 30 mph.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010 11:55 p.m.

District Roundup-Week of April 12

Searching for a surplus

D.C.’s chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, chided Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee this week after she proposed using a $34 million surplus from the school system’s budget for teacher raises. Gandhi says the surplus does not exist. In a letter to Rhee, he questions why she did not consult with him directly before making her presentation to the D.C. Council April 13 on the proposed contract with the Washington Teachers’ Union. The Washington Post has more details on the confusion over the funding.

Two-thirds of D.C. residents turn in Census forms

The deadline to turn in Census forms was officially Friday, and so far 66 percent of D.C. residents have submitted their forms. The counting will continue, though, as only one in three Americans turned in their forms. Census workers will soon go door-to-door tracking down those who are not counted yet. To check out participation across the country, check out the U.S. Census Bureau’s response rate map.

It’s a girl

On Thursday the National Zoo confirmed that the kiwi chick born March 30 is, well, a chick. The birth of a female brown kiwi is significant because there are over twice as many male brown kiwis outside their native New Zealand as females. The birds are flightless and are successfully bred in only a few zoos outside New Zealand. The kiwi chick–yet to be named–can be seen on the National Zoo’s kiwicam.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010 10:23 a.m.

Bars may stay open later for D.C. holiday

Local bars have the option of staying open one hour later tonight because tomorrow is a D.C. holiday.

D.C. Emancipation Day celebrates how slaves in D.C. were freed months before President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. On April 16, 1862 Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which made slaves in D.C. the first in the country to be freed by the federal government. This day was made an official public holiday in 2005.

DCist has the details on why bars in the District can stay open later. A law was passed last year making it possible for the additional hour of service the night before a D.C. or federal holiday.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010 10:24 p.m.

District Roundup-Week of April 5

Obama pitches for the Nationals

On Monday President Barack Obama not only participated in the White House Easter Egg Roll, but he threw the first pitch at Nationals Park for Opening Day. DCist has the details on the event, and for those who didn’t get to miss class or work for the game, check out video of the President’s pitch. Unfortunately for the home team, the Phillies beat the Nationals 11-1. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first presidential Opening Day pitch, which was thrown by President William Howard Taft in 1910.

Vincent Gray allegations cleared up

On Wednesday, complaints concerning GW alumnus and current D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray were dimissed by the Office of Campaign Finance, Washington City Paper reported. Gray recently announced he’s running for mayor, but questions were raised previously over his use of a major city developer for repairs on his home and a letter Gray sent to Comcast in 2008 using D.C. Council stationery. The inquiry found that Gray paid fair market value for the repairs and that his requesting Comcast’s support of D.C. voting rights was within his duties as chairman.

Supreme Court justice announces retirement

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will retire this summer. The search is now on for the next judge to sit on the country’s highest court. Stevens is the longest-serving member of the court and a liberal. This will be the second nomination to the Supreme Court for President Obama, after selecting Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter last year. The New York Times has profiles of possible candidates to replace Stevens.

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Saturday, April 3, 2010 11:51 p.m.

District Roundup-Week of March 29

Gray running for mayor, Evans for council chairman

Like this week’s weather, local elections are finally starting to heat up. On Tuesday D.C. Council Chairman and GW alumnus Vincent Gray  kicked off his mayoral campaign. With Gray not running for another term as chairman, on Wednesday Council members Jack Evans and Kwame Brown confirmed they will be candidates for the chairman’s position. Both men are Democrats, and Evans represents Ward 2, which includes Foggy Bottom. He is scheduled to speak at a Foggy Bottom Association meeting later this month.

National Mall’s Reflecting Pool will close for renovations

On Thursday, the National Capital Planning Commission approved the National Park Service’s preliminary building plans for the well-known Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln and World War II Memorials on the National Mall. The Washington Examiner reports that the construction could begin this year and close the site for up to two years while paved pathways are added around the pool. NBC Washington has images of what the refurbished reflecting pool could look like.

A happy April Fool’s Day for Metro

On Thursday, Metro had its second-highest ridership day, according to a Metro press release. With the Cherry Blossom Festival in full swing, it looks like tourists helped make many of the 877,890 trips recorded on the Metrorail system April 1 possible. Metro also attributed the near record-breaking number to a Washington Capitols hockey win that day. In Metro’s 34-year history, the day with the highest number of trips was President Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009. On that day 1,120,000 trips were recorded.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010 8:12 a.m.

District Roundup-Week of March 22

The Big Deal

This week President Barack Obama signed the health care reform bill into law. The legislation is set to affect millions of uninsured Americans and was met with protests right up until the vote. Even after the signing and Vice President Joe Biden’s humorous take on the situation, Republicans and Democrats disagreed over the amount of civility in the debate. Also, on Thursday the Senate approved the legislation that will stop subsidies to banks for student loans. The change to a Direct Loan program is estimated to save billions of dollars in the next decade and increase student grants. Obama will sign the health care reform bill, which includes loan reform, on Tuesday at Northern Virginia Community College.

Money for Snowpocalypse

On Wednesday President Obama declared the District a disaster area due to the huge snowstorms that covered D.C. from Feb. 5 to Feb. 11. The funds will be available to the city and nonprofit groups through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The city surpassed its snow budget for the winter season  after the first storm fell in February.

Two gay Republicans now in D.C. Council race

D.C. Agenda has the details on Marc Morgan and Timothy Day, each challenging incumbents for ward Council seats. While the Council already has gay members, no Republican has won a ward Council seat since 1974 (at-Large seats have been held by Republicans though). Similar to the political views Meghan McCain expressed this week at GW, both Morgan and Day said they have progressive views on social issues, but more moderate or conservative views on economic ones.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010 8:24 a.m.

White House offers garden tours in April

Though most GW students are too old to attend the White House Easter Egg Roll, anyone can walk on the White House grounds one weekend this April.

Like this past fall, the White House will open its gardens and grounds to the public Saturday, April 17 and Sunday, April 18.

Tours are self-guided. Visitors can check out the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children’s Garden and the South Lawn.

According to a White House press release, there will also be a visual explanation of the White House Kitchen Garden, which can be observed along the tour route.

Tours will last from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 17, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18. Though the event is free, tickets are required and will be distributed the morning of each tour day beginning at 8 a.m. by the National Park Service.

Timed tickets will be handed out at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion located at 15th and E streets on a first-come, first-served basis. Only one ticket is allowed per person.

To make it through security don’t bring food, drinks, large bags, animals or weapons. Strollers, wheel chairs and cameras are allowed, though.

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