Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Borders clearance sale: Everything must go

Posted at 3:13 PM ET, 02/22/2011
By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post 

After the news that Borders filed for bankruptcy last week, bibliophiles across the nation mourned its departure while the sarcastic asked who didn't see this coming.

Borders stores in the Washington region prepared to close, putting up garish red and yellow signs that read:"STORE CLOSING", "EVERYTHING ON SALE" and "EVERYTHING MUST GO" as their wares went on deep discount.

At the 18th and K St. NW store location, which stretches an entire city block, the sales drew a hungry crowd. At lunch hour, the line stretched the entire length of the store. One customer remarked "Oh my god are they giving this [expletive] away?!" And another: "This is worse than a book signing."

The deals at this Borders are a bookworm's dream. All new books, bargain books and regular books are 20 percent off. (So are DVDs.) I picked up the newish novel "Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao" for just $12. The travel bookshelves look ransacked. Magazines are a cool 40 percent off. Calendars are going for just a dollar.

The whole scene was sad, of course. The Borders cafe in which customers so often sat and lovingly opened the first pages of their new purchases over a cup of coffee now has chairs stacked upon tables, for good. Moleskin notebooks lay hanging off the racks in disarray. The employees told me they had nowhere to go from here--they'd all been let go. And the signs that papered the walls screamed its store's unhappy fate.

But in some ways, looking at the line that stretched from 18th to 17th streets inside the store, two women talking about how much they loved a certain Dr. Seuss novel, a man holding a three-foot-high stack of "Mystery Science Theater", it gave me hope, too.

Everything must go, but at least for many of the books, they are finding another home.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Egypt protests: Reports and audio from the ground, Days 12 and 13

Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 02/ 5/2011
By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post

Thousands of protesters still fill the streets of Egypt, demanding the immediate resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. However, tentative signs emerged Friday that a solution may be found in Egypt. We'll continue to update you with reports from our correspondents in the field. 

Read the live blog here

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Demand Al-Jazeera in the USA" campaign

Posted at 10:19 AM ET, 02/ 4/2011
By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post

Over the past 11 days, major U.S. cable news networks repeatedly began their breaking news reports with the words "al-Jazeera reports."

The international news network headquartered in Doha, Qatar, and broadcasting to 190 million households around the world, has been the only media outlet with uninterrupted live video of the demonstrations. Al-Jazeera continued broadcasting even after Egyptian authorities stormed their Cairo office and detained several al-Jazeera reporters.

Americans huddled around their computer screens to watch low-resolution video on the al-Jazeera site or saw the video replayed on American networks, because other than a few pockets across the U.S., including Ohio, Vermont, and Washington D.C., American cable carriers don't offer viewers the choice of al-Jazeera.

Now, al-Jazeera is trying to change that. On Feb. 10, al-Jazeera is encouraging a meet up in 224 communities for viewers to demand the network on U.S. television. "This past month has shown us something that America can no longer ignore: millions of Americans want to watch our channel and better understand our region," Wadah Khanfar, director general of the network, wrote on the site.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SPLAT! Snowball fight!

By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post

The Capital Weather Gang is predicting a “snow thump" later tonight, with 4 to 8 inches or more of snowfall in the District and northern and western suburbs.

With those kind of predictions come sledding plans, pleas for days off from school and … a giant snowball fight!

The Washington DC Snowball Fight Association, the group that was responsible for the 2,000-strong flash mob snowball fight in Dupont Circle last February, has announced a massive snowball fight for 8 tonight in Dupont Circle.

People love pelting the videographer with snowballs. Check it out at 20 seconds in:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Library of Congress hawk captured

By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post 

Updated, 10:12 a.m. Jefferson the hawk was safely captured at around 8:30 a.m. this morning by experts from the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Service. They laid a trap with two starling birds inside to bait the hungry hawk, which hadn't eaten since the frozen quail bait on Sunday. Jefferson swooped down to eat the starlings, and her talons quickly caught on to the trap's hooks. It took only 25 minutes for her to be captured.

Jefferson was then put into a box with breathing holes for safe transport to raptor rehab at the Raptor Conservancy. The bird experts estimated that Jefferson is now the size of a male hawk--females are usually larger than males--so it was likely she had lost weight and is emaciated. They transported her out of the library quickly to get her to food and drink.

Friday, January 21, 2011

America's Favorite Cities? Not D.C.

The District didn't get a rousing vote of approval from the nation in Travel and Leisure's annual survey "America's Favorite Cities," released in T and L's last issue.

Both visitors and residents ranked 35 U.S. cities on their culture, shopping, restaurants, nightlife, and other factors, and it's safe to say the two groups' feelings don't always jibe. This year, D.C. fell behind on everything but culture -- in the ratings by both groups.

Here's the worst of it: We are now the fifth-rudest city in the nation, and we fell to 31st in friendliness. A former intern in D.C. told T & L about a time she passed out on the Metro and no one came to her aid.

But it's OK, because we're pretty, right? No. Our attractiveness has fallen to No. 30, according to both residents and visitors -- 30 out of 35.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

America reCycled: cross-country by bicycle

By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post

At this very moment, two brothers are pedaling their way across America on bicycles recycled from trash, documenting Americans who are trying in bold ways to relocalize their culture and communities. In some ways, they're documenting the search for America's lost communities.

The brothers are Tim Hussin, a young award-winning photojournalist, and Noah Hussin, a Fulbright scholar. For this year-long journey, they're "digital hobos," as they call it, who will be eating out of dumpsters and sleeping under bridges and pulling out a notebook computer or microphone when they have something to say.

They were funded by raising money on Kickstarter, a nonprofit organization that helps fund entrepreneurs. Since they hit the road on Nov. 6, the Hussin brothers have populated the America reCycled blog with stories about people who say America has been losing communities for 60 years to subdivisions and strip malls and the country needs to get those communities back. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Byte cop

Brett Goldstein maps out Chicago’s crime-ridden spots with his predictive-analysis system.

By Elizabeth Flock

Read it at the University of Chicago Magazine

When Brett Goldstein was six years old, he started writing programs on his parents’ single-circuit-board computer. In fifth grade he was teaching himself programming languages. At Connecticut College a professor told him he’d “maxed out” the curriculum.

In his early 30s Goldstein, SM’05, became IT director at OpenTable, an online restaurant-reservation company. He had been an early employee at the start-up, founded in 1998 in San Francisco. By 2006 he had moved to Chicago, completed his computer-science master’s at the University, and was making six figures at OpenTable, when he surprised colleagues and friends by leaving the company to join the Chicago Police Academy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

D.C. wins popularity contest

United Van Lines, the United States' largest moving and relocation company, has ranked Washington D.C. as the most popular place to move in 2010, NBC reported today.

The District has been bestowed the dubious title of “highest inbound” city, with 64.3 percent of people moving in rather than out.

So, to what can we owe these laurels?

Could it be the torpid millennial youths flocking to a city where they can expect a good deal of their work week canceled whenever there's a flurry of snow? Or to the rise of Capital Bikeshare, which calls to mind an insouciant city like Amsterdam, free of political discussions and full of other highs?

It's got to be more obvious that that. The influx of people to our city must have been in tandem with the arrival of Mayor Vincent Gray. And let's not forget that well-known art form that came with him: hand dancing.

Well, Mr. Gray, UVL says don't break out the champagne yet. Because it's the third consecutive year the District has won the popularity contest, and everyone knows you were more concerned with your fence in the first two years UVL dished out this prize.

Here's the real question: Why doesn't UVL talk about the people who've moved out of our city? Really, less than 33 percent have fled the snowmageddons? Less than 33 percent left with Tai Shan the panda? Doubtful.

Let's face it, in anticipation of the coming pay freeze, we have no idea how many federal workers exited the District using just two guys and a truck. I know I would.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Robbery at White Oak credit union

By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post

Montgomery County police are investigating a robbery at the Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union in White Oak on Jan. 8, authorities said Tuesday.

Two male suspects entered the Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union at 11140 New Hampshire Avenue at 10:42 a.m. wielding handguns and announcing a robbery, police said.

Montgomery County Police detectives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI are investigating the robbery.

The suspects attacked the bank's manager, throwing him over a counter, according to police. The suspects obtained an undisclosed amount of cash and fled the scene in a small dark-colored sedan.

Police describe the first suspect as a clean-shaven black male in his early-to-mid 20's, standing 6' to 6' 3" tall, and weighing between 180 and 210 pounds. He was dressed in all black and was armed with a handgun during the robbery, police said.

They describe the second suspect as a black male between 35 and 45 years old, standing 5'10" to 6'01" tall, with a heavy build and goatee. He was wearing blue jeans, a dark jacket, sunglasses, and was armed with a handgun during the robbery.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call 240-773-5100. Callers wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Anonymous tips can also be provided by texting "MCPD" and a tip to 274637 (CRIMES).

The Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union in White Oak is is offering up to $10,000, and Crime Solvers up to $1,000, for information related the robbery that leads to an arrest or indictment.
This item has been updated since it was first published.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Va. prison has no prisoners

By Elizabeth Flock 

A brand-new, $105 million prison in Grayson County, Va., has zero prisoners four months after its completion, the Roanoke Times reported Sunday.

The state budget crunch has kept the 1,024-bed complex empty, said Larry Traylor, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

After the General Assembly did not appropriate money that the agency expected last year, the Corrections Department trimmed its $1 billion budget and got rid of almost 2,500 prison beds. Traylor estimates that the department is facing a fiscal 2012 budget reduction of $10.9 million.

Virginia's inmate population nearly doubled after the state passed Truth in Sentencing/no parole legislation in 1995, leading to tougher sentences. Last year, however, the state saw its first drop in inmates, losing 195 prisoners for a total of about 38,000.

Traylor said that the new prison could remain empty for two years or longer. Taxpayers will have to pay $715,000 this year to keep it running.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's resolutions public figures did and didn't keep in 2010

By Elizabeth Flock and Sam Sanders
From the enduring fame of Jersey Shore's Mike "The Situation" to West Coast Chopper's Jesse James dropping Sandra Bullock for a tattoo model, this year was full of surprises from actors, musicians, pundits and political figures. But if the mania over Glee's covers teaches us anything, it's that as much as some things change, they also stay the same.
We got to wondering what kind of resolutions folks would have made, and came up with a list of "resolutions" kept and broken in 2010.

The five resolutions they kept:
1. Miley Cyrus, of salvia bong and racy video fame:
Become trashy.
2. Bill and Hillary Clinton, power couple:
Rule the world.
3. Joaquin Phoenix, who may or may not have faked his documentary:                 Become a method actor.
4. Snooki, the mascot of Jersey Shore:
Get famous, become BFFs with John McCain.
5. Glenn Beck, pundit, author, rally-holder:
Bring the word "nazi" back into the national discourse

The five they didn't keep:
1. John Boehner, new speaker of the house:
Don't cry.
2. Willow Smith, soon to usurp her father as coolest member of the Smith brood:
Get Malia and Sasha to whip their hair.
3. Wyclef Jean, musician, record producer, politician?:
Become president of Haiti.
4. Tiger Woods, professional golfer and scamster:
Be a role model.
5. Paula Abdul, nicest American Idol judge:
Continue to convince America of my relevance.