TIME Congress

Washington Kids Should Be Able to Sled Down Capitol Hill, Lawmaker Says

Washington DC Area Hit With Mid-March Snow
Win McNamee—Getty Images Jon Ward sleds with his daughter Gwen and son Jethro on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol on March 17, 2014 in Washington D.C.

The District of Columbia representative wants a ban on sledding on the U.S. Capitol grounds lifted before snowstorm

The District of Columbia’s representative in Congress has formally requested that a ban that forbids sledding on the U.S. Capitol grounds be waived in anticipation of an upcoming snow storm.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington D.C.wrote to U.S. Capitol Police Board Chair Frank Larkin on Wednesday requesting the ban be removed for March 5-8, so that D.C. families can take advantage of the snow.

“This could be the last snowstorm the D.C. area gets this winter, and may be one of the best for sledding in years,” Norton said in a statement. “Children and their parents should able to enjoy sledding on one of the best hills in the city. This is a one-time waiver that will allow D.C. kids to sled while we await a more formal review of the ban, which will likely come after the last snow has fallen in our region. Have a heart, Mr. Larkin, a kid’s heart that is.”

In February, Norton made a separate request to overturn the ban. Norton says families are calling her office, asking for the ban to removed. You can read her letter here.

TIME cities

Know Right Now: Washington, D.C. Legalizes Pot

Four other states have already legalized recreational marijuana

Recreational marijuana use and adult possession (up to two ounces) became legal in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, but there’s still no way to legally buy the drug. Watch today’s Know Right Now to find out more.

TIME architecture

Why the Washington Monument Has ‘Shrunk’ By 10 Inches

US-WEATHER-STORM
Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images A jogger passes the Washington Monument on a cold blustery morning January 27, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Symbol of the nation's capital loses a little of its stature

The Washington Monument now stands 10 inches shorter than when it was completed in 1884, or at least that’s what a new government measurement announced Monday suggests.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used new technology to calculate the monument’s height at 554 feet 7 and 11/32 inches. But in 1884, the towering obelisk was measured at 555 feet 5⅛ inches.

What’s behind the incredible shrinking monument? A difference in the way the measurement was conducted likely accounts for most of the difference, according to NOAA. Engineers today used international standards to measure from the “lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance” to the structure’s peak. It’s unclear what standard engineers used when the monument was first built.

“We have to be cautious in comparing this new height to the historic one, since we do not know precisely the actual starting point that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Thomas Casey used in 1884,” said Dru Smith, a NOAA scientist. “Today’s elevation reflects the international standards for measurement of a building’s height as well as considerable technological improvements.”

The change in height not due to the difference in measurement standards is likely three-eighths of an inch, according to a report in the Washington Post. That change is likely due to wear and tear to the monument’s cap.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: From Nationwide Protests to a Historic Space Launch

Watch this week's #KnowRightNow to catch up on all the latest stories

This week, Cyber Monday shattered records with sales surpassing $2 billion. Sales were up 17% compared to last year, making it the biggest shopping day ever.

Protests flared around the country after a grand jury decided there would be no indictment in the case of Eric Garner, a black man who died while being violently subdued by the NYPD. Protesters blocked major roadways in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington D.C., and more than 200 protesters were arrested in New York alone.

The Orion spacecraft successfully launched Friday morning, orbiting 3,600 miles above the planet, 15 times higher than the International Space Station. The spacecraft orbited Earth twice before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

And finally, Warner Bros. revealed the cast for its movie Suicide Squad this week. The film will feature Will Smith as Deadshot, Tom Hardy as Rick Flagg, Jared Leto as The Joker, and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. It’s slated for release in 2016.

TIME politics

Why Thousands of Washingtonians Loved Marion Barry

Marion Barry Discussed his New Autobiography and Met With Locals
The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images D.C. Council member Marion Barry discussed his new autobiography, "Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr." during an event hosted by the Washington Informer at the Old Congress Heights School in S.E. Washington.

Vincent C. Gray is the Mayor of the District of Columbia.

The former mayor began his career as a civil rights activist and helped build the District’s black middle class

When Marion Barry, Jr. passed away last Sunday at the age of 78, many likely took little more note than to say “good riddance.” After all, most of the nation knew about the so-called “Mayor for Life” primarily from his appearances in national headlines after getting arrested, while in office, for smoking crack cocaine–or for his last term in office, when a congressionally appointed Control Board took over our city’s finances and many of our agencies.

But there was a vastly different side to Barry – a side that endeared him to tens of thousands of Washingtonians over the years and a side that became his greatest political asset, enabling him to win redemption again and again at the ballot box.

Barry cut his political teeth early on, as a civil-rights activist and a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. There, he organized sit-ins and got young people involved in creating a new future for African Americans. Having been born into a sharecropper’s family in the sweltering oppression of Jim Crow-era Mississippi, he knew well the daunting height of the barriers to advancement and success faced by African Americans.

When Barry came to Washington in 1965 to work for SNCC, he saw a city that, in many ways, was every bit as segregated as the Mississippi of his childhood. Moreover, he found a majority-black city that was ruled not by its residents, but by a Congress in which its residents didn’t even have a voting voice. And that Congress had generally delegated oversight of the District to its most conservative white Southern members.

Marion Barry had found the place where he would make his mark, first as an activist for better relations with police and better employment opportunities for African Americans in the District. He got elected to the school board, and then finally, after the advent of Home Rule in the District, to the first popularly elected D.C. Council.

In his first term as mayor, he achieved some truly remarkable successes. He helped get the city’s chaotic finances under control, helped turn our Metropolitan Police Department into an agency whose officers are much more reflective of the population they serve than many other police agencies around the country, helped build the District’s black middle class through a groundbreaking program that required a share of city business to go to minority-owned enterprises and created a summer employment program for the District’s youth.

I still meet people who remember getting their first job because of a program that Mayor Barry started. And it’s this Marion Barry – the one who fought courageously for fairness and justice for much of his career – that those of us who saw him at his best choose to remember.

It may surprise many who aren’t keenly aware of the District’s history that Marion Barry won his first mayoral term largely by relying on upper-middle-class white voters and good-government advocates. Despite an unfortunate later choice to oppose marriage equality, Mayor Barry was one of the earliest elected officials to openly embrace the LGBT community, passing one of the nation’s earliest LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination laws. His legacy is so much more complex and wide-reaching than that fateful drug sting would reflect.

I knew Barry for years, and one anecdote leaps to mind as an example of his true character. I once served as executive director of what was then known as the Association for Retarded Citizens (now called The Arc of D.C.). One of our key advocacy goals was to move people with intellectual disabilities from an inhumane institution named Forest Haven to community living. There was fierce opposition in many neighborhoods to group homes, bolstered by some of the most egregious myths imaginable. One evening, I was with Mayor Barry in an affluent community where the District was preparing to establish a home. Nearly 200 people showed up for this meeting, with one purpose – to stop this home from opening.

Once Barry had concluded his presentation, a man rose and began to pepper him with questions. When it became apparent that the man’s inquiries had no constructive purpose, Barry said, “You really don’t want any answers, do you? If you want to talk about how we make this work, I will stay with you all night. Otherwise, I have nothing else to say to you!” It was vintage Barry – standing up for disadvantaged people who could not effectively fight for themselves. The meeting ended uneventfully – and the home soon opened and proved a huge success.

And so, like many other Washingtonians, I choose to remember Marion Barry by remembering his lifelong commitment to building up our city and freeing it from congressionally imposed shackles. I hope that history will remember, and honor, his virtues and successes – because they far outnumber his failures and foibles.

Vincent C. Gray is the Mayor of the District of Columbia.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME weather

Know Right Now: Northeast Braces for a Holiday Nor’easter

Watch today's #KnowRightNow to catch up on the latest trending stories

In today’s trending stories, winter weather will wreak havoc for the 41 million holiday travelers expected to hit the roads on Wednesday and Thursday. Storms could dump as much as 18″ of snow in northern New Jersey, and will affect most of the northeast.

Airports in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Newark, NJ are expected to experience the most cancellations and delays. Interstates 76, 81, and 90 will experience the worst weather and traffic.

And lastly, many major airlines are allowing customers to rebook without fees. More than 200 flight cancellations have already been announced for Wednesday.

TIME Ferguson

See How Cities Across the U.S. Reacted to the Ferguson Decision

Protests erupted from New York to Los Angeles

Ferguson was not the only place protesting Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August. In New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, among others, outraged protesters shouted, “No justice, no peace” and “Hands up, don’t shoot,” late into Monday night. Watch the above footage of protests in those three cities.

Should Ferguson Protestors be Person of the Year? Vote below for #TIMEPOY

TIME Ferguson

See the Nation React to the Ferguson Decision

Citizens from L.A. to New York City staged protests following the announcement that a grand jury would not indict Officer Darren Wilson

Should Ferguson Protestors be Person of the Year? Vote below for #TIMEPOY

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 28

1. New Orleans is at the heart of a new HIV epidemic, and only massive health system reform can remedy the situation.

By Jessica Wapner in Aeon

2. From dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal to hunting down Joseph Kony, America’s military missions abroad far outlast the public’s attention span.

By Kate Brannen in Foreign Policy

3. To look beyond stereotypes and understand the programs and interventions that improve life for young men of color, the U.S. Department of Education invited them to a “Data Jam.”

By Charley Locke in EdSurge

4. Taking a page from silicon valley, incubators for restaurateurs can help get new ideas on the plate.

By Allison Aubrey at National Public Radio

5. So the homeless can work, worship, and transition to normal life, cities should offer safe, flexible storage options.

By Kriston Capps in Citylab

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Pop Culture

A Weekend With ‘Nerds’ at the Pokémon World Championships

Players at the 2014 Pokémon World Championships in Washington, D.C.
Aaron P. Bernstein—Pokémon Company International Players at the 2014 Pokémon World Championships in Washington, D.C.

Why people travel from all over the world to don their Pikachu ears

Jaxson Piwek wants to be a world champion. He has been training for this day for months, even waking up at 4 in the morning and going to bed at 7 at night for the past week so that the time change between his home in Vancouver and the championships in Washington, D.C. wouldn’t affect his performance.

Jaxson, 10, plays the Pokémon trading card game. And this is his first time qualifying for the world championships.

“It’s very overwhelming for my first time,” he says as he looks around at the more than 3,000 fans packing the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, not far from the White House.

Overwhelming is a good word for it. There are two competition arenas at either end of the massive room—one for the video game competitions, the other for TCG, or trading card game. There is a stage in the front of the room with three screens on which they project the most exciting matches, with live commentary from an ESPN-style booth a few yards away. Gasps and roars come from the mesmerized crowd at crucial moments in the games. If you just heard the audio, you would think you were in a stadium watching soccer.

Pikachu is everywhere. The little yellow creature is emblazoned on t-shirts, backpacks, hats, sweatshirts and iPhone cases, and a giant inflatable Pikachu hangs suspended over the crowd: a smiling cartoonish deity for the pilgrims who have come from 33 different countries to watch the players like Jaxson battle to become world champion. (There are three age brackets—juniors, ages 12 and under; seniors, ages 13 to 16; and masters, ages 17 and up. Jaxson comes in 36th in the junior division.)

Caleb Judkins, 17, is one such pilgrim. He’s an avid Pokémon video game player but isn’t on the competitive circuit. He and his friends traveled here from Gainesville, Va., to see a competition firsthand. “It was on my bucket list to come,” he says. “I wanted to see the battles in progress.”

One person many people are here to see is Ray Rizzo. Ray, 21, is a three-time world champion in the video game—no one has won Worlds more times than he has. He won in 2010, 2011 and 2012 but didn’t make finals last year, so he’s coming back this year with a vengeance.

I talk to Ray after his first match of the weekend; he’s just won his battle so he’s feeling pretty confident. “I don’t really get too nervous anymore because I’ve been playing for a long time,” he says. (This year Ray once again did not make the finals, so he was unable to get a record-breaking fourth win.)

But for those who aren’t veterans like Ray, this weekend is packed with nerves. It’s a year-long road to get here—to qualify for Worlds, players have to compete in regional and national competitions, earning a certain number of “championship points” in each depending on how well they do. The number of these points a player accrues over the season determines if he or she is eligible to compete.

So why Pokémon? What is it about the characters and the games that inspire these people to spend months honing their skills and obsessing over strategy, or to don their Pikachu ears and travel across the world just to be here?

Jaxson Piwek’s answer seems to sum it up —“All the friends I make.”

“Everyone’s so happy and passionate and really enjoying the game,” his mother Shauna says. “It’s a great community.”

J.C. Smith, director of consumer marketing for The Pokémon Company International, says this idea of community is built into the game itself. “The principle they build the game around is communication,” he says. “They really want people to talk and to come together, either online or face-to-face to build these communities. This is the ultimate expression of that. … This is a world championship, but it doesn’t feel cutthroat to me. It feels like a community of people who like to play games, coming together to play games.”

The international element of the tournament does spur some divisions and regional pride—many spectators come armed with their country’s flag, and cheers of “USA! USA! USA!” erupt when American Nikolai Zielinski wins the senior video game tournament.

But people say the game still unites more than it divides. “You can be [an American kid] playing a Japanese kid, but you can totally get it and you can have an interaction through Pokémon,” a company spokesman says of the tournament.

Nikolai, 15, also talks about community, beaming and energetic after his win. “The video game Pokémon community is the best community I’ve ever been a part of,” he says. “Compared to other video games even, it’s amazing. Everyone is so friendly and really nice. I’ve made friends just by placing well in tournaments—people have wanted to become my buddy. And everyone just helps each other out a lot, online and in person. It’s a really, really nice community to be in, and great people to be around.”

Andrea Bacca, 18 and wearing a black and gold costume that includes striped knee socks and ears, puts it both bluntly and affectionately: “I like that we can all fit in and be nerds together.”

Sunday evening after the finals sees 12 trophies awarded—one for each runner-up and champion in the three age divisions of the two games. The most coveted awards of the evening, the masters division trophies, went to Canadian Andrew Estrada for TCG and South Korean Se Jun Park for video game.

As the champions stand onstage, holding their Pikachu trophies and being showered with confetti, the cheers from the audience change. No longer are the viewers chanting country names or clapping for individual players. Now, yelling over the triumphant music blaring from the stage, the audience swells behind a single cheer: “Pokémon! Pokémon! Pokémon!”

 

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