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Deploying bomb-sniffing dogs and a specially trained robot from Fort McNair, Arlington police and the D.C. bomb squad shut down the Rosslyn Metro station for two hours and 17 minutes during rush hour Jan. 27. The terrorist threat that caused the crisis? Punk rockers. The suspect device was a silver moped parked outside the station that sported a black-and-white sticker reading, “This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb.” “When I arrived at the station to pick up my moped, there was this huge lock on it, and all these people started asking questions,” says Gwen Aguilar, the moped’s owner. Last October, Aguilar attended a gig in an Arlington group house living room that featured a Pensacola, Fl., punk/folk quintet by the name of This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb. The curiously titled band distributed its stickers, along with copies of its 7-inch single from Ghostmeat Records, to fans in attendance. “[The police] had figured out that it wasn’t really a bomb, and they thought it was some horrible prank,” Aguilar notes. “I explained to them that it was just a band, and that any of my friends could verify it.” Law enforcement officials returned the moped to Aguilar sans sticker and allowed passengers to re-enter the Metro station later that evening.
Rat’s Out of the Bag When a Ward 1 resident called D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham’s office last month to complain about a rodent problem at Garfield Terrace, a city-operated home for seniors, Graham staffer Calvin Woodland listened attentively and recorded the resident’s grievances. Last week, the complainant showed up in Graham’s office with a visual aid to buttress his case. The man reached into a gym bag and pulled out a rat “the size of a small kitten” that was flattened and wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag, according to Woodland. The man said that he had caught the rat racing around his apartment. Woodland assured the constituent again that Graham would respond to his concerns. The visitor then “tucked [the rat] back in his bag and proceeded on,” says Woodland. Woodland adds that Graham plans to tour Garfield Terrace in the near future.
Watch Out During last Thursday’s D.C. Council Judiciary Committee hearing, Chair Harold Brazil modeled the Watch Patrol, a chunky black wristwatch that doubles as an electronic tracking device. The at-large councilmember touted the gadget as one possible solution to reducing D.C.’s “deplorable” number of halfway-house escapes. “Other than it maybe looking like an ugly watch, it’s [got] no real stigma attached,” noted Brazil. “I’m really kind of going crazy to know why we’re not using devices like this and other ways to track people that are in the halfway houses, particularly on pre-trial detention.” There are apparently some good reasons: According to later testimony from David Dyke of Electronic Monitoring Systems, which manufactures the device, the Watch Patrol is unsuitable for halfway houses because a concentration of watches in one location might set off an electromagnetic frequency jam. Brazil quietly removed the Watch Patrol from his wrist moments later.
Copycat Laws When the Senate Ethics Committee decided in 1997 to allow Senators to accept free club-level MCI Center tickets from lobbyists, government-watchdog groups blasted the decision as another detour around ethics rules. Arena representatives argued that the ticketswhich don’t include standard club-level amenities like free parkingwere worth $48, a convenient $2 less than the $50 gift limit. Ordinary hoop fans have to pay $90 for the same seats. At the time, critics derived some paltry consolation in the knowledge that House ethics rules still barred its members from accepting the tickets. But as this year’s basketball season begins, the House has experienced a change of heart: As reported in Roll Call last week, the House Ethics Committee will now allow members and staff to accept two tickets per year per lobbyist for Caps or Wizards games, just like their Senate cohorts. Notes Common Cause lobbyist Celia Wexler: “This is about fudging on the small things, which indicates that you’re willing to fudge on the big things.”
Reporting by Colin Bane, Laura Lang, Nefretiti Makenta, and Amanda Ripley.
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