Watching Walmart: The world’s largest retailer has officially applied for a building permit to begin work on the first of its stores in the District. The Walmart on Georgia Avenue was the first one the company put in paperwork for. Why now? Perhaps because applying for a permit before Dec. 31 means the District’s Green Buildings Act won’t apply to it—which means the construction won’t have to meet tighter standards for energy efficiency. Always low prices (and high carbon footprints)! -2

No Food For You: Food trucks have taken over the city in the last few years, with just about every kind of food imaginable available from someone on wheels. Less mobile restaurants haven’t always appreciated the trend. Now it looks like the District government is taking a side: The Department of Public Works has set up a special unit to give parking tickets to food trucks, issuing 68 since October. Expect the price on your lobster roll to go up if that continues. -1

Drink And Cab: ‘Tis the season for getting hammered at after-work holiday parties (or during the day while your office is closed). Which means free taxi service is back! The SoberRide program returned this month for its 18th year; anyone over 21 can get a lift home by calling 1-800-200-8294—that’s TAXI—instead of riding Metro or biking home drunk. (We know none of you would even consider driving drunk, so we’ll assume SoberRide is, rather, an alternative to those other options.) You can take it anywhere you want, but if the fare is over $30, the balance is on you. Which Luke Russert might want to keep in mind. +1

We Report, You Decide: A grant for the IHOP in Columbia Heights is quickly becoming the latest symbol of government waste. Not for the reason Washington City Paper raised last year—that hundreds of thousands of dollars for “local businesses” were going instead to a franchise of a national chain—but because Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, highlighted the grant in his annual report on waste. (Which Coburn more or less defines as “everything the government spends money on.”) Coburn’s write-up linked to an Examiner report, which argued that Columbia Heights is essentially too yuppified to get any government support. Today’s twist: A Fox News Channel staffer is apparently working on a piece on the pancake house. With any luck, he won’t find this old Post story on new residents complaining that the neighborhood doesn’t have a Whole Foods. -1

Yesterday’s Needle rating: 63 Today’s score: -3 Today’s Needle rating: 60