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US Archives showcases Magna Carta in new gallery

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US Archives showcases Magna Carta in new gallery

Posted on 13 December 2013 by admin

The Magna Carta (originally known as the Charter of Liberties) of 1215, written in iron gall ink on parchment in medieval Latin, using standard abbreviations of the period, authenticated with the Great Seal of King John. The original wax seal was lost over the centuries. This document is held at the British Library and is identified as "British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106".[2] DateOne of four known surviving 1215 exemplars of Magna Carta. SourceMagna Carta Manuscript Viewer from the British Library's Online Gallery. Original authors were the barons and King John of England.

The Magna Carta (originally known as the Charter of Liberties) of 1215, written in iron gall ink on parchment in medieval Latin, using standard abbreviations of the period, authenticated with the Great Seal of King John. The original wax seal was lost over the centuries. This document is held at the British Library and is identified as “British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106″. Date One of four known surviving 1215 exemplars of Magna Carta.
Source Magna Carta Manuscript Viewer from the British Library’s Online Gallery.
Original authors were the barons and King John of England.

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – The only copy of the Magna Carta in the United States is the centerpiece of a new museum gallery that opened Wednesday at the National Archives and traces the evolution of U.S. rights and freedoms for African-Americans, women and immigrants.

The archives opened its new “Records of Rights” exhibit in an expanded museum space on the National Mall after more than a year of construction to carve out more space for visitors and delays caused by the government shutdown. The Magna Carta is shown as the precursor to the freedoms envisioned in the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Magna Carta was the first English charter to directly challenge the monarchy’s authority with a declaration of human rights. Noblemen came together in 1215 to declare their rights to King John.

The declaration was reissued in 1297 under King Edward I, and the copy now at the National Archives was one of four surviving copies made that year. There are 17 surviving original copies of Magna Carta, including 15 in Britain and one displayed at Australia’s parliament.

Philanthropist David Rubenstein donated $13.5 million to fund the project and the Magna Carta’s conservation. The new gallery was named for him. Congress also provided funds for the museum space.

Rubenstein bought the historic document at auction in 2007 for $21 million and sent it to the National Archives on a long-term loan. It was previously owned by Texas billionaire Ross Perot. Rubenstein said he wanted to keep the document from leaving the country.

“Now the archives has three of the most important documents in Western civilization: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the attached Bill of Rights and of course the Magna Carta,” Rubenstein said. But he noted those documents pertained originally to wealthy white men.

On display with the Magna Carta are other documents, images, films and interactive displays showing the struggle to expand equal rights to women, immigrants and African-Americans.

One case will include a rotation of “landmark documents,” and the first on display is the 14th Amendment, which grants equal protection under the law.

Other original documents on display include the discharge papers of a slave named Cato Greene who fought in the Revolutionary War to gain his freedom, immigrant census papers and case files, and documents about voting rights, property rights and financial rights for women.

“This puts the history of those debates on display,” said curator Jennifer Johnson. In the future, the exhibit might also include items about rights for gays and lesbians or the disabled.

Rubenstein said he brings more visitors to tour the National Archives than any other place in Washington. He brought Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to see the Declaration of Independence and Constitution because they had never seen them before, “and they were mesmerized.”

“I’m trying to do things that make people learn more about American history,” he said, “because when you come and see the Declaration of Independence and you see the Constitution, you tend to think about it more.”

AP Wire Service
Associated PressRecords of Rights:


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Smithsonian opens 1st exhibit on art of yoga

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Smithsonian opens 1st exhibit on art of yoga

Posted on 07 November 2013 by admin

The Smithsonian DCBuilding in Washington D.C

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – Yoga is moving from the studio mat to the museum gallery.

The Smithsonian Institution has organized what curators believe is the first exhibition about the visual history and art of yoga, its origins and evolution over time.

The Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery will showcase the exhibit, “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” through January. Later, it will travel to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Curators brought together Indian sculptures, manuscripts and paintings, as well as posters, illustrations, photographs and films to showcase yoga’s history over 2,000 years.

Museum Director Julian Raby said years of research behind the exhibit shed new light on yoga’s meanings and histories.

“It examines for the first time a spectacular, but until now largely ignored, archive,” he said. “That archive is India’s visual culture of extraordinary yoga-related artworks created, as you will see, over some two millennia.”

Guest teachers will lead yoga classes in the museum’s galleries on Wednesdays and Sundays. The museum also will host a symposium for scholars and enthusiasts on yoga’s visual culture.

Curator Debra Diamond said the Smithsonian borrowed some of the greatest masterpieces in Indian art as well as pieces that have never been shown before.

First the exhibit examines the concepts and practices of yoga traditions, including meditation and postures found in Indian art dating back hundreds of years. The first piece is an 11th century sculpture representing a yoga teacher, seated in the lotus posture with legs crossed to signify enlightenment.

Such sculptures were displayed in Hindu temples so people could see the teacher and “understand yoga’s transformative potential,” Diamond said.

Three life-size sculptures of yogini goddesses from Hindu temples illustrate the belief that female powers could be used to allow practitioners to achieve divine powers and enlightenment.

Later galleries examine how the idea of yoga was circulated worldwide, Diamond said. Early American posters depict yogis as magicians or “fakirs” performing acts, along with a 1902 film by Thomas Edison.

Perceptions of yoga helped determine how the tradition developed, and knowing that background is important for how Americans think about yoga today, Diamond said.

“There are so many debates and contestations about what yoga is in America,” she said. “Is it a profound individual embodied system of transformation? Or is it the thing that spawned a $5 billion industry in which yoga is used to sell cars?”

The exhibit is funded in part by the Smithsonian’s first major crowd-funding campaign, which raised $174,000 in six weeks. The Alec Baldwin Foundation also is a notable sponsor. Last year, Baldwin married a yoga instructor.

John Schumacher, a 40-year yoga practitioner and teacher in Washington who advised on the exhibit, said visitors will see there is much more to yoga than postures and breathing.

“It teaches where yoga comes from,” he said. “You see there is a deep, philosophical underpinning to all of these practices and a variety of different philosophies.”

AP Wire Service
Associated Press

Smithsonian Sackler Gallery:

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Spy Museum considers move to historic DC library

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Spy Museum considers move to historic DC library

Posted on 01 October 2013 by admin

International Spy Museum (photo

International Spy Museum (photo

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – The International Spy Museum, one of the most popular attractions in America’s capital over the past decade, is considering a move to a historic library that would give it more space for exhibits and a link to the city’s convention center.

Museum officials told The Associated Press on Monday they will propose a redevelopment of Washington’s historic Carnegie Library with the city’s convention center authority, Events DC. The project would include new 40,000-square-foot (3,716-square-meter) underground space for exhibits and a new glass pavilion to house a District of Columbia visitors center, cafe and museum store.

Peter Earnest, the museum’s executive director and a former CIA agent, said the Spy Museum has outgrown its space since opening in 2002 in downtown Washington.

“We’re looking long term. By moving to a new location, we will get more space,” which is especially needed for temporary and changing exhibits, Earnest said. “That’s actually one of the reasons people go back to museums because there’s an exhibit for usually a limited period of time for something interesting.”

The Spy Museum holds the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display, according to museum officials. It broke the mold for Washington museums by charging admission fees of $19.95 in a city accustomed to free admission at the Smithsonian Institution museums on the National Mall.

Since opening, the Spy Museum has drawn 600,000 to 700,000 visitors per year, with crowds sometimes lining up outside, waiting to get a glimpse of spy gear and once-secret stories from the CIA, Russia and elsewhere.

Museum Founder Milton Maltz would fund much of the redevelopment cost for the historic library site. In a statement Monday, he said the Spy Museum represents his family’s history as the children of immigrants.

“Wars have historically been won or lost because of intelligence, and this museum enlightens the American public on the activities conducted by the brave men and women who serve in the various intelligence agencies,” he said.

The new museum site would serve as an anchor for a growing entertainment and cultural district, said Gregory O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC. The area is close to a new convention hotel under construction and the massive City Center retail, office and housing development being built in downtown Washington.

The museum would share the building with the Historical Society of Washington, which will have a new gallery and a research library with collections on the city’s history.

Two previous attempts to make the former library a museum have failed. The historical society opened the City Museum at the site in 2003, exploring the city’s history, but it closed less than two years later because of funding shortfalls. Later plans called for a National Music Center museum at the site, but that idea fell through in 2008.

The privately held Spy Museum, owned by the Cleveland-based Malrite Co., is considering a conversion to make the museum a stand-alone nonprofit organization as part of the move. Maltz wants to “gift” the museum to the community, Earnest said.

“They realize it’s an important institution and want it to go on,” he said. “They think the best way to assure that is to give it to the community.”

The museum could be funded with an endowment, private fundraising and visitor revenues in the future, but details on the financial structure have not yet been determined.

With a larger space as the primary tenant of a building secured by a 99-year lease, Earnest said the museum’s “prospects for long-term sustainability are much greater.”

AP Wire Service

Associated Press

International Spy Museum:


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Capitol statues honor the famous, tragic and odd

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Capitol statues honor the famous, tragic and odd

Posted on 12 September 2013 by admin

360° panorama of the Washington State Capitol and Temple of Justice on an August afternoon (Photo by Gregg M. Ericksojn)

360° panorama of the Washington State Capitol and Temple of Justice on an August afternoon (Photo by Gregg M. Ericksojn)

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – All summer, thousands of visitors traipse among the U.S. Capitol’s many statues, which honor the nation’s founders, leaders and legends.

There’s George Washington, father of his country. Abraham Lincoln, preserver of the Union. John Gorrie, inventor of the ice machine.

Wait, what? Inventor of the ice machine?

Indeed, there he stands, next to civil rights leader Rosa Parks and near statesmen Daniel Webster and Henry Clay in Statuary Hall, just off the majestic Rotunda.

Gorrie, a physician-mechanic from Apalachicola, Fla., died impoverished and virtually forgotten in 1855. But he’s hardly the only American with a Capitol statue and a biography likely to surprise all but the most serious history buffs.

He’s one of 100 honorees chosen by the states. Starting in 1864, each state could donate two statues of people “illustrious for their historic renown.”

Several of the lives, however, include details that might cause the average tourist to pause and ponder the vagaries of fame and commemoration. Usually, the guidebooks merely hint at such matters.

King Kamehameha of Hawaii was “ruthless in war and just in peace,” says the National Statuary Hall pocket guide. Just how ruthless was the warrior-monarch, whose towering statue shows him with a sword, loincloth and gilded robe?

In the 1795 Battle of Nuuanu, Kamehameha’s troops began to rout their enemies, and thousands “were pursued and driven over the steep cliffs to their deaths,” says the website for Nuuanu Pali State Park. No one “escaped alive.” A century later, workers found about 800 human skulls at the cliff’s base.

Nearby, in the Capitol Visitor Center, is the marble statue of James Paul Clarke, a governor and senator from Arkansas. “Despite his notorious temper,” the guidebook says, “the popular maverick was chosen by his colleagues to be the president pro tempore of the Senate.”

Notorious temper? Maybe it’s referring to an 1895 quarrel with William Robert Jones, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in which Clarke spit in the chairman’s face.

Americans, of course, can debate the worthiness of almost anyone chosen for a Capitol statue.

Jeannette Rankin of Montana is honored as the first woman elected to the House. “A devoted pacifist,” the guidebook says, she was “the only member of Congress to oppose the declaration of war on Japan in 1941,” after Pearl Harbor. It’s easy to imagine a much uglier world had the United States not joined the war against Japan and, consequently, Nazi Germany.

Sen. James Z. George of Mississippi was “the Father of the Agriculture Department.” Nothing shabby about that, of course. But perhaps it’s lucky his statue isn’t next to, say, that of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the third president and Renaissance man.

At least George was chosen by his home state. Virginia passed over Jefferson in favor of two other native sons, Washington and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Not that Jefferson is absent from the Capitol – thanks to rules allowing a limited number of artworks from gifts and congressional commissions, a Jefferson statue is in the Rotunda.

Some honorees’ biographies include tragic or unorthodox tidbits, at least by today’s standards. Brigham Young of Utah had 57 children, borne by 16 of his reported 56 wives.

Father Damien of Hawaii died of leprosy after a career ministering to lepers.

For tragedy, it’s hard to beat Gorrie.

Believing cool air would help malaria patients, Gorrie spent years tinkering with a machine to make ice, using compressed air. He obtained a patent but failed to win financial or moral support.

“Suffering from a nervous collapse and devastated by failure, he died in 1855 at age 51,” a Smithsonian magazine article said.

A half-century later, however, commercial air conditioning began making summers bearable even in Florida. Grateful residents hailed Gorrie’s pioneering role. A Jacksonville Middle School named for Gorrie asked the state Legislature to honor him with a statue in the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers complied in 1911.

Yet some Floridians still believe Gorrie doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has stored his original patented machine, out of sight, for years. The John Gorrie Museum State Park, in Apalachicola, would like to borrow it, said park ranger Willie McNair. Smithsonian officials said that may be possible.

Despite the park’s best efforts, McNair said, Gorrie “is still really not recognized. Everybody knows about Carrier rather than Gorrie.”

But Willis Carrier, who produced the first modern electrical air conditioner in 1902, has no statue in the U.S. Capitol.

Associated Press

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Ten Tips For Touring The Nation’s Capital

Posted on 05 August 2013 by admin

Aerial view (looking west) of Capitol Hill and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States (photo courtesy Carol M. Highsmith)

Aerial view (looking west) of Capitol Hill and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States (photo courtesy Carol M. Highsmith)










1. Pace yourself. If you just have two or three days on your visit, don’t try to see everything at once. Instead, make out your “must-see” list and plan your route around town using Metro or the DC Circulator. You can also discover the nation’s capital on foot by planning visits to the neighborhoods.

2. Plan ahead. Some of the city’s most famous attractions require some advance planning. If you’re interested in touring the White House, contact your Congressional representative. Tours of the White House are available to groups of ten or more but must be arranged in advance through a member of Congress. You can book online in advance to tour the Capitol Visitor Center. And you can beat the lines at the Washington Monument, Holocaust Museum and Spy Museum by reserving your tick- ets in advance.

3. Log on. Want to know what’s going on in the city during your visit? Head straight to for a complete and searchable cal- endar of events.

4. Score a deal. Travelers generally find the best hotel rates on weekends and in late summer and winter. Visit for special promotions and to create your own custom vacation package or by pre-purchasing tour and attraction tickets. You can even make dinner reservations.

5. Use public transportation. On-street parking is very limited, so leave your car at the hotel. Take advantage of Metro, one of the world’s most convenient, safe and clean subway systems. Refer to the station map or the city map for station locations. One-day unlimited ride pass- es and weekly passes are available. The DC Circulator bus connects Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Union Station, the Capitol Riverfront, Adams

Morgan, U Street and more. It also operates a seasonal loop around the National Mall.

6. Washington, DC is all about “FREE”dom. Many of the city’s attrac- tions and experiences are free, including monuments, memorials and entrance to many museums. Museums and galleries frequently offer free tours and curators’ talks. There are also many free music and street fes- tivals that take place throughout the year. For a list of 100 free and afford- able experiences to enjoy in DC, visit

7. There’s more than one Smithsonian museum. The Smithsonian institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex with 16 museums and galleries, plus the National Zoo. Make your first stop the Visitor Information Center at the Smithsonian Castle to map your course. Pick one or two museums per visit and save the others for future visits to the city.

8. The National Mall isn’t for shopping! The National Mall serves as “America’s Common” spanning 2.25 miles from the U.S. Capitol build- ing to the Lincoln Memorial. Home to many monuments, memorials and museums, the National Mall is where people exercise their democratic rights and reflect on American history.

9. Tour at “off-peak” hours. Be sure to check for special early hours or late hours at select museums (often seasonal). Washington, DC’s beau- tiful memorials and monuments are open 24 hours – visit them at dawn or at night when they are lighted for a truly inspiring experience.

10. Got a question? How do I tour the White House? When is the National Cherry Blossom Festival? Answers to common visitor inquiries can be found at Click on “Browse DC” and then “Frequently Asked Questions.” Still searching? Call 1-800-422-8644 or send an email to so that we can assist you.

For more info please visit


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Black history in focus with 2 new exhibits in DC

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Black history in focus with 2 new exhibits in DC

Posted on 01 July 2013 by admin

The West building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (photo

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – More than 150 years of African-American history from slavery to civil rights and contemporary suburban life are in focus in two new exhibitions opening in America’s capital.

The National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery of Art opened exhibits Friday, in part to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared “I have a dream” in August 1963. One show features the work of contemporary artist Kerry James Marshall, while the other follows King’s rise to prominence.

The National Gallery brought together a series of paintings by Marshall for the Chicago-based artist’s first solo exhibition in Washington. They serve as a timeline of history in pictures and symbols spanning the Middle Passage of slave ships traveling from Africa to America to the entry of black people in the middle class.

In a tour of the exhibit, Marshall said he has long worked to show the more complicated dimensions of history in his art.

“What mattered to me was really advancing the idea and the image and the presence of black folks in pictures – where they were infrequently encountered,” he said. Marshall said he wanted to find a way to ensure such pictures would have a place in the nation’s museums to tell a more complete history.

In 2011, the National Gallery of Art acquired his painting “Great America,” which depicts black figures in a small boat on an amusement park ride. It’s a scene of middle-class leisure but also contains troubling images of the past.

In other paintings, Marshall depicts the Virginia estates of two founding fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who were slave holders – and he includes images of slaves or slave ships in the scene.

Marshall’s painting “Our Town” presents a more contemporary scene with black children in a suburban setting in place of “Dick and Jane” from old reading texts. The boy rides a bicycle, and a girl with a dog runs beside him. Their mother waves goodbye in the distance.

“There are black people who live in neighborhoods that are like that. But the truth is that many of those neighborhoods are black neighborhoods because the white folks who used to live in those neighborhoods moved out as soon as we started moving in,” Marshall said. “Those things … complicate the idea of your success when you arrive at a place like that.”

Curator James Meyer said Marshall’s art is distinctive because his paintings look both forward and backward in time to capture an entire sweep of African-American history.

“In other words, the exhibit confronts the idea of the American dream from a black perspective,” he said.

At the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, curator Ann Shumard focused on one key person’s biography for “One Life: Martin Luther King Jr.” The gallery gathered journalistic photographs and portraits from throughout King’s life.

There is a family portrait of King and his parents and siblings. Another photograph shows King and Rosa Parks at a large meeting during the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, as well as an image of his first ride on an integrated bus and his arrest in Albany, Georgia.

“This is really the heyday of just superb photojournalism,” Shumard said. “And the civil rights movement is the story.”

The museum also has the original artwork for Time magazine’s cover in 1957, as well as a formal portrait of King at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church by the famed portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh.

“We remember Martin Luther King so often just for that one speech, that one memorable ‘I have a dream address,”’ Shumard said. “This exhibition is really designed to show far more than just that occasion. It’s really intended to allow us to trace the trajectory of King’s career.”

Both exhibits are on long-term display. The Marshall exhibit is open at the National Gallery of Art through Dec. 7. The King exhibit is open at the National Portrait Gallery until June 2014.

Associated Press

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Clark Construction makes its mark across DC region

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Clark Construction makes its mark across DC region

Posted on 04 June 2013 by admin

Aerial view of Nationals Park and the surrounding Navy Yard neighborhood in Washington, D.C. (photo courtesy Carol M. Highsmith)

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – From Nationals Park to the Washington Convention Center to FedEx Field, Clark Construction has built some of the most prominent structures in and around the nation’s capital. One of its current projects is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.


And last month, the privately held Bethesda-based company won one of the biggest jobs in the firm’s history: construction of the second phase of the Silver Line rail extension that will provide a long-awaited rail link to Dulles International Airport.

The competition drew some of the biggest names in the industry, including Bechtel, the company building the first phase of the 23.1-mile rail line.

Clark will be building the rail line as part of a joint venture – Capital Rail Constructors – that includes Kiewit Infrastructure South and other partners.

In an interview, Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the Dulles rail project, praised Capital Rail Constructors as “excellent and highly qualified.”

“We’re pleased with the opportunity to work with them,” Nowakowski said.

Under the contract, Capital Rail Constructors will build 11.4 miles of track and six stations. Its contract is the largest of several that will be awarded in the second phase of the rail project, which is overseen by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and expected to cost about $2.7 billion.

Clark was founded in 1906 and has 3,800 employees. In 2012, it had $4.07 billion in revenue. Public information about its operations is limited. The company declined to make any of its executives available to be interviewed for this report and only agreed to provide written answers to questions submitted to Capital Rail Constructors.

In addition to the work it has done in the Washington, D.C., region, Clark has also built convention centers in Los Angeles and Chicago and airport terminals in Baltimore and Orlando.

“They have a huge presence in the district and a track record of taking on big projects,” said D.C. City Administrator Allen Y. Lew, who has worked with Clark on several projects, including the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and Nationals Park.

Lew was struck by the company’s work on the convention center – at the time, the largest nonfederal project to be built in the district. Such big projects often ended up entangled in lawsuits and claims by subcontractors, Lew said. But he recalled that Clark was able to complete the project with a minimum of fuss.

Clark’s joint venture partner, Kiewit, is an employee-owned company based in Omaha. It is one of the largest construction companies in North America.

In April, Kiewit was part of a consortium selected by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build a wider, bike-friendly, high-tech bridge to replace the current span between Staten Island and Elizabeth, N.J.

The Silver Line won’t be the first time Clark and Kiewit have built Metro stations. The companies partnered to build the $456 million Blue Line extension that added three miles and two stations to the system. The stations, Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center, opened in December 2004.

Mahmoud Hosseini, project director for Capital Rail Constructors, said in the written response to questions that Clark has worked on 38 projects for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and a dozen projects for MWAA _ work that means it is well acquainted with both transportation agencies.

“Our relationship with WMATA began in 1971 and with MWAA in 1993,” he added. “This experience makes CRC well positioned to deliver the Silver Line, Phase II given the team’s extensive knowledge of WMATA and MWAA.”

Construction on the second phase of the Silver Line extension is expected to start in 2014 and end in 2018.

Last year, plans for Phase 2 of the rail project were hung up by a debate over whether the contract should provide certain guarantees to workers in the form of a project labor agreement. Virginia Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said he would withhold $150 million from the project if the contract included such a pact,?which typically ensures certain wages and working conditions while barring strikes and providing managers with flexibility in making work assignments.

MWAA’s board voted not to require a mandatory agreement.

Tom Owens, a building and construction trades official for the AFL-CIO, said the labor federation has mixed views of Clark as an employer.

“There are times when they work well with us and other times when we scratch our heads,” he said. But Owens said he is hopeful that the Dulles project provides an opportunity for both interests to come together.

AP Wire Service
The Washington Post

Information from: The Washington Post,


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Visitors to DC increase by about 1 million in 2012

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Visitors to DC increase by about 1 million in 2012

Posted on 09 May 2013 by admin

The western front of the United States Capitol. The Neoclassical style building is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 (photo

WASHINGTON (AP) – Washington saw an increase of about 1 million visitors last year, one of its largest in a decade, counting a record 18.9 million tourists at the nation’s capital in 2012, officials announced recently.

Statistics released by the tourism bureau Destination D.C. show a 5.5 percent increase in total visitors compared with 2011. A study found that domestic visitation grew by 4.2 percent to reach 16.8 million U.S. visitors last year.

Growth in international visitors was a major factor driving increased visitation, said Elliott Ferguson, the president and CEO of Destination D.C. Officials estimate that Washington had 2.1 million international tourists in 2012. The number of visitors from China increased by about 92 percent, and Washington saw double-digit increases from other countries as well, Ferguson said.

Tourism officials said they expect strong growth in 2013 as well.

“The nation’s capital remains a bucket-list destination for families,” Ferguson said. “We are known for our free and almost free attractions, and increasingly for our exciting food scene, nightlife, shopping, theater, sporting events and dynamic neighborhoods.”

The food and entertainment sectors also help attract more major conventions and smaller meetings, he said. Destination D.C. expects the tourism growth to continue. Next year, the city will host 16 large city-wide conferences.

Ferguson said the growth in tourism translates into a stronger local economy and job market.

Figures show that visitor spending increased to an estimated $6.2 billion in 2012. Destination D.C. said more than half of the city’s sales tax revenue is generated by visitor spending.

Associated Press


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New plaza in DC to honor origin of cherry blossoms

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New plaza in DC to honor origin of cherry blossoms

Posted on 08 April 2013 by admin

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – A 360-year-old Japanese stone lantern that is lit each year at the National Cherry Blossom Festival to commemorate the relationship between the United States and Japan will soon have a more prominent place on the National Mall.

A nonprofit group working to improve the mall is holding a ceremonial groundbreaking Sunday for a new granite plaza and walking paths to display the historic lantern. The lantern sits among some of the original flowering cherry trees that were a gift from Japan 101 years ago.

Construction of the new $400,000 plaza with the lantern as a centerpiece will begin after the cherry blossom festival concludes, officials said. The plaza surface will evoke the “raked” sand surface of a traditional Zen garden, along with natural stone boulders, according to plans from the National Park Service. The project also will include walking paths to reach the plaza and help protect the nearby cherry trees from soil erosion and compaction that can damage their roots.

About 1 million people visit the cherry blossoms each year. They are expected to reach full bloom soon.

Caroline Cunningham, president of the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall, said organizers wanted to honor Washington’s relationship with Japan among the cherry blossoms, following the 100th anniversary last year of the gift of the trees from Japan.

“The idea is to give it some context, to create a place of reflection,” Cunningham said. “Japanese Ambassador (Ichiro) Fujisaki wanted a signature element that honored and reinforced the relationship between the U.S. and Japan.”

The Japanese government is sponsoring the project, along with the Japan Commerce Association of Washington.

A plaque commemorating the 1912 gift of cherry trees will be moved to the new plaza.

The lantern and a grove of cherry trees are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service has been shepherding the project as a way to draw more visitors and attention to the historic lantern and plaque among the trees.

“When the project is finished, people will be able to learn of the site’s historical significance,” said Masato Otaka, minister of public affairs at the Japanese embassy.

Associated Press

Trust for the National Mall:


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Washington, DC Cherry Blossoms

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Washington, DC Cherry Blossoms

Posted on 19 March 2013 by admin











 Festival: March 20 – April 14, 2013

This year (2013) marks the 101st year anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.

In 1912, Japan gave 3,020 cherry blossom trees to the United States as a gift to celebrate the two nations growing friendship. These trees replaced an earlier gift of 2,000 trees which were damaged and destroyed because of disease in 1910. These trees were planted around the shore line of the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. In 1965, the gift was renewed with another 3,800 trees. The cherry blossom trees continue to be a popular tourist attraction when they reach full bloom in early spring.

In Japan, the flowering cherry tree or “Sakura,” as it is called by the Japanese people, is one of the most exalted flowering plants. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformations Japanese Culture has undergone through the ages. The date when the Yoshino cherry blossoms reach peak bloom varies from year to year, depending on weather conditions.

For the past century, people from all over the world have gathered in Washington, DC to welcome the arrival of spring and to share the special season with each other. This year the National Cherry Blossom Festival will last five weeks to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the cherry blossom trees in Washington, DC. The splendid cherry trees, the focal point of the Cherry Blossom Festival, are constant reminders of the strong and enduring friendship between the United States and Japan.

Visit our DC Gift Shop for Official National Cherry Blossom Gifts & Souvenirs


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