D.C. police investigating spate of carjackings and car thefts

Public Safety

D.C. police investigating spate of carjackings and car thefts

By Peter Hermann, Washington Post, February 22 at 7:51 PM

District police are trying to curtail an uptick in violent carjackings and car thefts across the District in the past two months, a violent trend that has continued even after some significant ­arrests.

Capt. William FitzGerald said information about stolen vehicles is quickly pushed out to patrol officers, who on Feb. 12 pursued a BMW and arrested four suspects less than two hours after an armed carjacking at a gas station in Northwest Washington.

Police said two of those arrested were linked to two other carjackings and the thefts of three cars, including two Acuras belonging to the same man, which were stolen on subsequent days on Capitol Hill. FitzGerald, who is in the criminal investigation division, said those suspects were being monitored by detectives, allowing police to quickly file additional charges after the Feb. 12 arrest.

“We believe they were responsible for more than that,” FitzGerald said. “That group contributed to the spike.”

But another wave of carjackings — one later described to a car theft — followed, starting on Feb. 14 and continuing through Feb. 18. FitzGerald said police do not believe those incidents, all of which happened in Northeast and Southeast, are related.

Despite the recent cases, police said carjackings have been on a downward trend in recent years. There were 116 reported in the District in 2012, 108 in 2013 and 99 last year. This year’s numbers were not available, but FitzGerald said they are slightly above last year’s. Police said 362 vehicles have been stolen so far this year, up from 305 at this time in 2014.

Some of the carjackings came in clumps. Police said the group arrested Feb. 12 had taken two cars within 15 minutes on Feb. 10–a BMW from the 1900 block of 9th Street NE and a short time later, a Mercedes- Benz from the unit block of Florida Avenue NE.

Police said the first happened about 8 p.m. at a convenience store and the second about 8:15 p.m. at a gas station.In both cases, police said, a man threatened the car owner with a small black handgun.

Two days later, on Feb. 12, police said, the group stole another BMW from a gas station in the 900 block of Florida Avenue NW. The owner said he was pumping gas about 3:40 p.m. when another BMW, which police thought had been taken on Feb. 10, pulled up to an adjacent pump.Police said a man wearing a mask got out, pointed a black handgun at the victim and said “Give up the keys. Give me the keys.”

Both BMWs drove off, and police said they found one of them 30 minutes later, abandoned in Northeast Washington. About 5 p.m., officers spotted the other BMW being driven “recklesslyon West Virginia Avenue toward New York Avenue “ in Northeast.

Police chased the vehicle about two miles through rush-our traffic. In a police arrest affidavit, officers described the chase as going at a “high rate of speed running the red lights and nearly causing multiple accidents.” The affidavit says that the BMW was “going so fast that the wheels were screeching in turns,” and that at least once, drivers were on the wrong side of the road, “weaving in and out of traffic.”

The BMW crashed on L Street NE near North Capitol Street. Police said they arrested the 20-year-old driver, an 18-year-old woman and two juveniles. The two adults and one juvenile were charged with three carjackings. The driver and one juvenile were each charged with three car thefts.

Another wave of carjackings started two days later, on Feb. 14, when police said four men armed with guns stole a silver Mitsubishi from the 1500 block of Kenilworth Avenue NE about 9:15 p.m.

Last Monday, police said three men with guns took a vehicle at Southern Avenue and 23rd Street SE.

On Tuesday, police said a man reported that his GMC Yukon with his 5-year-old daughter inside was taken from the 3700 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. The 52-year-old told police that a man approached and told him “Get out of the way,” while another man pushed him aside. Both men got in the Yukon and drove off, the man told police.

Police said they quickly found the Yukon abandoned about a block away, and the girl was standing outside. She was not harmed.

Two police officials said the man was not carjacked but rather had left his daughter in the car with the engine running while he went into a convenience store.

The police officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were describing an ongoing investigation, said two men then jumped in the car and took off. The officials described the theft as random. Authorities said an 18-year-old man from Northwest was arrested Friday and charged with robbery.

Attempts to contact the victim were unsuccessful.

Another carjacking occurred about 3 a.m. Wednesday when a gunman approached a man as he delivered newspapers to homes on Eads Street NE.

“Don’t move or I’ll kill you in the snow,” the gunman said according to the victim’s account in a D.C. police report. The victim told police the gunman struck him on the left side of his face with the gun, then drove off in his white Toyota Corolla. The vehicle had a damaged front bumper, a missing front hubcap and a sticker across the windshield that says “never-forgotten.”

Tax Error in Health Act Has Impact on 800,000

Tax Error in Health Act Has Impact on 800,000

By ROBERT PEAR, NY Times, FEB. 20, 2015

WASHINGTON — About 800,000 taxpayers who enrolled in insurance policies through HealthCare.gov received erroneous tax information from the government and were urged on Friday to hold off on filing tax returns until the error could be corrected.

The Obama administration, under heavy pressure from congressional Democrats, also announced that it would give several million people more time to buy health insurance so they could comply with federal law and avoid tax penalties.

The tax mistake, affecting taxpayers in 37 states, is the first major problem to surface in an otherwise smooth second enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. The online insurance marketplaces have exceeded enrollment targets, and insurance premiums have generally come in lower than expected. Nonetheless, the mistake could cause some hardship for thousands of lower-income Americans who qualified for subsidized insurance, had hoped for tax refunds and now must wait for weeks to file their taxes.

“Some consumers will be very frustrated,” said Christine Speidel, a tax lawyer at Vermont Legal Aid, “because they count on those refunds to buy home heating oil, to pay for car repairs and to pay off credit card bills.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader and a vociferous critic of the health care law, accused the administration of arranging a Friday “news dump” to hide the bad news.

The insurance information is used in computing taxes. Consumers can expect to receive corrected data in early March. With the new data, officials said, some taxpayers will owe more and some will owe less. Andrew M. Slavitt, the No. 2 official at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said officials did not know why the mistake had occurred.

And Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, played down the error. He said that it affected “a very small fraction” of taxpayers, and that they would have “ample time” to file before the April 15 tax deadline.

Democratic lawmakers pressed hard for the Obama administration to open a “special enrollment period” around tax-filing season for Americans who realize only then that they face penalties for having failed to obtain health insurance last year. Mr. Slavitt said the period would run from March 15 to April 30.

Just before the regular open enrollment period ended Sunday, the Obama administration sent an email to consumers that said: “If you don’t sign up for health insurance today, you won’t be covered this year. So if you haven’t submitted your application and enrolled yet, this is your last chance.” In fact, many people will get another chance. Mr. Slavitt described the special enrollment period as a one-time opportunity and said it would not be repeated in future years.

Treasury officials said that up to six million people might be subject to tax penalties because they were uninsured in 2014. But health officials said they would help consumers obtain exemptions. Federal officials have authorized more than 30 types of exemptions from the penalty for not having insurance.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and chairman of the Finance Committee, said the announcement on Friday validated his concerns. “Whether it’s providing taxpayers with incorrect subsidy information or having to create special enrollment periods so that taxpayers can avoid costly penalties, Obamacare continues to frustrate and confuse Americans,” Mr. Hatch said.

Millions of consumers received subsidies, in the form of tax credits, to help them pay premiums for coverage purchased through federal and state insurance exchanges last year. The credits were based, in part, on the consumers’ projected income for 2014 and the cost of a “benchmark plan.” Mr. Slavitt said the government had discovered that the benchmark premiums were incorrectly reported on forms sent to 800,000 taxpayers, about one-fifth of all the forms mailed out by the federal government.

Photo

Delaila Hernandez, center, a JPS Health Network patient navigator, helped Fred Cardenas with documents during an Affordable Care Act enrollment event last week in Fort Worth. Credit LM Otero/Associated Press

About 50,000 people who have already filed tax returns may need to amend them, officials said. Treasury officials emphasized that the error was made by the Department of Health and Human Services, not the Internal Revenue Service.

The error by the federal insurance marketplace is similar to what would happen if an employer reported inaccurate information on wages paid to an employee, or a corporation reported incorrect information about dividends paid to a shareholder.

Disclosure of the error came after a three-month open enrollment period.

On Tuesday, President Obama said that 11.4 million people had selected private health insurance plans or renewed their coverage under the Affordable Care Act — proof, he said, that the law was working “better than we anticipated.” The special enrollment period will be available to people in 37 states that use the federal insurance marketplace. Other states may follow the federal policy if they wish, administration officials said. In a report issued on Thursday, the Urban Institute said that “more than four in 10 uninsured adults who may be subject to the penalty have heard little or nothing about it.”

State-run exchanges in Minnesota and Washington had already announced this week that they were creating special enrollment opportunities for people who face tax penalties for 2014. California followed suit on Friday.

The health care law requires Americans to have insurance, obtain an exemption or pay a tax penalty. Mr. Slavitt said the new special enrollment period was intended for people who had been unaware of the penalty, which the government calls a “shared responsibility payment.”

To qualify for the special enrollment period, consumers must certify that they filed their tax returns and paid the penalty for not having coverage in 2014. They must also certify that they “first became aware of, or understood the implications of, the shared responsibility payment after the end of open enrollment — Feb. 15, 2015 — in connection with preparing their 2014 taxes.” It is not clear how the government could verify taxpayers’ claims about when they first realized the implications of the tax penalty. The penalties, approaching 1 percent of income for some households, are supposed to be paid with income taxes due April 15.

The special enrollment period serves three purposes for the administration. It will increase the number of people with health insurance. It will reduce the number of people who must pay tax penalties. And it will increase the number of people who receive health insurance subsidies and thus have a personal stake in a Supreme Court case challenging payment of the subsidies in more than 30 states.

The problems were not limited to the federal exchange. James F. Scullary, a spokesman for the California exchange, said it was sending corrections to 100,000 households. Bruce N. Breslau, 61, of Los Angeles County said he had received a postcard from the exchange acknowledging a problem and promising to send correct information that he could use in preparing his tax return. “How is one to trust any document which emanates from the exchanges?” Mr. Breslau asked.

The Global Flight From the Family

The Global Flight From the Family

It’s not only in the West or prosperous nations—the decline in marriage and drop in birth rates is rampant, with potentially dire fallout.

Broken Photo: Getty Images

By

Nicholas Eberstadt, Wall Street Journal

Updated Feb. 21, 2015 12:17 a.m. ET

‘They’re getting divorced, and they’ll do anything NOT to get custody of the kids.” So reads the promotional poster, in French, for a new movie, “Papa ou Maman” (“Daddy or Mommy”), plastered all over Paris during my recent visit there. The movie sounds like quintessential French comedy, but its plot touches on a deep and serious reality—and one not particular to France.

All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.

Yet in infancy and childhood and then again much later, in feebleness or senescence, people need more from others. Whatever else we may be, we are all manifestly inconvenient at the start and end of life. Thus the recasting of the family puts it on a collision course with the inescapable inconvenience of the human condition itself—portending outcomes and risks we have scarcely begun to consider.

To evaluate the world-wide flight from the family, we can start in the U.S. Remarkably enough, we do not actually know the probabilities of getting married and staying married in America today, because the government doesn’t collect the information needed to make an estimate. We do know that both marriage and in situ parenting are increasingly regarded as optional for child-rearing.

As of 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 40% of babies in the U.S. were born outside marriage, and for 2014 the Census Bureau estimated that 27% of all children (and 22% of “White” children) lived in a fatherless home. But the opt-out from the old family norm is even more advanced than these figures suggest. A 2011 study by two Census researchers reckoned that just 59% of all American children (and 65% of “Anglo” or non-Hispanic white children) lived with married and biological parents as of 2009. Unless there is a change in this “revealed preference” against married unions that include children, within the foreseeable future American children who reside with their married birthparents will be in the minority.

Now consider Europe, where the revolution in the family has gained still more ground. European demographers even have an elegant name for the phenomenon: They call it the Second Demographic Transition (the First being the shift from high birth rates and death rates to low ones that began in Europe in the early industrial era and by now encompasses almost every society). In the schema of the Second Demographic Transition, long, stable marriages are out, and divorce or separation are in, along with serial cohabitation and increasingly contingent liaisons. Not surprisingly, this new environment of perennially conditional, no-fault unions was also seen as ushering in an era of more or less permanent sub-replacement fertility.

According to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, the probability of marriage before age 50 has been plummeting for European women and men, while the chance of divorce for those who do marry has been soaring. In Belgium—the birth-land of the scholars who initially detected this Second Transition—the likelihood of a first marriage for a woman of reproductive age is now down to 40%, and the likelihood of divorce is over 50%. This means that in Belgium the odds of getting married and staying married are under one in five. A number of other European countries have similar or even lower odds.

Europe has also seen a surge in “child-free” adults—voluntary childlessness. The proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four for Italy. In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three, and rising swiftly. Europe’s most rapidly growing family type is the one-person household: the home not only child-free, but partner- and relative-free as well. In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%. The rise of the one-person home coincides with population aging. But it is not primarily driven by the graying of European society, at least thus far: Over twice as many Danes under 65 are living alone as those over 65.

Lest one suspect that there is something about this phenomenon that is culturally specific to Western countries, we have Japan, whose fabled “Asian family values” are now largely a thing of the past. Contemporary Japanese women have lifestyle options that were unthinkable for their grandmothers, including divorce, separation, cohabitation and remaining single. Japanese women are availing themselves of these new choices. Given recent trajectories, demographers Miho Iwasawa and Ryuichi Kaneko project that a Japanese woman born in 1990 stands less than even odds of getting married and staying married to age 50.

To be sure, unlike Europe and the U.S., Japan still severely stigmatizes childbearing outside marriage. Childlessness, on the other hand, is socially acceptable. Nowadays about one-sixth of Japanese women in their mid-40s are still single, and about 30% of all women that age are childless. Twenty years hence, by Mr. Kaneko’s projections, 38% of all Japanese women in their mid-40s would be childless, and an even higher share—just over 50%—would never have grandchildren.

Much the same has been taking place around East and Southeast Asia for at least a generation. From South Korea to Singapore, China is rimmed by countries where marriage is being postponed or, increasingly, forgone; where networks of extended kin are withering due to extreme sub-replacement fertility; and where childlessness is on the rise.

Thus far the Chinese mainland has been conspicuously resistant to these trends. Yet according to the 2011 Hong Kong census, 22% of the Chinese territory’s women in their late 30s were unmarried—almost the same as for Japan. Further, over 30% of Hong Kong’s women in their early 40s are childless, more than doubling in 15 years. Similar, albeit somewhat less accentuated, tendencies are reported in Taiwan.

Formidable as the imperatives of Confucian familial tradition may be, they evidently can be overpowered by the more immediate attractions and pressures of modern life. Recognition of the fragility of the Confucian ethos in the face of a “me ethos” may help explain why Beijing saw the need in 2012 to amend its laws on the protection of the elderly. Those laws had already criminalized nonsupport of one’s elderly parents; now elderly parents are allowed to sue their children for spending insufficient time with them.

America, Europe and the highly modernized reaches of East and Southeast Asia are affluent and “globalized.” But the undoing of previously accepted family arrangements is also under way in seemingly traditional low-income societies—Muslim-majority societies in particular. Although it has attracted strangely little attention, a flight from marriage within the Arab world is in process, led by masses of women who wish to bend or break the rules of family life to which their mothers had submitted.

According to the U.N. Population Division’s “World Marriage Data 2012,” the proportion of never-married women in their late 30s was higher in Morocco in 2004 than in the U.S. in 2009 (18% vs. 16%). By the same token, the percentage of single women in their early 40s was higher in Lebanon in 2007 than in Italy in 2010 (22% vs. 18%). And nearly 32% of Libyan women in their late 30s were unmarried in 2006—20 times the percentage barely two decades earlier, even higher than for Denmark in 2011 (29%).

Every stage of the Arab world’s female flight from marriage is taking place on roughly a third of the GDP per capita, and just half the mean years of schooling, of the corresponding steps for societies from the affluent West or the affluent East. What this means: High levels of income and educational attainment are not preconditions for the new family revolution in those spots on the globe it hasn’t reached.

Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes also have unintended consequences. The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young.

That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.

In the decades ahead, ever more care and support for seniors will be required, especially for the growing contingent among the elderly who will be victims of dementia, or are childless and socially isolated. Remember, a longevity revolution is also under way. Yet by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing, to provide that care and support than ever before.

That contradiction promises to frame an overarching social problem, not just in so-called developed countries but throughout the world. It is far from clear that humanity is prepared to cope with the consequences of its impending family deficit, with increasing independence for those traditionally most dependent on others—i.e., the young and old. Public policies are the obvious candidate for the task. But as the past century of social policy has demonstrated, government is a highly imperfect substitute for family—and a very expensive one.

Mr. Eberstadt is a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

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4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Report: D.C. lags in holding businesses accountable for subsidies

District of DeBonis

Report: D.C. lags in holding businesses accountable for subsidies

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, February 11

D.C. lags its neighbors in basic accountability for its economic development subsidies. (Good Jobs First)

The District government has recently taken some steps to make sure its economic development subsidies are well spent — requiring, for instance, a fiscal analysis for individual deals and a yearly report detailing their allocation — but it has a long way to go to match the accountability measures taken by other jurisdictions, a new report finds.

In a report commissioned by a local affiliate of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, nonprofit think tank Good Jobs First found “poor record-keeping, low standards, and lax enforcement on economic development deals in the District” — but says a few straightforward steps could bring the city in line with best practices in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere.

“Many of these projects are sold to taxpayers on the claim of a net economic benefit to the District: residents get good jobs, which reduces the costs of safety-net programs, increases revenue from income, sales and property taxes, and spurs spending in the local economy,” says the report, written by analyst Thomas Cafcas. “But promises about job creation and economic impacts do not always translate into realized economic activity. Absent rigorous safeguards, there are numerous ways companies can skirt the good intentions of a job creation program and deliver less than adequate results.”

The few safeguards that are already in place aren’t exactly rigorous. Good Jobs First requested forms required under a 2011 law describing “community benefits provided or the progress made toward providing such benefits” by the recipients of subsidies. But the Office of the Chief Financial Officer said the forms were not required for some deals, and for those for which it had collected the forms, “submissions were difficult to read and reporting on tangible community benefits was very limited.”

To improve the District’s showing, the report finds, D.C. could adopt a real-time database of economic development subsidies, such as the one maintained by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, that includes not only the amount and recipient of the subsidies but also on job creation, wages paid, and the status of the particular deal. And the annual reporting from the District, the report said, should not only examine where the subsidies are going but also the outcomes of those subsidies.

Furthermore, the report makes the case that if those outcomes aren’t meeting stated goals, then the District needs to get serious. Individuals who improperly claim tax breaks on their personal income tax returns are held to a higher standard, it argues, than companies who receive D.C. tax incentives.

“Companies receiving lucrative economic development subsidies should face serious consequences for taking tax credits they do not deserve, just like ordinary taxpayers,” the report says. “Failing to meet job creation, job quality, or First Source thresholds should result in a predetermined recapture from subsidies already given, rescission of future subsidies not yet awarded, and recalibration of subsidies going forward. The District has many precedents to draw upon from other states.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.

Peak fender-bender: Technology can prevent car crashes, if consumers will buy in

Peak fender-bender: Technology can prevent car crashes, if consumers will buy in

By Matt McFarland, Washington Post, February 10

It’s 2015, not all car crashes have to happen. (Chieko Hara/Associated Press)

Imagine for a second a world in which no driver ever gets rear-ended. That may sound impossible, but it shouldn’t. For perspective on the blistering rate of technology’s advancements, remember that a few months ago mankind launched a probe from a satellite and it landed on a comet that was traveling at a whopping 84,000 mph.

Today it’s possible and relatively inexpensive for us to make cars and trucks that identify an imminent collision and automatically brake, preventing or lessening the severity of an accident.

Ragunathan Rajkumar, a professor at Carnegie Mellon who is developing self-driving car technology, says that for $700 or $800 the parts can be bought to build such a system. After markups, he estimates that consumers will pay an extra $2,000 or $3,000 for the initial cost of their vehicles. That up-front cost probably would pay off down the line through lower insurance premiums and greater safety.

“We don’t have to wait for a perfectly autonomous car,” said John Capp, director of global vehicle safety at GM. “There’s a lot of great features of driver assistance now that people will really enjoy.”

The impact of these technologies could be huge. Worldwide, 1.24 million people die in car crashes each year. Consider that during the four deadliest wars the United States fought in the 20th century, 39 percent more Americans died in motor vehicles on U.S. roads than on battlefields.

The most common car crash in the United States is a rear-impact crash — 32.9 percent of crashes involve a vehicle plowing into the back bumper of another. Cameras and radar can be used to identify when such a crash is imminent, warn a driver and then automatically brake if the driver fails to. Although these systems aren’t yet mainstream — 27 percent of 2015 model-year vehicles can be purchased with an auto-brake system (and the percent of registered vehicles with these systems is much lower) — real-world research shows their potential.

A 2014 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that Honda Accord drivers with a system that warns of imminent accidents had a 40 percent drop in claims for bodily injury liability. Although these drivers still rear-end people — collision claims dropped only 4 percent — the drop in bodily injury liability suggests that drivers are braking and lessening the severity of these crashes.

“Even when the systems fail to prevent a crash, they are preventing injuries because they’ve slowed the speed of the crash down,” said David Zuby, chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

While systems that beep, flash lights, tug a driver’s seat belt or vibrate the seat are useful, automatic-braking systems are even more potent.

Automatic-braking technology became a standard Volvo offering in 2008. It’s designed for the low speeds of someone driving around a city. A 2013 institute study found that Volvo XC60 drivers filed 20 percent fewer accident claims than drivers of other midsize luxury SUVs. Drivers of the Volvo S60 filed 9 percent fewer claims than drivers of other midsize four-door luxury cars.

These technologies aren’t perfect and there are many accidents they aren’t preventing. Automakers have been careful in their implementation of the technology because they are wary of false positives.

“We will miss some scenarios because of this balance between intervening right and not intervening when needed,” said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo. “In this gray zone, we make the decision not to intervene because it’s more important to not disturb the driver and gain acceptance of this type of technology.”

Volvo has set a goal that by 2020, no one should be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo. It has developed a more advanced crash-avoidance system that works at all speeds.

“All indications on the test track indicate it’s working really well, but we don’t have the actual proof based on real world statistics,” Coelingh said.

We can’t really see the full benefits of these technologies until drivers clamor for them, and are comfortable with the higher prices. Zuby says that the take rate on these systems is 5 to 25 percent, depending on the manufacturer.

“It’s not just the customers, it’s also what the dealer thinks his customer wants,” Zuby said. “In the United States, most people go to their local Ford dealership or Volvo dealership and they buy a car off the lot. What I have found in trying to buy cars for our test program, or for my personal use is that a lot of dealers don’t stock cars that have these systems. You have to do some pretty extensive searching to find somebody who’s got that car.”

This also raises another question. If consumers aren’t jumping to buy automatic braking systems, will they ever pay for a self-driving car, which is sure to be even more expensive?

Related: How self-driving cars would benefit Americans more than world peace

D.C. Council ballots will be packed come April

D.C. Council ballots will be packed come April

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, February 10 at 10:48 AM

When voters in Wards 4 and 8 head to the polls to choose their next D.C. Council member on April 28, they will not lack for choices.

The deadline for challenging ballot petitions came and went Monday with only two challenges filed, according to the D.C. Board of Elections, meaning that there will be at least a dozen candidates in each of the special election races.

In Ward 4, the candidates are Acqunetta Anderson, Leon T. Andrews Jr., Ron Austin, Renée L. Bowser, Gwenellen Corley-Bowman, Judi Jones, Bruce Morrison, Edwin W. Powell, Pedro Rubio Jr., Glova Scott, Douglass Sloan, Bobvala Tengen, Brandon Todd and Dwayne M. Toliver.

Only Todd — who holds a huge lead in fundraising and a crucial endorsement of Muriel E. Bowser, who left the seat to become mayor — had his petitions challenged, by resident Alonzo Edmonson. Everett Hamilton, a spokesman for Todd’s campaign, said it had not been informed of the challenge by elections officials but said the 1,000 signatures submitted were internally vetted beforehand. “We have every bit of confidence in our signatures,” he said.

In Ward 8, the candidates are Jauhar Abraham, Stuart Anderson, Karlene Armstead, Marion C. Barry, Nate Bennett Fleming, Sheila Bunn, Greta Fuller, Eugene D. Kinlow, LaRuby May, Anthony Muhammad, Genora Akosua Reed, “S.S.” Sandra Seegars, Keita Vanterpool (independent), Leonard Watson Sr., Trayon “WardEight” White and Natalie Williams.

Williams had her signatures challenged by Watson, and Williams’s campaign is similarly unconcerned: “We have checked our signatures very thoroughly,” said spokeswoman Khendall Beale.

All candidates in both races are Democrats with the exception of Vanterpool, an independent, and Scott, a member of the Socialist Workers Party. So how to sort through them all?

In Ward 4, a helpful, unaffiliated Web site has popped up with basic information on most of the candidates. In Ward 8, interested voters may have their best chance to learn more by attending one of several candidates forums expected to take place before Election Day — the first of which took place Monday at the St. Paul Senior Living community in Washington Highlands.

There, eight of the most prominent candidates — Barry, Bunn, Kinlow, May, Seegars, Vanterpool, White and Williams — were invited to address a packed room of senior residents and campaign supporters and lay out their general views on jobs, housing, transportation and other issues. It also illustrated the unwieldy nature of the large field when Anderson, who had been standing in the crowd, took the mic and demanded equal time for an opening statement.

“A chair was not provided for me,” Anderson announced. “But I’m going to have my five minutes, if it’s appropriate.”

After a moment of hesitation, it was deemed appropriate, and a ninth chair was located.

Muriel Bowser threw herself a million-dollar inauguration bash

Muriel Bowser threw herself a million-dollar inauguration bash

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, February 3 at 7:05 PM

Those who attended the three days of events surrounding Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s inauguration may not have known it at the time, but they were participating in a million-dollar extravaganza.

A campaign finance report filed Monday showed that Bowser’s inaugural committee spent $1,153,950 on the events, which included a 5K fun run, a kids party and, of course, an inaugural ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The events were funded by nearly $1.3 million in donations from mainly corporate sponsor, who gave up to $10,000 each — five times the limits on contributions to Bowser’s actual campaign. Among those giving the maximum were Microsoft, Comcast, Xerox, and Deloitte, as well as numerous local real estate firms including Carr Properties, Donohoe, and JBG. Among the individual donors were Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and tech entrepreneur Raul Fernandez.

And here’s what their money was spent on: nearly $300,000 on event production, more than $200,000 on catering for the inaugural ball, around $100,000 on lighting and rigging for the convention center, $56,000 on sound production, $15,000 on an event planner for the kids party at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, $7,545 on security, $5,250 to rent metal detectors, $2,864 on T-shirts for the 5K, and $600 to rent scooters. Ballgoers sipped on $1,320 worth of donations from Moet Hennessy and nibbled on $8,430 with of cheese from Bel Brands, makers of Laughing Cow Swiss and other daily delights.

Ball headliner Sheila E. earned $35,000 for her performance, painter/performer David Garibaldi made $10,000, and thousands more were spent on other talent (including $600 on a performance by the Washington Redskins cheerleaders), plus more than $23,000 in travel and lodging expenses.

With the million-dollar inauguration, Bowser outspent predecessor Vincent C. Gray, whose inaugural ball cost about $714,000. Then as now, no taxpayer funds were spent on the festivities. And, thanks to an ethics bill championed by Bowser, the public is getting an accounting of the inaugural expenses within weeks rather than the year it took Gray to cough up financial details.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.

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