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Week 4 (January 22 to 28, 2018)



Town Hall Meeting

On Saturday, January 27th, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, our two representatives to the Viriginia General Assembly, Senator Adam Ebbin (see photo at far left) and Delegate Mark Levine (see photo at near left), are holding an Alexandria Town Hall Meeting at the Mount Vernon Community School, located at 2601 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia 22305.  The event is open to the public.

Nest Cam Season 3

Washington's resident celebrity bald eagles, Mr. President and The First Lady, have returned to their nest high up in a Tulip Poplar tree amidst the Azalea Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum located just ten miles directly up-river from Old Town, Alexandria.  The 24/7 live-streamed high-definition newly-updated nest cams at dceaglecam.org went live on New Year's Day to start Season 3 of the most compelling reality programming available on the web.

For a recap of what happened during the first two seasons and other information regarding this eagle pair, please visit the borderline-obsessive Nest Cam page of this website.


Week 3 (January 15 to 21, 2018)

Papal Keys, Conopaeum and Trintinnabulum


Pope Francis Bestows Honor on St. Mary's Church

On Sunday, January 14th, the Most Reverend Michael Burbidge, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, concelebrated early morning Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church in Old Town, Alexandria.  At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Burbidge announced that his Holiness, Pope Francis, had exercised his canonical authority to designate St. Mary’s Church, which is the oldest Catholic Church in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a basilica, making it the 1,762nd basilica in the world, 84th basilica in the United States, 2nd basilica in Virginia, and 2nd basilica in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

In the Catholic tradition, a basilica is a church formally recognized by a Pope for its antiquity, dignity, religious relics, architectural significance, or historical importance as a center of worship.  There are four “great” or “major” Catholic basilicas, all of which are all located in Rome – the Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran (also known as the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran), the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican (also popularly known as St. Peter’s Basilica), the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (also known as the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major).  The rest of the basilicas throughout the world are referred to as “minor” basilicas.

The first-named basilica in Virginia is the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Norfolk, which was built in 1858 but traces its roots back to 1791. It became a minor basilica in 1991 upon the 200th anniversary of the parish’s original establishment as St. Patrick’s Church.

The first D.C.-area basilica is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is adjacent to the Catholic University of America and is the largest Catholic Church in North America.  Construction of the shrine began in 1920. It opened unfinished in 1959, was named a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1990, and was finally dedicated on December 8, 2017 following the completion of the stunning Trinity Dome.

The original St. Mary’s church was built in 1795 at Church and South Royal Streets.  According to parish records, support for its construction came from President George Washington; his military aide Lieutenant Colonel John Fitzgerald; Thorton Alexander, the scion of Alexandria’s founder, John Alexander; Colonel Robert Hooe, the then Mayor of Alexandria and one of the central political figures in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison, which firmly established the doctrine of judicial review in the United States; and John Carroll, a Jesuit priest who served as America’s first bishop and archbishop, and who founded Georgetown University, the oldest and best Catholic university in the United States.

In 1810, St. Mary’s moved to its current location at 310 South Royal Street, a dozen blocks away from Watergate of Alexandria.  The current church building was completed in 1827.  Henceforth, the church will be known as the Basilica of Saint Mary.  St. Mary’s new-found status as a basilica carries with it two special privileges – the right of the church to display the papal insignia of the crossed golden and silver keys of Saint Peter representing the power of loosing and binding (see photo at far left), and the right of the basilica’s rector to wear a special mozzetta (a short cape with a small ornamental hood) over his other vestments or ceremonial garments.  In olden days, basilicas also had the privilege of displaying two other papal symbols (see photo at near left) the umbraculum/conopaeum/pavilion (an umbrella or canopy often sewn from red and gold velvet fabric) and the trintinnabulum (a small golden bell).  But alas and sadly, such exhibitions of papal regalia are no longer widely encouraged. 

Basilicas also tend to attract pilgrims, which is a very old word for tourists.  So, Old Town's secular leaders should find something to like in this week's honors.


Gravelly Point

Washington National Airport opened on June 16, 1941, just months before the U.S. entered World War II.  It is built on 861 acres of land atop the site of the historic Abingdon Plantation (which was owned by the Alexander family for whom the City of Alexandria is named), mudflats near Gravelly Point, and landfill dredged from the Potomac River. 

Twenty years ago, in 1998, the U.S. Congress -- against the wishes of local government officials, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority that operates National Airport, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority that operates the National Airport Metro Station -- renamed the airport to honor Ronald Reagan, who served as our nation's 40th President from 1981-89.

On June 13, 2016, nearly 75 years to the day that National Airport opened its doors, Congressman Jody Hice, who has represented Georgia's 10th Congressional District (stretching from Atlanta in the west to Augusta in the east) since 2015, introduced a bill to change the name of Gravelly Point Park to Nancy Reagan Memorial Park to honor the former First Lady, who died in March 2016. 

The park (marked with a small red crosshair in the center of the satellite image above right) is situated just a few hundred feet removed from the northern end of National Airport's primary runway, making it a popular spot for folks to watch airplane arrivals and departures directly overhead (see photo below).  The park also offers stunning waterside views of the airport terminal and Washington, D.C. (see photos at right).

Mr. Hice's original bill died in committee at the end of the 114th Congress on January 3, 2018.  A few days ago, on January 13th, Mr. Hice re-introduced his bill in the current 115th Congress. 

This week, on January 17th, the Republican-controlled House Natural Resources Committee approved the legislation on a strict party-line vote that did not consider local viewpoints, and then forwarded the bill to the full House where it is expected to pass in a similarly partisan fashion over the objections of minority-party Democrats.

It's a shame that Mr. Hice has disregarded what Mr. Reagan said at a Spirit of America Rally held in Atlanta on January 26, 1984:  "The best view of big government is in the rearview mirror as we leave it behind."  Sadly, it's none for the Gipper.




Week 2 (January 8 to 14, 2018)

10 U.S. Counties Losing The Most Weight
1.  Arlington County, Virginia
2.  Prince William County, Virginia
3.  City of Fairfax, Virginia
4.  Monroe County, Indiana
5.  City of Alexandria, Virginia
6.  Dodge County, Georgia
7.  Monroe County, Florida
8.  Sierra County, New Mexico
9.  Madison County, Mississippi
10. Craig County, Oklahoma

10 U.S. Counties Gaining The Most Weight
1.  Somerset County, Maryland
2.  Clarendon County, South Carolina
3.  Murray County, Oklahoma
4.  Indiana County, Pennsylvania
5.  Leslie County, Kentucky
6.  Ashley County, Arkansas
7.  Evangeline Parish, Louisiana
8.  Seward County, Kansas
9.  Calhoun County, Florida
10. Phillips County, Arkansas



Now Back to Reality

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which serves as our national public health institute, reports that 36.5 percent of all U.S. adults are obese.  This is of concern because, according to the CDC, "People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol."  However, as the CDC optimistically notes, "Even a small weight loss (just 10% of your current weight) may help lower the risk of disease."

Here are some general obesity trends identified by the CDC:

  • By region, the South has the greatest prevalence of obesity, followed by the Midwest, Northeast and West.
  • By state, the highest rates of obesity are found in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia, and the lowest rates of obesity are found in Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.  Click here to see the CDC's color-coded obesity map of the U.S.
  • By education, obesity rates decline as educational levels rise.
  • By age, obesity rates rise as folks get older.

This week, 24/7 Wall St., which produces mainstream financial news and opinion, published the results of a deep dive into the CDC's county-level obesity data.  The report notes the 10 U.S. counties losing the most weight in the past few years (Northern Virginia is doing quite well) and the 10 U.S. counties gaining the most weight (see charts at left).

Obesity is based on one's body mass index, a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.  Click here to determine your BMI using the CDC's BMI calculator, your height in feet and inches, and your weight in pounds.  The calculator will also tell you whether you are considered "underweight," "normal," "overweight" or "obese."


Week 1 (January 1 to 7, 2018)

Happy New Year!

Eggs offer a simple and enduring symbol for the start of a new year.  They represent creation, life, hope, fertility, renewal, growth, health, wealth and the vast world around us. 

As found in nature, they are delicate yet protected, sheathed yet accessible.  In the kitchen, they are versatile and can be boiled, scrambled, fried, poached, basted, coddled, baked, beaten, whipped, emulsified, foamed and combined.  Eaten, they are nutritious, delicious and satisfying.

Every culture seems to have created some version of an egg custard or flan, the most sublime expression for an egg.  For example, Chinese chefs in Hong Kong and Macau bake bite-sized Dan Tarts -- delicacies served with tea at Dim Sum.  It's the perfect start to a happy new year everywhere.  Wishing you a happy new year.



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