‘Swift chariots of democracy’: all aboard Washington’s secret subway

Capitol Hill staffers are seen on a subway car at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
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Capitol Hill staffers are seen on a subway car at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
Capitol Hill staffers are seen on a subway car at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
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Capitol Hill staffers are seen on a subway car at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
Capitol Hill staffers are seen on a subway car at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
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Capitol Hill staffers are seen on a subway car at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
Capitol Hill staffers walk through the Senate subway at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
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Capitol Hill staffers walk through the Senate subway at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
A Capitol Hill employee operates the Senate subway at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
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A Capitol Hill employee operates the Senate subway at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP)
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Updated 27 September 2021

‘Swift chariots of democracy’: all aboard Washington’s secret subway

‘Swift chariots of democracy’: all aboard Washington’s secret subway
  • The Capitol Subway System has been ferrying politicians back and forth for more than a century
  • Famous patrons have included actors Richard Gere, Chuck Norris and Denzel Washington and the rock star Bono

WASHINGTON: Frequented by presidents, Supreme Court justices and even the occasional movie star, it is the transport of choice for some of the world’s most powerful movers and shakers — yet few Americans know it exists.
The Capitol Subway System, a network of trolleys in the fluorescent-lit bowels of the labyrinthine, 600-room US Congress in Washington, has been ferrying politicians back and forth for more than a century.
It has made headlines as the scene of a botched assassination bid, an impromptu off-Broadway stage and a hiding place for a president who disappeared from the Oval Office without telling anyone.
“Children love it so there are always senators who are willing to bring family members with young children, nieces and nephews, to ride on it,” Dan Holt, an assistant historian at the Senate Historical Office, told AFP.
“And so I think there’s just something kind of special about it.”
The track stretches 3,100 feet — a shade under a kilometer — with the 90-second hop between stations just enough for serious political debate, idle gossip, an impromptu press conference or a moment of quiet reverie.
“Think about getting on the train to ride to work in other contexts, where you have that moment where you can just sit for a minute and think — or sit and have casual conversation,” Holt said.
“The train in the Capitol has served that purpose as well over time.”
It has also provided useful photo opportunities for presidential hopefuls looking to show the common touch, such as Ronald Reagan, although a boyish JFK — then just plain old Senator Jack Kennedy — was once refused entry and scolded to “stand aside for the senators, son.”

Assassination attempt

Today, the bustling main station is abuzz whenever the Senate is in session, with journalists waiting patiently to swarm legislators as they disembark to vote in the upper chamber.
But the cut-and-thrust of political discourse isn’t always as convivial below ground as it is on the Senate floor.
In 1950, Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith was preparing to deliver a rebuke to fellow Republican Joe McCarthy when the intimidating anti-communist crusader and smear-artist saw her in a subway car.
“Margaret, you look very serious,” Smith later recalled McCarthy saying, according to Holt. “Are you going to make a speech?“
“Yes,” she responded, “and you’re not going to like it very much.”




Capitol Hill staffers are seen on a subway car at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) 

Three years earlier the subway had seen its only recorded assassination attempt, when disgruntled ex-Capitol Police officer William Kaiser opened fire from a .22-caliber pistol on presidential hopeful John Bricker.
The Ohio senator dived for cover into the waiting subway car, yelling at the driver to whisk him away, as a second bullet whistled over his head.
“Only good fortune and the bad marksmanship of his assailant saved the senator,” The New York Times reported after the gunman fled the scene, only to be arrested later.
In less querulous times, political leaders have seen the subway as something of a refuge from the frenetic pace of Washington politics.
William Howard Taft, the 27th president, alarmed aides one Saturday in January 1911 when he went missing for around an hour to go see the trains.
“A keen thrill of fear swept over the city when anxious inquiries at the White House brought forth the reply that the president could not be found. The alarm spread like a forest fire,” the Washington Times reported at the time.

First subway

The first subway was opened on March 7, 1909 for senators hoping to avoid the punishing Washington heat as they went between their offices and the upper chamber.
Electric Studebaker automobiles were replaced by a monorail with its own track three years later and, in 1960, officials added four $75,000 electric subway cars — dubbed “swift chariots of democracy” by the Senate chaplain.
A House line connected the Rayburn House Office Building to the Capitol five years after that and, in 1993, an $18 million Disneyland-style driverless train was introduced to great fanfare.
Not everyone supported these improvements. Some senators grumbled about bumpy rides while others complained that their delicately coiffured hair was being ruined by gusts of wind. Ohio’s Mike DeWine banned his staff from riding in protest against government waste.
Future presidents aside, the system’s famous patrons have included actors Richard Gere, Chuck Norris and Denzel Washington, satirist Jon Stewart and the rock star Bono.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony Award-winning creator of hit musical “Hamilton,” decided to take a midnight ride and belt out show tunes for his Twitter following when he was in the building to receive an award in 2017.
Some Capitol Hill staff see the gentility of subway interactions becoming rarer as health-conscious politicians with step-counting devices increasingly take to walking between buildings.
But the clientele will never truly disappear as long as the urgent task of running the country requires busy people to be in 10 places at once.
“If you’re in a rush, it’s great,” Holt told AFP.


New Zealand politician cycles to hospital in labor, gives birth

Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter rides a bicyle to the hospital while in labour, in Wellington, New Zealand, November 28, 2021, in this picture obtained from social media. (REUTERS)
Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter rides a bicyle to the hospital while in labour, in Wellington, New Zealand, November 28, 2021, in this picture obtained from social media. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 November 2021

New Zealand politician cycles to hospital in labor, gives birth

Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter rides a bicyle to the hospital while in labour, in Wellington, New Zealand, November 28, 2021, in this picture obtained from social media. (REUTERS)
  • Amazingly now we have a healthy, happy little one sleeping, as is her dad,” said Genter, a dual New Zealand-US citizen who was born in Minnesota and moved to the Pacific country in 2006

MELBOURNE: New Zealand Member of Parliament Julie Anne Genter got on her bicycle early on Sunday and headed to the hospital. She was already in labor and she gave birth an hour later.
“Big news!” the Greens politician posted on her Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JulieAnneGenter page a few hours later. “At 3.04am this morning we welcomed the newest member of our family. I genuinely wasn’t planning to cycle in labor, but it did end up happening.”
The island nation of 5 million already has a reputation for down-to-earth politicians. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern famously took maternity https://www.reuters.com/article/us-newzealand-politics-ardern-idUSKBN1KN0A8 leave while in office and brought her three-month old to a United Nations https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-assembly-leaders-idUSKCN1M30XW meeting as she was still breastfeeding.
“My contractions weren’t that bad when we left at 2am to go to the hospital — though they were 2-3 min apart and picking up in intensity by the time we arrived 10 minutes later,” Genter wrote.
“Amazingly now we have a healthy, happy little one sleeping, as is her dad,” said Genter, a dual New Zealand-US citizen who was born in Minnesota and moved to the Pacific country in 2006.
Genter — her party’s spokesperson for transport issues and whose Facebook profile includes “I love my bicycle” — also biked to the hospital in 2018 to give birth to her first-born, local media said.


French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0

French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0
Updated 28 November 2021

French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0

French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0
  • C.S.C. de Cayenne were only trailing 1-0 when they were reduced to 10 men in the 43rd minute before collapsing in the second half
  • Saint-Denis made the most of their trek from the island of Reunion, beating Canet Rousillon on penalties to reach the last 64

PARIS: C.S.C. de Cayenne traveled over 7,000 kilometers from the capital of French Guiana for their French Cup eighth-round tie against Paris FC on Saturday, but lost 14-0.
The visitors were only trailing 1-0 when they were reduced to 10 men in the 43rd minute before collapsing in the second half, conceding 12 goals after the break.
Cayenne will make the return trip across the Atlantic Ocean after seeing their cup run end in remarkable fashion.
Moustapha Name, Lamine Diaby Fadiga and Morgan Guilavogui, the brother of former France midfielder Josuha, all scored hat-tricks for second-tier side Paris FC.
Elsewhere, though, Saint-Denis made the most of their trek from the island of Reunion, beating Canet Rousillon on penalties to reach the last 64, where the 20 Ligue 1 teams enter the draw.


Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday

Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday
Updated 27 November 2021

Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday

Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday
  • Members of Extinction Rebellion targeted 13 Amazon fulfilment centers in the UK with the aim of disrupting 50% of the company's deliveries on Black Friday
  • They staged similar protests in Germany and the Netherlands

DUBAI: Climate activists blockaded Amazon warehouses in three European countries on Friday.
This was part of a global effort to pressure the ecommerce giant on one of its busiest days of the year to improve working conditions and end business practices that hurt the environment.
Members of Extinction Rebellion targeted 13 Amazon fulfilment centers in the United Kingdom with the aim of disrupting 50 percent of the company’s deliveries on Black Friday, which marks the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. They staged similar protests in Germany and the Netherlands.
“The action is intended to draw attention to Amazon’s exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices, disregard for workers’ rights in the name of company profits, as well as the wastefulness of Black Friday,” the group said. It vowed to remain at the scene
At least 30 people were arrested at multiple UK locations, with some held on suspicion of aggravated trespass or public nuisance, police forces said.
Extinction Rebellion and dozens of other activist groups in the US and around the world are organizing a day of global protests and strikes on Friday against Amazon to demand the company provide better working conditions, commit to operating sustainably, and pay its fair share of tax.
In the US, labor activists planned a small protest at Amazon’s fulfilment center on Staten Island, New York.
Activists in the UK blocked the entrance to Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury, just east of London, with an effigy of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos sitting on top of a rocket.
At Amazon’s distribution center in Dunfermline, Scotland, about 20 Extinction Rebellion members strung banners across the entrance road that said “Make Amazon Pay” and locked themselves together, stopping trucks from entering and some from leaving.
Amazon did not directly address the protests in response to a request for comment, but said the company takes its responsibilities “very seriously.”
“That includes our commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040 — 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement — providing excellent pay and benefits in a safe and modern work environment, and supporting the tens of thousands of British small businesses who sell on our store,” the company said.
Extinction Rebellion activists also blocked an Amazon logistics center in the central German town of Bad Hersfeld by erecting a makeshift bamboo scaffold that they used to suspend themselves in the air. Authorities later removed them with the help of a fire department ladder truck, according to video posted on the group’s German Facebook page.
The group staged a similar protest at an Amazon facility at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.


Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak

Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak
Updated 26 November 2021

Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak

Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak
  • The procession to reopen the 2.7 km road included a reenactment of the ancient Opet festival
  • Pharaonic chariots and more than 400 young performers dressed in pharaonic costumes paraded along the avenue

LUXOR, Egypt: A restored road connecting two ancient Egyptian temple complexes in Karnak and Luxor was unveiled on Thursday in a lavish ceremony aimed at raising the profile of one of Egypt’s top tourist spots.
The procession to reopen the 2.7 km (1.7 mile) road included a reenactment of the ancient Opet festival, where statues of Theban deities were paraded annually during the New Kingdom era in celebration of fertility and the flooding of the Nile.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi marched along the road at the start of the ceremony. Pharaonic chariots and more than 400 young performers dressed in pharaonic costumes paraded along the avenue.
The 3,400-year-old road linking the ancient centers of Karnak and Luxor, also known as Road of the Rams or the Avenue of the Sphinxes, is lined with hundreds of ram- and human-headed sphinxes, though over the years many have been eroded or destroyed.
The road has undergone several restoration efforts since being discovered in 1949, and the latest began in 2017.
Tourism is a crucial source of jobs and hard currency for Egypt, which has made a concerted effort to lure back the travelers kept away by the coronavirus pandemic.
In April, 22 ancient royal mummies from Luxor and the nearby Valley of the Kings were borne in procession Egyptian mummies paraded from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
Egypt’s tourism revenues plunged to about $4 billion in 2020, down from $13 billion in 2019.


Bryan Adams tests positive for COVID in Italy

Bryan Adams tests positive for COVID in Italy
Updated 25 November 2021

Bryan Adams tests positive for COVID in Italy

Bryan Adams tests positive for COVID in Italy
  • The Canadian rock ‘n roller disclosed the positive test in an Instagram post
  • “I’ve tested positive for the second time in a month for COVID,’’ Adams said in the post

MILAN: Bryan Adams tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival at Milan’s Malpensa Airport on Thursday, ahead of the unveiling of the 2022 Pirelli calendar that he photographed.
The Canadian rock ‘n roller disclosed the positive test in an Instagram post that included a photograph of him in a room after being tested and then sitting in an ambulance, being taken for a more reliable PCR test. He was seated normally, wearing a surgical mask.
“Here I am, just arrived in Milano, and I’ve tested positive for the second time in a month for COVID,’’ Adams said in the post. “So it’s off to the hospital for me.” He thanked fans for his support.
Adams, who also enjoys a career as a photographer, has shot the 2022 Pirelli calendar, after initially being engaged to shoot the 2021 version that was canceled due to the pandemic. Adams was expected to appear at in-person press events promoting the calendar Sunday and Monday, but that was now uncertain.
Normally the unveiling of the Pirelli calendar is a gala event attended by those who appear and other VIPS, but this year was already a scaled-back affair due to the ongoing pandemic, with a tight guest list for an evening cocktail.
Adams chose as his subjects for the calendar called “On the road,” other musical talents, including Iggy Pop, Cher, Jennifer Hudson, Saweetie and St. Vincent.