Tales from the Trail

Is it a car, is it a tank? No, it’s the presidential limo

It’s one of the world’s most highly visible vehicles, but paradoxically also one of the most secret — the U.S. president’s armored Cadillac limousine.

USA/The Secret Service said on Wednesday a new presidential limousine would make its debut at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20. The car will likely take the new president from the U.S. Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House after the swearing-in ceremony.

“Although many of the vehicle’s security enhancements cannot be discussed, it is safe to say that this car’s security and coded communications systems make it the most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world,” Nicholas Trotta, assistant director for the Office of Protective Operations, said in a statement.

Not surprisingly, a Secret Service spokeswoman would not be drawn on whether the vehicle was resistant to  bomb or chemical attacks. But it would be a safe guess to say it is.

Cadillac, a division of General Motors Corp., issued its own statement on the new vehicle, saying it had taken steps to ensure no details of its design leaked out during its manufacture.

White House declares inauguration a D.C. emergency

WASHINGTON – It’s official. The inauguration is an emergency for the District of Columbia.

USA-OBAMA/

President George W. Bush declared the emergency Tuesday, a week before the Jan. 20 swearing-in of the 44th president, Barack Obama.

Millions of people are expected to swarm the streets of Washington on inauguration day. Streets will be closed, bridges open only to taxis and the like, and security will be tight.

Powell urges volunteering, says no role in Obama administration

USA/Colin Powell wants you to help out more.

The former Secretary of State and Joint Chiefs chairman urged Americans on Friday to help out their country by volunteering, and pointed to a Web site set up by Barack Obama’s inaugural committee where they can find opportunities in their communities.

Powell said ordinary Americans could help Obama dig the country out of its economic rut by helping out in nearby schools or nursing homes.

“I think there’s a fervor for the new administration coming in, and I think the new president can tap into this fervor through this program,” Powell said at a news conference.

Inauguaral clampdown on cars

2WASHINGTON – The million or more people expected in Washington for Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration might want to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a whole lot of walking.

Private vehicles will not be able to get anywhere near the action on Jan. 20, when Obama is sworn in as president, under a plan to help with crowd management detailed by the U.S. Secret Service on Wednesday. 

Cars will be banned on major bridges connecting Virginia to Washington.
Streets will be closed
across a broad section in the middle of the city.  Visitors’ best bets for getting around will be public transportation, bicycles or walking. 

Obama’s Kenyan grandmother to attend inauguration

There will be hundreds of thousands of revelers in Washington to celebrate Barack Obama‘s inauguration, but only one person whom the president-elect calls “Granny.”

KENYASarah Obama, 86, will fly from her native Kenya to attend the inaugural festivities, the Kenyan government announced on Tuesday.

Sarah Hussein Onyango Obama isn’t actually related to the next president by blood — she was the third wife of Barack Obama’s paternal grandfather. The two must speak through an interpreter as she knows only a few words of English.

Partying times 10 on Inauguration Night

USA-ELECTION/

Barack Obama will be the host with the most on Inauguration Night. After his expected swearing-in ceremony earlier in the day on January 20, he’ll host seven inaugural balls and attend three more for a grand total of 10.

Moving among the various official parties won’t necessarily require a motorcade, though: six of them are being held in the vast Walter E. Washington Convention Center. These include Obama’s home states ball, hosted by the president-elect for invited guests from Hawaii and Illinois; Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s home states ball for guests from Delaware and Pennsylvania; the Mid-Atlantic regional ball, the Midwest regional ball, the Western regional ball and the neighborhood ball, which is for Washington DC residents and other guests.

The bargain event of the night may be the youth ball, hosted by Obama for guests aged 18-35 at the Washington Hilton, with tickets available at $75. Most of the other balls cost $150.

Hotel will be Obamas’ first home in Washington

KAILUA, Hawaii – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and his family will trade their plush Chicago home for a Washington hotel this weekend when they formally move to the capital.USA-OBAMA/
 
The Obamas are still vacationing on the Hawaiian island of Oahu but are due to return to Chicago on Thursday in preparation for the relocation to Washington. Obama’s daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, are set to start classes at Sidwell Friends school on Monday.
 
“They will stay at a Washington hotel through the 15th and then they will move into the Blair House,” a transition aide said, referring to the guest residence across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.
 
The Obamas had asked to move into Blair House two weeks before the traditional date of Jan. 15 because of their daughters’ Jan. 5 start at their new school, but the White House said this was not possible because of previously scheduled events.
 
Obama will formally move into the White House on Jan. 20, the day he is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.
 
The transition aide said Obama would continue to work on his economic recovery plan to rescue the United States from deep recession in the days leading up to his inauguration.

Photo credit: Reuters/Hugh Gentry  U.S. President-elect Barack Obama with daughters Malia and Sasha in Hawaii, Dec. 30, 2008

Click here for more Reuters political coverage.

 

Not to be a kill-joy, but …

USA-OBAMA/A decision by the city council to extend the hours Washington bars and restaurants can serve alcohol for the week around Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 has stumbled into a wall of opposition from church leaders, police and top U.S. lawmakers.

In a letter to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gray, U.S. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin asked them to reconsider a decision to allow bars and restaurants to stay open all night and serve alcohol until 5 a.m. during the period Jan. 17-21.

Durbin, who served as co-chairman of President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign, said he shared the concerns of police and church groups worried that the extended drinking hours will invite alcohol-induced misbehavior and encourage drunk driving on clogged D.C. streets.

D.C. drinking hours expanded during Obama inauguration

(UPDATED to include legislation passage)

WASHINGTON – Unable to snag a hotel room for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration? Fear not, bars will be open late so you might not need one.

The U.S. capital has a bit of a reputation for being an “early to bed” city full of government bureaucrats, but for a few days surrounding Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration they could carouse a little bit later if they wanted to do so.

D.C. City Council member Jim Graham offered legislation that would enable restaurants, bars and other places that serve alcohol to do so until 5 a.m. between Jan. 17 and Jan. 21. That’s three hours longer than current rules allow for weekdays and two hours for weekends.