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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nationís capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

JANEY CHOOSES NEIGHBORS: About 10 months after relocating from upstate New York to assume the helm at D.C. Public Schools, Superintendent Clifford B. Janey has purchased a home in the District. But the neighbors Janey chose -- along tony Embassy Row in Northwest Washington -- may say a lot about his desire (or lack thereof) to rub elbows with parents whose children attend the nearly 150 schools under his control and the people who work in them.

The embassies of Luxembourg, Turkmenistan, Togo, Sudan, Bahamas, Greece and Ireland are among Janey's nearest neighbors in the 2200 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW, where he paid $1.35 million for his home. Perhaps, not a bad deal for someone being paid $275,000 a year by taxpayers of a city in which the median income hovers between $40,000 and $50,000.

It's probably safe to assume that Janey, who has no children of his own enrolled in the city's public schools, won't find much help from his neighbors to relate to the typical experiences of today's DCPS students, parents and staff.

NEW PANDA WATCH: Yours truly admits to being a giant panda fan from way back, so my fingers and toes are crossed -- along with millions of others -- that Mei Xiang turns out to be the model mom of her species in nurturing her newborn cub to full maturity.

At presstime, the National Zoo's new panda, born at 3:41 a.m. July 9, appeared to be active, strong and vocal. Volunteers and zoo staff are watching Mei Xiang and her cub on video monitors 'round the clock, planning to continue taking a hands-off approach unless the cub begins showing signs of distress or Mei Xiang begins to ignore it.

The indoor area of the Giant Panda Habitat is expected to be closed for the next three months to avoid disturbing the bonding process between mother and cub. Daddy panda Tian Tian will still venture outdoors to the public viewing area during cooler parts of the day, zoo officials said.

Five previous panda cubs born at the National Zoo have failed to survive longer than a few days, but officials are hopeful that Mei Xiang's relative youth and good health will contribute to the new cub's ability to reach full maturity. Under the zoo's 10-year agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, which has loaned the two giant pandas, the new cub -- if it survives -- will be sent to China in about two years.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator