Look Inside the U.S. Capitol Dome Reveals a Desperately Needed Repair Job
Just as the last remnants of scaffolding covering the Washington Monument are coming down, workers are preparing to obscure another of the gems on the National Monument -- the Dome atop the U.S. Capitol building.
Just as the last remnants of scaffolding covering the Washington Monument are coming down, workers are preparing to obscure another of the gems on the National Monument — the Dome atop the U.S. Capitol building.
The Capitol was last renovated in 1960 and is badly in need of new repairs, as weather and water damage have broken several of the ornaments along the exterior of the dome and stained many of the fixtures within the rotunda.
The restoration process, which will soon get underway, is expected to last two years — covering the exterior of the dome in scaffolding that will be lit at night and temporarily closing parts of the inner rotunda.
There are 394 steps from the ground floor of the Capitol Building to the top of the Dome. Pictured: An interior view of the Capitol Dome. At right is the sandstone wall of the original Dome, designed by Charles Bulfinch and completed in 1824.
In 1855, Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter began work on the modern Dome, a 14.1 million pound cast-iron marvel that reaches 288 feet into the air. But after decades of wear-and-tear, the Dome is in serious need of renovations which are set to take at least two years.
The Dome, which was completed in 1865, leaks. Here, above, is one of dozens of drainage mechanisms set up throughout the interior of the Dome to prevent leakage into the Capitol Rotunda.
Some of the water damage is visible on these columns in the upper levels of the rotunda.
To repair the internal damage, workers will put up a "donut" canopy of netting to prevent anything from falling onto the rotunda floor during construction, while allowing visitors to see the Apotheosis of Washington fresco at the peak of the Dome.
During the early and final weeks of the restoration, workers will also construct a temporary walkway for visitors, members of Congress and staff to navigate through the rotunda. During that time, none of the statues or paintings in the area will be accessible.
The "donut," pictured, was originally constructed for an earlier renovation project in 1999, when workers removed approximately 180,000 pounds of lead-based paint from the space between the inner and outer Domes.
The mechanism from which the "donut" will hang is already in place at the top of the Dome, just below the Apotheosis of Washington. The canopy will be stable enough for workers to walk on, in order to retrieve fallen items as they work.
Several windows in the upper reaches of the Dome are cracked. They are all, however, original to the building so rather than replacing them, workers will melt and add epoxy to fill in the cracks, much as a mechanic would repair a broken car windshield.
The Architect of the Capitol's Head of Architecture, Kevin Hildebrand, demonstrates that one of the hatches — the rust-colored octagons visible from the interior of the rotunda — still opens. When the Dome was first constructed, workers would climb through the hatch to replace the light bulbs lining the interior of the rotunda. The handrail for those replacing the bulbs and outlets for those lights are still barely visible from the rotunda.
Some of the "hatches" as visible from the interior of the rotunda. Notice the paint peeling on one of the octagonal pieces on the bottom left.
Hildebrand points to a rusting bracket on the inside of the exterior wall of the Dome that has come almost completely free from the frame because of the sheer weight of the structure (remember, that's 14.1 million pounds of cast iron!). Visible are three nearly-square temporary support brackets that workers have installed to help bear the weight. Areas like this one will be prime targets for workers during the renovation.
Even the Apotheosis of Washington at the peak of the rotunda sports a crack or two.
The top of the rotunda as viewed from inside the dome. The netting above it is actually chain link fencing, designed to protect the Apotheosis of Washington below it from any falling debris. It was installed in 1960, during the last renovation effort.
Another view of the interior of the Dome. No, that isn't the Death Star.
The stairway leading up to the very peak of the Dome, where the lights signaling whether Congress is in session hang. Hildebrand says that AOC employees often jokingly compare the sign to a warning in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her friends enter the Haunted Forest: "I'd turn back if I was you!"
Hildebrand, however, admits that he has gone up the stairs a couple of times.
The "Convene Light" at the top of the Capitol is actually four lights, which are illuminated by the Architect of the Capitol's office when either chamber of Congress is in session. The location of the light switch — which is not at the top of the Dome itself — is something of a state secret and Hildebrand would not reveal its location.
Damage to the "Tholos" — the very upper reaches of the external dome upon which the Statute of Freedom sits.
When standing at the top of the Capitol Dome, Pierre L'Enfant's vision for the city becomes clear. Here, a view of the Capitol Visitor's Center going down East Capitol Street to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.
A view of the Washington Monument from the top of the Capitol Dome.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
By replacing Mike Flynn with H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump added one of the most talented officers the U.S. Army has ever produced to his team.
Let me be as clear as I can be: The president’s selection of H.R. McMaster to be his new national security advisor is unambiguously good news. The United States, and the world, are safer for his decision.
McMaster is one of the most talented officers the U.S. Army has ever produced. That sounds like hyperbole but isn’t. In the Gulf War, he led an armored cavalry troop. At the Battle of 73 Easting—a battle much studied since—his 12 tanks destroyed 28 Iraqi tanks, 16 armored personnel carriers, and 30 trucks. In 23 minutes.
In the next Iraq war, he led a brigade in 2005 and was among the first U.S. commanders to think differently about the conflict and employ counterinsurgency tactics to pacify Tal Afar—one of the most wickedly complex cities in Iraq. He excelled at two different echelons of command in two very different wars.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like” Trump’s approach to national security, says a former counterterrorism adviser to three presidents.
Updated on February 20 at 4:40 p.m. ET
President Donald Trump has made national security a centerpiece of his agenda, justifying policies ranging from a travel ban to close relations with Russia. But the United States is now more vulnerable to attack than it was before Trump took office, according to the man who served as George W. Bush’s crisis manager on 9/11.
“In terms of a major terrorist attack in the United States or on U.S. facilities, I think we’re significantly less ready than we were on January 19,” said Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council in the George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations. “I think our readiness is extremely low and dangerously low. Certainly [government] agencies at a professional level will respond [to an attack], but having a coordinated interagency response is unlikely given the current cast of characters [in the administration] and their experience.”
Joe Moran’s book Shrinking Violets is a sweeping history that doubles as a (quiet) defense of timidity.
The Heimlich maneuver, in the nearly 50 years since Dr. Henry Heimlich established its protocol, has been credited with saving many lives. But not, perhaps, as many as it might have. The maneuver, otherwise so wonderfully simple to execute, has a marked flaw: It requires that choking victims, before anything can be done to help them, first alert other people to the fact that they are choking. And some people, it turns out, are extremely reluctant to do so. “Sometimes,” Dr. Heimlich noted, bemoaning how easily human nature can become a threat to human life, “a victim of choking becomes embarrassed by his predicament and succeeds in getting up and leaving the area unnoticed.” If no one happens upon him, “he will die or suffer permanent brain damage within seconds.”
The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.
It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.
Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.
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Experts on Turkish politics say the use of that term misunderstands what it means in Turkey—and the ways that such allegations can be used to enable political repression.
Over the last week, the idea of a “deep state” in the United States has become a hot concept in American politics. The idea is not new, but a combination of leaks about President Trump and speculation that bureaucrats might try to slow-walk or undermine his agenda have given it fresh currency. A story in Friday’s New York Times, for example, reports, “As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a ‘Deep State’ in America.”
It’s an idea that I touched on in discussing the leaks. While there are various examples of activity that has been labeled as originating from a “deep state,” from Latin America to Egypt, the most prominent example is Turkey, where state institutions contain a core of diehard adherents to the secular nationalism of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which is increasingly being eroded by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has seen a series of coups, stretching back to 1960, as well as other activity attributed to a deep state.
When my wife was struck by mysterious, debilitating symptoms, our trip to the ER revealed the sexism inherent in emergency treatment.
Early on a Wednesday morning, I heard an anguished cry—then silence.
I rushed into the bedroom and watched my wife, Rachel, stumble from the bathroom, doubled over, hugging herself in pain.
“Something’s wrong,” she gasped.
This scared me. Rachel’s not the type to sound the alarm over every pinch or twinge. She cut her finger badly once, when we lived in Iowa City, and joked all the way to Mercy Hospital as the rag wrapped around the wound reddened with her blood. Once, hobbled by a training injury in the days before a marathon, she limped across the finish line anyway.
So when I saw Rachel collapse on our bed, her hands grasping and ungrasping like an infant’s, I called the ambulance. I gave the dispatcher our address, then helped my wife to the bathroom to vomit.
Humans have been living and working with horses for more than 5,000 years, since the first domesticated equines had their teeth worn down by primitive bridles in northern Kazakhstan. Hands could not have built modern civilization without the help of hooves—to haul ploughs, pull carriages, march soldiers into battle, and carry messages of love and war across hundreds of otherwise-insurmountable miles.
An unlikely pairing of wily predator and one-ton prey, humans and horses have managed to successfully communicate across the species barrier because we share a language: emotion. Experienced riders and trainers can learn to read the subtle moods of individual horses according to wisdom passed down from one horseman to the next, but also from years of trial-and-error. I suffered many bruised toes and nipped fingers before I could detect a curious swivel of the ears, irritated flick of the tail, or concerned crinkle above a long-lashed eye.
Who is its reported author, Andrii Artemenko, and what does he want?
On Sunday, The New York Timesreported that two associates of President Donald Trump, including Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, presented a sealed envelope to then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn containing a secret peace plan to resolve the three-year conflict in Ukraine. The plan, according to the report, would have Russian forces pull out of eastern Ukraine, and have Ukraineconduct a referendum on whether Crimea would be leased to Russia for 50 or 100 years. It also outlined a way to lift sanctions on Russia.
The reported plan raised hackles in Kiev, and not just because it would, in one form or another, recognize Crimea as part of Russia. “It’s nonsense,” Ukrainian parliament (Rada) member and former investigative journalist Mustafa Nayyem told me on Monday. “I don’t think anyone here in Ukraine would accept such a plan. It’s the banal bargaining over territory, and the time for that has passed.”
Lip service to the crucial function of the Fourth Estate is not enough to sustain it.
It’s not that Mark Zuckerberg set out to dismantle the news business when he founded Facebook 13 years ago. Yet news organizations are perhaps the biggest casualty of the world Zuckerberg built.
There’s reason to believe things are going to get worse.
A sprawling new manifesto by Zuckerberg, published to Facebook on Thursday, should set off new alarm bells for journalists, and heighten news organizations’ sense of urgency about how they—and their industry—can survive in a Facebook-dominated world.
Facebook’s existing threat to journalism is well established. It is, at its core, about the flow of the advertising dollars that news organizations once counted on. In this way, Facebook’s role is a continuation of what began in 1995, when Craigslist was founded. Its founder, Craig Newmark, didn’t actively aim to decimate newspapers, but Craigslist still eviscerated a crucial revenue stream for print when people stopped buying newspaper classifieds ads.