Liu Xiaobo Plaza coming to an embassy near you?

Back in 1984, in the midst of the Cold War, then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato led the move to rename the street in front of the Soviet Embassy on 16th Street NW after human rights activist Andrei Sakharov.

It served as a strong reminder to anyone entering or leaving the building of the plight of political prisoners in the Soviet Union.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Last fall, David Keyes, executive director of Advancing Human Rights, was having a fine sushi lunch in Manhattan with former world chess champ and activist Garry Kasparov, who runs the Human Rights Foundation. Keyes laid out a new effort: naming streets in front of repressive regimes’ embassies around the world after political prisoners.

Could be a long list, but first on it was China, where this week marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Last week, as we noted in a Loop exclusive, a bipartisan group of House members asked D.C. leaders to rename the street in front of the Middle Kingdom’s embassy on International Place NW for imprisoned Chinese dissident — and Nobel Peace Prize recipient — Liu Xiaobo.

A State Department official said the people at Foggy Bottom don’t comment on proposed legislation, but the Chinese naturally went ballistic over the Liu Xiaobo Plaza proposal, calling it “very provocative and ignorant behavior.” (The city is still mulling over the request.)

Iran is another priority, Keyes said, but one problem is that it hasn’t had an embassy here in 35 years. So Keyes said he is going to try to have every European capital and other countries around the world rename streets in front of Iranian embassies for imprisoned Iranian activist Majid Tavakoli.

The TV beachhead

President Obama, whose entourage may or may not total about 900 people — will attend the 70th-anniversary commemoration of D-Day this week. But there’s an outside chance you won’t be able to watch the ceremony live, unless you’ll also be on the beaches of Normandy.

Seems the French government gave two of its own broadcast networks exclusive coverage rights, and all other news outlets must get footage from them. Last week the two French broadcasters, France Télévisions and TF1, said they would charge the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Enex together more than a quarter of a million dollars to obtain the feed in real time.

On Monday the news agencies were still fighting for free access to show the event live. But despite making some headway, as of now, there is still a charge for live-broadcasting the international event outside of France. Arranging the satellite feed can cost several hundred dollars an hour, according to Reuters.

“The agencies welcome the announcement by the Elysee that the main ceremony will now be made available free of charge to all television broadcasters,” the AP told its video subscribers. “AP, Reuters, AFP and ENEX maintain that allowing the news agencies to distribute the material free of charge to all subscribers remains the best way of achieving global distribution of this important event.”

“Reuters is committed to providing coverage of events of global importance to our subscribers around the world and will continue to press the Élysée and its French broadcast partners for free and unrestricted access to the main international D-Day ceremony,” a Reuters spokesman concurred in an e-mail.

Leaders from around the world will convene for the remembrance. If you were hoping to catch a glimpse of an awkward face-to-face between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, you may have to settle for reading about it later.

But, more important, until this all gets straightened out, World War II veterans who fought in the Normandy invasion might have to wait to watch the event.

Smells like tween spirit

A new boy band has formed in This Town, but these aren’t your average tween heartthrobs.

The four miniature rockers skateboarding through Union Station and jamming out on stage in a professionally made music video are all 12-year-old sons of top Obama aides: Hugo Carney, son of outgoing press secretary Jay Carney; Ben Froman, son of U.S. Trade Rep. Mike Froman; Lucas Donovan, son of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan (soon to be director of the Office of Management and Budget); and Joey Doyle, son of Obama campaign adviser Patti Solis Doyle.

The band is called Twenty20, and its YouTube page promotes its first music video, released last week. “The first single is the catchy, power-pop Heart Thief, with a music video that captures an epic kid adventure around the nation’s capital — involving skipping school, getting loaded on Slurpees, and performing at D.C.’s Rock & Roll Hotel,” according to the page.

Slurpees? Now we know these are Obama-influenced kids. One might recall the “Slurpee Summit” in 2010 after the president accused congressional Republicans of standing on the sidelines sipping the frozen drink while the economy crumbled.

Also, do their powerful dads (and moms) know they skip school?

It seems Hugo Carney is following in his dad’s footsteps. The Post reported last year that Jay Carney “has fronted ‘terrible, terrible’ garage bands since his adolescence” and “has always been drawn to the idea of regular dudes making extraordinary rock-and-roll.”

Carney, who announced Friday afternoon that he will soon step down, later joked, “I manage my son’s band, which is on the verge of taking off.”

Claire Shipman of ABC-TV, Hugo’s mom and Jay’s wife, said Friday that members of the local indie band U.S. Royalty, who started as the boys’ music teachers, soon became the kids’ band mentors. They’ve helped the boys transition from cover songs to writing originals, showed them how to record music in a studio, and chaperoned them to band competitions.

The New York Daily News, which first reported on the band, notes that the kids all attend Sidwell Friends School with Sasha and Malia Obama. Wonder if they’re fans.

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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