Washington, DC, the Capital City of the United States

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This is a 4:03 excerpt from AMERICAN MOSAIC, March 19, 2009.

Our listener question this week comes from Brazil. Reginaldo Anunciacao wants to know about Washington, D.C., the capital city of the United States.

Washington is not a large city. It is only about 155 square kilometers. New York City is close to 800 square kilometers. And, the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro is more than 1,000.

Population estimates from 2007 show more than 588,000 people living within D.C. borders.The city's population grew between two thousand and two thousand seven, but not as fast as the country as a whole. The number of Washingtonians grew about three percent during that period while the United States population increased more than seven percent.

The racial population in D.C. is about 55% black and 39% white. Just over 17% of Washingtonians live below what is considered the poverty level in the United States. For a family of two, the poverty line begins at yearly earnings of 14,000 dollars or less.

On Monday, Washington, D.C., health officials reported shocking information about H.I.V. infection in the city. They said that at least three percent of residents are living with AIDS or the virus that causes the disease. That percentage puts the H.I.V. situation in Washington at an epidemic level. In fact, D.C. health officials say infection rates in the nation's capital are higher than in West Africa.

Washington, D.C., is like no other place in the United States. It is not a state or part of a state. The D.C. stands for District of Columbia, a federal district.

Residents must pay federal taxes like other citizens.But they have no say in how that money is spent. This is because people who live in Washington, D.C., have no voting representation in the United States Congress. The city has a delegate to the House of Representatives who is not permitted to vote. If you have ever visited, you might have noticed the popular license plates on many D.C. cars. They say "Taxation Without Representation."

In fact, it was not until nineteen sixty-four that D.C. residents were even permitted to vote in presidential elections.

Many Washingtonians and the city government are fighting for D.C. statehood. Some are working toward voting rights in Congress. Still others say the answer is to end federal taxes for Washingtonians.

Late last month, the United States Senate passed a bill to give D.C. a voting member in the House of Representatives. A House committee is now working on the legislation. It is not known when it might come to a vote in the full House.

This program, including the parts that were edited out, was written by Lawan Davis, Kim Varzi and Caty Weaver who was also the producer.