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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy 200th to the Star-Spangled Banner

DC's Smithsonian museums (there are 17 of them here in the city) are among America's most visited and treasured places. But the Smithsonian also publishes a series of some of the most interesting, fact-filled blogs appearing anywhere on the internet. Each Sunday, The Prices Do DC re-posts an entry either about the Smithsonian or that 1st appeared in 1 of the institution's blogs. Hope you enjoy and maybe we'll see you soon at the Smithsonian.



On a rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President's house. It was another chapter in the ongoing War of 1812.
A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key's tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13 as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.
"It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone," Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of "the dawn's early light" on September 14, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.
Key put his thoughts on paper while still on board the ship, setting his words to the tune of a popular English song. His brother-in-law, commander of a militia at Fort McHenry, read Key's work and had it distributed under the name "Defence of Fort M'Henry." The Baltimore Patriot newspaper soon printed it, and within weeks, Key's poem, now called "The Star-Spangled Banner," appeared in print across the country, immortalizing his words—and forever naming the flag it celebrated.
To continue reading this story, which 1st appeared in Smithsonian.Com, click here.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It
More on the Star Spangled Banner
Fragments of the Star-Spangled Banner may still be floating around. (from USA Today)
Is it time to ditch the Star-Spangled Banner? (from Politico)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hobby Lobby Leader Has Big Plans for Bible Museum

Each week in our Saturday Supplement we re-post an entry of interest to both residents of the Washington area and visitors to DC that first appeared in another publication's web site.


Steve Green is standing in the basement of the eight-story Bible museum he’s building in Washington. Plans for the $800 million project are coming together nicely: the ballroom modeled after Versailles, the Disney-quality holograms, the soaring digital entryway with religious images projected on the ceiling, the restaurant serving biblically-themed meals.
But one detail is bothering Green, and there’s nothing he can do about it. The building, he says, is not quite close enough to the National Mall. It’s just two blocks away, and from the roof it feels as though you can take a running leap onto the U.S. Capitol. Still, if it could just be a little closer. Green knows how much location matters.
“One thing I learned in our real estate office is, sometimes being a block down the street can mean a lot in terms of sales,” he says. “The Mall is where there are a lot of visitors. It’s not as visible to the Mall as we’d like, but it’s close.”
Green knows plenty about sales. He is president of Hobby Lobby, the multibillion-dollar craft store chain his father founded. But he’s just now learning the power of holding Washington’s attention. Earlier this year, Hobby Lobby became a household name for non-scrapbooking reasons when the company took on the White House in a controversial Supreme Court case over whether employers had to include no-cost coverage of contraception to employees. The Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor in June, and among religious conservatives, in particular, the Pentecostal Greens were hailed as heroes.
To continue reading this story, which 1st appeared in The Washington Post, click here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Osama bin Laden: From 2 Who Talked To Him

Welcome to this week's Friday Flashback. Each Friday in the Flashback we offer a post about some part of the past and its relationship to DC. Sometimes, we will write a new entry. Others times, we will showcase articles that previously appeared in The Prices Do DC or some other online publications. But no matter who does the writing, you can trust that you will learn something important from the Flashback. This post 1st appeared on Sept. 10, 2011.

Bin Laden and Bergen in 1997
His small tent in the secret, arid Arab wasteland was sparse. True, he wore a military jacket over his robes, had a loaded AK-47 propped at his side, and unleashed a scathing verbal diatribe decrying the infidels of the West, most especially the United States. But he spoke his words of hate in a monotone. Despite the impassioned nature of his rhetoric, he remained calm and collected.  There was much more cleric than killer commandant about him. In short, there was little evidence to believe in the late 1990s that Osama bin Laden and his handful of Al-Qaeda followers would ever be able to pull off a massive attack like 9-11, 2 veteran news correspondents who personally interviewed bin Laden told a standing-room only audience at The Newseum today.

In a wide-ranging, hour-long discussion, CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen and ABC News Correspondent John Miller, who were 2 of the only western correspondents to ever interview bin Laden, revealed details of those interviews and talked about their take on conditions in a post-bin Laden world.

"People who say bin-Laden's death means the end of terrorism are wrong," Miller, who interviewed bin-Laden in 1998 said. "But people who say his death is meaningless are also wrong."

Both correspondents said that America's focus on Al-Qaeda and recent killing of its spiritual leader have drastically weakened the organization's ability to mount significant attacks in the United States. "So much has changed since 9/11," Bergen said, noting that, for example, where the US then had about dozen agents sorting out terror signals that group numbers more than 2,000 today. "Or take the TSA. It may be a mixed blessing, but with the TSA, those box cutters wouldn't have gotten on board."

Both correspondents pointed out the difficulties in originally securing their interviews with bin Laden. First there was the substantial costs of such an operation.  Then, at the time, America and American news organizations were more concerned with the the O.J. Simpson trial or the President Clinton/ Monica Lewinsky  scandal than they were with an unknown bearded leader from a little-known part of the word.

And then there were the conditions imposed by the ultra-secret, always paranoid bin Laden and his followers.  There were countless questions of intent. And more questions of motive. Locations were set and locations were  moved. Guns were produced. And guns were fired. But Bergen said he believed there was never any real danger and the benefits to be gleaned from his 1997 interview far outweighed any risks."They (bin Laden and Al-Qaeda) wanted to get the story out and I didn't think they would do anything to jeopardize that," Bergen said. Miller concurred, but noted that not everyone was blase about the danger. "After the interview aired, I got a call from my mother. I thought she was going to say what a good job, but she said 'don't you ever go to Afghanistan and do something like that again.' "

Of course, one of the great questions for any leader of hate is how do you justify the taking of innocent lives in your struggle, no matter how right you believe your cause to be.  Miller said he asked bin Laden that question and the Al-Qaeda leader, ever the master of manipulation and rationalization, matter of factly answered: "We learned from you.  Did not the Americans kill women and children at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We are simply doing what you taught us."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Never Forget: Looking Back at 9/11 @The Newseum

A radio tower from the top of one of the Twin Towers
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, freelance news photographer Bill Biggart was out walking his dogs with his wife, Wendy. Off in the New York City distance, they saw smoke billowing skyward in the area of the Twin Towers.

Biggart ran home to grab his cameras and then head toward the smoke. A short time later, Wendy called her husband on his cell phone. "I'm with the firemen. I'm safe and I'll meet you in 20 minutes." he told her.

He never made that appointment.

Four days later, Wendy learned her husband's body had been found in the rubble near the 2nd collapsed tower. His cameras were recovered and his pictures developed. The 54-year-old photographer had dramatically captured his biggest, and final story, just blocks from his home.

Artifacts from Biggart, including his charred ID card
Biggart's tale and his equipment provide a personalized central focus for the 9-ll Gallery at the Newseum, which was one of the best places in DC yesterday to quietly pay tribute to the tragedy and heroism that will forever be linked to that fateful September day 13 years ago.

The 9-11 Gallery is designed to tell the story of how journalists covered all the shocking news on that catastrophic day when 3 hijacked planes changed American history.
But the gallery is not the only place in the Newseum to reflect on 9/11. In the collection of historic newspapers on the top floor, visitors can peruse 3 front pages from that time. The first from a special edition of the San Francisco Examiner features a flaming Twin Tower and the single giant headline screaming "Bastards." A second paper, Asharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Arab language paper, contains the banner "America Burning and Bush Pledges Revenge" in Arabic. The final paper, The New York Amsterdam News in an edition from a week after the destruction of the Twin Towers, heralds the story of 11 black firefighters who were still missing with the simple headline "Missing."

Finally, in the popular FBI exhibit G-Men and Journalists there is a large section which tells the story of the attack on New York and the Pentagon and Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida organization that carried it out.

The Newseum is well aware of how poignant and powerful their presentation can be. Located on a main gallery shelf between facsimilies of 9-11 front pages is a tin of tissues. And be forewarned: there is a good chance you may need to take advantage of that offer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

9/11 Commemorative Events in DC

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
As the nation remembers one of the worst attacks ever committed on American soil—the terrorist attacks on the World Trader Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001—the District, per usual, has a number of events planned to commemorate those who lost their lives.
This year, the D.C. region will honor the victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 with events around D.C. and Virginia including Moments of Silence, memorial walks, a rally on the National Mall, and more. Here's what's going on:
National Day of Service
As we remember the tragedy of 9/11, people are encourage to volunteer for community service as part of the National Day of Service, which is organized by United We Serve. Information about how to get involved can be found here.
9/11 Honor Ride & Rally
Bikers and truckers from across the region will ride through D.C. to the National Mall for a rally "to honor our armed forces who fought those who precipitated this attack." The rally will meet at the National Mall between between 12th and 14th Street NW at 2 p.m. More info here.
Pentagon Memorial Services
The Pentagon Memorial, which commemorates the 184 people who lost their lives on 9/11/2001, will be open per usual, but there will be a special memorial service for the families of the victims tomorrow morning. Information about the Pentagon Memorial can be found here.
9/11 Unity Walk
The 9th annual 9/11 Unity Walk, which " brings together people of all ages, backgrounds and faiths to learn to respect each other through a framework of experiential education, compassionate leadership and intentional service," will take start at 3935 Macomb Street NW at noon. Registration and details here.
Moment of Silence and Flags Across Arlington
There will be a moment of silence at the Arlington National Cemetery tomorrow at 9:37 a.m. to remember the victims of the attack on the Pentagon. Additionally, the county will hang American flags from overpasses and buildings for the annual "Flags Across Arlington" celebration.
9/11 Heroes Run
The 9/11 Heroes Run—organized by Travis Manion Foundation—will actually take place on Saturday, September 13, but will honor the victims of the September 11 attacks. The 5K run starts in Crystal City on 23rd Street, between S. Fern and S. Eads streets at 8:30 a.m. Registration and info here.

This post originally appeared in the DCist

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's Grant vs. Lee Redux @National Portrait Gallery



To showcase one of history's most memorable rivalries, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery tasked its senior historian David C. Ward with the challenge of featuring the Civil War's two most storied generals in its "One Life" gallery. 

The one-room salon is the site where the museum's scholars have previously exhibited the portraits, letters and personal artifacts of such cultural luminaries as Ronald Reagan, Katharine Hepburn, Abraham Lincoln and Sandra Day O'Connor.

Here, the rough and tumble Ulysses S. Grant from Ohio faces off with the southern patrician Robert E. Lee. The room itself seems too small for such large personalities. The photographs, drawings and paintings depicting the lives of these two men seem to pulse with a kind of tension that recalls the horrifying 19th-century era when the country was riven, yet united behind their respective generals—Grant in the North and Lee from the South.

To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in Smithsonian.Com, click here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gloves of Cassius Clay Displays Ali's Greatness

DC's Smithsonian museums (there are 17 of them here in the city) are among America's most visited and treasured places. But the Smithsonian also publishes a series of some of the most interesting, fact-filled blogs appearing anywhere on the internet. Each Sunday, The Prices Do DC re-posts an entry either about the Smithsonian or that 1st appeared in 1 of the institution's blogs. Hope you enjoy and maybe we'll see you soon at the Smithsonian.


Cassius Clay was a towering young braggart, but as much as he used his mouth, the real music was in his hands. In January of 1964 he hadn’t done much worth talking about yet in professional boxing; he was just a 22-year-old working out in a seedy sweatbox of a gym in Miami Beach, where you could watch him in action for 25 cents. He trained on a heavy punching bag, the hands turning his silly doggerel—“Don’t make me wait, I’ll whup him in eight!”—into epic poetry as he rapped out verses with his gloves: whap-whap-whump-whap-whap-whump-bam.
Clay was in training for his bout with Sonny Liston, the reigning world champion, who had underworld ties and a heavy, flooring punch. Veteran sportswriters said the pretty kid wouldn’t last more than a round, and the touts made him a seven-to-one underdog. Only later would he become Muhammad Ali, the rich rhyming savant, public militant and charismatic superstar.
To continue reading this story, which 1st appeared in The Smithsonian, click here

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Politics and Prose Turns 30

Each week in our Saturday Supplement we re-post an entry of interest to both residents of the Washington area and visitors to DC that first appeared in another publication's web site.


Politics and Prose, the Connecticut Avenue bastion where Washington’s literate dependably turn out for the world’s literati, turns 30 this month. For an independent retailer, the run is astonishing—and increasingly so for a business depending on the teetering book industry.
The trick to sticking around long enough to be beloved, of course, is to change constantly while extending the illusion of familiarity. P&P’s customers still come and go, browsing, arguing, listening, eating, drinking, and recommending, all the while joining in the evolution of Bradley Graham and his wife, Lissa Muscatine—who took the lead from founders Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade in 2011—from booksellers to literary impresarios.
“The key has been to strike a balance between preserving the store’s ethos and adjusting to new industry challenges,” says Muscatine.
To continue reading this story, which 1st appeared in The Washingtonian, click here.

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