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Friday, October 24, 2014

New Documentary Shows Snowden, Scary US Security

Laura Poitras explains her film as Dana Priest listens
In early January, 2013 filmmaker Laura Poitras received an email from someone who identified himself as Citizenfour. The emailer promised to prove that America was using electronic and phone communications intercepts to engage in a level of spying that was almost unimaginable and had long been denied by government agencies.

Over the next 5 months, as she engaged in carefully encrypted conversations with Citizenfour, Poitras, who was already working on a documentary on government spying, exercised extreme caution.

"He didn't seem like a crazy person," she says. "But I did worry about entrapment."

Poitras had reason to worry. She had been detained several times by authorities upon entering the country and questioned about her 2 previous documentaries My Country, My Country and The Oath, both of which examined American post-9/11 foreign policy.

Finally, Citizenfour agreed to meet in Hong Kong with Poitras and fellow journalist Glen Greenwald. It was there, in a Hong Kong hotel room, that Edward Snowden, a private security contractor for the National Security Administration, began revealing shocking disclosures about the reach and extent of NSA's surveillance of private communications.

While Snowden talked and Greenwald scribbled, Poitras kept her camera pointed and created the engaging, engrossing documentary Citizenfour. 
Snowden explaining to reporter Greenwald

One day before the film went into general release, Poitras appeared at a special premier showing at the Landmark Theater here to discuss her latest work.

Poitras said one of her original goals in filming Snowden was "to find out who this person is who had taken things to the point of no return".

"He was calm and articulate. He had made this choice (to come forward), but there really was a palpable sense of fear," Poitras told the theater-filling crowd.

Poitras said as a filmmaker-journalist she realized that while she would be filming in a cinema verite style, she would also need to create something compelling enough "to be watched in 5 years, in 10 years."

"There are probably a lot of (government) people who aren't happy with this film," she said. But asked by an audience remember if the NSA spying made America a low-level police state, Poitras said she didn't believe it was. "I'm able to do the work that I do, so that indicates that we are not. But the dangers are always there," she explained.

Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, who has written extensively on security issues, served as moderator and asked Poitras if Citizenfour will complete her work on post-911 reporting.

"I wish we could all move into something else," Poitras said. "I was hoping the moral drift would move back to what we are supposed to stand for."

And then, of course, there was the big question - was Snowden, who remains in exile in Russia with his girlfriend, a heroic whistleblower or a dangerous traitor to his country?

"He felt that what the government was doing was something the public should have a right to discuss," Poitras said. "I wanted to show his reasoning, his motivations, and his decision. It is up to people to decide."

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

There's More to the Story

  • An in-depth interview with Laura Poitras. (from The Washington Post)
  • A review of CitizenFour. (from The Washington Post)
  • Why Edward Snowden should agree to stand trial in the US (from The Washington Post)
  • Edward Snowden and the golden age of spying. (from Moyers and Company)
  • View the trailer for Citizenfour

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Does Washington's Football Team Need a New Name?

With a 2-5 record, Washington's National Football League team is obviously experiencing difficulties on the field. But there is an equally ominous situation off the field as well.

The problem is the continuing controversy over the team's nickname. Many Native Americans, national and local politicians, and a growing number of sports writers and broadcasters contend the name Redskins is racist and demeaning and must be changed.

Stalwart fans argue that the name is both a tribute to Indian warriors and historical and therefore should remain. Team owner Daniel Snyder agrees with those fans and has vowed never to change the name.

In a recent Newseum Now program, George Solomon, former assistant managing editor for the Washington Post and the current director of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland, and Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, a nonprofit organization representing American Indian and Alaska tribal governments and communities, talked about the ongoing controversy.

The event came just days after a petition was filed with the Federal Communications Commission, asking that agency to ban the use of the team nickname on radio and TV as indecent and unfit for the nation's public airwaves.

"This is really about basic respect. It (the team nickname) is a racial slur," Pata said. "It is a reminder of a dark piece of (American) history and that is why it is harmful. The word doesn't have a great history with American Indians. It's a term that reminds that there was a bounty and a bidding war on those 'redskins.' It is part of the genocide of the Native Americans."

While there have been legal battles over the name for decades, the issue has come to the forefront in the past few years.

Columnists like Mike Wise of The Washington Post, Dave Zirin of The National Observer, and Christine Brennan of USA Today have all decided not to use the name Redksins when they write about the Washington football team.

Solomon said news organizations "constantly look at changes in society" in deciding proper writing style.

"You can go to the 5th floor (of the Newseum) and see all the history of newspapers. What you see from the mid 1800s is much different than you see today," he added. " I think it is the responsibility of newspapers to look at all aspects of society. That's what news organizations ought to do."

Solomon noted that the editorial board of The Washington Post had decided not to use the controversial nickname, but paper sportswriters are free to decided to use or not use it. "It's like a newspaper separation of church and state," he added.

A recent Sports Illustrated Poll indicated that 75 percent of its responding readers weren't upset with the use of the name.

But Pata said those results shouldn't matter.

"Would we still be dealing with slavery because the polls at the time would have supported it?" she asked. "Does that make it right? If you know what it (the term) really means and that it is harmful, especially to Native American youth, should you use it?"

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

There's Always More to the Story
  • Native Americans planning the largest-ever Redskins name protest at Washington Vikings game next month. (from The Washington Post)
  • Will the Minnesota Vikings violate their contract with the University of Minnesota if the name Redskins is used at the game? (from The Washington Post)
  • Actor and Washington football fan Matthew McConaughey wishes Redskins logo wouldn't change. (from The Huffington Post)
  • Watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tackle the Washington controversy. (from The Daily Show)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Getting the Most from The Prices Do DC

Here we are - The Prices Doing DC
Most things change. And that is certainly true of the blog you are now reading.

When we started The Prices Do DC in June of 2011, my wife Judy and I had just retired and moved to Crystal City from South Jersey. We planned the blog as a way to record all we were doing in DC and sharing those things we others. Of course, that is still true. But over the past 3-and-a-half years, the blog has morphed into much more. Here are 6 of the biggest changes we have made.

1) Our DC writing now consists of 4 blogs.
In addition to The Prices Do DC, we now offer 3 companion blogs. They are:

  • Counter Culture in the Capitol (a look at food and great dining spots in DC, with an emphasis on eateries that won't break your budget)
  • DC Book Looks (all things bookish about Washington, its bookstores, and the writers who visit them)
  • DC Screen Scene (what's up with TV shows and movies featuring Washington DC)
2) We now have a Facebook and a Twitter presence.
You can find links to all The Prices Do DC entires, as well as site specific posts and tweets at our social media outreaches.
3) The Prices Do DC now includes a Twitter feed that is updated at least a half dozen times a day.
This is one of 2 reasons where you will always find new content even if you visit the page more than once a day.

4) The Prices Do DC now includes a news-summary powered by Google.
This news summary (located at the top right of the page just above the Twitter feed) is the 2nd reason why there is always new content on the page.

5) We have daily doings links.
You can plan where to go, what to see, and where to eat by using our pages. You can make travel plans if you are living in DC, or in a neighboring state, or coming from another part of the country or the world. You can even tell how to dress by checking our weather widget or which are the best apps to add to your phone for a better DC experience.

6) You can get all the DC news you ever need right from our page.
We have links to the major papers and websites covering the Washington area. We also have links to 7 of the best blogs about DC.

Of course, there is much more to The Prices Do DC. But the above lists the highlights of what we are offering. We encourage you to bookmark our pages and check back frequently. We also urge you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Currently, we are averaging 1,500 hits a week, but we would love to see that number skyrocket.

We have a lot of fun putting The Prices Do DC together and we hope you have as much enjoyment in reading it.

And to close here's just a sample of the people we've encountered in DC. Some of them are even readers.

And here is my favorite - The Comedy King of Jello himself.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Boomer List @The Newseum

Welcome to this week's Monday Must-See, Must-Do post. On Mondays, we offer an entry about some current exhibit, event, or dining experience in DC you should take in. Sometimes, we will write the post. Sometimes, it will be taken from another publication. But no matter who is the writer, we believe Monday Must-See, Must-Do will showcase something you shouldn't miss. 

Few generations have been as discussed and analyzed as the Baby Boomers, defined as anyone born between the years 1946 and 1964.  Now you can learn more about  the lives, contributions, and times of the Boomers by viewing The Boomer List exhibition now on display at the Newseum.

For the exhibition, which will be on display until July 5, photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders chose, photographed, and interviewed 1 person born in each of the 19 years of the baby boom.  

In addition to the 19 portraits, a timeline of historic events that defined the baby boom generation will be displayed including newsmagazines from the Newseum collection plus a copy of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s parental advice book, “Baby and Child Care,” an original 1959 Barbie doll, a 1964 G.I. Joe action figure, a transistor radio and a U.S. Army draft card from 1965.
The artifacts illustrate the news events and pop culture moments that defined the baby boom generation, from its start in 1946 until 1982, when the last boomers turned 18. Visitors are invited to add their baby boom memories to the timeline on post-it notes.
In addition, an interactive kiosk will allow visitors to explore exclusive behind-the-scenes images of Greenfield-Sanders’s photo shoots.
The Boomer list also features a scent station with memorable aromas familiar to the baby boom generation. A first for the Newseum, the station will include whiffs of baby powder, to represent the 76 million-plus babies born between 1946 and 1964; fresh-cut grass, a reminder of the boomers’ move to the suburbs; and incense, evoking the musky smell of rebellion, flower power and love-ins.
Here is a sample of what you will see if you visit:

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

There's Always More to the Story

If you are nostalgic for the apex of the Boomer period (the 1950s and 1960s) here is a sample of items you can purchase in the Newseum's gift shop:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Phantoms of the Museum

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.

As Halloween approaches, I am reminded of a May 13, 1900, article (see the scan at the bottom of this post) on the National Museum in the Washington Post that reported on “Shades of Scientists Who Walk There Nightly,” (shades was an old term for ghosts). 

The U.S. National Museum was then housed in what is now known as the Arts and Industries Building.  The guards and staff who worked late reported that the deceased but devoted scientists of earlier eras continued to walk the halls of the Museum at night, guarding over their collections.  Foremost among these was Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887), the first Smithsonian curator and second Secretary of the Smithsonian.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The 25 Steps to Becoming a Real Washingtonian

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.

Did you move to DC from somewhere else? SHOCKING! 

In a city so full of transplants, what does it mean to be a local? Well, it means you've completed these 25 steps...

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

DC Wasn't Ready for Bob Marley in 1973

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. 

Today, it's common to see people wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Bob Marley's instantly recognizable likeness, and the reggae classics that he recorded with the Wailers are so iconic that they're used in TV commercials.

But back on the afternoon of October 14, 1973, when the then-28-year-old singer with the dreadlocks and whispy beard and his band stepped out onto the stage at the U.S. Naval Academy's Halsey Field House, things were quite different. It's a safe bet that hardly anyone in the audience even knew who Marley and the Wailers were, or had heard their LP Catch A Fire, which Rolling Stone critic Rob Haughton had lauded as filled with "lilting tunes of hypnotic character headed by super-progressive lead guitar work, Motown variations, and cowboy nuances, all backed by the tricky Jamaican beat that serves to keep the decibel level in a moderate range.".

To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in WETA's Boundary Stone, click here.

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