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The District will elect a new mayor in 13 days. Here's where the race stands. By Benjamin Freed, Harry Jaffe
Photograph of Bowser by Flickr user crystalndavis. Photograph of Catania by Benjamin Freed.

With upside-down-flag-stamped ballot guides in mailboxes, early voting underway, and less than two weeks until Election Day, DC's mayoral candidates are making their final pitches to the city. The most recent poll, issued Monday by the business group Economic Growth DC, put Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser 12 percentage points ahead of her closest rival, independent David Catania. Bowser, since winning her party's April 1 primary, has tried to run as closely to a sure thing as possible, a relatively safe bet in a city where Democrats account for 76 percent of all registered voters. But Catania, a five-term Council member who's run both the city's health and education committees, has put together one of the stronger non-Democratic mayoral bids in DC's 40-year history of home rule. With only seven percent of voters still undecided in Monday's poll, the mayoral election could be decided already. Then again, there's a chance it could get exciting at the finish.

It’s Over Because:

1. The District’s predominant Democrats—with a push by President Obama—finally realized they had to hold their noses and line up behind Bowser, who goes into the final days with a double-digit lead in the polls.

2. Though Bowser continues to underwhelm in her ability to grasp complex issues and offer specific solutions, she didn’t come off as ignorant or bone-headed in any of the public debates.

3. Catania failed to get beyond proving his copious accomplishments and hammering Bowser for her lack of bandwidth and ties to greedy cronies. To punch past his 27 percent in the polls, he had to make a jump based on his passion and likeability. That never happened, no matter how many warm and fuzzy ads he cut.

4. Bowser collected much more dough. Last summer she had $720,323 in her campaign's coffer, compared to Catania’s $350,707. As of the campaigns' October 10 finance reports, Bowser had stored away more than $1 million; Catania had $562,063 on hand. Expect a tidal wave of media for Bowser and plenty of poll workers wearing green on November 4.

5. No one would call Bowser or Catania warm and fuzzy. Both can be brusque, dismissive and short-tempered. But Bowser can flash a broad smile and exude enough charm to make her the more inviting candidate. Catania could never pull off nice.

It’s not over because:

1. Bowser’s primary win was hardly a coronation, and her vote is soft. The District’s voter pool might be forbiddingly Democratic for a former Republican, but the majority party might not be that enthusiastic. Only 27 percent of Democrats showed up for the April 1 primary in which Bowser won with 40 percent of the vote. If independents and Republicans vote in droves in the general election, and Democrats stay on auto-pilot, it could push Catania over the line. Bottom line: low turnout is good for Catania.

2. A white, former Republican is unlikely to make much of a dent east of the Anacostia River in wards 7 and 8, or in Bowser’s home turf of Ward 4. So Catania’s supporters are trying to boost his profile in two wards: The District’s whitest and wealthiest pocket west of Rock Creek Park in Ward 3; and Ward 6, home to many newer residents who would be vulnerable to Catania’s promises of improved public schools and clean, competent government. (Think the Tommy Wells voters who might not heed his Bowser endorsement.)

3. There are still 13 days until the election. Both Bowser and Catania have been very careful—almost completely passionless—in their campaigns, but it’s not too late for Bowser to blow her stack or show herself to be the empty suit Catania has attempted to portray.

4. Even with nearly a year’s worth of Bowser hagiography from the Washington Post’s editorial board and Metro section, Posties and the rest of us hacks on the local beat need something to write about. A plausible independent mayoral bid by a long-tenured DC Council member is a heck of a lot more interesting than any DC Council hearing. Hell, even Faith, the nine-time, 90-year-old candidate running on the Statehood Green ticket, got a bit of ink spilled over her.

5. Carol Schwartz could win. So could Faith.

Find Benjamin Freed and Harry Jaffe on Twitter at @brfreed and @harryjaffe.

Posted at 01:06 PM/ET, 10/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The doctor discusses the hospital’s safety protocols and capability for treating more Ebola patients. By Hallie Golden

Anthony S. Fauci. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

Five days after Dallas nurse Nina Pham was flown more than 1,000 miles to be treated for Ebola at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Special Clinical Studies Unit in Bethesda, a NIH press release reports that her “clinical status has been upgraded from fair to good.” NIH is one of four American hospitals with high-tech bio­containment facilities, with state-of-the-art isolation capabilities and infection-control algorithms.

In other words, Pham is in good hands. But even for Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and an NIH staffer for more than 20 years, this is still very new territory. We spoke with Fauci about how the hospital is handling this case of Ebola and its capabilities should more cases arise.

Which building is the Clinical Studies Unit located in and how many beds does it have?

It’s in the NIH Clinical Research Center, otherwise referred to as building 10. It has seven beds, but when you have people in isolation, such as the Ebola patient, that requires all of the protocols, then we only have a two-bed capability. But we have seven beds to do other things that require less isolation.

Is there a possibility of expanding that if you start to need more?

Not for the foreseeable future because we just don’t have the room or the space. With one patient in there now, my patient, Nina Pham, we have one open bed. So right now we can take a patient. If, as I hope, Nina Pham recovers and leaves, then we’ll have two beds.

Has the protocol for treating an Ebola patient changed at all in NIH’s Special Clinical Studies Unit because of the Texas hospital?

No, we have always had the very stringent protocol that we have right now, which much more resembles the new CDC protocols—namely, no bare skin exposed, precise training, drilling, and continuing to train and retrain, having trained monitors watch you put your clothing on and as you take off your garments.

What previous Ebola experience does the Special Clinical Studies staff have?

We have experience with someone brought in from West Africa a few weeks ago, a medical doctor who had a risk exposure that we observed for a period of time until we proved that he was in fact not infected.

So none of your staff have direct experience treating Ebola?

Well, first of all, very few people have Ebola experience in the United States. Most of [our staff] are highly trained, skilled in intensive-care and infectious-disease medicine. One of our staff members, a physician on the staff in our Special Studies Unit, has actually spent time in West Africa, treating Ebola patients.

Is your unit working with the Washington Hospital Center? Would they be the ones to send Ebola patients to you?

We are the referral of people that have Ebola. There are hospitals in the Washington area [that are designated for] people who fly in to Dulles, who might have to be isolated until they determine whether they do or do not have Ebola. That is not us. That is Virginia hospitals, either Inova Fairfax or Reston. They’re both being discussed for that.

NIH will only receive them if they are diagnosed with Ebola?

That’s right. We do not take rule-outs, because we want to use our capabilities for people who have documented Ebola, not people who are suspected of Ebola. The reason we did it for that other person, is that we didn’t have anybody in the beds and we were able to do it, because there were no Ebola patients at the time.

What other diseases can this unit treat?

Any disease that requires isolation or acute care, in which you need a special facility to protect the people in the community as well as the workers. It could be any disease—Ebola, plague, outbreaks of different types of other communicable diseases.

What’s the key to meeting that challenge?

We train, we train, we train.

Are your staff free to come and go as much as they please?

We have the standard CDC protocol. They self-monitor their temperature—like I’m doing right now—twice a day.

Is it possible to send Nina Pham get-well cards?

You could send her a get-well card. Send it care of the NIH Clinical Center.

Posted at 11:15 AM/ET, 10/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Bradlee, who led the Post through the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, died at his home Tuesday. By Benjamin Freed
Bradlee in 2010. Photograph by Flickr user Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake-McLaughlin.

Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post editor who led the newspaper from 1968 to 1991 and guided it through the Watergate scandal, died Tuesday at his Georgetown home, the newspaper announced. He was 93.

The scion of two elite Massachusetts families, Bradlee came to the Post as a reporter in the 1950s and in 1968 was named its executive editor, a position that made him one of Washington's most visible citizens. Celebrated for overseeing the Post's publication of the Pentagon Papers and the investigation that led to the downfall Nixon administration, Bradlee's personal life was also the subject of widespread public interest, especially following his third marriage, to former Post writer and socialite Sally Quinn.

"The story of the modern Washington Post starts the day Kay Graham made Ben Bradlee the editor of the paper," the Post's former publisher and owner, Donald Graham, said in a statement released by the paper.

Under Bradlee, the Post collected 17 Pulitzer Prizes and saw its circulation double. Bradlee was also responsible for the creation of the Post's Style section.

Even people well beyond Washington had a strong impression of Bradlee from Jason Robards's portrayal of the gruff newspaperman in the 1976 adaptation of Bob Woodward's and Carl Bernstein's All the President's Men.

“Ben was a true friend and genius leader in journalism," Woodward and Bernstein said in a joint statement. "He forever altered our business. His one unbending principle was the quest for the truth and the necessity of that pursuit. He had the courage of an army. Ben had an intuitive understanding of the history of our profession, its formative impact on him and all of us. But he was utterly liberated from that. He was an original who charted his own course. We loved him deeply, and he will never be forgotten or replaced in our lives.”

Bradlee was a fixture in Washingtonian's pages during and after his Post heyday, appearing as the subject of many features over the years. Writing on former editor Jack Limpert's website, Norman Sherman recalls reporting out a 1974 Bradlee profile, down to his impeccable, though sometimes questionable, fashion sense:

His style showed his background but it also could be bizarre. One noon, a K Street lawyer, a polished friend of President Kennedy, was on his way to lunch with a couple of clients. He spotted Bradlee. dressed in a loud glen plaid suit, and they stopped to talk.

When the lawyer rejoined his companions, one asked, “Who was that?” The answer was, “He’s the editor of the Post.” The response: “Jesus, I thought he was your bookie.”

Among Bradlee's other unmistakable qualities was his irascible newsroom demeanor. As New Yorker editor David Remnick remembers his time as a young Post staffer, Bradlee encouraged his journalists in his own brusque way:

“Well, I’ve been reporting a lot and calling … ” And blah, blah—in my nervousness I went on, explaining the intricacies of reporting to Ben Bradlee for three or four minutes. And to Bradlee, who had the attention span of a gnat, this was three-quarters of eternity. Finally, I ended the ill-advised aria with the most ill-advised words of all: “… and so don’t worry.”

The soles of his shoes parted. He sat up in his chair. I could see his face, and he was, for a moment, a threatening sight. And then he smiled, fantastically, and said, “What! Me? Worry? I am a dangerous man.” He led me back to the door. “So get the fuck outta here,” he said. “And get back to work.”

The White House, occupants of which were not always Bradlee's biggest fans, also paused Tuesday night to remember the newspaperman.

"For Benjamin Bradlee, journalism was more than a profession—it was a public good vital to our democracy," President Barack Obama said. "The standard he set—a standard for honest, objective, meticulous reporting—encouraged so many others to enter the profession. And that standard is why, last year, I was proud to honor Ben with the Presidential Medal of Freedom."

In May 1987, former Postie Rudy Maxa interviewed his former boss as Bradlee, then 66, started contemplating retirement, though he was as energetic as ever then, driving his beige Subaru to work every day and managing to fit a lot of tennis into his personal schedule. While Maxa's article features Bradlee doing plenty of career reflection, it's obvious the man also bristled at being asked to imagine the Post after his departure, telling Maxa:

"The thing that Post watchers have to understand is that it's going to be different. It's just a waste of time to think about it. You know, people really want it both ways. They say the trouble with the Post is that we shoot from the hip. And then they say if Bradlee leaves, it'll be boring."

Bradlee was back in the feature well in July 2003. Then 81, he still reported daily for his job as the Post's vice president at-large, though it was more of a ceremonial position with an easier schedule. Speaking with American University journalism professor Iris Krasnow, Bradlee appeared satisfied with the throes of retirement:

"I'd like to think, even at 81, that I'm continuously growing, yet I like that things have slowed some. I don't have to be listening to the television and suddenly hear something that makes me fly out of the house and go down to the newspaper at 10 PM and start on a story. I know who I am. Let's put it this way: I know enough about who I am, and maybe I don't want to know any more than this. Perhaps I have a sign somewhere still inside of me that says: 'Don't go there.' But I don't think so. I'm really quite open in a way that surprises people. I don't feel I have a hell of a lot to hide."

Quinn, whom Bradlee married in 1978, disclosed last month that Bradlee had been suffering from dementia and was under hospice care. Bradlee is survived by Quinn and their son Quinn Bradlee; a son from his first marriage, Benjamin C. Bradlee, Jr.; two children from his second marriage, Dominic Bradlee and Marina Murdock; ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 08:28 PM/ET, 10/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every week, we’ll pick winning photos to showcase on our website.
Show us your favorite neighborhood hangout. Photograph of Slipstream by Andrew Propp.

This week, the New York Times finally discovered what’s been obvious to Washingtonians for a long time: that DC’s dining scene goes far beyond “expense account steakhouses” and “cheap ethnic restaurants,” as our own Anna Spiegel pointed out on Best Bites. The point she did agree with? That the area “boasts more destination-worthy neighborhood haunts than ever.”

It’s a fact worth celebrating—and to that end, we want to see photos of your favorite local hangout. Whether it’s the mom ’n’ pop shop you head to every morning for coffee and your favorite breakfast sandwich, or the dive bar that’s your refuge after a long day of work, show us the places that make you glad to live in your neighborhood.

Submit your photos by e-mailing or by tagging #WashMagPhoto on Instagram or Twitter. Please include where the photo was taken and your name with each submission. We’ll highlight our favorite photos on Monday, October 27.

Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 10/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
It was only a matter of time, and Reed Smith is leading the pack. By Marisa M. Kashino

And so it begins.

International law firm Reed Smith, which has offices in DC and Northern Virginia, rolled out its Global Ebola Task Force on Tuesday, making it the first of what we fear could be many firms to capitalize on the outbreak. In a press release, Sandy Thomas, Reed Smith's global (are you noticing a trend here?) managing partner, declared: "The virus has the potential to affect international commerce and trade, not just on the African continent, but worldwide. Our Global Ebola Task Force will put Reed Smith in front of the legal challenges our clients face.”

The new task force is billed as "cross-practice," which in law firm-speak means there's nothing really new about it. Lawyers already working at the firm within a variety of existing practices are now simply branded as members of the Ebola group, ready to answer client questions stemming from the disease. (It's the kind of marketing play that firms love—in the build-up to the new millennium, for instance, several started Y2K groups.)

So what kind of Ebola questions are cropping up? Lorraine Campos, a task force member and a partner in the firm's DC office, says she's received calls from pharmaceutical companies interested in the potential liabilities of attempting to develop a vaccine. She says other attorneys have gotten questions from companies wanting to know if they are legally obligated to hold an employee's job open if the worker gets quarantined, or if they're liable for employees who get infected while on business travel. So far, Campos says these have just been theoretical questions; the firm has not yet handled any actual cases or conflicts arising from Ebola.

Campos stresses: "We don't want to sensationalize the threat of the virus, but we do want to help prepare our clients."

(And mass-distribute a press release about it.)

Posted at 03:16 PM/ET, 10/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
“We fell in love with Dusty’s story and knew it had to be told.” By Harry Jaffe
Screen shot from Dusty + Buddy.

When photographer Josh Cogan met Dusty Hernandez-Harrison and his father, Buddy Harrison, on assignment for Washingtonian’s February 2014 article “In A Ring of His Own,” he stepped into a story—and a corner of DC—he'd never imagined really existed. “When I first saw the gym, I was amazed at the entire scene I had no awareness of,” says Cogan, who sees himself as an anthropologist as much as a maker of images. “I have always been absorbed by how DC doesn’t know itself.”

The article tells how Buddy, a former boxer and ex-convict, devoted himself to training Dusty to fight to keep his son from following his trail to jail—and to achieve the dream Buddy never realized. Despite the father-son tensions that almost ripped them apart, Buddy succeeded in making Dusty into a contender. At 20, Dusty is 23-0 and rising in the ranks of welterweight boxers. He’s also developing a deep fan base in DC, where he was born and still lives.

While shooting the pair for Washingtonian, Cogan realized their story had the makings of a film. He introduced Dusty and Buddy to his friends at Run Riot Films. “Since we met last year,” says Run Riot director Dave Adams, “we fell in love with Dusty’s story and knew it had to be told.”

Run Riot and Cogan have produced two documentaries, Dusty + Buddy, about their relationship and common dream of a championship; and a short titled Voices, in which trainers, friends, and family talk about Dusty and Buddy against the backdrop of training sessions at Old School Boxing, Buddy's gym on the grounds of Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County.

“I’ve never seen nothing better, about Dusty or anywhere in boxing,” says Buddy Harrison.

Cogan says the videos are examples of how a simple photo shoot, and a resulting friendship, grows into something bigger. “I often serve as the bridge,” he tells Washingtonian. “I bring groups together.”

Dusty Harrison will try to keep his unblemished record on November 1, when he’s scheduled to take on veteran boxer Michael Clark. “It’s a pretty big step up for Dusty,” says Buddy Harrison.

Watch Voices below:

Watch Dusty + Buddy below:

Posted at 05:04 PM/ET, 10/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Barry Freundel was investigated by his fellow rabbis for allegedly mistreating potential converts. By Benjamin Freed
Rabbi Barry Freundel outside DC Superior Court after he pleaded not guilty to voyeurism charges. Photograph by Harry Jaffe.

The Rabbinical Council of America, a major governing body for the United States Orthodox Jewish community, says in a press release Monday that it investigated Georgetown Rabbi Barry Freundel, who was charged last week with six counts of voyeurism, back in 2012 over accusations that he acted inappropriately with prospective converts. The accusations reviewed by the rabbinical group were not sexual in nature, but they do suggest Freundel's alleged activities began well before his arrest at his home last Tuesday.

Freundel, who pleaded not guilty to the voyeurism charges, was investigated by his fellow rabbis two years ago after conversion candidates at Kesher Israel complained that he had coerced them to perform clerical work for him and contribute money for the operation of Washington's beit din, a ritual Jewish tribunal. Freundel headed the group of rabbis overseeing conversions from 2006 to 2013. According to the rabbinical council's statement, Freundel was also found to be a co-signer for a checking account opened by one of his converts, which triggered an investigation. Freundel avoided punishment in the matter as long as he stopped using conversion candidates for office work and financial donations.

The Rabbinical Council of America looked into Freundel again in summer 2013 after it received a phone call from a person alleging that Freundel shared a sleeper car with a woman who was not his wife on a Chicago-bound train. That investigation was dropped after the organization could not verify the authenticity of the tipster, who claimed he was a railroad worker.

Freundel, who was suspended by Kesher Israel's board of directors following his arrest, is also suspended from the rabbinical council. But his arrest is rippling through US Orthodox Judaism. The council says that in light of charges that Freundel allegedly placed a hidden camera in a women's changing room next to Kesher Israel's mikvah, a ritual bath frequented by prospective converts, every beit din that oversees conversions will appoint a female ombudsman whose name and contact information will be distributed at the beginning of the conversion process.

Posted at 03:39 PM/ET, 10/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Please don't compare cyclists to Nazis. Nazi comparisons are bad. By Benjamin Freed
Bike lane über alles? Photograph by Flickr user Elvert Barnes.

Cyclists in DC have to endure being called bullies and terrorists when they open up a newspaper, but that's nothing compared to what their two-wheeled bretheren across the Potomac have to endure.

A recent issue of the Alexandria Times featured a letter bemoaning the proposed installation of bike lanes on two Old Town streets beginning as such: "Creating crises as an excuse to give government more power to solve the crisis is not a new trick. Remember the Reichstag fire in Germany when the Nazi regime was in its infancy in 1933?"

A Nazi comparison? Courtland Milloy's got nothing on letter-writer and NIMBY extraordinare Dino Drudi, who suggests that a recent city ordinance allowing bike-riding on sidewalks is a power grab akin to, well, Hitler's consolidation of power following a Communist activist's attempt to burn down the German legislature. Besides making a completely over-the-top analogy, Drudi completely misses the point about why Alexandria permits cyclists to pedal on most sidewalks.

Just last year, city council legalized bicycle riding on nearly every city sidewalk, which theretofore had been prohibited. Why would they legalize riding bicycles on the sidewalk unless City Hall considered it safe and desirable?

And why would City Hall use discouraging cyclists from using sidewalks as a justification for more bicycle lanes so soon after they allowed said cyclists on sidewalks?

As the bike blog Wash Cycle pointed out Monday morning when it spotted Drudi's letter, Alexandria legalized sidewalk riding last year to comply with a Virginia Department of Transporation regulation requiring cities to permit it in order to accomodate cyclists who might not feel safe pedaling in road traffic. But Alexandria's sidewalks, especially in neighborhoods like Old Town and Del Ray, can be clogged with pedestrians, giving the city a big incentive to encourage novice cyclists to move back onto the roads with dedicated bike lanes. That's why the city recently painted bike lanes on a stretch of King Street and why it's planning to do the same on Cameron and Prince streets. The King Street lanes did not happen without a bit of kvetching from people worried about the removal of a few blocks of street parking, but in what may only be news to Drudi, it did not result in the rise of a Third Reich on two wheels.

"It hasn’t been the apocalypse," says Greg Billing, the advocacy coordinator at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. "There are comparisons you can make about how to use public space, and then there are comparisons that are just completely inappropriate."

To cycling promoters like Billing, allowing people to ride on the sidewalks isn't ideal, but it is a necessary step toward building bike infrastructure that makes even the most nervous pedalers feel comfortable in the roads.

"As we retrofit cities to make them safe for walking and biking, we’re going to have some intermediate steps," he says. "There’s not an intended power grab there. Long-term, we want to build places where people can feel safe riding in the street because the sidewalk is for walking."

And just like the sidewalk is ideally for walking, the conversation about cycling is ideally not for comparisons to global menaces. Bike owners have already been equated with terrorists and Nazis, so let's just knock out the list of other things you shouldn't compare them to:

  • ISIS
  • Ebola
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Fiscal austerity
  • Narcostates
  • Child labor traffickers
  • Climate change
  • Invasive fish species
  • Planet-killing asteroids
  • Obamacare
  • Ivory poachers
  • Kaijus
  • FIFA

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 12:13 PM/ET, 10/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The first polls are open. Find your polling place here. By Benjamin Freed
Democracy in action. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

Election day is still 15 days away, but people who will either be too busy November 4 or too impatient to wait can start casting their ballots in DC's general election starting today. The city's first early-voting site opened Monday morning at the Board of Elections office at 441 Fourth Street, Northwest. Naturally, it's already being used as a campaign backdrop, with independent mayoral candidate David Catania appearing outside the building with a gaggle of "Democrats for David" who say they'll vote against their own party's nominee, Muriel Bowser.

Besides mayor, DC voters will also cast ballots for the city's first-ever elected attorney general, seven Council members (though only one, a non-partisan at-large seat, is considered competitive), a slew of advisory neighborhood commissioners, and Initiative 71, which, if passed, would legalize possession and home cultivation of marijuana. Full details for all the candidates running for office are in the ballot guides the Board of Elections sent to District voters last week with the now-infamous upside-down flags. (The Board assures residents that the content of the guides is accurate, if not the cover art.)

The Board of Elections will be open for voting every day, except Sundays, from 8:30 AM to 7 PM through November 1. Eight additional early-voting locations are scheduled to open Saturday at these locations:

  • Ward 1: Columbia Heights Community Center, 1480 Girard Street, Northwest
  • Ward 3: Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Avenue, Northwest
  • Ward 4: Takoma Park Recreation Center, 300 Van Buren Street, Northwest
  • Ward 5: Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Avenue, Northeast
  • Ward 6: King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N Street, Southwest
  • Ward 6: Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th Street, Northeast
  • Ward 7: Dorothy I Height-Benning Library, 3935 Benning Road, Northeast
  • Ward 8: Malcolm X Elementary School, 1351 Alabama Avenue, Southeast

Voters can use any of the early-voting sites to cast a ballot before Election Day. The deadline to file new voter registrations passed October 10, but people who missed it or need to update their information can do so in person at one of the early sites or at their assigned polling place on November 4. You can find your Election-Day voting location with this directory built by Google and the Voting Information Project:

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 10:44 AM/ET, 10/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
With her second book out, Plame talks about her switch from agent to author. By Bethanne Patrick
Valerie Plame. Photograph by Norah Levine.

In a town known for abrupt transitions, few were as dramatic as Valerie Plame’s 2003 ejection from the CIA after her covert status was blown by a State Department official. Plame, who now lives in New Mexico, has fashioned a new career as a public speaker—and a novelist: Her second thriller, Burned, cowritten with Sarah Lovett, is out this month. Here she talks about how she made the switch.

"Burned" by Valerie Plame and Sarah Lovett.

Get Out of Town

“We made a conscious choice to leave the bustle behind. Here in Santa Fe, if there are three cars ahead of me at a traffic light, I get mad.”

Reset Your Priorities

“Many interesting things come my way, and I’m grateful, but I’ve also learned to say no. That’s helped me evolve from my CIA-centric notion of who I am. I’m constantly switching gears, and my life is overscheduled—but it’s my own.”

Mix Things Up

“I have the opportunity to get involved with things I care about—nuclear nonproliferation, local politics. I don’t think of myself as a novelist, because I do so many different things.”

Play to Your Strengths

“I’m endlessly curious about people and their stories. I use listening skills that I developed in the CIA to turn the stories I hear into novels, screenplays, and TV projects.”

Use What You Know

“My protagonist, CIA operative Vanessa Pierson, knows what a stakeout’s like: You wear the same clothes for days, you smell! No high heels for her—when she gets dressed for work, she dons flat boots that won’t trip her up in a chase.”

It’s Not About the Money

“Like working for the government, being a novelist is something you do because you love it—it’s certainly not for the pay.”

This article appears in our October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:15 AM/ET, 10/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()