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The noted fan of oversized hats tweets his support. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Debby Wong via Shutterstock.

DC mayoral canididate Muriel Bowser has already been endorsed by most of her former Democratic primary rivals (though not Mayor Vince Gray), President Obama, and at least four Washington Post editorials, so perhaps she doesn't need this latest accolade that badly. But just in case, the singer Pharrell Williams is throwing his support to the Democratic nominee.

Williams, best known for his taste in headwear and an annoying song that just won't die, grew up in Virginia Beach, but the District is close to him, at least musically. He appears in the Washington episode of HBO's Sonic Highways miniseries talking about go-go's influence on his earliest productions. Williams's Bowser endorsement isn't the first time he's been invoked in DC's mayoral election, though it might be the only time he's been a willing participant. Bowser's primary opponent Vincent Orange tapped Williams's song, "Happy," as his campaign's theme. (Bowser opted for Alicia Keys.)

But Ben Young, the campaign manager for David Catania's independent bid, isn't fazed by Williams and his 4.77 million Twitter followers. "Does he live in DC?" Young asks. "Does he send his kid to school in DC? Does he pay taxes here?"

Williams, who is not a DC resident, owns a high-rise condominium in Miami. He hasn't made any donations to Bowser's mayoral bid, according to records with the DC Office of Campaign Finance.

Posted at 03:40 PM/ET, 10/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A look at Washington's evolving relationship with weed. By Benjamin Freed, Hallie Golden
Photograph by David Mala/Getty Images.

Whether Initiative 71, November’s ballot question legalizing marijuana, passes—as polls indicate it will—or goes up in smoke, DC’s relationship with pot is evolving. Here’s how legalization would work if the referendum passes.

Not for sale: Legalization covers only personal use, not retail sales, as in Colorado and elsewhere. You can share pot with friends and family, but charging them is still illegal. Don’t rip up your business plan, however: DC Council member David Grosso has drafted legislation to establish a regulated and taxed marijuana retail market.

21 means 21: Legalization applies only to people 21 and older. An 18-year-old caught with up to an ounce gets hit with a $25 fine.

5 percent: The likely percentage of US representatives who toke, according to Colorado Democratic congressman Jared Polis. This presumably excludes Representative Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican and a physician who attempted to derail the decriminalization law and may try to foil the initiative.

Medical marijuana: Dispensaries won’t be affected by Initiative 71—patients won’t likely have the know-how to grow their own supply. And don’t expect freebies. “It’s medicine, and just like pharmaceuticals, it’s not a good idea to give meds away to somebody,” says Jeffrey Kahn, owner of the Takoma Wellness Center.

$26.5 million: The estimated cost of enforcing DC’s marijuana laws in 2010, according to FBI data. “Our police resources will be used more wisely,” says Paul Zukerberg, a lawyer and a candidate for DC attorney general.

Don’t light up on federal land: Like decriminalization, which went into effect in DC in July, legalization doesn’t apply in the 21.6 percent of the city owned by Uncle Sam, where you’ll be charged by the US Attorney.

Magic numbers: Anyone 21 or older may possess up to two ounces. Residents may have six plants in their homes (only half of them “mature”) and sell pot-related paraphernalia.

8.05 African-Americans: The number of black people arrested in DC for marijuana for each white person caught, even though white and black people use marijuana at roughly equal rates.


This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:45 PM/ET, 10/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
White House historian William Bushong discusses the holiday. By Hallie Golden
Halloween at the White House in 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Although Halloween as we know it became popular early in the 20th century, it wasn’t until Dwight D. Eisenhower was president that ghosts, goblins, and witches were first invited into the White House. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower took the lead on dressing up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for Halloween as early as 1956. “I know she loved to decorate,” says William Bushong, the White House Historical Association's chief historian. “She decorated for every holiday. Any reason to decorate, and she would decorate.”

President John F. Kennedy continued Eisenhower’s legacy by embracing the Halloween spirit during his time in office. “I think the [pictures] that really strike at your heart a little bit are the Kennedy series of photographs of the President with John and Caroline in costume coming to see their father in the oval office,” says Bushong.

Photograph by Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

During the Nixon administration, Pat Nixon hosted a number of Halloween parties, including one in 1969 that included horror film Dark Shadows actor Jonathan Frid on its guest list.

Then there were the presidents and first ladies who not only dressed up the White House, they dressed up themselves as well. In 1993, Bill and Hillary Clinton dressed up as James and Dolley Madison. “Part of the reason for that was that Mrs. Clinton’s birthday fell so close to Halloween, on October 27, so I think they combined that party with her birthday,” says Bushong. Another time, he says the pair paid homage to the musical Grease by dressing as a motorcyclist and a Bobby Soxer. “I think just from the photographs you get a sense that they really enjoyed that sort of thing,” says Bushong.

During George W. Bush’s term, he and Mrs. Bush enjoyed taking photos of their two Scottish Terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, and their cat Willie posed with pumpkins and wearing costumes such as devil horns.

No president has had quite as elaborate of Halloween parties as Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. They tend to keep it very child-centric and intricate, with themes such as Alice in Wonderland and guest lists that include the likes of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Halloween celebrations have become a fun way to start off the holiday season at the White House, and today, the American people have come to look forward to it. “They expect the president to be just like them and celebrate holidays in a manner similar to the rest of the country,” says Bushong.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 10/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
"What can you do for my newspaper?" By Leslie Milk
Bradlee on the May 1987 issue of Washingtonian.

In 1982, I was leaving a temporary job at the Department of Labor as a press officer when a mentor got me an interview with the legendary editor of the Washington Post Ben Bradlee.

I hadn't worked on a newspaper in 20 years, and that was the Syracuse University Daily Orange, so I knew this couldn't be a job interview. But the chance to meet Bradlee was too great to pass up.

I showed up at the Post, was ushered into the glass office on the edge of the newsroom, and there he was—truly larger than life.

"What can you do for my newspaper?" he asked.

"Absolutely nothing," I replied. "You write about people in Georgetown. I am a working mother, and I need an orthodontist who works Saturdays."

Bradlee slammed his hand down on his desk. "This is the newspaper that is on the President's desk every morning," he shouted.

"I'm sure it works for him, " I said. "But it doesn't work for me."

"Who are you?" he challenged and asked me to write three essays about my life as a Bethesda working mother.

I wrote three essays, and he hired me to write a weekly column for the Maryland and Virginia sections of the paper.

I can only imagine what other reporters at the paper felt about my role as the instant columnist, but for two years, I wrote and relished every byline in the Post.

Eventually, a new local editor came in and fired me—but I'll never forget my interview with the man himself, who took a chance on me.

Leslie Milk is Washingtonian's lifestyle editor.

Posted at 04:02 PM/ET, 10/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The famed Washington Post editor got a sendoff worthy of his high-profile life and career. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

Ben Bradlee is dead. But the cathedral was alive.

The Washington National Cathedral filled up with more boldfaced names than This Town scribe Mark Leibovich's most insider-y scene or Mike Allen's most overstuffed Playbook to send off the legendary Washington Post editor, who died last week at age 93.

It took a few moments for someone who never met Bradlee or worked in the newsroom he shepherded for 26 years to appreciate the atmosphere: There's Representative Steny Hoyer ahead in the security line and Hardball host Chris Matthews is about ten spots back. Charlie Rose is holding court in the driveway. The Secret Service is in charge of security because Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry will get here eventually. The list of pall bearers includes Bob Barnett, Norman Lear, Jim Lehrer, Jon Meacham, David Remnick, and Katharine Weymouth. That scrawny bald guy bounding across the entrance of the nave—was that Jeff Bezos? (Turns out it was Jeff Bezos.)

As much as Bradlee's funeral was straight out of the kind of Washington tome that people snigger about publicly but browse for their names privately, the person who might have loved it the most was the man in the cloth-draped casket. "He loved being a celebrity," Ben Bradlee, Jr. said in his eulogy. That was just one of many endearing, often effacing lines delivered by the elder Bradlee's mourners at the two-hour service.

On putting this town in its place: "This is Washington, the city of big reputations. Some of those reputations get punctured, and Ben was responsible for more than a few of those punctures. This is a very large building, but everyone in it knows people whose very large reputations are undeserved." —Don Graham

On newsroom management: "I once went into Ben's office to ask for a raise. He looked up from the crossword puzzle he was always doing, and said in his best, gruff, WASP tone, 'You oughta be paying me for all the fun you're having.' He was right." —Walter Pincus

On editing: "At Ben's retirement party his secretary approached him, as she was typing one of Ben's letters, with a copyedting question: 'Is dickhead one word or two?'" —David Ignatius

On words that don't get uttered at funerals, even though "dickhead" did: "I called Ben at home. Woodward and I did not much observe the chain of command. Ben interrogated me. Had Mitchell been drinking? I couldn’t tell. Did I properly identify myself? Yes. Did I have good notes? Yes. 'OK,' Ben said, 'put in all of [former Attorney General John] Mitchell’s comments in the paper, but leave out Mrs. Graham’s [taps chest].'" —Carl Bernstein

On the passage of time: "Ben's passing marks the end of the 20th Century, we are diminished and the world is smaller." —Bob Woodward

On Bradlee's reputed virility: "I took Greta down to Washington for a visit along with my wife at the time, Martha Raddatz, Greta’s mother who’s with me here today. Dad wanted to take Martha on a personal tour of the monuments, so they ventured out with the baby and Ben wanted to push the stroller. At one point people looked over and smiled, and Dad turned to Martha, who was then in her late 20s, and said, ‘Ha! You know what they’re thinking. That I’m the father of the baby and a dirty old man.’ But he stared right back at them with a big smile of his own, quite content to leave the impression that he was perfectly capable of fathering that child, thank you very much." —Ben Bradlee, Jr.

On Bradlee as a father: "My father was the most courageous man I ever met. Just being there for your kids might not be hugely courageous but especially at the beginning of my life, it was a courageous act. He could have said no, I cannot do this. But my dad always loved an underdog. He was always rooting for me, in part because he saw that I struggled more than most people to get by every day." —Quinn Bradlee

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 02:27 PM/ET, 10/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Last night's Antares rocket disaster might be trouble for NASA's new commercial space flight policy. By Michael Gaynor
Photograph courtesy of NASA.

Last night, a massive explosion jolted Virginia's Wallops Flight Facility as a supply rocket on its way to the International Space Station burst apart and fell back to Earth just seconds after launch. The rocket—built by a Dulles-based private space flight company—was unmanned, and no one on the ground was injured, but the disaster could still send shockwaves through the commercial space flight industry once heralded as the savior of the United States space program, according to space policy experts.

“This will bring into question the wisdom of increasing the dependance on the private sector,” says John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, where he focuses on space policy and history. “It will raise questions of whether addition government oversight might have prevented this accident, or if more oversight is needed in the future. Do we go back to the old way of doing things?”

The Antares rocket was built by Dulles's Orbital Sciences, which signed a $1.9 billion contract with NASA in 2008 for eight delivery missions to the ISS. This was the third, carrying food, water, and equipment to the space station. The previous two launches were successful.

The cause of the failure isn't known yet, but it does remind the public of the risks inherent in any form of space travel. “This is just an illustration of how difficult this is—it's truly rocket science,” says Roger Handberg, a space policy expert at the University of Central Florida.

“Advocates of commercial space flight said they would do better,” says Handberg. “They were the ones who have always argued, 'Just get the government out of the way. We can be it better and cheaper and more efficiently.'”

But the explosion is a reminder that privatization can't solve everything, he says. When a icon like Elon Musk—founder of the commercial space flight company SpaceX, which also has a NASA contract—explains his ideas for the colonization of Mars, it's treated as visionary. But, says Handberg, “just because you have the vision doesn't mean your way is going to be smooth.”

American University space policy expert Howard McCurdy says the Silicon Valley approach is very different from the old NASA method. “The new entrepreneurial approach is, 'Nothing's perfect the first time,'” he says, drawing comparisons to Microsoft releasing a new version of Windows, then updating it once the bugs and flaws become apparent. “We're still finding out how well that works for space.”

It's a leaner, faster approach. But McCurdy says if the source of the explosion turns out to have been preventable, that mentality is vulnerable. “The hope for lower cost access to orbit could be in jeopardy,” he says, with private space flight companies hiring more and more people to prevent another incident, thus driving the cost up.

“This is clearly catastrophic in its impact for Orbital, but launching things into space is hard,” says Logsdon. “This is just a very vidid demonstration of it.”

A statement issued from NASA last night reiterated their support of the company: “Orbital has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first two missions to the station earlier this year, and we know they can replicate that success. Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback.”

What's important to note, say the experts, is that NASA has always relied on outsourcing the building of rockets to private companies. But after the country's Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, the agency shifted from intense oversight of that construction to a model of buying a service from the commercial builders. Since then, Logsdon says that people who know the space business have been concerned about companies cutting corners for profit, especially when manned flights are involved.

“We'll almost certainly see congressional hearings about this,” says Logsdon. “This thing was so dramatic and visible, Congress will certainly have to address it in some form.” Logsdon says the White House will most likely step up oversight in some form, but not break the contracts or go back to the old way of doing business.

But any policy changes probably won't come in time for the next mission, when SpaceX launches its fifth supply rocket this December. “All eyes are going to be on them,” says Logsdon.

Posted at 11:41 AM/ET, 10/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Those with cat allergies might want to take an extended lunch break. By Kay Wicker
Kittens, now available for delivery. Image via Shutterstock.

Does anyone actually use Uber to get from place to place these days? The ride-sharing app has branched out into so many delivery services—ice cream, Christmas trees, random things you could buy at 7-Eleven, even, just last week, flu shots—that it’s hard to remember what the company was originally designed to do.

At least this time, it’s delivering cuteness: In honor of National Cat Day, Uber, which has partnered with Cheezburger and the ASPCA, is offering to show up at your office with adorable kittens to help you through the workday doldrums. Between noon and 4 Wednesday, fire up your Uber app, select the “KITTENS” options, and enter the promo code “kittensdc” to unlock the option.

The kittens will be delivered for 15-minute session, in which you can play with the furballs to your heart’s content. Before you get up in arms about the ickiness of using animals for commerce, know that all proceeds from the transaction will be donated to the Washington Humane Society. Worried about suffering from post-kitten-visit depression? Some of the little tykes are up for adoption.

Uber App necessary. noon to 4 PM. $30 for 15 minutes.

Posted at 10:51 AM/ET, 10/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The rocket was carrying supplies to the International Space Station. No one was injured in the explosion. By Benjamin Freed
Screenshot via NASA.

An unmanned NASA rocket loaded with supplies bound for the International Space Station exploded six seconds after its launch Tuesday evening from the space agency's facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

The agency says all personnel at the facility are unharmed and accounted for. Announcers on NASA's live feed say there is a large amount of debris scattered across the launch area, but that no one was near the pad when the rocket, an Antares craft built by Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corporation, exploded.

NBC4 reports tremors from the explosion carried across the water to Ocean City, Maryland, about 45 miles from Wallops Island. The launch was originally scheduled for Monday, but was delayed after a sailboat navigated too closely to the NASA facility. The rocket's flight path was expected to be visible from Washington and other parts of the East Coast.

UPDATE, 10/29/14: In a statement Tuesday night, NASA says it is still determining what caused the Antares rocket's destruction, but that it will work past the incident. "While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences' third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today's mishap," the space agency says.

The crew on the International Space Station, which was expecting a payload of supplies from the Antares craft, is in no danger of running out of food or other supplies, NASA says.

Agency officials also say that anyone who finds debris should not touch it and call 757-824-1295.

Watch video of the failed launch:

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 06:44 PM/ET, 10/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Assuming no boats get in the way this time. By Benjamin Freed
Please keep your boats away from the rocket. Photograph courtesy NASA.

You might have heard that the launch from Wallops Island, Virginia of a rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station was scuttled Monday night after a sailboat navigated into the debris field. Fortunately for us stargazers, the skies this evening might still be clear enough to see the Antares rocket when it takes off, assuming there are no more interruptions. (Last night's view would have been perfect, making the boat's transgression even more infuriating.)

NASA resecheduled the launch from its Wallops Island facility for 6:22 PM, with a flight path that should give Washington, Baltimore, many points further north a good glimpse of its trajectory. Orbital Sciences Corporation, the Dulles-based company that manufactures the Antares craft, says the rocket should be visible in DC to the southeast about 96 seconds after takeoff. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial should be one of the better vantage points, with the rocket appearing from behind the Jefferson Memorial.

The Antares should remain visible for a couple minutes, with the first-stage ignition ending three minutes 55 seconds after takeoff and second-stage ignition starting 46 seconds later.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 03:42 PM/ET, 10/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every week, we’ll pick winning photos to showcase on our website.
Photograph by Donald Bowers Photography/Shutterstock.com.

How are you celebrating Halloween this year? We'd like to see photos of your costumes, your pets' costumes, pumpkin carvings, spooky decorations, and any other ways you're celebrating this year. (Bonus: Once you've sent your snaps to us, you can also submit them to the Library of Congress—here's how.)

Submit your photos by e-mailing photocontest@washingtonian.com 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, November 3.

Posted at 02:38 PM/ET, 10/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()