How did Washington Google in 2013? Mostly like everybody else, according to the search giant’s year-end “Zeitgeist” list of the most popular seaches executed by its users in DC.
Just like the rest of the United States, Google’s DC users are celebrity- and event-obsessed, hooked on information about new electronic devices, and more than a little curious about twerking. The dance manuever in which one bends at a right angle thrusts one’s hips backward into something—a wall, thin air, Robin Thicke’s trousers—topped Google’s “what is” list and also appeared on the more practical list of “how to” searches.
After twerking, Washingtonians were most curious about ricin, hopefully a harmless credit to the finale of Breaking Bad, in which Walter White offs one of his enemies with the poisonous substance. Google users here also wanted to be educated about Obamacare, Easter, and even hummus.
Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker led Google's list of top searches around the world, but the late South African leader did not even crack any of the DC-focus lists. Walker, the star of the Fast and Furious movie series was the fifth-most searched person for Washington users. Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end now facing murder charges, led that list, followed by the rapper Lil' Wayne, the late Glee actor Cory Monteith, and show-trial murder convict Jodi Arias. (Quick, someone remind us: Did Weezy do anything in 2013 besides release a lousy album?)
NPR just hauled in $17 million in grants from four major foundations and a few individual donors to fund the development of a new mobile platform and expand its coverage of education and global health.
The grants come at a time NPR is facing a $6 million shortfall and is in the process of trimming its staff by 10 percent, leading to the impending departures of some of the network’s familiar voices and some of its most popular off-air people. But because the new funding is devoted to specific projects though, NPR’s overall budget woes won’t be alleviated by the gifts.
The money is coming from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wallace Foundation, and Ford Foundation, as well as three private donors, including NPR’s acting president, Paul Haaga, who is kicking in $1 million.
Most of the money will go toward the development of revamped web and mobile interfaces, which NPR envisions will allow listeners to “move seamlessly among clock radios, Internet-enabled cars, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices.” The new platforms will be developed in concert with stations in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Southern California, and Minnesota.
The remainder of the grant money will be spent on building out education and health coverage with large teams of on-air reporters, bloggers, and photojournalists. In a press release, NPR says these sections will grow similarly to projects like Planet Money, which covers economics, or Code Switch, which tracks race and culture. The education coverage foundation is being funded by the Gates and Wallace foundations, while money for the health beat is coming just from the Gateses.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church and Washington Times, had a love child and made the man who would become the Times's founding editor and publisher raise the boy, according to a report today by Mother Jones.
Mother Jones reports that, Moon, who died in 2012 after decades of preaching celibacy and performing mass weddings, was hardly the model practicioner of his own sermons. In the 1960s, the magazine reports, Annie Choi, a woman with whom Moon was having an affair, became pregnant. Moon then arranged to have his deputy, Bo Hi Pak and Pak's wife take custody of the child and raise it as their own, with the Paks taking rather extensive measures to pull off the scheme:
Mrs. Pak stuffed her midsection with an expanding mound of cloth diapers to mimic pregnancy. When Choi went into labor, Pak drove her to a Washington, DC, hospital and passed her off as his wife. The Paks were even listed as the child's parents on his birth certificate.
The article also contains other steamy details about the early days of the Unification Church, including allegations that it becan as an "erotic cult" that required female acolytes to have sex with Moon several times before being inducted into the faith. Choi, who met Moon in Korea before moving to Washington in 1964 to attend Georgetown University, also says she was one of a group of concubines known as the "Six Marys."
The son, Sam Park, is now 47 years old and lives with Choi in Phoenix. He has known that Moon was his father since he was 13, but is only know going public about it. Park and Choi also happen to be suing Moon's estate for $20 million because when Moon was carving up his religious and media empires upon his retirement, he did not appoint Park to a senior leadership position in the Unification Church, as he allegedly promised to do.
It's been a while since we've heard from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and by "while," we mean about a whole day since his last memorable moment. (Posing for a photo with the Hell's Angels, if you're scoring at home.)
But starting tomorrow morning and every Thursday thereafter, people who listen to 106.7 The Fan's morning show The Sports Junkies will hear from Ford, who will be dialing in at 8:40 AM to talk sports and give his football picks for the week, CBS Radio announced.
Ford might be a crack-smoking, ranting, nightmare (for Toronto) who has more than enough to eat at home, but if he's been steadfast about anything during his time in the spotlight, it's his love for American football. He even apologized for his crack-tainted drunken stupor while wearing a necktie emblazoned with the logos of every NFL team, and he can often be seen sporting a Buffalo Bills jersey, whether its at a game like last Sunday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, or a photo op with a biker gang.
Frankly, this could be just the relief that Washington football fans famished by a lean season for the home team need. Ford might be a loud, obnoxious, substance-addled ratings grab, but the man knows his football:
Between the permits and police, filming on Capitol Hill is difficult enough. But getting footage from above the Capitol is almost unheard of these days. Yet that’s what CBS News was able to do last Sunday, when it featured a long helicopter shot of the Capitol’s dome for a 60 Minutes piece on the structure’s 150th anniversary and upcoming refurbishment, and all the network had to do was beg both houses of Congress, smooth things out with the police, and get an exemption from a federal ban on aircraft over Washington.
Lucky for 60 Minutes, all sides of Congress—even in this era of hopelessly fractured government—are willing to bend the rules for inoffensive fluff. CBS News got its aerial access after taking its request to the Senate Rules Committee and House Speaker John Boehner. Both offices signed off, sending 60 Minutes through the permitting process, which included the US Secret Service and US Capitol Police and the Federal Aviation Administration’s flight ban.
“I’ve heard it’s unprecedented,” says Justin Kieffer, a spokesman for the Architect of the Capitol. “I think there was bipartisan support for telling the story of the dome.”
Helicopter filming isn’t usually an impossibility, but it has been exceedingly rare in Washington since 9/11, when the FAA introduced the flight ban, restricting all aircraft without a pre-approved flight plan or official government duty from flying within a 15-mile radius of Reagan National Airport. (That’s also the main reason it’s illegal to fly a drone or remote-controlled plane in DC.)
Exemptions sometimes happen for big-budget action movies, but not for weekly news programs. Getting around the FAA, along with obtaining permits from various law enforcement agencies, can take more than a month. CBS News would not say how far in advance it requested the November 19 shoot, but it took the producers of this summer’s White House Down more than five weeks last year to get permission for a few minutes of aerial footage of Washington.
Jeff Bezos wants to be Skynet. The Amazon founder’s next passion project after taking over the Washington Post sounds like something out of Terminator, but on 60 Minutes last night, the terrifying robotic future became very real.
Bezos wants to fill the skies with an army of self-guided drones to deliver your Amazon orders.
Bezos said that he envisions that as early as 2015, his drones could be buzzing by your house. Bezos showed off two model “octocopters”—eight-bladed unmanned aerial vehicles—capable of lugging small parcels from an Amazon warehouse to a shipping destination within 30 minutes of placing an order.
Bezos is waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to issue rules governing drones used for commercial purposes. The FAA currently allows drones in domestic airspace on a case-by-case basis for law enforcement and military purposes. Drones used for photography and other activities are permitted below 400 feet.
In the latest chapter of the Bezos-ification of the Washington Post, the newspaper will get a new landlord next March, when the development company Carr Properties acquires its headquarters in downtown DC.
Graham Holdings Company—formerly known as The Washington Post Company—announced in a press release that Carr will pay $159 million for the three buildings at 15th and L streets, Northwest, that comprise the newspaper's home. The Post will continue to rent its newsroom from the new owners while it continues its search for a new headquarters.
Carr Properties did not respond to phone calls Thursday afternoon. The DC government assesses the three buildings at about $80 million. The Post sold in August to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million.
NPR’s Ari Shapiro will be a full-fledged foreign correspondent come January 2, when he moves to London after almost four years in Washington on the White House beat. He’s hoping the new assignment will bring to his life fewer reasons to wear a suit, less knowledge of British Prime Minister David Cameron than he has of President Barack Obama, and the chance to meet some idols he can address as “Dame” and “Sir.” Shapiro, who is 35, says he expects to miss Washington but plans to return often to see his husband, Michael Gottlieb, and friends. What he’ll become, he says, is a “transatlantic commuter.”
Though he’s never been based in London for work before, he lived there for a few months in 2000 while Gottlieb was fulfilling a Fulbright fellowship. They lived in a “damp, moldy flat” far from the center of town, and those three months “were the rainiest winter on record,” he says. With the new gig, he’s found an apartment in Spitalfields, which he describes as adjacent to the East End, which is “the 14th Street of London—fun and creative.”
On Tuesday, we talked with Shapiro about the old assignment, the new assignment, and what he’ll miss about Washington.
How are you spending Thanksgiving, that most American of annual holidays, before making the big move?
We have 15 people coming to our house for dinner, and after we invited all these people I was asked to fill in as host of All Things Considered. I’ve never hosted it before. I enthusiastically said yes and then started scratching my head and asked, “How will I get dinner for 15 people on the table, given that I will be on the air?”
Isn’t that why we have husbands?
Yes, and parents and in-laws. A bunch of people will be cooking at my house in my absence.
What will you miss about Washington?
Besides my husband, who may follow in time but is not initially going with me? I love that I have what feels like an urban village. Most of my friends live within walking or biking distance. I have neighborhood bars and restaurants where I know the people who work there. I have an urban life that feels like a very old-fashioned, small-town community.
What won’t you miss about Washington?
“Where do you work?”
What is the most important lesson you learned on the White House beat?
It’s only radio. [At the White House] we cover so many real crises of international importance, profound tragedies, issues of war and peace. It puts in perspective a crisis in my job or my life.
What are you passing on, in experiences and legacy, for your NPR replacement at the White House?
My replacement is Tamara Keith, who has been our Congressional correspondent. She shadowed me for a week at the White House, and I introduced her to everyone I can think of. In our dimly lit booth, when I first arrived, I brought some lamps. I plan to leave them there. I also purchased from the MOMA [Museum of Modern Art] store a print by Louise Bourgeois that says “Be calm.” I’m leaving that on the wall of our booth.
What is your advice to White House correspondents, present and future?
Find ways to get off the treadmill from time to time. It is so easy to be consumed by the daily churn of news. You need to find ways to explore the stories that are not on the front page every day.
Do you see yourself having a lifelong career in radio and news, and, if not, where do you think you are headed?
The great thing about NPR is the number of role models here who have had decades-long, fulfilling careers: Nina Totenberg, Robert Segal, Mara Liasson. I could see myself easily following in that path. That said, who knows?
You’ve been on a lot of lists—for example, Paper’s Most Beautiful and MSNBC’s Power List. Did one matter more than the others? Do lists matter in general?
Every time I am on a list I take it as a great compliment, but I try not to let it become more than a passing compliment.
In 2007 you claimed you had four suits. You are about to move to a city more formal than DC. Do you have more suits now?
I do have more suits now, but I plan to wear them less, because many of the stories I do in London will have nothing to do with people who wear suits. I will have the opportunity to report on artists and athletes and scientists, in addition to politicians and businesspeople.
Not as a competition, but as a comparison, how do you expect to match David Cameron with Barack Obama?
I was having drinks with my predecessor on the London beat, and I asked him to tell me everything I need to know about British politics. He said, “If you are doing a story about it more than once every few months you are doing it wrong.”
What I mean by this is, at this point I could probably write a biography of President Obama and I could probably sketch a rough profile of David Cameron. By the time I leave the London beat I hope I don’t know as much about David Cameron as I know about Barack Obama.
Do you have any idols you hope to meet over there?
Dame Helen Mirren. Sir Ian McKellen. I wouldn’t turn down a lunch date with Elton John. I love that I will get to refer to people as “Dame” and “Sir.”
Washington is one of the more comfortable cities in which to be gay in the US, possibly in the world. What do you expect from London?
London is such a sophisticated global city, and the world is such a different place today than it was even ten years ago. I don’t expect much difference.
You are from Portland, Oregon. What do you think London will have in common with Portland, other than climate?
A great bike culture. Portland has more bicycles per capita than just about any city in America. London—and most of Europe—has a bike culture much more similar to Portland than DC. I ride my bike everywhere.
You sing with the Portland-based group Pink Martini. What will happen with your appearances with them? More of the Euro circuit?
I think so. The band performs a lot in Europe. I have done a few European tours with them, but I expect that will increase now. I still hope to do major East Coast shows, but shows in second-tier American cities and out West might become more infrequent.
You sing in five languages. Do you speak all of them, too?
Not at all. I kind of speak two languages other than English—French and Hebrew. When I have to sing in languages I don’t speak, I learn what the words mean and find a native speaker to teach me the correct pronunciation.
Do you have a favorite language for speaking or singing?
I love the sound of Italian. It’s such a musical language. Although it is fun to sing in Hindi, the syllables do not intuitively follow each other in a way the ear would expect.
You depart for London on January 2. How do you plan to send yourself off?
I don’t know. I love Komi. Maybe dinner at Komi. We have been going for years and years and years. It’s the kind of relationship with a restaurant that I would be lucky to find in London.
What Jeff Bezos intends to do with the Washington Post, which he bought this year for $250 million, remains a mystery. So does the man. Post employees say his behavior so far has been congenial, if disengaged. A new book and a little snooping in Seattle provide a few clues to Bezos as a magnate and a manager.
Known for disrupting industries—books, web services, the very notion of retail—Bezos also completely altered his hometown when he moved Amazon and its 15,000 employees in Seattle from the city’s storied south end to 14 buildings in the undeveloped South Lake Union area (below). Now Amazon’s former neighborhood languishes while South Lake Union enjoys high rents and unprecedented nightlife. A proposed three-skyscraper addition to the Amazon campus will accelerate that transformation.
Locating Bezos’s political center is a messy enterprise. In 2010, according to campaign records obtained by Washingtonian, he spent $100,000 to defeat a proposed millionaires’ tax in Washington state—after donating $10,000 for a gas-tax increase eight years earlier. Both measures failed. In 2012, he backed a state-senate run by business-friendly Democrat Guy Palumbo, who garnered only 14 percent of the primary vote. That same year, Bezos surprised and charmed Seattleites by tossing $2.5 million at a referendum legalizing same-sex marriage. That measure won.
Although Bezos has a secluded $28-million home on Lake Washington, he and his wife are often spotted driving around in a Honda mininvan. And compared with the local sponsors in its league—Microsoft, Boeing, and Starbucks—Amazon’s charitable contributions are minuscule, particularly when it comes to the arts. Bezos did give $10 million for a new tech wing at the Museum of History & Industry, now named in his honor, but his philosophy on charity seems best summed up by what he told PBS’s Charlie Rose: “For-profit models improve the world more than philanthropy.”
Bezos’s famous laugh has been variously described as a “honk,” a “bray,” and a “chortle.” But journalist Brad Stone, in his new book, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, says subordinates also cite a bulging blood vessel in the boss’s forehead as an early-warning system for tantrums that feature such queries as “Why are you ruining my life?” and “Are you lazy or just incompetent?”
When a customer e-mails a complaint to Bezos at firstname.lastname@example.org—it works, try it—the boss forwards the message to company brass and adds a single keystroke at the top: a question mark. According to Stone, all of Amazonia is expected to drop everything and try to remedy the situation. “When he engages with a problem—in this case, the question of how to remake a renowned media franchise for the new age—he is full of observations about potential solutions and defects,” Stone says, adding: “Beware.”
This article appears in the December 2013 issue of Washingtonian.
Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper that dates back to the Civil War, could be printing its last issue soon thanks to the steep budget cuts facing the Defense Department. With sequestration forcing the Pentagon to slash next year’s budget, Stars and Stripes, the Pentagon Channel, and a large portion of the Armed Forces Network are being eyed as potential savings, according to the newspaper itself.
Stars and Stripes is run by Defense Media Activity, a Pentagon agency, but the paper’s four printed editions and website are editorially independent, an arrangement that sometimes leads to friction with Pentagon brass, such as in 2009 when it reported on Army officials’ use of a media strategy firm to rate journalists covering the war in Afghanistan.
The paper’s budget is also barely a drop of the $52 billion the Pentagon needs to cut in order to satisfy the congressionally mandated budget cuts. Its operating costs for 2014 are projected to be $7.4 million, the paper’s chief financial officer said. That figure came after the paper cut 30 percent of its mostly civilian staff in October.