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Congrats to Rusty and Shama! By Tanya Pai
One of the seven surviving red panda cubs born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute this summer. Photograph via National Zoo's Flickr feed.

Rusty the red panda, perhaps the most famous animal in DC not on the current cover of our magazine, is a new dad. The National Zoo announced Wednesday that Rusty and his female companion Shama have given birth to a litter of three cubs at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal. The cubs “appear healthy,” says the zoo, and are being monitored closely. This is the first litter for Rusty; Shama has successfully bred at the zoo before.

Rusty gained infamy last summer when he briefly escaped from his habitat and went for a jaunt around Adams Morgan. He and Shama were moved to the Front Royal facility in January to encourage breeding, as zookeepers worried increased foot traffic from visitors clamoring to catch a glimpse of giant panda cub Bao Bao might upset them. SCBI is currently home to four pairs of red pandas, all of which have successfully given birth this year, for a total of seven surviving cubs. There’s no date planned yet for when Rusty and Shama will be moved back to DC, so for now this video will have to fulfill the cuteness quota.

Posted at 11:36 AM/ET, 07/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice. By Benjamin Freed

Comedy fans are reeling from the death Monday of Harold Ramis, the director of Caddyshack and Groundhog Day, writer of Animal House, and actor in Ghostbusters, among other credits. Ramis was 69.

In a statement released by the White House this morning, President Obama remembered his fellow Chicagoan, finishing with a nod to one of the eminently quotable Ramis’s most famous lines.

Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Harold Ramis, one of America’s greatest satirists, and like so many other comedic geniuses, a proud product of Chicago’s Second City. When we watched his movies—from Animal House and Caddyshack to Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day—we didn’t just laugh until it hurt. We questioned authority. We identified with the outsider. We rooted for the underdog. And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings. Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.

Here's the context, if you need it.

Posted at 10:26 AM/ET, 02/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
After a recent negative crash test report, we talk with the report’s researcher. By Carol Ross Joynt
The Chevrolet Spark, the only minicar to do well in a recent crash test study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

At the Washington Auto Show, which opened Thursday and runs through next Sunday, cute, efficient minicars have been drawing attention for more than just their trim lines and high EPAs: The day before the Auto Show opened, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a new report on a minicar crash test in which only one model out of 11 received an acceptable rating tested. The Chevrolet Spark came in at the top of the list, while the Fiat 500 and Honda Fit earned the bottom spots.

The test, called a “small-overlap frontal crash test,” is one of five performed by the industry-funded IIHS that measure cars’ crash-worthiness. (The federal government, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, also performs crash tests.)

The criteria evaluated in the report include structure, restraints, kinematics, and impact on head and neck, chest, hip and thigh, and lower leg and foot. The possible ratings are good, acceptable, marginal or poor.

The Spark got four “goods,” one “marginal” and one “acceptable,” with an “acceptable” overall. The Fiat 500 and Honda Fit each got three “poors,” two “goods,” and one “marginal” with a “poor” overall. The current version of the popular Mini Cooper, with a new model due out soon, wasn’t tested.

Joe Nolan, senior vice president of vehicle research at IIHS, has been researching crash-worthiness for 22 years. He is based in Ruckersville, Virginia, just north of Charlottesville, where the testing facility is located. He played a principal role in the tests that resulted in the most recent report on minicars. We talked with him on Friday.

What is the overlap test, and how does it differ from the other tests you do on automobiles?

In 2012 we introduced this new small-overlap frontal crash test, where only one quarter of the front end strikes a barrier. That simulates what happens when you cross the center line and hit an oncoming vehicle, or if you go off the road and hit a tree. Most vehicles do well in our moderate-overlap and side-impact tests, but this new test is where we’re seeing the discrimination between the models.

Did the most recent test results for minicars surprise you?

We were a little surprised that of 11 vehicles only one didn’t earn poor ratings.

Among the categories you evaluate is kinematics. What’s that?

It’s the study of motion. It’s how the dummy moves in the vehicle during the crash. We evaluate the kinematics to assess the restraint system, the seatbelt and air bags, and how they work together to keep you in an optimal position and protected.

Do the car companies respond to you after such a report is released?

They let us know when new products will be coming on the market that will be performing differently than the one we tested. Many are anxious to get upgraded ratings published as quickly as possible. A good example is the new Honda Fit, which will come out in the first quarter of this year. Honda is optimistic it will earn a good rating.

If the wave of the future may be smaller cars, what is the message here for manufacturers?

The message should be that since they have an inherent safety disadvantage because of their size and weight, these vehicles should have the absolute best crash-worthiness performance. In Europe there are a lot more small cars and not as many SUVs. It’s hard to reconcile an Escalade on the same roads as a Scion SQ and, of course, the heavy-duty pickup trucks.

What’s the best way for a buyer to do due diligence when buying a minicar, or any car for that matter?

It’s reviewing the data that’s available—the crash ratings, the consumer magazine feedback. If you are shopping for safety it’s the crash ratings. We’d like people, if not sure what size vehicle they need, to think about a slightly larger car that offers fuel economy comparable to the smaller car.

How do your tests compare to the tests of the federal government?

The [federal government’s] are based on a different suite of tests. What we like to tell people is that most vehicles do well in the government tests, so for sure you shouldn’t buy a car that doesn’t do well in the government testing. But then beyond that, they should choose one that does well in our suite of tests.

The Fiat 500, which ranked next to last in the IIHS crash test study.

Posted at 12:11 PM/ET, 01/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
He passed away Tuesday in Baltimore. By Carol Ross Joynt

Tom Clancy, the author, Annapolis resident, and part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles, died Tuesday in a Baltimore hospital. Clancy was 66 years old. His best-selling novels, many of which became hit films, included several from the Jack Ryan series: The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger. His books were particularly popular with Washington readers because of the authentic detail he brought to stories of espionage and military derring-do. The news of Clancy's death was announced by his publisher.

Clancy was born in Baltimore and went to school and college there and in Towson, Maryland. Before he found his fortune as an author, he was in the insurance business. 

Clancy was unabashed about his conservative politics. One of his most notable fans was President Ronald Reagan.

Other Clancy books include The Sum of All Fears, Without Remorse, Debt of Honor, Executive Orders, Rainbow Six, and his most recent, in 2012, Threat Vector, by which time Jack Ryan is President of the United States and his son is a rising CIA operative. Command Authority is scheduled to be released in December of this year.

From the Archives:

How Tom Clancy Turned the Novel of Revenge Into Earnings of $16 Million a Year

Tom Clancy Talks About How Jack Ryan Would Handle Osama bin Laden

Posted at 11:13 AM/ET, 10/02/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Talking Washington politics and beyond with the “mayor for life” on a flight from Bermuda to DC. By Carol Ross Joynt

Marion Barry. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

So there we were, a crowd of mostly tanned and rested travelers about to leave the pink sand and aquamarine shores of Bermuda to fly back to Washington and, most likely, work. The US Airways gate agent said the Monday afternoon flight was fully booked. Sigh—so much inching and carry-on shoving ahead. In the long line waiting to board, I noticed a man in a dapper white linen suit and sporting a sombrero-style straw hat. He looked familiar to me and to others, who also glanced his way. It was DC City Council member Marion Barry, also known as former mayor Marion Barry and occasionally “mayor for life” Marion Barry. We’ve met on several occasions over the years for professional reasons, mostly interviews, and when we were side by side he smiled broadly, said hello, and introduced me to his companion and significant other Sandy Bellamy.

I wanted to turn to fellow passengers and make the classic morbid joke about what the headline would be if the plane went down, but I’m too fearful a flyer to go there.

Later, at a cruising altitude of about 35,000 feet, the flight attendants brought out the beverage and snack carts to navigate the narrow aisle, offering sodas, cocktails, and chips to the passengers sitting snugly, three across, on either side. I was in the aisle seat in row 11. Barry was in the aisle seat of the seventh or eighth row, up ahead. The cart was between us.

The cart did not deter him. He was up, the hat now off, coming in my direction, looking right at me over the flight attendants, smiling and talking, though I couldn’t make out the words in the din of the cabin. The flight attendants moved this way and that, backed up, let him pass, and then followed him as he came toward me, still smiling and talking. When he got close, I heard him clearly. Did I have credit cards? I did. “I only have cash,” he said. “Can you buy me two vodkas?” Well, sure—I was about to buy one for myself (the anxious flyer). The aisle seat across from mine was open, and Barry asked if he could sit there. The young couple in the center and window seats smiled and said, “Of course.” The flight attendants, standing practically on top of us, filled cups with ice, cracked open cans of Bloody Mary mix, poured in vodka from tiny bottles, and passed the drinks around. I handed over my credit card. “Are you sure you don’t mind?” Barry asked. I didn’t.

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Posted at 03:12 PM/ET, 08/21/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Personals section lights up with Independence Day postings. By Carol Ross Joynt
Photograph via Shutterstock.

With the exception of those time-honored fireworks metaphors, honestly, it’s tough to connect romance with July Fourth—all that bunting, red, white, and blue, marching music, and fattening up with barbecue and beer. But then, who knows—maybe waving sparklers in the air is the key to turning a first date into lasting love (or just a good first date). There will be plenty of opportunities throughout the Metro area this evening and tomorrow, thanks to fireworks, parades, and cookouts. No surprise, then, that Craigslist is filled with posts from individuals seeking friendship, companionship, romance, a party, a good time, a hook-up—most of all, an occasion not spent alone.

We sifted through a few days worth of posts to provide this random and edited sampling. Happy Fourth, all.

[Ed. note: All posts appear exactly as written, including spelling and punctuation.]


Brownie Points

Emailification—m4w—42 (dc/nova/md)

The title was just to get you inside the message. I have full command of the English language. When I text, I do use shortcuts, however when I write, I tend to spell things out and take my time with my words. Having said all that, how are you doing today?...

The 4th is coming soon. Any good plans for that? I plan to watch my neighbor risk his hand again lighting fireworks. Last year he managed to nearly reenact a scene from an Indiana Jones movie as the fire leaped from the pit he was making it in to the trail of gasoline fumes, to the mason jar he had the gasoline in, exploding only nanoseconds after he released if from his grasp. ...

What else. I will probably take in a baseball game. That seems like a good 4th of July activity. Maybe go swimming and work on that tan. ...

I might also make brownies. Not the good brownies. ... I just like brownies. They taste good. You have to share them though, because I don’t want to be eating a full tray of brownies. They are pretty good with peanut butter or ice cream or cool whip and maybe some strawberries too.

So there you go. Peace


Because 29 Would Be Too Old

4th of July—m4w—22 (Alexandria,VA)

I have never done this before, but I would like to hang out with someone for the fourth of July. We can go to D.C. and walk around, movies, etc. I am a 22 year old man, you must be women below 28 years of age. Let me know if you are interested. Please reply with a picture and I will do the same. No picture = no reply. Thanks.


Thrill Seeker

July 4th weekend—m4w—55 (Nova & greater DC)

Going stir crazy. Single, mature, white, active, fit, fun, sane, gentleman seeking a woman, or a group of men & women, that don’t want to get stuck doing nothing or doing something alone, this weekend. I’m game to go see fireworks, go trail bike riding, go kayaking (I have 2), go camping, go fishing, go dancing, play poker all night, go to movies, rent a motorcycle, go skydiving, etc. Notice all those things involve going and doing stuff, and NOT sitting around. Need to get out there, daytime and evenings....

Maybe we can form a group of singles, divorcees, widows, widowers, separatees, etc that can all meet somewhere.

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Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 07/03/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The comedian riotously broke from the script. By Carol Ross Joynt

Photograph of Brand by s_bukley/Shutterstock.

Ever since Russell Brand appeared on the Morning Joe breakfast show and slayed host Mika Brzezinski, social media has been blowing up about the episode—even now, two days after it happened. And it’s easy to see why. There are few who consider the video clip anything less than one of the brightest recent moments on live American talk TV, because everyone on the set, including and because of Brand, broke from the conventional vanilla talk show script.

Brand appeared on the MSNBC show to promote his new comedy tour, Messiah Complex. What Brzezinski tried to conduct as a routine guest interview quickly devolved into Brand mocking her, her show, the newsroom, and the other guests. “Is this what you all do for a living?” he asked.

In Brand’s defense, Brzezinski, Katty Kay, and Brian Shactman were talking more around him than to him. “You are talking about me as if I’m not here,” Brand said. “As if I’m an extraterrestrial.” Brzezinski gulped nervously from a plastic bottle of presumably a soft beverage and made faces, Kay plopped her head on the desk, and Shactman squirmed. No one ever accused members of the US media of having comedic potential—and the media often assume comedians have only one channel, one speed. Brand was perplexed by the manner in which Mika and her cohosts questioned him, with them basically demanding he “be funny,” and showing dismay when he didn’t perform according to their expectations.

The episode was reminiscent of when John Stewart went on CNN’s Crossfire in 2004 and got into it with host Tucker Carlson, calling him a “partisan hack.” Carlson slammed Stewart for a Daily Show interview with John Kerry, in which he thought Stewart did not ask tough questions. Stewart was beside himself. “I didn’t realize that . . . news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity,” he responded. Crossfire was canceled the next year.

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Posted at 01:01 PM/ET, 06/20/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Vice President Biden made an uncharacteristically brief appearance. By Carol Ross Joynt
First responders honored at the annual Ford’s Theatre gala: Matt Patterson of the Lynn, Massachusetts, Fire Department; sergeant David Kullgren of the Newtown, Connecticut, Police Department; Robert Payne, of the West, Texas, Volunteer Fire Department; and Douglas S. Fuchs of the Redding, Connecticut, Police Department. Photograph by Margot Schulman.

Vice President Joe Biden is a familiar and exuberant presence at a lot of events in Washington, and when he appears he typically bounds onto the stage. But that was not the case on Sunday evening at the annual Ford’s Theatre gala. Biden was remarkably subdued, speaking in a quiet near-monotone during his opening remarks to an audience of corporate power players and members of Congress and the Cabinet. Rather than stay for the show, which is typical, he departed immediately after his remarks. A short time later, the evening’s host, actor Richard Thomas, gave some explanation: “We got a call about an hour ago letting us know that Vice President Biden wouldn’t be able to stay for the show.” Then he cracked that for half of the audience “that’s a disappointment and for the other half a sigh of relief.” When the comment prompted weak chuckles, he said, “That was in the script!,” earning a much bigger laugh.

Done up in formal dress, guests had to wait in the rain to go through three security checks before taking their seats in Ford’s Theatre. When Vice President Biden arrived, he commented on how heavy the rain was. Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

After the show, when guests gathered for a buffet dinner at the National Portrait Gallery, members of the cast said they, too, were surprised by Biden’s brief drop-by. In years past the Vice President or President stays for the full show. What the cast members said they’d heard backstage was that Biden was tired from a trip—he’d just returned from a six-day Latin American and Caribbean swing—and was not feeling well. He did not do a backstage meet-and-greet with the cast, but he did spend a few moments with a group of first responders who were among the evening’s honorees. (We have a call into his office to learn the official reason for his early departure.)

In his remarks, in which he called Ford’s a “hallowed hall of American history,” Biden mentioned the first responders he’d met backstage. They included Sergeant David Kullgren* of the Newtown, Connecticut, Police Department and Douglas S. Fuchs of the Redding, Connecticut, Police Department, who both responded to the December Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings; Matt Patterson of the Lynn, Massachusetts, Fire Department, who was on the scene and responded to the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings; and Robert Payne, of the West, Texas, Volunteer Fire Department, who responded to the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion. They “lost some of their brothers and sisters [and] saw some of the most horrible things anyone has ever seen,” Biden said. “They continue to rebound. To them I say, ‘God bless you.’” Later the men were introduced onstage.

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Posted at 12:55 PM/ET, 06/03/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The pair sat alone in a cozy corner booth. By Carol Ross Joynt
Bradley Cooper being interviewed at an earlier White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

We’re told that Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper was at the Tombs in Georgetown last night, tucked into a back booth, with a possible new girlfriend, and that after enjoying the comforts of the legendary Georgetown University haunt he left a big tip.

Cooper is a GU alum, and visits the campus often when he’s in Washington.

Cooper seems to have a new girlfriend almost quarterly. Previously he was linked to Zoe Saldana, while of late he’s been making the rounds with British model Suki Waterhouse. But our sources say on Sunday night he was with someone else, a woman named “Alex.” No one else joined them at their corner booth in the pub’s wood-paneled and cozy main room.

Cooper is in town to attend today’s National Conference on Mental Health at the White House, an issue he’s been advocating for since appearing in the hit film Silver Linings Playbook. In that film, which earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination, he portrayed a character with bipolar disorder. President Obama will open the conference, and Vice President Biden is expected to deliver closing remarks.

Posted at 10:10 AM/ET, 06/03/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Dr. Terrence Keaney’s dermatological practice offers Botox, laser resurfacing, and more exclusively to male customers. By Carol Ross Joynt
The check-in area at W for Men. Photograph courtesy of W for Men.

They come in for all kinds of reasons. Because they have a skin disorder. Because their profession demands a youthful glow. Because they are curious. And sometimes just because their wives or girlfriends ordered them to do whatever was needed to stop the effects of Father Time. The men who come in are all ages, according to Dr. Terrence Keaney, who oversees W for Men, described as “the world’s first clinical practice” dedicated to skin treatments for men. It celebrated its launch Wednesday evening. The clinic is in the city’s business hub—14th and K streets, Northwest—convenient for lobbyists and lawyers, the media offices, the White House, and the Capitol. The clients come from all these places, and sports fields, too. The entrance, on the ground floor, is discreet—no mixing with the adjacent women’s clinic.

“The focus of the practice is to create an environment where men feel comfortable, as well as to treat all their dermatological needs,” says Keaney via a phone interview. “There are a lot of middle-aged men who are becoming increasingly conscious of their age and the demands of their profession, and younger people, and the newly single. We see the middle-aged group, 40- to 50-year-olds. That’s when we see a lot of patients. We do see a lot of 20- to 30-year-olds, too, who are being proactive, because patients who start earlier get better results; you can slow the damage before it begins.”

Keaney started formulating the idea for a men-only practice when he was working his way through the rigors of medical school. He got his undergraduate degree at Duke and his medical degree at the University of Virginia, then trained at the University of California in San Francisco; he completed dermatological training at the University of Miami. He did a fellowship with Dr. Tina Alster at her Washington clinic, which is where the two doctors have created the special men’s practice.

Photograph of Dr. Kearney courtesy of W for Men.

“I recognized during my medical school training that the study of aging invariably focused on the female and how to slow the aging process on the female face,” Keaney says. “I noticed from the beginning that whenever companies produce products or physicians talk about using lasers or injectibles, they talk about the female face. It makes sense, because that’s where the market was.” But he knew male skin was different, and he sensed an emerging market for men who wanted to deal with skin issues and look their best. “My theory was that if men were going to be spending time and money on clothes and were concerned about their appearance, they would be concerned about their face and their skin,” he said. He says it’s a growth market now, with many skin-care companies making products for men.

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Posted at 01:56 PM/ET, 05/30/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()