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David Grosso proposed changing the oft-contested name of the Washington Redskins. By Luke Mullins

At-large DC City Council member David Grosso, an Independent, made a splash earlier this week when he announced plans to introduce a non-binding resolution calling on Redskins owner Dan Snyder to scrap the team’s moniker, which critics have long considered an offensive racial slur. As a replacement, Grosso suggested the Washington Redtails—a reference the Tuskegee Airmen, a celebrated team of African-American pilots who served during World War II.

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Posted at 07:58 PM/ET, 05/03/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
One local woman’s quest to brighten your day. By Alison Kitchens
Photograph by Lorie Shaull.

Meet DC’s tiniest resident, the Little Heart Man.

He’s the brainchild of Lorie Shaull, a government consultant by day and pipe cleaner sculptor by night. Inspired by street artists, Shaull began placing the men around the District this past summer.

You’re most likely to catch him hanging out around Dupont Circle or Capitol Hill, says Shaull, who puts her creations in places she thinks they will be easy to spot.

Her goal? Simply to make DC residents smile.

“I happened to notice someone walk by one of them once and just saw them react positively to it,” she said. “And I thought that was really sweet.”

You can see more photos of the Little Heart Man in action on Facebook.

Posted at 02:30 PM/ET, 04/05/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
We revisit our earlier piece in light of President Obama's nomination Thursday. By Carol Ross Joynt

Photograph courtesy of Tom Schieffer.

On Thursday, President Obama announced his nomination of Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan. Our earlier post, written before the nomination, details what Kennedy might expect while serving in the position.

Recent speculation about whether Caroline Kennedy will be nominated by President Obama to become ambassador to Japan has focused attention on that particular high-profile diplomatic post, especially since it has never before gone to a woman. Still, the list of past ambassadors is impressive and emphasizes strong political and diplomatic skills. John Roos, a Silicon Valley lawyer and Obama friend, is the current ambassador. His predecessor was Tom Schieffer, a Texas businessman who had also been ambassador to Australia. Schieffer, the younger brother of CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer, served in Tokyo from 2005 to 2009, and though a Democrat he was appointed by a Republican, his friend President George W. Bush.

We checked in with Tom Schieffer on Thursday to find out more about what it means to be ambassador to Japan. He calls it “a great experience” and says he’s “never found anything quite as satisfying as serving your country in a foreign land.” Now based in Fort Worth and running his own company, Envoy International, he considers Tokyo unique in the modern diplomatic corps, because “you are it” and if you are a “substantive person who wants to play a larger role in the American foreign policy, Japan is a good place to do that.” While he would not disclose any inside information about whether Kennedy is in line for the position, he does say he thinks she would be a good choice and one that would be popular with the Japanese.

What’s the learning curve like in switching from a job outside the diplomatic corps and into an ambassador post?

It’s pretty steep, but fortunately you have a lot of people who are very helpful. It’s very interesting, and that’s one thing that makes it fun. You get to talk to a whole lot of people about a whole lot of things. The State Department is very good about that. You go all over the federal government, and they give you briefings and tell you what their particular department is concerned about.

They have “charm school,” a two-week briefing—they bring in eight to ten nominees, both political appointees and career diplomats, and they go through what it means to be an ambassador. They tell you, “This is going to be the most interesting job you’ve ever had in your life.” Anybody who has done it will say at the end that it was.

Do you become involved with a large staff?

The thing about a foreign post—and a lot of people don’t know it—is that there are so many federal agencies present at the post. In Japan there are about 27 federal agencies that have some sort of representative there. It’s very interesting because there’s such a broad range of issues and you’re talking to people who are very smart and about subjects that are intellectually fulfilling.

It’s a place of action. Sometimes people think being an ambassador means going to receptions. You do a lot of that, but it’s the least of what you do. It’s a hard job. I started at 7:30 in the morning and was done at 10 at night, practically seven days a week, because something is always going on.

Why did you leave diplomatic life?

The President appoints, and when presidents change you go.

Would you return?

Sure. It’s a great experience.

What are the central issues in which a US ambassador to Japan would have to be well versed?

The US-Japan Alliance. It is the lynchpin of our whole foreign policy in Northeast Asia and Asia as a whole. It is the thread that runs through the stability of the region. We have 50,000 troops in Japan. That’s more than anywhere else in the world. Everybody depends on those troops being there and the American presence being there.

What you have in Asia is the last place where great powers can reasonably collide—the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula. As dangerous as it is, the day has passed when you would have a superpower confrontation that would lead to war in the Mideast. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have a war in the Mideast, but not between two nuclear powers.

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Posted at 02:50 PM/ET, 04/04/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
She would be the first woman appointed to the position and would join a long list of distinguished former ambassadors. By Carol Ross Joynt

Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

The rumors are strong that President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, could be named the next US ambassador to Japan. According to reports, the vetting process is almost finished for the 55-year-old New Yorker, who was an early supporter of Barack Obama in his quest for the presidency. She played significant roles in his first and second campaigns.

While it could be days or even weeks before official confirmation of the appointment, we thought we’d look up some background facts in advance. For example, how many Kennedys have held diplomatic posts? Caroline Kennedy’s aunt, Jean Kennedy Smith, was ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998. Her uncle, R. Sargent Shriver, was ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970. Her grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy, was ambassador to Great Britain from 1938 to 1940.

If she is offered and takes the post, Kennedy will be the first woman to serve as ambassador to Japan. The list of predecessors is interesting and reflects the prestige of the job. It is a major “thank you” post for campaign “friends,” but has also gone to established politicians and diplomats. Apart from the decade after the attack on Pearl Harbor, there has been an American ambassador, or “resident minister,” dating back to the Civil War.

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Posted at 12:55 PM/ET, 04/02/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Celebrities are always passing through Washington to support one cause or another—but how many are willing to take that extra step and face arrest? By Michael Gaynor


George Clooney

In "Ocean's Eleven," he was a master thief, but his protest against Sudan's humanitarian crisis was foiled by police last year. Or was it? It was later reported that it was delivered on the embassy lawn to ensure an arrest—and publicity.

James Cromwell

Maybe having portrayed LBJ and other pols made him want to make a difference when he was arrested for protesting animal cruelty in 2001. Then again, he was the farmer in "Babe," so it probably had more to do with his pig costar.

Danny Glover

In a clear message that he was in fact not too old for this shit, the "Lethal Weapon" star was arrested in 2010 with SEIU members for protesting the union-bashing policies of Sodexo, the French food-service conglomerate.

Daryl Hannah

The '80s star and environmental advocate was arrested twice in DC for protesting the Keystone XL oil pipeline, in 2011 and again this February, after which Sean Hannity of Fox News promised to pay her bail money for some reason.

Margot Kidder

The actress who played Lois Lane in the 1970s Superman films joined "Legends of the Fall" actress Tantoo Cardinal in a 2011 environmental protest against TransCanada's Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Q'Orianka Kilcher

The actress, who was Pocahontas in "The New World" and whose father is an indigenous Peruvian, tied herself to a White House fence and had paint poured over her in a 2010 protest against Peruvian president Alan Garcia.

Martin Sheen

He was a TV President known for civility, but offscreen it's civil disobedience, with 60-plus arrests. One was at a Metro station in '87, protesting WMATA's installation of a fence that prevented the homeless from sheltering there.

Cornel West

The rapping Princeton prof attended the 2011 dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial—and rounded out his trip by being arrested at the Supreme Court as part of a demonstration against corporate money in politics.

Noah Wyle

This actor clearly missed his old days playing a doctor on television's "ER" when he—along with 75 others, some in wheelchairs—was arrested last year at the Capitol for protesting Medicaid cuts.

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This article appears in the April 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 11:30 AM/ET, 03/29/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
A fundraiser at the Caucus Room will raise money for his foundation. By Carol Ross Joynt

Photograph of Sinise courtesy of the actor's management.

Due to his activist involvement in the welfare of military service members, veterans, the wounded, and first responders, and his gig cohosting the annual Memorial Day concert on the Mall, actor Gary Sinise has a high profile in Washington. He’s here often, he’s well spoken, he’s effective, and he has connections. Could his activist résumé translate to a possible political career? “No,” he says. “I’m effective now. Politics is a whole other animal.” While he says he did support the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain, “I’m not registered to any party. I don’t really play in the political world. I’m really more interested in getting things done.”

To him, getting things done means helping almost anyone who has served the country, in particular the wounded and the struggling. In keeping with his frequent visits to DC, his two-and-a-half-day visit is action-packed and singularly focused on his role as an advocate.

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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 03/20/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
In different ways, both made a memorable appearance. By Carol Ross Joynt

It was a big night for Washington at the Oscars. First Lady Michelle Obama announced the best picture winner was Argo, a film with a strong Washington connection; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was represented in the form of socks worn by documentary film winner Sean Fine; and George Stevens Jr. won a special Oscar for his work founding the American Film Institute and the Kennedy Center Honors

Mrs. Obama, however, was the big reveal.

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Posted at 02:05 PM/ET, 02/25/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Research universities scramble to alert students and staff about a March 16 change in patent law. By Marisa M. Kashino
Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Attention inventors: If you’ve got a new creation you’ve been keeping to yourself, you should file a patent application for it now. That’s the word that Washington research universities are trying to spread to their faculty and students.

A key provision of 2011 patent reform legislation goes into effect on March 16. On that date, the US changes from a “first to invent” to a “first to file” country. Under the old rules, people who invented something first, but were beaten to filing for US patents on their inventions had the ability to argue for the record to be corrected. After March 16, inventors who find themselves in that situation will be out of luck.

The nation’s roughly 250 research universities all have offices with the sole purpose of commercializing faculty- and student-produced inventions and making them available for the public’s benefit. Claudia Stewart, vice president of Georgetown University’s Office of Technology Commercialization, e-mailed a memo to students earlier this week advising them to be mindful of the looming “first to file” change.

“If you have—or expect to have soon—a new invention, it is most prudent for you to disclose it to the Office of Technology Commercialization immediately,” she wrote. She also advised that the weeks before the deadline “may be a very busy time for the office.”

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Posted at 12:50 PM/ET, 02/21/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The new site goes live February 4. By Carol Ross Joynt
Photograph of Sullivan courtesy of Flickr user Stuck in Customs.

Writer, commentator, and blogger Andrew Sullivan began the new year by announcing that he planned to leave his perch at the Daily Beast and face the largely uncharted waters of a subscription website. Clearly he’s on to something, and it begins with recognizing his obvious popularity. The site,, doesn’t even go live until February 4, and already he’s sold $480,000 in $19.99 annual subscriptions. Sullivan says half the subscribers “gave more money than we asked for.” The site is owned by Dish Publishing LLC, a new company he founded with two partners, Patrick Appel and Chris Bodenner. When he announced the company to his Daily Beast readers, he said the trio “agreed to set out on our own with no safety net below us but you.” Sail on, Andrew.

Posted at 03:26 PM/ET, 01/24/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
A look at who was on the list at one of the inauguration weekend's most exclusive parties. By Carol Ross Joynt
Mark Ein and Ashley Judd arriving at the party. Photographs by James R. Brantley.

Sometimes the guest list is what sets one party apart from all the others. That was certainly the case with the late-night inaugural soiree hosted Saturday at the Madison Hotel by six Washingtonians who have infinite connections and influence: Ann and Vernon Jordan, Buffy and Bill Cafritz, and Vicki and Roger Sant. The Jordans and Cafritzes hosted a similar party four years ago, and it was the first glimpse anyone in Washington got of the Obama inner circle, in particular presidential senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and then-Social Secretary Desirée Rogers.

With a second inauguration, that curiosity factor is gone. This time around, in a room where just about every guest was connected in one way or another, it was interesting to see actress Ashley Judd, who arrived with her friend Mark Ein. Attending this particular party was as much as saying that yes, she is serious about running for the Senate in Kentucky. So far she’s said she’s taking a look, but there were people at the party (not the least of them Jordan) who can help her get from a Hollywood acting career to a Washington political role.

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Posted at 11:20 AM/ET, 01/21/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()