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And people say this town isn't funny. By Ali Follman
Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock

Even for the Internet, April 1 is notable for the amount of false information available. Companies post fake videos advertising fake products to promote their brands (selfie shoe, anyone?) and celebrities post shocking tweets to rile their loyal fans (singer Sam Smith tweeted he is "straight").

In DC, many of these pranks have a political theme. But for the politicians who attempted to be funny on Twitter, many of them failed miserably. Because what's so funny about a politician switching allegiances, Newt?

The pranks that gained the most attention were funny, cute, clever, and not cruel. Good examples: The National Air and Space Museum had fun tricking Twitter followers and museumgoers with the promise of Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet exhibit. The National Zoo's sloth cam captured all the excitement you'd expect.

Here's a roundup of today's best April Fools' tweets from the DMV.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

This tweet had followers responding "I can't see it!"

Monica Lewinsky

Hey, Monica.

Washingtonian April 2015 Issue contributor, Amanda Hurley

Revenge is always sweetest when carried out on April Fools' Day.

District Doughnut

This one was more obviously false, but a good effort from the popular dessert shop.

Smithsonian National Zoo

Just try to watch the sloth cam and not get annoyed by the slow pace. It's a prank all its own.

Newt Gingrich

He used this "holiday" to poke fun at President Obama's policies.

DC Native Bill Nye

Want to watch some of your favorite celebrities do something funny for 1.5 seconds? You don't have a choice because the clips are so addicting.
Funny or Die created Dips, or 1.5-second long videos, that website founders Will Ferrell and Adam McKay claim are the best new way for communicating. Tons of celebrities contributed to their campaign, including the Science Guy.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market even turned on us and made a fake blog for April Fools' Day! Bloggers wrote fake stories ranging from plant-based underwear to a new brand launch called 366 Everyday Value, spoofing their 365 Everyday Value brand. The 366 brand is for the leap year and has one more unit in each package; so 13 eggs in a dozen. Below is an article advertising organic tattoo parlors to be set up in all Whole Foods Markets.

Lesson learned: always set your BS meter on high on April 1.

Posted at 04:06 PM/ET, 04/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The social network briefly blocked ads from the DC government's condom distribution program, which helps prevent HIV infection. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph via Shutterstock.

Like any advertising platform, Twitter reserves the right to regulate the content its customers want to promote. The social networking platform’s policy for “promoted tweets”—posts that appear high up in certain users’ feeds, whether they ask for them or not—prohibits “adult or sexual products,” a category that covers pornography, prostitution, sex toys, and mail-order spouses. It also outlaws most contraceptives, although condoms are permitted when the point of the ad is not explicity sexual.

But as DC’s Department of Health discovered this week, Twitter’s policy is applied inconsistently, and can derail publicity for things with public value, like the city’s programs aimed at reducing infection rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

On Thursday, the publicity company that helps promote the health department’s seven-year-old free condom distribution program attempted to buy a promoted tweet for the account @FreeCondomsDC, but was rebuffed. An automated reply informed them the tweet violated of its content guidelines.

The ban was short-lived, with Twitter spokeswoman Genevieve Wong saying that @FreeCondomsDC was approved Friday morning (a few hours after Washingtonian had inquired about why it had been refused). “We allow advertisers to run campaigns that promote condoms and safe sex,” she wrote.

But the temporary ad-block raised questions about how consistently and effectively Twitter applied its condom ban. At least one condom retailer has run into a wall after Twitter prodded then to advertise. In June, Think Progress reported that, an online condom store, finally tried to buy a 140-character ad but was rejected on the grounds that its tweet was too sexy. (Lucky Bloke’s basic pitch—“Tired of lousy condoms?”—seemed to us relatively tame for prophylactics.) Meanwhile, manufacturers like Durex have been able to advertise, making the logic of their ban even fuzzier.

There’s no evidence that Twitter targets sexual-health tweets. The health department had been able to place sponsored tweets in June to advertise its presence at DC’s annual Capital Pride parade. In fact, it reports encouraging results from its social media efforts. @FreeCondomsDC doesn’t have many followers—only 804 at last count—but promoted tweets can increase that audience four or five times, says Michael Kharfen, the director of the department’s HIV/AIDS office.

“We’ve recognized that social media is a critical way for us to reach the public with information and access to services and resources,” Kharfen says. “We’re getting across information that’s on the leading edge of public health.”

Kharfen says social media has been critical growing the program from giving out 500,000 rubbers in 2007 to 6.9 million last year. And in Washington, where 2.5 percent of the total population is HIV positive—one of five highest infection rates among major US cites, Kharfen says, and an epidemic by World Health Organization standards—safe-sex promotion needs as much daylight as possible. 

The tweets intended for next week include a link to the health department’s order form for condoms.

“We tend to get increases [in orders] when these ads go out,” Kharfen says. “We get more people that check out the tweet. They click through.”

It’s likely that Twitter’s uneven condom policy has more to do with hypersensitive keywords than human squeamishness. Perhaps it would be better to err toward allowing the occasional French tickler to get through the filters than to frustrate a valuable public health resource.

Posted at 05:01 PM/ET, 08/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Asra Nomani’s haunting tale resonated across the world.
Illustration by Piotr Lesniak.

Readers from around the world are diving into Asra Nomani’s new Washingtonian story, “This Is Danny Pearl’s Final Story,” which we published yesterday. In the one day the piece has been online, it’s garnered an overwhelming response, earning nearly 10,000 Facebook likes and attracting readers from more than 150 countries. Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has weighed in, as have Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, scores of journalists—many of them former colleagues of Asra’s and Danny’s—and so many others. Below are some of the reactions to the story shared on Twitter. We hope you’ll share yours in the comments.


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Posted at 12:39 PM/ET, 01/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Insult comedy comes to Capitol Hill. By Benjamin Freed

Twitter is a great platform for anonymously slinging insults, especially at the rich, famous, and powerful. So it's hardly a wonder that members of the perpetually unpopular Congress find themselves at the blunt end of 140-character jabs.

But the barbs can turn to comedy gold when the recipients of insulting tweets read them aloud. Inspired by the recurring Jimmy Kimmel Live gag "Mean Tweets," the crew from Now This News got several members of Congress to read some of the nastiest things ever tweeted about them.

Some of the readings are quite good, such as Senator Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, reciting a tweet that compares him to an "old pair of shoes," or Representative Sean Duffy, Wisconsin Republican, responding to one that compares his stints on The Real World and in Congress to a hygiene product. The best, though, is Senator Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, fearlessly reading back a tweet compelling her to "suck a pig's ass."

Posted at 02:12 PM/ET, 01/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
What readers had to say about recent stories.

This week, readers had plenty to say about the T.J.Maxx/HomeGoods store that just opened in Georgetown, and about the news that Reston recently became the first place in the Washington area to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces. Read on for some of our favorite comments from Twitter, Facebook, and Disqus. 

On the opening of the T.J.Maxx/HomeGoods store

From Twitter:

From Facebook:

Catherine Donovan: That's beyond depressing. No point in shopping in Georgetown anymore. Nothing unique there. 

Peoples Hernandez: I agree. Next thing you'll see is the return of strip joints on M Street.


On Reston’s e-cigarette ban

From Facebook:

Loren Willcock: Sorry, no stupid people allowed in public...we prefer to watch them on c-span and fox news.

Drew Xeron: Reston = the town in Footloose 

From Disqus:

mnberty1 − In the news today, General Motors develops a new engine that emits a vapor exhaust which eliminates ALL carbon monoxide and 99% of the carcinogens in former models......In other news, Reston Association board of directors voted unanimously to ban them from public spaces because it looked strange to its residents. 

tch − Wait, Reston Council didn't understand something, so they banned it? Did that actually just happen?

Posted at 01:45 PM/ET, 09/13/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Rounding up the best Twitter reactions to the week’s Washingtonian stories.

On Prancercise coming to DC: On the opening of Tom Power’s Baby Wale on Ninth Street, Northwest (no, not this Wale): On contention surrounding a planned apartment building in Northwest: On the news that Adams Morgan bar the Reef is permanently closed after a stabbing incident: On the weekly Well+Being Food Diaries series: On spotting Oprah, in town for the March on Washington anniversary ceremonies, enjoying a cocktail at Proof:

Posted at 02:20 PM/ET, 08/30/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Un enfant was born at L'Enfant Plaza a year ago today. By Tanya Pai
Photograph by Flickr user bclinesmith.

On the morning of August 1, 2013, a baby was born on the platform at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. In honor of that baby, named Amir Mason (and not, I'm sorry to tell you, Pierre), here's a look back at some of the best jokes tweeted about that unusual situation. Happy birthday, Amir, and thanks for giving me the excuse to trot out the #metrobaby hashtag one more time. 

Original post below. 

Well, here's something you don't see every day: Metro Transit Police tweeted Thursday morning that a baby had been born on the platform at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. Within minutes, #metrobaby was trending as Washingtonians delivered (hehe) their best jokes about the occasion. See below for some examples—and leave yours in the comments. 

Posted at 11:14 AM/ET, 08/01/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
But no love for the coach who released him from the Redskins. By Carol Ross Joynt

There’s little sympathy for Redskins coach Mike Shanahan today, but it can’t be easy having his job in the last week of the preseason. This is when tightening the roster forces decisions such as cutting beloved veteran Chris Cooley. He’s been a fan favorite because of his game but also his involvement in the community (and it didn’t hurt that he vocally hated the Dallas Cowboys). Kicker Graham Gano also got let go, but that didn’t prompt the fan wails that greeted the Cooley release.

Of course, Shanny’s decision might be forgiven if he’s shaping a team that shows some fierce resolve in the regular season, starting with a trouncing of the Saints on September 9. Tonight the Redskins have their last preseason game, at FedEx Field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Alas, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III will not be playing, but the team’s other rookie QB, Kirk Cousins, will be and, hopefully, showing some of the same pluck he did against the Colts. It’s still to be decided whether Cousins or veteran Rex Grossman, who had a good game last week, will be the official backup to RG3.

But back to Cooley, who has been topic A among the sports chattering class today; the news of his departure even scored the front page of the Washington Post. We took to Twitter to capture a selection of comments, and noticed a trend toward nominating Cooley for practically every team in the NFL. Of course, like so many, we hope he gets picked up soon and comes back to visit often. Future touchdowns on Redskins turf is one way to say, “Thank you, Coach Shanahan.”

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Posted at 03:45 PM/ET, 08/29/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Back in May, Gingrich made news for deleting his Twitter archives. But Twitter’s delete button is no match for The Washingtonian. Now that he's the new GOP frontrunner, it's worth remembering those tweets. By Sophie Gilbert

Back in March, when Newt Gingrich was presumably mulling over his presidential prospects, Daily Kos reported that somebody had erased the majority of Gingrich’s Twitter archives. Not only is this a tragedy for the Library of Congress, which will no longer be able to add Newt’s musings on Japanese food, Ronald Reagan, and Wii bowling to the annals of history, but it’s a tragedy for us: Gingrich’s Twitter feed offered frequently hilarious insight into the mind of a compulsively energetic multitasker (and amateur restaurant reviewer). Luckily, in 2009 The Washingtonian chronicled some of Gingrich’s more memorable tweets in our weekly roundup, Tweet Beat, so here are some of our favorites. If you’re wondering whether any of Gingrich’s tweets these days are actually composed by him, here’s a hint: He isn’t generally partial to using capital letters, even if his staffers are.

Week ending April 10, 2009:

@newtgingrich: I am doing greta van susteren tonight at 1030

@newtgingrich: The electric grid cyberpenetration story is a powerful reminder how dangerous the world is. Think of a world without electricity

@newtgingrich: I am on the way to fox to do chris wallace sunday morning show This morning reports that the $400 million “emergency” aid to mexico failed

@newtgingrich: I am doing hannity tonight on fox

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Posted at 04:48 PM/ET, 12/06/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Washington's week. On Twitter. By Melissa Romero

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Posted at 05:41 PM/ET, 05/20/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()