- Susan Saulny, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players9 hrs ago
Washington’s cherry blossoms have become an iconic image of springtime in the nation’s capital. And while the trees can be appreciated solely for the ethereal beauty they cast on the shores of the Potomac River, the historical roots of the trees are more complicated.
Ann McClellan, a recognized expert on the trees who has written two books on Washington’s annual festival celebrating the blossoms, told “Power Players” that the first trees given to Washington from Japan in 1910 were a symbol of international friendship.
“When they gave the gift of trees they were really giving something of themselves, because they were grateful to the United States for brokering the treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War,” McClellan said. “It was the first time Japan was treated as a bona fide member of the international community.”
The trees were given in honor of then-first lady Helen Taft, wife of the 27 th president William Taft, who had developed an interest in the blossoming trees from her travels to Japan and was working to beautify the park area around today’s tidal basin, which was a swampland at the time.
- Martha Raddatz, Richard Coolidge & Jordyn Phelps at Power Players2 days ago
On the Radar
What if the United States has been waging the wrong war against the wrong enemy for the last 13 years in Afghanistan?
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who spent more than a decade covering Afghanistan since 2001, concludes just that in her new book, “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014.”
Gall told “On the Radar” that Pakistan – not Afghanistan – has been the United States’ real enemy.
“Instead of fighting a very grim and tough war which was very high in casualties on Afghans, as well as NATO and American soldiers, the problem wasn't in the Afghan villages,” Gall said. “The source of the problem, the radicalization, the sponsoring of the insurgency, was all happening in Pakistan.”
Gall said she first had the realization that Pakistan was fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan “very soon” after the Sept. 11 attacks.
- Devin Dwyer, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players5 days ago
Inside the “Matchbox,” there’s plenty of room for romance. (Just don’t rock too hard, or the 150-square-foot home-on-wheels might come off its foundation.)
“It’s definitely very cozy,” said Jay Austin, the 24-year-old federal government staffer and self-described “lifestyle artist,” who designed his tiny home atop a trailer in northeast D.C.
“A tiny house is sort of a great filter. Some women will be scared away by it certainly, but I find the people I’d be compatible with are sort of into the notion of the tiny houses,” he told “Power Players.”
“You sort of have to have a sense of humor to appreciate it,” he added.
Humor, and most definitely tolerance for tight spaces and few luxuries of modern city living.
“It’s off-grid, totally unplugged and self-sustaining,” Austin said, “meaning there is no propane shipped in, no natural gas being moved in to power the unit.”
Water is collected from the roof and “rain chains,” triple-filtered and stored in tanks for the shower and sink. Electricity will come from solar panels. There is no hard-wire cable TV.
That smell of cedar inside? The sawdust material for flushing a composting toilet that sits directly below the bed.
- Terry Moran, Clark Bentson, Jordyn Phelps, and Richard Coolidge at Power Players6 days ago
It was a problem from hell.
That’s how Samantha Power summed up the United States’ failure to respond to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” – and in so doing, Power made a name for herself as a critic of U.S. foreign policy.
Now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the former critic-turned government insider is in Rwanda to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide as the United States’ official representative.
“President Obama wanted us to come back and pay our respects and show that even if it's 20 years later, this genocide is something that stays with us,” Power told “Power Players” during an interview in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali.
“When you meet a survivor and they lost their children, and their siblings, and their parents,” she added. “It just matters intrinsically, even if it did no good for the rest of time, it matters to those people that the world is coming and saying that we're still with them.”
- Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players7 days ago
The art of a good spy is to go undetected.
But as tensions continue between Congress and the CIA over allegations that the intelligence agency improperly spied on Senate staffers, the nation’s spy agency has found itself squarely in the spotlight. Veteran CIA officer Peter Earnest told “The Fine Print” that the conflict between the nation’s spies and its legislators is nothing new.
“There's often tension … over access,” Earnest told “The Fine Print” during an interview at the International Spy Museum in Washington, where Earnest is now executive director. “Should we give them this? Should we give them that? In other words, do they have a right to have this? This is about sources. This is method. Whereas the overseers think we should be able to have that.”
Earnest, who worked as an operative and as the CIA’s liaison to the Senate, said the CIA has historically taken a “bad rap” from Congress and that recent attention on the agency, from the likes of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Sen. Rand Paul, is just the present day manifestation of the strained relationship.
- Jonathan Karl, Jordyn Phelps, and Tom Thornton at Power Players9 days ago
When Michelle Obama decided to plant her first kitchen garden as first lady six years ago, White House chef and food policy guru Sam Kass was the man who made it happen.
“It’s something that the first lady and I had talked about for a long time, and this is a vision of hers that was the first thing we did when we got to the White House on the path to all the great work she’s done on health and nutrition; it all sort of grew from here,” Kass said during an exclusive tour of the newly planted White House kitchen garden with “Politics Confidential.”
Just like the garden, Kass’ role at the White House has grown. Initially coming to the White House as a chef, Kass soon took on the role as the executive director of the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign and has steered an effort to make food options in the nation’s schools healthier.
- Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge, and Alexandra Dukakis at Power Players12 days ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for baseball fans.
Major League Baseball kicked off its 2014 season this week, and while young sluggers across the country hit the field on Opening Day with dreams of leaving their mark on the sport, two masters of America’s pastime celebrated a newly minted tribute to the game — literally.
Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Joe Morgan joined the U.S. Mint in launching the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin. The first of its kind curved coin is designed to look like a baseball and glove, with the curved side of the coin resembling a baseball and the concaved side depicting a baseball glove.
“They are pretty snazzy,” said Brooks Robinson, dubbed “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” for his famous plunges for the ball as third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. “This is the first time the U.S. has ever done anything like this, and it was quite a project for them.”
“I think it's great,” famed base-stealer and batter Joe Morgan told “Power Players.”
- Karen Travers, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players14 days ago
What started out as a hike in the mountains of Iraqi-Kurdistan turned into a 781-day prison ordeal for three American tourists who unknowingly crossed the border into Iran in 2009. And, now, the former prisoners -- Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd – detail the horror of their experience in a new memoir, “A Sliver of Light.”
“We didn't know we ended up hiking along the border between Iran and Iraq, and when a guard called us over, we come, and realize that, wow, we're in the wrong place, we did not mean to be here,” Josh Fattal told “Power Players.”
“We later found out that the trail we were on was the border, an unmarked border between Iran and Iraq; so, when the guards called us to them, they were actually calling us into Iran,” Shourd said of the misunderstanding that led to their extended imprisonment in Iran’s notorious Evin prison.
Shourd spent more than a year in solitary confinement.
- Rick Klein, Olivier Knox, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players15 days ago
Oil is complicated business.
A new documentary juxtaposes the story of a U.S. oil company in its venture to reap profit from an oil field it discovered off the coast of Ghana with the tale of Nigeria’s deeply corrupt oil industry. In telling the story, “Big Men” director Rachel Boynton takes her audience from the boardroom negotiations of U.S.-based Kosmos Energy to the boats of militant groups in Nigeria, as they try to claim a piece of the Niger Delta’s vast petroleum riches.
“It isn't just outright condemning the oil companies and I'm not saying they're saints either but it is portraying a complicated situation,” Boynton told “Top Line.”
Obtaining access to Kosmos Energy, Boynton said, was the most challenging hurdle in creating the film.
“Oil companies are not known for opening up their doors and inviting in independent filmmakers,” she said, explaining that she ultimately gained the confidence of the company’s executive Brian Maxted.
- ABC News at Power Players19 days ago
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the scandal over the George Washington Bridge lane closures has brought him closer to his family through a process of soul searching.
“It's brought me to reevaluate some of the way I've spent my time,” Christie told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview Thursday. “You can get caught up in this world and in this life pretty easily, in a public life that becomes so public. And I'll tell you that what it's done for me is just, I'll spend a lot more time at home than I ever have.”
“And not only that I needed to, but I wanted to,” he later added. “And sometimes in this business, what you want takes a back seat, at times, to what other people tell you you need to do. And I'm taking more control over what I want to do.”