Nora Grenfell

Found in Translation

When Ahmad Jan Ali says he risked his life to be here, he means it. The 26-year-old intern at the House Foreign Affairs Committee dodged bullets and kidnappers during the journey that brought him from his native Afghanistan to Washington, D.C.

"We got ambushed by the bad guys. We got shot at," Ali said of the combat missions that he completed serving as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. "There were risks in every day, working or not working." 

Take Five With Rep. Frederica Wilson

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH gets to know a Member of Congress through five fun questions. This week, we found out a few things about Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), including the story behind her legendary hat collection.

Q: What is your favorite Florida sports team?

The Face of Battle

The new exhibition at the Smithsonian Castle proves that no matter how far from us a war resides in time or space, photography can bring us closer to the battlefield. 

"Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront" transports visitors back in time 150 years. The collection of photographs, video and artifacts illustrates the American wartime experience and also the difficult role a national museum plays in a country fractured by war.

Extreme Makeover, Congressional Edition

Former Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.) thinks America could still become the world’s next top democracy. But there's work to be done, as he explained Thursday night at Politics and Prose while discussing his book “The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans.”

“We can make the government work, but it’s going to take fundamental changes,” Edwards said. He went on to say that Americans are fleeing party lines and that change is imminent.

The Official Word
Some Government Blogs Ditch Bureaucratic Language to Communicate With Audiences in a More Light-Hearted Way

An old axiom says “history is written by the winners.” That was before the Internet. Bloggers write their own stories, win or lose, and government websites are using blogs to capitalize on the public’s Internet addiction.

A “.gov” blog may seem like an oxymoron. The very term “blog” brings to mind an accessible and informal source of information. Government agencies, by contrast, are typically considered to be neither.

Happy Birthday, Lavagna

Lavagna Ristorante Italiano, located on Barracks Row, turned 1 year old Monday night. The celebration had all the ingredients of the best first birthday parties: proud parents, old friends and plenty of alcohol.

In addition to serving up free celebratory food and beverages, the bistro premiered its new locally sourced menu. Offerings came from farms in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Hill Climbers: Her Priority – Empowering Women

Donelle Harder is pursuing a master’s degree, volunteers on weekends and recently moved from a position in the House to the Senate. Her greatest source of pride, however, is not her own career, but her efforts to advance the careers of other women on the Hill.  

Since she first worked in the office of Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), Harder has been part of the Women’s Congressional Staff Association. 

The Suits Off Their Backs

On Wednesday, the women of Capitol Hill shed their clothes — for a cause.

The third annual Dress for Success Challenge held a drive to see which chamber’s ladies could donate more office-appropriate clothing to the nonprofit. The House edged out the Senate this year, reclaiming the title after being bested last time around. Dress for Success collects business apparel to donate to women who are unemployed and do not have appropriate clothes to wear to job interviews. When such a woman schedules an interview, she can collect a suit from Dress for Success.

Take Five With Rep. David Cicilline

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for HOH to catch up with a Member of Congress through five fun questions. This week, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) discusses his time in the doghouse and gives travel tips.

A: In the mayor’s office, you see immediately the impact that your work is having on families that live in your city. If someone says they want an after-school program, you can create one. If someone doesn’t feel safe, you can put a police beat in their neighborhood. In Congress, you’re drafting policy that ultimately does affect communities, but at a much more macro level.

Take Five With Rep. Kevin Yoder

It’s Tuesday and time again for Take Five, HOH’s weekly dose of five questions for a Member of Congress. This time around, we speak with Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) about some of his likes (Charles Dickens, Batman) and dislikes (University of Missouri sports teams).

Q: What’s the best place to stop on a trip to Kansas? A: Allen Fieldhouse — the home of the Kansas Jayhawks, best tradition and greatest college basketball team in the country.

Museum Goes Gold

The U.S. synchronized swimming team headed to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics features a very American pair in the duet competition — Russian-born immigrant Mariya Koroleva, who moved to the United States at the age of 9, and Mary Killman, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

A century ago, another Native American, Jim Thorpe, was a star at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. Killman calls Thorpe one of her inspirations.

A Capitol Hill Fourth: How Members and Staff Celebrate America’s Birthday

The Fourth of July is celebrated in every nook and cranny of the country, and lawmakers are typically back in their states and districts for the festivities.

We asked a sampling of Members and staff about their favorite traditions for the holiday. Here are some of the responses:

Hill Climbers: Himes Aide Found Calling Early

Alexander Laska says he discovered his interest in politics while watching the 2006 election returns in his Connecticut home as part of an assignment for his AP Government class. 

Recognizing how rare it was to be excited about homework, Laska decided then and there that he was going to Capitol Hill. He described the journey to his current position as a legislative correspondent in the office of Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) as a series of “trials by fire.” 

America’s Pastime Meets America’s Policymakers

Like any newer franchise, the Washington Nationals have faced challenges: finding talent, building a stadium and cultivating a fan base in a city dominated by two of America’s other favorite sports — politics and football.

Yet 2012 is looking like a banner year, with the team off to its best start ever.

Communities of Creativity

Be advised: With thousands of participants and hundreds of exhibits covering the National Mall, a single person will not be able to see everything at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival during its 10-day run that starts Wednesday. 

But feel free to give it a try.

Republican Roster

Elected 2010
Home: Hazleton
Hits S | Throws L | Votes R

Barletta once tried out for the Cincinnati Reds, and his team is hoping the Democrats’ lineup won’t be able to withstand his pitching arm. He’ll be wearing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees uniform, No. 7.

Brady Honors a Hometown Hero

When the teams take the field for the 51st Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, there will be one extra coach on hand.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a longtime participant who usually dons the uniform of College Park High School, will forgo tradition and wear his old Rapid City Post 22 jersey from South Dakota instead. The vintage sartorial choice is a tribute to Brady’s American Legion baseball coach, Dave Ploof, who retired in 2011 as the winningest coach in Legion baseball history.

Hill Climbers: Skating Helped Lead Stevens to Hill

Mae Stevens is used to the spotlight. The former competitive figure skater recently became a legislative assistant to Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), and her path to Capitol Hill had both everything and nothing to do with ice skating.

Growing up in Birmingham, Mich., Stevens had two passions: science and skating. She trained at the Detroit Skating Club, the stomping grounds of Olympians Todd Eldredge and Tara Lipinski.

Take Five With Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Every week, HOH gives you a closer look at a Member of Congress through five fun questions. This week, we talk to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) about “Portlandia,” why he’s a bow tie guy and his most embarrassing moment in Congress. Q: You are a legendary advocate of biking. Where’s your favorite place to bike in D.C.?

A: It’s selfish, but the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. This was something that we agitated for back in 2009 with the bike summit. And it’s happened, and it just makes me smile seeing bike lanes in our nation’s capital.

Website Tracks Deleted Tweets

In an age when many politicians are struggling to find social media fluency and potential Twitter scandals lurk on every keyboard, some Members of Congress are trying to use the power and adaptability of social media to overpower its potential disadvantages.

The new site Politwoops, which the Sunlight Foundation launched Wednesday, captures the tweets that politicians delete from their Twitter accounts. Politwoops quickly revealed some contentious tweets and inflicted at least one initial casualty, but shortly after its launch, several political operatives began using the site to advance their own agendas.