Tales from the Trail

Ben’s Chili Bowl serves up half smoke to French leader

French President Nicolas Sarkozy may come from one of the world’s culinary capitals, but it seems whenever he comes to America more simple fare awaits him – hot dogs or sausages. USA

In 2007 when Sarkozy visited President George W. Bush at the family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, he was offered a lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs as the leaders tried to improve relations strained by the Iraq war.

Three years later he comes to Washington and where does he stop before going to the White House? Ben’s Chili Bowl.

The casual restaurant which serves hot dogs, sausages, and chili, has been around for more than 50 years and seen its share of  history along the way. Customers have included Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Cosby, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.

Sarkozy apparently had one of Ben’s famous half-smokes – a pork and beef smoked sausage — for lunch, that’s about as American as you can get without the apple pie.

from Photographers' Blog:

Obama signs historic health care bill: An easy assignment?

The White House East Room has been, through the decades, the site for countless ceremonies, speeches and historic moments. I have lost count of the number of times I have covered events in there, but on Tuesday, the most historically important moment in the young presidency of Barack Obama unfolded in the most packed working conditions I have ever seen in that grand room. Hundreds of invited Congressmen and women, who each had a hand in bringing about the health care reform bill, sat shoulder-to-shoulder and right up against the stage. Along with dozens of photographers, journalists and television crews, there wasn’t room to breathe and this presented a rare challenge for those that regularly cover the White House – the chance that you may not even see the event taking place!

USA

With the front row of the audience about 3 feet (one meter) from the signing desk, it was almost impossible to see the Presidential Seal and that important document that President Obama was about to sign. Even on step ladders, which normally elevate us sufficiently above the audience, it was touch-and-go, and that’s before camera phones, the new nemesis for any working photographer shooting over a crowd, would inevitably start popping up. Not to mention the audience members standing up themselves to see over the rows in front. I even had to negotiate a compromise with one Congresswoman from New York that if she would refrain from pulling out her cell phone and blocking us behind her, I would ensure that she would receive a copy of one of my pictures as a trade off. She thankfully obliged and I emailed her a jpeg file later in the day for her private collection, for which she was grateful. Other congressmen in the audience were not as considerate, and anticipating this (hey, even elected officials can’t resist pulling out their cameras too), I set in place an “insurance policy”, because news photographer’s never get a second chance at capturing history.

My insurance policy was a Canon 5D camera and 24-105mm lens clamped high above my head on one of the towering light stands, atop of which is enough illumination to set an exposure of 400th sec @ f4, at 1000 asa. They do light White House events well, as administrations past and present recognize the power of the well-crafted image. I know a lot of photographers who shoot indoor events and would dream of soft, plentiful light rather than messing with high ISO speeds or the dreaded flash/strobe. With one dedicated radio transmitter attached to the hotshoe of my handheld camera, and a radio receiver connected to remote camera on the light pole, I could wirelessly fire the remote every time I pushed my shutter button. After editing the pictures from the remote camera for the Reuters wire shortly after the event ended, I thought it would be cool to put the entire sequence together with some sound to give you a sense of being in that room on this historic occasion.

Is McCain taking his toys and going home?

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Is Republican Senator John McCain bringing playground  logic to Washington’s bitter partisan divide?

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs seems to think so.

McCain, defeated by President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, vowed that Republicans furious after passage of Obama’s historic healthcare overhaul, will not work with Obama’s Democrats this year.

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” McCain told an Arizona radio program, criticizing the way Democrats steered the healthcare bill through Congress. “They have poisoned the well in what they have done and how they have done it.”

So how’s he doing now? New polls on Obama healthcare

The White House (whether its occupant is Obama or Bush) has a tendency to be dismissive of public opinion polls, shrugging them aside as inconsequential to the president’s decision-making and basically to be brushed off like dandruff on a shoulder.

That is unless the polls are going their way.

USA-HEALTHCAREWhite House spokesman Robert Gibbs, amid the glee of the healthcare bill signing Tuesday, tweeted @PressSec “In the polling obsessed town of Washington, DC this will give the nattering nabobs of negativity something to chew on” with a link to a story about the USA Today/Gallup poll that said 49 percent vs. 40 percent saw passage of  the bill as “a good thing.”

But while early post-healthcare polling data show a bump in President Barack Obama’s favorability ratings, it remains to be seen whether there’s a trend in the making.

Healthcare bill signing: exuberance, exclamations, expletives

With all the giddiness over the signing of the hard-fought healthcare reform bill into law, Vice President Joe Biden might be forgiven for dropping the F-bomb in the ear of the President of the United States … on open mike.

Fox News caught it and now it’s on YouTube for all to hear.

You have to listen closely.

Right after Biden introduces President Barack Obama at the White House East Room bill signing event, when they’re shaking hands, Biden turns and whispers in Obama’s ear: “This is a big f—ing deal.” (Just to be clear, there’s a u, c, and k missing from the quote).

Slight laughter from Obama before saying “thank you everybody” and beginning his remarks to the Democrats gathered before him.

The White House Rose Garden strategy

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs succumbed to spring fever and held his daily news briefing out in the sun-splashed Rose Garden today.

OBAMA/A few dozen reporters and maybe a squirrel or two squinted their way through about an hour of Q and A with Gibbs, who advised that he had put on three layers of sunblock before exposing his pale skin to the sun.

“This will not be a regular thing. I just thought it’s been a long winter and why not get outside and have a little fun for once in a while,” he said.

Gibbs sports Canadian hockey jersey for briefing

Joking that a new “casual Friday” dress code had been instituted in the West Wing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs showed up at the podium Friday wearing a Canadian hockey jersey to make good on a bet he had made with his counterpart in Canada.

OBAMA/Gibbs and Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had a wager on the men’s hockey final, which Canada won 3-2 in overtime.

His jersey had a number 39 on it in honor of U.S. goalie Ryan Miller. He had promised to wear it for 15 minutes but took it off after about five to uncover the Team U.S.A. Hockey jersey underneath.

Hanks vists “poor slobs” in White House press corps

Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg paid a surprise visit to the White House press corps on Thursday after being hosted by President Barack Obama.

 Hanks was keen to check up on an espresso machine he gave the journalists years ago. USA-PACIFIC/

“You know, you’re supposed to clean this after every use,” Hanks chided after inspecting the machine, a much-loved and well-used article by reporters cooped up in the press center.

Republican wants more Massa exposure but Democrat says it’s over

House Republican Eric Cantor thinks Congress should get to the bottom of Eric Massa’s bizarre tale of congressional nudity, satanic White House advisers, the groping of men (or not) and a congressional healthcare putsch by Democrats. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says the case is over. 
 

“I know that Steny joins me in hoping that the ethics committee in Congress looks into this adequately and can get to the bottom of all of this,” said Cantor, who appeared along with Hoyer on NBC’s Today show. ”The best place for this to be resolved is in the ethics committee and let’s get to the bottom of it.”

Otherwise, the whole thing seems to make Cantor want to hold his nose. And he is not alone. “I’m a little taken aback and stunned,” the Virginia lawmaker confided. “I don’t know the facts of this at all. I know that the American people are sickened.”

White House responds to naked House Democrat’s satanic tale

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Eric Massa was a little-known freshmen House Democrat only a month ago. Now he’s a political media sensation and a darling of Talk Radio/TV commentators capable of provoking the White House on healthcare reform.

Why the metamorphosis? Massa abruptly resigned from Congress, revealed he had an angry run-in with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel while the two were naked in a congressional gym shower, and now claims he was pushed out of office by the White House to keep him from voting against healthcare reform.

Oh, and he’s come to the conclusion that Emanuel is a “son of the devil’s spawn.”