Daren Briscoe

Stories by Daren Briscoe

  • Capital Sources: Taking Aim at D.C.'s Gun Law

    The District of Columbia has the most restrictive gun laws in the country. But that’s a distinction the nation’s capital will soon lose—if Robert Levy prevails. Levy was born in Washington, but left years ago; a resident of Naples, Fla., who made a fortune as an investment analyst, he is now a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. A critic of what he sees as unnecessary government regulation, he rounded up six D.C. plaintiffs who either owned firearms or wanted to, for self-protection, and helped bankroll their challenge to the city’s gun law—which makes it illegal to own or possess an unregistered handgun (D.C. stopped registering handguns back in 1978). The city permits registered “long” guns like shotguns and rifles, but they must be disassembled or disabled with trigger locks, and it’s illegal to use a firearm of any kind in self-defense—even in the owner’s home. The suit, which is being bankrolled by Levy, has been successful so far; in...
  • Talk Transcript: Wolffe on Obama and Race

    When Cory Booker first ran for Newark city council in 1998, one of his opponents, George Branch, said, "[Booker's] a Rhodes scholar; I'm a roads scholar." The implication was not just that Booker lacked street smarts—it's that he wasn't quite black enough. In 2002, when Booker first ran for mayor of Newark, N.J., against Sharpe James, who had been in office since 1986, James operatives launched a whispering campaign that Booker was a tool of Jewish financiers—and that Booker, who was raised Methodist but attends a Baptist church, was Jewish. (James did not respond to a request for comment.)Booker, elected mayor last fall after James finally retired, tries to rise above the nastiness and stereotyping. "I remember joking with friends of mine about me being a vegetarian, and them saying, "Oh, that's going to be an issue. In the black community, people want you to sit down and have some ribs," Booker laughed, recalling the story to a NEWSWEEK reporter. "And I said, 'I am who I am,' you...
  • Profile: A Surgeon Who Treated 17 Victims

    A 58-year old general surgeon at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Va., Dr. Randall Lester has been fixing broken bodies since his medical residency at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1970's, when the hospital's pioneering liver transplant program was just starting up and marathon 18-hour surgeries weren't uncommon. So he wasn't overly alarmed when two shooting victims from nearby Virginia Tech were wheeled into Montgomery Regional’s emergency department early last Monday morning. One of the victims, a male, was dead on arrival, and the other, a female, had sustained a gunshot wound to the head but was still alive. Montgomery Regional has no neurosurgeon on staff, so Lester helped stabilize the young woman (who would later die) for transport to the level-one trauma center at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, about 35 miles from campus. Lester then went about his day, performing two of the five routine surgeries he had on his schedule. "Monday was just Monday," he...
  • Hard Hitters

    Among the racy and obnoxious Super Bowl ads selling everything from beer to insurance, at least one commercial interruption had a more serious intention. VoteVets.org, a political action group affiliated with a coalition of left-leaning organizations including MoveOn.org, ran an ad (only in certain markets) where Iraq war veterans, including an amputee, spoke out against President Bush’s “surge.” NEWSWEEK’s Daren Briscoe recently spoke to VoteVets cofounder Jon Soltz, who served as a captain during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and also served in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: What is VoteVets.org?Jon Soltz: We’re a pro-military group that’s concerned about things that affect the military at the lowest levels. We’re for destroying Al Qaeda and the people that attacked this country on September 11. We’re not an antiwar group at all—it makes me go ballistic when I hear people say that. But you can’t be for the troops and for the president when he talks about continuing a failed...
  • What the Generals Say

    The release of the long-awaited Iraq Study Group report has renewed focus on the ongoing debate about the way forward in Iraq. The blue-ribbon panel urges an approach that focuses more on diplomacy and less on the military. NEWSWEEK spoke with three retired Army generals about their thoughts on the group’s key recommendations—talks with Iran and Syria and the gradual pullback of American combat brigades from Iraq—and their own views about what should be done in Iraq. Excerpts:PAUL D. EATON A retired Army major general, Eaton was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004.On the Iraq Study Group report:“The report leads with an emphasis on diplomatic efforts. We’ve overrelied on military ground forces to the exclusion of economic incentives and we’ve certainly neglected things on the diplomatic front. You didn’t see any real military guys or tacticians or guys schooled in the operational arts involved in this report, because that’s not really what we needed. I hope we...
  • A ‘Real’ Memorial

    Rep. John Lewis says the new Washington monument to Martin Luther King Jr. will inspire a new generation.
  • Rolling With Pelosi

    Nancy Pelosi walks out of an airport the way others might flee a burning building. A car is waiting outside and the California congresswoman, straining under the weight of a suitcase, a fold-over bag and a pile of newspapers, cannot reach it quickly enough. Behind her, two young aides are having a hard time keeping up with their 66-year-old boss--if only because both of them are attempting to navigate their way through the concourse while furiously typing into their BlackBerrys at the same time.There are only a few weeks left before the midterm elections, and for Pelosi, the few minutes it takes to walk from the gate to the exit are wasted time. Time that could be spent memorizing the names and faces of the 200 people she's about to meet, or squeezing donors for last-minute contributions that will enable Pelosi to reach her ultimate goal: winning the 15 seats Democrats need to take control of the House. If they do, Pelosi, the House minority leader since 2002, will rise to Speaker...
  • Get Booked

    When First Lady Laura Bush launched the National Book Festival six years ago, it hardly seemed controversial. But last year poet Sharon Olds refused the First Lady’s invitation as a protest against the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq. With this year’s festival slated for this weekend, NEWSWEEK’s Daren Briscoe spoke with Librarian of Congress James Billington about what’s in store this year and why books still matter in the age of YouTube. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Why have a National Book Festival?James Billington: This country was put together by people who read books; we’re the only culture in the world whose institutions were formed entirely in the age of print. The Internet is wonderful, but you don’t get wisdom, judgment and selectivity on the Internet. A book is a little world of coherence, a conversation from one person to another. Books are sort of the sinews of civilization. We had 100,000 people on the Mall last year.So how does your role change in the Internet age? Will...
  • Put Those Eggs on Ice

    The danger of delaying childbearing, of course, is that a woman who eventually wants a baby may be unable to have one because her eggs are no longer viable. But researchers have developed a procedure that, while not stopping a woman's biological clock, can in effect act as a snooze button. Egg freezing, or "oocyte cryopreservation," uses hormones to boost a woman's production of eggs, which are then extracted and frozen, allowing them to be thawed, fertilized and implanted in her womb at a later date. Freezing puts the eggs in a state of suspended animation, meaning that in theory, a woman can keep a viable store of eggs on ice long after her body's natural supply is depleted.While egg freezing is available primarily to cancer patients facing infertility from chemotherapy and radiation, a growing number of clinics are offering the procedure to otherwise healthy women who simply want to postpone childbearing for personal reasons. Italy, which has laws banning the use of frozen...
  • Return to Sender

    Mark Pilat took a deep breath, braced himself and knocked on the door. A deportation officer with the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency--that's "ICE" in Fed lingo--Pilat and his team converged on a sprawling trailer park outside Columbus, Ohio, last week. The park is a haven for illegal aliens, but the ICE team wasn't there to round up undocumented immigrants en masse. Instead, they were after one man: a 30-year-old Mexican national--a known felon who was considered armed and dangerous.The startled teenager who answered the knock hesitantly agreed to let the visitors in. Pilat, flanked by another agent wielding a Remington shotgun, quickly swept inside. Within seconds, the cramped trailer was jammed with other members of the ICE Fugitive Operations team. But their target wasn't home. Pilat turned to the nervous youngster, grilling him in Spanish. "What country are you from? How old are you? Do you have immigration papers?"Pilat determined...
  • The giving Back Awards: 15 People Who Make America Great

    With this issue, we launch our "giving back awards" in recognition of people who, through bravery or generosity, genius or passion, devote themselves to helping others. From hundreds of nominations, these folks were chosen for imaginative approaches to difficult problems. We hope they remind you of someone--maybe yourself.
  • Breaking the Spell

    For weeks, John Allen Muhammad had tried to dominate the courtroom, making believe he was a worldly wise trial lawyer. The convicted sniper, already sentenced to death for one of the murders in the 2002 killing spree that left 10 dead and three wounded, is now on trial in Maryland. Acting as his own counsel, he badgered witnesses with rambling questions, shouted "Objection!" at all the wrong times and was subject to numerous interruptions by the exasperated judge.But last week, Muhammad's bravado dimmed after Lee Boyd Malvo, his accomplice, took the stand. Sentenced to life in prison in Virginia and awaiting trial in Maryland later this year, Malvo, now 21, made it clear that any love he'd once had for Muhammad has now hardened into resentment. He claimed that the shootings were just the first part of Muhammad's plan. Muhammad, he said, intended to plant bombs in hospitals and on schoolbuses, and eventually create a compound in Canada where he would train homeless children to ...
  • Baghdad. Istanbul. What’s the Difference?

    Online sleuths can claim another victory. Howard Kaloogian, a Republican candidate in California’s 50th Congressional District, has removed a picture from his campaign Web site that he claimed was evidence that journalists are distorting how bad conditions are in Iraq. The photo purported to show a placid street scene in downtown Baghdad, including a hand-holding couple in Western dress and shoppers out for a stroll on a cobblestone street in an unmarred business district.As it turns out, the photo is a genuine street scene—from Istanbul, Turkey.“I’m sorry, we’ll correct it,” Kaloogian told NEWSWEEK after being contacted about the picture. “It appears like this is one of the photos from Istanbul.” Kaloogian said that some members of a group that traveled to Iraq with him in July 2005 had a brief layover in Turkey’s largest city. “We turned over literally hundreds of photos to our Webmaster, and apparently he chose one from the Istanbul layover.” ( Click here to view a PDF of the...
  • 'Netbangers,' Beware

    With a seasoned cop's knowing eye, Lake Worth, Fla., police agent Brian Hermanson cruised recently through some known gang hangouts. He was soon onto potential trouble: someone rolling through the neighborhood in a blue Lincoln and flashing gang signs. There was no crime--yet--but Hermanson knew to keep an eye out for the car. Not a bad bit of police work, especially for a guy who hadn't even left his desk. Hermanson gleaned the tip from a few minutes spent browsing a local gang member's personal Web page. The 15-year veteran cop used to spend most of his days on the streets, drawing a bead on gang activity by reading graffiti and chatting up members. But that changed in 2004, when his investigation into a deadly drive-by shooting stalled. Some teenagers asked if he'd checked the Internet for clues. Hermanson took their advice, and found himself transported into the little-known realm of "Netbanging." Across the nation, street gangs have taken their neighborhood feuds, colors and...
  • Knee Repair

    Knees are the bane of all athletes, but they're particularly nettlesome to aging amateurs, whose joints have endured years of pounding. Fortunately, some of the technology inspired by doctors who treat professional athletes is trickling down to weekend warriors. Scientists are working on a number of strategies to coax the body's healing powers to hasten the repair of damaged knee cartilage.The knee is particularly tricky because it gets such little blood from the circulatory system, so it's slow to heal. A technique called microfracture surgery is designed to draw blood to the injury. It involves making tiny holes in the bone on either side of the knee socket so that blood from inside the bone can seep up and nourish torn cartilage, supplying it with stem cells needed for repair. Doctors have been refining the technique for the past decade or so, and it's now achieving mainstream use. The problem is that it's difficult to control exactly where cartilage is replaced. With a new...
  • Smoother Surfing

    If you want to get a fix on the future of the Internet, have a look at Google's map site. At first glance it may not seem much different from its competitors. But once you type in an address and see your perspective move through the city, street by street, you'll notice something oddly pleasurable about the experience. For one thing, there's no hourglass icon. The change in perspective is seamless. There are no interruptions as your PC waits to download more data from the Web site. The same quality has helped make Google Earth, which pulls together satellite photographs from around the world, one of the biggest Web hits of the year. The easy and natural flow of information on these sites is so popular that a bevy of other U.S. businesses have sprung up to exploit them. If you're looking for an apartment, type the name of the neighborhood into Housingmaps.com and you'll be taken to an aerial map studded with virtual pushpins, one for each real-estate listing. If you want to know if...
  • Hate on Campus

    It is the most beautiful and most sacred part of "the Grounds," as the University of Virginia calls its campus. In a white-columned gallery along the "Lawn" are arrayed 104 rooms reserved for the best and brightest students. On the night of Aug. 26, on a message board outside of one of those rooms, someone wrote two ugly epithets: N----R and I HATE JESUS. The incident was the sixth of its kind in one week at and around U.Va.'s Charlottesville campus. Black students also reported racial slurs shouted from passing cars and trucks and written on a birthday card attached to an apartment door.Race is an ever present and still sometimes painful subject on many college campuses, but it has a deeper significance at U.Va. The university was founded two centuries ago by Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and its stirring decree that "all men are created equal." But Jefferson owned slaves (and used them to build his university), and U.Va. has never quite escaped its...
  • Politics: To Strengthen His Base, Bush Beefs Up Borders

    The White House has a new plan to revive its conservative base: a tough approach to the nation's borders. Karl Rove met with House Republicans last week on immigration, an issue that has prompted sharp criticism of the president's proposals for a guest-worker program for the past two years. Now aides are planning to roll out new plans to beef up border security. "Expect us to talk about immigration pretty aggressively and publicly before the State of the Union," says one senior Bush aide, who requested anonymity because of the politics involved. Bush conceded to GOP leaders in June that his immigration policy had stalled. "They had to come a long way on this issue, but they're finally starting to get it," says Will Adams, spokesman for Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Anti-immigration groups believe the new approach to border security is the direct result of Bush's political problems. But that still leaves intense negotiations on how to draw up a guest-worker program that can satisfy...
  • On The Darknet

    Jan Danielsson, a 28-year-old student at Uppsala University in Sweden, flirted with the dark side for months, and he finally crossed over for the purest of motives. A friend of his had legally purchased a popular song, but the friend's MP3 player wasn't compatible with the so-called digital-rights-management technology that the music company had embedded in the song file to protect it from pirates. Danielsson had a simple solution. He downloaded a program that removed the protection. Did he worry about getting caught? Not for a second.The courts have been able to stifle Napster, Grokster and other peer-to-peer networks because law-enforcement officials could trace Internet addresses to real people using the networks in order to pirate songs and other copyrighted material. The network Danielsson used, however, was designed precisely to circumvent such snooping. Called Freenet, it's the brainchild of 28-year-old Irish software designer and free-speech advocate Ian Clarke. Back in July...
  • FORENSICS: HOW INVESTIGATORS ARE SEARCHING FOR NATALEE

    The six-week search for Natalee Holloway in Aruba--especially for fans of tech-worshiping shows like "CSI"--has raised questions about why investigators haven't been able to use high-tech equipment to find her. In fact, investigators have scoured the island with an array of cutting-edge tools, from a remote-controlled submersible equipped with a video camera and sonar used for probing the water under bridges and in lagoons, to telescoping rods tipped with infrared sensors and cameras used for prodding beneath manhole covers and into dark caverns.The problem, say those in the business of finding bodies, is the sheer size of the search area. The most promising piece of evidence found so far--a strip of duct tape with strands of blond hair stuck to it--was found on the opposite side of the island from where Holloway was last seen. That means virtually the entire island, and the ocean around its 69-mile coastline, is a potential crime scene. Dr. Albert B. Harper, of the Henry C. Lee...
  • RED WHITE & PROUD

    ANA OLIVEIRAWith charisma and optimism, she hopes to vanquish HIV/AIDS.We all set goals for ourselves. Some of us are just more ambitious than others. Take Ana Oliveira: "I want to stop the spread of AIDS," says the executive director of Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City. Never mind that U.S. cases of HIV/AIDS are on the rise--recently passing the 1 million mark--while the issue of AIDS, domestically at least, has dramatically faded in prominence over the past decade. Oliveira is a force of nature. If anyone can help slow the epidemic, she can.Her influence lies partly in her vision, partly in her charisma. The white-male base of GMHC was frankly skeptical when Oliveira--a lesbian Latina--was appointed to head the organization in 1999. But since then, she's won a loyal following and pulled GMHC out of $6 million in debt, all the while expanding programs for the traditional base and reaching out to new constituencies, like blacks, Latinos and especially women. She's even...
  • PERISCOPE

    BUSINESSUps and DownsOften, when a particular currency goes up, the stock market in that region will too. So why have European equity markets been rising over the last several weeks, even as the euro has fallen? Some economists believe that a strong euro never actually contributed to growth in Europe. "Indeed, it mainly punished exporters' profits," notes Bank of America head of international research Raja Visweswaran, who has analyzed the trend.Now that the euro is down, European corporate profitability is going up, further aided by recent cost-cutting and reform. And slow economic growth in Europe is keeping bond yields low, which reduces interest costs for companies. The Bloomberg European 500 Index is now up by more than 7 percent since the end of April at the same time that the euro has fallen nearly 5 percent (against the dollar) creating the odd spectacle of enthusiastic markets amid high gloom about Europe's long-term political and economic prospects.The way the EU...
  • AFRICAN AID: PREACHING TO THE PREZ

    Insisting they had "no moral alternative," a group of influential black pastors who support President George W. Bush wrote an open letter last week urging him to substantially boost U.S. aid to Africa and asking him for a meeting. The pastors say that increasing African aid is a moral and not a political issue--but timed their appeal in advance of next month's G8 summit, where aid to Africa will be on the agenda. "Africa has never before been on the top of anyone's priority list," said Bishop Charles E. Blake, who drafted the letter. Together, he and the other pastors (including T. D. Jakes of Dallas) represent churches with a combined membership of nearly 100,000 socially conservative African-Americans, a constituency coveted by GOP strategist Karl Rove. Last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with about 25 African-American ministers to discuss what the black church could do to alleviate African suffering. "It was very cordial, but not long on policy substance," said...
  • THE NEW FACE OF WITNESS PROTECTION

    Brenda Paz's life was in danger. When the 17-year-old was arrested by Virginia police in June 2002, she unexpectedly started telling them vivid tales about life as a member of the violent Mara Salvatrucha street gang, better known as MS-13. Her boyfriend was a gang leader and a murder suspect. Paz knew MS-13's cardinal rule--talk to the cops and die--but she hated rules, and loved to talk, and the police were very good listeners. A Honduran-born runaway who was raised in Los Angeles, she joined MS-13 at 12 and witnessed dozens of crimes, including murders. Paz's memory was so vivid that the Feds enrolled her in the witness-protection program to keep their new informant safe from fellow gang members. "She wasn't just a witness," Greg Hunter, her court-appointed lawyer, told NEWSWEEK. "She was like the Rain Man of witnesses."Paz was relocated to another state and furnished with a new name and Social Security number. She was warned to be inconspicuous and to avoid any contact with gang...
  • PRISONS: 'SHED SOME LIGHT'

    When reports of abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison surfaced in the spring of 2004, Ron McAndrew felt the same outrage that many other Americans did. But there was one emotion that the retired Florida Department of Corrections prison warden didn't feel: surprise. The specific abuses at Abu Ghraib were different, but the pattern of beatings, humiliation and intimidation of prisoners, McAndrew tells NEWSWEEK, "was absolutely familiar."McAndrew is now one of 10 panelists scheduled to appear on April 19 in Tampa, Fla., at the first public hearing of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in American Prisons. Organized by the Vera Institute of Justice, the 21-member, non-partisan commission will take on issues facing the prison system: abuse, poor training and a lack of standards. After the final hearing in January 2006, the commission, which is co-chaired by former attorney general Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, will issue a report to Congress and advocacy groups. Alex Busansky, a former Manhattan...
  • PUNK-ROCK RESISTANCE

    Military recruiters are already scrambling to enlist enough soldiers to meet wartime demands. Now they're facing a new obstacle: punk rockers. With militaryfreezone.org, an antiwar band from Pittsburgh, Anti-Flag, has started a campaign against an obscure provision of the No Child Left Behind Act dictating that public-school districts supply high-school students' names, phone numbers and addresses to military recruiters. According to the Department of Defense, info about potential enlistees can significantly reduce recruiting costs, which have nearly doubled, from $6,500 to $11,600 per recruit, in the past decade. Justin Sane, Anti-Flag's spokesman, lead guitarist and lead vocalist, tells NEWSWEEK, "Schools should not be turned into military-recruitment centers." On the Web site, students can read about the provision and a clause preventing the release of personal info if a student requests in writing that it be withheld. The site also has opt-out forms, a petition and a plea urging...
  • CHILDREN OF THE FALLEN

    They were prepared to die, even the truck drivers and supply clerks; any American who sets foot in Iraq must be. They made out wills, as the military requires, and left behind letters and videos for their families. The families in turn prepared for the day when they might open the door to find a chaplain on the other side. In military families the notion of duty is not confined to the battlefield. On the morning that 14-year-old Rohan Osbourne learned that his mother, Pamela, had been killed in a mortar attack on her Army base, his father dropped him off as usual at Robert M. Shoemaker High School, where three quarters of the students are the children of soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, Texas. "I might not get a lot of work done today, ma'am," Rohan politely explained to his teacher. "My mommy died yesterday in Iraq."War notoriously robs parents of their sons, but it also steals husbands and fathers, and increasingly wives and mothers. The Pentagon doesn't keep these statistics, but...
  • 'A Day of Reckoning'

    It ranks among the nation's worst incidents of racial violence. And while more than 80 years have passed since it convulsed their city, its remaining survivors are still determined to have their day in court. Five African-Americans who lived through the 1921 Tulsa race riot--men and women with more than 450 years between them--were in Washington yesterday, mingling with hundreds of visitors on the majestic steps of the U.S. Supreme Court as their lawyers filed a brief petitioning the justices to allow their lawsuit against the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma to go forward.The suit, Alexander, et al, v. Oklahoma, et al., is one of a number of cases around the country seeking reparations for racially based harms committed in the past. Another case, currently on file in federal court in Chicago, seeks what could be billions in compensation from banking and insurance companies and other corporations. The Oklahoma lawsuit is seeking no financial payments to survivors or their...

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