Daily Edition July 22, 2014

Tony Dungy book

Tony Dungy Says Be Uncommon, Unless, Well...

NBC analyst and former NFL coach Tony Dungy weighed in on the St. Louis Rams’ selection of former Missouri linebacker and 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam. (Sam is also gay, by the way). “I wouldn’t have taken him,” said Dungy, going on to explain that it’s not that Michael Sam doesn’t deserve a chance in the NFL–only that Dungy “wouldn’t want to deal with all of it”. “It’s not going to be totally smooth…things will happen” he said.

In some ways it’s an odd thing to hear from a man who has himself faced discrimination on his way to becoming the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl (with the Colts in 2007), and who has been a vocal supporter and mentor of players whom no one else would touch (see: Michael Vick). In the past, the author of Dare to Be Uncommon has also condemned as “disgraceful” the lack of diversity among NCAA coaches. Tony Dungy has obviously got a big heart, though not quite big enough it seems to encompass sympathy for the NFL’s first openly-gay draftee. Dungy’s right about one thing though. “Things will happen” as a result of Michael Sam’s debut in a league that is indefatigably macho and often homophobic, but growing alongside the rest of the country. They just might not be the things that Dungy expects.

Putin

Vice President Joe Biden has a simple explanation for why things in the Ukraine are coming apart–and why Russia seems hellbent on restoring its cold war status as No. 1 menace to freedom and the West. Biden believes that Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, has no soul–according to an article published online by The New Yorker. The magazine relates a story in which the vice-president, on a trip to Russia in 2011, makes a now prescient-seeming discovery. “I said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.’ He looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’” (George W. Bush–you may remember–had a very different impression of the former-KGB-boss-turned-president.)

Biden’s assessment looks as right as 20/20 hindsight now, as the world considers the idea of Putin as rogue despot in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy last week. The US has stated that the plane was likely shot down by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, with surface-to-air missiles provided by Russia. Mr. Putin has yet to confirm or deny this. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) took a more secular (though just as blunt) approach yesterday, calling for Putin to “man up” and explain Russia’s role in the tragedy, which killed 298 people.

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Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has yet to hit theaters but that isn’t stopping speculation about a future Avengers/Guardians crossover. If the post-credits and mid-credits teases that Marvel is so famous for have told us anything, it’s that they all hint toward universe building. Iron Man hinted at SHIELD and a wider universe, Iron Man 2 hinted at Thor, and The Avengers mid-credit scene introduced Thanos as puppeteer behind Loki’s invasion of Earth. Now with the news of Josh Brolin lending his voice to Thanos in both Guardians of the Galaxy and the two planned Avengers sequels, it isn’t inconceivable that these two teams of heroes would share the silver screen.

Marvel Studios’s president Kevin Feige wouldn’t confirm a crossover but did cite the connections, particularly the inclusion of Thanos. “It is the inclusion of Thanos most specifically that is a declaration to audiences who are paying attention that this is connected to those other universes. Part of the fun is that it could happen someday. I don’t know when that would be. Or maybe I know, and I’m not going to tell you!” That’s coming from the man who’s said they have the Marvel Cinematic Universe planned out through 2028: Kevin Feige definitely knows.

Daniel Freudberg is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC.

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Gov. Rick Perry (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Governor Rick Perry of Texas is preparing to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. Tens of thousands of Central American immigrants are fleeing violence and attempting to cross Texas’s 1200-mile border with Mexico. And not enough of them are being swayed by new American billboards and TV commercials warning them to stop. This year has seen a massive upsurge in migrants pressing the US border security.

Governor Perry has said he wants a deployment in order to have “arrest powers to support Border Patrol operations.” Despite Perry’s announcement, the White House says it has “not yet received the formal communication required for Perry to deploy guard troops.” As governor, Perry can deploy the troops but he must pay for them with Texas money. None of Mr. Perry’s moves should surprise Obama–the Texas governor and the president met last week on the immigration/border issue. Obama is also aware that it will cost serious money to fix the problem, funds that go far beyond what Texas will lay out to boost its border patrol via the National Guard. The president recently asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the immigration crisis. 

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Recovered Lego Octopus (photo: Facebook page Lego Lost At Sea)

For 17 years Legos have been washing ashore in England, the result of a shipping container being tossed overboard by a giant wave in 1997, putting 4.8 million Legos into the sea. Filed in the “you can’t make this stuff up category” is the delightful coincidence that the majority of the Legos were nautical themed! That’s according to Tracey Williams, founder of the Facebook page Lego Lost At Sea, who figures prominently in a BBC story about the Legos’ journey.

British kids–and adults alike–have been discovering beached Legos to great delight for almost two decades. Finding the rarer models is quite the competitive endeavor, Williams told the BBC, noting that to date she knows of only three octopuses that have been found. (She found one!) And contrary to what you’ll read in the BBC article, which says that Legos from the container have only been reported in Cornwall, the Lego Lost At Sea Facebook page today notes that Legos from the container have “also been discovered in Devon, Ireland and Wales.”

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Johns Hopkins Hospital

Dr. Nikita Levy, a gynecologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, secretly photographed and videotaped more than 8,000 patients with a “pen-like camera that he wore around his neck.” When suspicions arose, he turned over the camera, and committed suicide ten days later. The images – 1200 videos and 140 images – were stored on servers at his home. During his 25-year tenure, Dr. Levy saw roughly 12,600 patients.

The Hospital has agreed to pay $190 million to the thousands of women involved in the lawsuit. A team of psychologists placed each woman into a category (based on trauma level) to help provide appropriate mental health services and to determine how much money each will receive. According to CBS News, it is one of the largest settlements on record in the US involving sexual misconduct by a physician.

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Cecile de France on the phone (photo: Peter Kleynen)

All the hype around whether or not cell phones cause cancer could be linked back to the World Health Organization’s 2011 conclusion that the radiation emitted by cellphones could be “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Reading that conclusion makes it easy to jump to the conclusion that cell phones are cancer-causing culprits, but really, this classification was based on admittedly limited evidence and essentially puts cell phones in the same danger zone as coffee and pickled vegetables. Since 2011 there have been multiple experiments done and research conducted about a connection between cell phone usage and the increase in cancer risk, but results have been mixed at best with no concrete causal link. In the end, researchers at the National Cancer Institute have concluded that ultimately new research needs to be done before we’ll have a full answer.

When thinking about the radiation and cancer connection, remember that there are two kinds of radiation to compare: “non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation” (think microwaves) and “ionizing radiation” (think X-rays). Cell phones emit the non-ionizing kind of radiation, and it turns out that’s a very good thing. Currently there is a study known as COSMOS being conducted in the UK that began back in 2010 and is following 290,000 cell phone users over the course of 20-30 years. These kinds of long-term experiments will hopefully fill in gaps of knowledge about the impact of cell phone radiation beyond what’s already been learned from short-term experiments. If you can’t wait another 20 or 30 years for the results from COSMOS and are concerned about the potential risks, try to minimize your overall use, text rather than call people, and keep your distance from your phone as much as possible–a headset helps.

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Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland, the Coachella of international electronic music festivals in Boom, Belgium, is sold out. More than 400,000 tickets were sold for the first weekend. Second weekend begins Friday. Musical guests include David Guetta, Armin van Burren, Eric Prydz, Diplo, Tiesto, Alesso, and other one-named artists. One-day tickets go for $428, if you can get one. Ticket marketer viagogo reports a 317% increase in demand for tickets for this upcoming weekend. What’s causing the spike in sales?

Could be the viral power of magical bracelets! In order to get into Tomorrowland, everyone must wear and present a bracelet: a red one for Glorious Sunday, green for Incredible Saturday, blue for Magical Friday, and brown for Full Madness. But they’re not just signifiers for bouncers at the doors, bracelet-holders are encouraged to activate their bracelets by pressing the heart button on the bracelet in order to connect with friends on Facebook and get the latest updates from the fairgrounds. Next stops for Tomorrowland: Atlanta, GA (September 2014), and Brazil (May 2015).

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278 Square Feet of Living

Renters in Washington, DC, according to several studies, are growing more and more interested in smaller apartments—very small. A Delta Associates analysis shows 45% fewer two-bedrooms going up in D.C. now than in 2000. Responding to this change, a lot of which originates with younger singles looking for simple digs in “a high-energy environment,” a few progressive building owners are installing “micro-units”—living spaces having between 350 to 600 square feet. Julie Williams, 36, National Institutes of Health employee, resides in a studio apartment roughly the size of a large master bedroom in some nearby Alexandria McMansion. And loves it. “I previously lived in a two-bedroom,” she told Liz Essley Whyte for washingtonpost.com, “but I would rather live here. I have everything I need right here…walking distance to Metro, to restaurants, to the grocery store, so it’s perfect.”

A lot of these micro-units are opening up, as developers and realtors alike realize it's the area outside attracting millennials like Williams, who prefer to shell out for location and like-minded neighbors over maximum square footage. Instead of further isolating singles, this voluntary down-scaling actually is bringing them together by way of the old-fashioned (yet still kicking) meet-and-greet, often held on rooftops of buildings composed of micro-units. That old saw, "less is more," holds up well in this scenario. Now, if we can find a way to apply it to other Capitol matters, well....

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Everywhere you go, you belong

Airbnb began in 2008 as a simple way to rent rooms through an easy-to-use website. In the seven years since, Airbnb has rocketed to extreme popularity with a user-friendly application and presences in 194 countries and 34,000 cities. But that success and popularity wasn’t enough for Airbnb’s team. They were convinced that the core meaning of the company wasn’t being communicated. Airbnb chief Brian Chesky said, “Our core idea, what Airbnb is about at its core, is belonging. At Airbnb, we imagine a world where you can belong anywhere.”

In an effort to communicate this core belief and a switch from a technology company to a consumer brand, the creative team at Airbnb worked closely with DesignStudio to completely restructure, redesign and re-launch the company. A major part of the rebrand is their new logo, internally called “Belo” which looks like a cursive upper-case “A” and hopes to tell the story of belonging. They even created a new typeface to encapsulate everything new about the company, called Air. The new website is a major shift aesthetically, though structurally almost nothing has changed. The rebrand, which was announced quietly early last week is giving the PR team at Airbnb a break from the legislative issues that have plagued the company. Instead of focusing on the lawsuits they received for “illegally” renting spaces in Barcelona, the press is finally focused on the site itself and its purpose–making the process of listing and booking a space effortless and efficient.

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