Posts made in February 2020

Steps in the right direction: Walking together helps foster a new relationship

March 2, 2020

Some people take a new relationship step-by-step. Others jump right in. However, research recently conducted at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, suggests that, when you meet a stranger, taking a short walk together may increase your odds of hitting it off, according to a report by Psychology Today.

The study (Cheng et al., 2020) found that walking together side-by-side for less than ten minutes with someone you’ve never met before will help the two of you to “warm up” to one another—regardless of whether you amble in silence or converse.

Indeed, Psychology Today noted, even when no conversation was taking place, the researchers found that paired strangers with a favorable first impression of one another are more likely to synchronize their footsteps.

“Our analysis revealed a unidirectional relationship between synchrony and impression rating: A better first impression led to higher walking synchrony between two strangers walking side by side in silence,” the authors said of their findings.

“There is a growing awareness of the validity of interpersonal interaction research in real-world scenarios, but daily natural environments are rich in their contextual information, making experiment control a challenge,” first author Miao Cheng said in a news release.

For this study, participants who had never met before were paired together and instructed to walk side-by-side along a quiet path. While walking, a motion sensor disguised as a GPS device tracked the synchrony of each pairs’ footsteps.

The researchers also duped participants into thinking the study had nothing to do with how first impressions affect nonverbal communication (i.e., synchronous walking) so that participants wouldn’t be conscious of whether or not they were synchronizing their steps.

The distance of the out-and-back walk was just under a quarter-mile; it took about six-to-nine minutes to complete the round trip at a casual walking pace.

This paired walking experiment was conducted under three different conditions: 1) walking out to the turnaround point in silence, but conversing on the way back; 2) a silent walking condition in which participants were instructed not to speak for the entirety of their out-and-back walk; 3) a non-walking environment where participants sat quietly in a classroom with other study participants and filled out a questionnaire.

At the halfway turnaround point during each walk, the paired respondents were asked to rate first impressions of their walking partner using the interpersonal judgment scale (IJS). This scale was also used to rate first impressions after the walk was completed.

In general, people tended to have a better first impression of someone after walking together, regardless of whether or not they conversed. “This suggests that walking side by side, even without verbal communication, is sufficient to alter the social relation between two strangers,” the authors said.

What’s more, The researchers found that having a conversation while walking side-by-side enhanced positive first impressions, Psychology Today reported. And, as mentioned, paired walkers with better first impressions of one another at the outset of the experiment had a higher rate of footstep synchronization from the get-go.

“It is very surprising for us to discover that a person’s traits and our first impressions are reflected in the subtle action of walking. I think most people are not even aware that their steps are synchronized with other people as they walk,” senior author Chia-huei Tseng said in a news release. “It was previously known that a person’s physical parameters such as height and weight, affect how their movements interact with others. Now we know psychological traits also have an effect.”

These findings were published on February 21 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Research contact: @PsychToday

Beverly Hills eclipsed by Calabasas as home for rich and famous

March 2, 2020

Katy Perry, Dr. Phil, Jeff Bezos , John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, Eddie Murphy—they all have opulent homes in the 5.7-square-mile area in Los Angeles known as Beverly Hills. Indeed, along with Bel Air, it has been the area where Hollywood stars have “lived large” since the 1920s, Bloomberg reports..

But now, things are changing. Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which begins its 18th season next month on the E! network, has put a spotlight on another part of the Los Angeles metro area—Calabasas, a 13.7-square-mile area on the west side of the city.

This year, for the first time, the community of about 24,300 people has eclipsed Beverly Hills in Bloomberg’s annual ranking of the richest cities nationwide. The average household income in Calabasas is $194,010—more than twice the national average and about $4,000 higher than Beverly Hills, which has 34,600 residents.

Located about 25 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, Calabasas owes some of its success to the usual reasons: good schools, low crime, and open space. But the Kardashians’ reality TV show has had its own effect, showing that in Calabasas, the rich and famous can live normal lives without having to dodge paparazzi and tour buses every time they leave home.

“You’re not going to get tourists walking around Calabasas. UYou’re going to get the celebrities that live here, going to the gym and going to the supermarket,” Tomer Fridman, a luxury real estate agent who works with the Kardashians told Bloomberg “That’s why they live here — for the privacy.”

In recent decades, Calabasas and its even tonier neighbor to the north, Hidden Hills, have been transformed from sleepy suburbs into celebrity capitals.

The Calabasas Country Club cites the “celebrity factor” as a reason to move there. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West live in Hidden Hills, as does the rapper Drake. Actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith keep a 150-acre Calabasas compound, while Justin Bieber sold his $7.2 million Spanish-style retreat in the city to Khloe Kardashian. Actress Katie Holmes just sold a home there for about $4 million, the Los Angels Times reported this week.

Another reason to look there? Real estate in Calabasas is relatively cheap compared with Beverly Hills. That’s the premium people pay to live in the city, Fridman said. The median home price in Calabasas is $1.19 million, while it’s $2.7 million in Beverly Hills, according to Zillow. What Westchester is to Manhattan, Calabasas is to Beverly Hills, Fridman said.

Although the Kardashians first started taping their show from Hidden Hills, which has about 2,000 residents, the family and some of its members also have lived in Calabasas. The clan called the city home from 2003 to 2005 before moving to a bigger place in Hidden Hills, according to the L.A. Times.  Kylie Jenner, the 22-year-old cosmetics mogul, bought her first house, a $2.7 million starter pad, in Calabasas in 2015.

So, it really depends which “in crowd” you want to be “in” with. After all Jennifer Anniston lives in Bel Air.

Research contact: @business

Trump’s COVID-19 panic is plain to see

March 2, 2020

Coronavirus claimed its first victims in China, and the illness has now appeared in at least 48 countries, with cases soaring in Europe and the Middle East. Last Wednesday, February 26, in response to criticism about his Administration’s response, President Donald Trump held a press conference addressing the epidemic—and tried to convince the American public that everything was under control and there was no need for panic.

His performance—as Brian Stauffer’s cover illustration for the next issue of The New Yorker magazine suggests—was not entirely persuasive. Trump screams ―with a surgical mask over his eyes―in Stauffer’s image for the March 9 issue, headlined “Under Control.”

Although Trump attempted to control the message, reassuring the American people, “We’re doing really well,” in fact, The New Yorker reports, the president is harboring two legitimate–and major—fears:

First, if covid-19 spreads inside the United States, the White House could be held responsible for botching its response to the virus’s outbreak. Democrats are already sharpening their knives.

“The Trump Administration has been asleep at the wheel,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the Senate Minority Leader, said on February 24, on the Senate floor. “President Trump, good morning! There’s a pandemic of coronavirus. Where are you?”

The other threat to Trump is an economic one. If the stumble in the stock market is a one-off event, it won’t have much impact politically. But, if Wall Street goes into an extended slide, or if the broader economy gets hit badly as the virus spreads, it could change the political environment going into the election.

As the possibility of a pandemic rises, the president must prove that he can handle the emergency. Claims that he fired the nation’s pandemic expert are incorrect. In fact, Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, the pandemic expert, left the national Security Council of his own volition after John Bolton was appointed National Security Adviser. Bolton then went on to close down the unit that Ziemer had been running—a unit that had managed the global fight against Ebola. That unit has not been replaced.

Research contact: @NewYorker

Rude awakening: Find out the story behind this amazingly grumpy baby photo

February 27, 2020

They are calling it “the scowl seen ‘round the world.” A photo from Brazil has gone viral for catching the expression of a newborn baby girl who appears to angrily stare down the doctor who delivered her by C-section.

Photographer Rodrigo Kunstmann, who snapped the now-famous picture of Isabela Pereira de Jesus, said her family burst out laughing when he showed them the image.

“They were like, ‘This could be an internet meme!’” Kunstmann, 32, told TODAY Parents on NBC-TV in the United States through a translator. “Everybody thought it was funny.”

But don’t be fooled by Isabela’s expression. Kunstmann has been in touch with her parents and they insist she has an easy, gentle disposition.

“She’s very sweet,” Kunstmann revealed. “The picture was just a moment.”

Still, it’s fun to imagine what was going through Isabela’s mind when she made her entrance into the world.

“Do NOT disturb my sleep for this! Lol,” wrote one person on Kunstmann’s Facebook page.

Added another, “She’s mad at the Dr. for taking her from her warm and dark and peaceful world into a bright room with a lot of people awing over her.”

“I remember when I first laid eyes on her after her birth, that was the face she was making,” Musa’s mom, Justine Tuhy, previously told TODAY Parents. “She was born via C-section at 41 weeks, so we assume she is annoyed she was evicted.”

Research contact: @TODAYshow

Tacos, lattés, kombucha, and makeup: 7-Eleven expands ‘Evolution Store’ concept to new locales

February 27, 2020

Most people don’t associate 7-Eleven with much more than Slurpees, snacks, lottery tickets, and travel accessories—as well as the added convenience of around-the-clock shopping service. But now the Dallas-based chain, founded in 1927, is offering some of today’s trendiest menu items and cosmetics in a new store concept that is being tested at several locations nationwide.

Indeed, 7-Eleven, Inc. is scaling up its Evolution Store concept following the successful opening of its beta store in Dallas last March. These Evolution Stores serve as real-time experiential testing grounds where customers can try the retailer’s latest innovations.

Both stores include a Laredo Taco Company restaurant, a brand that 7-Eleven acquired from Sunoco in 2018. The eatery is famous for its authentic tacos—served on handmade flour tortillas that are made from scratch in stores every day—and fresh salsa bar, with a wide selection of salsas and pico de gallo.  Tacos and meals include specialties not always seen in quick-serve Mexican restaurants, such as authentic barbacoa, chorizo, carne asada, carnitas, and breakfast tacos made with fresh-cracked eggs.

“7-Eleven’s mission is to give convenience customers what they want, when and where they want it,” said 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto in an official company statement. “Our evolution stores bring outstanding innovation to life through new food and beverage platforms as well as through digital experiences.”

The first Evolution Store exceeded the retailer’s expectations with enthusiastic reviews, crowds of customers, and sales that continue to climb. Concepts that resonate with consumers are refined before being incorporated into the next generation of current and new store standards.

“These new stores are invaluable learning labs, where new concepts are tailored to meet the needs of the communities they will serve from sunny southern California to the fast-paced world of the East Coast,” said 7-Eleven EVP and COO Chris Tanco. “We will continue to evolve based on customer feedback and we look forward to creating the next generation of convenience together.”

In addition to Laredo Taco Company, the 7-Eleven Evolution Stores will offer an assortment of exclusive products, services, and featurescustomized to the neighborhoods and customers they serve—among them:

  • Made-to-order specialty drinks that give customers the option to customize their drinks in a full-service beverage format including custom hot coffee drinks like flavored lattés, mochas and more; as well as custom cold drinks like smoothies, agua frescas, and cold brew coffee.
  • Self-serve specialty coffee drinks with the addition of touch-screen machines that brew custom hot coffee drinks like lattés, cappuccinos, espresso shots, and more in just seconds.
  • Novelty beverages on tap that dispense cold beverages, such as tea, cold brew, kombucha, nitro cold brew, flavored drinks, and more.
  • A cold treats bar with multiple frozen yogurt and ice cream flavors that can be swirled together with multiple toppings.
  • Cookies, croissants, and pastries baked fresh in-store daily.
  • A mobile checkout at which customers can pay for their purchases via the 7-Eleven app and accompanying 7Rewards loyalty program.
  • 7NOW Delivery App, which is 7-Eleven’s on-demand delivery app , enabling items like fresh food, beverages, snacks, groceries, and household products delivered straight to the customer’s door.
  • National-brand electronics, such as tablets and Bluetooth headphones—available for sale from a secure, self-serve kiosk.
  • On-the-go beauty with expanded skin care, makeup; and other health and beauty items.
  • “The Cellar,” an alcove dedicated to an expanded selection of wines and craft beers, with a nearby growler station that features a rotating selection of local craft beer, cider and ales on tap (except in Washington, D.C.).

The Washington D.C. store is now open at 504 K St., and the San Diego store at 3504 El Cajon Blvd. will open in the coming months. 7-Eleven plans to continue to expand Evolution Stores nationwide during 2020.

Research contact: @7eleven

Boston Globe does an about-face to endorse Elizabeth Warren

February 27, 2020

After labeling Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren as the wrong candidate for 2020 in a scornful editorial in December 2018, The Boston Globe has executed a complete flip-flop.

“… One candidate stands out as a leader with the qualifications, the track record, and the tenacity to defend the principles of democracy, bring fairness to an economy that is excluding too many Americans, and advance a progressive agenda,” The Globe said on February 26 in an endorsement of Warren, adding, “She would fight the corruption and corporate influence that distort our politics, lift up working families, and combat gun violence and climate change.”

The newspaper’s editorial board said the 70-year-old politician and former academic, who has served the state as senator since 2013, “has proved us wrong and has shaped the course of the race for the better. The electorate, at least in recent polls and in the early states, is signaling its preference for the profound change that underpins Warren’s agenda.”

Indeed, the Globe believes, Warren would be the best rival for President Donald Trump on the debate stage. Fearless and brilliant on her feet, Warren has the greatest potential among the candidates to lay bare Trump’s weaknesses on a debate stage.”

The complete text of the endorsement is available here.

By contrast,  in December 2018, the Globe’s editorial board poured scorn on a potential bid by its home state senator, saying:  “Warren missed her moment in 2016, and there’s reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020.”

The paper went on at that time to characterize Warren as “a divisive figure” and not the “unifying voice” it said the country needed following “the polarizing politics of Donald Trump.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Moo-nificent: France’s biggest celebrity is this gorgeous cow

February 26, 2020

“Her name could not be more appropriate,” says the website for the 2020 Paris International Agricultural Show: Idéale, a superb, sturdy six-year-old Charolais, has been selected to represent her breed and get top billing as this year’s mascot at the exhibition, which runs from February 22 through March 1.

The annual convention brings together farmers from all over France to celebrate the country’s rich bounty of agricultural products, from its wine and cheeses to its produce, its livestock; and, according to The New Yorker, its hot-tub vendors.

Every year, New York Magazine’s “The Cut” reports, the event chooses a bovine mascot that best embodies the wonders and opulence of the event, and whose picture gets plastered around the streets and subways of Paris. First, the breed is selected by the organizing committee. Then the president of the breeding organization for the winning breed chooses a specific cow as mascot. And this year, it’s Idéale. Idéale!

Idéale hails from Monts du Beaujolais in western France. She has, according to the show, “everything going for her.” Specifically, she has “a short head, a broad muzzle with nice sharp teeth, fine crescent-shaped horns which curve perfectly around towards her eyes (referred to as cabettes), a wide and muscular back, thick haunches, etc.”

In addition to her gorgeous sharp teeth and thick haunches, she has a sweet personality. She’s described as docile, maternal, and “she cannot hide her pleasure when being stroked.”

Last year’s mascot, Imminence, was a five-year-old Bleue du Nord, who also was a delightful ambassador, we’re sure. But who can compare to Idéale, really?

Research contact: @NYMagazine

Brooks Brothers joins with White House Historical Association to offer Presidential Collection

February 26, 2020

The White House Historical Association—a nonprofit founded in 1961 by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with a mission to protect, preserve, and provide public access to the rich history of America’s Executive Mansion—has just announced a first-ever collaboration with Brooks Brothers and a new collection of menswear accessories online and in  stores beginning February 25.

The exclusive Presidential Collection features the Truman Presidential Seal on a pocket square; as well as a selection of red, blue and navy ties; a red double-sided bow tie; a blue double-sided bow tie; and a navy bow tie. All items are 100% silk and are made in the United States. The cost from $55 to $89.50.

The Truman Presidential Seal was established in 1945 when President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9646 which officially defined the Presidential Coat of Arms and Seal for the first time. An eagle’s head—which originally faced right toward a bundle of 13 arrows held in its talons—was turned to face left toward the olive branch it held, symbolizing peace.

Brooks Brothers, established in 1818, is America’s oldest retail brand and has had the unique distinction of serving 40 American Presidents since its founding.

Items in this collection can be purchased online at shop.whitehousehistory.org; or at the White House Visitor Center at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.; or the White House History Shop at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.—both in Washington, D.C.

The White House Historical Association will continue its partnership with Brooks Brothers with additional exclusive collections introduced later this year.

Earlier this month, on February 17, the White House Historical Association announced the availability of the Official 2020 White House Christmas Ornament, commemorating President John F. Kennedy.

Research contact: @WhiteHouseHstry

Trump politicizes Supremes: Instructs Sotomayor, Ginsburg to recuse themselves from ‘his’ cases

February 26, 2020

President Donald Trump on Tuesday slammed Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, saying both should recuse themselves from cases involving him or his administration, Politico reported.

His comments at a press conference in India — and previous tweets to the same effect —came after Sotomayor criticized the court’s conservative majority for granting a number of the administration’s emergency stay requests.

Most recently, on February 21, the Supreme Court had unveiled a 5-4 decision to allow the Trump Administration to deny entry or green cards to immigrants based on a “wealth test,” claiming that low-income immigrants were likely to become a “public charge” and use social programs such as food stamps or Medicaid, Rolling Stone reported.

In her dissenting comments on the case (Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, et. al, v. Cook County, Illinois, et. al.) Justice Sotomayor said the administration has too quickly gone to the Supreme Court to appeal unfavorable decisions made by lower courts, and that by taking the cases, the Supreme Court is “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of” the president.

“Claiming one emergency after another, the government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited court resources in each,” Sotomayor wrote. “And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow.”

“It is hard to say what is more troubling,” she added. “That the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it.”

“Perhaps most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others,” Sotomayor wrote in the sharp opinion.

As he always does, the president clapped right back:  “She’s trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way, and that’s so inappropriate,” Trump said of Sotomayor to reporters.

The president also criticized Ginsburg for her comments during his 2016 campaign, when she called Trump a “faker” who “has no consistency about him” and “really has an ego” to CNN and told The New York Times that “I can’t imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump as our president.”

Trump at the time called on Ginsburg to resign, and she later apologized.

Trump’s call for the two justices to recuse themselves comes as the Supreme Court prepares next month to tackle several issues directly involving the president, Politico noted. On March 31, the court will hear back-to-back oral arguments on cases that ask whether the president must comply with congressional subpoenas for his financial records and whether he is immune from state criminal investigations while serving in the White House.

Research contact: @politico

In victory for ‘Me Too,’ Harvey Weinstein found guilty as sexual predator; remanded to custody

February 25, 2020

Harvey Weinstein—formerly a large and in-charge Hollywood film producer—was found guilty on two counts on Monday morning, February 24, in his New York sexual assault trial.

Specifically, the jury convicted Weinstein of two of the five charges against him: a criminal sexual act and third-degree rape, according to a report by The Hill. The 67-year-old former movie mogul has denied any wrongdoing, saying all of his sexual encounters were consensual—however, he did not testify on his own behalf.

The verdict brings to a close the high-profile New York case—during which prosecutors had characterized him as a “sexual predator” and a serial “rapist.” Indeed, during her opening arguments last month, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast said that evidence in Weinstein’s case would show he was “not just a titan of Hollywood but a rapist.”

Jurors heard emotional testimony, including from actress Annabella Sciorrawho told the court that Weinstein raped her after shoving his way into her Manhattan apartment. “I was trying to get him off me,” Sciorra testified. “I was punching him, kicking him.”

According to The Hill, another witness who accused the former film executive of rape became so emotional during an hours-long cross-examination by Weinstein’s attorney Donna Rotunno that she was dismissed for the day by the judge.

The sexual assault allegations, first brought against Weinstein in 2017—followed by a flurry of public accusations of sexual misconduct against many in the entertainment industry— helped to spur the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and to shine a spotlight on systemic sexual harassment.

In total, The Hill notes, more than 80 women—including actresses Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, and Gwyneth Paltrow—have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape.

Last year, Weinstein reportedly reached a $44 million settlement with some of his accusers.

Weinstein was remanded to custody by New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke pending sentencing on Wednesday, March 11. Rotunno made an unsuccessful last-ditch plea to keep her client free on bail due, in part, to his ill health and pain as a result of an auto accident last summer, but the judge did not grant the request.

The erstwhile Miramax titan could face up to 25 years in prison, with a minimum of four years.

What’s more, the legal peril isn’t over for Weinstein, who has also been indicted for alleged sexual misconduct in Los Angeles.

Research contact: @thehill