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2014 Watch
July 22, 2014
CC by: DonkeyHotey

There are lots of reasons to believe the November elections should be great for the Republican Party: Midterms are generally kind to the out-of-power party, the president's party almost always loses seats in year six of an administration, the 2014 map is favorable to Republicans, and President Obama's approval ratings are pretty low. Republicans even have reasonable hopes for a really big "wave" election, like every election since 2006, minus 2012.

But if the Republicans are going to ride an anti-Democratic wave to big pickups in the House and Senate, there are scant signs of it now, says Nate Cohn at The New York Times.

The race for the Senate, at least right now, is stable. There aren't many polls asking whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans to control Congress, but the Democrats appear to maintain a slight edge among registered voters. Democratic incumbents in red Republican states, who would be all but doomed in a Republican wave, appear doggedly competitive in places where Mitt Romney won by as much as 24 points in 2012.... The light-blue Democratic states and purple presidential battleground states, like Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Hampshire, all seem to be heading toward tight races or Democratic wins, as one would expect in a fairly neutral year. [New York Times]

None of that means Republicans will have a bad year, or even that they won't win control of the Senate in a non-wave election. In fact, there weren't clear signs of a wave election in 2006, 2008, or 2010 until after this point in the election cycle, Cohn writes. "But as July turns to August, the GOP is now on the clock.... Every day that goes by without a shift toward the GOP increases the odds that there will not be a wave at all." Peter Weber

E-disarmament
July 31, 2015

Does the right to bear arms apply to emoji arms? It's actually a somewhat serious question; activist nonprofit New Yorkers Against Gun Violence aims (excuse the pun) to disarm the iPhone by pressuring Apple's CEO to remove the gun icon from its emoji catalog.

"The iPhone is ubiquitous. [Guns are] on the iPhone as an option," the executive director of NYAGV, Leah Barrett, told Fast Company. "We thought this was a way to bring attention to the issue [of gun violence]."

The activists encourage people to tweet at Apple's CEO and ask for the gun emoji to be removed, using the hashtag #DisarmTheiPhone. However, Fast Company cautions, "If a company like Apple removes words from that language, even if they’re technically pictures, isn't it censorship? How far does this linguistic adjustment go? If we type the letters G-U-N should they be autocorrected to S-U-N, P-U-N, or F-U-N?" Well? Jeva Lange

For those who have everything
July 31, 2015
Courtesy Photo

"Not all baby carriers are made equally," said Bobby Bernstein at HiConsumption. The Mission Critical Baby Carrier ($190) was made with Gen Y fathers in mind, so it "has an urban assault tactical vibe to it." The San Francisco company that produces it offers a full line of matching dad gear, including a backpack, a messenger-style diaper bag, and modular accessories like an attachable baby-bottle holder. The tactical vest–style baby carrier straps on easily and has a hidden hood in its rear panel. All materials are military grade.
The Week Staff

zuck jr.
July 31, 2015
Kimberly White/Getty Images

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan had two big announcements today. The first: They're having a baby girl. The second: Priscilla had three miscarriages before reaching a point in her pregnancy where the chances are now very slim of a reoccurrence.

Their miscarriage news is huge not because it's rare, but because it's so rarely talked about. Though the American Pregnancy Association says as many as a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriages, women aren't exactly eager to shout from the rooftops that they lost a baby. But in Zuckerberg and Chan's Facebook post, they expressed their hope that their announcement will help other women to share their stories.

"You feel so hopeful when you learn you're going to have a child. You start imagining who they'll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they're gone. It's a lonely experience. Most people don't discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you're defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.

In today's open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn't distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.

When we started talking to our friends, we realized how frequently this happened — that many people we knew had similar issues and that nearly all had healthy children after all.

We hope that sharing our experience will give more people the same hope we felt and will help more people feel comfortable sharing their stories as well." [Facebook]

It might already be working. "Congratulations Mark!!!" one commenter wrote below the post. "And thanks for sharing your story. I've also dealt with years of fertility struggles and loss, and it often feels like a incredibly lonely and isolating experience. I've only found recently that by opening up more about these hardships that you find many others with similar experiences […] Good luck with everything and enjoy fatherhood. Hope our kids can play together one day." Jeva Lange

High-Five Guys!
July 31, 2015

How's your Friday going?

In a Chicago suburb, 164 people just set a new world record for the largest ever vertical skydiving formation (the previous mark was set in 2012 and featured 138 skydivers). It took the team of skydivers 13 tries to all link up properly, but once they did, the result was "awesome, man," organizer Rock Nelson said. Check it out for yourself:

(Facebook.com/Skydive Chicago)

The formation lasted just a few seconds before the skydivers — an international contingent that was selected out of training camps held around the world — broke off and pulled their parachutes. Read more about the team's record-setting dive via The Associated Press. Sarah Eberspacher

Only in America
July 31, 2015
iStock

In a bid to rid the city of the smell of urine, officials in San Francisco have begun coating walls near bars and areas frequented by the homeless with a special liquid-resistant paint that repels pee. "The urine will bounce back on the guys' pants and shoes," said a spokesperson. "The idea is they will think twice next time about urinating in public." Requests for the pee-proof paint are pouring in. The Week Staff

This just in
July 31, 2015
Pool/Getty Images

Dylann Roof, who faces federal charges including hate crimes and obstructing the practice of religion for allegedly murdering nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, has chosen to plead not guilty, his lawyer said. Roof wanted to plead guilty to his 33 charges, but because prosecutors haven't yet revealed if they are seeking the death penalty, his defense attorney argued he couldn't advise his client to enter a guilty plea, The Associated Press reports. Roof also faces charges for nine counts of murder in South Carolina, and the state could also decide to seek the death penalty. Jeva Lange

Semper Fi
July 31, 2015

Bambi, one of Disney's most beloved animals, may be best known as "a little frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly," as Donnie Dunagan, the original voice of Young Bambi, describes him.

That image of a helpless baby animal is exactly what Dunagan didn't want people associating with him when he was later drafted into the Marine Corps, as he explained to his wife in a recent visit to a recording booth in San Angelo, Texas as part of StoryCorps' project to collect the stories of everyday Americans.

Dunagan went on to serve in the Marines for over two decades, both in combat and as a commander in a boot camp, all while keeping his Bambi past a secret. He was terrified that the marines he wanted to fear him would instead start thinking of him as "Major Bambi." Dunagan's conversation with his wife was broadcast Friday on Morning Edition as part of their weekly StoryCorps series:

Dunagan thought he had successfully kept Bambi a secret up until a month before his retirement. During a particularly busy time on the base, a general he had known for years called him into his office, assigning him more duties. Dunagan expressed dismay at the extra workload. Then, as Dunagan recalls, the general pulled out a top-secret folder from a safe with his name on it, looked at him over his glasses and said, "You will... won't you, Major Bambi?"

While Dunagan may have once had mixed feelings about his Disney past, he says now that he wouldn't trade that experience for anything. He loves when people realize that he's "this old jerk, he's still around and was Bambi." Marshall Bright

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