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Podcast: George Mason Regional Researcher Terry Clower

Arlington’s economic outlook is “so bright you need to wear shades,” according to Terry Clower, an expert on the D.C. region over at George Mason University.

As a professor of public policy and director of Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis, Clower can speak with some authority on just how Arlington is doing. But between Amazon’s potential arrival in Arlington and all of the problems surrounding the region’s transportation, Clower does see a few clouds on the horizon.

On this edition of the 26 Square Miles podcast, we discussed the county’s odds of landing Amazon, what would happen if the county is successful, and all manner of the hottest economic and transportation-related debates around Arlington.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

Photo courtesy of George Mason University

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GMU Hosting Free Screening of Obama Documentary ‘The Final Year’

President Obama speaks at Washington-Lee High School

George Mason University’s Arlington campus is holding a free screening of The Final Year, a documentary chronicling the foreign policy decisions made in the closing days of President Barack Obama’s administration.

The university’s Center for Security Policy Studies at the Schar School of Policy and Government will host the screening at the Founders Hall auditorium (3434 Washington Blvd) starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday (May 10).

Mason professor Ellen Laipson, the director of the university’s international security program, will then host a panel discussion with several Obama administration veterans. Panelists are set to include Rumana Ahmed, former senior advisor to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes; Sergio Aguiree, former chief of staff to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former White House National Security Council Director; and Desiree Barnes, who served as a communications and public engagement strategist for Obama.

Released earlier this year and directed by Greg Barker, The Final Year focuses on top foreign policy officials in Obama’s White House, like Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, as they wrestle with how to leave a lasting legacy on the international stage.

Anyone interested in attending the screening can register online.

File photo

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Nelson Mandela’s Grandson Heads to GMU’s Arlington Campus, Hopes to Continue the South African Leader’s Legacy

Siyabulela Mandela, grandson of the iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela, never thought he had much reason to come to America.

After all, the 25-year-old scholar is busy working on his doctorate at a South African university named for his famous grandfather. Someday, he even hopes to work as a diplomat for his country and follow in Nelson’s footsteps to resolve conflicts across Africa.

Nevertheless, he felt himself pulled toward the U.S., and Arlington specifically, for one simple reason — he had to get to George Mason University. Mandela arrived in Arlington on April 1, and he plans to spend the next four months working as a visiting scholar at Mason’s conflict resolution program.

“If it was not because of George Mason University, I would’ve never laid my foot in America,” Mandela told ARLnow in a recent interview. “I never wanted to come here. But the school here gave me an opportunity. The work that they do at George Mason overshadows that track record America has in the rest of the world.”

Indeed, Mandela confesses he is quite skeptical of America’s influence abroad, particularly after President Donald Trump’s vulgar, derogatory remarks about African nations sparked an international uproar earlier this year. But as a student of diplomacy, Mandela felt compelled to take a chance on Mason and its School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

“I think we are where we are in South Africa because of the contribution of scholars who came from George Mason,” Mandela said.

He’s hard at work on a dissertation on diplomacy and conflict resolution in African nations, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and he aims to bring some of the insights he gleans from the Mason scholars whom he admires so much into his work.

Mandela is also planning to do a little sightseeing (he says he’s already toured D.C. a bit and hopes to see the rest of the country in the coming weeks), yet he’d also like to do his best to spread a bit of his grandfather’s wisdom to his American counterparts. He sees plenty of parallels between South Africa’s struggles with racism and America’s history, and he hopes his paternal grandfather’s experience as president working to unite his country after the end of apartheid offers some lessons for American leaders.

“Even though for years and years he was imprisoned by the white folks who perceived themselves as supreme, he could emerge out of that pain and seek nothing but reconciliation,” Mandela said. “That is something that is phenomenal, and angelic. A prisoner who could come out and say, ‘It’s time to make peace.'”

Mandela was born in Qunu, a village in the same province from which his grandfather hailed, yet he reports only spending limited time with Nelson before his death in 2013. As his grandfather began to step away from politics in the early 2000s, Siyabulela says he got the chance to see him more often at family gatherings.

In particular, he remembers his grandfather’s tradition of holding a massive party at his home each Christmas Day, open to any child living nearby.

“He’d stay from morning until evening and shake the hand of each and every child and hand them gifts,” Mandela said.

Mandela says his family is so large that he’s not quite sure how many people can count themselves as Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren — according to his official biography, Mandela was married three times and had a total of six children — yet Siyabulela always felt the pressure to live up to the family name.

“You can’t do things other people can do,” Mandela said. “I cannot be found drunk in the street or fighting in the street like everyone else. I have to conduct myself on the basis of having him as my role model. It’s never an easy road, but interestingly enough it has shaped me as a person and made me to be a better person.”

Indeed, whether it’s his work at Mason or his studies in South Africa, the younger Mandela hopes to live up to his grandfather’s legacy, in ways big and small.

“It’s about taking up the baton and continuing that legacy, taking up the fight against injustice, the fight for human rights and peace for all,” Mandela said.

Photo by Anna Merod

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George Mason University Shrubbery Fire Extinguished Near Bill of Rights Eagle

Three shrubs caught on fire beside George Mason University’s Bill of Rights Eagle in Virginia Square.

The fire broke out on this afternoon (Friday) just before 1 p.m., engulfing the shrubbery and a patch of mulch. The flames were quickly extinguished by responding firefighters, and a college employee said that it wasn’t a major incident. Classes were in session at the time but there was not report of any evacuation.

A facilities worker told ARLnow.com that the flames were three feet high, and that a glass office window adjacent to the fire was cracked as a result.

Another facilities worker, who said that he had worked for the college for the past 20 years, said that the college’s shrubbery had never caught on fire before.

He added that his colleagues had not seen anything odd in the area prior to the fire, but that several people tripped and fell while running away.

Unveiled last May with much fanfare, the GMU Antonin Scalia Law School’s “Bill of Rights Eagle” did not appear to suffer any damage from the fire.

Warm weather has helped spark a number of small mulch and grass fires around Arlington over the past day or so.

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Kaine, Dems to Host Gun Control ‘Planning Meeting,’ Town Hall

Sen. Tim Kaine has organized an “action planning meeting” in Arlington with gun violence advocates, victims’ families and faith leaders, the day before gun violence prevention marches are scheduled nationwide.

The event will be held at George Mason University’s Founders Hall on Friday (March 23) at 1 p.m. Per a press release, meeting attendees will “talk about the work they are doing in the community to promote safety reforms that make communities safer.”

The senator, according to the release, “is optimistic that the activism of students and parents who have spoken out all over the country has changed the dynamic of the gun violence prevention debate and could finally spur action in Congress.

Kaine’s event is scheduled a day before the national March For Our Lives anti-gun-violence rally on Saturday, March 24. Arlington Democrats are planning a weekend of events around it.

Among the events is a “Town Hall for Action on Commonsense Gun Safety Measures” held by the Arlington County Democratic Committee. It is scheduled to take place on Sunday, the day after the rally, at Faith Lutheran Church (3313 Arlington Boulevard) from 2-4 p.m.

Virginia Del. Chris Hurst (D-12) will be the keynote speaker, discussing his personal gun violence story.

The following speakers will also attend the town hall and “offer unique perspectives on the issue of gun violence and concrete action steps,” per a Facebook event listing.

  • Beth Arthur, Arlington Sheriff’s Office
  • Kris Brown, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
  • Karina de Leede, Arlington Student Activists
  • Chloe Fugel, Arlington Student Activists
  • Josh Horwitz, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  • Celia Slater, Moms Demand Action Arlington
  • Yasmine Taeb, Alumnus of Stoneman Douglas High School and current DNC member
  • Tannia Talento, Arlington School Board

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be leading Arlington Democrats in the march on Saturday, starting on the Arlington side of the Memorial Bridge at 10:30 a.m., according to a press release from state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s office.

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Northam, Gillespie Campaign Managers Reflect on Governor’s Race

After a contentious race for governor in Virginia, the campaign managers for the two major candidates had a few flashpoints as they reflected on the contest in Arlington on Monday night.

Chris Leavitt, who managed Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign, said his opposite number on Democratic candidate Ralph Northam’s campaign, Brad Komar, was a “liar” for saying he and his colleagues had no knowledge of an attack ad run by the Latino Victory Fund against the Republican.

Komar said the ad came from a community that felt it was “under attack,” but that the Northam campaign was not involved.

“It’s not how I would have responded,” he said. “We did not see the ad; I did not authorize it.”

The ad showed a white man in a pickup truck with a Gillespie bumper sticker and a Confederate flag threatening minority children. It ran on Spanish-language channels for two days before being taken down after the terrorist attack in New York by a man driving a pickup truck.

The pair were in conversation before more than 250 people at George Mason University’s Arlington campus at an event by the Virginia Public Access Project and GMU’s Schar School of Policy and Government. It came less than a week after Northam beat Gillespie to the governor’s mansion, thanks in part to the 68,315 votes he received in Arlington to Gillespie’s 16,160.

Komar said he regretted the campaign leaving then-lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, who also triumphed last week in a Democratic clean sweep alongside Attorney General Mark Herring, off a mailer that was sent to some houses in Northern Virginia.

At the time, the campaign said it was accommodating the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which did not endorse Fairfax as he opposes two planned natural gas pipelines, but endorsed the other two.

“We handled a regular, normal thing badly,” Komar said, noting that it should not have been sent out by the campaign but by someone else.

Leavitt defended the Gillespie campaign’s decision to run television ads attacking Northam as weak on the Central American street gang MS-13, and supporting so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” where local authorities do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Such “sanctuaries” do not exist in Virginia, but Leavitt said that the Gillespie campaign had data that suggested that some independent voters were concerned about a rise in crime committed by illegal immigrants.

“You have to pick certain spots where there are avenues where you can go after your opponent,” Leavitt said. “This was one of those avenues.”

And Leavitt said trying to find weaknesses in Northam to attack was especially problematic, given his personal history as a U.S. Army doctor then a pediatric neurologist, as well as a stellar career in Richmond.

He said the Gillespie campaign hoped for a bruising Democratic primary against former Rep. Tom Perriello to expose more weaknesses.

“Frankly, the Governor-Elect did not have as many vulnerabilities as we would have liked, and we thought a primary could open up a few more,” Leavitt said.

Looming over the race was President Donald Trump, who was elected last year and has inspired more Democratic activism but left many Republicans walking a tightrope on whether to embrace his rhetoric.

Leavitt said that while it may have appeared Gillespie struggled to find that balance, campaign staff were determined to keep the race about Virginia issues and not “nationalize” it.

Trump did not campaign for Gillespie, and criticized him on Twitter for not embracing “me or what I stand for.”

“At the time, it seemed like the right path,” Leavitt said, noting Gillespie’s emphasis on providing policy to help Virginians rather than be dragged into the national discussion.

For his part, Komar said he and his colleagues looked to capitalize on Gillespie’s apparent reluctance to embrace Trump.

“Trumpism without Trump, I think, is a win for us,” Komar said.

Both agreed that they did not see the wave of anti-Trump sentiment coming in Virginia, a sentiment that has helped almost wipe out Republicans’ advantage in the House of Delegates.

And Komar said the Northam campaign looked to capitalize on Republicans’ inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and shift the attention onto Virginia’s proposed expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.

“The fact that this remained an issue through the election… this was very important,” Komar said.

“It wasn’t an area where we really wanted to debate,” Leavitt said in response. “We wanted to turn the conversation to something else.”

With this year’s elections over, political attention now shifts to the 2018 mid-terms. Both said that with full control of government, it is on Republicans to get something done, or else they will face the wrath of voters.

Republicans have a “lot to think about and recalibrate,” Leavitt said. “Good luck, because it’s going to be a challenge.”

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Wednesday, Sept. 27: A Conversation with Mary Roach at GMU’s Arlington Campus

How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Why is a zipper a problem for a sniper?

On Wednesday, September 27, join economist Tyler Cowen and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University for a conversation with “America’s funniest science writer,” Mary Roach. The conversation is part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler event series, and will be open to the public. A book signing will immediately follow the event.

Click here to register.

Roach’s latest book is Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. Grunt examines the science behind keeping soldiers’ bodies and minds intact, alert, and sane in the extreme conditions that come with war.

Like Roach’s other books, Grunt combines fascinating science with the perfect amount of humor and accessibility to explore life’s most interesting peculiarities. Roach’s work isn’t afraid to “go there” as she explores taboo topics such as sex, the nitty gritty of life in space, dead bodies, and what happens to food after you eat it.

Roach’s perspective frequently comes from a first-hand experience as she offers up herself — and sometimes her husband — to participate in unconventional science experiments, including agreeing to wear ultrasound equipment during coitus.

In Conversations with Tyler, economist and George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen explores the world of ideas in one-on-one dialogues with today’s top thinkers. Past guests include Lawrence H. Summers, Malcolm Gladwell, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Atul Gawande.

Mary Roach’s skillful wit and creative approach to science makes her the perfect candidate for a conversation with Tyler. Come prepared to laugh, learn, and unlock some of life’s most interesting mysteries.

Register for the event here.

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Protests Greet Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on GMU’s Arlington Campus

More than 30 people protested Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ arrival on the Arlington campus of George Mason University on Thursday morning.

Protestors outside where she made her announcement accused her of “protecting rapists” and failing to protect the most vulnerable, and the survivors of sexual assault.

“After a week of disgusting announcements, this is going to be the worst of them,” said GMU graduate Rodrigo Velasquez, adding that there is “no legal or moral argument for rolling back protections for our most vulnerable.”

DeVos announced a plan to rethink the government’s enforcement of Title IX and federal regulations of sexual assault policies on college campuses. During her speech, per reporters inside, DeVos said she would implement a public comment period to gather feedback on it.

DeVos reportedly added that she would look to follow “due process” in enforcement of Title IX, and that the “era of rule by letter is over.” She said she would not change federal guidelines yet, nor the so-called “Dear Colleague” letter that gave colleges that receive federal money guidelines on how to report alleged sexual assaults, but it is under review.

Protestors carried signs attacking DeVos and President Trump, as well as sharing personal stories of sexual assault on college campuses. The crowd regularly broke out into chants of “Stand with survivors,” “Stop protecting rapists” and “Stop Betsy DeVos” throughout.

And when one protestor got word through social media that the protests could be heard in the auditorium where DeVos was speaking, enormous cheers, jeers and whistles broke out, as well as chants of “Can you hear us?”

Protestors promised that their fight is just beginning, and urged those looking on to speak in support of current regulations.

“We will not go back to a time when survivors go back into the shadows,” Velasquez said. “So let’s make sure Betsy DeVos hears this.”

The protestors dispersed around 1 p.m., after the conclusion of DeVos’ speech.

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Beyer to Push for GW Parkway Safety Study, More Memorial Bridge Funding

Rep. Don Beyer (D) announced Wednesday he will use the coming weeks in Congress to push for safety at two roadways that run through Arlington County.

Beyer said he will introduce appropriations amendments related to repairs for Memorial Bridge and safety on the George Washington Memorial Parkway as Congress debates legislation to fund the federal government’s operations past the deadline of September 30. Beyer’s district includes Arlington and a portion of Fairfax County as well as Alexandria and Falls Church Cities.

Memorial Bridge received $90 million last year from the federal government for repairs after years of deterioration and neglect led to worries it could close by 2021.

But Beyer said he wants to require President Donald Trump’s administration to submit a report to Congress outlining a plan to fully fund repairs, as the project could cost up to a quarter-billion dollars.

And for the GW Parkway, Beyer submitted an amendment requiring the Secretaries of Interior and Transportation to carry out a study on how to improve safety in its sections south of Alexandria in Fairfax County. The parkway, which like the Memorial Bridge is controlled by the National Park Service, has been the site of several serious crashes in recent times, sending motorists to the hospital and snarling traffic.

“Arlington Memorial Bridge and the George Washington Parkway are essential hubs for my constituents in Northern Virginia,” Beyer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, like much of the country’s infrastructure, these historic roadways have not been maintained sufficiently. We need prompt action by the federal government to guarantee the continued safety and reliability of these key transportation arteries.”

Meanwhile, after Congress’ return from its summer recess, Beyer will host two town hall-style events in Arlington in the next two months, one on the future of social security and another focusing on women’s issues.

On Sunday September 10 from 3-5 p.m. at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.), Beyer hosts “A Forum on Social Security in the 21st Century,” alongside Connecticut Rep. John Larson (D). A flyer for the event said the pair will discuss what they are doing to protect Social Security today and protect it in the future.

And on Saturday, October 14 from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Beyer will host his third annual Women’s Conference and Forum at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive), entitled, “Moving Forward, Together – Impact & Influence.”

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Morning Notes

Today Is ‘Terrible Traffic Tuesday’ — Today is the Tuesday after Labor Day, when students in Arlington and around the region go back to school. As a result of the extra school buses, parents and students on the roads, and the end of summer vacations, it is also dubbed “Terrible Traffic Tuesday” by AAA Mid-Atlantic. In reality, however, the day after — which now has a name: “Woeful Wednesday” — is worse in terms of commuting times, and next week should be even more woeful. [Washington Post, WTOP]

Chili’s Dying Out in D.C. Area — The Chili’s in Bailey’s Crossroads has closed. The restaurant chain closed its Crystal City location last year and its Reston location the year before that. The nearest Chili’s to Arlington is now along Route 1, outside the Beltway, in Fairfax County. [Twitter]

Roosevelt Profiled by Conservative Media — GOP candidate Adam Roosevelt is getting some attention from conservative media outlets. Roosevelt “is a moderate Republican running for the Virginia House of Delegates against current Democratic Delegate Alfonso Lopez, who has never before faced a GOP opponent during his six years in office,” writes the Daily Caller, calling the district he’s running in, which includes part of Arlington, “far left.” The lead sentence in Newsmax’s article about Roosevelt has a different focus: “A conservative Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, who happens to be black, has recently emerged as one of the most spirited advocates of keeping Confederate statues up in the Old Dominion State.” [Daily Caller, Newsmax]

Webb Removed from Civ Fed Debate — School Board candidate Mike Webb has had his invitation to tonight’s Arlington County Civic Federation debate — the unofficial kickoff to campaign season in Arlington — rescinded because he reportedly “failed to return required paperwork in time to allow participation.” Allison Dough, the other candidate to challenge Democratic endorsee Monique O’Grady, has said she has other commitments and will be unable to attend the debate. [InsideNova]

Arlington Man Evicted From ‘Big Brother’ House — Arlington resident Matt Clines, 33, has been evicted from the Big Brother house. Clines had advanced about half-way through the CBS reality show before being voted off. [Reality TV World, Parade, Hollywood Reporter]

DeVos to Make Big Announcement in Arlington — Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is reportedly planning to make a “major announcement on Title IX, the campus gender equality law,” from George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington on Thursday. [BuzzFeed]

Flickr pool photo by Jim Webster

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Rep. Don Beyer to Hold Public Forum on Net Neutrality

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) will host a forum on the future of net neutrality in two weeks.

The event is happening on Monday, June 26 from 7:30-9 p.m. Beyer will be joined by former Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler and former FCC general counsel Jonathan Sallet.

The forum will take place in George Mason University’s Founders Hall (3351 N. Fairfax Drive) and is free to attend, though registration is strongly advised.

Net neutrality is a principle that prohibits internet service providers from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content. For example, without net neutrality rules a cable company could intentionally slow down the Netflix video streaming service as a way to force people to use its own streaming service instead.

Advocates worry that if the FCC rolls back net neutrality protections, companies like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast could have control over internet content. Currently the FCC is soliciting comments to its email inbox at [email protected], to better understand the potential impact net neutrality abolition could have on internet users.

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Report Suggests Uber and Lyft Could Help Boost County’s Transit

A new report says Arlington County should use ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to supplement under-performing ART bus routes and better connect residents with Metro stations.

Graduate students at George Mason University’s Schar School of Government and Policy compiled strategies to improve transit in the county, and concluded that using ride-hailing is one way to do so.

The report says the current fixed ART bus system is a disadvantage to some areas that are highly populated due to overcrowding, while there are service gaps for areas that are less densely populated. Based on their research, the ART 41 route from Columbia Pike to Courthouse is the busiest, while the 53, 62, 74 and 92 are all underused and failed to recoup much of their operating costs through fares.

The solution of using the likes of Uber and Lyft to supplement buses on routes that are underutilized is based on a similar program in Pinellas County, Florida called Direct Connect. Through the program, the county pays for half of a commuter’s Uber fare if it begins and ends at certain points and stays within a specific area.

A similar partnership can improve connections to the county’s Metro stations, GMU students concluded. While the report gives Arlington credit for the use of car- and bike-sharing with the likes of Capital Bikeshare and Car2Go, it says partnering with ride-hailing companies could be helpful for those who right now struggle to integrate Metro into their commutes.

The report also said the county could improve how it provides information about its transit services. Currently, mobile applications do not support real-time tracking for ART buses.

“Mobile networks play a vital role in day-to-day life and real-time tracking of services has become a necessity for busy commuters,” the report says. “Developing this tool as a mobile application would create greater convenience for commuters.”

The report also said that the county could benefit from talking to the community. It suggests facilitating a two-way dialogue between riders and county staff, and using strategies like surveying riders at Metro stations and other major transit hubs.

“Arlington County, if it were to embrace advances in information technology and extend its history of community engagement even further, could implement cost-effective yet innovative transportation solutions in its neighborhoods,” the report says.

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June 14: A Conversation with Sen. Ben Sasse at GMU Arlington

Click here to register for the event.

Is there a “coming-of-age crisis” in America?

Yes, according to Sen. Ben Sasse’s new book “The Vanishing American Adult.” In the book, the Nebraska Senator makes the case that many young people in America are stuck in a state of perpetual youth, lacking in self-discipline and purpose. This phenomenon, according to Sasse, poses an existential threat to America’s future, as a country without functioning, responsible adults will be susceptible to political demagogues.

This is one of the many topics that Sen. Sasse and George Mason economist Tyler Cowen will discuss during their one-on-one dialogue on Wednesday, June 14, from 6:30-8 p.m., at GMU’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive).

The conversation is part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler series, and will be open to the public free of charge.

Sasse is especially qualified to observe millennial trends as he served as president of Midland University from 2010 to 2015. He’s also known for his ability to communicate with Americans of all generations in original ways — whether it’s through his refreshingly candid tweets or his part-time Uber charity gig.

But there is more to Sasse than politics and tweets. A historian by training, Sasse has earned four advanced degrees, including a Ph.D. from Yale. Dubbing him “Washington’s Most Interesting Egghead,” the Atlantic noted that his experience in academia, corporate consulting, and past government appointments have given him one of the Senate’s most varied resumes.

This makes him a natural fit for Conversations with Tyler, a discussion series that engages today’s top thinkers in one-on-one conversations about everything and anything with economist Tyler Cowen. Past guests include tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, renowned academic Camille Paglia, and author Malcolm Gladwell.

Guests should come prepared for a lively conversation about the unique challenges this country faces and how parents, young people, and all Americans can be a part of the solution.

Click here to register for the event.

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UPDATED: Hazmat Incident at GMU Law School in Va. Square

Update at 6:45 p.m. — The fire department has cleared the scene and all lanes of Fairfax Drive are back open.

The Arlington County Fire Department is investigating a hazmat incident at George Mason University’s law school in Virginia Square.

The incident happened on the third floor of the law school building, at 3301 Fairfax Drive, and involves a suspicious envelope containing a “powdery substance,” according to fire department spokesman Lt. Jeff Crooke. One person who opened the envelope is being evaluated but is not believed be suffering any medical issues at this time.

Police have blocked the westbound lanes of Fairfax Drive due to the emergency response.

The law school was recently renamed the Antonin Scalia Law School, after the late Supreme Court justice.

Map via Google Maps

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‘Bill Of Rights Eagle’ Unveiled At GMU’s Scalia Law School

More than 100 dignitaries, students, faculty and staff braved blustery conditions Monday for the unveiling of the Bill of Rights Eagle outside the Antonin Scalia Law School on George Mason University’s Arlington campus.

Cast in bronze by sculptor Greg Wyatt, the 4,300-pound eagle has a seven-foot wingspan and was dedicated as part of the university’s Law Day celebrations.

It shows an American eagle standing on top of the Bill of Rights, protecting them with its enormous wings. In an interview after the ceremony, Wyatt said it was symbolic of standing against oppression and for freedom.

“It’s a permanent memorial to free speech and artistic practice, unlimited by your format and materials,” he said. “It’s something you want to pass from one generation to the next.”

Wyatt initially presented the statue in plaster in the U.S. Senate’s Russell Office Building in 1989, before it moved two years later to the southwest corner of the courtyard at Harvard University, near Dudley House.

After five years outside Dudley House, it moved to the courtyard by Harvard’s Winthrop House, just outside the suite where former President John F. Kennedy lived and studied. A renovation in that area forced it to return to Wyatt’s studio, then the law school was recommended for its new home.

And while university officials said the move was not because of namesake George Mason IV’s role as the author of the Bill of Rights, it is fitting nonetheless.

“I think Harvard Yard was an okay place for the Bill of Rights Eagle. I think the U.S. Senate was a better place,” said GMU president Angel Cabrera. “But I cannot think of a better place for the eagle than the law school that carries the name of the author of the Bill of Rights.”

“I just get chills,” said law school dean Henry Butler. “Here we are at the university named for the father of the Bill of Rights, being given an eagle named for the Bill of Rights.”

Wyatt has designed two other similar eagles on display in the U.S.: one with a three-foot wingspan on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and another with an 18-foot wingspan in the north courtyard of the State Department in the District, installed in 2000.

He said his research involved learning about how eagles are put together, from their bone structure to feather count and where their joints are.

“That kind of research is expected,” Wyatt said. “What’s not expected is adding something to the nation’s symbol. What that means in this instance is the idea that our freedom of speech and production and artists are showcase for the benefits of the constitutional rule of law under which all of us derive these precious freedoms.”

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