The movie poster for the Will Smith movie 'Concussion'. Courtesy Sony Pictures
The movie poster for the Will Smith movie 'Concussion'. Courtesy Sony Pictures

Movie on concussions may be nightmare for NFL’s PR machine



Merry Christmas, Mr. Commissioner. Enjoy your lump of coal.

Even though the holiday is nearly four months off, we already know what Roger Goodell will find under his tree on Christmas Day. It’s a movie scheduled for release that morning based on a true story and bluntly titled “Concussion.” It could do for the NFL what “The Insider” did for Big Tobacco and “Erin Brockovich” did for big energy companies.

In a trailer released earlier this week, Will Smith, one of the most bankable stars in show business, portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who identified a degenerative disease in football players known as CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and is stunned to find the league trying to discredit his research at every turn

That comes as little surprise to Omalu’s mentor and colleague, played by Albert Brooks. He tells Omalu: “You’re going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week.”

Indeed. The NFL has never been more popular or profitable than it is at the moment and the story laying the sometimes-lethal, long-term implications of repeated blows to the head chronicled several times before – in magazines, books and documentaries, as well as court depositions. We already know how it turns out.

But distilling all those statistics and case studies into a dramatic battle of good vs. evil will make it that much tougher to ever root for Goodell and his enablers again.

This is most of the same crew, after all, that installed Dr. Elliot Pellman, a rheumatologist, as the longtime chairman of the league’s “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee” and didn’t know – or else didn’t care – how casually he dismissed all the data linking CTE to dementia and a host of other dangers.

It’s the same crew that’s agreed to pay more than $900 million to settle a concussion lawsuit by former players, yet still stages “Football Safety Clinics for Moms,” trying to convince parents to let their kids play football in the face of mounting evidence that players as young as 7 suffer hits to the head every bit as traumatic as those suffered by high school and adult players.

Like Omalu, Dr. Robert Cantu, co-director of the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, has been pushing back against the league’s public-relations blitz for years. Three years ago, around the time researchers found CTE in 49 of the 50 brains of deceased NFL players they autopsied, he co-authored a book laying out the case for kids to delay playing contact sports like tackle football and hockey before age 14. He was confident that with enough information, parents would come around.

“They haven’t understood the dangers their kids are being subjected to,” he said at the time. “Once they do – and it won’t happen in weeks, or months, maybe even years – they’ll demand changes.”

“Concussion” has the chance to speed up the timeline. It’s was made by Sony Pictures, which unlike several other Hollywood studios (Disney, Fox and Universal) doesn’t have direct ties to the NFL and won’t worry about retribution. It will spend plenty to promote the film and the timing couldn’t be more fortuitous.

In addition to the box-office power of its stars – besides Smith and Brooks, it features Paul Reiser (as Pellman) and Luke Wilson (as Goodell) – Sony will release it on Christmas Day with Oscar consideration in mind and hoping to take advantage of a holiday crowd. More to the point, instead of bumping up against the start of the NFL season, it will hit theaters at a juncture when the injuries and who-knows-how many concussions are piling up.

Just as important, it will name real people and show real NFL teams.

“There’s no way to tell the story without showing real football, without showing real football players, to get the texture and the understanding and the tremendous violence inside the game,” director Peter Landesman said in an interview earlier this week. “So it became an imperative for us to be able to do it. What I was told by the studio was, `You’re protected. We’re behind you. This will be fine.”’

Landesman said in another interview that he didn’t set out to make an “anti-football” film. But as far as the NFL’s reaction, he added, “I don’t really care. Their feelings are not my concern. ...

“As long as the movie does its job – it entertains, it thrills and it informs and people walk away from watching this film knowing something new and having the experience of being inside the shoes of a heroic man, that’s the only thing I care about. I can’t worry about the consequences of what I do,” he added, “that’s not my job.”

Your move, commissioner.

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Pearls on a Branch: Oral Tales
​​​​​​​Najlaa Khoury, Archipelago Books

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

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Youngest La Liga starter in the 21st century: 16 years and 38 days v Cadiz
Youngest player to register an assist in La Liga in the 21st century: 16 years and 45 days v Villarreal
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Youngest goalscorer for Spain: 16 years and 57 days
Youngest player to score in a Euro qualifier: 16 years and 57 days

The specs

Engine: 77kWh 2 motors
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Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire

Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein, Michiel Huisman, Charlie Hunnam
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Tell Me Who I Am

Director: Ed Perkins

Stars: Alex and Marcus Lewis

Four stars

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Match info

Champions League quarter-final, first leg

Liverpool v Porto, Tuesday, 11pm (UAE)

Matches can be watched on BeIN Sports

The specs

Engine: Single front-axle electric motor
Power: 218hp
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What is dialysis?

Dialysis is a way of cleaning your blood when your kidneys fail and can no longer do the job.

It gets rid of your body's wastes, extra salt and water, and helps to control your blood pressure. The main cause of kidney failure is diabetes and hypertension.

There are two kinds of dialysis — haemodialysis and peritoneal.

In haemodialysis, blood is pumped out of your body to an artificial kidney machine that filter your blood and returns it to your body by tubes.

In peritoneal dialysis, the inside lining of your own belly acts as a natural filter. Wastes are taken out by means of a cleansing fluid which is washed in and out of your belly in cycles.

It isn’t an option for everyone but if eligible, can be done at home by the patient or caregiver. This, as opposed to home haemodialysis, is covered by insurance in the UAE.

The specs

Engine: 4 liquid-cooled permanent magnet synchronous electric motors placed at each wheel

Battery: Rimac 120kWh Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2) chemistry

Power: 1877bhp

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Director: Wes Ball

Starring: Owen Teague, Freya Allen, Kevin Durand

Rating: 3.5/5

SPECS

Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol (V Class); electric motor with 60kW or 90kW powerpack (EQV)
Power: 233hp (V Class, best option); 204hp (EQV, best option)
Torque: 350Nm (V Class, best option); TBA (EQV)
On sale: Mid-2024
Price: TBA


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