Tesla is in the black for the first time in more than three years.
The motor company reported Wednesday that it made a net profit of $21.9 million in the third quarter, boosted by $139 million in zero emission credits from the state of California and $2.3 billion in revenue. Elon Musk, the electric carmaker’s CEO, said he expects the trend will continue into the fourth quarter as the company has reduced the costs of making its new Model 3 sedan.
The third quarter profit and a leaner capital spending plan could help grease the wheels for Musk if he does seek to tap the markets for cash. Turning a profit, even for one quarter, should help counter skeptics who have questioned his ambitious plans for combining Tesla and solar panel maker SolarCity into a company offering roof-to-garage no-carbon energy systems.
Just a year ago, the company recorded a loss of $229.9 million.
Musk has faced criticism in the past for not hitting product launch dates. The company is still reeling after the recent semi-autonomous driving system failure in the Model S.
The Model 3, targeted for a much wider market at a $35,000 starting price, is set to launch the second half of next year.
Venezuelans Protest the Maduro Regime in Widespread Rallies
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered throughout Venezuela on Wednesday to express their opposition of the current president, Nicolas Maduro. In what has been deemed a “Takeover of Venezuela,” the capital city flooded with people in white, carrying Venezuelan flags, and chanting, "This government is going to fall!"
The protests come on the heels of a highly unpopular decision from Venezuela’s National Electoral Council to indefinitely suspend a referendum to recall Maduro. Although Maduro remains in power, recent polls show that around 80 percent of voters would like to see him ousted in the coming year.
Since assuming office in 2013, Maduro has been accused of carrying out an authoritarian regime by jailing opposition leaders and limiting access to newspapers that speak critically of his government. Venezuela also faces the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history, a situation for which many hold Maduro responsible.
"This has gone too far,” one protester, carrying a flag with the signatures of opposition leaders, told Reuters on Wednesday. “I do not like confrontation, but we have been too compromising and soft with the government.”
Wednesday’s rallies resulted in clashes between protesters and security forces in several cities. Dozens were injured, according to opposition leaders, and two protesters in Maracaibo were shot. A police officer was shot and killed, as well, while two others were injured. The protests mark yet another milestone in what portends to be a long and heated battle between opposition leaders and the Maduro regime. The leaders have already threatened a national strike on Friday and a march to the presidential palace on November 3 should the Electoral Council continue to suspend the referendum.
Two earthquakes struck central Italy on Wednesday, shaking historic buildings in Rome only three months after a temblor killed almost 300 people in the same region.
The first quake, a 5.4 temblor, struck near the town of Visso, the BBC reported. Visso is about 40 miles from Amatrice, the town where an earthquake struck in August. In the August quake, 295 people were killed; no death or injuries were reported in Wednesday’s first quake.
A few hours later, a 6.1 tremor shook the region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors seismic activity worldwide. Both of Wednesday’s quakes occurred within a few miles of one another.
Archeologists Get Their First Look at Jesus Christ's Tomb
For the first time in nearly a half-millennium, the tomb where Jesus Christ was supposedly laid to rest has been exposed by archaeologists in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Scientists removed the marble slab that covered the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most sacred locations in Christianity, for renovations. It has covered the tomb since at least A.D. 1555.
Now comes the long process of analyzing the original rock surface of the burial bed in the limestone cave where tradition says Jesus Christ was laid shortly after being crucified by Romans. Christian teachings say he rose from the dead three days after his burial.
National Geographic, which is doing a documentary on the excavation, describes the location:
This burial couch is now enclosed by a small structure known as the Edicule (from the Latin aedicule, or "little house"), which was last reconstructed in 1808-1810 after being destroyed in a fire. The Edicule and the interior tomb are currently undergoing restoration by a team of scientists from the National Technical University of Athens, under the direction of Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou.
The location of Christ’s tomb was identified in A.D. 326 by Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine. It has since become the destination for pilgrims and tourists for centuries, adorned with marble, candles, and icons.
The church is operated through an often-contentious partnership between the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church. All secs recently agreed to allowing renovations for the tomb, which has been damaged by decay, fires, and earthquakes.
At least 26 civilians, mostly children, were killed Wednesday when air strikes hit a school and residential area in northern Syria.
About 20 of the dead were children who were leaving school when strikes hit in the town of Hass at about 11:30 a.m. local time. As many as 30 civilians were injured, some critically, according to the White Helmets, a volunteer group in rebel-controlled Syria, which tweeted frequent updates. Ten children were among the wounded.
Russian forces are suspected in the attack. Hass is located in Idlib province, which is controlled by Syrian opposition groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Russia has been bombing rebels in the country on behalf of Assad’s government for more than a year.
At least 300,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since 2011. Schools and hospitals have been caught in the crossfire, leading to the deaths of dozens of children and medical workers.
Two days before Wednesday’s air strikes, more than 80 human-rights and aid organizations called for Russia’s removal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, asking member states to “question seriously whether Russia's role in Syria—which includes supporting and undertaking military actions which have routinely targeted civilians and civilian objects—renders it fit to serve on the UN's premier intergovernmental human-rights institution.”
7th-Century Scroll Reveals Oldest Hebrew Reference to Jerusalem
Israeli archaeologists unveiled Wednesday an ancient papyrus scroll said to contain the oldest uncovered reference to Jerusalem in Hebrew.
The ancient text, believed to have originated from a Judean Desert cave during the time of Solomon’s Temple, was acquired in 2012 by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Times of Israelreports. The scroll dates back to 7th century BCE—putting it centuries ahead of the Dead Sea Scrolls—and in Hebrew says, “From the female servant of the king, from Naharata (place near Jericho) two wineskins to Jerusalem.”
The unveiling follows a controversy caused by a UNESCO resolution that criticized Israel’s policies in the region’s holy sites—a resolution Israel has denounced as ignoring Jewish ties to the region. The resolution, which the UN cultural agency approved last week, referred to the Temple Mount—known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif and in Hebrew as Har HaBayit—using only its Islamic name in a move Israeli officials called “delusional.”
On Wednesday, Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in protest of what Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said was a second resolution adopted by the agency said to ignore Jewish ties to Jerusalem. The new draft resolution, Haaretz reports, was submitted by Lebanon and Tunisia and, unlike the previous resolution, does refer to the Western Wall by its Hebrew name.
U.S. Abstains From UN Vote Condemning Cuba Embargo
The U.S. abstained for the first time ever from a UN General Assembly vote Wednesday on a resolution to condemn the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba. Although the vote is nonbinding and largely symbolic, the U.S. abstention signals a huge shift in its relations with Cuba.
The U.S. and Israel always opposed the annual vote ever since it was first introduced in 1991. But this year, both countries abstained, and the 193-member assembly passed the resolution with no opposing votes. When Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, announced Wednesday the U.S. would abstain, assembly members applauded.
"Abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government. We do not," Power told the assembly. "We are profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people."
It was an important step, but one that was unsurprising. U.S. President Obama has asked Congress to lift the 50-year-old economic embargo on Cuba, but under Republican control that has not been possible. Instead, Obama has used executive powers to ease travel and trade restrictions. Along with allowing commercial flights to Cuba, the White House most recently relaxed controls on how much Cuban rum and cigars U.S. tourists could bring home with them.
Brazil and Colombia Are Getting an Army of Modified Mosquitoes
Scientists have pledged to release an army of genetically modified mosquitoes in urban areas of Brazil and Colombia starting early next year.
The decision is part of an $18 million project funded by an international team of donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that aims to protect people from mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, chikungunya, and dengue, the BBC reported Wednesday. The project has also received funding from local governments in Latin America, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Brazil is at the epicenter of a Zika outbreak that has spread to more than 50 countries since last year. Zika is particularly dangerous for pregnant women; the virus has been shown to cause a severe developmental condition called microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers. Since the start of the outbreak, more than 2,000 babies in Brazil have been born with microcephaly.
Although the idea of “mutant mosquitoes” may sound like science fiction, it’s been the subject of research for the last decade. Based on a number of small-scale trials, researchers at the Eliminate Dengue Program at Australia’s Monash University have found that genetically modified mosquitoes can help reduce the spread of Zika, chikungunya, and dengue to humans.
Here’s how scientists create these modified insects: Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—the kind that often spread viruses like Zika—are injected with a bug called Wolbachia, which is harmless to human beings.The bug is believed to make mosquitoes resistant to viruses, in turn preventing the spread of disease. When the modified mosquitoes are released into the environment, they also breed with other mosquitoes, helping to introduce the Wolbachia bug to future generations.
Ravi Durvasula, who studies medicine and infectious diseases at University of New Mexico School of Medicine, toldThe Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance earlier this year that there are some risks to deploying genetically modified mosquitoes. The modified bugs could end up exacerbating the Zika problem instead of eliminating it, he said. But between lab-altered mosquitoes and an incurable disease like Zika, Durvasula said that genetic modification is likely the “lesser of two evils.”
Scientists plan to monitor the project over the next three years to look for reduced cases of mosquito-borne illness. So far, they are excited by its prospects. “Wolbachia could be a revolutionary protection against mosquito-borne disease,” Dr. Trevor Mundel of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told the BBC Wednesday. "We are eager to study its impact and how it can help countries."
Dozens of Women Come Forward in Sexual-Assault Case at Wisconsin College
Two weeks ago, a college student in Wisconsin filed a complaint with the local police department, claiming she had been sexually assaulted multiple times near campus. Days later, another student came forward, saying she'd been assaulted by the same man. By the end of last week, nine criminal charges had been filed against Alec Cook, a 20-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
The university’s campus police is investigating “multiple” further complaints, while the Madison Police Department has been contacted by “dozens of other females,” according to a search warrant filed last week. Three more charges against Cook are expected to be filed Thursday.
The allegations against Cook may constitute one of the largest sexual-assault cases at the University of Wisconsin, a school with more than 43,000 students. Cook reportedly denied any wrongdoing during a police interview, but the university has already placed him on emergency leave. “This is a serious case and the university is responding,” said Dean of Students Lori Berquam. The university’s Chancellor, Rebecca Blank, also issued a statement via Twitter:
Cook currently faces 30 counts—among them charges of felony sexual assault, false imprisonment, and strangulation—said Collette Sampson, a Dane County prosecutor, in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday. According to Sampson, the Dane County Police Department discovered a notebook among Cook’s belongings detailing various “grooming and stalking techniques.”
The local WKOW-TV station reported Wednesday that the notebook contained a series of entries with women’s names. “Each entry showed how he met the female, and what he liked about them,” reads an affidavit from Madison police detective Grant Humerickhouse. “Further entries went on to document what he wanted to do with the females. Disturbingly enough there were statements of 'kill' and statements of 'sexual' desires.’”
Many women have taken to Facebook to express their horror over Cook’s actions. “I remember feeling quietly afraid of you at that party,” one woman wrote in an open letter addressed to Cook. “The saying ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ doesn’t apply here because, Alec, you are a wolf—plain and simple.”
Cook’s lawyer, Van Wagner, told the Wisconsin State Journal Tuesday that “much of what has been reported on [social media] has been, for lack of a better expression, character assassination of my client… [It] has prompted a lot of people to apparently go back and re-examine their relationships with him and conclude, whether accurately or not, that they were the victim of a crime.”
Cook is being held in Dane County jail. He is scheduled to appear Thursday in county court, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Mexico Charges the Police Chief in Command During the 'Ayotzinapa 43' Disappearance
A Mexican police chief has been charged in connection with the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero—known as the Ayotzinapa 43. The chief, Felipe Flores, spent two years in hiding and was captured last Friday in Iguala, the state’s capital.
Authorities say they hope Flores can provide insight into why the students were taken off a bus on September 26, 2014, and what happened to their bodies. The students all attended Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College in Iguala, in the country’s southwest. The students had stopped and commandeered a bus—a custom common among students in the area—for a protest in Mexico City. Local police stopped the bus and fired on the unarmed students. From there the story becomes murky.
The official account is that local police, under Flores’ command, took orders from the corrupt mayor of Iguala and his wife, and turned the students over to local drug traffickers. In this account, the traffickers killed the students, burned their bodies beyond recognition, buried some charred remains, and cast the rest into a river. But a panel of international lawyers challenged this account.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report in April that found much of the government’s evidence was provided by suspects who’d been tortured, and that officers and government officials had tampered with evidence. The report said the government’s primary concern was a quick arrest to end bad press. One theory of why top officials would want to cover up the case says the military and federal police were involved in the students’ disappearance—or at the very least knew about it as it happened. That presumption would cause problems for federal officials, as Peña Nieto’s government has tried to remake Mexico’s image.
13 Israelis Charged for Inciting Violence in Wedding Video
Thirteen Israelis were indicted Wednesday in connection with a wedding video in which attendees were filmed hoisting weapons and celebrating the death of a Palestinian toddler in an arson attack last year.
The 13 individuals—including five minors and Yakir Ashbel, the 21-year-old bridegroom—were indicted on a number of charges, including incitement to violence, supporting a terror group, racist incitement, and weapons offenses, the Times of Israelreports.
The video from the wedding, which took place in December 2015, shows some wedding-goers dancing with guns and knives, while others were filmed stabbing a photograph of Ali Dawabsheh, the 18-month-old who was killed alongside his parents after his home in the West Bank town of Duma was firebombed. Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old from an Israeli settlement north of Hebron, was charged in January with carrying out the “price-tag” attack, a term used to describe violence against the Palestinian population by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, condemned the video, which he said shows “the real face of a group that poses danger to Israeli society and security.”
More than 30 civilians were kidnapped and at least 20 killed by a group of armed men said to be loyal to the Islamic State, Afghan officials said.
Nasir Khazeh, the governor of Ghor province, told Agence France-Presse the victims were discovered Wednesday morning—a day after a group of civilians were abducted by a former Taliban unit near the provincial capital of Firozkoh. The attack, Khazeh said, followed fighting between the group and Afghan security forces, in which the group’s commander was killed.
“Our security forces with the help of local shepherds conducted an operation and killed a Daesh (IS) commander yesterday,” Khazeh said, using the pejorative term for the Islamic State. “Daesh fighters in retaliation abducted around 30 villagers, mostly shepherds.”
Though the Islamic State did not formally take credit for the attack, the Taliban was quick to disassociate itself from the incident. Zabihullah Mujahid, the insurgent group’s spokesman, tweeted Wednesday that the attack “had nothing to do with the mujahadeen.”
Though the number of civilians killed is not yet clear, estimates range from 23 to as high as 30. The United Nations put the number of those killed at 26.
National Geographic’s Iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ Faces 14 Years in Jail
When she was 12 years old, Sharbat Gula appeared on the 1985 cover ofNational Geographic in what would later become one of the most iconic magazine issues ever released. More than 30 years later, Gula now faces a fine and up to 14 years in jail following her arrest for identification fraud.
Gula was arrested Wednesday in the northwestern city of Peshawar for the possession of false identity papers, following a two-year investigation in the area by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. She had previously applied for an ID card in April 2014 under the name Sharbat Bibi. The fraud was reported months later by Pakistan’s National Database Registration Authority, but the three staff members who issued Gula’s false papers went missing, Shahid Ilyas, an official from NADRA, told Agence France-Presse.
Two men listed as Gula’s sons also received ID cards when she applied for them in 2014. "They may not be her sons, but this is a common practice among Afghan refugees whereby they list names of non-relatives as their children to obtain documents,” an unnamed NADRA source told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.
When photographer Steve McCurry, who took the renowned photo of Gula, tracked her down in 2002, he found her living in an Afghan village with her husband and three daughters. But according to the paperwork she filed, Gula has been residing in the Nasir Bagh camp for Afghan refugees since 1984. It remains unclear how long Gula has been Pakistan.
Her arrest comes at a time when Pakistan is cracking down on ID fraud in an effort to control the refugee crisis. The government’s investigations have found some 60,675 ID cards in the hands of non-nationals, while the United Nations estimates that there are about 1 million unregistered refugees in Pakistan.
Auvi-Q to Introduce Cheaper Alternative to EpiPen Market
EpiPen will have some competition in the new year.
Kaléo, a privately held pharmaceutical company, announced Wednesday its plans to reintroduce its Auvi-Qepinephrine auto-injector to the epinephrine auto-injector market in 2017, providing an alternative the company says “all patients can afford.”
Though Kaléo did not say how much it expects to charge for Auvi-Q, the introduction of new competition stands to make an impact on the U.S. market, which has until recently been controlled almost exclusively by Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ EpiPen. In September, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch defended to congressional lawmakers her company’s 500 percent price increase of the life-saving drug—from $100 to $608. Amid the backlash, Mylan announced in August it would introduce a more generic version of the EpiPen that would be sold for about $300.
As The New York Timesreports, Auvi-Q first came to market in 2013 as a slimmer, and more pocket-friendly alternative to EpiPen. The product was later licensed to French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which recalled the product in 2015 due to complaints that it wasn’t delivering the right epinephrine doses. In February, Kaléo regained the rights to the product.
Audits completed in September found that nearly 10,000 California National Guardsmen weren’t eligible for the re-enlistment bonuses they received—$15,000 or more. The Pentagon said it wanted the money back, leaving about 2,000 veterans—who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan—straddled with unexpected debts. The backlash resulted in lawmakers and others demanding that the Defense Department forgive the debt.
The issue came to light last month when audits found that nearly 10,000 California National Guardsmen weren’t eligible for the re-enlistment bonuses they received. The Los Angeles Timesreported last week that investigators found the bonuses were paid mostly between 2006 and 2008 after National Guard officials tried to meet enlistment goals during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only soldiers with specific assignments were supposed to receive the money.
Gambia Wants Out of the International Criminal Court
Gambia announced it will leave the International Criminal Court, saying the judicial body meant to try some of the world’s worst war crimes was really a caucasian court “for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans."
Sheriff Bojang, Gambia’s information minister, made the announcement late Tuesday, reasoning the court repeatedly ignored the prosecution of Western leaders. Gambia is the third African country to leave in two weeks. The others are Burundi and South Africa, and their collective denouncement of the court may signal the exodus of more African nations. Already, Namibia and Kenya have raised the possibility of leaving the ICC.
Gambia’s decision reflects a wider suspicion held among some African leaders that the ICC, established in 2002, has been aimed only at trying suspected criminals from its continent. They point out that of the ICC’s 10 current investigations, nine involve African countries. Gambia has been especially frustrated because for the past year it has sought without success to bring punishment against the European Union for allowing thousands of African migrants to die while crossing the sea to its coasts. South Africa left last week after it allowed Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, to visit even though the court had ordered his arrest on charges of crimes against humanity. Burundi left the ICC earlier this month after the court opened an investigation into its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who won a controversial third term in 2015 and has since led a bloody crackdown on protesters and opposition.
The Philippines President Now Wants to Kick Out U.S. Troops In Two Years
Last week Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted U.S. troops out of the Philippines. Earlier this week, he apologized for those remarks. On Wednesday he said he does in fact want them out, and for the first time he set a time frame for their departure.
During a trip to Japan, Duterte said he wanted U.S. troops—and all foreign troops—gone from the Philippines in “maybe two years.” He also said he was open to revoking deals signed in 2014 with the U.S. to expand bases in the country. “And if I have to revise or abrogate agreements,” Duterte said Wednesday, “executive agreements, this shall be the last maneuver, war games between the United States and the Philippines military."
That agreement was one of U.S. President Obama’s main efforts to increase military presence in Southeast Asia, and to push back on China’s claims of the South China Sea. The agreement, approved by a Philippines court this January, is supposed to allow the Pentagon to station forces at five bases in the country, and would be used to deploy planes and train U.S. and Filipino soldiers.
Last week Duterte announced the Philippines’s “separation” from the U.S. When asked to clarify, he said he didn’t really mean separation. Then Tuesday he retracted his retraction, saying he was not a “lap dog” to any country and that he still planned to kick out U.S. troops.
French authorities say the makeshift migrant camp in Calais dubbed “The Jungle’ has been cleared of the roughly 6,000 people who lived there as officials continue to dismantle the facility.
Over the weekend, authorities clashed with migrants ahead of the planned operation to dismantle the camp. They began clearing the camp Monday. Nearly 2,000 people left voluntarily and were taken to migrant-processing centers across France where they will be allowed to seek asylum. Those whose applications are rejected will be deported. Some of the remaining migrants set “The Jungle” ablaze Wednesday as authorities cleared it.
Many of the migrants in the “Jungle” tried to enter the UK illegally from Calais, from where trucks and other forms of traffic make their way between continental Europe and the UK.
WATCH: Newt Gingrich's Exchange With Fox's Megyn Kelly
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and current surrogate for Donald Trump, told Megyn Kelly, the Fox News anchor, that she is “fascinated with sex.” They were discussing the allegations of sexual misconduct against the Republican presidential nominee.
Kelly’s reaction was incredulous but amused: “Me? Really?” You can watch the full exchange here (it starts at about the 4:40 mark):
Gingrich appeared to be pleased with his exchange, which he touted on Twitter last night:
Among the more practical advice that can be offered to international travelers is wisdom of the bathroom. So let me say, as someone who recently returned from China, that you should be prepared to (1) carry your own toilet paper and (2) practice your squat.
I do not mean those goofy chair-less sits you see at the gym. No, toned glutes will not save you here. I mean the deep squat, where you plop your butt down as far as it can go while staying aloft and balanced on the heels. This position—in contrast to deep squatting on your toes as most Americans naturally attempt instead—is so stable that people in China can hold it for minutes and perhaps even hours …
“I’m still very much puzzled about how this is possible."
To survive in the frigid ocean waters around the Arctic and Antarctica, marine life evolved many defenses against the lethal cold. One common adaptation is the ability to make antifreezing proteins (AFPs) that prevent ice crystals from growing in blood, tissues, and cells. It’s a solution that has evolved repeatedly and independently, not just in fish but in plants, fungi, and bacteria.
It isn’t surprising, then, that herrings and smelts, two groups of fish that commonly roam the northernmost reaches of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, both make AFPs. But it is very surprising, even weird, that both fish do so with the same AFP gene—particularly because their ancestors diverged more than 250 million years ago and the gene is absent from all the other fish species related to them.
People in the United States no longer agree on the nation’s purpose, values, history, or meaning. Is reconciliation possible?
Nations, like individuals, tell stories in order to understand what they are, where they come from, and what they want to be. National narratives, like personal ones, are prone to sentimentality, grievance, pride, shame, self-blindness. There is never just one—they compete and constantly change. The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand up best to fact-checking. They’re the ones that address our deepest needs and desires. Americans know by now that democracy depends on a baseline of shared reality—when facts become fungible, we’re lost. But just as no one can live a happy and productive life in nonstop self-criticism, nations require more than facts—they need stories that convey a moral identity. The long gaze in the mirror has to end in self-respect or it will swallow us up.
Aduhelm, the first new Alzheimer’s drug in 18 years, may not work. But states and Medicare might pay billions of dollars for it anyway.
Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration overruled—to much criticism—its own scientific advisory committee and approved the Alzheimer’s treatment Aduhelm. The agency made this decision despite thin evidence of the drug’s clinical efficacy and despite its serious side effects, including brain swelling and bleeding. As a result, a serious risk now exists that millions of people will be prescribed a drug that does more harm than good.
Less appreciated is how the drug’s approval could trigger hundreds of billions of dollars of new government spending, all without a vote in Congress or indeed any public debate over the drug’s value. Aduhelm’s manufacturer, Biogen, announced on Monday that it would price the drug at an average of $56,000 a year per patient, a figure that doesn’t include the additional imaging and scans needed to diagnose patients or to monitor them for serious side effects.
And that might be the right way to save classics from oblivion.
My Atlantic colleague John McWhorter and I must have received the same high-frequency language-nerd alert, audible only to the types of people whose idea of fun is Esperanto grammar. We both recently learned that Princeton’s classics department had ceased requiring its students to study Latin and Greek, and we reacted in predictable horror. A classics department without Latin and Greek is like a math department without multiplication and division, or an art department without paint. More than a thousand years ago, the monk Ælfric prefaced his Latin Grammar by saying it was “the key that unlocks the understanding of books.” I had a vision of a new generation of Princeton classicists, sniffing and thwacking at padlocked volumes of Thucydides or Cicero with looks of total incomprehension, like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson trying to get the files “in the computer” in Zoolander.
The Human Genome Project left 8 percent of our DNA unexplored. Now, for the first time, those enigmatic regions have been revealed.
When the human genome was first deemed “complete” in 2000, the news was met with great international fanfare. The two rival groups vying to finish the genome first—one a large government-led consortium, the other an underdog private company—agreed to declare joint success. They shook hands at the White House. Bill Clinton presided. Tony Blair beamed in from London. “We are standing at an extraordinary moment in scientific history,” one prominent scientist declared when those genomes were published. “It’s as though we have climbed to the top of the Himalayas.”
But actually, the human genome was not complete. Neither group had reached the real summit. As even the contemporary coverage acknowledged, that version was more of a rough draft, riddled with long stretches where the DNA sequence was still fuzzy or missing. The private company soon pivoted and ended its human-genome project, though scientists with the public consortium soldiered on. In 2003, with less glitz but still plentyof headlines, the human genome was declared complete once again.
“Scientists are meant to know what’s going on, but in this particular case, we are deeply confused.”
Carl Schoonover and Andrew Fink are confused. As neuroscientists, they know that the brain must be flexible but not too flexible. It must rewire itself in the face of new experiences, but must also consistently represent the features of the external world. How? The relatively simple explanation found in neuroscience textbooks is that specific groups of neurons reliably fire when their owner smells a rose, sees a sunset, or hears a bell. These representations—these patterns of neural firing—presumably stay the same from one moment to the next. But as Schoonover, Fink, and others have found, they sometimes don’t. They change—and to a confusing and unexpected extent.
Schoonover, Fink, and their colleagues from Columbia University allowed mice to sniff the same odors over several days and weeks, and recorded the activity of neurons in the rodents’ piriform cortex—a brain region involved in identifying smells. At a given moment, each odor caused a distinctive group of neurons in this region to fire. But as time went on, the makeup of these groups slowly changed. Some neurons stopped responding to the smells; others started. After a month, each group was almost completely different. Put it this way: The neurons that represented the smell of an apple in May and those that represented the same smell in June were as different from each other as those that represent the smells of apples and grass at any one time.
We understand how this will end. But who bears the risk that remains?
During a pandemic, no one’s health is fully in their own hands. No field should understand that more deeply than public health, a discipline distinct from medicine. Whereas doctors and nurses treat sick individuals in front of them, public-health practitioners work to prevent sickness in entire populations. They are expected to think big. They know that infectious diseases are always collective problems becausethey are infectious. An individual’s choices can ripple outward to affect cities, countries, and continents; one sick person can seed a hemisphere’s worth of cases. In turn, each person’s odds of falling ill depend on the choices of everyone around them—and on societal factors, such as poverty and discrimination, that lie beyond their control.
Simone Biles is the greatest athlete in the world today.
For me, this isn’t a debate. It’s a statement of fact. On Sunday, she won a record seventh United States gymnastics championship, continuing her jaw-dropping winning streak in every all-around competition she’s entered since 2013. The 24-year-old hasn’t lost in eight years. Typical gymnasts her age aren’t beating all their rivals by the big margins that, for Biles, have become routine.
Although Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl at age 43, he is no longer in his prime, and other Super Bowl–winning quarterbacks, including Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, are arguably more physically talented. Unlike the current greats in other sports, Biles has no peer. Serena Williams is the greatest female tennis player of all time and among the greatest athletes of all time, but her career is winding down, and Naomi Osaka is in position to unseat her as the face of women’s tennis. LeBron James won’t get a chance to defend the NBA title he won with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, because the Phoenix Suns eliminated his team in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
Many people who have been working from home are experiencing a void they can’t quite name.
This article was published online on June 9, 2021.
Back when commuting was a requirement for going to work, I once passed through a subway tunnel so filthy and crowded that the poem inscribed on its ceiling seemed like a cruel joke. “Overslept, / so tired. / If late, / get fired. / Why bother? / Why the pain? / Just go home / do it again.” “The Commuter’s Lament,” which adorns a subterranean passage in New York City’s 42nd Street station, made the already grim ritual of getting to and from work positively Dante-esque. But no one questioned the gist of it. The commute, according to the Nobel Prize–winning economist Daniel Kahneman’s research, ranked as the single most miserable part of our day. A Swiss study held long commutes responsible for “systematically lower subjective well-being.”