—TransCanada has filed an application to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,200-mile-long oil pipeline that would connect the tar sands of Alberta to oil refineries in Nebraska. More here
—Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced on Twitter he’s canceled his visit next week to the U.S. to meet with President Trump over the American leader’s insistence Mexico will pay for a wall the U.S. wants to build on its southern border to keep away illegal immigrants. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
TransCanada Files a New Application to Build the Keystone XL Pipeline
TransCanada has filed an application to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,200-mile-long oil pipeline that would connect the tar sands of Alberta to oil refineries in Nebraska, according to Reuters. President Trump invited the Canadian energy company to re-submit the pipeline for approval in an executive order on Tuesday. The application now formally sets the Keystone XL pipeline back in motion, bringing the infrastructure project closer to reality. According to the same executive order, the U.S. State Department now has 60 days to approve or reject the company’s application, and it may not prepare a new environmental-impact statement for the pipeline.
The construction of the pipeline would represent a significant hit to former President Obama’s environmental legacy. In November 2015, Obama denied TransCanada’s first application to build the Keystone XL pipeline after it became a rallying symbol of the climate movement. Bill McKibben, a journalist and activist, said that the construction of Keystone XL would be “game over” for the planet, as it would allow the extraction and combustion of the especially dirty oil present in the Tar Sands. As I wrote on Wednesday, many U.S. environmental activists trace the origins of the country’s grassroots climate movement back to the mass protests opposing Keystone XL.
With no Keystone XL pipeline, many oil extractors have resorted to shipping oil across the continent on trucks or trains. On top of this, others have stopped exploring for oil in the tar sands, as crude prices are now too low to justify drilling. On Wednesday, Russ Girling, the CEO of TransCanada, said that he wasn’t sure if shippers would use the pipeline if his company built it. Now we find out.
Chile Battles Its Worst Wildfires in Modern History
This post was updated on January 27 at 5:38 p.m ET.
The death toll has risen to at least 10 Friday in the wildfires that have spread throughout central Chile. Mario Fernandez, Chile’s interior minister, said Thursday the victims include two police officers were found in the Maule River, as well as four firefighters. Though wildfires are not uncommon in Chile, historically high temperatures and a nearly decade-long drought contributed to conditions that sparked blazes the likes of which Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said “we have never seen… never in Chile’s history.” Since Chile declared a state of emergency last week, the country has recorded more than 100 separate fires, which have burned nearly 500,000 acres—an area more than twice the size of New York City. Other countries, including the U.S., Russia, France, Peru, and Mexico, have contributed to the relief effort. As of Friday, Chile’s Conaf forestry service estimates that 72 fires have yet to be controlled.
Mexican President Peña Nieto Cancels Meeting with Trump
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced on Twitter he’s canceled his visit next week to the U.S. to meet with President Trump over the American leader’s insistence Mexico will pay for a wall the U.S. wants to build on its southern border to keep away illegal immigrants. Trump on Wednesday issued an executive order affirming his intention to build the wall—in line with a longstanding campaign promise. Mexico has consistently said it will not pay for such a structure.
Esta mañana hemos informado a la Casa Blanca que no asistiré a la reunión de trabajo programada para el próximo martes con el @POTUS.
Last Bodies Recovered From Italian Hotel, Rescuers Say
The remaining bodies of the victims killed in last week’s deadly avalanche have been recovered from the wreckage, Italian authorities said Thursday, bringing the final death toll to 29. You can read more about the avalanche and the recovery process here.
Greece's Supreme Court Rules Against Extraditing Coup-Linked Turkish Soldiers
Greece's Supreme Court has ruled against extraditing to Turkey eight Turkish soldiers linked to last July’s coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The countries have had traditionally tense relations, but are both members of NATO and, as such, are allies. Turkey wants the soldiers, who fled to Greece by helicopter, returned so they can stand trial. Erdogan has cracked down on the military, the media, and government, and civil society after the coup attempt. Thousands of people have been arrested and tens of thousands have lost their jobs. The Greek Supreme Court’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.
A brilliant new account upends bedrock assumptions about 30,000 years of change.
Many years ago, when I was a junior professor at Yale, I cold-called a colleague in the anthropology department for assistance with a project I was working on. I didn’t know anything about the guy; I just selected him because he was young, and therefore, I figured, more likely to agree to talk.
Five minutes into our lunch, I realized that I was in the presence of a genius. Not an extremely intelligent person—a genius. There’s a qualitative difference. The individual across the table seemed to belong to a different order of being from me, like a visitor from a higher dimension. I had never experienced anything like it before. I quickly went from trying to keep up with him, to hanging on for dear life, to simply sitting there in wonder.
In ways both large and small, American society still assumes that the default adult has a partner and that the default household contains multiple people.
If you were to look under the roofs of American homes at random, it wouldn’t take long to find someone who lives alone. By the Census Bureau’s latest count, there are about 36 million solo dwellers, and together they make up 28 percent of U.S. households.
Even though this percentage has been climbing steadily for decades, these people are still living in a society that is tilted against them. In the domains of work, housing, shopping, and health care, much of American life is a little—and in some cases, a lot—easier if you have a partner or live with family members or housemates. The number of people who are inconvenienced by that fact grows every year.
Those who live alone, to be clear, are not lonely and miserable. Research indicates that, young or old, single people are more social than their partnered peers. Bella DePaulo, the author of How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, reeled off to me some of the pleasures of having your own space: “the privacy, the freedom to arrange your life and your space just the way you want it—you get to decide when to sleep, when to get up, what you eat, when you eat, what you watch on Netflix, how you set the thermostat.”
You can make your quest for meaning manageable by breaking it down into three bite-size dimensions.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his new podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
Want to live in a directed, resolute way? To always know why you’re doing what you’re doing? There’s a simple way to make your dreams come true: Go find the meaning of life!
People who believe that they know their life’s meaning enjoy greater well-being than those who don’t. One 2019 study found that agreeing with the statement “I have a philosophy of life that helps me understand who I am” was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and higher positive affect.
Lucky you if you were born already knowing what the meaning of your life is. For the rest of us, the search can be difficult and frustrating. Philosophy is often unhelpful, offering abstract ideas such as Aristotle’s human function or Kant’s “highest good” that are hard to comprehend, let alone put into action.
It is not a world in a headset but a fantasy of power.
In science fiction, the end of the world is a tidy affair. Climate collapse or an alien invasion drives humanity to flee on cosmic arks, or live inside a simulation. Real-life apocalypse is more ambiguous. It happens slowly, and there’s no way of knowing when the Earth is really doomed. To depart our world, under these conditions, is the same as giving up on it.
And yet, some of your wealthiest fellow earthlings would like to do exactly that. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and other purveyors of private space travel imagine a celestial paradise where we can thrive as a “multiplanet species.” That’s the dream of films such as Interstellar and Wall-E. Now comes news that Mark Zuckerberg has embraced the premise of The Matrix, that we can plug ourselves into a big computer and persist as flesh husks while reality decays around us. According to a report this week from The Verge, the Facebook chief may soon rebrand his company to mark its change in focus from social media to “the metaverse.”
Different chemically than it was a decade ago, the drug is creating a wave of severe mental illness and worsening America’s homelessness problem.
In the fall of 2006, law enforcement on the southwest border of the United States seized some crystal methamphetamine. In due course, a five-gram sample of that seizure landed on the desk of a 31-year-old chemist named Joe Bozenko, at the Drug Enforcement Administration lab outside Washington, D.C.
Organic chemistry can be endlessly manipulated, with compounds that, like Lego bricks, can be used to build almost anything. The field seems to breed folks whose every waking minute is spent puzzling over chemical reactions. Bozenko, a garrulous man with a wide smile, worked in the DEA lab during the day and taught chemistry at a local university in the evenings. “Chemist by day, chemist by night,” his Twitter bio once read.
A new film adaptation of the best seller has a colossal budget and an all-star cast—but its emotional depth is what sets it apart.
Paul Atreides, the handsome young protagonist of Dune, is one of science fiction’s original chosen ones. His heroic journey from plucky teenager to feared warrior has been imitated time and time again—think of Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter. But the director Denis Villeneuve’s film is the first adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel to properly portray the grim tragedy of Paul’s arc; the movie is epic in scope, but it understands the quieter human underpinnings of the original work.
At the heart of Herbert’s Dune series, a multi-book tale of space empires, sandworms, religious fervor, and political gamesmanship spanning centuries, was a simple observation: Great power comes with terrible burden. Dune follows the Atreides family after Duke Leto Atreides (played by Oscar Isaac) is given control of Arrakis, a harsh planet that is mined for a magical substance called spice, crucial to space travel. The Duke knows the gift is a poisoned chalice, an opportunity to fail that’s been set up by an evil baron—but still he accepts, hoping to defeat the odds stacked against him. His wife, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), is an aristocratic space witch who works to mold the future behind the scenes. And their son, Paul (Timothée Chalamet), might be the messiah, a baby she willed into existence against her training. He is marked from birth with the potential to change the universe’s destiny. But being at the center of a cosmic chess match is as terrifying as it is exhilarating.
We know more than ever about how to use boosters, but still very little about when to use them.
In this week’s installment of the booster chronicles, the plot is picking up. An advisory committee to the FDA began a two-day meeting today to formulate recommendations for whether the agency should authorize additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. (The FDA still has to authorize, and the CDC still has to recommend, any new use of boosters before they’ll be readily available.) Committee members have already voted yes on giving boosters to people over 65 and other high-risk adults who received the Moderna vaccine. Meanwhile, the NIH released the results of a long-awaited (and not yet peer-reviewed) clinical trial on the “mix and match” approach to booster shots, in which people receive a dose of a different vaccine from the one they started with. The FDA committee is scheduled to discuss that idea, too, before this meeting ends.
Shane Campbell-Staton never planned on traveling to Mozambique in search of tuskless elephants, but weird things can happen when you stay up ’til 3 a.m. binge-watching YouTube videos. (“Sometimes, a brother can’t get to sleep, Ed,” he told me.)
Battling insomnia, Campbell-Staton watched a video about Gorongosa National Park. The park was once Edenic, but during Mozambique’s civil war, from 1977 to 1992, much of its wildlife was exterminated. Government troops and resistance fighters slaughtered 90 percent of Gorongosa’s elephants, selling their ivory to buy arms and supplies. Naturally tuskless females, which are normally rare, were more likely to survive the culls; after the war, their unusual trait was noticeably common.
You might have fewer antibodies now. But they’re better than the ones you started with.
In early March, Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona, celebrated a milestone: hitting the point of full vaccination, two weeks after getting his second Pfizer shot. Since then, he’s been watching the number of coronavirus antibodies in his blood slowly but surely decline.
The drop hasn’t been precipitous, but it’s definitely happening—regular checkups have shown his antibody levels, also known as titers, ticking down, down, down, from spring through summer, now into fall. The slump fits the narrative that countless reports have been sounding the alarm on for a while now: In the months after vaccination, our antibodies peace out, a trend that’s often been described as a “waning” of immunity, and evidence that we’re all in dire need of boosters to shore our defenses back up.
A lasting effect of this pandemic will be a revolution in worker expectations.
I first noticed that something weird was happening this past spring.
In April, the number of workers who quit their job in a single month broke an all-time U.S. record. Economists called it the “Great Resignation.” But America’s quittin’ spirit was just getting started. In July, even more people left their job. In August, quitters set yet another record. That Great Resignation? It just keeps getting greater.
“Quits,” as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, are rising in almost every industry. For those in leisure and hospitality, especially, the workplace must feel like one giant revolving door. Nearly 7 percent of employees in the “accommodations and food services” sector left their job in August. That means one in 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers, and barbacks said sayonara in a single month. Thanks to several pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness, everybody, particularly if they are young and have a low income, has more freedom to quit jobs they hate and hop to something else.