—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.
Claims about the drug are based on shoddy science—but that science is entirely unremarkable in its shoddiness.
Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug, and a very good one. If you are infected with the roundworms that cause river blindness or the parasitic mites that cause scabies, it is wonderfully effective. It is cheap; it is accessible; and its discoverers won the Nobel Prize in 2015. It has also been widely promoted as a coronavirus prophylactic and treatment.
This promotion has been broadly criticized as a fever dream conceived in the memetic bowels of the internet and as a convenient buttress for bad arguments against vaccination. This is not entirely fair. Perhaps 70 to 100 studies have been conducted on the use of ivermectin for treating or preventing COVID-19; several dozen of them support the hypothesis that the drug is a plague mitigant. Twometa-analyses, which looked at data aggregated across subsets of these studies, concluded that the drug has value in the fight against the pandemic.
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.
The U.S. economy is booming, but there’s a mysterious hole in the labor force.
The U.S. economy right now is a little bit like Dune.
Not Frank Herbert’s magisterial sci-fi epic novel, or Denis Villeneuve’s new and reportedly sumptuous film adaptation. I mean David Lynch’s infamously bewildering 1984 movie version, which is remembered mostly for being a semi-glorious mess. Like that space oddity, today’s economy is too strange to neatly categorize as “clearly great” or “obviously terrible.” You keep waiting for it to just be normal. But it stays weird—big economic indicators point in conflicting directions—so you have to accept that nothing is going to make sense for a while, and maybe it’ll be okay.
Americans are buying more stuff than ever before. That’s good. But because of supply constraints, it can feel like there’s a painful shortage of just about everything. That’s bad. Economic growth is booming, but the president’s approval rating on the economy is falling, which is a historically odd juxtaposition. Businesses everywhere are struggling to fill jobs, which sounds bad, but employer pain is workers’ gain, and wages are rising, which is wonderful. But because prices are rising too, inflation-adjusted hourly-wage growth actually declined in September, which is not wonderful.
I fear that when Americans look at the Church, they see not the face of Jesus, but the style of Donald Trump.
The election of the elders of an evangelical church is usually an uncontroversial, even unifying event. But this summer, at an influential megachurch in Northern Virginia, something went badly wrong. A trio of elders didn’t receive 75 percent of the vote, the threshold necessary to be installed.
“A small group of people, inside and outside this church, coordinated a divisive effort to use disinformation in order to persuade others to vote these men down as part of a broader effort to take control of this church,” David Platt, a 43-year-old minister at McLean Bible Church and a best-selling author, charged in a July 4 sermon.
Platt said church members had been misled, having been told, among other things, that the three individuals nominated to be elders would advocate selling the church building to Muslims, who would convert it into a mosque. In a second vote on July 18, all three nominees cleared the threshold. But that hardly resolved the conflict. Members of the church filed a lawsuit, claiming that the conduct of the election violated the church’s constitution.
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.”
Four Hours at the Capitol, a new HBO documentary, is a vivid, terrifying picture of violent insurrection.
In the days and weeks after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, commentators and media outlets grappled with the question of what to call that event. Language is sticky; it clarifies and obfuscates the truth depending on who’s wielding it. January 6 was described as or likened to a “riot,” a “tourist visit,” an “insurrection,” a “peaceful protest,” and a “coup attempt.” And yet, watching Four Hours at the Capitol, Jamie Roberts’s tight, unsettling new HBO documentary about that day, another word seemed more appropriate to me, one that most of the participants interviewed in the film might agree on. More than anything else, January 6 was war.
There have been a number of incisive breakdowns of that day, including “Day of Rage,” TheNew York Times’ 40-minute film detailing how the attack was strategized and executed, and how President Donald Trump and his allies fomented mass anger and even seemed to encourage the violence. Four Hours at the Capitol isn’t as analytical, or as thorough in its parsing of all the information that’s emerged. But its immersiveness offers something else. With his rigidly chronological framing and his interviews with people who were present at the Capitol that day, Roberts captures the extent to which both sides were engaging in combat. This dynamic emerges over and over again throughout different accounts and video clips. One clash between Capitol Police officers and pro-Trump extremists is referred to by a participant as “the battle for the tunnel.” Different interviewees describe fighting on “the front line,” engaging in “hand-to-hand combat,” and, in the case of one police officer, the strangeness of walking through his own colleagues’ blood. In a scene that seems ripped right out of a Bruce Willis movie, a police commander shouts, “We are not losing the U.S. Capitol today, do you hear me?”
Breaking up social-media companies is one way to fix them. Shutting their users up is a better one.
Your social life has a biological limit: 150. That’s the number—Dunbar’s number, proposed by the British psychologist Robin Dunbar three decades ago—of people with whom you can have meaningful relationships.
What makes a relationship meaningful? Dunbar gave TheNew York Times a shorthand answer: “those people you know well enough to greet without feeling awkward if you ran into them in an airport lounge”—a take that may accidentally reveal the substantial spoils of having produced a predominant psychological theory. The construct encompasses multiple “layers” of intimacy in relationships. We can reasonably expect to develop up to 150 productive bonds, but we have our most intimate, and therefore most connected, relationships with only about five to 15 closest friends. We can maintain much larger networks, but only by compromising the quality or sincerity of those connections; most people operate in much smaller social circles.
Lately, news stories about the supply chain tend to start in similar ways. The reader is dropped into an American container port, maybe in Long Beach, California, or Savannah, Georgia, full to bursting with trailer-size steel boxes loaded with toilet paper and exercise bikes and future Christmas presents. Some of the containers have gone untouched for weeks or months, waiting for their contents to be trucked to distribution centers. On the horizon, dozens of additional vessels are anchored and idle, waiting for their turn in the port. More ships keep arriving. Everyone involved—sailors, longshoremen, customs clerks, truckers—works as fast and hard as they possibly can. It’s not fast or hard enough.
The field’s future lies in reclaiming parts of its past that it willingly abandoned.
There was a time, at the start of the 20th century, when the field of public health was stronger and more ambitious. A mixed group of physicians, scientists, industrialists, and social activists all saw themselves “as part of this giant social-reform effort that was going to transform the health of the nation,” David Rosner, a public-health historian at Columbia University, told me. They were united by a simple yet radical notion: that some people were more susceptible to disease because of social problems. And they worked to address those foundational ills—dilapidated neighborhoods, crowded housing, unsafe working conditions, poor sanitation—with a “moral certainty regarding the need to act,” Rosner and his colleagues wrote in a 2010 paper.
How the internet kept running even as society closed down around it
Here’s a question that should make you shudder: What if, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the internet had buckled?
What if, just as the medical-care crisis started to spiral in New York City, in Detroit, in New Orleans, the internet in those places had stopped working—an hour at a time, a couple of hours in the late afternoon? What if the internet had slowed to half its normal speed? What if it had worked only as well as the U.S. distribution system for toilet paper or N-95 masks did?
“Oh my God,” says Avi Freedman, the CEO of Kentik, a company that helps big customers such as Zoom and Dropbox maximize internet performance, “it would all be over.”
Almost the entire nation now seems to be online at the same time, many of us using two or three devices at once—for urgent work meetings and talking with Mom, for college chemistry lectures and neighborhood yoga classes, for grocery shopping and video binge-watching. Digital life has rushed to fill the gaps created by social distancing, allowing some semblance of normalcy and keeping some parts of the economy open for business. Indeed, the things the internet lets us do are a big part of the reason people are comfortable staying confined to home, and are able to. To the degree that any institution is keeping American society knitted together during this crisis, it’s the internet.