The Atlantic Daily: Surfing Gravity's Waves, Ending the Oregon Standoff, Debate Night in Milwaukee

Physicists announce a major discovery, the last four militia members surrender to the FBI, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton face off in a pivotal debate, and more.

Doctors Gabriela Gonzalez, Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne applaud the announcement of the detection of gravitational waves, ripples in space and time hypothesized by physicist Albert Einstein a century ago, in Washington on February 11, 2016. (Gary Cameron / Reuters)

What We’re Following: The (Gravitational) Force Awakens

The universe has just become a much more interesting place. Physicists at LIGO announced Thursday that they had successfully detected gravitational waves for the first time, spawned by the collision of two black holes over 1.3 billion light-years away. The discovery, first predicted by Albert Einstein over a century ago, opens an exciting new chapter in modern physics and astronomy.

A Standoff Stands Down: The last four holdouts at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon surrendered to the FBI Thursday morning, ending a 41-day occupation and standoff. Authorities also arrested Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who led an armed militia protest against the federal government in 2014, when his flight landed in Oregon. His son, Ammon Bundy, was one of the occupation’s leaders before his arrest last month.

Clinton vs. Sanders, Round 2: Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will meet in Milwaukee Thursday night for a debate hosted by PBS, the first showdown between the two candidates since Sanders’ landslide victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday. No further debates are scheduled until after Super Tuesday on March 1, making tonight’s meeting a crucial moment for both contenders’ campaigns.


Daniel J. Wabsey, a 58-year-old war veteran, sits outside his tent at Camp Hope in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on October 6, 2015. See more photos from America’s tent cities here.


“Gravity is a weak force. Measuring these things is bloody hard.”—Scott Hughes, who has modeled the sound of gravitational waves

“In the end, if it isn’t a duck, it shouldn’t quack like a duck.” —Deepika Bahri, who teaches postcolonial studies, on what Facebook has in common with colonialism

“It is very strange how the Russians started killing us. We didn’t kill them and now they are killing us.” —a Syrian activist in Turkey

Evening Read

Raymond Bonner on the unlikely crime-solving partnership between a diplomat and an assassin:

On December 1, 1980, two American Catholic churchwomen—an Ursuline nun and a lay missionary—sat down to dinner with Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. They worked in rural areas ministering to El Salvador’s desperately impoverished peasants, and White admired their commitment and courage. The talk turned to the government’s brutal tactics for fighting the country’s left-wing guerrillas, in a dirty war waged by death squads that dumped bodies in the streets and an army that massacred civilians. The women were alarmed by the incoming Reagan administration’s plans for a closer relationship with the military-led government. Because of a curfew, the women spent the night at the ambassador’s residence. The next day, after breakfast with the ambassador’s wife, they drove to San Salvador’s international airport to pick up two colleagues who were flying back from a conference in Nicaragua. Within hours, all four women would be dead. …

In the years since, much has come to light about this pivotal event in the history of U.S. interventions in Central America. But the full story of how one of the most junior officers in the U.S. embassy in San Salvador tracked down the killers has never been told. It is the tale of an improbable bond between a Salvadoran soldier with a guilty conscience and a young American diplomat with a moral conscience. Different as they were, both men shared a willingness to risk their lives in the name of justice.

News Quiz

1. American workplaces in 1915 were _______ times more dangerous than today.

(Click here or scroll down for the answer.)

2. Modern fashion shows trace their origins to _________.

(Click here or scroll down for the answer.)

3. ___________ can affect a person’s risk of depression today.

(Click here or scroll down for the answer.)

Reader Response

A reader joins the ongoing discussion about guns and suicide:

You asked about policy measures that could be implemented to help lower rates of gun suicides, in particular whether people with mental illness or a history of suicide should be banned from purchasing firearms. I think that’s an extremely problematic idea for a number of reasons.

One major issue is something the FAA learned re: depression in pilots [link, link]. If you ban people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness from owning guns, I suspect what you’ll end up with is a bunch of gun owners with mental illness that they don’t get treated because they know if they do they’ll be barred from owning and/or purchasing firearms. Discouraging depressed and/or suicidal gun owners from getting help is presumably the opposite of what we want.

Read the whole note here.


Star Wars prosecuted, Webb 2.0 nixed, world’s oldest bird gives birth, MySpace acquired.

Answers: 30, Louis XIV, Neanderthal DNA