The Atlantic Daily: Colombia and Cocaine, Iraqi Students and Cheating, Gluten and Health

One country confiscated a huge amount of drugs, another cracked down on test cheating, a third got too into gluten-free diets, and more.

John Vizcaino / Reuters

What We’re Following: Colombia’s Record Cocaine Haul

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said authorities seized nearly eight tons of cocaine that were hidden on a banana plantation in Turbo, calling the haul “the greatest amount in our history.” The drugs belonged to the criminal gang Clan Usuga, and more than a ton were packed and labeled for the “export market.” Colombian anti-trafficking efforts have recently increasingly focused on gangs like Clan Usuga.

Iraq’s Anti-Cheating Campaign: For the second year in a row, Iraq has ordered telecom companies to shut down the Internet in an attempt to prevent cheating among thousands of sixth-graders taking national exams this month. Human-rights activists say Iraq’s test-related blackouts violate citizens’ free-speech rights and can help governments escape scrutiny in cases of abuse. Elsewhere, blackouts or censorship are usually connected to political or military events.

America's Anti-Bread Movement: For people with celiac disease, avoiding gluten is a medical necessity. But for healthy people, the benefits of gluten-free diets haven’t been shown in scientific studies. In fact, research has found increased rates of metabolic syndrome among people who switch to a gluten-free diet, presumably due to poor nutritional quality of gluten-free replica products. And other research has reported people developing deficiencies in vitamins that U.S. law requires grain-product manufacturers to include.


This is how much food Antonia Torres and her family, who live in Venezuela, had left on April 22, 2016. See more here. (Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins)


“Sometimes women abort for reasons we wouldn’t like—‘we’ being whoever the woman isn’t.” —Carol Sanger, a law professor

“Taste is just another form of social learning. You saw your neighbor consume something, you saw that he didn’t die, so you decided that would be a pretty good thing to eat too. ” —Tom Vanderbilt, who studies taste

“In this day and age, we can’t cloister ’em like 1802 in West Point. And that didn’t work out that well anyway. I’m a military commander, but it’s college.” —Michelle Johnson, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, on why the school now allows students to date

Evening Read

Sarah Boxer on reading Proust on a cellphone:

I do like books, real paper books. I have shelves full to prove it. But reading Proust on my cellphone was, I have to say, like no other reading experience I’ve had before or since. It was magical and—dare I say it?—Proustian in a very peculiar way.

Here are my instructions. Make sure no one else is awake. Turn off the lights. Your windows can stay open. Now turn on your phone and begin reading. Repeat as necessary each night. Do not stop until the very last word of the very last volume, Time Regained.

Soon you will see that the smallness of your cellphone (my screen was about two by three inches) and the length of Proust’s sentences are not the shocking mismatch you might think. Your cellphone screen is like a tiny glass-bottomed boat moving slowly over a vast and glowing ocean of words in the night. There is no shore. There is nothing beyond the words in front of you. It’s a voyage for one in the nighttime. Pure romance.

Continue reading here.

News Quiz

1. In his first news conference since winning the election, the president of __________ vowed to bring back the death penalty.

(See answer or scroll to the bottom.)

2. The International Space Station has hit __________ orbits, traveling about 2.6 billion miles since 1998.

(See answer or scroll to the bottom.)

3. Doctors in _________ have successfully performed a penis transplant, the third such attempt in the world.

(See answer or scroll to the bottom.)

Reader Response

What’s the point of college? One reader writes:

Ideally, the purpose of college is to finish off a good, liberal education to broaden one’s understanding of the world: physical, social, and intellectual. Somewhat less ideal, to gain deep knowledge in a field in preparation for graduate school. A little less ideally (to me), to give one the skills necessary to start a middle-class career (or better). Less ideal yet, simply to get that piece of paper to send in with job applications. The reasons just continue going down hill from there.

Another reader writes:

A college degree is the stamp of the modern American middle class, the necessary badge of worthiness that one must have before any other consideration will be made. This helps keep the children of the middle class on the proper road in life—away from the trades and small-business, which might encourage unfortunate degrees of independence and inter-class solidarity, and towards the professions, whose professional standings and ethos encourage a proper deference to their betters.

I teach high school, so I see it happening. I went to grad school, and it happened to me.

Read more here.


Cars alarmed, Twitter character limits expanded, earthquake swarm awakened, prisoner on the run for 48 years caught.