The Atlantic Daily: Principles and Teachings

President Trump’s threats to Syria, Paul Ryan’s retirement, what happens to a donated brain, and more

House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks to reporters on February 6, 2018. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

What We’re Following

Retaliation Plan? President Trump threatened a military strike on Syria over President Bashar al-Assad’s suspected chemical attack on civilians, tweeting that Russia—an ally of the Assad regime—should “get ready … because [missiles] will be coming.” Russia responded with a claim that reports of the attack had been fabricated. Trump has in the past expressed a desire to withdraw American troops from Syria, but news of children harmed in the most recent attack may have changed his mind.

Cast a Paul: House Speaker Paul Ryan announced his decision not to run for reelection, joining a wave of Republicans who are stepping down from office ahead of this year’s midterms. Ryan’s retirement suggests that he’s choosing not to deal with the task of holding the president accountable, even though he was once well positioned to do so. While the speaker has championed fiscal conservatism throughout his time in Congress, he leaves his post in the wake of a massive increase in deficit spending.

Mark Zuckerberg, Continued: The Facebook CEO testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on his second day of congressional hearings. By the end of his Senate hearing on Tuesday, which focused primarily on the mechanics of Facebook, Zuckerberg still hadn’t answered several key questions about the company’s practices. On Wednesday, however, House members made more headway than the senators had. Alexis C. Madrigal breaks down the most important exchange of the day.


For years, Marjorie Pearlson, pictured above in a photo illustration by Thanh Do, carried a plastic brain in her purse. The brain served as a visual aid to tell strangers about her plan to donate her own brain to science after her death. Pearlson, 93, now suffers from advanced dementia, and her granddaughter went to visit the place where her brain will end up.

Evening Read

Krithika Varagur reports from a conversion ceremony in Shirasgaon, India:

More than 500 low-caste Hindus filled the Veera Maidan, an open field at the edge of a dusty Maharashtra village, on a recent Sunday night. Neighbors openly gawked from porches as the throngs of people filed in, many dressed in symbolic white saris and kurtas. Under floodlights, they chanted: “I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be incarnations of God nor shall I worship them … I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu … I shall hereafter lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha.” Instantly, there were 500 new Buddhists in India.

Keep reading, as Varagur explains why some low-caste Indians are adopting new religious beliefs as a form of political protest.

What Do You Know … About Science, Technology, and Health?

With public and media attention focused on Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings, much of the week’s other news may have gone unnoticed. Uber is redesigning its app so that drivers can see more of the company’s predictions about demand in a given city. A new study identified the states where people have become more likely to die young, which include Wyoming, New Mexico, and West Virginia. A court document suggests that one branch of the Sackler family, many of whose members claim not to have profited from the painkiller OxyContin, may have closer financial ties to the opioid crisis than they’ve publicly admitted. And next January, hundreds of thousands of works published in 1923—from a Charlie Chaplin movie to e.e. cummings’s first collection of poetry—will enter the public domain.

Can you remember the other key facts from this week’s science, technology, and health coverage? Test your knowledge below:

1. The stretchiness, meltability, and smoothness of cheese come from a protein called ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. The first known advice column appeared in the London magazine ____________ in the 1690s.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. The font ____________ was used in Google’s logo from 1999 to 2015.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Look Back

In our August 1965 issue, an anonymous woman recounted why, and how, she decided to obtain an illegal abortion:

I set out recently to find an abortionist in the large Eastern city where I live. My husband and I are in our mid-forties and have three children. When I discovered that I was pregnant for the fourth time, my husband and I considered the situation as honestly as we could. We both admitted that we lacked the physical resources to face 2 A.M. feedings, diapers, and the seemingly endless cycle of measles, mumps, and concussions of another child ... We have no rich uncles likely to make our children their beneficiaries. We have also had sufficient experience living to acknowledge that while the Lord will sometimes provide, He may be busy looking after somebody else when you need Him most.

Read more, share this story, and find more articles from our archives.

Reader Response

Every Wednesday, Lori Gottlieb gives advice on readers’ dilemmas in the Dear Therapist column. This week’s question comes from Marina, who’s worried about her fiancé:

We both believe that parents should play an equal part in the raising of children. However, I play the project-manager role in our relationship. I can delegate tasks to my partner and he will do them gladly and without complaint, but he rarely takes initiative on his own. I can ask him to take out the trash and he will do it, but if we’re out of trash bags, he won’t notice that we are out and pick up trash bags on his way home from work … As we talk about kids, I’m exceedingly nervous that I will always be the project manager and that the very large bulk of responsibility—and the feeling of ownership—will be on me …

I want a partnership, not a person to delegate to. What do you recommend?

Here’s Lori’s recommendation. You can write to her at


Football radicalized, “diva” diagnosed, learning styles debunked, cheese stretched.

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