USA Today / Reuters

What We’re Following

While millions will tune in for the Super Bowl on Sunday, youth football in the U.S. is undergoing a crisis, as study after study shows the risks that the sport poses for developing brains and bodies. The number of high-school football players has been on the decline for a decade, leaving some schools in disproportionately rural areas with no option but to shut down their football program—sometimes even mid-season. But the exodus from the sport is exacerbating a racial gap: Well-to-do white kids are leaving football behind, while lower-income black kids are sticking with it. The schism paints a grim picture of how economic opportunity—or lack thereof—factors into whether families let their kids put their bodies on the line.

Infrastructure across the U.S. is notoriously dilapidated. This week provided yet another reminder of that fact when a 22-year-old mother died after falling down a flight of stars in a New York City subway station with her stroller-tucked infant daughter. The tragic incident has ignited outrage over all the ways that the city’s transit system is inaccessible for parents and the disabled. One recent video of rail tracks in Chicago engulfed in flames seemed like a near-apocalyptic manifestation of the country’s infrastructure woes—but lighting tracks on fire is actually a fairly standard way that rail systems deal with cold weather. The fires are used to thaw switches that determine which track a train goes down—and which are highly prone to freezing.

In the U.K., Brexit has become a never-ending quagmire. Prime Minister Theresa May is tasked with figuring out the specifics of how the country will leave the European Union, and endless division nearly ended her tenure as the country’s leader as she narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence. But Alison McGovern, a member of Parliament, suggests another way out of the maelstrom: holding another Brexit vote. The lack of clarity on where Brexit goes from here means that the public should have a say in the way forward—and public-opinion polls suggest that most Brits want another referendum.

—Saahil Desai


Evening Read

Death-Cap Mushrooms Are Spreading Across North America

(Glenn Harvey)

The death-cap mushroom, otherwise known as Amanita phalloides, is spreading quickly across North America and into urban and suburban areas where the seemingly innocuous-looking (and tasting) fungi can prove devastatingly fatal:

Amanita phalloides are said to be quite tasty, and a person who eats one could feel fine for a day or two before illness sets in. The poison is taken up by the liver cells, where it inhibits an enzyme responsible for protein synthesis; without protein, the cells begin to die, and the patient may start to experience nausea and diarrhea—symptoms that can easily be attributed to general food poisoning or other ailments. “If the patient doesn’t realize the connection, doesn’t see the illness as a result of eating a mushroom a day or two earlier, it’s a hard diagnosis,” said Vo.
→ Read the rest.


Our Critic’s Picks

Even Maroon 5 Can’t Avoid Controversy This Super Bowl

(Mario Anzuoni / Reuters)

Read: A new collection of short stories by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is as confounding and multifaceted as the late writer was herself—she was born in Germany but lived most of her life in India. At the End of the Century showcases Jhabvala’s blunt characterizations of being a foreigner in India—and her ability to eschew the saccharine romanticism that often traps other European writers of the subcontinent.

Watch: Maroon 5 will perform this weekend at the most watched music bonanza of the year: the Super Bowl halftime show. But even a well-liked, generally anodyne band like Maroon 5 can’t escape the morass of controversy swirling around the NFL: Supporters of Colin Kaepernick have called for a boycott of the halftime show in support of the quarterback’s campaign against institutional racism.

Listen: “Harmony Hall,” a new song by the indie band Vampire Weekend, pairs the cryptic lyrics and distinct voice of the vocalist Ezra Koenig with upbeat guitar riffs, making for “among the first great thrills of 2019 pop,” as our critic Spencer Kornhaber writes.


Poem of the Week

Here is an excerpt from “To the Animal in the Hole,” by Erica Funkhouser:

The small changes in the dirt
at your entrance,
the disappearance of grass:
I note these in your absence.

You should just stay where you are.
You and your dark house
will grow together.

→ Read the rest, from The Atlantic’s July 1999 issue.


Looking for our daily mini crossword? Try your hand at it here—the puzzle gets more difficult throughout the week.

Concerns, comments, questions, typos? Email Shan Wang at swang@theatlantic.com

Did you get this newsletter from a friend? Sign yourself up.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.