The Atlantic Daily: When Parents Turn to Crime to Get Kids Into Elite Schools

An alleged tens of thousands in bribes, surrogate test-takers, faked athletes. Plus: Whether dogs sense when humans are sick, another Brexit deal dashed, and more

Steven Senne / AP

What We’re Following

A U.S.-wide FBI probe alleges that well-to-do parents bribed their kids’ way into elite colleges. Fifty people—including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin—were charged in a scam that involved gargantuan sums of money thrown at trying to fake applicants as recruited athletes (sometimes for sports they didn’t even play) and to see through cheating on standardized tests (sometimes involving surrogate test-takers). It’s reportedly the largest admissions-cheating case prosecuted by the Department of Justice. But it’s no surprise the extent to which elite students have all sorts of other advantages in the college-admissions process, that are more legally sound. These include oft-cited “legacy admissions,” but also more veiled aspects of the process, such as college sports (at elite colleges, athletes skew heavily white, and affluent). Currently no students have been charged in the probe. Kids, perhaps, are the ones who suffer most from the intense frenzy over getting into elite colleges.

Parliament, for the second time this year, rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, two weeks before Britain’s scheduled exit. If no plan falls into place before March 29, the country will be forced to deal with food and medicine shortages, trouble with international travel, and a sagging economy. That apocalyptic scenario could make postponing that deadline likelier than ever, but such a move would require the unanimous consent of the EU’s 27 other members (the group seems to be willing to grant an extension in cases such as a second referendum or finalizing an already agreed-upon deal). May is in a bind, but that doesn’t mean she’ll abandon the Brexiteers in her political party.

President Donald Trump’s critics might be getting their hopes up too high for Robert Mueller’s final document. There’s no assurance that, when the special counsel’s Russia investigation really wraps, some Kenneth Starr-esque narrative report will be released to the public, detailing the the president’s malfeasance: “If my thesis about Mueller is right, then that’s just not happening,” said a former senior counsel on the Whitewater investigation. But the public won’t lack information on how to judge the Russia ties of Trump and his orbit: Mueller’s carefully crafted indictments are chock full of information on precisely that.

Evening Reads

Can dogs detect illness?

(Katie Martin / The Atlantic)

Whenever Amanda Mull felt the early pangs of a cold coming on, her dog Midge already seemed to be two steps ahead. Can dogs really sense their humans’ malaise?

“Researchers have also found that a person’s mood, which can be an indicator of a larger illness, triggers a dog’s sense of smell. Human emotions manifest physically in chemosignals that are emitted by the body, and dogs are adept at deciphering those changes.

Beyond smell, dogs also pull information from a person’s voice in order to sense changes. In 2014, researchers discovered that dogs have an area of the brain, similar to one found in humans, that allows them to decipher emotional cues in the tone of a speaker’s voice, beyond what they’d be able to pick up from familiar words alone. That’s why Midge wags her little tail when I excitedly ask her if she’s my boo boo, even though she doesn’t know what that is. (To be fair, neither do I.) A person’s voice can also carry indicators of depression, lethargy, or other bad feelings.”

→ Read the rest


You Told Us

The world produces about 10 tons of plastic every second, and much of what people assume to be recyclable isn’t. China has limited what materials it will accept from the U.S. What’s tossed is often too contaminated to sort (recyclables mixed with greasy pizza boxes and clothes hangers) or too flimsy to recycle (those plastic clamshells that most supermarket berries come in).

Last week, we asked whether you’d changed your consumption behaviors, or implemented any plastic-saving habits:

Penny McFarline, of Richmond, Va. wrote: “One of the ways I reduce plastic is to keep, clean, and reuse glass jars. I pack fruit and cut-up veggies in them for snacks at work. I freeze leftovers in them. I use them for storing bulk spices. They make decent vases and containers for homemade pickles, jams, sauces, etc. I am determined not to purchase any more plastic containers for food storage.”

Patricia Hale, of Tucson, Ariz. wrote: “I only use stainless-steel straws. I give sets of them to my friends for gifts. I also never use plastic bags. I carry my own bags in my car and in my purse. My governor prevented Arizona cities from banning plastic bags, so I send him pictures of plastic bags stuck to cactus.”

→ Here’s more of what readers had to say about cutting down on plastics

Urban Developments

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing urban dwellers around the world. Claire Tran shares today’s top stories:

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus art school. Our week-long series will explore the movement’s history and how its designs continue to impact today’s world.

The majority of New Yorkers without bank accounts are people of color. That’s why New York is looking to ban cashless businesses for civil rights violations.

Pedestrians fatalities are rising sharply as Americans are spending more time behind the wheel. And self-driving technology isn’t likely to be the fix we need.

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Subscribe to the CityLab Daily newsletter.

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