The Atlantic Daily: One Virus That Seems to Break All the Rules

Plus: U.S. Senate rebukes, Google Docs is the hot new chat app for teens, NASA still has its sights set on getting to the moon next year, chickpea-mania, and more

Jim Young / Reuters

What We’re Following

The GOP-led Senate voted to block President Donald Trump’s national-emergency declaration—a mostly symbolic move, since Trump is all but certain to nullify it with a veto, the first of his presidency. For his part, Trump seemed to have put surprisingly little effort into the politicking of getting Republicans in the chamber to go along with his norm-breaking move. That wasn’t the only rebuke the Senate delivered to the White House this week: On Wednesday, it directed Trump to end American support of the Saudi Arabia–led war in Yemen, a resolution the president has also said he would veto should it pass the Democrat-led House.

A stunning new discovery upends the existing scientific understanding of viruses. Researchers have long presumed that all of a virus’s genes need to be present in a host cell for the former to reproduce. But one type of virus that infects legumes has its genes split among eight different capsules—and yet the virus can still reproduce, even if all of the gene segments don’t make it into a host. How is that possible? Though the virus’s genes could be stuck in a neighboring cell, the proteins made by those genes can travel back and forth to different cells to help with capsule-making and DNA-copying. The discovery could change how researchers approach less idiosyncratic viruses that afflict humans, such as influenza.

NASA could go to the moon next year. The agency has spent the past decade building the world’s most powerful rocket—the billion-dollar, 200,000-pound Space Launch System that started under the Obama administration—toward that goal. As the June 2020 target nears, NASA has a problem: The rocket isn’t ready. Officials at the agency are scrambling to find an alternative, and are considering a rocket from a commercial agency such as SpaceX. That the U.S. is willing to cast aside NASA’s own rocket for an alternative shows how eager the Trump administration is to preside over sending astronauts to the moon once again.

Evening Reads

The Hottest Chat App for Teens Is … Google Docs


To surreptitiously communicate with one another during class, some teens today aren’t passing paper notes, but are instead using the chat function in … Google Docs:

“Sometimes they’ll use the service’s live-chat function, which doesn’t open by default, and which many teachers don’t even know exists. Or they’ll take advantage of the fact that Google allows users to highlight certain phrases or words, then comment on them via a pop-up box on the right side: They’ll clone a teacher’s shared Google document, then chat in the comments, so it appears to the casual viewer that they’re just making notes on the lesson plan. If a teacher approaches to take a closer look, they can click the Resolve button, and the entire thread will disappear.”

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In the Future, Everything Will Be Made of Chickpeas

(SOT / Getty)

Much of the rest of the world has had a love affair with the hearty chickpea for millennia, but Americans are just catching on:

“The number of Americans who eschew meat or animal products altogether has held roughly steady in recent decades, but the amount of meat eaten by Americans overall has declined: From 2005 to 2014, red-meat consumption in America dropped by almost one-fifth. The concerns about health and the environment that drove that drop have only intensified in the five years since. Chickpeas are inexpensive and broadly available, and the global cuisines they commonly appear in are ones that de-emphasize meat in ways that Americans are starting to see as more valuable. People in the United States aren’t trying anything new. Instead, they’re regressing to the global mean after generations of profligate meat consumption that many now consider unwise.”

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Urban Developments

How the Bauhaus Kept the Nazis at Bay, Until It Couldn’t

(Wikimedia Commons)

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing urban dwellers around the world. Gracie McKenzie and Jessica Lee Martin share today’s top stories:

After 20 years of planning and more than $130 million, a proposed light-rail project in North Carolina to connect cities in the Research Triangle is all but dead, after Duke University pulled its support. Local city leaders are furious.

“Gropius’s aim was to introduce soul into the age of the machine. The Nazis’ was to introduce the machine into the soul.” Nearly 100 years later, here’s how the Bauhaus art school resisted Nazi Germany. It’s just one story in a special CityLab series exploring the school’s ongoing legacy.

Cities are desperate to tame the sidewalk chaos of the dockless electric-scooter industry. One start-up offers a hot, new, solar-powered solution: docks.

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