Aggregating and archiving news from both sides of the aisle.
Preview: On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 63 points, after being down as much as 274 points at its low of the day.
Preview: A key FDA panel meets Friday to debate and vote at around 2:30 p.m. ET on Pfizer and BioNTech's application to offer booster shots to the general public.
Preview: As Warby Parker and Allbirds prepare for their public debuts, they're forging a new path to try to achieve profitability and moving away from their "DTC" roots.
Preview: The last Sears department store located in the retailer's home state of Illinois is getting ready to close its doors for good.
Preview: French officials in Washington canceled a gala at their compound over frustration with the new security partnership between the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
Preview: A key FDA vaccine advisory committee is meeting Friday to debate and vote on Pfizer and BioNTech's application to offer booster shots to the general public.
Preview: Evergrande has warned investors twice in as many weeks that it could default on its debts.
Preview: Half of people who haven't yet purchased a home blame their student debt. Here are strategies for getting approved for a mortgage even if you have the loans.
Preview: The Los Angeles Clippers are scheduled to open their new arena in Inglewood in 2024.
Preview: In the second quarter, midtown Manhattan vacancies reached 19% of total space, according to Cushman & Wakefield data.
Preview: • Live updates: FDA document says benefit of boosters may be 'limited' • The countries vaccinating kids against Covid • Opinion: The tricky agenda behind vaccine resistance
Preview: Schools are in session, Covid-19 restrictions are being relaxed en masse and the Delta variant is raging worldwide, creating a maelstrom of confusion for parents on how to best protect their unvaccinated children.
Preview: When President Joe Biden announced a raft of new vaccine requirements last week -- for federal employees as well as businesses with over 100 employees -- he drew the administration into a debate that had already been roiling corporations that had instituted their own mandates. What is industry -- and now, government -- to do about vaccine resisters, especially those drawing on religious exemptions?
Preview: The rate of body mass index change in children nearly doubled from March to November 2020 compared to the rate of BMI change before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study published Thursday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report on morbidity and mortality.
Preview: • Roger Stone served with January 6 lawsuit while making a live radio appearance • Trump is trying to get Big Lie promoters chosen to run the 2024 election
Preview: • A timeline of missing 22-year-old's case
Preview: • These are the deaths and investigations connected to the Murdaugh family
Preview: Millions of Russians are expected to head to the polls over a three-day period starting Friday in elections taking place against the backdrop of an unprecedented assault on democracy over the past year.
Preview: It’s Friday, September 17th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast here. 1) Former Military Officials Discuss General Milley Allegations The Topline: Morning Wire spoke to former military officials about the allegations of potential “treasonous” behavior against General Mark Milley, who reportedly subverted the chain of command by making calls to […]
Preview: In a move that’s been criticized as an act of “partisan payback,” President Joe Biden is effectively cutting lifesaving antibody treatment from COVID-positive Floridians without any signs of a treatment shortage. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis — a top target of the Democrat Party and major contender for 2024 — has been praised for leading the […]
Preview: Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” called out left-wing media during an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” for “scaring the s*** out of people” over the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that he is having a hard time selling tickets in more liberal parts of the country. “I have to […]
Preview: Democrat President Joe Biden faced intense backlash over his administration’s decision on Thursday to block drones that were flying near an overpass in Del Rio, Texas, where thousands upon thousands of migrants were being apprehended by the administration under an overpass. “We’ve learned that the FAA just implemented a two week TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) […]
Preview: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) released a video on Thursday afternoon from his trip to Del Rio, Texas, where he observed what he said was more than 10,000 illegal aliens that had been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol. “It’s a maddening crisis,” Cruz said from the border. “Just over a week ago, there were fewer […]
Preview: The United States Coast Guard (USCG) said in a news release this week that it made contact with four Chinese naval vessels near the coast of Alaska. “Crews interacted with local, national and international vessels throughout the Arctic. During the deployment, Bertholf and Kimball observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating […]
Preview: Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” warned during an interview on on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” that having two national anthems was not a road America wants to go down, which comes after he criticized the NFL’s decision to play the black national anthem. “We’re one country. It’s not a good […]
Preview: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) slammed the Biden administration during an interview that he gave to Fox News on Thursday evening from the border where he had recorded up-close video of the crisis that was unfolding in the one specific area that he was in. Speaking from Del Rio, Texas, Cruz said that the Biden administration […]
Preview: Law enforcement officials have once again put up the fence around the Capitol building, this time ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C, which some officials worry could create an opportunity for violence. The event is scheduled to last little more than an hour, and the organizer, Matt Braynard, hopes […]
Preview: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) released video that he recorded in Del Rio, Texas, of the national security and humanitarian disaster that has unfolded on Democrat President Joe Biden’s watch. The video showed thousands upon thousands of illegal aliens who were being held by the Biden administration under an overpass. Cruz said that more than 10,000 […]
Preview: MILLEY DEFENDS CHINA CALLS (Main headline, 1st story, link) Drudge Report Feed needs your support! Become a Patron
Preview: New disclosures show how General tried to check Trump. They could also further politicize military... (First column, 1st story, link)
Preview: REPORTERS WORRY OVER BIDEN COUGH... (First column, 2nd story, link) Related stories: White House Plays Down Concern...
Preview: White House Plays Down Concern... (First column, 3rd story, link) Related stories: REPORTERS WORRY OVER BIDEN COUGH... Drudge Report Feed needs your support! Become a Patron
Preview: WEEKEND: Security forces under pressure to prevent repeat of Jan. 6... (First column, 4th story, link) Related stories: Oath Keepers founder draws scrutiny from federal officials, followers...
Preview: Oath Keepers founder draws scrutiny from federal officials, followers... (First column, 5th story, link) Related stories: WEEKEND: Security forces under pressure to prevent repeat of Jan. 6...
Preview: USA-Australia Sub Pact Targets China Undersea Weakness... (First column, 6th story, link) Related stories: France Calls Betrayal... Drudge Report Feed needs your support! Become a Patron
Preview: France Calls Betrayal... (First column, 7th story, link) Related stories: USA-Australia Sub Pact Targets China Undersea Weakness...
Preview: As world leaders gather at UN, vaccine mandate creates confusion and dissent... (First column, 8th story, link) Related stories: CDC: 1 in 3 patients suffer from long covid... 660,000 white flags and climbing: Artist shows what America's death toll looks like... Marathon runners required to wear face masks in San Fran...
Preview: CDC: 1 in 3 patients suffer from long covid... (First column, 9th story, link) Related stories: As world leaders gather at UN, vaccine mandate creates confusion and dissent... 660,000 white flags and climbing: Artist shows what America's death toll looks like... Marathon runners required to wear face masks in San Fran... Drudge Report Feed needs your support! Become a Patron
Preview: Flood watches and warnings are still in effect on Friday from southeastern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle as locally heavy rain from the remnants of Nicholas continues.
Preview: Firefighters wrapped the base of the world’s largest tree in a fire-resistant blanket as they tried to save a famous grove of gigantic old-growth sequoias from wildfires burning Thursday in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada.
Preview: San Francisco Mayor London Breed was seen partying and singing maskless in a nightclub, breaking her city's mask mandate.
Preview: Concerned parents in North Port, Fla., are set Friday to protest outside of the home of Brian Laundrie – the person of interest in Gabby Petito’s disappearance – urging him to speak out and cooperate with investigators.
Preview: A Colorado jury sentenced a man convicted of shooting a Colorado Springs police officer and leaving him brain-damaged in 2018 to 45 years in prison on Thursday, according to reports.
Preview: A 28-year-old North Carolina man was arrested and charged with first-degree murder Thursday, nine years after the killing of a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student.
Preview: An off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was killed when the car he was driving slammed into a pole in the early hours of Thursday morning, according to a report.
Preview: One suspect was in custody in Minnesota while another remained at large Thursday after last weekend’s discovery of four dead bodies inside an SUV in a Wisconsin cornfield, according to a report.
Preview: An Afghanistan evacuee who recently arrived in the U.S. has been found to be a convicted felon who was deported from the U.S. four years ago, according to a report.
Preview: What are nuclear-powered submarines and how do they work? Australia's firepower ambitions explained CNN In Submarine Deal With Australia, U.S. Counters China but Enrages France The New York Times Australian PM rejects Chinese criticism of nuclear sub deal Associated Press The Anglosphere Responds to the Threat of China | Opinion Newsweek Will Morrison’s new Aukus friends pressure him on the real threat of climate crisis? The Guardian Australia View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: In Texas, Officials Are Reporting A Surge In Migrants At The Southern Border This Week NPR Texas governor orders six points of entry along the southern border to be shut down CNN Migrant numbers under Texas bridge double to 8,000+ in 24 hours: 'Out of control' Fox News Gov. Abbott reverses call for shutdown of 6 border entry points, blames Biden administration KXAN.com Thousands of Migrants Huddle in Squalid Conditions Under Texas Bridge The New York Times View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Schwarzenegger says California 'made the right decision' not to recall Newsom Business Insider A big win for Gavin Newsom, but a bigger defeat for the GOP CNN California Recall Rules Enabling a Costly Election Spur Calls for Changes The Wall Street Journal Colin Reed: Five reasons the California recall is good news for conservatives Fox News Gavin Newsom's recall victory enables Democratic mediocrity Sacramento Bee View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Yes, We're Calling It Hispanic Heritage Month And We Know It Makes Some Of You Cringe NPR Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Valley ABC15 Arizona Broward County faces backlash over image of dancing taco for National Hispanic Heritage Month The Washington Post Hispanic Heritage Month offers chance to highlight challenges SC Hispanic businesses face The State Latinos looking for opportunities find them in Nashville's growing economy NewsChannel 5 View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Pandemic politics fuel long-shot Republican challenges to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott NBC News GOP primary challengers line up against Texas Gov. Abbott, despite Trump's endorsement Yahoo News Republicans See Inflation, Democrats' Spending As Key For 2022 NPR Opinion | The crisis will get worse before it gets better. Are Democrats prepared? The Washington Post Democratic drama as House advances Biden's agenda: What's in the draft reconciliation bill? ABC News View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: World's largest tree wrapped in fire-resistant blanket due to threat of California wildfires NBC News Fires Threaten Trees in Sequoia National Park Bloomberg Markets and Finance Giant Forest trees prepped for flames in Sequoia National Park as KNP Complex fire closes in Yahoo News Wildfires in California threaten world's biggest tree Guardian News Saving Sequoias During Climate Change NPR View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Far-right groups tell supporters planned Washington rally is a government ‘trap’ The Guardian D.C. Rally to Support Jan. 6 Rioters Prompts Increased Capitol Police Security The Wall Street Journal 10 Things in Politics: DC braces for rally for Capitol rioters Business Insider Everyone Has Moved on From January 6. As a Black Woman, I Can't | Opinion Newsweek Organizer of Saturday rally looks to rewrite Jan. 6 history The Washington Post View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Trump endorsements stoke dissension in GOP ranks POLITICO 'Incredibly dangerous': Trump is trying to get Big Lie promoters chosen to run the 2024 election CNN Trump lawyers had to explain to him how Supreme Court works: book Business Insider Donald Trump is killing the Republican party in California Sacramento Bee Opinion | The right-wing media is helping Trump destroy democracy. A new poll shows how. The Washington Post View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Alex Murdaugh's legal team is 'casting a defense that doesn't exist,' lawyer for his former housekeeper says CNN Alex Murdaugh tried to 'have himself executed,' his attorney says, blaming opioid addiction Yahoo News Alex Murdaugh investigations explained: murder, fraud, obstruction of justice, maybe more in South Carolina. Slate A dead housekeeper and a hitman: Murdaugh family mystery gets more strange CNN Alex Murdaugh Surrenders To Authorities As Alleged $10M Assisted Suicide Plot Unravels Oxygen View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Father files $1M lawsuit after daughter's hair cut by Michigan teacher without permission USA TODAY Michigan father files $1M suit after teacher cuts his biracial daughter's hair NBC News Michigan school district ‘confident facts will prevail’ in $1M racial discrimination lawsuit in girl’s haircu MLive.com Father of girl whose hair was cut at school files $1M lawsuit WISHTV.com Father sues for $1M after Michigan teacher cuts 7-year-old daughter’s hair KXAN.com View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: London's High Court has ruled that the will of the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband to Queen Elizabeth, will remain sealed for 90 years to maintain the monarchy's "dignity."Judge Andrew McFarlane of t...
Preview: Republican and Democratic senators are threatening to hold up confirmation of officials at the State and Defense Departments in response to President Biden's handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.Republi...
Preview: Washington is bracing for Saturday's "Justice for J6" rally where demonstrators will be backing people who invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6 - a scarring memory for many in the Capitol Hill community worried about a pot...
Preview: The staff claimed they had worked for a month straight.
Preview: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Thursday warned against "destroying our institutions because they don't give us what we want, when we want it," arguing that the high court must remain independe...
Preview: French officials on Thursday canceled a gala at the country's Washington, D.C., embassy over the Biden administration's decision to scrap a $40 billion nuclear submarine deal that the European nation had signed with Austr...
Preview: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Friday told the Associated Press that his calls to China following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot were "routine" and "perfectly within the duties and responsi...
Preview: A Newsmax host on Wednesday screamed at a guest on his program after the guest suggested both President Biden and former President Trump's administrations are to blame for the crisis in Afghanistan.The guest, Joe S...
Preview: Older adults in Medicare are entitled to comprehensive dental benefits and Congress can make it happen in way that ensures equity, sustainability, and impact.
Preview: Human rights advocates are enraged at the Biden administration for resuming repatriation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic and environmental disasters.
Preview: The base of the colossal General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park was covered for protection against the possibility of intense flames.
Preview: The Florida Republican's response to the pandemic is hammered in author Don Winslow's latest video, which has topped 1 million views.
Preview: The operatic-voiced star sang with Howard Keel in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and danced with Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding."
Preview: "I think it really took us all down way harder than we anticipated."
Preview: Donald Trump "spewed expletives" at the then-Senate majority leader, according to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's "Peril."
Preview: The House speaker also mocked Trump for the history-making way he’ll be remembered if he runs for president again in 2024.
Preview: A chyron on Fox News hits a little too close to home for its star personality.
Preview: Twitter users issued a collective "no" in response to a post from Donald Trump's son.
Preview: The "Late Show" audience erupted at the suggestion.
Preview: The late-night host turns one of the GOP's favorite talking points right back at them.
Preview: Investors are pessimistic. One strategist tackles their fears, one by one.
Preview: The Federal Reserve staff will look for ways to tighten internal rules governing the investing practices of senior Fed officials in the wake of criticism about sizable trading of stocks and other securities by two regional bank presidents in 2020.
Preview: Humans have always been easily misled, but what's new is how fast the lies can spread.
Preview: Real, or inflation-adjusted, returns on a swath of the world's government bonds over the last five years are negative, notes Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid.
Preview: The FTSE 100 slipped 0.1% to 7,021.55 in midday trade.
Preview: Investors are pessimistic. One strategist tackles their fears, one by one.
Preview: The so-called Index Effect --- a stock's rise or fall when it's added or deleted from an index --- is no longer a free lunch on Wall Street.
Preview: New rules are needed, our planet and our next generation of investors cannot wait
Preview: ForgeRock Inc. shares bolted out of the gate on their first day of trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, screaming past an already higher-than-expected pricing.
Preview: Worries about the competition among EV makers turn Bank of America analysts cold on Lordstown Motors Corp. and Fisker Inc., with shares of both EV makers getting rating downgrades on Thursday.
Preview: Rallies in support of Jan. 6 rioters will provide clues to America's future.
Preview: America’s chief diplomat has become a full-throated advocate for Biden’s patently calamitous Afghan policy. How did we get here?
Preview: Despite having a stricter vaccine mandate than the Biden administration, Fox continues to spread misinformation about the coronavirus. A study finding that 59 percent of Fox vaccine segments this summer included claims undercutting immunization. This comes as COVID infections among children are exploding nationwide.
Preview: The Democrats' popular drug prescription reform plan faces unexpected dissent.
Preview: Rachel Maddow looks at the ways clumsy Republican theatrics around 2020 election second guessing have compromised election security, and reports on a new effort by Pennsylvania Republicans to subpoena the personal information of voters so they can give it to a third party contractor for yet another spectacle.
Preview: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries joins Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss why Republicans accept Donald Trump for who he was and continues to be: for “the acquisition and maintenance of raw power.”
Preview: “This is the greatest self-own in 20 years of California politics," says GOP strategist Ron Nehring on Larry Elder saying the election was stolen before the election took place. "It is the opposite of get out the vote. It is suppressing your own voters from turning out."
Preview: They didn't make it into "The ReidOut" tonight, but these people deserve a spot at the table of shame, too.
Preview: The governor’s opposition to health safety measures is outright dangerous as hospitalizations and deaths surge in his state.
Preview: In a Senate hearing Wednesday, Biles and several fellow gymnasts called out the FBI, USA Gymnastics and Olympic officials for ignoring sexual abuse.
Preview: Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius is in the middle of the worst season of his career.
Preview: Laundrie returned to their home in North Port without Petito earlier this month and has refused to cooperate with police after she was reported missing by her family.
Preview: So no one told you the Emmys were gonna be this wayyyyyy.
Preview: There's a reasonable explanation!
Preview: LAS VEGAS — If your approach to this industry is to “bet it and forget it,” you are doing this wrong. The business has changed over the last several years because of live betting and an increase in derivative wagering. The ability to bet in-game or make additional wagers at halftime adds more bullets for...
Preview: Gov. Ron DeSantis ripped the Biden administration’s decision to take control of the distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19.
Preview: Gen. Mark Milley is finally speaking out amid the controversy surrounding several calls he made to the Chinese People's Liberation Army in the final weeks of the Trump administration.
Preview: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley dismissed the George Floyd riots as "penny packet protests."
Preview: One might argue that Wolk is most compelling on TV when he's not trying to be the main character.
Preview: 11 of the 15 Manhattan restaurants visited by undercover sleuths were not enforcing the city-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for people dining inside, according to a new investigation.
Preview: The panel is discussing the shots and is set to vote on whether the agency should approve additional doses for people 16 and older. The meeting comes amid a fraught debate about whether booster shots are needed, and for whom. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.
Preview: Starbucks has closed more than 40 stores, while adding mobile-order pickup counters in others. Other chains like Sonic are taking advantage of vacancies to establish themselves in New York.
Preview: In New York City, hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities didn’t receive special education services during remote learning.
Preview: The temporary camp in Del Rio has grown with staggering speed in recent days during a massive surge in migration that has overwhelmed the authorities.
Preview: Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, is the first of the group to retire rather than face a stiff primary challenge.
Preview: A rally scheduled for Saturday in Washington is intended to continue a Republican effort to rewrite the narrative of the assault on the Capitol. The facts undercut their assertions.
Preview: Capitol Hill is bracing for another pro-Trump rally.
Preview: Many in Russia say they are fed up with corruption, stagnant wages and rising prices. But they worry, as one man said, that “if things start to change, there will be blood.”
Preview: The Russian authorities have used a variety of deceitful tactics to try to manufacture a big victory in parliamentary elections this weekend. Here’s how they do it.
Preview: The app, from the Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, vanished from online stores as polls opened in the parliamentary election it was designed to sway.
Preview: They’re contradicting themselves on every point.
Preview: Test your knowledge of this week’s big stories.
Preview: Even if they are unvaccinated.
Preview: One weird trick!
Preview: Only after his death is it clear what he was really writing about.
Preview: The first kiss, the thong flash, and Leaves of Grass.
Preview: A plan for a solar future needs to address materials, labor, shipping, and security.
Preview: Her transformation into the flamboyant televangelist is miraculous.
Preview: Four Slate staffers attempt to unpack what happened this week with the rapper, Twitter, the White House, and swollen testicles.
Preview: Workers are banding together to support one another and demand better pay and protections.
Preview: It's time for some out-of-box thinking about school reform. What if we let the market do more work and relied on the state for less?
Preview: "I don't do a lot of hand wringing in my opinions and tell people 'Oh, I'm really sad.' That's not the role of a judge. I mean, you do your job and you go cry alone."
Preview: Jesus wept.
Preview: 9/17/1787: The Constitution is signed. Happy Constitution Day!
Preview: A constitutional throwback to 2013.
Preview: Free speech and occupational licensing collide.
Preview: The board game lets gamers indulge in a little cooperative epidemiological roleplay.
Preview: Unearthed relics tell the story of the long-forgotten Harlem Cultural Festival, which featured the likes of Nina Simone, B.B. King, and Stevie Wonder.
Preview: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has signed a bill that would ban the sale of new internal combustion vehicles in the state by 2035. The law also mandates all new heavy- and medium-duty trucks sold in New York be "zero emissions" by 2045.
Preview: A few Volokh Conspirators are among the most cited legal scholars in their fields.
Preview: Kabul airlift, visualized
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Preview: A Florida woman's disappearance while on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé has created an intense mystery for police and the public.
Preview: Astrophotographer José Luis Pereira captured images and video of an explosion as an object hit Jupiter on Monday. You can see Jupiter, too.
Preview: Let's say you have a pile of cash you're ready to invest. I skipped the investment advisor and got a robot to build my portfolio.
Preview: Long-haulers are suffering, they're worried and they're tired of being dismissed. Reporters across the USA TODAY Network share their stories.
Preview: Two other employees were aware of the incident but didn't report it. All three employees have apologized, the school board said.
Preview: A multi-pronged approach is important in slowing the virus and reducing outbreaks, two air experts say
Preview: A rare sighting of Peloton star Cody Rigsby not wearing athleisure. | Bryan Anselm/Washington Post via Getty Images Peloton’s Cody Rigsby hates licorice, loves Britney Spears, and is the biggest fitness star since Jane Fonda. Dancing With the Stars is just going to make him bigger. Cody Rigsby hates the taste of black licorice. He calls anyone who likes it a “monster.” He also hates Justin Timberlake, orange marmalade, and people who go out to dinner and refuse to split the bill evenly. But Cody Rigsby loves, too. He loves Britney Spears, wigs (preferably secured and attached firmly to a scalp), pulpy fresh-squeezed orange juice in mimosas, the crunchy texture of a Cheeto as opposed to a cheese puff, and the idea of beating up Rugrats bully Angelica Pickles. These are some of the things you’ll learn about the Peloton instructor if you take, along with hundreds of thousands of other riders, enough of his virtual cycling classes through the popular home exercise service. Or you can learn this if you, like me, talk to several of those riders (and sit in on those rides), peruse Facebook groups and Reddit posts dedicated to him, and watch the “Best of Cody Rigsby Part 44” video (and the previous 43 installations) on YouTube. Or you might learn it on ABC in the coming months, as Cody Rigsby ascends his largest platform yet — one that doesn’t even have a bike on it. Earlier this month, Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) announced that Cody Rigsby would be one of the cast members of their milestone 30th season. Cody Rigsby will soon pasodoble, foxtrot, waltz, and quickstep on national television — a privilege usually reserved for Olympic gold medal winners and traditional celebrities like musicians (Normani placed third in the show’s 24th season) and actors (Zendaya placed second in the show’s 16th season). Cody Rigsby might not be a household name to all, but for many he is an integral part of their household. For the US’s 1.4 million Peloton users, Rigsby is probably the biggest fitness celebrity not named Jane Fonda, and he’s reached that position in large part by talking about the foul taste of black licorice. His relatable persona and easily shared opinions let his fanbase feel unusually close to him, making him both a huge star and a good buddy to people who spent a lot of money on a bike in their living rooms. “People hate working out,” Cody told the Washington Post in July. “Let’s be honest: I hate working out sometimes, too. So you want to be entertained. You want to forget that you’re doing something that you don’t like.” It still might be a mystery to some just what kind of magic this man possesses that compels a stranger to create a 44-part highlight series on YouTube. His secret might be as simple as friendship. What makes Cody Rigsby so popular? Rigsby and Peloton existed before the pandemic — Cody is 34 and has been at Peloton for seven years; Peloton’s stationary bicycle was created in 2014 — but Covid-19 lockdowns and social distance protocols in the past two years accelerated the profile of both. Back in 2020, state and local health officials ordered gyms and fitness studios to shut their doors to curb infections and risk. The shutdowns put a premium on outdoor and home workouts, the latter being a boon for Peloton, the premier name in cycling and treadmilling classes from home. An example of the surge: This past May, Peloton reported that quarterly revenue rocketed 141 percent to $1.26 billion. More people on Peloton means more of an audience for Peloton’s instructors, Rigsby included. According to Social Blade, a company that tracks social media followings, Rigsby had just under 300,000 Instagram followers in the summer of 2020 and now has a little over 890,000. Some of that boost is due to his upcoming appearance on DWTS (he’s gained about 50,000 followers since the announcement), but his rise over the past year can be traced to the popularity he carved out during Peloton’s pandemic boom. His fanbase, known as Rigsby’s Boo Crew (#BooCrew on Peloton) has over 100,000 members. But what is it that makes Rigsby so special? “What separates Cody is that at the end of the day, Cody’s personality comes off as very genuine, so it doesn’t feel like you’re riding a bike in your bedroom. I mean, it’s really like riding with a friend,” said Tyler Moses, 28, one of the founding members of the Boo Crew. Moses describes himself as an early adopter of Peloton, nabbing a bike around five years ago. Not unlike group fitness instructors at SoulCycle or Barry’s, Peloton instructors have their own niche or archetype. Some may focus on a certain type of music while others might home in on providing challenging classes. Moses jokingly referred to one instructor’s class as “calculus” because of the focus on all the numbers and metrics, something he doesn’t necessarily care for. Moses explains that Cody’s appeal is that it’s the antithesis of doing calculus. His allure comes from rants and tangents about fountain sodas, email etiquette, and how drag queens dance. “Cody’s very open about not only fitness but his personal life,” Moses said. “I mean, talking about his mom Cindy, and him being homeless, and his dancing career and joining Peloton. It’s like things that you would share with your friends.” And Cody has a whole lot of friends, who in turn have formed a community through Peloton’s features. Moses says that just because he has “#BooCrew” in his Peloton handle, he now gets thousands of virtual “high fives” when he takes a class. Johanna Cox is a more recent convert, becoming a Rigsby Rider during the pandemic. She was drawn to Cody for the same reasons as Moses. His comedy and ability to connect to her sealed her loyalty. “In my head, we were best friends after a few rides,” she said. “I wasn’t seeing anybody anymore, other than my three kids, but here he was, every day, a few inches from my face, discussing all the things my real-life friends and I used to break down.” “Here he was ... a few inches from my face, discussing all the things my real-life friends and I used to break down” Cox’s experience wasn’t unique. The pandemic severed so many of our social bonds, especially early on as the directive from health officials advised us to trim our social circles into pods. Gyms and fitness studios were some of the first places to shut down in an effort to curb risk and infection, but previously they’d been places of social connection, especially group fitness classes. Fans say Cody had a special talent for making a surreal situation feel normal and fun. “He’s hilariously self-effacing, which I think is his biggest charm,” Cox said. “Have you heard him pronounce ‘turquoise?’ It’s wrong. Or the way he enjoys being the guy who puts ice in his white wine? His cruel opinion of Taylor Swift? All of it, wrong. But what makes him so great and so truly likable is that he does not give a shit; he is who he is, and that’s how Cindy raised him.” enjoy this inspirational quote from cody rigsby bff pic.twitter.com/nNGYQpSj68 — bailey (@httpsspring) September 11, 2021 Not all Rigsby riders may be as devout or effusive as Moses, Cox, or the Boo Crew. Some of them wouldn’t use the word “friend,” but he’s still someone that makes them laugh and plays the music they like. After talking to several of his riders, it seems clear that Cody Rigsby is uncannily skilled at finding memories, feelings, and nostalgia you didn’t know you cared about. Whether it’s his observations about the taste of a Book It-earned personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut or the way some white women of a certain age dance with their arms over their head, the things he touches upon are very specific. While never overly prodding or complicated, it still feels like the opposite of small talk — like an inside joke you’ve lucked into. Like all experiences, it really pays off when someone else connects to them and the subjects he talks about — his mom, being gay, being different and growing up in the South, Britney Spears — tend to resonate with gay men, moms, and a lot of people who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s (these same demographics also happen to be big on Peloton). Perhaps the real genius is that Cody slyly turns his not-small talk into a fitness class. Making what’s essentially a monologue feel like a conversation with people peddling and following along through a black mirror isn’t easy. Rigsby makes it seem effortless. Fans say he lingers just enough on the story, and at the same time coaches his riders into having good form (knees forward, back straight) and pushes them to try harder — the way, he says, Britney Spears crushed her Onyx Hotel Tour. As Cox says, “He gets us, he puts us in a better mood, so sure, we’ll turn that resistance up when he asks for it.” Cody Rigsby and Dancing With the Stars makes perfect sense, but what’s next? Cody is a serious threat to win Dancing With the Stars, even if he isn’t a traditional DWTS celebrity. Not only is Cody a trained dancer (though hip-hop and pop’s reliance on hair tossing and body rolls are a different animal than ballroom) with a massive audience on Peloton (a recent 20-minute ride I took with Rigsby had been taken by over 290,000 participants), he appeals to a demographic friendly with DWTS — women, specifically moms. Cody has a very devoted fanbase that’s ready to mobilize. Cody’s inclusion indicates that people at the show are shifting their own ideas about celebrity. The stars invited usually consist of soap opera actors, child stars, former athletes, and pop music artists, with the show’s biggest moment being its cast announcement. The show, historically, has had a conservative viewership and included former GOP lawmakers like Rick Perry and Tom DeLay, and Republican-aligned scions like Bristol Palin. But the show’s mildly pleasing mundanity sometimes snaps, like in 2019, when it cast former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Producers were criticized for normalizing someone who lied to the American public on behalf of the Trump administration. (Past controversial stars included food personality and racial slur-user Paula Deen, and boxer Floyd Mayweather, who has been convicted of domestic violence.) Last year, for its 29th season, the show fired its longtime host Tom Bergeron and hired Tyra Banks in an effort to refresh and reenergize its viewership. That season featured the likes of Tiger King’s Carole Baskin, Backstreet Boy AJ McLean, and was eventually won by Bachelorette star Kaitlyn Bristowe. The additions of Cody along with YouTuber Jojo Siwa and influencer (and college admissions scammer) Olivia Jade seem to indicate that the show is broadening or at least reacting to the modern-day definitions of popularity and celebrity. Siwa will make history as the first celeb to dance with a partner of the same sex — a progressive move for a show that came under fire for casting Spicer two years ago. For a select group, though, Cody’s involvement remains the biggest news. Moses explained to me that while ABC had been tight-lipped about casting, eagle-eyed Boo Crew members pieced together Cody’s itinerary based on his social media the week of the announcement. They spotted the instructor wearing a yellow face mask on a plane to California. Then, another Boo Crew member noticed a picture of an unidentified man on the DWTS set wearing what they believed to be the same face mask. They triangulated their findings and, based on the smallest of details, were sure their guy was going to be on the show. “They were like, ‘Look at his ear! That’s Cody’s ear!’” “They were like, ‘Look at his ear! That’s Cody’s ear!’” Moses told me, laughing while recounting the story about how the rumor set the Boo Crew ablaze. Now, they’re engaged, mobilized, energized — and they vote, literally. During the 2020 presidential election, the Boo Crew enacted a get out the vote campaign (they’ve also raised over $160,000 for charity since their inception). Though they didn’t endorse a candidate, Cody and the Boo Crew believe in women’s rights, gay rights, Black Lives Matter, diversity, and inclusivity. “We ordered literally over 10,000 postcards and sent it to members across the country asking them to vote,” Moses said. “Then with a few swing states, we followed up. Like when Georgia had the recount, we sent even more out. As soon as it was announced that he was gonna be on Dancing With the Stars I was like, okay, we got this — not only do we got it, but we’ve had a few run-throughs.” As a testament to Cody’s voting block, Moses sent me a screenshot from an ESPN poll about DWTS. The poll grouped him together with fellow competitors Jojo Siwa and Mel C. from the Spice Girls and asked which star would have the highest score on premiere night. Cody was in last place when the Boo Crew was alerted. After a barrage of voting, he now sits in first with 55 percent of the vote. Mel C. garnered a paltry 9 percent. Seems likely that Cody will stick around for a while and get to be known by the show’s millions of viewers (last season averaged 6.1 million viewers per episode), adding new members to the Boo Crew with each hustle. As Rigsby becomes a bigger star, however, there will probably be more scrutiny about who he is, what he stands for, and if he’s the same person he says he is. Some of that criticism will inevitably be tougher than others. Some haters will appear (like those ragging on the instructor’s recent $1.45 million penthouse purchase), but there might also be some genuine concerns that arise. Memes, usually video captures of Cody and other instructors’ rides and rants, have popped up, which have promoted questions about whether Cody is using AAVE or employing a blaccent. Some riders I spoke to, who asked for anonymity because of how popular Cody is and how fervent Peloton fans are, questioned whether his appeal is because he fits and leans into a gay best friend trope. There are concerns for his intense fanbase as well, ones they’re already working through. One example that Moses pointed out was that Peloton used to use the word “tribes” to indicate groups like Boo Crew who had loyalty to certain instructors. Moses said he and the Boo Crew found out abruptly that the word was triggering and could be offensive when he awoke to “hundreds of messages” about how they shouldn’t refer to themselves as a tribe. Rigsby himself reached out about changing the name. “It was just something that happened very quick. There were a lot of angry people,” he said, explaining that he took it as a learning moment instead of shying away from it. “You address it. You learn if you’ve made a mistake, and then you put it behind you.” That’s what Cody would do, he said.
Preview: Ivermectin, a drug touted as a Covid-19 treatment, has become subsumed into our forever culture war. | Mike Stewart/AP Evidence suggests ivermectin is not a Covid-19 “miracle drug.” How did it get so popular? On June 22, Joe Rogan’s wildly popular podcast dropped a new episode in which the host and guests Bret Weinstein and Dr. Pierre Kory talk about the pandemic — and a drug that they said would defeat it. The drug is called ivermectin, and their message was that it was a stunningly good Covid-19 treatment — “good enough to end the pandemic at any point you wanted,” said Weinstein, an evolutionary biologist and now podcaster associated with the intellectual dark web movement. But they argued that the powers that be are trying to keep word from getting out, preferring to push instead a profitable Big Pharma vaccine. The weeks that followed the episode saw a massive surge of interest in ivermectin as an alternative Covid-19 treatment. The CDC reports that 88,000 prescriptions were written in a single week in mid-August, up from 15,000 in the week before Rogan’s podcast and 3,600 a week before the pandemic began. That surge of interest is despite the fact that the evidence base on ivermectin is shockingly shoddy. The studies finding massive effects are “probably fraudulent,” says Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia who has looked into the ivermectin literature extensively. Higher-quality studies suggest it may have mild benefits or may do nothing at all — and there’s not enough evidence yet to rule out that it causes any harm. But the debate has, in many ways, moved past the evidence entirely. Ivermectin — as its starring role on a Joe Rogan episode suggests — has become subsumed into our forever culture war. The drug’s fans have wildly overstated its benefits and assailed overwhelmed doctors and nurses who refuse to give it to patients. Ivermectin enthusiasm on social media has propelled some into anti-vaccine, anti-Western medicine conspiracies, with some posters even going so far as to warn members against going to the emergency room — because “they fear nurses are killing them on purpose.” Partisans on the other side have made their own sloppy (if decidedly less egregious) claims in the effort to debunk the ivermectin mania, ridiculing the drug as “horse paste” when it’s actually an anti-parasitic medication for humans, taken by hundreds of millions each year. (It’s also a veterinary drug that can get rid of parasites in animals.) #RollingStone just got its credibility ass kicked with the fake news story smearing a safe and Nobel Peace Prize winning drug Ivermectin. No "horse sense" among those liars! read the funny cartoon post at https://t.co/um2maK0qGm pic.twitter.com/eIqyruSA3M — Ben Garrison Cartoons GrrrGraphics.com (@CartoonsBen) September 6, 2021 The furor has also ensnared the researchers studying ivermectin. Ed Mills, a researcher at McMaster University in Canada, told me he’d been flooded with abusive emails when his study (“larger than all the other ivermectin trials put together,” he told me) found that ivermectin’s purported benefits were too small to be detectable. That study (not yet published) is part of a several-thousand-person randomized controlled trial, the gold standard for evaluating Covid-19 treatments. But it’s not clear those results — or the many other results in the pipeline from high-quality research — will end the public debate about ivermectin. The mania feels beyond the reach of reason at this point. Meanwhile, even as many Americans resort to a drug with a sketchy evidence base to fight Covid-19, the US estimates 15 million vaccine doses have gone to waste as the country struggles to persuade more people to get the vaccine, for which the case is much, much stronger. That about sums up the depressing state of America’s battle against Covid-19 in 2021. The extremely thin evidence for ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment, explained First, the basics: Ivermectin is an anti-parasite medication discovered in 1975. It’s one of the world’s front-line drugs against some devastating parasitic infections, especially river blindness, which is transmitted by biting flies and can lead to skin problems and loss of eyesight. About 250 million people take ivermectin each year. Side effects are generally mild, though nausea, itching, and rashes are common. (Claims have circulated on social media that it causes male infertility, based on a Nigerian study from 2011, but larger studies have not detected this effect.) And, yes, ivermectin is also a veterinary drug, for deworming dogs and livestock. Because the human version of the drug is prescription-only, making it hard to access without a doctor who agrees that you need it, some people interested in taking ivermectin for Covid-19 have turned to purchasing it from livestock stores, giving rise to the “horse paste” memes and jokes. Veterinary formulations are harder to dose correctly; information nationwide on ivermectin overdoses and complications is limited, but the South Texas Poison Control Center, for example, which has seen 260 ivermectin-related calls so far this year (up from 191 in all of 2019), says that incidents are overwhelmingly from people attempting to use veterinary formulations to treat Covid-19. The side effects from such misuse include nausea, allergic reactions, seizures, and potentially death. Serious side effects from taking a dose safe for humans are rare. Ivermectin is an anti-parasite medication discovered in 1975. It’s one of the world’s front-line drugs against some devastating parasitic infections. How did ivermectin enter the Covid-19 treatment conversation? Almost as soon as Covid-19 hit, researchers started looking to repurpose existing drugs against the disease. It’s not unheard of for such repurposed drugs to work: Most drugs act in the body through many different mechanisms, so they can work even against diseases quite different from the ones they were initially developed for. Many drugs that are not antivirals still have antiviral properties: for instance, a drug like fluvoxamine, which shows promise as a Covid-19 treatment, is an antidepressant, but it seems to modulate the inflammatory response that causes lung damage in Covid-19 patients. Some early studies seemed to suggest that ivermectin — cheap, FDA-approved, relatively safe when taken as directed — might be one such lucky drug, possessing antiviral properties in addition to the anti-parasitic properties it was known for. But the evidence thus far for its effectiveness against Covid-19 is extremely thin. Early in the pandemic, ivermectin, along with several other drugs repurposed to fight Covid-19, showed promise in small trials. But it’s very common in such trials for promising results to occur by chance. And while extremely high doses of ivermectin work against Covid-19 “in vitro”— that is, in petri dish samples in laboratories — that tells us practically nothing about how well the drug works against the disease in live patients. Indeed, the doses of ivermectin that kill Covid-19 in in-vitro settings are higher than are achievable in the human body. So for much of last year, ivermectin was in a common category with many other repurposed drugs like fluvoxamine, dexamethasone, metformin, and hydroxychloroquine: There were some small studies showing promise, and more rigorous research was needed to figure out which of those small studies was for real. “There was genuine interest in the medical community in ivermectin,” Mills, the McMaster researcher, told me. He started enrolling patients for his ivermectin trial last fall. Over the last year, those studies of ivermectin have been accumulating — and a pattern has emerged. Careful, large, well-conducted studies tend to find modest benefits or no statistically significant benefits for Covid-19 patients who took ivermectin. “The confidence intervals span both modest benefit and modest harm,” says Meyerowitz-Katz. In other words, the results that the studies have found are small enough that they’d be plausible if the drug works — and also plausible if it actively has negative effects. Mills’s own study, presented at an NIH roundtable in August and still awaiting publication, found “no important clinical benefit,” he told me. The results were sufficiently unpromising that the study would have been terminated sooner if not for the furor around the drug. “The data safety person said, ‘This is now futile and you’re offering no benefit to patients involved in the trial,’” Mills told the New York Times. The allegations of fraud in ivermectin research, explained Meanwhile, even as rigorous studies deflated the ivermectin hype, other studies have made headlines claiming outsized, fairly extraordinary benefits — but there’s reason to conclude that those studies are wrong. And in some cases, they’re allegedly fraudulent. One of the most prominent studies finding positive results for ivermectin was a study from Egypt with lead researcher Ahmed Elgazzar of Benha University. “It was one of the first papers that led everyone to get into the idea ivermectin worked,” researcher Eduardo López-Medina told Nature. It found extraordinary results for ivermectin, and even though it had not undergone peer review, it was widely cited and was incorporated into various efforts to estimate ivermectin’s benefits. But it was criticized from the get-go for unclear methodology and for not publishing the underlying data the researchers used to find their conclusions (publishing such data is generally good practice to make sure other researchers can do their own vetting of a study). Then some researchers noticed bigger problems: Most of the introduction to the paper was plagiarized, the numbers in its tables didn’t add up, and the experiment as described would have been very difficult to conduct. Soon, it was removed by the preprint platform that had hosted it. (Elgazzar maintains that his study is legitimate and says the removal occurred without his permission.) Another big study that has formed part of the case for ivermectin is a study out of Argentina by the University of Buenos Aires’s Hector Carvallo and several co-authors. The paper, published in November 2020, claims that ivermectin prevented health care workers from getting Covid-19 in the first place. The paper describes the drug, along with a nasal algae supplement, as 100 percent protective against infection, while a control group saw up to 56 percent of health care workers get sick. There haven’t been many studies of ivermectin as a potential prophylactic (a drug you take to prevent infection). Carvallo and company’s stunning finding formed the backbone of much ivermectin advocacy in the US. The study was widely shared: Kory, the head of ivermectin advocacy organization the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance and Rogan’s guest on that June podcast, cited it in a hearing before Congress. But experts on scientific fraud don’t believe Carvallo conducted his study as described. The data bears telltale signs of being manufactured, like numbers occurring in distributions that don’t occur naturally. Information from the study registration about which participants enrolled doesn’t match the information from the published study. The numbers in the tables don’t add up. Key data is missing. I reached out to Carvallo to ask for clarifications on some of these anomalies, and I was directed to a pdf that did not contain the data I had asked for, and then a spreadsheet that also didn’t have it. As part of a BuzzFeed investigation, journalists contacted one of the hospitals where Carvallo and co-authors claim the study was conducted. The hospital said the study was not conducted there. Carvallo says it did happen there but without the hospital administration knowing. I asked Meyerowitz-Katz about these two problematic studies, and he suggested the issues with pro-ivermectin research went beyond them. While he emphasized that there’s legitimate high-quality research going on, he says the inconsistencies and potential fraud in pro-ivermectin research are widespread. Meyerowitz-Katz told me that as his team has reviewed papers about ivermectin’s benefits, “more and more studies appear to be fake or if they did happen, they didn’t happen in the manner described in the paper,” he told me. “We’ve got a bunch of studies that we haven’t gone public with. Some of the studies where we have very serious concerns about fraud are in very high-quality journals.” These dubious results then turn up in meta-analyses, which are studies of studies that summarize what’s known about a given topic. Because what we have so far are many small, underpowered studies — studies that have sample sizes too small for researchers to confidently detect the effect they’re studying — a meta-analysis would in theory be very useful. But when some of the literature appears fraudulent, as in this case, it makes it nearly impossible to get meaningful and helpful results from a meta-analysis. One prominent, widely cited meta-analysis found that ivermectin may work quite well — but the Elgazzar paper alone accounted for 15 percent of the effect. Another meta-analysis studying ivermectin prophylaxis looked at just three studies. Two of them were Elgazzar and Carvallo. A month after Elgazzar was retracted, the authors of that first meta-analysis released a repeat of their analysis without Elgazzar and it still looks promising for ivermectin — but it still incorporates other studies that Meyerowitz-Katz and other scientific forensics experts suspect did not occur at all or did not occur as described. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images A supporter of Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, holds a large box of box of ivermectin during a rally to show support to his government in Brasilia, Brazil. Another problem is that many studies, especially early ones from last year, looked at a combination of ivermectin and many other treatments — ivermectin with doxycycline, for example, or ivermectin with dexamethasone. (Dexamethasone has been shown to reduce mortality on its own). These combination treatments are compared to control groups that didn’t receive any treatments. That makes it very difficult to tell whether the ivermectin did anything or the other substances did — and studies where only ivermectin varies between treatment groups tend to find much smaller effects. To be clear, there’s some high-quality research on ivermectin, including some that finds positive results. But meta-analyses that incorporate only methodologically high-quality studies comparing just ivermectin rather than combinations of many drugs, and about which there are no significant fraud concerns — as is done in the recent, comprehensive, 100-page analysis of ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews — tend to find that there is simply not enough high-quality evidence to conclude ivermectin does anything at all. Beyond a scientific debate On a June 26 debate on the YouTube channel/podcast Rebel Wisdom, hosted by former BBC filmmaker David Fuller, ivermectin defenders and opponents debated the drug. “What evidence would persuade you that ivermectin didn’t work?” Fuller asked ivermectin defender and medical researcher Tess Lawrie, the director of The Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy in Bath, UK. “Ivermectin works,” she responded. “There’s nothing that would persuade me.” That, to put it mildly, is not an attitude conducive to evidence-based medicine. And it’s an attitude that has come to define the public discussion over ivermectin. To be clear, the research community studying therapeutics has been careful, in their public statements, not to rule ivermectin out, and to emphasize that current evidence is inconclusive — which is not the same as saying it definitely doesn’t work. The truth is that high-quality research suggests that benefits, if there are any at all, will be small, and that treatments that work better exist and are just as cheap. In the meantime, there’s high-quality ongoing research that should help clear up the remaining uncertainty about ivermectin. For people trying to push back against Covid-19 misinformation and the ivermectin fad, it’s enough to point out the truth — no need to exaggerate the case against this yet unproven drug or resort to condescension toward people falling for fraudulent research and experts leading them astray. “It’s not about laughing at the poor people who are taking it,” Mills, the McMaster University researcher, told me. The most culpable parties aren’t those who believed apparently fraudulent studies, it’s those who conducted, published, and boosted them. But research can only clear up uncertainty where uncertainty exists — it can’t do anything about certainty that the drug works regardless of the evidence. As ivermectin’s role in the public spotlight has intensified, the debate about it has in many ways split into two. One is a serious debate among researchers and individuals, trying to understand whether the drug works at all and in what doses and under which circumstances, if any, it would pass a cost-benefit analysis. The other is a fact-free arena in which research is sometimes cited but never grappled with — and is often greeted with hostility. Carlos Chaccour, a researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, told Nature that he has been called “genocidal” because he was studying ivermectin rather than just advocating for it. Figuring out which drugs work against Covid-19 is one of the most critical problems facing humanity When an anti-vax/anti-mask activist was hospitalized in Chicago with Covid-19, Lin Wood — a lawyer who represented Donald Trump in his lawsuits baselessly challenging the 2020 election — posted a widely shared video of himself calling the hospital and threatening the phone operator with murder charges because the doctors treating the activist wouldn’t treat her with ivermectin. The complexities reflected in high-quality research are not well represented by the online communities that purport to describe the scientific evidence around ivermectin — and false and misleading information about the drug can often be found in attractive packaging. The website c19ivermectin.com, for example, has an attractive user interface and is incredibly detailed, chronicling hundreds of studies of the drug. But it presents the estimated effect size based on all the studies out there, never mind that many of them appear fraudulent, and its visualizations effectively weigh every study equally — so a 100-person study that looked at a combination of many therapies including ivermectin will get a data point just like a many-thousand-patient RCT studying just ivermectin against a control group. The end result is something that looks very scientific. But it’s all built on a backbone of studies that won’t report their data, that in at least some cases may have made that data up, that study ivermectin in combination with many other drugs, and that therefore aren’t any more enlightening when all meta-analyzed together. For the researchers doing the actual work of figuring out what can help in the fight against Covid-19, ivermectin fandom has become a hindrance. “From a physician’s perspective, you’re not a fan of a drug,” David Boulware, a practicing physician and infectious disease researcher who has studied ivermectin and is currently running a randomized clinical trial to test its benefits, told me. “We’re actually trying to investigate it because we want an answer.” Figuring out which drugs work against Covid-19 is one of the most critical problems facing humanity. And it makes sense for people to be confused and frustrated by messaging from public health officials, which often hasn’t been very good, or to take it upon themselves to do their own research when the medical establishment has made its own missteps. But the evidence-free state of public ivermectin advocacy isn’t just hurting people, it’s also derailing the larger goal of ending this pandemic. There are drugs we can be pretty confident work better than ivermectin, and scared, sick people ought to be able to learn about those instead of being deluged with “miracle drug” claims. And researchers need to be able to conduct studies without hearing that the case for ivermectin is so obvious that no further research is needed. “I’ve been compared to Joseph Mengele and the Nazis, I’ve been told I’m going to hell, all of that stuff,” Boulware said. Health care providers are being threatened; pro-ivermectin Facebook groups are indulging in wild conspiracy theories. “Can I suggest you include a psychologist as one of your interviewees?” Mills asked me in the course of my reporting. “This is not a medical evidence issue anymore.”
Preview: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a conference in Germany in 2020. | Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images Why the latest Facebook scandal might stick. At this point, it isn’t exactly surprising that social media platforms like Facebook can have negative effects on society. For years, journalists, politicians, social scientists — and even biologists and ecologists — have been raising concerns about the influence Facebook has on our collective well-being. And Facebook has always defended itself by insisting that it is a net good to society because of how it brings people together. But a new series of reports from the Wall Street Journal, “The Facebook files,” provides damning evidence that Facebook has studied and long known that its products cause measurable, real-world harm — including on teenagers’ mental health — and then stifled that research while denying and downplaying that harm to the public. The revelations, which only strengthen the case that a growing chorus of lawmakers and regulators have been making for breaking up Facebook or otherwise severely limiting its power as a social media giant, could represent a turning point for the company. Already, the Journal’s reporting has prompted consequences for Facebook: A bipartisan Senate committee is investigating Instagram’s impact on teenagers, and a group of legislators led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is calling for Facebook to halt all development of its Instagram for Kids product for children under 13, which BuzzFeed News first revealed the company was developing in March. “We are in touch with a Facebook whistleblower and will use every resource at our disposal to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew it — including seeking further documents and pursuing witness testimony,” read a joint statement from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Tuesday. “The Wall Street Journal’s blockbuster reporting may only be the tip of the iceberg.” It’s unclear how much these efforts will impact Facebook’s policy decisions and bottom line. The investigations are in their early stages, and it’s too soon to say if it will directly lead to any new laws or other regulation. Instagram’s head of public policy wrote in a company blog post on Tuesday that the Journal’s reporting “focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light,” and that the fact that Instagram did internal research on the matter demonstrates its “commitment to understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with.” “The fact that Facebook has known the research, done the research, and then hid it ... it’s quite mind-boggling” In the long term, the consequences for Facebook are less instantly measurable, but perhaps more pernicious. These findings about the company have further damaged what little trust it had left with politicians — who have long been asking Facebook for specific information about the platform’s effect on mental health. The company declined to provide it, even though in many cases it had all the answers. Take, for example, this back-and-forth between Mark Zuckerberg and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) at a congressional hearing on social media in March 2021. Rep. Rodgers: Do you agree too much time in front of screens, passively consuming content, is harmful to children’s mental health? Mark Zuckerberg: Congresswoman, the research that I have seen on this suggests that if people are using computers and social — Rep. Rodgers: Could you answer yes or no? I am sorry. Could you use yes or no? Mark Zuckerberg. I don’t think that the research is conclusive on that. But I can summarize what I have learned, if that is helpful. Zuckerberg went on to say, “overall, the research that we have seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental health benefits and well-being benefits by helping people feel more connected and less lonely.” He did not mention any of the negative effects his own team had found about Instagram over the past three years, including that in its own study of teenage users, 32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse. When Rep . Rodgers and other Republicans followed up with Facebook and asked about the company’s internal research on the effects of its products on mental health, the company did not share the Instagram research results, according to Bloomberg, nor did it share them with Sen. Ed Markey when his office also asked Facebook to provide any internal research on the matter in April, according to letters provided by Markey’s office to Recode. “This is such a profound issue for kids and teens,” said Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of the nonprofit organization Common Sense Media, which promotes safe technology and media for children and families. “The fact that Facebook has known the research, done the research, and then hid it ... it’s quite mind-boggling,” he told Recode. Other damning findings from the Journal’s reporting include a discovery that the company has a VIP program that allows celebrities and politicians to break its rules, and that in 2018, Facebook tweaked its algorithm in a way that encouraged people to share angrier content. In each case, Facebook’s own employees found systematic proof of serious issues, but when they warned executives — including Mark Zuckerberg — about it, they were largely ignored. For years, Facebook’s main line of defense to criticism about any negative impacts its products might cause is that social media, like other technological innovations, can cause some harm — but that the good outweighs the bad. In a recent interview with my colleague Peter Kafka on the Recode Media podcast, Instagram head Adam Mosseri pointed to the way that social media has helped social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too. And he compared Facebook to the invention of the automobile. “Cars have positive or negative outcomes. We understand that. We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents,” said Mosseri. “But by and large, cars create way more value in the world than they destroyed. And I think social media is similar.” It’s undeniable that social media can facilitate social change. It can also be a useful way for people to keep in touch with their friends and family — and indeed, as Zuckerberg told Congress, it can help people feel less lonely. But, at some point, the question is whether the public will accept that rationale as an excuse for the company to have free rein to experiment on our collective well-being, measure that harm, and keep the public in the dark about what they learn as they continue to rake in record profits of nearly $30 billion a quarter.
Preview: Rowhouses in the Bloomingdale neighborhood in Washington, DC, on September 14, 2020. | Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post via Getty Images A new poll shows people are fed up with housing costs. And they want to build more housing. Housing costs and homelessness in America’s cities are so bad that people in growing metro areas now appear more concerned about those issues than Covid-19, public safety, taxes, education, and jobs, according to a new poll by the Manhattan Institute and Echelon Insights. The poll surveyed 4,000 adults from August 11-20, sampling 200 people each in the “20 metropolitan areas with the largest numerical population growth from 2010-2019.” Manhattan Institute and Echelon Insights This poll takes place after more than a year of skyrocketing housing prices. The Case-Shiller Index, a leading measure of US home prices, showed in June that prices had increased 18.6 percent since the previous year. According to data from the US Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development aggregated by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the median sales price in the last quarter of 2019 was $327,100. By the second quarter of 2021, that number had hit $374,900. “It’s not surprising that housing affordability was the top issue in America,” said Michael Hendrix, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a free-market think tank. “What surprised me was the intensity, the priority that housing affordability and generally cost of living for people that ranks in these fast-growing metros. It wasn’t just a San Francisco or New York issue, it’s becoming more widespread.” In attractive metropolitan areas, the situation is even more dire. According to Redfin data, Phoenix saw a 24.1 percent median sales price increase over the last year. Housing supply declined by 44.9 percent in San Francisco in the same time frame. And residents are noticing. In the Manhattan Institute’s poll, 64 percent of people in fast-growing urban areas said they were extremely or very concerned about the cost of housing. The poll has a sampling margin of error of plus/minus 2.3 percentage points and includes some respondents in less dense communities within the metro areas. Unlike most national polls about housing affordability, this one asked respondents about which solutions they’d apply in their cities. Two-thirds strongly or somewhat support allowing “more housing to be built near transit stops,” an important solution since transit-oriented development is necessary to create affordable, walkable, and climate-friendly neighborhoods. But, most importantly, the survey found that people in growing metro areas are in favor of making it easier to build more homes. Sixty-eight percent agreed that they would support “expediting and streamlining the approvals process so it is easier to begin building more housing” in their city. Only 20 percent say that they strongly or somewhat oppose. This, finally, helps get to the root of the issue. American cities have seen such a steep rise in housing unaffordability largely due to a dangerously low supply of homes, in particular affordable homes. One major reason is that state and local governments have artificially constrained the supply of housing through zoning ordinances and through a local government process that results in costly delays. By requiring things like minimum lot sizes or holding public meetings where developers are forced to defend building multi-family housing, these laws often make it illegal or unprofitable to build small starter homes or multi-family homes that would be more affordable relative to the large homes that get built in their stead. These laws are often propped up and enforced by a minority of vocal homeowners who are more likely to attend local government meetings to oppose new housing developments — and the local officials who prioritize those voices. Commonly known as NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard), vocal individuals like this often have outsized influence despite research showing that they are unrepresentative of the communities they purport to speak for. Manhattan Institute and Echelon Insights To be sure, not everyone views the situation this way. Even though poll respondents were widely supportive of making it easier to build more housing, they don’t necessarily see it as the best answer to the affordability crisis. When asked to choose between two statements explaining the problem, 55 percent of respondents picked the explanation that “there are homes available, but they’re too expensive for working and middle-class people to rent or purchase. State and local governments need to subsidize building more affordable homes.” Just 30 percent agreed with the statement that home prices are high because there aren’t enough homes and that the solution would be making it easier to build more of them. And it’s possible that people would oppose specific new housing projects in their communities, even if they agree with the broad principle that building more housing in their city is good. But this poll is another piece of evidence that anger over the lack of new affordable housing has reached a crescendo. Residents want more affordable housing built in their cities. They favor transit-oriented development. They are eager for the government to subsidize the building of more affordable housing. And they are in favor of making it easier to build more homes.
Preview: Americans were having trouble sleeping before the pandemic. It’s only gotten worse. | Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images Why we still can’t sleep, and what to do about it. Remember sleeping? For too many Americans, it’s a distant memory: a time when we were able to get in bed, close our eyes, and drift off unencumbered without worries about contracting Covid-19, or the hours of work that piled up after supervising a day of remote school, or whether we need to buy a different kind of mask (again). Sleep deprivation has become one of the many side effects of the pandemic. It’s one that’s often invisible — a lot of people have no choice but to muddle through their day no matter how tired they are — but one that’s slowly wearing us down. For some, lack of sleep is about lack of time. “I get up now hours before my kids to get a few hours of writing and work done,” Courtney Boen, a professor of sociology and demography at the University of Pennsylvania, told Vox. “I know I’m not alone.” Seen some version of "I'll get to that around 10pm after kids go to bed." "I'll send to you by 7am, before kids wake up." in *countless* emails/texts w colleagues w young kids (mostly women) over last 18 mo. This is unsustainable but we've been sustaining it for over a year. — Dr. Courtney Boen, PhD, MPH (@CourtneyBoen) August 30, 2021 But for others, scheduling isn’t necessarily to blame. When the pandemic hit, rates of insomnia spiked around the world, driven by everything from the stress of living during an international public health crisis to the changes in daily life wrought by lockdowns. “People had additional responsibilities, new challenges, much more uncertainty,” Lauren Hale, a professor of family, population, and preventive medicine at Stony Brook University, told Vox. And as the delta variant continues to spread around the country, that uncertainty and its effects on sleep may not have abated. Some people have just gotten used to disrupted cycles and 3 am anxiety spirals; it’s how life is now. As Jennifer Martin, a clinical psychologist who serves on the board of directors for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, told Vox, “There are some people who are still experiencing a lot of disruption.” While there are steps people can take in their own lives to address insomnia, sleep deprivation isn’t just a personal problem; it’s also a social one. And as with so many other problems in the pandemic, real relief will require policy changes — like shorter work hours, better pay, and improved access to health care — to make American life more secure for everyone. “The stress and sleep disruptions and uncertainty that so many Americans experience now during the pandemic is something that is preventable,” Boen said. “It’s something that can be mitigated through policy decisions.” The pandemic is a major insomnia trigger Sleep is a basic human need, just like food or oxygen, and most adults need about seven hours a night. If we miss out on it for a night or two, we may notice problems like difficulty with decisions, not feeling mentally sharp, and becoming less tolerant of social conflict. Lack of sleep “kind of makes it harder for us to function around other people,” Martin said. Those short-term effects are reversible once we do get a good night’s sleep. But when people get less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, they face increased risk of metabolic problems like type 2 diabetes, as well as mental health issues like depression, Martin said. And when they go below six hours for a long period of time, they can experience cardiovascular problems and even an increased risk of mortality. All of this is bad news for a population that, even before the pandemic, wasn’t getting enough sleep. Americans’ sleep hours have been declining since the 1980s, according to NPR, with long work hours and stress the likely culprits. In one 2018 study, 35.6 percent of participants reported inadequate sleep, up from 30.9 percent in 2010. “We’re a very engaged 24/7 society, and one of the first activities that gets curtailed is our sleep,” clinical psychologist Todd Arnedt told NPR in 2018. The pandemic made matters worse. In one study conducted across 49 countries in March and April 2020, 40 percent of people said their sleep was worse than before the pandemic. Participants’ use of sleeping pills increased by 20 percent. Google searches for “insomnia” also spiked in the US in April and May, when many parts of the country were under stay-at-home orders. Meanwhile, Americans’ spending on the over-the-counter sleep supplement melatonin increased by 42.6 percent in 2020. “That consumer behavior is a sign that people are struggling,” Martin said. Any stressful experience that disrupts sleep for a period of time risks triggering chronic insomnia Then there are the hundreds of thousands of people who have contracted Covid-19. While insomnia isn’t technically considered a symptom of the disease, the respiratory symptoms can make it difficult to sleep. And clinicians are seeing a lot of chronic sleep problems in people experiencing long Covid. “We’re still trying to learn about that, and whether it might play a role in making the recovery more difficult,” Martin said. While there’s not yet much data on sleep trends this year, experts say the sleep disturbances of the early pandemic could persist over time. For one thing, plenty of people are still dealing with a lot of anxiety around the pandemic, from those who have lost their jobs to those dealing with the stress of sending kids to school amid the delta variant. As Hale put it, “everybody has their own reasons why they aren’t sleeping as well during an international crisis.” For another, any stressful experience that disrupts sleep for a period of time risks triggering chronic insomnia. When patients are asked how their sleep problems started, they’ll typically mention some “stressful event or a big change in their life as a thing that sort of got them off track,” Martin said. “Short-term insomnia is how long-term insomnia starts.” That’s one reason some Americans may still be having trouble sleeping now, more than 18 months into the pandemic, even if they’re vaccinated and their personal fears around Covid-19 have (somewhat) abated. And that’s just the insomnia piece of the puzzle. Add to that the countless Americans who might be able to get to sleep — if they ever had time to actually get in bed. That group includes a lot of working parents, who have been navigating school and day care closures for more than a year and a half. For some, that’s meant dropping out of the workforce. For others, it’s meant doing the equivalent of a full-time job on top of their job: In 2020, mothers of kids under 12 spent an average of eight hours every day on child care, the 19th reported. Those hours have to come from somewhere, and often, they come out of parents’ sleep. One 2020 study found levels of sleep deprivation in moms that were twice as high as those seen before the pandemic. And in a July 2020 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of moms and 29 percent of dads reported sleep problems from stress related to the pandemic. For a lot of people, it hasn’t necessarily gotten better since then. “I’m chronically tired,” said Boen, the sociologist, who has a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old and has been without regular child care since March 2020. “I think that’s a really common experience right now.” Sleep deprivation could worsen the impact of the pandemic, too Being chronically tired could be putting our health at risk — especially as Covid-19 continues to spread. Habitual lack of sleep can harm our immune function, which is “particularly important when there’s a pandemic going on,” Hale said. “In an effort to prevent disease, we want to be sleeping well.” Sleep deprivation could also exacerbate social inequalities. In general, “it tends to be the most vulnerable, disadvantaged individuals in society who have the worst sleep patterns,” Hale said. Racial disparities in sleep, for example, existed before the pandemic began. “African Americans, in particular, are the most sleep-deprived population in the United States,” Bridget Goosby, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told Vox. Since Black, Indigenous, and other people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and financial crisis, they’re likely dealing with more stressors that could affect sleep. And that, in turn, could worsen the impacts of the pandemic by making these groups even more vulnerable to getting sick, either with Covid-19 or with conditions like diabetes that are affected by sleep. “Not only has the pandemic heightened levels of chronic stress in ways that have been highly unequal, it’s also disrupted sleep patterns in ways that prevent people’s bodies from being able to handle that level of physiological stress,” Boen said. “It’s this sort of double jeopardy that I think a lot of people and groups are facing.” Without policies to address them, the effects of these disruptions are likely to persist beyond the immediate stressors of the pandemic, affecting people across their lives. “We’re going to see higher rates of morbidity, illness, chronic disease risks,” Goosby said. “This is a really alarming situation for populations that were already vulnerable.” To help people sleep, we need to make their waking lives better Even in a pandemic, however, widespread sleep deprivation isn’t inevitable. On an individual level, there are changes some people can make that could help them sleep better. First, to the extent possible, people can try to replicate the daily rituals that structured their lives before the pandemic started. “Our sleep loves routine,” Martin said. “When the days look the same, our sleep at night is more predictable.” For a lot of Americans, life looks very different than it did before the pandemic — and everything from shifting work schedules to child care and school disruptions can make it hard to establish a daily routine. But every little bit helps. “For me, one of the things that helped a lot early in the pandemic was to have a start and end time for my work day,” Martin said. “I just would pretend that I was going to go to work, and I would get up and get dressed, and have breakfast and do all the things that I normally would, and start my day, and then have a time that I would just shut down my computer.” Sometimes, however, the modifications people can make on their own aren’t enough. In that case, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people identify thoughts or feelings related to insomnia, has been shown to be highly effective, Martin said. People should also consider visiting a sleep medicine physician, because many people with insomnia also have other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, that may need specialized treatment. The website sleepeducation.org, from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, also has resources to help people sleep better or find a sleep specialist if they need to. “African Americans, in particular, are the most sleep-deprived population in the United States” —Bridget Goosby But unfortunately, these solutions aren’t accessible to everyone. Not everyone has health insurance to pay for therapy, and not everyone has enough control over their schedule to make sure it’s predictable from one day to the next. That’s why experts say ensuring healthy sleep for all will require systemic changes, not just individual fixes, to reduce the fear and uncertainty inherent in American life. Some of those are changes employers can make, like allowing flexible work hours or providing consistent scheduling so that people can plan ahead for work and child care. “Anything that enables employees to get the sleep they need, as long as they’re still doing their job, will improve morale and reduce stress, which can help with sleep as well,” Hale said. Shorter work hours could also help. In one Swedish study, reducing the workweek from 39 hours to 30 hours led to a reduction in sleep problems as well as a reduction in heart and respiratory issues. And while flexibility for working parents in the pandemic is important, it’s not much help if they still have so much work that they need all night to complete it. Then there are larger policy changes. “People tend to think of things like stress and sleep as these highly individualized behaviors or responses,” Boen said. “But they’re entirely shaped and determined by social and political conditions.” Federal, state, and local officials may not be able to end the pandemic, but they can address the stresses that have been exacerbated by it — and that contribute to racial and economic disparities in sleep, Hale said. That means reforms like raising the minimum wage, along with increasing access to affordable health care, both for sleep issues and for general well-being. “If you’re in pain or distress or sick, your sleep is often affected,” Hale said. It also means combating structural racism, from housing segregation to police violence to the school-to-prison pipeline. “One policy is not going to be the thing that fixes sleep,” Goosby said. “We have to have a really big-picture way of thinking about this all holistically.” Ultimately, she added, “sleep is just a symptom.”
Preview: The Inspiration4 mission, led by billionaire Jared Isaacman, will be the first all-civilian crew to enter Earth’s orbit. | Courtesy of Inspiration4/SpaceX The latest SpaceX mission carried souvenirs to space that people can buy when the ship returns to Earth. On Wednesday night, SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission launched the first all-civilian crew into Earth’s orbit. With the help of companies including Sam Adams and Martin Guitars, the three-day trip to space aims to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in what amounts to a charitable spin on the emerging market for very expensive joyrides to space. The fact that the mission is filled with branding opportunities isn’t surprising, given that private space launches are already big streaming and media events. Jared Isaacman, the billionaire founder and CEO of the e-commerce company Ship4Payments, is funding the much-publicized trip. The crew also includes the mission’s pilot, Sian Proctor, a geology professor; Hayley Arceneaux, a St. Jude physician assistant; and Chris Sembroski, an engineer who won his ticket in a raffle. None of the passengers are professional astronauts, and they’ll be relying on SpaceX’s autonomous Crew Dragon capsule to ensure the mission goes smoothly. The Inspiration4 capsule took off a little after 8 pm ET and was carried into space by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket before entering Earth’s orbit around 80 miles beyond the International Space Station (ISS). After about three days of zero gravity and magnificent views — not to mention activities such as a ukulele performance and a video call to a St. Jude patient — the crew will return to Earth, and in late September, Netflix will release a feature-length finale of its five-part reality TV series about the mission. (The first four episodes of the show are already available to watch, and Netflix is streaming the launch on its YouTube page.) The mission also involves a motley payload of gear and collectibles, including merchandise that will be put up for sale in a charity auction after the crew returns to Earth. Those items range from space-themed watches made by IWC to stuffed rocket-ship toys based on characters from the animated Netflix series Space Racers. There’s a $2,000 Martin Guitar ukulele that Sembroski will play on board. The Inspiration4’s official beer maker, Sam Adams, also arranged for 66 pounds of hops to go to space and will brew beer with them once the mission lands (the beer will be available for purchase later in the fall). Perhaps the weirdest of the items is a slew of non-fungible tokens stored on iPhones, including an NFT recording of a Kings of Leon song that’s set to become the first music NFT ever played in space. Bidding for these items starts on Thursday, and the auctions will end in November. Courtesy of Inspiration4 The watchmaker IWC designed Inspiration4-themed watches that crew members will wear during their time in space. While selling stuff that’s been to space isn’t new, it’s about to become a lot more common. NASA, a government agency subject to congressional oversight, has traditionally restricted the commercialization of space missions. But as the number of non-NASA space flights has grown, so have opportunities for space-bound merchandise and product placement. Now, because commercial space companies don’t necessarily operate under NASA’s strict restrictions, there’s a race to seize new marketing opportunities in the cosmos: namely, sending products to space before selling them back on Earth. A brief history of space merchandise NASA itself doesn’t typically sell stuff that’s been to space, but items from NASA missions have found their way to the market in the past. Meanwhile, astronauts are civil servants and are not legally allowed to personally profit from their positions until they retire from government work, limiting when they can sell any personal items they’re allowed to bring on their missions. Other valuable items that have been to space on NASA missions are typically offered to museums or, on rare occasions, sold off by the government. Some of the most remarkable items that have made the trip to space and back before being sold to the public have come from astronauts from the Gemini, Apollo, and Mercury programs, some of whom happened to save equipment from their missions. Regulations surrounding what astronauts could keep from these initial missions amounted to verbal agreements at the time, which has led to some controversy over who had the right to the artifacts. But in 2012, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law confirming that these astronauts indeed had ownership rights over many of these mementos. Now, these items sell for hefty sums: One bag from the Apollo 11 mission that was used by Neil Armstrong to carry samples of moon dust sold at Sotheby’s in 2017 for $1.8 million. NASA also has strict rules against advertising or endorsing products, and it makes very little off of merchandise with branding or iconography. While the space agency’s various logos have appeared on everything from Vans shoes to Forever 21 tops, the images are generally in the public domain, which means they’re free for anyone to use. “People have seen what the historic flown items have sold for and understand that there’s a market for that material, and that those things are valuable and collectible,” said Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s global head of science and pop culture, who works with astronauts on memento auctions. “The reason why they were flown originally — there was no commercial purpose behind it. Their value really is historic.” NASA has started to welcome some commercial deals in recent years. In 2019, the space agency formally announced that it would allow 90 hours of crew time annually for astronauts to pursue marketing activities commissioned by private companies. For instance, Estée Lauder last year paid astronauts to take pictures of a face serum in zero gravity on the ISS. The ISS National Lab has also partnered with Adidas to test its soccer ball on the station, though it’s unclear how useful it is to test a soccer ball in space. All this means that product placement and promotional stunts in space have historically happened without the US space administration. They have, though, had help from Roscosmos, the Russian equivalent of NASA. Over the past several decades, Russia’s space agency has helped advertise milk, ramen, Pepsi, and even Pizza Hut personal pizzas. And if Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is any indication of what’s to come — the movie featured a Hilton hotel on the moon — the trend of private companies using space as a marketing opportunity will only grow. “This exploration of space is not just about exploring the scientific or technical frontiers,” explains Scott Pace, director of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute. “It’s also exploring about, you know, where can the economy go? Where do we expand economic activities beyond the Earth?” Commercial space travel means space gear will become more common Three private space companies have already begun the process of launching very wealthy civilians into space: Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and now Elon Musk’s SpaceX. All three companies have not only sold their own merchandise but have also cleared the way for space-themed branding and marketing opportunities. Virgin Galactic, for example, partnered with Under Armour to sell branded sportswear, including the “spacewear” that Virgin Galactic customers wear on their flights and take home afterward. The space tourism company also collaborated with Land Rover to create an Astronaut Edition Range Rover that’s only available to people who have purchased tickets on a Virgin Galactic flight. The SUV includes a space plane-shaped puddle light, as well as cup holders made out of a piece of the landing skid from one of Virgin Galactic’s first flights. Blue Origin similarly used the launch of its first crewed mission, which included Bezos himself, to debut the first electric vehicle from Rivian (one of the automaker’s biggest investors is Amazon, where Bezos used to work). A few of these kinds of marketing opportunities, however, happen more serendipitously. After Bezos threw Skittles across the space capsule on his Blue Origin flight in July, for instance, Skittles quickly announced it would release a limited-time candy pack called “Zero-G Skittles.” The candymaker told Recode the move was not coordinated ahead of time. We are honored to have heard SKITTLES were aboard #BlueOrigin @JeffBezos is it true #SKITTLES taste better in space?https://t.co/PPdYf6BVCZ — SKITTLES (@Skittles) July 20, 2021 Though the trend in space-based branding and marketing campaigns seems to showcase the worst qualities of American capitalism, some argue there’s a greater good in it all. Most people can’t afford a ticket to space, as prices for space tourism missions are still in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But merchandise and collectibles from these commercial missions mean private space firms can still sell consumers the feeling that they’re at least part of this moment in space history for a lot less money. “By flying our brands, we get to fly along with them,” Robert Pearlman, a space historian who runs the space collectibles website collectSpace, told Recode. “We get to see a little bit more of ourselves in how spaceflight unfolds and say, ‘Yeah, I may not be able to afford a flight to space, but I eat Skittles.’” Sponsored content from celebrities in space might not be far away, either. Plenty of celebrities have already reserved tickets on Virgin Galactic, and Virgin Galactic already has plans to bring a TikTok science influencer on one of its upcoming flights. Meanwhile, the private spaceflight company Axiom Space, which has contracted several flights from SpaceX, is offering a space-themed “content innovation platform” to help companies do product demonstrations and create ads in space. More space-based reality TV is in the works, too, including competition shows that aim to send civilians into space. The Discovery Channel is developing one called Who Wants to Be an Astronaut, and earlier this year, NASA signed off on a show called Space Hero that will send a lucky contestant to the ISS. While commercial space travel feel exciting right now for many, the novelty of billionaires and ordinary people traveling to space for fun might not last forever. But keenly aware of the historic nature of its flight, the Inspiration4 mission is trying to capitalize on the enthusiasm — for charity — that comes with such an event. We’ll see just how much people will be willing to pay for a piece of that history when the mission lands.
Preview: Smoke rising from wildfires on the eastern coast of Australia in late 2019. New research finds that iron in smoke from these fires likely helped fuel an explosion of algae in oceans thousands of miles away. | Courtesy of Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communication Technology Smoke rising from forest fires contains nutrients that can cause algae populations to explode. Two years ago, in the southern Pacific Ocean, an explosion of algae grew to more than 2,000 miles wide — about the width of Australia. Giant algal blooms are often tied to land pollution such as runoff from farmland, which is full of nutrients like nitrogen that these plant-like organisms need to thrive. But there were no nearby farms or factories here in the middle of the ocean. The sprawling bloom was fueled instead by something faraway and unexpected: wildfires thousands of miles to the west. In a landmark new study published in the journal Nature, researchers conclude that smoke rising from Australia’s historic 2019 wildfires drifted out to sea and fertilized vast communities of algae. The smoke, which contained the nutrient iron, gave rise to algal blooms that were together larger than Australia, the authors write. “We know that these fires have catastrophic impacts on local ecosystems,” said Nicolas Cassar, a study co-author and professor of biogeochemistry at Duke University. But by spreading nutrients, he said, “they also impact ecosystems that are thousands of kilometers away.” Courtesy of Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communication Technology A satellite captured this image showing a red-colored plume of smoke and ash over the ocean emanating from Australia’s wildfires in early 2020. As regions from the American West to the Mediterranean grapple with another devastating wildfire season, the study adds a new dimension to our understanding of how climate-fueled disasters are transforming the planet. We’re learning that the impacts of fires go well beyond the human death toll, the leveled homes, and the charred forests. Extreme wildfires are also altering underwater ecosystems far from the flames. How smoke from wildfires can fertilize the ocean As anyone living in the US West knows, wildfire smoke is full of all kinds of stuff that’s toxic to inhale, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Dirty air is one of the most serious public health threats and is known to shave years off of life expectancy. But while harmful to humans, wildfire smoke — which typically contains nutrients like iron and phosphorus — can help algae and plants grow, just as fertilizer might help rescue a wilted house plant. Some of those nutrients come directly from burning forests or grasslands, while others are in dust that fires suck up and loft into the air, said Douglas Hamilton, a researcher at Cornell University who led a recent review on how aerosols affect ocean biogeochemistry. Weiyi Tang et al./Nature Satellite data shows soot from the 2019 wildfires spreading east from Australia. In some cases, smoke settles over the land — as is common in the US, where the wind tends to blow smoke rising from western states toward the East Coast. That’s why the sky above New York was hazy this summer while wildfires were raging in California and Oregon. In other regions, however, air currents send it out to sea. That’s what happened during Australia’s devastating wildfire season that began in 2019, according to the study. Smoke emanating from the fires — which burned 21 percent of the country’s temperate and broadleaf forests — traveled west into the southern Pacific Ocean, where it settled in waters with relatively low iron levels. There, any large source of iron is thought to be “an essential driver of oceanic primary production,” the authors wrote. As a result, the researchers argue, the smoke spurred enormous algal blooms — concentrated in patches south of Australia and far off the western coast of South America. The blooms, shown in red in the below map, peaked in January 2020 and lasted for about four months, the authors said. Weiyi Tang et al./Nature Wildfires in Australia in 2019 fueled large algal blooms, shown in dark red. The results are especially surprising considering that in a typical year, the abundance of algae in these regions is actually lower during Australia’s summer (North America’s winter), according to the study. Scientists have known for years that dust carried by the wind is a source of nutrients for algae, Hamilton said, but they had only an “inkling” that fire played a major role, too. This study is the first to connect large fires to large blooms, they said, which is what makes the work “groundbreaking.” Are fires in California messing with the Pacific Ocean? Massive wildfires have already burned hundreds of thousands of acres in California, the Brazilian Amazon, and Siberia this year. They’ve destroyed homes, wiped out wildlife, and flooded the air with greenhouse gases. Will they also change the biology of nearby oceans? That depends on several factors, experts say, such as the size of the blaze and the direction of the wind. On occasion, for example, smoke from western wildfires will travel out over the Pacific Ocean. That’s what happened during the 2017 Thomas Fire in Southern California, then the largest in the state’s history. Smoke wafted over the Santa Barbara Channel, and research suggests it may have altered the marine ecosystem there. When the authors tested the water during the fire, they found an abnormally high number of certain marine algae called dinoflagellates, said Sasha Kramer, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student at the University of California Santa Barbara. It’s not clear what, exactly, that means for the health of the ecosystem, but different kinds of algae are known to be better or worse at sequestering the carbon they absorb, she said. (The authors didn’t find more algae overall.) Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images A huge cloud of smoke rises from the Thomas Fire, as seen in Ventura, California, in December, 2017. Courtesy of Sasha Kramer Two of the many species of marine algae researchers detected in Southern California during the 2017 Thomas Fire. Elsewhere in the world, research has found a stronger connection between fires and phytoplankton. In 2003, a particularly notable paper linked a 1997 red tide — which choked a coral reef in Sumatra of oxygen, killing fish and the reef itself — to wildfires in Indonesia. “Iron fertilization by the 1997 Indonesian wildfires was sufficient to produce the extraordinary red tide,” the authors wrote, “leading to reef death by asphyxiation.” Wildfire smoke can also cause algae to balloon in freshwater rivers and lakes. “It usually causes a really big bloom response because [the algae] is just sitting there getting fertilized in the sun,” Kramer said. In these cases, however, it’s typically phosphorus rather than iron that the algae need to bloom, Hamilton said. Smoke from wildfires has even been shown to fertilize plants on land. One remarkable study from 2019 found that phosphorus from fires burning in southern Africa traveled all the way to the Amazon Basin, where it fertilized the rainforest. How an increase in severe fires will shape the future of our oceans While wildfires are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change, scientists still aren’t sure what that means for the future of our oceans. As the Nature study shows, fires can spur large algal blooms, but a lot depends on the local environment. If the ecosystem already has plenty of nutrients, for example, an influx of iron or phosphorus might not produce a bloom. Even if there is a bloom, it’s not always clear if it’s good or bad. Phytoplankton, like plants, are photosynthetic, absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow. In a basic sense, more algae mean fewer carbon emissions. That’s why some people have proposed fertilizing the ocean with iron as a way to combat climate change. But even big algal blooms may not absorb enough carbon to offset the CO2 stemming from the wildfires that fuel them. Some kinds of algae are also likely to release the carbon they store back into the atmosphere when they decay, whereas others, such as diatoms, are more likely to lock it up permanently, Kramer said. “The best thing is to not rely on this carbon drawdown from phytoplankton, but to stop emitting CO2 in the first place,” Hamilton said. David Gray/Bloomberg via Getty Images A firefighter in New South Wales, Australia, sprays water on a controlled burn during the country’s devastating 2019 wildfire season. Algal blooms can also wreak havoc on wildlife and throw ecosystems off balance. Blooms in Florida, for example, have killed thousands of fish, and even manatees. They have also caused “dead zones” around the world, including in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay, where there’s not enough oxygen for animals to survive. If nothing else, they’re likely altering the food chain, Hamilton said. This research raises a lot of new questions, such as how fire-fueled phytoplankton affect ocean biology and carbon sinks, and stands to further complicate future climate models. It also highlights an uneasy juxtaposition: We can be both amazed by the science of catastrophe and gravely worried about what it tells us. It’s mind-boggling that fires in Australia are fertilizing oceans off the coast of South America — and troubling to think of what it might mean for the marine animals that live there.
Preview: Dana Rodriguez for Vox As a blind person, it was a conscious investment in my own independence. I touched down in Denver, made my way through the airport, and got an Uber to a restaurant a friend had recommended. I had made a reservation in advance, walked right in, and was seated at the bar. I enjoyed an entrée and a cocktail and caught up on podcasts while I ate my meal. Later, I paid my bill, then took another Uber to my hotel. This all sounds pretty mundane. As a 35-year-old professional, I had gone on a million business trips before, but as a newly minted openly blind person, it was a huge first for me. Checking in with the hostess, ordering the dinner I selected in advance after perusing the menu online, and being just another patron amid the chatter and clinking of dishes in the hip, busy downtown spot made me feel powerful and present in a way that was entirely new — and frankly, the meal was quite delicious. As I settled into my hotel room that night, I thought about the object that made this whole trip possible: my white cane. Wielding the cane in the airport, at the restaurant, and in the hotel made me feel powerful and in control, but I recalled a time when that was not the case. I remembered when pulling out the white cane filled me with shame. It was the symbol of my failure to be sighted. I was born with a genetic, degenerative eye condition that meant the cells in my retina responsible for light perception were either severely damaged or nonfunctional. I was effectively “night blind,” but I had pretty good daytime vision, depth perception, and acuity. As a child and then a young adult, I could mostly “fake it” as a sighted person. With eyes that appeared to track the world around me and no white cane or guide dog to mark me as blind to sighted people, my disability was well hidden. And, surrounded by a sighted family, classmates, and teachers, that’s what I was encouraged to do. I went through life without interacting much at all with other blind people, except for the mobility instructors that my mom arranged for me through our state’s blind services agency starting when I was in elementary school. They would pull me out of regular classes during the day to train me on how to use a white cane. My pretty good daytime vision, however, made it hard for me to see the benefits of the cane, and I spent most of these sessions making sure none of my classmates saw me with this strange device. Whenever I practiced with the instructor, I felt awkward and somewhat like a fraud — I could still see well, and I feared people would think I was faking being blind. Still, I did absorb much of what these mobility instructors, some of whom were blind themselves, taught me. I learned different cane strokes, swiping across the ground in front of me or using the “two-point touch” to tap at shoulder-width intervals. I learned how to navigate stairs and avoid bumping into obstacles in my path. I mastered street crossings, listening carefully for parallel traffic as the signal that it was safe to cross. By middle school, I had the cane skills pretty much down pat. But even at that young age, I subconsciously understood ableism and loathed the idea that people who saw me with the cane would think I was weak, deserving of pity, or worse, an amazing inspiration simply because I was able to move at all. At school, I tried to avoid things like dropping a pencil on the ground. As I’d feel around for my fallen writing implement, I would hear the jeers of the boys in my class as they laughed and called me “blindy.” At the time, I thought, how dare they lob this horrible slur at me? It makes sense now, considering neither they nor I had learned anything in school about disability. I never saw characters that experienced the world like I did in the literature we read or the history we learned. My blindness was invisible to everyone, and I participated in the game of sweeping it under the rug. I remembered when pulling out the white cane filled me with shame. It was the symbol of my failure to be sighted. Those feelings persisted into my teenage years and young adulthood. In college, my cane remained tucked away, out of sight in my bag. The one time I tried to use it, walking down Broadway in New York City (where I went to school), some kid yelled out, “Why’s she using that, she’s not blind!” This instantly pulled me back into my shell of secrecy and shame, reacting to the dissonance created by my partial sight and use of the cane. It would be years before I tried displaying the outward trappings of my disability, instead opting for the more discreet, albeit less convenient, approach of holding onto other people’s arms for guidance when I couldn’t see. I began to lose vision rapidly in my late 20s, and that loss defined how I navigated life. I set limits on where I would go, I turned down social invitations, I was afraid to venture out by myself at night. Still, my desire to obscure what was happening to me was paramount, even above my own physical safety. It took some serious brushes with calamity — including falling into the train tracks at Penn Station because I wasn’t using a cane and missed the edge of the platform — that led me to wake up and realize that if I didn’t change my attitude, I could seriously harm myself, or even lose my life. My denial of disability was starting to look more like a death wish. I didn’t want my vision loss to be the end of me. I found a new mobility instructor as a free service through the state commission for the blind and learned to navigate New York City. For one hour every week, an extremely kind, patient woman walked beside me while I felt my way through subway stations and navigated intersections. Gradually, she started walking behind me, forcing me to feel more comfortable being seen alone with the cane. One day, she gave me an address to travel to on my own and said she would meet me there. That was the first time I walked the streets and rode the subway with my cane and felt completely fine about it; there was no twinge of shame or embarrassment. When I found my instructor at our designated meeting spot, I had a huge grin on my face. I learned, bit by bit, not to care who was looking at me or what they were saying. Once I began to tune all of that out, I started to understand how this 54-inch length of graphite was changing my orientation to the world. I could go anywhere at any time. I wasn’t constrained by shame and fear. The cane, I came to accept, was my best tool to participate in the world on equal footing with my sighted peers. According to the 2018 National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 32.2 million adults in the US (or about 13 percent of the adult population) reported either having trouble seeing even with glasses or contact lenses, or being partially or completely blind. The way people deal with it varies: Some prefer to only walk with sighted assistance, some use white canes, others prefer guide dogs. Canes give you a lot of advanced information when walking; you can feel bumps in the sidewalk, curbs, and abandoned scooters that people dump in the middle of the sidewalk. The cane offers a wealth of information in each swipe, and for me this made it indispensable. Up until that point, I had relied on a series of free canes given to me by various mobility instructors at various points in my life. When I moved to Washington, DC, and started hanging out with more blind people, I discovered the world of cane variety. There are marshmallow tips (a big ball at the end of your cane that literally looks like a giant marshmallow) and pencil tips and roller tips. People even get cool bling for their canes, like sparkly charms with rhinestones that you can hang from the hand strap. Suddenly, I felt that my tattered, beat-up, free cane from the New York State Commission for the Blind was just not up to par. So I invested in my first white cane. I chose a 59-inch graphite folding cane from Ambutech with a marshmallow tip, as recommended by another blind friend. It cost $34.32, and I was so excited when it arrived in its fresh plastic wrapping. This was the first time I had been able to pick out the cane I wanted. I selected the length and chose an accent color — a cheerful, bright-pink strip at the bottom to complement the white body of the cane. By buying the cane with my own money and in consultation with other cane users, the experience of blindness was no longer a burden I bore alone; it was a cultural marker that bound me closer to a community I had begun to fall in love with. It was my first true investment into my identity as a blind person — an object that would unmistakably mark me as disabled — and I was proud and delighted. I felt incredible joy in joining the ranks of my blind friends, all of us forming a crowd of white canes and guide dogs. I now have multiple canes for all occasions and needs, and I swap between them like outfits in my closet. Gone are the days of hiding my cane away, folded in the depths of my purse. When it’s in my hand, I feel seen. I am unabashedly present in a world that perpetually wants to erase me and my disabled community. Now, wherever I’m going, that cane is coming with me, and I’m up for whatever solo adventure comes my way. Qudsiya Naqui is a lawyer, disability justice activist, and host of the podcast Down to the Struts about disability, design, and intersectionality.
Preview: People walk next to houses damaged by flash floods in eastern Afghanistan, on July 31. | AFP via Getty Images Everything is at stake for Afghanistan at this year’s UN climate conference. After decades of foreign intervention and violent conflict, the American mission in Afghanistan has ended and the Taliban have announced a new government. But for millions of Afghans, human-induced climate change has only magnified the strife. Most of Afghanistan is dry and hot for much of the year, and from 1950 to 2010, the landlocked country warmed 1.8 degrees Celsius — about twice the global average, but it is only responsible for a tiny fraction of greenhouse gas emissions. The combined impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, war, and prolonged drought threaten millions of Afghans with food insecurity. Although rainfall in Afghanistan has long varied, certain farming regions in the east, north, and central highlands are seeing up to 40 percent less rain during the spring, when the largely rain-fed crops will need water most. A majority of Afghans earn some income from farming. Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images The death toll was said to have hit over 100, with hundreds of homes destroyed, as a result of floods in Afghanistan in late August. To avoid the most devastating impacts for Afghanistan, experts have stressed that the US and the international community must commit to deeper cuts to carbon emissions and help developed countries to become more resilient in the face of environmental calamities. At the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this November, nearly 200 world governments have the chance to make good on their commitments to keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, in line with the 2016 Paris climate agreement. Developing countries are already asking some of the world’s top economies to further slash emissions, and to provide financial help with adapting to climate change and transitioning to clean energy through mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund. Before the Taliban took over, Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency planned to submit its updated climate pledge at the conference. It planned to ask for more financial assistance for projects to improve water management, as well as smart agriculture implementations to improve farm productivity and reduce environmental harm. Ahmad Samim Hoshmand was set to represent Afghanistan at COP26. But now he’s one of the thousands of Afghan people to flee, as the Taliban swept through major cities and assumed power. As national ozone officer for the United Nations Environment Program, Hoshmand’s work to enforce the global ban on ozone-depleting substances made him an enemy of people trading them. Having already worked a risky job in Afghanistan, Hoshmand now fears retribution as a refugee. But despite the security threats facing him and his home country, Hoshmand stresses, “If we don’t address climate change, conflict and violence will only get worse.” Members of the Taliban have said they want recognition from the international community and to work together to tackle shared concerns like global warming. But how? For help answering this question, I called Hoshmand, who was in Tajikistan. Our discussion, edited for length and clarity, is below. This interview was conducted in late August, prior to the announcement of the new Taliban-formed government. Jariel Arvin What are the major ways climate change is currently affecting Afghanistan? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand Afghanistan is among the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to climate change, based on its geography, sensitivity to, and ability to cope with global warming. I’m 100 percent sure that when you add conflict to those criteria, Afghanistan is the most vulnerable country in the world. Various data shows that the country is facing food insecurity, water scarcity, drought, and flash floods. All these issues are connected to climate change, and in recent years, we have witnessed the situation get even worse. We’ve had extreme weather like floods in the north, while at the same time, we’ve experienced drought in the southern part of Afghanistan. But there are also indirect impacts of climate change on Afghan society. Violence, conflict, human rights abuses, and underage marriage are linked with climate change. Eighty-five percent of Afghanistan’s economy depends on agriculture. So when farmers lose their livelihoods, they will do whatever they can to survive. In a fragile country like Afghanistan, the alternatives are often dangerous. Jariel Arvin What was Afghanistan doing to address climate change before the Taliban took over? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand In recent years, we’ve been actively engaging in a multilateral process to fight climate change with the aim of enhancing equality, knowledge sharing, and partnership with countries across the world. We’ve been especially focused on engaging with countries who share common interests of socioeconomic development and sustainable growth. Afghanistan has taken a number of actions at the national level, policy and planning level, and international level. Jariel Arvin Are there any specific policies or actions you can point to? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand We have taken lots of practical actions, like developing a climate change strategy and action plan. We also completed a greenhouse gas inventory for the first time in the history of Afghanistan, which was a very big achievement for us. We secured more than $20 million in grants and financing from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), to support the development of renewable energy. At the same time, we’ve also improved our national climate targets in accordance with the 2016 Paris agreement. We were planning on submitting them at COP26. Jariel Arvin Do you have any idea what the updated plan will be? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand Not at this stage. I hope my colleagues can participate, but given the current situation it is quite difficult to arrange everything. At the very least, I’d like to see space for Afghanistan at COP26. There should not be an empty chair. There should be someone representing the country, and that person should share at the leadership level that Afghanistan is the most vulnerable country in the world, and we need financial support to cope with climate change shocks, for the sake of our children and the next generation. Jariel Arvin Are you still going? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand I was on the list. And if the situation calms down, and if my colleagues resume office, then I will participate. I’d love to represent my country. Jariel Arvin Let’s say the Taliban didn’t take over this year. How would you have worked to address climate change if you were still a part of the government? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand My colleagues from the National Environmental Protection Agency who remained in Kabul are still working to go to COP26. Everyone is waiting for the government to be announced. Once we have a government, then I’m sure that climate experts will go to the Taliban and tell them the urgency and the importance of sending a delegation to COP26. Jariel Arvin I’ve read reports that the Taliban are seeking international recognition and that they want to work with other countries to fight climate change. Do you believe them? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand A decade ago, when someone in Afghanistan spoke about climate change, it was something that you had to imagine. Now it’s visible. So governments have to work with each other in order to survive. You can’t stop drought, floods, or landslides. In order to survive, governments have to address the problem. There’s no choice but to deal with climate change. Jariel Arvin So are you saying that since climate change is an existential issue that threatens the future of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s commitment can be taken seriously? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand I hope so. If they know that there are very serious issues we’re facing, and that we cannot do something about them without the support of the international community, then of course they will come up with some good decisions in this regard. Jariel Arvin How might the international community work with the Taliban on climate change? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand Climate change is different from internal issues, economic issues, or even peace and sustainability. It is a matter of life and death — of a community, of government, of a people. My family is still there. If climate change is not managed well, they might flee Afghanistan one day — not because of war but because of climate-related disasters. Despite other political issues, the international community needs to help the people of Afghanistan. There are very remote communities where most people don’t know about climate change. They don’t know why there are floods, why there is drought, why there is uncertainty with national disasters. And it is the climate expert’s mandate to take care of them. Jariel Arvin So you’re saying that most people in Afghanistan, like farmers and people who are working in the agriculture sector, aren’t aware of climate change? Samim Hoshmand Absolutely not. They’re aware that something has changed in nature. They know that today’s situation is not like previous decades, but they don’t know the cause. They’re religious people, and they aren’t knowledgeable about the science of climate change. It is the duty of the international community to support Afghanistan in adapting to climate change shocks and impacts. Jariel Arvin How would you spend aid from the international community? What’s the best way to bring the most relief to people in Afghanistan? What kind of projects? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand If I’m very optimistic, we can implement projects in very remote areas, which we have not accessed in previous years. That would also be an opportunity to somehow adapt to the climate change shocks in Afghanistan, and implement projects in very remote and foreign and unsecure places. Projects that help limit risk and exposure to natural disasters, investing in smart agriculture and adaptation projects for ecosystem restoration and reconstruction. We also need projects that improve early warning systems and water management. Jariel Arvin Some reports have suggested that climate change has helped the Taliban. Do you think that’s a fair assessment? Ahmad Samim Hoshmand When people lose their ability to farm, which is their main source of income, they become more willing to work with opposing entities to regain their livelihoods. When people are hungry, they will do anything to make ends meet. If we don’t address climate change, the conflict and violence will only get worse.
Preview: President Biden campaigns for California Gov. Gavin Newsom in Long Beach on September 13. | David McNew/Getty Images The recall attempt was essentially an effort to hack California’s electoral system. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has beaten back an attempt by Republicans to recall him from that office. Many votes remain to be counted in the state, but Newsom’s lead looks solid — well over 60 percent of votes on the recall question are for keeping Newsom in office. The result is a vindication of Newsom’s strategy of framing the contest as between himself and the leading Republican candidate to replace him, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder. But the tumultuous and expensive road here shows that the recall system remains a ticking time bomb for Democrats, even if it didn’t go off this time. The recall attempt was born out of conservative frustration with Newsom’s governance. The strategy of pushing the recall now rather than waiting for the ordinarily scheduled governor’s race next year was an attempt to essentially hack California’s electoral system, because the bizarrely designed recall system gave conservatives an unusually high chance of winning. If Newsom had failed to top 50 percent of the vote on the recall question, he would have been ousted. Then whoever came in first place in the crowded field of candidates running to replace him would have become governor — even if they got far less than 50 percent of the overall vote. Newsom was prohibited from running as a replacement candidate himself. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder (center) seen with supporters during a campaign stop in Norwalk, California, on July 13. So there was a strange asymmetry: Newsom needed a majority on the recall question to stay in office, but his replacement could have won with a small slice of the vote. This thrilled conservatives, since a conservative candidate has little chance of winning a typical two-candidate California election. And for a while this summer, this outcome looked somewhat plausible in polls — the Democratic base was disengaged, and some polls on the recall question were nearly tied. Newsom’s strategy to prevent this was to ensure no credible Democrats entered the race as replacement candidates, and then to frame voters’ choice as really being about Newsom or Elder, who he argued was far too conservative to be governor. That wasn’t just clever spin — once the field took shape, that choice quickly did become the reality voters faced, as shown in the polls reflecting Republican voters’ preferences. Elder led nearly every poll of the replacement question since July, and most by double digits. The other Republican candidates, like 2018 governor nominee John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, had far less support. Much of the Republican base simply flocked to the bombastic and controversial talk radio host. Republican voters chose to make him the preeminent Republican candidate. But Elder’s share of the vote never came close to topping 50 percent, even with many Democrats abstaining from the replacement question. So when Newsom pointed out that Elder could become governor with far less than a majority of the vote unless Democrats turned out en masse to keep him, he was telling the truth. Unless the system is reformed, more recall attempts from conservatives seem likely Overall, the recall drive has reemphasized just how easy it can be to get a recall on the ballot. Conservative activists just needed to get signatures of 12 percent of the voters who turned out in the last governor’s election. And even in California, 38 percent of voters backed Newsom’s GOP opponent last time around, so with the proper shoe leather and funding, that wasn’t a difficult threshold to meet. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images People cast ballots in the California gubernatorial recall election in Beverly Hills on September 14. So with conservatives seemingly unable to win ordinary statewide elections in California, expect future attempts to try to dislodge Democrats through the recall. This time around, the strategy didn’t work out. But in 2003, it did, and perhaps in the future it could again, given the right circumstances. Even if Democrats are hesitant to try to eliminate the recall altogether (voters generally don’t like power being taken away from voters), reforming its bizarre asymmetrical structure seems like a no-brainer for them. Possibilities include allowing the incumbent to run as a replacement candidate, using ranked-choice voting for the replacement question, or ditching the replacement candidates altogether and just have the lieutenant governor take over in case of recall. Any change would have to get voters’ approval, but perhaps that would be doable with the specter of Gov. Elder still looming large in many minds.
Preview: The recent surge in Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia has throttled ports and locked down plantations and processors, sparking extended disruptions of raw materials such as palm oil, coffee and tin.
Preview: The Biden administration’s push to introduce widespread vaccine boosters faces a test as a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel meets to weigh evidence on the extra shots, a topic that has divided federal health officials.
Preview: Companies preparing to implement the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate face logistical challenges and unanswered questions about how to comply, employment and compensation lawyers say.
Preview: Disclosures might be required soon on the amount of greenhouse gases released, but for now uniform reporting standards are lacking.
Preview: Company documents show antivaccine activists undermined the CEO’s ambition to support the rollout by flooding the site and using Facebook’s own tools to sow doubt about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Preview: Americans increased spending at retailers last month, while employers have largely resisted the urge to lay off workers, both signs of strong demand in the economy.
Preview: A decade ago, it was a trade club led by the U.S. seeking to limit the influence of China’s economic model. Now Washington is out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Beijing wants in.
Preview: The review follows news of stock trading by the Dallas and Boston Fed leaders.
Preview: The World Bank canceled a prominent report rating the business environment of the world’s countries after a probe concluded that senior bank management pressured staff to alter data affecting the ranking of China and other nations.
Preview: The Justice Department, continuing its fight against a roughly $4.5 billion settlement that would shield the family who owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma from opioid lawsuits, wants to pause the deal until after appeals courts have weighed in.
Preview: President Biden signed an executive order authorizing the Treasury and State departments to sanction government officials involved in the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia amid reports of atrocities in the country’s Tigray region. The executive order does not immediately sanction any person or government entity but rather grants U.S. agencies the ...
Preview: ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The top U.S. military officer said Friday that calls he made to his Chinese counterpart in the final stormy months of Donald Trump's presidency were "perfectly within the duties and responsibilities" of his job. In his first public comments on the conversations, Gen. Mark A. Milley ...
Preview: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is reviewing its policies on housing transgender inmates in the federal prison system after protections for transgender prisoners were rolled back in the Trump administration, The Associated Press has learned. The federal Bureau of Prisons’ policies for transgender inmates were thrust into the spotlight ...
Preview: WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — The first Black police chief in Waterloo, Iowa, is facing intense opposition from some current and former officers as he works with city leaders to reform the department, including the removal of its longtime insignia that resembles a Ku Klux Klan dragon. Joel Fitzgerald says his ...
Preview: MOSCOW (AP) — An app created by allies of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny disappeared from Apple and Google stores on Friday as polls opened across Russia for three days of voting in a parliamentary election. It comes as Russian authorities seek to suppress the use of Smart Voting, ...
Preview: LANDOVER — Dustin Hopkins wanted someone to check on his mom. If she had been watching “Thursday Night Football,” she would have seen her son miss a 48-yard kick in the final seconds — only for him to get a second chance. New York’s Dexter Lawrence jumped offsides, pushing the ...
Preview: LANDOVER — Taylor Heinicke couldn’t make things neat because nothing is rarely ever neat for the Washington Football Team. In his first start after Ryan Fitzpatrick’s injury, the Washington quarterback committed a mistake so major that even those who loved to label the former starter “FitzTragic” would blush. Ahead in ...
Preview: Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump over the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, has decided not to seek reelection, citing in part the “toxic dynamics” within the GOP. Mr. Gonzalez, a former National Football League player, represents the ...
Preview: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe painted his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin as a “wannabe” of Donald Trump, continuing his efforts to tie Mr. Youngkin to the former president. Mr. McAuliffe was posed a question on Thursday during a debate against Mr. Youngkin on why he has invoked Mr. Trump in ...
Preview: Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin made a pitch to strengthen election integrity in the state, but stopped short of making claims that voter fraud is a major problem. Mr. Youngkin advocated for voter IDs and clean voter rolls in his bid for governor during Thursday night’s debate against former ...
Preview: LOS ANGELES, CA—One day after Governor Newsom fended off recall and secured the continuation of his reign, swarms of Californians descended upon Los Angeles International Airport desperate to escape. As planes filled and people began getting turned away, mothers attempted to pass their babies over the fence of the tarmac, and others clung to the landing gear of the last departing planes. The post Californians Desperate To Escape Cling To Landing Gear Of Last Jet Leaving LAX appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: HOUSTON, TX—According to sources, Pastor Joel Osteen entered his Lakewood Church today, only to find the lobby filled with tables with Bibles on them for free—tables that could be covered with his books and merchandise for sale. The post Enraged Joel Osteen Flips Over Tables Being Used To Give Bibles Away Instead Of Selling His Book appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: SACRAMENTO, CA—California Republicans are still reeling from a massive loss in the recall election, with almost 64% voting to keep Governor Gavin Newsom. They blame the loss on a combination of voter fraud — helped by shenanigans with mail-in ballots — and Newsom getting more people to vote to keep him than to remove him. The post Newsom Win Blamed On Combination Of Voter Fraud And Having More People Vote For Him appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: CULVER CITY, CA—Jeopardy! has been having trouble finding a host that everyone in the country agrees with and is worthy enough to ask people trivia questions. To that end, producers in Hollywood, who have a lot of contacts with pagan gods, are borrowing Mjölnir from Asgard. The post 'Jeopardy!' To Be Hosted By Whoever Is Found Worthy To Wield Mjölnir appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: U.S.—National productivity plummeted this week as workers across the country have been doing nothing but binge-watching Norm Macdonald clips since Tuesday. From classic Saturday Night Live clips like his "Celebrity Jeopardy!" appearance to his constant roasting of OJ Simpson and excerpts where he confounds late-night hosts with his meta-anti-jokes, millions of Norm clips were getting passed around like crazy, causing everyone to stop doing their jobs and laugh like hyenas. "It's crazy—no one has done any work since Tuesday afternoon," said one financial analyst. "Entire businesses are in shambles, whole industries are collapsing. No one has so much as fiddled with an Excel spreadsheet for three days." At publishing time, the writer of this article had cut it short as he was too busy watching a clip of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee guest-starring Norm and just didn't have time to finish it off. The post Nation's Productivity Down 97% As Everyone Binge-Watching Norm Macdonald Clips All Day appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: WASHINGTON, D.C.—During testimony in front of Congress Thursday, General Mark Milley admitted that he committed treason but pointed out that he had to do so in order to prevent Trump from committing treason. The post General Milley: 'I Had To Commit Treason To Prevent Trump From Committing Treason' appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: ATLANTA, GA—The CDC has cautioned Americans against taking the red pill, as it can lead to severe side effects such as "realizing the truth about the way our society is manipulated by the elites" and "spending all your time on YouTube watching Jordan Peterson videos." The post CDC Cautions Against Taking The Red Pill appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: WASHINGTON, D.C.—A tranquil morning at the Democratic Party headquarters this morning was interrupted by a sudden piercing sound: the "Black People Expressing Unapproved Opinions" alarms installed throughout the building. The post Sirens Blaring At Democratic Headquarters As Black Woman Expresses Unapproved Opinion appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Gavin Newsom is smelling victory after his blowout win in the California recall election. The post Homeless Spell Out ‘Congrats, Gavin Newsom’ In Poo On The Streets Of California appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: HEAVEN—Millions around the world are converting to the Christian religion after Heaven announced they now have nightly Norm MacDonald stand-up comedy every night forever. The post Millions Convert To Christianity After Heaven Begins Advertising Norm Macdonald Shows appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: Taco Bell is testing a 30-day subscription service in which subscribers pay $5 to $10 a month for a Taco Lovers Pass that allows them one taco a day. What do you think? Read more...
Preview: California governor Gavin Newsom has defeated a Republican effort to remove him from office in a recall election, with incomplete returns already showing ‘no’ votes ahead by a margin of 30 points. What do you think? Read more...
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Preview: MARANA, AZ—Calling it a clear recapitulation of what other scientific authors had published years or even decades ago, sources confirmed Thursday that local fourth-grader Liam Nicholson’s report on anacondas largely rehashed established research. “While there are some real nuggets of true brilliance, and the… Read more...
Preview: NEW YORK—With the region descending into chaos much sooner than intelligence experts expected, the Taliban overtook Lower Manhattan Thursday, less than a week after the Biden administration left a memorial event at the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood. “It now appears evident that when President… Read more...
Preview: WASHINGTON—In an effort to dare pry where the mainstream media would not, Tucker Carlson announced Thursday that he would be putting his life on the line by getting a booster shot for a Fox News investigation into the Covid-19 vaccine. “God only knows what will happen to me when I take this shot, which is why I’ve… Read more...
Preview: LOS ANGELES—Treating viewers to a taste of the franchise’s upcoming plans, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The 10 Rings reportedly concluded with a post-credits scene that hinted fans could probably skip the rest of the Marvel movies. “Stick around after the credits because Marvel is teasing that they’re basically out of… Read more...
Preview: DURHAM, NC—Throwing together a bunch of unused polynucleotides that would otherwise have gone to waste, a team of geneticists and biomedical engineers at Duke University told reporters Thursday they had developed a new hybrid creature from various scraps of DNA they had lying around their lab. “Over the course of our… Read more...
Preview: WASHINGTON—According to the results of a new poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans would swap democracy for a $100 Best Buy gift card. “Our research found that 72% of Americans would agree to give up all free and fair elections in the U.S. forever in exchange for a $100… Read more...