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1/6 Defendant Charged With Tasing Fanone Allegedly Talked of Assassinating President Biden

The Jan. 6 defendant repeatedly cried during his FBI interview in which he said he attacked the police officer. His lawyer now wants the interview thrown out.
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Hochul keeps mask mandate as COVID cases trend down, some of LI defies order
Hochul has also threatened that the state Education Department could withhold funding from defiant Long Island schools, should they continue to flout the statewide mandate.
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El Chapo allegedly whacked the men who forced him to pay $500K for long johns
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Biden’s inflation problem, in stark relief
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Gabby Petito's and Brian Laundrie's families agree on dividing couple's belongings, lawyer says
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Jen Psaki defends Joe Biden jab at reporter’s ‘stupid’ Ukraine question
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that President Biden called a reporter's question about Ukraine-Russia tensions "stupid" because its premise was incorrect.
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Texas judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal workers
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Former South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh faces 27 new charges
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Are January blues a bad sign for Duke? Mike Krzyzewski has been here before, but team is young
Duke already has lost three games this season, two of them since Jan. 8. How will this team respond in Coach K's final hurrah?
Gabby Petito case: FBI closing investigation into disappearance and death of the 22-year-old
The FBI announced Friday that it is closing its investigation into the homicide of Gabby Petito and the subsequent suicide of her former fiancé, Brian Laundrie, who was previously named a person of interest in her murder.
Inside John Legend & Chrissy Teigen’s two NYC penthouses listed for $18M
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UK government garden party before Prince Philip's funeral: report details wine, pizza, and a slide
Boris Johnson faces further headaches as details of the ill-timed and inappropriate garden party only increase public anger at flagrant disregard by government officials.
Josh Duggar requests new trial or acquittal in child pornography case
Josh Duggar has asked a federal judge for a new trial or an acquittal six weeks after he was convicted of receiving and possessing child pornography.
Louie Anderson, comedian and Emmy-winning TV actor, dies at 68
For four decades, he mined laughs from his Minnesota upbringing and his girth. He won an Emmy Award in 2016 as the unlikely matriarch on the quirky, earnest TV comedy “Baskets."
Why a 3-Dose Vaccine for Young Kids Might Actually Work Out
For many months now, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been slowly making its way into smaller arms in smaller doses—from teens to adolescents to elementary-school-age kids in the fall. Now it’s just the under-5 crowd left, and the word on the lips of parents raring to protect their children is still, simply, when. Somehow, no one yet seems to know.Back in September, the party line was that under-5 trial data would arrive “before the end of the year,” as Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla declared at The Atlantic Festival. Those data never appeared. Instead, the week before Christmas, Pfizer announced in a maddeningly cryptic press release that two little-kid-size doses of vaccine had failed to elicit a hefty-enough immune response in 2-, 3-, and 4-year olds in late-stage trials. (Doubly dosed kids in the six-month-to-2-year-old range, though, did produce enough antibodies to satisfy the company’s criteria.) But the company had a plan—researchers would test a third injection eight weeks after the second—and a new timeline, with data arriving in the “first half of 2022,” maybe April-ish. Add to that the few weeks the FDA typically takes to review the data submitted for emergency-use authorization, and the earliest shots for this group are still probably two or three months away.Then, this week, the White House’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, seemed to drop a mysterious bombshell: Surprise! Perhaps a trio of mini shots will be greenlit for use in kids under 5 “within the next month or so”—weeks ahead of the updated schedule. But he quickly backpedaled—that was just a hope, and absolutely not a guarantee. The predictions on when we’ll get the data, much less the shots, have ricocheted all the way back to idk I guess spring?[Read: COVID parenting has passed the point of absurdity]Amid all this chaos, Pfizer still hasn’t publicized any data from this youngest age group; if federal officials have that information, they, too, are staying mum. (I reached out to the CDC, which pointed me to the FDA, which pointed me to Pfizer, which said: “Unfortunately we are not offering any interviews on this right now.” Unfortunately indeed.) Parents who just want to know what’s happening are now, understandably, feeling pretty jerked around by all this talk of later? sooner? who knows! “The wait has been excruciating,” Risa Hoshino, a public-health pediatrician in New York City, told me. “They feel the world has moved on without them.” Families have been asking “every single day,” she said, when infant-and-toddler vaccines will finally make their public debut.Hoshino can’t give a definitive answer; outside of Pfizer and BioNTech, and perhaps the FDA, few people can even try. (Remember, no public data.) Still, several experts I spoke with this week remain optimistic that kids under 5 will get shots within the next few months. After seeing disappointing results in the original iteration of its trial, Pfizer took something of a gamble by adding one more small dose to the series for under-5s. But there may be good reason to believe that this bet, the company’s first official departure from the standard two-shot primary series, will pay off spectacularly. The company’s new kid-dosing strategy, experts told me, was likely designed to marry logistics to science—something that would fast-track the vaccine’s rollout while keeping the shots’ risk-benefit ratio ultrahigh.In some ways, vaccines are vaccines are vaccines. But tailoring them to individual populations—which each harbor different needs, risks, and vulnerabilities—is essential to doling them out right. Dosing is a balancing act: The more vaccine in each shot, the likelier that shot is to rile up the immune system—and the likelier it is to make the experience of getting the injection pretty uncomfortable. That means “we’re after the smallest dose possible that will still be as effective as possible,” says Buddy Creech, a pediatric-infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who’s leading a study of Moderna’s pediatric COVID vaccine. Pfizer already intentionally shrank the dose: Adults have been getting 30 micrograms of mRNA in each injection; in the under-5s, the company is trying three micrograms apiece. But the hope is still to, roughly, get “the response to the childhood vaccine to match what we see in adults,” typically measured by antibody counts, Creech told me. So if a pair of injections weren’t quite enough to get 2-to-4-year-olds there, a bonus third shot could be expected to push them over the top. “I’m hopeful,” Sallie Permar, a pediatrician, immunologist, and vaccinologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center, told me. “The only way to go, really, is up.”It helps to first consider what Pfizer’s other choices might have been. Subpar antibody levels in the blood might suggest that the vaccines couldn’t quite convince little bodies to take them seriously. One option could have involved sticking with two doses, but spacing them further apart—essentially giving the immune system more time to mull what it means to fight SARS-CoV-2. That strategy has been shown, at least in adults, to buoy the quantity, quality, and longevity of immune responses, and parts of Canada have been pursuing it for months in 5-to-11-year-old kids. Another alternative could have been to simply increase the dose, while keeping all else the same; each would deliver a sharper, and perhaps more memorable, scolding to defensive cells. Kids could then stay on the speediest possible track to sufficient protection: three weeks between doses, then another two of immunological cook time. “In a pandemic, you want to do that as fast as humanly possible,” Hoshino said. If Pfizer’s three-dose strategy pans out, the five-week timeline balloons to three months.[Read: Why are we microdosing vaccines for kids?]But revamping the two-dose strategy would have also restarted the clock on trials and meant recruiting and enrolling a new cohort of participants. A series of injections, potential side effects, and weeks of blood draws and other follow-ups are a cumbersome commitment for a person of any age, and “the hardest trials to get done are these young ones,” Permar said. “It’s never easy to ask a parent to consider more procedures, especially for toddlers, who are going to cry.” Even vaccine trials for older kids struggled to reach capacity. Tacking on a third dose, then, ends up being the most time-efficient option—not necessarily to get each individual child to the end of a vaccine series, but to obtain regulatory authorization, and to roll out first shots to the public.A two-big-dose option could also be unsavory for another reason—an increased chance of side effects, including fever, fatigue, and headaches, or perhaps something much rarer but more severe. In teenage boys and young men, mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s have been linked to cases of heart inflammation, though new results from the 5-to-11-year-old crowd suggest that younger kids may be spared. In any case, dose definitely matters: When it comes to vaccinating super-young kids, whose risk of contracting serious cases of COVID-19 remains relatively low, the shots “have to be supersafe, remarkably safe,” Permar said. “These are healthy, young children who might not be able to say, ‘I feel crummy.’” Perhaps the three-microgram dose was already producing some discomfort. (Do we know? No—again, there’s no data.)It might have been unwise, then, to go up to the next dose in size, the one for 5-to-11-year-olds—which, at 10 micrograms, is a more-than-threefold increase. Creech agrees: Any worries about shot tolerability could end up subjecting study participants to a bevy of irksome tests, and causing distress for the entire family. These concerns and more were part of the logic that motivated Pfizer to choose the three-microgram dose for the under-5s in the first place: In an early-phase study, that was the tiniest dose tested that still coaxed out decent numbers of antibodies in children as young as six months. It’s not clear why those results didn’t carry over perfectly into the company’s more recent trials. But Creech told me that if he’s going to hear deflating news from a kids’ vaccine trial, he’d rather it be about lackluster antibody levels than troubling side effects. With kids this young, “we’re going to put a little more weight on our safety foot than our effectiveness foot.”And three smaller doses could even be more effective than two slightly larger ones. Raising defenses to a threat is a costly endeavor for the body; sometimes, the immune system just needs another nudge before it decides to commit. Some vaccines in the pediatric-medicine roster are already doled out in two, three, or even five doses for that reason. Without Pfizer’s data, it’s impossible to know just how far below the desired threshold kids’ antibody levels fell after two three-microgram doses, but “I have to imagine they already weren’t too far off,” Permar told me. And because each shot should build on the last, three doses could succeed where two have failed.Waiting two months to give the third dose should “refine and mature” toddlers’ immune responses, Creech said. Their bodies will spend that limbo period studying and restudying the doses they’ve already gotten, and sharpening their SARS-CoV-2-sniping skills. Third shots can also goad the immune system into broadening its range of coronavirus-fighting tools, so that kids end up ready to duel even antibody-dodging variants such as Omicron. (And third doses, when injected after a delay, don’t seem to produce any more side effects than seconds, probably because the body gets the chance to cool down in the interim, based on studies in adults.) “Keeping the dose low and adding on a third just makes a ton of sense,” Permar said. Toddlers could even help pave the path to an initial trio of COVID shots being standard fodder for all.[Read: COVID parenting is reaching a breaking point]One smidgen of weirdness remains: why kids under 2 beat out their slightly older peers, as Pfizer reported in December. The magnitude of the difference isn’t yet known. (Imagine, if you will, what might be helpful here: data.) But sussing out this discrepancy could reveal some peculiarities about how immune systems transition from infancy to toddlerhood. Permar pointed out that kids’ immune systems are much more quick-witted than adults’: They can learn a lot from very little vaccine. (That’s why pediatric vaccines are dosed by immunological age, not weight.) Even newborn babies, whose immune systems don’t come out fully fledged, “are actually pretty ready to respond robustly to certain types of vaccines,” Permar said. The results are intriguing enough that some experts may want to explore the option of keeping infants on a two-dose Pfizer track. But Pfizer is still testing the effects of a third dose for this group, which may end up being practical in the long run, especially if it simplifies the number of injection regimens that doctors have to juggle all at once. (The company has not broken out the infant group to seek its own authorization first.)Creech told me he feels great about what he’s observing so far in Moderna’s pediatric trials, and he’s confident things on the kids’-vaccine front will take a turn for the better by early summer—if not for Pfizer’s shot, then for its similar-looking competitor. Moderna’s vaccine also comes in a two-dose series, but the injections are four weeks apart, and bigger: The company is testing 50 micrograms of mRNA in 6-to-11-year-olds, and 25 micrograms in kids 5 and younger (compared with 100 micrograms for adults). If Pfizer’s three-doser doesn’t work, Moderna could be toddlers’ vaccine dark horse. “I have wondered if this is the time Moderna will finally beat Pfizer” to the finish line, Permar told me. It may truly be neck and neck: Moderna’s expecting to report the first of its 5-and-under data in March, not far off from Pfizer’s own early-spring goal. Either way, it’ll be the data—of course—that dictate what happens next.
Prince William tells Kate not to get ‘any ideas’ about having another baby
Middleton has previously opened up about the Duke of Cambridge not wanting more children, telling a royal fan back in 2020, “I don’t think William wants any more."
Miomir Kecmanovic has turned Novak Djokovic vaccine drama into dream Australian Open run
Miomir Kecmanovic was not expected to make it past Novak Djokovic in the first round of the Australian Open. Instead, he's made himself a tidy sum through three matches.
Town Fires 3 Cops Charged in Death of 8-Year-Old Girl
Fanta Bility was shot while leaving a football game in August 2021, and prosecutors initially charged 2 teenagers in her death before filing charges against the police officers
Newsom torched for comparing LA trash pileup to third world country: 'Clueless'
California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom was widely panned by conservatives on social media after touring railroad tracks littered with garbage in Los Angeles and remarking that the scene looked like it was from a “third world country.”
UGG launches new rain collection featuring choreographer Parris Goebel
Rain or shine, these are the new UGG shoes for you.
Christina Aguilera supports Britney Spears 2 months after red carpet snub
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There's now a phone line to order your free at-home COVID tests
The phone number — 1-800-232-0233 — follows the launch earlier this week of a federal website to order the tests.
Garnier: Time for beauty industry to 'change the game' on sustainability
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EY CEO lists top five risks of 'bumpy' year ahead
Carmine Di Sibio predicts a "bumpy" year for European businesses in 2022. The EY CEO tells CNN's Nina dos Santos that geopolitics, supply chains and Covid-19 are all set to pile pressure on the global economy.
Norway mass killer seeks early release, tests limits of lenient justice system
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'I Left Everything': Disabled Tongan Man Swims Over 24 Hours Following Tsunami, Survives
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Oil Spill Triggered by Tsunami Devastates Coast of Peru
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Meat Loaf’s ‘I Won’t Do That’ lyrical mystery explained
The rock legend's 1993 hit “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)" has long been misunderstood. But before Meat Loaf died he explained his famous lyric.
McConnell Says Democrats Were 'Anxious to Defend the Filibuster' When Trump Was in Office
Democrats attempted to change the filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation in the Senate this week.
Omicron wave may be waning, according to the White House
The coronavirus surge, caused by the Omicron variant, may be declining in some parts of the country, according to White House officials Friday.
Alex Murdaugh Issued 23 New Charges, Including Stealing Money From Quadriplegic Man
"Alex gave them just enough money so they would drop on their knees and say 'thank you Jesus' and took the rest," attorney Justin Bamberg said.
Igor Fruman, an ex-Giuliani associate, gets one year in prison in campaign finance case
Igor Fruman, one of Rudy Giuliani's former associates, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison on Friday for his role in a scheme to funnel Russian money into US elections.
Martha Stewart tells Ellen DeGeneres the creepy reason she stopped dating Anthony Hopkins
The 80-year-old appeared on the “Ellen DeGeneres” show and revealed why she broke up with the Oscar winner.
Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn cleans gun during virtual House hearing
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Don't blame Adele. Concert cancellations and postponements will become common due to Covid
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Atlas 5 launches two Space Force satellites
The two satellites will monitor other spacecraft in the high altitudes favored by communications stations and spycraft.
Man arrested in Texas for allegedly plotting to kill election workers
The U.S. Justice Department said Friday that a Texas man has been arrested on charges of posting threatening messages on Craigslist about killing government officials in Georgia following the 2020 election.
Coming of age during Roe v. Wade: Women tell us how they saw the moment then and now
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'How Often Do You Wash Your Bras?': Woman Sparks Discussion With Viral Video
One commenter said that was their bras "every 1-2 months...when it looks or smells dirty."
The judge who shamed a cancer patient for his untidy yard says she's embarrassed and made a mistake
A Michigan judge who berated an elderly cancer patient for his untidy yard has apologized for her behavior, and said she "made a mistake, acted intemperately" and is "very embarrassed."
Stop canceling normal people who go viral
Getty Images/iStockphoto It’s making the world a shittier place. West Elm Caleb is only the most recent example. What’s worse, ghosting someone you met on a dating app or calling up that guy’s workplace and demanding he be fired for ghosting someone on a dating app? This is a question that nobody in the world should ever have to think about, but is unfortunately the kind of question that we must ask ourselves every time a random person is anointed as the internet’s main character. What I’m talking about, in this case, is a guy known as “West Elm Caleb,” a 25-year-old who works at West Elm and does not seem like a very fun person to date. On TikTok, multiple women have accused him of ghosting, sending unsolicited photos of his dick, and scheduling several dates in the same day. If you have ever been a single 25-year-old in New York City, this kind of behavior is, while certainly not great, hardly uncommon. But what happened next followed the same exact pattern as everything that has gone viral on TikTok ever. Millions of people became invested in this (niche! not very interesting!) drama because it gives us something easy to be angry or curious or self-righteous about, something to project our own experiences onto, and thereby contributing even more content to the growing avalanche. Naturally, some decided to go look up the central character’s address, phone number, and workplace and share it on the internet. @kellsbellsbaby Reply to @jalmones #greenscreen ya this man ghosted me on Saturday and I found out through tik tok :-) anyways enjoy another sad dating story from me #nyc #fyp #dating #hinge ♬ original sound - kell You do not need me to tell you that the punishment does not exactly seem to fit the crime. What started at the level of juicy group chat drama has exploded into a national conversation, bypassing all measures of scale and scope. The same has happened with other people who have been the target of such dynamics — Sabrina Prater, for instance, the trans woman who was accused of being a serial killer for posting a video of herself dancing that supposedly had “bad vibes,” or Couch Guy, whose crime was seeming unexcited to see his girlfriend enter the room in a TikTok video. “It’s on social media, so it’s public!” one could argue as a case for people’s right to act like forensic analysts on social media, and that is true. But this justification is typically valid when a) the person posting is someone of note, like a celebrity or a politician, and b) when the stakes are even a little bit high. In most cases of normal-person canceling, neither standard is met. Instead, it’s mob justice and vigilante detective work typically reserved for, say, unmasking the Zodiac killer, except weaponized against normal people. In other words, it’s cancel culture in its creepiest form. And thanks to algorithms that prioritize engagement above all else, the stuff that gets people riled up the most is what floats to the surface. West Elm Caleb is only the latest example of many to come. The case of Couch Guy Imagine: You, a college student, are about to surprise your long-distance boyfriend at his own school. You’ve choreographed the moment; your mutual friends are there to help you orchestrate and film the big reveal. You enter the room, he gets up to hug you, everyone’s smiling. You set the resulting video to an Ellie Goulding song that plays at the emotional height of the rom-com Bridget Jones’s Baby. You post it on TikTok. This is what Lauren Zarras did on September 21, although nothing that happened after would go according to plan. Almost immediately, commenters began to joke about the video’s “bad vibes.” “You can FEEL the awkward tension bro,” wrote one. @laurenzarras robbie had no idea ♬ still falling for you - audiobear Many noted that when Lauren entered the room, her boyfriend was sitting on the couch with three other girls. “Girl he ain’t loyal,” said another commenter. “He hugged her like she was his aunt at Christmas dinner.” “I’ve never seen someone look so unhappy to see their girlfriend.” As of Friday afternoon, it had 60 million views. Lauren and her boyfriend — now known internet-wide as “Couch Guy” — had fallen into a common predicament: posting something online in an attempt to garner a certain reaction, then receiving the opposite. There are all kinds of flavors of this phenomenon, from the college student who posted a clip of their newly released song only to be ridiculed for it, to the spiritual influencer whose video about coincidences and manifestation turned him into a meme. Just last week, a woman pitched a story to the Times about a perceived slight from a fellow writer, presumably under the belief that she’d come off looking sympathetic, but then ended up being Twitter’s main character (never a good thing). In an essay for Slate, Couch Guy — real name Robert McCoy — wrote that he was “the subject of frame-by-frame body language analyses, armchair diagnoses of psychopathy, comparisons to convicted murderers, and general discussions about my ‘bad vibes.’” Embarrassing moments have delighted the public throughout history. For a piece on what happens when ordinary people go viral for the wrong reasons, Melissa Dahl, author of Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, told me that it’s natural for humans to delight in schadenfreude. “It’s our brains giving us a dose of exposure therapy,” she said. “Maybe the same thing is happening for people who are drawn to cringey content, [maybe they’re] people whose deepest fear is being ostracized or made to look like a fool.” But the way the internet has colluded to create viral moments out of normal people was perhaps pioneered a decade ago, when Rebecca Black became the epitome of the stereotype of the spoiled rich kid with a bad vanity music video. Platforms like TikTok, where even people with few or no followers often go viral overnight, expedite the shaming process. The real toxicity within this sort of discourse comes not from viewers but from the web sleuth dynamics that play out afterward. BuzzFeed called the image stills of Couch Guy seemingly grabbing his phone from the girl next to him “sus behavior,” while other creators claimed they could tell he was cheating because of a suspiciously placed arm and a black hair tie that showed up on Couch Guy’s wrist. One woman made a video warning Lauren about how the girls on the couch “are not your friends” because they didn’t immediately jump up to hug her. @thinksplendid Like are they ALL supposed to be earth signs? #couchguy ♬ still falling for you - audiobear Lauren — as well as everyone else in the video — has vehemently denied any shady behavior. “These comments are getting ridiculous and I don’t know why you guys are assuming so much about our relationship,” she said in one TikTok. Couch Guy himself made one that read: “Not everything is true crime. Don’t be a parasocial creep,” yet his comment section is still full of people saying things like, “You can gaslight your girlfriend, you can’t gaslight all of TikTok.” Couch Guy’s roommate has complained of people in their dorm sneaking messages under the door and trying to ask them about the video. “Y’all are so fucking creepy sometimes, I can’t,” he says. A scroll through Lauren’s previous TikToks shows commenters flocking to every single one, positing at what precise moment they think he “lost interest” in her and giving warnings like, “it’s like watching a soap opera and knowing who the bad guy is.” Humans love gossip and creating drama where there is none, even more so during the quieter pandemic months. There is a difference, though, between speculating on a celebrity’s dating life and a random college couple who, whether or not they end up together, insist they’re happy right now. There are real-world consequences that can get scary quickly. It’s time to leave West Elm Caleb, Couch Guy, and whatever unfortunate soul becomes the internet’s next reluctant main character, alone. Update, January 21, 3 pm ET: This story was originally published on October 12, 2021, and has been updated to include details about West Elm Caleb.
Magazines see silver lining in COVID lockdowns: More glossies launched in 2021
COVID lockdowns apparently are good for at least one thing: all that extra time to spend flipping through a magazine — a down-and-out corner of the media industry that got an unexpected boost last year. The second year of the pandemic brought a surprisingly sharp rebound in new print magazines, fueled by special interest, niche...
House January 6 committee now has all the White House records Trump tried to block
The House select committee investigating January 6 has received all 700-plus pages from the National Archives that former President Donald Trump had tried to block the panel from receiving.
Anti-abortion demonstrators gather for 49th March for Life in Washington DC
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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Summer Heat’ On Netflix, Where Young Workers At A Brazilian Resort Go Through The Usual Romance And Drama
Lots of young and pretty people are engaged in lots of young and pretty people drama in this new Brazilian series.
What the Doomsday Clock is really counting down to
The Doomsday Clock shows 100 seconds to midnight on January 20, 2022. | Courtesy of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists The number of human-made existential risks has ballooned, but the most pressing one is the original: nuclear war. One hundredseconds to midnight. That’s the latest setting of the Doomsday Clock, unveiled yesterday morning by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. That matches the setting in 2020 and 2021, making all three years the closest the Clock has been to midnight in its 75-year history. “The world is no safer than it was last year at this time,” said Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “The Doomsday Clock continues to hover dangerously, reminding us how much work is needed to ensure a safer and healthier planet.” As for why the world is supposedly lingering on the edge of Armageddon, take your pick. Covid-19 has amply demonstrated just how unprepared the world was to handle a major new infectious virus, and both increasing global interconnectedness and the spread of new biological engineering tools mean that the threat from both natural and human-made pathogens will only grow. Even with increasing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, climate change is worsening year after year. New technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, even advanced cyberhacking present harder-to-gauge but still very real dangers. The sheer number of factors that now go into Bulletin’s annual decision canobscure the bracing clarity that the Doomsday Clock was meant to evoke. But the Clock still works for the biggest existential threat facing the world right now, the one that the Doomsday Clock was invented to illustrate 75 years ago. It’s one that has been with us for so long that it has receded into the background of our nightmares: nuclear war — and the threat is arguably greater at this moment than it has been since the end of the Cold War. The Doomsday Clock, explained The Clock was originally the work of Martyl Langsdorf, an abstract landscape artist whose husband Alexander had been a physicist with the Manhattan Project. He was alsoa founder of the Bulletin, which began as a magazine put out by scientists worried about the dangers of the nuclear age and is now a nonprofit media organization that focuses on existential risks to humanity. Martyl Langsdorfwas asked to design a cover for the magazine’s June 1947 issue. Inspired by the idea of a countdown to a nuclear explosion, Langdorf chose the image of a clock with hands ticking down to midnight, because — as the Bulletin’s editors wrote in a tribute to the artist — “it suggested the destruction that awaited if no one took action to stop it.” As a symbol of the unique existential peril posed by thousands of nuclear warheads kept on a hair trigger, the Doomsday Clock is unparalleled, one of the 20th century’s most iconic pieces of graphic art. It’s been referenced in rock songs and TV shows, and it adorned the cover of the first issue of the Watchmen graphic novel series. Its value is its stark simplicity. At a glance, anyone can see how close the Bulletin’s science and security experts, who meet twice a year to determine the Clock’s annual setting, believe the world is to existential catastrophe. The Clock may be wrong — predicting the apocalypse is a near-impossible task — but it cannot be misread. Corbis via Getty Images The test detonation of a nuclear bomb in Nevada in 1957. Since its introduction 75 years ago, the hands of the Clock have moved backward and forward in response to geopolitical shifts and scientific advances. In 1953, it was set to two minutes to midnight after the U.S. and Soviet Union both tested thermonuclear weapons for the first time; in 1991, after the collapse of the USSR and the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it was moved back to 17 minutes to midnight, the furthest its been to 12 in its history. In 2018, thanks to what the Bulletin’s experts called a “breakdown in the international order” of nuclear actors and the growing threat of climate change, it was moved to 2 minutes to midnight and has been at 100 seconds since 2020. You may begin to notice the problem here. The metaphor of a clock provides the clarity of a countdown, but the closer the hands get to midnight, the more difficult it is to attempt to accurately reflect the small changes that could push the world closer or further from doomsday. Nor does it help that beginning in 2007 the Bulletin expanded the Clock to include any human-made threat, from climate change to anti-satellite weapons. The result is a kind of “doomsday creep,” as dangers that are real but unlikely to bring about the immediateend of human civilization — and which fit in poorly with the original metaphor of a clock — muddy its message. It’s also difficult to square a clock ticking ever closer to midnight with the fact that human life on Earth, broadly defined, has been getting better over the past 75 years, not worse. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic, the growing effects of climate change, and whatever might be brewing in an AI or biotech lab somewhere, humans are far healthier, wealthier, and — at least on a day-to-day basis — safer in 2022 than they were in 1947, and odds are that will still be true in 2023 regardless of the Clock’s next annual setting. This is the paradox of life in the age of existential risk — the sheer number of ways that we can cause planetary catastrophe can make it feel as if it’s nearly midnight, but compared to how life has been through most of human history, we’re living under the noonday sun. The one event that could change that instantlyis the existential threat that the Doomsday Clock was originally designed to convey: nuclear war. Tick, tick, tick There’s a virtual reality program designed by security researchers at Princeton University that’s been making the rounds in Washington over the past month. Users don VR goggles and are transported to the Oval Office, where they play the role of the American president. A siren goes off and a military official transports you to the Situation Room, where users are confronted with a horrifying scenario: early warning sensors have detected the launch of 299 nuclear missiles from Russia that are believed with high confidence to be on a path to the American mainland and its ICBM sites, as Julian Borger describes in a recent Guardian piece. An estimated 2 million Americans will die. As president, you have fewer than 15 minutes to decide whether the attack is real and whether to launch American ICBMs in response before they are potentially destroyed on the ground. That’s a true ticking clock, and while it might feel like a throwback to Dr. Strangelove, it’s one that could still take place at any minute of any day. Though global nuclear arsenals are far smaller than they were in the darkest days of the Cold War, there are still thousands of operational nuclear warheads, more than enough to cause catastrophe on an unimaginable scale. And while earlier this month the five permanent members of the UN Security Council put out a joint statement affirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” — words first said by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 — what’s actually happening on the ground is making that horrifying VR simulation more likely, not less. A possible Russian invasion of Ukraine could realistically result in a conventional ground war fought on European soil, and it raises the risk of conflict between the US and Russia, which together possess most of the world’s remaining nuclear arsenal. Russia has hinted at the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons close to the US coastline, which would further reduce the warning time after launch to as little as five minutes, while Russian media has made claims that the country could somehow prevail in a nuclear conflict with the US. Washington is pursuing a modernization of the US nuclear arsenal that could cost as much as $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years, while Moscow undertakes its own nuclear update. China is reportedly expanding its own nuclear arsenal in an effort to close the gap with the US and Russia, even as tensions grow over Taiwan. The risk of a nuclear conflict is “dangerously high,” Jon B. Wolfsthal, a senior adviser at the anti-nuclear initiative Global Zero and the former senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, wrote recently in the Washington Post. The result of such a war would be as predictable as it is unthinkable. The heat and shockwave from a single 800-kiloton warhead, which is the yield of most of the warheads in Russia’s ICBM arsenal, above a city of 4 million people would likely kill 120,000 people immediately, with more dying in the firestorms and radiation fallout that would follow. A regional or even global nuclear war would multiply that death toll, collapse global supply chains, and potentially lead to devastating long-term climatic change. In the worst-case scenario, as Rutgers University environmental scientist Alan Robock told Vox in 2018, “almost everybody on the planet would die.” And unlike the other human-made threats the Doomsday Clock now aims to capture, it could unfold almost instantly — and even by accident. Multiple times during the Cold War technical glitches in the machinery of nuclear defense nearly led the US or the USSR to launch their missiles by mistake, and as the VR simulation demonstrates, the sheer speed of a nuclear crisis leaves very little room for error when the clock is ticking. Moving away from midnight As long as nuclear weapons exist in significant numbers, they present an existential threat to humanity. Unlike other disruptive technologies like AI or biological engineering, or even the fossil fuels that are the chief driver of climate change, they have no benign side. They are merely weapons, weapons of unimaginably destructive power, whether or not they inspire the dread they once did. Yet we’ve survived the nuclear age so far because we’ve had the wisdom — and the luck — not to use them since 1945, and more can be done to ensure that remains the case. Last year the US and Russia extended the New START nuclear weapons treaty, which put limits on the size of each nation’s deployed nuclear arsenal, for another five years, pausing the erosion of the post-Cold War arms control regime and giving diplomats more time to negotiate tighter limits in the future. The US and Russia also agreed to begin new sets of dialogues on how to better maintain nuclear stability in the future, and the White House is preparing a Nuclear Posture Review that could see the US specifically pledge not to use nuclear weapons first or in response to a conventional or cyber conflict, which could help reduce the chances of a renewed nuclear arms race. Fifty-nine nationshave signed onto an international treaty calling for a global ban on nuclear weapons (though none of the signatories are nuclear powers themselves). While it will reliably continue to be set every year — at least until midnight really does strike — the Doomsday Clock may have outlived its meaning as a symbol of existential risks in a rapidly changing world where the dangers and benefits of new technologies are so co-mingled. But as a warning for the original human-made catastrophic threat, the Doomsday Clock can still tell the time — and it may be later than we think. A version of this story was initially published in the Future Perfect newsletter. Sign up here to subscribe!
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