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How Many Republicans Died Because the GOP Turned Against Vaccines?
Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • Other politicians, such as Texas Governor Greg Abbott, made all COVID-vaccine mandates illegal in their state .

No country has a perfect COVID vaccination rate, even this far into the pandemic, but America's record is particularly dismal. About a third of Americans—more than a hundred million people—have yet to get their initial shots. You can find anti-vaxxers in every corner of the country. But by far the single group of adults most likely to be unvaccinated is Republicans: 37 percent of Republicans are still unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, compared with 9 percent of Democrats. Fourteen of the 15 states with the lowest vaccination rates voted for Donald Trump in 2020. (The other is Georgia.)

We know that unvaccinated Americans are more likely to be Republican, that Republicans in positions of power led the movement against COVID vaccination, and that hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated Americans have died preventable deaths from the disease. The Republican Party is unquestionably complicit in the premature deaths of many of its own supporters, a phenomenon that may be without precedent in the history of both American democracy and virology.

Obviously, nothing about being a Republican makes someone inherently anti-vaccine. Many Republicans—in fact, most of them—have gotten their first two shots. But the wildly disproportionate presence of Republicans among the unvaccinated reveals an ugly and counterintuitive aspect of the GOP campaign against vaccination: At every turn, top figures in the party have directly endangered their own constituents. Trump disparaged vaccines while president, even after orchestrating Operation Warp Speed. Other politicians, such as Texas Governor Greg Abbott, made all COVID-vaccine mandates illegal in their state. More recently, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called for a grand jury to investigate the safety of COVID vaccines. The right-wing media have leaned even harder into vaccine skepticism. On his prime-time Fox News show, Tucker Carlson has regularly questioned the safety of vaccines, inviting guests who have called for the shots to be "withdrawn from the market."

Breaking down the cost of vaccine hesitancy would be simple if we could draw a causal relationship between Republican leaders' anti-vaccine messaging and the adoption of those ideas by Americans, and then from those ideas to deaths due to non-vaccination. Unfortunately, we don't have the data to do so. Individual vaccine skepticism cannot be traced back to a single source, and even if it could, we don't know exactly who is unvaccinated and what their political affiliations are.

What we do have is a patchwork of estimations and correlations that, taken together, paint a blurry but nevertheless grim picture of how Republican leaders spread the vaccine hesitancy that has killed so many people. We know that as of April 2022, about 318,000 people had died from COVID because they were unvaccinated, according to research from Brown University. And the close association between Republican vaccine hesitancy and higher death rates has been documented. One study estimated that by the fall of 2021, vaccine uptake accounted for 10 percent of the total difference between Republican and Democratic deaths. But that estimate has changed—and even likely grown—over time.

Partisanship affected outcomes in the pandemic even before we had vaccines. A recent study found that from October 2020 to February 2021, the death rate in Republican-leaning counties was up to three times higher than that of Democratic-leaning counties, likely because of differences in masking and social distancing. Even when vaccines came around, these differences continued, Mauricio Santillana, an epidemiology expert at Northeastern University and a co-author of the study, told me. Follow-up research published in Lancet Regional Health Americas in October looked at deaths from April 2021 to March 2022 and found a 26 percent higher death rate in areas where voters leaned Republican. "There are subsequent and very serious [partisan] patterns with the Delta and Omicron waves, some of which can be explained by vaccination," Bill Hanage, a co-author of the paper and an epidemiologist at Harvard, told me in an email.


But to understand why Republicans have died at higher rates, you can't look at vaccine status alone. Congressional districts controlled by a trifecta of Republican leaders—state governor, Senate, and House—had an 11 percent higher death rate, according to the Lancet study. A likely explanation, the authors write, could be that in the post-vaccine era, those leaders chose policies and conveyed public-health messages that made their constituents more likely to die. Although we still can't say these decisions led to higher death rates, the association alone is jarring.

One of the most compelling studies comes from researchers at Yale, who published their findings as a working paper in November. They link political party and excess-death rate—the percent increase in deaths above pre-COVID levels—among those registered as either Democrats or Republicans, providing a more granular view. They chose to analyze data from Florida and Ohio from before and after vaccines were available. Looking at the period before the vaccine,  researchers found a 1.6 percentage-point difference in excess death rate among Republicans and Democrats, with a higher rate among Republicans. But after vaccines became available, that gap widened dramatically to 10.4 percentage points, again with a higher Republican excess death rate. "When we compare individuals who are of the same age, who live in the same county in the same month of the pandemic, there are differences correlated with your political-party affiliation that emerge after vaccines are available," Jacob Wallace, an assistant professor of public health at Yale who co-authored the paper, told me. "That's a statement we can confidently make based on the study and we couldn't before."

Even with this new research, it is difficult to determine just how many people died as a result of their political views. In the "excess death" study, researchers dealt only with rates of excess death, not actual death-toll numbers. Overall, excess deaths represent a small share of deaths. "On the scale of national registration for both parties," Wallace said, "we're talking about relatively small numbers and differences in deaths" when you look at excess death rates alone.

The absolute number of Republican deaths is less important than the fact that they happened needlessly. Vaccines could have saved lives. And yet, the party that describes itself as pro-life campaigned against them. Democrats are not without fault, though. The Biden administration's COVID blunders are no doubt to blame for some of the nation's deaths. But on the whole, Democratic leaders have mostly not promoted ideas or enforced policies around COVID that actively chip away at life expectancy. It is a tragedy that the Republican push against basic lifesaving science has cut lives short and continues to do so. The partisan divide in COVID deaths, Hanage said, is just "another example of how the partisan politics of the U.S. has poisoned the well of public health."

What's most concerning about all of this is that partisan disparities in death rates were also apparent before COVID. People living in Republican jurisdictions have been at a health disadvantage for more than 20 years. From 2001 to 2019, the death rate in Democratic counties decreased by 22 percent, according to a recent study; in Republican counties, it declined by only 11 percent. In the same time period, the political gap in death rates increased sixfold.

Health outcomes have been diverging at the state level since the '90s, Steven Woolf, an epidemiologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, told me. Woolf's work suggests that over the decades, state policy decisions on health issues such as Medicaid, gun legislation, tobacco taxes, and, indeed, vaccines have likely had a stronger impact on state health trajectories than other factors. COVID's high Republican death rates are not an isolated phenomenon but a continuation of this trend. As Republican-led states pushed back on lockdowns, the impact on population death rates was observed within weeks, Woolf said.

If the issue is indeed systemic, that doesn't bode well for the future. Other factors could explain the higher death rate in Republican-leaning places—more poverty, less education, worse socioeconomic conditions—, though Woolf said isn't convinced that those factors aren't related to bad state health policy too. In any case, the long-term decline of health in red states indicates that there is an ongoing problem at a high level in Republican-led places, and that something has gone awry. "If you happen to live in certain states, your chances for living a long life are going to be much higher than if you're an American living in a different state," Woolf said.

Unfortunately, this trend shows no signs of breaking. The anti-science messaging that fuels such a divide is popular with Republican leaders because it plays so well with their constituents. Far-right crowds cheer for missed vaccine targets and jokes about executing scientific leaders. In an environment where partisanship trumps all—including trying to save people's lives—such messaging is both politically effective and morally abhorrent. The data, however imperfect, demand a reckoning with the consequences of such a strategy not only during the pandemic but over the past few decades, and in the years to come. But to acknowledge how many Republicans didn't have to die would mean giving credence to scientific and medical expertise. So long as America remains locked in a poisonous partisan battle in which science is wrongly dismissed as being associated with the left, the death toll will only rise.




Is this article about ESG?
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Dec 18, 2022  thru Sat, Dec 24, 2022.

Story of the Week

Scientists say Arctic warming could be to blame for blasts of extreme cold

Research suggests that climate change is altering the jet stream, pushing frigid air down to southern climes more frequently. But the scientific jury is still out.

The data is clear: Rising global temperatures mean winters are getting milder, on average, and the sort of record-setting cold that spanned the country Friday is becoming rarer. But at the same time, global warming may be altering atmospheric patterns and pushing harsh outbreaks of polar air to normally moderate climates, according to scientists who are actively debating the link.

Drastic changes in the Arctic, which is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, are at the center of the discussion. Shifts in Arctic ice and snow cover are triggering atmospheric patterns that allow polar air to spread southward more often, according to recent research.

"We've seen the same situation basically the last three years in a row," said Jennifer Francis, senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts. "Here we go again."

Click here to access the entire article as originally posted on The Washington Post.

Scientists say Arctic warming could be to blame for blasts of extreme cold by Scott Dance, Climate, Washington Post, Dec 23, 2022


Links posted on Facebook

Sun, Dec 18, 2022

Mon, Dec 19, 2022

Tue, Dec 20, 2022

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Sat, Dec 24, 2022



Scientific Reports, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41598-022-26893-6

Relationship between institutional intensive care volume prior to the 
COVID-19 pandemic
 and in-hospital death in ventilated patients with severe COVID-19


Scientific Reports, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41598-022-26283-y

Applying fuzzy qualitative comparative analysis to identify typical symptoms of 
 in a primary care unit, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


I am wanting to know which points she makes are either disputed or agreed to, from people from both sides of the conversation. I think her platform is important to our future, but i think her solutions are just not feasible, or even possible. I have watched a few documentaries about climate change, and she seems to in line with what was said in those documentaries. I would like to do my part, by researching our climate situation, and attempting to find solutions that everyone would be accepting of. This post is intended to discuss the current climate situation in relation to our future. Im not looking for squabbles to do with her as a person. Im looking to discover more facts about her platform. What things may be incorrect or misleading. Like her or not, i think discussing the climate situation is really important and shouldn't be overlooked, especially just because some people may not like her.

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What social conventions might and will change when 

Gen Z

 takes power of the goverment? Many things accepted by the old people in power are not accepted today. I believe once when Gen Z or late millenials take power social norms and traditions that have been there for 100s of years will dissapear. What do you think might be some good examples?

submitted by /u/kkruiji
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These Were the Top 10 Most-Read Singularity Hub Stories of 2022
Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • Its production cost is dropping, multiple companies have entered the space, and the FDA recently granted its first approval to one of them.
Leo has found 1 Funding Events mention in this article
  • At least, that's the dream Quaise Energy is pitching, and the startup, spun out of MIT in 2018, recently secured $40 million in new funding to go after it."

With the end of 2022 approaching fast, we took a look back at the stories that struck a chord with readers this year. Below, you'll find Singularity Hub's 10 most-read articles of 2022.

They're a diverse bunch: from a quantum computer demonstrating quantum advantage—the ever-fluid benchmark for tasks only a quantum machine can handle—to a house 3D printed from recycled plastic water bottles. We wrote about a transistor gate the size of a carbon atom, a DeepMind AI that can write computer code like your average programmer, a gambit to drill 12 miles into Earth's crust and liberate the nearly limitless energy below, and a spinal chord implant that helped paralyzed people walk again.

There was plenty of nourishment for curious minds this year, and alongside another frenzied news cycle, science and technology continued to move ahead. As always, thanks for reading.

Quantum Chip Takes Microseconds to Do a Task a Supercomputer Would Spend 9,000 Years On
By Shelly Fan
"Are quantum computers overhyped? A new study in Nature says no. A cleverly-designed quantum device developed by Xanadu, a company based in Toronto, Canada, obliterated conventional computers on a benchmark task that would otherwise take over 9,000 years. For the quantum chip Borealis, answers came within 36 microseconds. Xanadu's accomplishment is the latest to demonstrate the power of quantum computing over conventional computers—a seemingly simple idea dubbed quantum advantage."

Our Conscious Experience of the World Is But a Memory, Says New Theory
By Shelly Fan
"[According to the theory, consciousness] helps us remember the events of our lives—the whens, wheres, whats, and whos—which in turn can help us creatively and flexibly recombine them to predict or imagine alternative possibilities. It gets more mind-bending. Rather than perceiving the world in real time, we're actually experiencing a memory of that perception. That is, our unconscious minds filter and process the world under the hood, and often make split-second decisions. When we become aware of those perceptions and decisions—that is, once they've risen to the level of consciousness—we're actually experiencing 'memories of those unconscious decisions and actions,' the authors explained. In other words, it's mainly the unconscious mind at the wheel."

The World's Biggest Cultured Meat Factory Is Under Construction in the US
By Vanessa Bates Ramirez
"Despite the fact that consumers have never tasted it and it's only legal in Singapore, cultured meat is on a roll. Its production cost is dropping, multiple companies have entered the space, and the FDA recently granted its first approval to one of them. Last week the industry hit another milestone as Israeli company [Believer Meats] broke ground on what it says will be the biggest cultured meat plant in the world…with a production capacity of 10,000 metric tons."

This Engineered 'Superplant' Cleans Indoor Air Like 30 Regular Plants
By Vanessa Bates Ramirez
"Most air purifiers are designed to remove particulate matter, like dust, dirt, smoke, or airborne bacteria. But Neo P1 was made to combat a type of pollution called volatile organic compounds. These are found in all sorts of household items, from furniture and cleaning products to paint, upholstery, and flooring. The chemicals in these items that are most harmful to human health—which are also the ones the plant was engineered to neutralize—are formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene. They can contribute to lung problems like cancer and COPD, as well as heart disease and other health issues."

A Spinal Cord Implant Allowed Paralyzed People to Walk in Just One Day
By Shelly Fan
"Michel Roccati never thought he'd walk again, much less swim, cycle, or paddle a kayak. A terrifying motorcycle collision in 2017 damaged his spinal cord, leaving him completely paralyzed from the waist down. Yet on a cold, snowy day last December in Lausanne, Switzerland, he took his first step outside—with the help of a walker—since his accident. His aid? A new spinal cord implant that bridges signals from the brain to his lower muscles, hopping over damaged portions to restore movement. All it took was one day of stimulation. 'The first few steps were incredible—a dream come true!' he said."

Moore's Law: Scientists Just Made a Graphene Transistor Gate the Width of an Atom
By Jason Dorrier
"There's been no greater act of magic in technology than the sleight of hand performed by Moore's Law. Electronic components that once fit in your palm have long gone atomic, vanishing from our world to take up residence in the quantum realm. But we're now brushing the bitter limits of this trend. In a paper published in Nature this week, scientists at Tsinghua University in Shanghai wrote that they've built a graphene transistor gate with a length of 0.34 nanometers—or roughly the size of a single carbon atom."

DeepMind's AlphaCode Conquers Coding, Performing as Well as Humans
By Shelly Fan
"The secret to good programming might be to ignore everything we know about writing code. At least for AI. It seems preposterous, but DeepMind's new coding AI just trounced roughly 50 percent of human coders in a highly competitive programming competition. On the surface the tasks sound relatively simple: each coder is presented with a problem in everyday language, and the contestants need to write a program to solve the task as fast as possible—and hopefully, free of errors. But it's a behemoth challenge for AI coders. The agents need to first understand the task—something that comes naturally to humans—and then generate code for tricky problems that challenge even the best human programmers."

Startup Will Drill 12 Miles Into Earth's Crust to Tap the Boundless Energy Below
By Jason Dorrier
"What if there were a nearly limitless source of energy available anywhere on the planet? What if the only thing preventing us from tapping said energy source was technology? And what if that tech drew on the expertise of a century-old, trillion-dollar industry, and could readily slot into much of the infrastructure already built for that industry? The answer to these questions is and has always been directly beneath our feet. The core of our planet is hotter than the surface of the sun—all we have to do is drill deep enough to liberate some of its heat. At least, that's the dream Quaise Energy is pitching, and the startup, spun out of MIT in 2018, recently secured $40 million in new funding to go after it."

First Controlled Human Trial Shows Cutting Calories Improves Health, Longevity
By Shelly Fan
"Bring up caloric restriction, or 'CR,' in humans at any longevity forum, and you'll trigger a furious debate between die-hard proponents and passionate dissenters. The reason why is also simple: we only have theories, but lack sufficient data in humans. …Enter CALERIE. The Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy trial is the first controlled study of CR in the average Joe. Headed by scientists at Yale University and Pennington Biomedical Research, the trial found that cutting calories by a mere 14 percent for 2 years—about one less muffin per day—conferred multiple health benefits known to combat aging."

These Sleek Houses Are 3D Printed From Recycled Plastic. Prices Start at $26,900
By Vanessa Bates Ramirez
"The US has a housing shortage problem. We also have a plastic waste problem. What if we could solve both these problems simultaneously with an unexpected two birds/one stone innovation? If you've ever longed to live in a small house made out of 100,000 recycled plastic water bottles, your lucky day is just around the corner."

Image Credit: Erick Chévez / Unsplash


Molecular polariton electroabsorption

Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35589-4

The authors investigate whether strong light-matter coupling can alter the nonlinear optical response of molecules inside a microcavity. Focusing on electroabsorption as a model third order nonlinearity, they find that apparent discrepancies between experiment and classical transfer matrix modeling arise from dark states in the system and are not a sign of new physics in the strong coupling regime.


Would you consider a donation to support Weekend Reads, and our daily work? Thanks in advance.

The week at Retraction Watch featured:

Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to 280. There are more than 37,000 retractions in our database — which powers retraction alerts in EndNoteLibKeyPapers, and Zotero. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?

Here's what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):

Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that's not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at



Scientists have uncovered new clues about a curious fossil site in Nevada, a graveyard for dozens of giant marine reptiles. Instead of the site of a massive die-off as suspected, it might have been an ancient maternity ward where the creatures came to give birth.


Scientific Reports, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41598-022-24830-1

Dietary supplement mislabelling: case study on selected slimming products by developing a green isocratic HPLC method for their quality control


Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35631-5

While water splitting offers a renewable means to produce H2 fuel, most electrolyzers rely on scarce elements to function. Here, authors study low-content Iridium catalysts derived from mixed oxides for proton exchange membrane water electrolysis anodes without compromising activity and durability.

How Long Until Alaska's Next Oil Disaster?
Leo has found 2 Regulatory Changes mentions in this article

Photographs by Acacia Johnson

Stephen Payton has spent a lot of time planning for disaster. The environmental program coordinator for the Seldovia Village Tribe in Southcentral Alaska and a board member of the Seldovia Oil Spill Response Team, he's helped organize countless drills with volunteers, preparing to respond to an oil spill in nearby Cook Inlet. Over and over, he's practiced setting out containment booms, floating barriers designed to slow the spread of slicks. But this summer, while drift fishing near the shipping channels in the inlet, he got an up-close view of the oil tankers that could cause such a spill. Their massive hulls dwarf other vessels, casting deep shadows. It was a sobering perspective. "If something were to happen out there—it could just be so detrimental," he says.

More than 30 years after the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill, many Alaskans are still haunted by the possibility of another such disaster. Some felt that those fears were about to be realized in 2020, when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) began preparing to auction off development rights to a million acres of Cook Inlet, a proposal known as Lease Sale 258. Proponents argue that development would eventually buoy the region's natural-gas supplies, but it would also bring new shipping traffic and an array of new platforms and pipelines to the inlet—along with their associated risks. The Seldovia Village Tribe, other Cook Inlet residents, and concerned people around the country submitted scathing critiques through the public-comment process. The probability that development would lead to another large spill was officially estimated to be one in five; critics argued that the risk was far higher.

In May, the Biden administration canceled the plan, citing a "lack of industry interest." Though the administration did not explicitly acknowledge the public resistance, opponents felt vindicated. "There was a sense of hope," says Marissa Wilson, the executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. "It was like, wow, maybe the public process is working."

But last summer, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia insisted that the Inflation Reduction Act include subsidies for fossil-fuel companies and guarantee opportunities for new oil and gas development, including sales in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, Lease Sale 258 was resurrected by a bill intended to protect the climate—leaving Alaskans bracing for catastrophe.

"It was shocking," Payton says. He has three young children, and he's teaching them to fish. If the sale is approved, Payton wonders, what will these waters hold when his kids are grown?

East of Cook Inlet, on the other side of the spruce-stubbled Kenai Peninsula, lies Prince William Sound, where the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System ends at an export terminal in a small fishing town called Valdez.

In the 1970s, when a consortium of oil companies began building the 800-mile-long pipeline, many local fishermen objected to the project, concerned about the risks of a spill. As oil started flowing to Valdez, worries about the operation's oversight intensified. In 1989, a commercial fisherman named Riki Ott testified to a civic group in Valdez, saying, "Fishermen feel that we are playing a game of Russian roulette."   

The next day, the oil-tanker captain Joseph Hazelwood guided the Exxon Valdez and its 53 million gallons of crude oil toward the sea. He found the narrow sound peppered with icebergs, fragments of a quickly deteriorating glacier. Late in the evening, he handed over the helm to an inexperienced third mate, telling him to put the ship on autopilot. (The National Transportation Safety Board later determined that Hazelwood was impaired by alcohol.)

While Hazelwood slept, a crew member noticed that the warning light indicating a shallow reef was on the wrong side of the ship. The Exxon Valdez was off course. "I think we're in serious trouble," the third mate told Hazelwood over the intercom. As the captain raced back to the bridge, the Exxon Valdez shuddered and crashed to a halt, its metal hull tearing open on the reef.

As the snow-covered fjords brightened in the cold spring morning, crude oil gushed into Prince William Sound. When it hit the water, its chemical composition began to change, releasing benzene into the air and transforming into a sticky tar that clung to anything it touched. Craig Matkin, a marine biologist, was working on his boat in the nearby town of Seward. "I walked up the ramp, and I heard the radio at the Coast Guard office," he recalls. "And I went, 'Holy shit.'"

Matkin remembers rushing to find emergency booms, hoping the floating barriers would help contain the spreading slick. Then Matkin and his pregnant wife, Olga von Ziegesar, also a marine biologist, set out to find the killer whales they'd spent years studying. Choking on the fumes rising from the water, they found a pod attempting to shelter near an island. As oil swept past, the animals circled in the island's lee, trying to avoid the slick, von Ziegesar recalls. "But they finally turned, and swam right through it." In the years after the spill, 15 whales either went missing or were found dead, all but dooming a genetically distinct subpopulation.

While Exxon representatives, state regulators, and federal officials argued about what to do, a storm blew in, making it impossible to break up the oil with chemical dispersants. Instead, gusts of up to 70 knots lashed the spill into a poisonous foam, spreading it hundreds of miles around the peninsula and into Cook Inlet, eventually fouling 3,200 miles of beaches.

Pictures showing details of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Scenes from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 (Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty; Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News/Getty; Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News/Getty)

With no incident-command system in place, the response soon created its own disruption, and remote coastlines echoed with the chop of helicopters. "Exxon wanted to get every fisherman on the payroll," Matkin says. After someone photographed his boat towing booms, he says, he found an unsolicited $250,000 check from the company in his mail. Furious, he returned it.

Nancy Yeaton, who is a member of the Native Village of Nanwalek, was one of many Cook Inlet residents who joined a cleanup crew. Exxon offered double the local wage, eventually employing 11,000 people. "We became professional rock wipers," Yeaton says. "You'd go pick up a rock, wipe the oil off, and look around for another. It was senseless, but at the same time, what could we do?" Crews also conducted high-pressure hot-water washes that essentially boiled the beaches; studies later found that the heat of the water, along with the displacement of oil below the waterline by the force of the spray, only worsened the initial damage.  

There was no way to clean the fish, shellfish, and other seafoods that Yeaton's community depended on, and the loss was especially hard on the elders. "They lived their whole lives on what was given to them from the land and the ocean. Now, all of a sudden, we're telling them, 'You can't eat that because of the oil,'" Yeaton remembers. Losing the tradition of gathering those foods had a big impact, too. "Those were the times that parents spent with their children, gathering and relaying stories and values."

As the local herring fishery collapsed, Exxon resisted paying damages to residents. The company  filed claims against the Coast Guard, arguing that it had been negligent in granting licenses to the company's crew members and had not provided "adequate navigation services" to the vessel. Fishermen lost their homes and went bankrupt while the cases crawled through the legal system. In 2008, the Supreme Court finally ruled that the company only had to pay $507.5 million of the original $5 billion in damages. An estimated 8,000 of the original plaintiffs died before receiving any compensation.

"Success bred complacency; complacency bred neglect; neglect increased the risk," an Alaska Oil Spill Commission report concluded. The U.S. Geological Survey, for example, had warned Exxon that a changing climate was causing glaciers to retreat, filling shipping channels with hazardous ice. In sum, the commission wrote, "The wreck of the Exxon Valdez was not an isolated, freak occurrence, but simply one possible (and disastrous) result of policies, habits and practices."

The herring fishery never recovered. Low-level oil exposure continues to cause heart defects and lower survival rates in salmon. A 2017 study of the peninsula's beaches found that in some places, subsurface oil residue remains up to eight inches thick.

Of the killer whales photographed swimming through the slick, only one, known to researchers as Egagutak, survived. His family has dwindled to seven elderly members. Because his subpopulation's calls are so distinctive, researchers are able to recognize his long, mournful wail—a soon-to-be-lost dialect, calling out through an emptier ocean.

Picture of ice floes moving swiftly in the tide along Turnagain Arm, part of Cook Inlet near Anchorage, Alaska
Ice moving swiftly in the tide along Turnagain Arm, part of Cook Inlet near Anchorage, Alaska (Acacia Johnson)

In the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez disaster, Congress passed a law requiring oil tankers in U.S. waters to have double hulls by 2015, a move that appears to have reduced the number of spills from shipping. Yet as the industry, in search of new oil and gas deposits, has moved its operations offshore, the risk of other kinds of fossil-fuel disasters has increased. Recent history suggests that in Alaska, neither the federal nor the state government is willing to publicly confront the problem.

Alaska's offshore oil and gas production began in the Cook Inlet basin around 1960. But by the early 2000s, the production of natural gas from Cook Inlet had long since peaked and was shrinking, sparking concerns about the regional energy supply. So when Hilcorp Energy Company bought Chevron's aging Cook Inlet assets in 2012 and promised to revitalize offshore production in the area, Alaska officials welcomed the company to the state with open arms. Hilcorp, now the country's largest privately owned oil and gas company, would become integral to Alaska's energy industry. Today, a company spokesman says, "Hilcorp is committed to Alaska and looks forward to continuing to responsibly produce Alaskan oil and natural gas, create Alaskan jobs and contribute to the state's economy for decades to come."

During its first four years of operations, however, Hilcorp violated state regulations so regularly that the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) issued a blunt rebuke, writing that "the disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp's approach to its Alaska operations … Hilcorp's conduct is inexcusable."

In 2017, a helicopter pilot flying over one of Hilcorp's Cook Inlet oil platforms noticed bubbles billowing up from a break in a 50-year-old pipeline. The leak wasn't repaired for more than three months, even though a single day's leakage could have powered hundreds of homes. (At the time, Hilcorp announced that it had reduced the amount of gas flowing through the line, but said halting production would depressurize the pipeline and increase the chances of an oil spill.)

The chair of the AOGCC, Hollis French, believed that the state had a responsibility to investigate the leak. But he faced resistance from his fellow commission members for months. In January 2019, Governor Mike Dunleavy warned French that he was in danger of being removed from the commission for "neglect of duty." Less than two weeks after Dunleavy issued this warning, Hilcorp Energy gifted $25,000 to an "independent expenditure group" supporting Dunleavy. French was fired the following month. (Dunleavy's office did not respond to a request for comment.) French took the pipeline issue to court, and the Supreme Court of Alaska ultimately agreed that the agency had a responsibility to investigate the leak. But the agency continued not to investigate—even as the same pipeline leaked again in 2019 and 2021.

The AOGCC did fine Hilcorp for several other violations of requirements intended to prevent spills and leaks, including two fines totaling $64,000 at the end of 2021. The agency cited "Hilcorp's lack of good faith" and, again, the company's "track record of regulatory non-compliance." (A spokesperson for Hilcorp said at the time that the company "takes seriously AOGCC's recent orders and is taking proactive measures to ensure similar incidents do not happen in the future, including better contractor management, revising procedures, and dedicating additional resources focused on well integrity." The AOGCC did not respond to a request for comment.)

Meanwhile, Alaskans have become heavily dependent on Hilcorp for electricity, heating, and transportation fuels: The company not only produces approximately 85 percent of Alaska's natural gas but also controls much of the state's energy infrastructure. "Never before in the state's history has Alaska been so reliant upon a single energy company," says Philip Wight, a historian who specializes in Arctic studies at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Back in 2012, the Federal Trade Commission raised concerns about Hilcorp's control of all of the region's gas storage and the majority of its pipelines. But the FTC deferred to the state, which chose not to take action. "Without competition, regulation, or anti-trust oversight, Hilcorp has been able to demand monopoly rents and anti-competitive contracts for natural gas from Alaskans," Robin Brena, a longtime oil and gas attorney, said in an email. Hilcorp's contracts often have anticompetitive features—for example, requiring utilities to sign away their ability to purchase from other vendors in order to work with the company.

In 2020, Hilcorp acquired BP's nearly 50 percent share in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System as part of a $5.6 billion deal. The privately owned company did not have to publicly disclose its finances, leaving many Alaskans concerned that it would not be able to operate the pipeline safely or respond to accidents. (In a statement at the time, Hilcorp argued that it was keeping its financial information private to protect its competitive advantage, not because it was avoiding any responsibility to prove that it was "sufficiently well-capitalized.")

Valdez city officials—well acquainted with how expensive oil accidents can be—were so upset about this lack of transparency that the city appealed the decision of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska that allowed Hilcorp's financial statements to remain private, arguing that barring access to the documents violated the public's rights. As one of the attorneys representing Valdez, Brena says the RCA and other state agencies have long failed to enforce transparency requirements for utilities and gas producers, leading to an unregulated market. "Transparency is the key to the establishment of good policy," Brena says.

Hilcorp recently announced that it might not extend its current contracts with Alaskan utilities, the earliest of which will run out in April 2024. Although the conversations with the state's newly formed utility working group have not been made public, some of the largest utilities are concerned enough to be exploring the options for importing gas from outside Alaska.

At the same time, Hilcorp is expressing interest in expanding its operations in the state. While the company is known for buying older oil and gas fields and eking out further profits—a strategy sometimes called "acquire and exploit"—a Hilcorp spokesperson recently said the company expects to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on gas production in Cook Inlet in the coming years. Hilcorp recently endorsed a proposal to build a new 800-mile-long natural-gas pipeline that would connect its stranded gas resources on the North Slope to an export terminal in Cook Inlet, opening access to global markets. The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, a state-owned organization, recently announced an agreement with Hilcorp to assess plans for the export facility. And the president of the corporation, along with Governor Dunleavy, met privately with Hilcorp this summer to discuss the gas supply for such a project.

Picture of the Drift River Oil Terminal, along the shores of Cook Inlet, Alaska.
The Drift River Oil Terminal, along the shores of Cook Inlet, Alaska. (Acacia Johnson)

Because of its dominance in the region, Hilcorp is likely to be the only bidder on the million-acre lease in Cook Inlet—Lease Sale 258, which the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management included in the five-year plan it announced in 2016 and which it began to formally consider in 2020. The agency conducted an analysis of the potential environmental consequences of the sale, known as an environmental impact statement, or EIS, in four months—a radically abbreviated process, considering that EIS analyses often require years to complete. A recent study of EIS analyses by the U.S. Forest Service, one of the few agencies that compile comprehensive data on these reviews, found that they typically take a median of 2.8 years to complete. "It was an impossibly short period to comprehend anything robust enough," says Josh Wisniewski, a skiff fisherman who lives and works in Cook Inlet. "It felt like a rubber stamp."

The analysis found that the development of the lease area could lead to the construction of up to 200 miles of pipelines and a marked increase in associated shipping traffic. It also estimated the chance of a large spill over the project's multi-decade life-span to be roughly one in five.

One problem with the analysis, critics say, is that while it essentially assumes that past spills in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific are an accurate indication of the risk of future spills in the Gulf of Alaska, conditions in Alaska are vastly different. The platforms and pipelines required to develop the Cook Inlet lease area would be located in waters with much stronger currents, and extreme winter weather. Experts from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity, among others, say the EIS "presented an incomplete and misleading picture of oil spill impacts and risks based on flawed modeling." The environmental statistician Susan Lubetkin, of Elemental Statistics, argues that the risk calculation for the new development should also include the dangers posed by existing development in the area. In an independent analysis, she concluded that if the lease area is developed, the overall odds of at least one large spill in Cook Inlet will be more than one in three.

(In an email, a spokesperson for BOEM said the agency "used the best available information in our oil spill risk analysis and has invested considerable time, effort and funding in the past few years to improve the oil spill risk analysis.")

Many of the protected marine mammals that live in or move through the lease area could be affected by shipping traffic and noise pollution, including humpback, fin, and killer whales, and a critically endangered beluga-whale population that has dwindled to fewer than 300 animals. Even the preliminary steps Hilcorp has taken to explore the area's potential have had an impact, von Ziegesar says. She recorded the company's search for underwater fuel deposits in 2019, which entailed weeks of repetitive underwater blasts on the same frequencies whales use to communicate.

The EIS suggests that mitigation measures, such as timing activities seasonally to reduce disturbances, will minimize impacts on marine mammals, and that fish populations will do fine, because "individuals will habituate or leave the area." But the possibility that species might move to avoid the development noise "doesn't assuage anyone's fears," says Sue Mauger, the science and executive director at Cook Inletkeeper, a community-based organization that works to protect the watershed. "People have invested a lot of time and money on setnet sites based on where fish swim."

Diptych of a sea otter near Homer, Alaska and salmon school under a bridge at Brooks Camp, Alaska.
Left: Sea otter near Homer, Alaska Right: Salmon school under a bridge at Brooks Camp, Alaska (Acacia Johnson)

Fisheries in and around the Gulf of Alaska are already struggling to recover from a marine heat wave from 2014 to 2016, nicknamed "the Blob," which caused mass die-offs of fish and birds and was followed by another destructive marine heat wave in 2019. In 2020, cod numbers in Lower Cook Inlet dropped so precipitously—likely due to the combined effects of warming water temperatures and ocean acidification—that for the first time, the cod-fishing season was canceled. "It's so poignant that the federal lease sale is in these exact same waters," Mauger says. The prospect of pumping more oil and gas out of a warming sea, she continues, "is really hard to take."

BOEM completed its preliminary environmental analysis on the impacts to the region on January 13, 2021, a week before President Donald Trump left office. On January 27, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that paused all new federal oil and gas leases, including the Cook Inlet sale. Thirteen states, including Alaska, filed suit, ultimately prevailing in district court, and in October 2021, BOEM opened its EIS to public comment.

When Hilcorp representatives at a town hall meeting in the Cook Inlet town of Homer suggested that fish populations would simply move away from the disruption, a heckler shouted that the proposition was "total bullshit," and someone in the crowd blew an air horn. Ninety-three thousand people commented on Lease Sale 258, and according to an analysis by Cook Inletkeeper, more than 99 percent of them opposed its development.

Supporters of the lease, like the lobbying group National Ocean Industries Association, argued that its development would reduce national dependence on foreign energy sources; after Russia invaded Ukraine last February, these energy-security concerns gained new political power. But it often takes a decade for production to begin after a lease sale. Ben Boettger, an energy outreach specialist at the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, points out that according to BOEM estimates, the lease area only has enough gas to meet local needs for approximately four years. "What we're really running out of is cheap gas," says Erin McKittrick, speaking as a resident of Seldovia, although she is also on the board of the Homer Electric Association. "Geologically, you can find more gas in Cook Inlet, but how much does it cost?"

In May 2022, the administration canceled the lease sale. While BOEM publicly cited a lack of interest, internal emails suggest that the agency may have run out of time to hold the sale, as its most recent auctions-management plan expired in June. As the salmon runs began this summer, locals who had opposed the sale celebrated.

Now, under the terms that Senator Manchin negotiated in exchange for his pivotal support of the Inflation Reduction Act, the federal government must not only resume the sale but also do so on an accelerated timeline, before the end of 2022. So this fall, BOEM dusted off its EIS, publishing a final version in October.

Lease Sale 258 has traveled an unusual path to approval, but the critiques of its environmental analysis are not unique: While the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act requires the government to assess and disclose the environmental impacts of proposed projects, it doesn't require agencies to choose the least harmful option. Some people argue that NEPA was intended to be substantive, says Jamie Pleune, who researches environmental law at the University of Utah, but decades of litigation have ensured that "NEPA is simply procedural—all agencies have to do is acknowledge the impact."

Even strong public opposition may have little or no effect. "People go to comment, and then feel that nobody listens, and I think that's a legitimate feeling, because it's true," says Raúl M. Grijalva, Democratic representative from Arizona and chair of the Natural Resources Committee. Disregard of public input is a long-standing problem; in 1997, a Council on Environmental Quality report found that "agencies sometimes engage in consultation only after a decision has—for all practical purposes—been made."

In Alaska, this problem is exacerbated by the limited staff and resources of the state's many small, remote communities, whose residents are frequently the last to know the details of proposed projects. During a flurry of oil and gas development in the 1970s, for example, the Inupiat leader Eben Hopson complained that "EIS reports tend to irritate rather than inform. They commit information overkill. They reveal nothing by talking about everything." Hopson continued, "They are often inconclusive about the balance of risk to our people and our land."

During any EIS process, federal agencies are required to initiate government-to-government consultations with tribes whose members or land might be affected. BOEM says it reached out to 11 Alaska Native tribes in Cook Inlet about Lease Sale 258. The only formal governmental consultation the agency conducted was with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe—and only after the tribe called for the meeting. The Kenaitze passed a resolution against the sale, expressing their concerns about the impacts of oil spills and the contribution of the lease area's development to climate change.

Payton of the Seldovia Village Tribe says that even when the letter of the law is followed, the results can fall short of the law's intention. Government consultation often occurs belatedly, and tribes don't always have the administrative capacity to meaningfully participate in these conversations at the last minute. "I don't know if any letter we've ever written has actually had—like, we've actually seen anything change in [a] proposal because of it," Payton says.

Picture of businesses lining the shore of Cook Inlet in Homer, Alaska.
Businesses line the shore of Cook Inlet in Homer, Alaska. (Acacia Johnson)

The news of the Inflation Reduction Act deal broke in late July, early in the morning Alaska time. "I hadn't even got out of bed," Marissa Wilson, the executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, says. "I just rolled over and saw emails that Cook Inlet had been included to get Manchin's vote." She felt physically ill.

It is almost always difficult to draw a direct line between campaign contributions and later actions by political officials. Nevertheless, Hilcorp's owner, Jeffrey Hildebrand, who has a long history of significant donations to Republican candidates, maxed out the allowable annual individual campaign contributions to Manchin, a conservative Democrat, in August 2021, and hosted significant fundraisers for his reelection campaign. (So far in 2022, Manchin has accepted a total of $735,859 in contributions from the oil and gas industry.) And Lease Sale 258 is one of the few specific federally mandated oil sales included in the Inflation Reduction Act—legislation over which Manchin exercised singular power.

Manchin declined repeated requests for an interview, and in response to a request for a statement, his press team sent the following, which it attributed to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee: "An all-of-the-above approach grants energy producers the confidence they need to invest in American energy by requiring that all remaining lease sales, including lease sale 258, from the previous 5-year program be completed and tying offshore oil and gas leasing to offshore wind leasing."

In October, BOEM announced its recommendation for Lease Sale 258, called a preferred alternative, which removes several blocks of critical beluga-whale and sea-otter habitat from the lease, reducing it to just under a million acres. It also prohibits seismic surveys during parts of the fishing season. Critics say these are minimal changes that don't address the lease's many other risks; the EIS admits that the sale would have "potentially disproportionate adverse impacts" on local communities. "It's lip service," Lubetkin says of the changes. "You can have good critiques to the statistical analysis, and have them ignored." The state of Alaska recently announced an adjacent lease sale that encompasses an additional 2.8 million acres, raising further questions about the cumulative impacts of Lease Sale 258.

Shortly after news of the lease sale's resurrection broke, local advocates sat down with Amanda Lefton, the director of BOEM. To prepare for the meeting, one of the advocates picked wild blueberries for homemade muffins. Wilson brought a jar of sea salt she'd made from Cook Inlet, "just to try to make that connection."

Walking in, Wilson was nervous; it was a long shot, but she hoped to talk to someone about the possibility of extending permanent protections to parts of the inlet, as President Barack Obama had done for the northern Bering Sea in 2016.

When the meeting kicked off, she was quickly disappointed. "The basic message was that BOEM's hands are tied by the congressional mandate," she says. When it was her turn to speak, she talked about the realities of disaster response on the Alaskan coastline: "There is no way you can stop a spill in the middle of February, when there are 30-foot seas and currents roaring at nine knots—you can't expect people to risk their lives to go out there and contain what can't be contained," she recalls saying. "There's a reason this landscape is so full of life," she added, "and that's exactly why oil and gas exploration should not happen here."

Wilson remembers the response from Lefton and the other BOEM officials present as subdued; residents were told to keep sharing their concerns and engaging with the process. She left frustrated and upset.

In the days that followed the meeting, the mood among those who had fought the lease was dark. "I'm trying to figure out what to tell our supporters," Liz Mering, then the advocacy director at Cook Inletkeeper, says. Homer residents have fought to protect Lower Cook Inlet since the 1970s, even successfully raising money through shrimp and crab feeds to help pay for a legal battle that resulted in the state buying back previous oil and gas leases. Cook Inletkeeper itself was formed as part of a settlement for oil companies' violations of the Clean Water Act—the product of this successful pushback. Now, though, "it's just like, what do you tell people?" Mering says. "I don't want to say it's all meaningless. You want to keep empowering people to take action. But when we just get so ignored …"

Lease Sale 258, now scheduled for Friday, December 30, is happening at a critical moment for the global climate crisis. The window to forestall the worst impacts is rapidly closing, and companies like Hilcorp are part of the problem: A recent report found that Hilcorp is the world's largest emitter of methane gas, releasing far more of the atmospheric-warming substance than much larger companies. The report's findings demonstrate that oil and gas producers can take steps to reduce their climate impact; some are simply choosing not to. (Hilcorp told the press that it has reduced its emissions since the report's analysis, and that its emissions are relatively high because of its strategy of acquiring older companies.)

"We can't instantly stop using oil and gas," McKittrick says. "But we should be transitioning away from it as quickly as we can, while using the infrastructure we already have." The opportunity to do so in Cook Inlet is slipping away, she explains. Even as states like Florida introduce bans on offshore drilling, she says, "the subsidies Alaska has paid to oil and gas companies make it harder for renewable-energy companies to compete."

A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory assessment of Alaska's renewable-energy potential found that the state could shift roughly three-quarters of its energy demand to renewable sources by 2040—and lower electricity prices by doing so. Hilcorp representatives recently told the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council that the company was interested in using the existing platforms in the inlet for tidal-power generation, harnessing the same currents that make new oil drilling so treacherous (as well as potentially saving the company the cost of platform decommissioning). The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that Cook Inlet represents more than a third of the country's total tidal-energy potential, though commercial production of tidal energy is still in its infancy. "Oil and gas is not at all the only option," Cook Inletkeeper's Mauger says. "If we don't want to have unlivable landscapes, we don't have 40 more years to transition to green energy."

This fall, oblivious to the political churn, the tide continued to rise and fall over the inlet's stony beaches. The birch blazed yellow along the sandstone bluffs, a shock of color glorious and fleeting. Soon, bare branches were left stark against the sky, framing the retreating glaciers. As the harbor iced over and the sale ticked closer, a coalition of environmental organizations, including Cook Inletkeeper, filed a lawsuit, claiming that Lease Sale 258 violates national environmental-permitting rules by failing to seriously consider less harmful alternatives and misrepresenting the risks. Wilson, for her part, began to brainstorm. "We're not going to let this happen," she says. "People will show up and block the boats. I will. This is my home.

"I'm inseparable from this place," she continues. "And I know I'm not alone in that."

The waters of Cook Inlet, Alaska. Mt. Redoubt, an active volcano, is in the background – a reminder that the region lies in the Ring of Fire. (Acacia Johnson)

Lois Parshley is an award-winning investigative journalist. Follow her climate reporting @loisparshley. This story was produced in partnership with the McGraw Center for Business Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.


How the French Do Christmas
Is this article about Parenting?

My first true Christmas in France, 12 years ago, almost didn't happen. The day before flying to meet my fiancée in Paris, I'd gone to a Walgreens near my parents' house in central New Jersey to get a flu shot. Though I trust the science, and had been assured this was impossible, within 24 hours of getting jabbed I was convulsing on my mother's couch with one of the severest fevers and respiratory infections I had ever experienced. I missed my flight and had to purchase a new ticket at the last minute. My trip was off to a painful start.  

Once on the other side, however, and ensconced in front of the fire at my future sister-in-law's apartment, I was inducted into a familiar yet subtly and pleasantly altered yuletide universe. I know that Americans who write positively about France are inevitably accused of pretension, privilege, or both. But given the ubiquity and overwhelming cultural force of the American style of Christmas, the comparison seems worth making. The French have figured out some things about the holiday—perhaps most important is that it's all right for adults to put their pleasures first.

What struck me that inaugural year was the shape and appearance of the Christmas tree itself. In France, and perhaps Paris especially, the trees are significantly more compact than the towering North American varieties, and they tend to blend into rather than dominate their surroundings. These trees are indispensable yet understated, striking a simple balance with regular life instead of wholly upending it. (They are also—and this is no small thing—much easier to dispose of when the season is finished.) The second point of departure, and perhaps the most irreproachable, is the omnipresence of champagne, which begins flowing on Christmas Eve and—if you're in the right company—continues from late morning into the afternoon and evening of Christmas Day.

[Read: Families' weird holiday traditions, illustrated]

But it is the centrality of Christmas Eve itself—and the age-specific pleasures it promises—that I've come to appreciate as the main distinction between the French and American traditions. With the large caveat that I have never been part of a churchgoing community that attends services in either country, in the anecdotal terms of a secular celebrant, in France, December 24 is for adults; the children must patiently wait longer.

I may be selling my brother and myself and every other American child we ever associated with short, but I cannot say with a straight face that we displayed anything like patience in the countdown to Christmas morning, when we would inevitably wake up at dawn. Exuberance, yes; hilarity, excitement, sure. But patience? Or associated qualities like discipline? Selflessness? Grace? A sense of the bigger picture? That is not how I remember it.

Christmas Eve was just a faint prelude, the highlight of which was virgin eggnog and the knowledge that we were now on vacation. My parents would never have been able to exchange gifts with each other in front of us, let alone invite a bunch of other adults over to do it en masse as we quietly witnessed their jubilation and even assisted in the distribution of their bounty without partaking in it.

Yet this is precisely what the French children I've been around are expected to do without question. On Christmas Eve, in my experience, French children are supposed to be sage. That means well behaved, but also wise. They are expected to comport themselves with restraint and good humor.

Food takes precedence over their desires and fantasies. There is the aforementioned champagne, and typically foie gras and oysters and smoked salmon and, when my mother-in-law cooks, a turkey or capon that she wraps in lard and stuffs with farce, served with mounds of baked apples and chestnuts and a light celery purée. For dessert, there is the Gallic take on the familiar log, or bûche de Noël. The kids who are older than toddlers eat the same complicated flavors as the adults. Afterward, they calmly help pass out the gifts their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles have bought for one another. The first few years I witnessed this, I could hardly process the self-denial on display. I suppose I shouldn't compare young people too explicitly to animals, but when I see this ritual play out, I think of a well-trained dog looking on impassively while a family devours a juicy steak in front of it. It's impressive. Of course some French families must do things differently, but I'm speaking from personal observation.

[Read: 16 decades of Atlantic Christmases]

Even more alarming, when the evening is finished, when the grown-ups have had their fill, everyone simply goes to bed. The older brothers and sisters leave carrots for the reindeer and a cup of lukewarm coffee for Père Noël, mostly to humor their younger siblings who still believe in fairy tales. Then they all shut their eyes at a reasonable hour—something my brother and I never managed to accomplish in our time. In the morning, they wake up and finally open their own presents as the adults watch well-rested. The remainder of the day revolves around a large, multicourse lunch that begins with aperitifs and sets the pace for dinner. The kids continue to play, but the adults and their appetites are fully back in the driver's seat.

It is a quiet, family-oriented celebration, but it has always felt anticlimactic to me, the way New Year's Day does. There is already a whiff of nostalgia.

Which is probably why it is on the 25th of December that I most long for the informality and playfulness of America—the mess of torn wrapping paper and children running wild to the sound of blaring music and video games or the Chicago Bulls or Golden State Warriors (or whoever is the team of the era) beaming from the entertainment system. My son and daughter, born and raised in France, have no genuine point of comparison and are loyal to and fulfilled by their more muted French customs, and I am happy that they are happy. They certainly have all manner of advantages my neighbors and I could not have even dreamed of, including gobs of time off in a society that both prioritizes and subsidizes vacations to the tune of two weeks off every six weeks and another two months in the summer. They do not need my sympathy.

But as I sip my glass of cold champagne with their grandfather and watch them from my seat in front of the fire, I remember the sleepless, child-centric Christmases of my youth and can't help but feel like I got away with something.


Is this article about Biopharma Industry?

Sen. Ron Johnson held a roundtable discussion earlier this month regarding COVID-19 vaccine injuries. It featured a cast of antivax grifter and typical antivax talking points that we've come to know since the pandemic hit. This antivax propaganda exercise helps no one other than the antivaccine movement.

The post Ron Johnson's "vaccine 
round table
" does little to actually help patients. first appeared on Science-Based Medicine.


Scientific Reports, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41598-022-26113-1

Impairment in novelty-promoted memory via behavioral tagging and capture before apparent memory loss in a knock-in model of Alzheimer's disease


Scientific Reports, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41598-022-26792-w

A novel approach for the endothelialization of xenogeneic decellularized vascular tissues by human cells utilizing surface modification and dynamic culture


Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35632-4

Experimental microsurgery techniques are powerful for studying embryonic development but require highly trained operators to achieve reproducible results. Here they develop a high precision robotic micromanipulation platform to systematically perturb the physical structure of the developing zebrafish embryo, revealing key insights on the mechanics of body axis morphogenesis.

How the Christmas tree tradition came to be
Is this article about Foreign Policy?
Whether as palm branches gathered in Egypt in the celebration of Ra or wreaths for the Roman feast of Saturnalia, evergreens have long served as symbols of the perseverance of life during the bleakness of winter, and the promise of the sun's return.

How do smelling salts work?
Is this article about Health?
Smelling salts are found in Victorian novels to rouse fainting women and on the sports field to possibly help athletes. But how do they work?

Cre AI tives: Your Go-To Destination for AI Resources

Welcome to Cre AI tives, a comprehensive database of AI-related resources. Our goal is to make it easy for you to find and access the tools, books, courses, and other materials you need to learn about and work with artificial intelligence. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced practitioner, we hope you'll find something useful on our site. We're always adding new content, so be sure to check back often!

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Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35504-x

Imaging non-repetitive loci in living cells remains challenging. Here, the authors engineered an inducible system whereby biomolecular assemblies can be guided to specific genomic loci by a nuclease-defective Cas9, allowing the simultaneous imaging and manipulation of the loci.


Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35620-8

How glial cells like astrocytes shape complex brain functions remains unclear. Here, the authors identified an astrocyte-mediated excitatory signaling loop between neurons and their own dendritic signal integration that supports spatial memory.

Do you smell what I smell? How scents linked to Christmas have changed

While oranges and cloves moved from medicine cabinet to kitchen, rosemary fell out of festive fashion in England

The waft of pine trees and cinnamon biscuits may mean it is beginning to smell a lot like Christmas, but the odours that conjure up yuletide today may not always have had such joyful connotations, research has revealed.

Experts studying records of smells described in texts dating as far back as the 16th century say they have discovered the scents we associate with Christmas have shifted over time.

Continue reading…

Is this article about Future of Work?

Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35571-0

Heat extremes have been growing at staggering rates with global warming. This study shows that temperature variability is key to explaining the highly heterogeneous trajectories of future extremes and their rapid intensification in many regions.


Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35604-8

Efferocytosis describes the engulfment and clearance of apoptotic cells by phagocytes. Here the authors identify in primary mouse macrophage 
 as a regulator for efferocytosis, in which c-terminal WDFY3 is sufficient to modulate degradation while full-length WDFY3 is required to modulate the uptake of apoptotic cells.

Is this article about Manufacturing?

Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35622-6

Multimaterial 3D printing using digital light processing (DLP) is challenging because multimaterial switching methods require direct contact onto the printed part to remove residual resin. Here, the authors report a DLP-based centrifugal multimaterial 3D printing method to generate large-volume heterogeneous 3D objects where composition, property and function are programmable at voxel scale.


Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35607-5

Some bacteria use the muropeptide transporter AmpG for uptake and recycling of cell wall fragments that are released during cell growth and division. Here, Gilmore & Cava show that the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which lacks an AmpG homologue, uses a different type of transporter for the same function, which is essential for normal growth in this organism.


Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35544-3

Based on preclinical studies, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and immunization for the enzyme that produces GABA glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) could be a potential therapy for 
type 1 diabetes
. Here the authors report that in a placebo-controlled, double blind trial in children with new onset type 1 diabetes oral GABA plus GAD did not preserve beta-cell function measured as fasting/meal-stimulated c-peptide levels.


Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35641-3

Combining high-speed AFM, single molecule recognition force spectroscopy, and molecular dynamics simulations Zhu, Canena, Sikora et al. characterize the interaction dynamics of the trimeric spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 wt, and delta and omicron variants with its entry receptor ACE2. While delta variant increases avidity by multivalent binding to ACE2, omicron variant shows an extended binding lifetime.


Welburn, North Yorkshire: The moon is yet to appear, but the night is vivid with something larger than life

The sun has stalled. Solstice is from the Latin Sol and sistere, meaning to stand still. In December, the hiatus is around our star's southernmost rising and setting points, and appears to last about two weeks to the naked-eye observer. In the northern hemisphere, it brings us the shortest of daylight hours. There weren't enough today and we finished our afternoon walk in gathering dark to the sound of avian roosting rituals, and the nightly round of blackbird pseudo-alarm calls – the passerine equivalent of crying wolf to startle others into vacating favoured spots.

By 10 o'clock, the cold is clean and sharp as a surgical blade, and frost dazzles like diamond dust by torchlight. Nothing stirs in branch, briar or bracken, and the moon is yet to appear, but the night is vivid with something larger than life.

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Future of Games

I've been thinking about the future of games, and how our culture recycles the format of games as technologies progress

Examples: – Ancient / old board games (e.g., chess, risk) – Sports from the 19th/20th centuries (e.g., baseball, football) – Video games (e.g., fortnite)

Does it really make sense for all 3 to evolve into the next tech eras? (E.g., life size chess board in VR, realistic fortnite in VR, physically active sports in VR). Or, are there types of games that have a better success chance than others? I honestly think the older games will prevail because of … well… survivor bias.

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Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35488-8

It is not fully understood how sensory ambiguity introduced by eye movements is resolved by the visual system. Here, the authors use an encoding model to capture gain modulation of visual responses in 7 T fMRI data.


Nature Communications, Published online: 24 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35601-x

Nucleus accumbens cholinergic interneurons release acetylcholine and glutamate. Here, authors show that acetylcholine, rather than glutamate, is predominantly involved in updating dopamine dynamics mediating Pavlovian approach behaviours.


DEC 23

A Year of Botched Executions
Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • The House passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill, to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.

This year, the state of Alabama botched three consecutive executions by lethal injection: One man died after three hours of apparent torture, while two others lived. "The state's incompetence," Elizabeth Bruenig wrote last month, is "a civil-rights crisis." I spoke with Liz about what's going on in Alabama, her reporting on capital punishment, and what she's learned from witnessing state-sanctioned deaths in person.

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

Bearing Witness

Isabel Fattal: What do we know and what don't we know about Alabama's series of botched executions?

Elizabeth Bruenig: Last week, the governor of Alabama sent an open letter to the Supreme Court of Alabama and its chief justice asking, essentially, for more time to conduct executions.

Looking at the last three men that they have attempted executions on, only the first of them was successful—Joe Nathan James, on July 28. He was executed after many attempts [to insert an IV catheter] all over his body—hands, arms, feet—including what appears to have been a failed cutdown procedure, where Alabama cut into his arm looking for a vein. Next came Alan Miller and Kenny Smith; again, there were attempts [to insert a needle] all over each man's body, and both execution attempts ended in failure.

The governor is saying there's just not enough time to complete the process. But if you look at the bodies of the men who've been subjected to these procedures, the executioners have had plenty of time to put needles all over these men. If they were given more time, why do we think they would be successful?

Isabel: How much of the execution process are reporters or other witnesses allowed to see?

Liz: When you go to witness an execution, here's what's happening to you. You will walk through a metal detector. They'll take jewelry; sometimes they'll search you. I've had to go into a room, unbutton my shirt, flip my bra inside out. They pat you down and search you quite seriously.

Then they'll put you on a van to the execution chamber, which is typically a stand-alone structure set somewhat apart from the remainder of the prison. You'll be sat down in the witness chamber. When the curtain is drawn aside, what you will see is a man already strapped to a gurney with IV lines set. The needles will already be in his veins. They do not draw the curtain aside until they have access to two veins. You don't see any of what happens while they're trying to find veins.

Isabel: Right. So that's how officers can spend hours searching for veins when no one's watching.

Liz: And the reason you don't see any of that happening—even though I think a normal person would say, "Of course that's part of the execution"—is to shield the identities of the executioners. Their identities are totally protected from public scrutiny, despite the fact that nobody else in this process gets their identity protected.

Isabel: The state of Alabama has placed a moratorium on executions, pending a review of the process. What do you expect might happen as a result of this review?

Liz: To take a realistic assessment of the situation, the Alabama Department of Corrections has been charged with investigating itself. And one part of me says, if they were capable of diagnosing and actually fixing their problems, they would have done it. Another part of me says, it's quite plausible that the Alabama Department of Corrections has no real interest or motivation to carry out executions. They probably have other projects, like prison construction and the recruitment and training of corrections officers, that they would rather be doing.

In the worst-case scenario, it's possible that they are in a rush to resume executions and that the way that they want to do it is with nitrogen hypoxia, and they're working on a gas-execution protocol that would be as heinous as the last. I hope that's not their plan.

Isabel: What have you learned from spending time with the families of death-row inmates?

Liz: Twice, I was a personal witness. Instead of being corralled with the media people who were witnessing, I was with the families of the two men who were to be executed.

Executions are performed by the state with a lot of dedication to the victims' families. This is part of the pageantry of an execution, if you will—that it's sort of a dedicated event, and it's dedicated to the victim's family. It's supposed to give them closure or justice or peace or a sense of safety—any number of things. But there is absolutely no space for the family of the person being executed. What has come across to me most clearly is that the capital-punishment regime in the United States presumes that part of the punishment of the offender is the punishment of their family.

I don't think people think about the fact that those guys have families. I know it's inconvenient, because they're not the person you sympathize with, but the families of the prisoners are completely and totally innocent.

Isabel: Where are you looking next as you follow this story?

Liz: For Alabama, I'm very concerned about this question of a gas chamber. If lethal-gas execution is what they're going to do, then I will witness, and I will be there.

But my remit is actually pretty wide. My beat is violence in America. The death penalty is a piece of that, but I have broad interests. I'm interested in domestic violence and in suicide. I'm also interested in cookies. (Laughs.) I have a lot of other interests too.

I connect with people who are going through shit very well. I like to find people who are going through it and see what I can do for them.


Today's News

  1. A gunman killed at least three people and wounded three others in central Paris. The suspect targeted a Kurdish community center, a hair salon, and a restaurant in what officials believe was a racist spree.
  2. The House passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill, to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
  3. More than 1.5 million people across America are without power as a result of severe winter storms.


Explore all of our newsletters here.

Evening Read

A glass frog, viewed from its underside, while awake and active (left) or asleep (right).
The Atlantic; Jesse Delia / American Museum of Natural History

How Glass Frogs Weave the World's Best Invisibility Cloak

By Katherine J. Wu

Glass frogs do not live a life of modesty. With their semitransparent skin—green on the back, clear on the belly—the tree-dwelling, gummy-bear-size amphibians, which are native to the tropics of Central and South America, have little choice but to put their organs on display. Gaze up at certain species from below, and you'll be treated to an aquarium of innards: a beating heart, a matrix of bones, the shimmering silhouette of the gut.

The frog's see-through stomach is an ingenious ruse. It turns the animal's underside into a living, light-transmitting window, camouflaging the creature from skyward-gazing birds and snakes. There's just one problem with the frog's otherwise convincingly ghostly garb: the latticework of bright-red blood vessels laced throughout its tissues. It's an especially big issue in the daytime, when the frogs are asleep amid the leaves. As sunlight filters through the trees, casting shadows off whatever it hits below, the frogs' own blood threatens to betray them.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break

A scene from Bablyon
Scott Garfield / Paramount

Read. Pick up one of the 10 books that made us think the most this year, including Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Linda Villarosa's Under the Skin.

Looking to dive into a classic? Here are six that live up to their reputation.

Watch. In theaters, Babylon is an extravaganza of both misery and movie magic. And Avatar: The Way of Water puts most modern blockbusters to shame.

On TV, check out one of our critics' 15 best shows of the year.

Listen. Musically speaking, this year was a party. Let some of our best albums of the year be your weekend soundtrack.

And, of course, it's time for Christmas music—if you can decide what to listen to.

Play our daily crossword.


Because Liz mentioned some of her more cheerful interests, I asked her to elaborate on one thing that's giving her joy these days. "I'm about to get my nails done again," she told me. "Right now they're just glitter-tipped, with presents on the thumbs. But on December 30, I'm getting them bright red with the Coke Zero logo. Coke Zero brings me a huge amount of joy." Liz also told me she's a proud "CLA"—Christmas-loving adult—so she's been gearing up for this weekend for quite a while.

Wishing a happy holiday to those who celebrate,

— Isabel


A new study found bird diversity increased in North Carolina mountain forest areas severely burned by wildfire in 2016, reinforcing that while wildfire can pose risks to safety and property, it can be beneficial to wildlife. The study results could help forest managers better predict bird responses to wildfire, and manage forests to benefit birds.

The Israeli Government Goes Extreme Right
Is this article about Political Science?

In 2015, an Israeli police investigation into Jewish extremism uncovered a wedding video that shocked the public. In the clip, a group of far-right revelers were captured celebrating by stabbing a picture of a Palestinian baby who had been murdered in a recent firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, perpetrated by a settler extremist. The guests at this affair drew from the furthest reaches of the Israeli right, and included a lawyer named Itamar Ben-Gvir. Several of the participants—including the groom—would later be convicted for incitement to violence and terror.

Dubbed "the wedding of hate," the incident was excoriated by leaders across the Israeli political spectrum. "The demonic dance with the picture of the murdered baby represents a dangerous ideology and the loss of humanity," said an up-and-coming settler politician named Bezalel Smotrich. "The shocking images broadcast tonight show the true face of a group that constitutes a threat to Israeli society and Israel's security," declared then–Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We will not accept people who violate the state's laws and do not see themselves as bound by them."

This coming week, if all goes as planned, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich—who ran together as allies in the latest Israeli election—will be sworn in as ministers in the country's new government, led by none other than Benjamin Netanyahu.

[Yair Rosenberg: Something dark unfolded in Jerusalem this week]

As these men ascend to power, their ideas will soon drive policy. As one of their campaign slogans pointedly put it, "What you vote for is what you will get."

The cerebral Smotrich is less known outside Israel than the theatrical Ben-Gvir, who was a disciple of the infamous extremist Meir Kahane and is prone to brandishing a pistol at nearby Arabs. But although the two men differ in style, they agree on much of substance, particularly when it comes to Israel's Arab minority, which makes up about 20 percent of the country's population. In recent years, Smotrich has advocated segregating Jews and Arabs in Israel's maternity wards, lamented that "illiterate" Arabs were stealing university slots from Jewish applicants, and labeled Arab lawmakers as "enemies" who are "here by mistake." Smotrich is also a longtime proponent of turning Israel into a theocracy governed by religious law, and once described himself as a "proud homophobe," though he disavows such language today. He is now expected to assume authority over Israel's presence in the West Bank, including its settlements and the Palestinians living around them. At the same time, Ben-Gvir—who was rejected by the Israel Defense Forces for his radicalism—is slated to become the country's national-security minister, which oversees the police.

The rise of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir is emblematic of a fundamental shift in Israeli politics: The extreme has entered the mainstream. Once marginal figures, the two men now represent the Israeli Parliament's far-right vanguard, holding 14 of the Knesset's 120 seats and comprising nearly a quarter of the new coalition. Other members of the incoming administration include a future finance minister who was previously convicted of financial fraud; a housing minister who owns an illegally partitioned home; and a member of the security cabinet who opposes military service for his own ultra-Orthodox community.

This constellation of characters is the result of November's Israeli election, which saw the country's electorate once again split down the middle into pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps. But this time, thanks to a quirk of the Israeli political system, multiple anti-Bibi parties fell beneath the electoral threshold, which resulted in Netanyahu and his right-wing religious allies obtaining 64 of the Knesset's 120 seats despite winning just half of the vote. In practice, this means that though the Israeli far right garnered just 10 percent of ballots, it is now in position to exercise outsize authority in a coalition that cannot function without its support.

"The government established here is dangerous, extreme, irresponsible," Yair Lapid, Israel's outgoing prime minister, warned in a televised address last night. "This will end badly." Referring to Ben-Gvir, he asked rhetorically: "Show me a state in the world where the man responsible for the police is a violent criminal with 53 indictments and eight convictions for serious offenses."

[Read: The man who could end the Netanyahu era]

"We will fight for the rule of law," concluded Lapid, who has inveighed for years against the rise of the radical right. "We will fight for the rights of women and the LGBT community. We will fight for the values of the IDF. We will fight for the education of our children. We will fight for a tolerant Jewish identity which is not used as an excuse for discrimination and racism."

The new government has not yet been sworn in, but that fight has already begun. Hundreds of schools across the country have announced that they will refuse to work with Avi Maoz, a hard-right parliamentarian slated to oversee part of the education system. Placed in charge of a "Jewish Identity" agency by Netanyahu, Maoz recently called to cancel Jerusalem's Pride parade and to bar women from serving in the Israeli military.

To hear Netanyahu tell it, there's nothing to see here, because whatever the boasts and backstories of his newfound allies, he and his party will be the ones calling the shots. "The main policy or the overriding policy of the government is determined by the Likud and frankly, by me," he told the journalist Bari Weiss last month. "This Israel is not going to be governed by Talmudic law. We're not going to ban LGBT forums. As you know, my view on that is sharply different, to put it mildly. We're going to remain a country of laws." Spokespeople from Netanyahu's party have been dispatched to reassure foreign journalists and dignitaries that business will continue as usual. Pay no attention to the extremists behind the curtain. "They are joining me," he told NPR. "I'm not joining them."

In Israel, however, Netanyahu's conduct has often been at odds with his overseas media message. Even as he began signing coalition agreements with his ultra-Orthodox allies to subsidize yeshiva students and effectively exempt them from the economy and military service, he told the podcaster Jordan Peterson that he opposed such "lavish welfare spending" and that it was a problem that "the ultra-Orthodox community … didn't work, they just had a lot of children, which the private sector had to pay for." This doublespeak has not gone unnoticed. "Netanyahu talks responsibly in English and acts irresponsibly in Hebrew," charged the outgoing defense minister, Benny Gantz. "In English he says, 'We won't harm any rights of minorities,' while in Hebrew he acts to pass an override clause to bypass judicial defenses of minorities."

Even taken at face value, Netanyahu's protestations of moderation prompt an obvious question: If he does not share the values of his own coalition members, why did he recruit them into his government in the first place? Why didn't he build a government with the country's center and left parties, many of whom served under him in the past? The answer is simple, if entirely unacknowledged in his international interviews: He opted for the far right because they were the only ones willing to co-sign legislation to abrogate his ongoing corruption trial. Enabling extremists was Netanyahu's only play to maintain power.

[Ben Judah: Bibi was right]

The political risks of this strategy are apparent. Members of Netanyahu's own Likud party are already chafing at the plum positions he has gifted to the far right and the ultra-Orthodox. At the same time, polls show that the Israeli public overwhelmingly opposes many proposed policies of the incoming coalition, such as its proffered reforms to the Supreme Court and its socially conservative efforts to legislate Orthodoxy in the public sphere. Civil-society organizations have long been preparing to counter the far right's agenda.

But even if Dr. Frankenstein ultimately finds that he cannot control his monster, Netanyahu will have succeeded in rescuing himself from prosecution, the consummate political survivor living to fight another day. In the meantime, if the current coalition results in the hobbling of the country's judiciary, the repression of its minorities, or the erosion of its democratic institutions and international standing, it's a price Netanyahu is willing for Israelis to pay.


Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • Congress passes the FDA Modernization Act removing the animal testing requirement and allowing developers to use human-relevant tech. like organ chips in drug development

X-ray diffraction (XRD) is an essential technique to identify the structures and compositions of newly developed materials. However, XRD patterns consist of multiple peaks, and it is not always possible to judge which ones are relevant to describe the features of the material. 
 have recently proposed a neural network that uses the auto-encoder technique to permit the in-depth analysis of XRD patterns to reveal features that might not be identified by humans.

Remembering the Strange Dream of Lockdown New York

New York City in the early days of pandemic shutdowns was a horrible place to be. As fatal chaos unfolded in the hospitals, a gloriously noisy soundscape was replaced by terrifyingly constant sirens and the thrum of refrigerated morgue trucks. Anyone on the sidewalk, many of them essential workers who had no choice but to be there, moved away from other passersby in a fearful overshoot of the recommended six-foot separation. A famously packed city became a fraught place where it felt like getting too close to anyone might send both of you to a mass grave.

Despite being painful, these things are simple to talk about. They are morally clear: Death is awful; fear is awful. What many New Yorkers admit more gingerly is that when the pure terror began to subside in late April 2020, we ventured out and discovered that some things about the city were better. No tourists, no crowds, wealthy New Yorkers–by-convenience gone to the Hamptons or upstate. Left behind was everyone who couldn't afford to leave or didn't want to. New York felt more neighborly, like a city half its size.

[Read: We've seen New York's white flight before]

This transformation was best experienced on a walk with a friend. What might previously have been a casual hangout felt not life-affirming but life-confirming, proof that COVID hadn't killed either of you yet. Among the New Yorkers who picked up this walking habit during lockdown is Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic of The New York Times. Six days after then-Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency, Kimmelman invited a slew of friends and colleagues to give him tours of their neighborhoods, which he proceeded to write about in a series of columns for the paper. These offerings urged New Yorkers not to abandon one another or our city, to go outside with friends when we couldn't be inside, and to peacefully visit usually miserable places such as Times Square and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Last month, he published The Intimate City: Walking New York, a collection of these essays. Many New Yorkers will appreciate the book for immortalizing a peculiar time when the coronavirus pandemic "opened a window through which to see New York, if only briefly, in a new light," as Kimmelman writes in the introduction. He wanted to "capture a precarious, historic moment when New Yorkers found strength in their shared neighborhoods and one another."

Two years on, this period of desperate togetherness feels like a strange dream as New Yorkers suffer through the long tail of what the writer and activist Naomi Klein calls the shock doctrine—when those in power take advantage of a crisis to impose austerity measures and privatization. The new mayor is hollowing out his own workforce and slashing public budgets despite projections of a surplus. Landlords are raising rents to record highs while keeping affordable apartments off the market. But for a few months, many New Yorkers experienced the opposite: widespread welfare, free COVID-related health care, a pause on most evictions, and proof that what many people would like to do is not work in an office but spend time with, take care of, and stand up for one another. Looking back at the spring of 2020 is a reminder that a more humane world is possible, but we got there only because of a pandemic, and only for a moment.

When Kimmelman conceived the walks, it was hard to imagine that we would eventually find a way out of our isolation. Given the opportunity to dream of reemergence, Kimmelman's guides end up talking more about human connection than architecture, which is a good thing. One of the best chapters follows the author Suketu Mehta through Jackson Heights, commonly considered the city's most diverse neighborhood, as he revels in the containment of the whole world in just under half a square mile. In Mott Haven, the environmental activist and curator Monxo López took Kimmelman to an environmentalist mural, three community gardens, and an Oaxacan restaurant whose owners use their own undocumented status to support other immigrants. These two chapters celebrate the solidarity that flourished in some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID.

The book's first chapter is the most striking, reconstructing New York's topography and biosphere before the Dutch colonized Manhattan. It also makes an unforced error in featuring a tour guide who talks about the Lenape people in the past tense, when their descendants are very much alive, including in their New Jersey and Delaware homelands. Narrow perspectives plague much of the book: Nearly all of Kimmelman's guides have fancy pedigrees, and he devotes 14 of the 20 tours to Manhattan (a chapter titled, simply, "Brooklyn" treats an anodyne slice of the area as a synecdoche for the city's most populated borough). The Intimate City thus tells an incomplete story. The protests that dominated the summer after the killing of George Floyd are mentioned just once, and by López, not Kimmelman. Absent is an acknowledgment that the tourists weren't the only people whom many New Yorkers were glad to see gone.

These particular missing pieces are the focus of Jeremiah Moss's Feral City: On Finding Liberation in Lockdown New York, a memoir that establishes the first wave of the pandemic as a brief, magnificently unruly undoing of New York's corporatization. It is animated by Moss's grumpiness at seeing the city's edges sanded down for decades, a phenomenon he has spent the past 15 years documenting on his blog, Vanishing New York. The book begins with a detailing of his "Before Times" misery at watching disengaged Millennials take over formerly rent-stabilized apartments in his East Village building. He calls them "New People"—not new to the city, but what he sees as a new type of person: "ideal neoliberal subjects … walking advertisements exerting influence." (The writer Sarah Schulman describes an almost identical process in her 2012 book, The Gentrification of the Mind, of blithe 1990s yuppies overtaking queer neighborhoods ravaged by AIDS.) When these people begin fleeing the city in March of 2020, and in many cases later leave for good, Moss is elated in spite of the awful events that prompted their flight.

The ensuing book is too long, oversaturated with quotes by other writers and self-examining asides (Moss is a therapist) that add little to the narrative. But it is also a loving, vivid, near-perfect detailing of the alternate world of connection, possibility, and freedom that opened in the early months of the pandemic, amid overwhelming tragedy and suffering. Not since Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell has a book so thoroughly explored the camaraderie that blooms from disaster. Moss writes of a New York returning to what he sees as its rightful entropy, energy "heaving up from under pavement" to reveal "a dirty, spontaneous city" where "anything can happen." What ultimately happened was free fridgesoutdoor dance parties, and, after Floyd's murder, tens of thousands of people flooding the streets to demand justice for Black people killed by the police. Moss joins the protests, spending many hours in an Occupy-style encampment outside City Hall and in Washington Square Park, which during the shutdowns came alive with parties.

[Read: The new New York will be better]

His enthusiastic dispatches from these scenes are transportive—a walking tour through recent history. Every chapter is full of tender portraits, especially of young people who found meaning or a home in these places. As a trans man who came to New York to feel safe in its embrace of the strange and subcultural, Moss is glad to see another generation of weirdos filling the city in the absence of his loathed neighbors. One raucous August night in Washington Square, he hears a break-dancer shout, over a fight by the fountain, "You wanted old-school New York, you got old-school New York!"

Then fall arrives, and although Moss keeps marching with Black trans activists, he bitterly watches the city return to pre-pandemic orderliness. Outdoor diners stare blankly at the winnowing number of protesters. Tourists once again crowd the city. Moving trucks deposit new New People into Moss's neighborhood. In his eyes, it's all over. The temporary utopia is gone.

Pining for a lost city is a favorite pastime of New Yorkers, and both Kimmelman and Moss are good at it. Not that they would want, necessarily, to live in each other's ideal version of their home. The Intimate City, ultimately, is about a place that still exists: Readers can expect the tours to map cleanly onto the streetscape as it stands. The conceit of the book makes clear, too, that Kimmelman, and some of his guides, yearned more than anything for reopening, no matter what form it took. But what Feral City captures is more powerful, and accessible only through first-person histories like Moss's. Today, there are no monuments to the uprising or remaining traces of a wilder place.

For those whose loved ones have died of COVID, or whose disabilities continue to keep them inside, these books might read as callous romanticizations of trauma and terror. Those of us lucky enough to experience this version of our home as a silver lining will be nostalgic, and those who weren't here will learn that the pandemic at no point destroyed the city. If not for accounts like these, the canonical narrative of COVID in New York might only be about the suffering, erasing a brief period of transformation and intimacy. It was a version of the city we couldn't hold on to. But it's one that's worth remembering.


Glassfrogs achieve transparency by packing red blood cells into mirror-coated liver
New research shows that glassfrogs — known for their highly transparent undersides and muscles — perform their 'disappearing acts' by stowing away nearly all of their red blood cells into their uniquely reflective livers. The work could lead to new avenues of research tied to blood clots, which the frogs somehow avoid while packing and unpacking about 90 percent of their red blood cells into their livers on a daily basis.

Is this article about Biopharma Industry?
After an intrepid, decade-long search, scientists say they have found a new role for a pair of enzymes that regulate genome function and, when missing or mutated, are linked to diseases such as brain tumors, blood cancers and Kleefstra syndrome — a rare genetic, neurocognitive disorder.

Researchers have discovered a new mode of vertical mother-to-infant microbiome transmission, where microbes in the maternal gut shared genes with microbes in the infant gut during the perinatal period starting immediately before birth and extending thought the first few weeks after birth. This horizontal gene transfer allowed maternal microbial strains to influence the functional capacity of the infant microbiome, in the absence of persistent transmission of the microbial strains themselves.

Researchers use 3D bioprinting to create eye tissue
Is this article about Pharma?
Scientists used patient stem cells and 3D bioprinting to produce eye tissue that will advance understanding of the mechanisms of blinding diseases. The research team printed a combination of cells that form the outer blood-retina barrier–eye tissue that supports the retina's light-sensing photoreceptors. The technique provides a theoretically unlimited supply of patient-derived tissue to study degenerative retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).



Understanding how long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) cooperate with splicing factors (SFs) in alternative splicing (AS) control is fundamental to human biology and disease. We show that metastasis-associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript 1 (
), a well-documented AS-implicated lncRNA, regulates AS via two SFs, polypyrimidine tract–binding protein 1 (
) and PTB-associated SF (PSF). MALAT1 stabilizes the interaction between PTBP1 and PSF, thereby forming a functional module that affects a network of AS events. The MALAT1-stabilized PTBP1/PSF interaction occurs in multiple cellular contexts; however, the functional module, relative to MALAT1 only, has more dominant pathological significance in hepatocellular carcinoma. MALAT1 also stabilizes the PSF interaction with several heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoparticle proteins other than PTBP1, hinting a broad role in AS control. We present a model in which MALAT1 cooperates with distinct SFs for AS regulation and pose that, relative to analyses exclusively performed for lncRNAs, a comprehensive consideration of lncRNAs and their binding partners may provide more information about their biological functions.



The molecular mechanisms that maintain cellular identities and prevent dedifferentiation or transdifferentiation remain mysterious. However, both processes are transiently used during animal regeneration. Therefore, organisms that regenerate their organs, appendages, or even their whole body offer a fruitful paradigm to investigate the regulation of cell fate stability. Here, we used Hydra as a model system and show that Zic4, whose expression is controlled by Wnt3/β-catenin signaling and the Sp5 transcription factor, plays a key role in tentacle formation and tentacle maintenance. Reducing Zic4 expression suffices to induce transdifferentiation of tentacle epithelial cells into foot epithelial cells. This switch requires the reentry of tentacle battery cells into the cell cycle without cell division and is accompanied by degeneration of nematocytes embedded in these cells. These results indicate that maintenance of cell fate by a Wnt-controlled mechanism is a key process both during homeostasis and during regeneration.

Is this article about Cell?


With increasing computing demands, serial processing in von Neumann architectures built with zeroth-order complexity digital circuits is saturating in computational capacity and power, entailing research into alternative paradigms. Brain-inspired systems built with memristors are attractive owing to their large parallelism, low energy consumption, and high error tolerance. However, most demonstrations have thus far only mimicked primitive lower-order biological complexities using devices with first-order dynamics. Memristors with higher-order complexities are predicted to solve problems that would otherwise require increasingly elaborate circuits, but no generic design rules exist. Here, we present second-order dynamics in halide perovskite memristive diodes (memdiodes) that enable Bienenstock-Cooper-Munro learning rules capturing both timing- and rate-based plasticity. A triplet spike timing–dependent plasticity scheme exploiting ion migration, back diffusion, and modulable Schottky barriers establishes general design rules for realizing higher-order memristors. This higher order enables complex binocular orientation selectivity in neural networks exploiting the intrinsic physics of the devices, without the need for complicated circuitry.



The bidirectional controller of the thermoregulatory center in the preoptic area (POA) is unknown. Using rats, here, we identify prostaglandin EP3 receptor–expressing POA neurons (POA EP3R neurons) as a pivotal bidirectional controller in the central thermoregulatory mechanism. POA EP3R neurons are activated in response to elevated ambient temperature but inhibited by prostaglandin E , a pyrogenic mediator. Chemogenetic stimulation of POA EP3R neurons at room temperature reduces body temperature by enhancing heat dissipation, whereas inhibition of them elicits hyperthermia involving brown fat thermogenesis, mimicking fever. POA EP3R neurons innervate sympathoexcitatory neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) via tonic (ceaseless) inhibitory signaling. Although many POA EP3R neuronal cell bodies express a glutamatergic messenger RNA marker, their axons in the DMH predominantly release γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and their GABAergic terminals are increased by chronic heat exposure. These findings demonstrate that tonic GABAergic inhibitory signaling from POA EP3R neurons is a fundamental determinant of body temperature for thermal homeostasis and fever.



The epitaxial growth of functional oxides using a substrate with a graphene layer is a highly desirable method for improving structural quality and obtaining freestanding epitaxial nanomembranes for scientific study, applications, and economical reuse of substrates. However, the aggressive oxidizing conditions typically used in growing epitaxial oxides can damage graphene. Here, we demonstrate the successful use of hybrid molecular beam epitaxy for SrTiO growth that does not require an independent oxygen source, thus avoiding graphene damage. This approach produces epitaxial films with self-regulating cation stoichiometry. Furthermore, the film (46-nm-thick SrTiO ) can be exfoliated and transferred to foreign substrates. These results open the door to future studies of previously unattainable freestanding oxide nanomembranes grown in an adsorption-controlled manner by hybrid molecular beam epitaxy. This approach has potentially important implications for the commercial application of perovskite oxides in flexible electronics and as a dielectric in van der Waals thin-film electronics.



Translation control is essential in balancing hematopoietic precursors and differentiation; however, the mechanisms underlying this program are poorly understood. We found that the activity of the major cap-binding protein eIF4E is unexpectedly regulated in a dynamic manner throughout erythropoiesis that is uncoupled from global protein synthesis rates. Moreover, eIF4E activity directs erythroid maturation, and increased eIF4E expression maintains cells in an early erythroid state associated with a translation program driving the expression of PTPN6 and Igf2bp1. A cytosine-enriched motif in the 5′ untranslated region is important for eIF4E-mediated translation specificity. Therefore, selective translation of key target genes necessary for the maintenance of early erythroid states by eIF4E highlights a unique mechanism used by hematopoietic precursors to rapidly elicit erythropoietic maturation upon need.

Is this article about Cell?


The red turpentine beetle (RTB) is one of the most destructive invasive pests in China and solely consumes pine phloem containing high amounts of -pinitol. Previous studies reported that -pinitol exhibits deterrent effects on insects. However, it remains unknown how insects overcome -pinitol during their host plant adaptation. We found that -pinitol had an antagonistic effect on RTB, which mainly relied on gallery microbes to degrade -pinitol to enhance host adaptation with mutualistic Leptographium procerum and two symbiotic bacteria, Erwinia and Serratia , responsible for this degradation. Genomic, transcriptomic, and functional investigations revealed that all three microbes can metabolize -pinitol via different branches of the inositol pathway. Our results collectively highlight the contributions of symbiotic microbes in RTB's adaptation to living on pine, thereby facilitating outbreaks of RTB in China. These findings further enrich our knowledge of symbiotic invasions and contribute to the further understanding of plant-insect interactions.

Is this article about Cell?


Anthracyclines such as doxorubicin (Dox) are effective chemotherapies, but their use is limited by 
cardiac toxicity
. We hypothesized that plasma proteomics in women with breast cancer could identify new mechanisms of anthracycline cardiac toxicity. We measured changes in 1317 proteins in anthracycline-treated patients ( = 30) and replicated key findings in a second cohort ( = 31). An increase in the heme-binding protein 
 (Hpx) 3 months after anthracycline initiation was associated with cardiac toxicity by echocardiography. To assess the functional role of Hpx, we administered Hpx to wild-type (WT) mice treated with Dox and observed improved cardiac function. Conversely, Hpx −/− mice demonstrated increased Dox cardiac toxicity compared to WT mice. Initial mechanistic studies indicate that Hpx is likely transported to the heart by circulating monocytes/macrophages and that Hpx may mitigate Dox-induced ferroptosis to confer cardioprotection. Together, these observations suggest that Hpx induction represents a compensatory response during Dox treatment.

Is this article about Biopharma Industry?


It is urgent to develop more effective mRNA vaccines against the emerging severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants owing to the immune escape. Here, we constructed a novel mRNA delivery system [IC8/Mn lipid nanoparticles (IC8/Mn LNPs)]with high immunogenicity, via introducing a stimulator of interferon genes (STING) agonist [manganese (Mn)] based on a newly synthesized ionizable lipid (IC8). It was found that Mn can not only promote maturation of antigen-presenting cells via activating STING pathway but also improve mRNA expression by facilitating lysosomal escape for the first time. Subsequently, IC8/Mn LNPs loaded with mRNA encoding the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 Delta or Omicron variant (IC8/ [email protected] or IC8/ [email protected] ) were prepared. Both mRNA vaccines induced substantial specific immunoglobulin G responses against Delta or Omicron. IC8/ [email protected] displayed strong pseudovirus neutralization ability, T helper 1–biased immune responses, and good safety. It can be concluded that IC8/Mn LNPs have great potential for developing Mn-coordinated mRNA vaccines with robust immunogenicity and good safety.

Is this article about Biopharma Industry?


Epigenetic dysregulation of cell cycle is a hallmark of tumorigenesis in multiple 
, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Nonetheless, the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the aberrant cell cycle signaling and therapeutic response remain unclear. Here, we used an epigenetics-focused CRISPR interference screen and identified 
 (actin-related protein 5), a component of the 
 chromatin remodeling complex, to be essential for HCC tumor progression. Suppression of ACTR5 activated 
 expression, ablated CDK/E2F-driven cell cycle signaling, and attenuated HCC tumor growth. Furthermore, high-density CRISPR gene tiling scans revealed a distinct HCC-specific usage of ACTR5 and its interacting partner IES6 compared to the other INO80 complex members, suggesting an INO80-independent mechanism of ACTR5/IES6 in supporting the HCC proliferation. Last, our study revealed the synergism between ACTR5/IES6-targeting and pharmacological inhibition of CDK in treating HCC. These results indicate that the dynamic interplay between epigenetic regulators, tumor suppressors, and cell cycle machinery could provide novel opportunities for combinational HCC therapy.

Is this article about Food Science?


Compulsive drug use, a cardinal symptom of drug addiction, is characterized by persistent substance use despite adverse consequences. However, little is known about the neural circuit mechanisms behind this behavior. Using a footshock-punished cocaine self-administration procedure, we found individual variability of rats in the process of drug addiction, and rats with compulsive cocaine use presented increased neural activity of the anterior insular cortex (aIC) compared with noncompulsive rats. Chemogenetic manipulating activity of aIC neurons, especially aIC glutamatergic neurons, bidirectionally regulated compulsive cocaine intake. Furthermore, the aIC received inputs from the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and the OFC-aIC circuit was enhanced in rats with compulsive cocaine use. Suppression of the OFC-aIC circuit switched rats from punishment resistance to sensitivity, while potentiation of this circuit increased compulsive cocaine use. In conclusion, our results found that aIC glutamatergic neurons and the OFC-aIC circuit gated the shift from controlled to compulsive cocaine use, which could serve as potential therapeutic targets for drug addiction.



Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death and a driver of racial disparities in life expectancy in the United States. Community-based interventions are the foremost policy strategy for reducing gun violence without exacerbating harm associated with criminal justice approaches. However, little is known about the interventionist workforce. In 2021, we used a researcher-guided survey to obtain a near-census of Chicago violence interventionists ( = 181, 93% response rate). Workers were mostly male (84%) and Black (80.9%), with a mean age of 43.6 years. Interventionists commonly experienced work-related exposure to violence and direct victimization. A total of 59.4% witnessed someone being shot at, whereas 32.4% witnessed a victim struck by gunfire. During work hours, 19.6% were shot at, while 2.2% were nonfatally shot. Single-year rates of gun violence victimization exceeded those of Chicago police. Results suggest that investment in community violence intervention should prioritize improving worker safety and reducing violence exposure while developing support for vulnerable frontline practitioners.

Researchers use 3D bioprinting to create eye tissue
Is this article about Pharma?
Scientists used patient stem cells and 3D bioprinting to produce eye tissue that will advance understanding of the mechanisms of blinding diseases. The research team printed a combination of cells that form the outer blood-retina barrier–eye tissue that supports the retina's light-sensing photoreceptors. The technique provides a theoretically unlimited supply of patient-derived tissue to study degenerative retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Is this article about Foreign Policy?
Temporarily overshooting the climate targets of 1.5-2 degrees Celsius could increase the tipping risk of several Earth system elements by more than 70 percent compared to keeping global warming in line with the United Nations Paris Agreement range, a new risk analysis study by an international team of researchers shows. This tipping risk increases even if in the longer term the global temperature would stabilize within the Paris range. Avoiding an overshoot would hence limit the risks, the researchers conclude.


Scientific Reports, Published online: 23 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41598-022-24722-4

Association of plasma 
cystatin C
 with all-cause and cause-specific mortality among middle-aged and elderly individuals: a prospective community-based cohort study


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