Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02851-8A stem cell that contributes to vertebra formation also encourages the growth of tumours that move to the backbone from elsewhere.
Photographs by Yael Malka
For most of his life, Mitt Romney has nursed a morbid fascination with his own death, suspecting that it might assert itself one day suddenly and violently.
He controls what he can, of course. He wears his seat belt, and diligently applies sunscreen, and stays away from secondhand smoke. For decades, he’s followed his doctor’s recipe for longevity with monastic dedication—the lean meats, the low-dose aspirin, the daily 30-minute sessions on the stationary bike, heartbeat at 140 or higher or it doesn’t count.
He would live to 120 if he could. “So much is going to happen!” he says when asked about this particular desire. “I want to be around to see it.” But some part of him has always doubted that he’ll get anywhere close.
He has never really interrogated the cause of this preoccupation, but premonitions of death seem to follow him. Once, years ago, he boarded an airplane for a business trip to London and a flight attendant whom he’d never met saw him, gasped, and rushed from the cabin in horror. When she was asked what had so upset her, she confessed that she’d dreamt the night before about a man who looked like him—exactly like him—getting shot and killed at a rally in Hyde Park. He didn’t know how to respond, other than to laugh and put it out of his mind. But when, a few days later, he happened to find himself on the park’s edge and saw a crowd forming, he made a point not to linger.
All of which is to say there is something familiar about the unnerving sensation that Romney is feeling late on the afternoon of January 2, 2021.
It begins with a text message from Angus King, the junior senator from Maine: “Could you give me a call when you get a chance? Important.”
Romney calls, and King informs him of a conversation he’s just had with a high-ranking Pentagon official. Law enforcement has been tracking online chatter among right-wing extremists who appear to be planning something bad on the day of Donald Trump’s upcoming rally in Washington, D.C. The president has been telling them the election was stolen; now they’re coming to steal it back. There’s talk of gun smuggling, of bombs and arson, of targeting the traitors in Congress who are responsible for this travesty. Romney’s name has been popping up in some frightening corners of the internet, which is why King needed to talk to him. He isn’t sure Romney will be safe.
Romney hangs up and immediately begins typing a text to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. McConnell has been indulgent of Trump’s deranged behavior over the past four years, but he’s not crazy. He knows that the election wasn’t stolen, that his guy lost fair and square. He sees the posturing by Republican politicians for what it is. He’ll want to know about this, Romney thinks. He’ll want to protect his colleagues, and himself.
Romney sends his text: “In case you have not heard this, I just got a call from Angus King, who said that he had spoken with a senior official at the Pentagon who reports that they are seeing very disturbing social media traffic regarding the protests planned on the 6th. There are calls to burn down your home, Mitch; to smuggle guns into DC, and to storm the Capitol. I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator—the President—is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require.”
McConnell never responds.
I began meeting with Romney in the spring of 2021. The senator hadn’t told anyone he was talking to a biographer, and we kept our interviews discreet. Sometimes we talked in his Senate office, after most of his staff had gone home; sometimes we went to his little windowless “hideaway” near the Senate chamber. But most weeks, I drove to a stately brick townhouse with perpetually drawn blinds on a quiet street a mile from the Capitol.
The place had not been Romney’s first choice for a Washington residence. When he was elected, in 2018, he’d had his eye on a newly remodeled condo at the Watergate with glittering views of the Potomac. His wife, Ann, fell in love with the place, but his soon-to-be staffers and colleagues warned him about the commute. So he grudgingly chose practicality over luxury and settled for the $2.4 million townhouse instead.
He tried to make it nice, so that Ann would be comfortable when she visited. A decorator filled the rooms with tasteful furniture and calming abstract art. He planted a garden on the small backyard patio. But his wife rarely came to Washington, and his sons didn’t come either, and gradually the house took on an unkempt bachelor-pad quality. Crumbs littered the kitchen counter; soda and seltzer occupied the otherwise-empty fridge. Old campaign paraphernalia appeared on the mantel, clashing with the decorator’s mid-tone color scheme, and a bar of “Trump’s Small Hand Soap” (a gag gift from one of his sons) was placed in the powder room alongside the monogrammed towels.
In the “dining room,” a 98-inch TV went up on the wall and a leather recliner landed in front of it. Romney, who didn’t have many real friends in Washington, ate dinner alone there most nights, watching Ted Lasso or Better Call Saul as he leafed through briefing materials. On the day of my first visit, he showed me his freezer, which was full of salmon fillets that had been given to him by Lisa Murkowski, the senator from Alaska. He didn’t especially like salmon but found that if he put it on a hamburger bun and smothered it in ketchup, it made for a serviceable meal.
Sitting across from Romney at 76, one can’t help but become a little suspicious of his handsomeness. The jowl-free jawline. The all-seasons tan. The just-so gray at the temples of that thick black coif, which his barber once insisted he doesn’t dye. It all seems a little uncanny. Only after studying him closely do you notice the signs of age. He shuffles a little when he walks now, hunches a little when he sits. At various points in recent years, he’s gotten so thin that his staff has worried about him. Mostly, he looks tired.
Romney’s isolation in Washington didn’t surprise me. In less than a decade, he’d gone from Republican standard-bearer and presidential nominee to party pariah thanks to a series of public clashes with Trump. What I didn’t quite expect was how candid he was ready to be. He instructed his scheduler to block off evenings for weekly interviews, and told me that no subject would be off-limits. He handed over hundreds of pages of his private journals and years’ worth of personal correspondence, including sensitive emails with some of the most powerful Republicans in the country. When he couldn’t find the key to an old filing cabinet that contained some of his personal papers, he took a crowbar to it and deposited stacks of campaign documents and legal pads in my lap. He’d kept all of this stuff, he explained, because he thought he might write a memoir one day, but he’d decided against it. “I can’t be objective about my own life,” he said.
Some nights he vented; other nights he dished. He’s more puckish than his public persona suggests, attuned to the absurdist humor of political life and quick to share stories that others might consider indiscreet. I got the feeling he liked the company—our conversations sometimes stretched for hours.
“A very large portion of my party,” he told me one day, “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” He’d realized this only recently, he said. We were a few months removed from an attempted coup instigated by Republican leaders, and he was wrestling with some difficult questions. Was the authoritarian element of the GOP a product of President Trump, or had it always been there, just waiting to be activated by a sufficiently shameless demagogue? And what role had the members of the mainstream establishment—people like him, the reasonable Republicans—played in allowing the rot on the right to fester?
I had never encountered a politician so openly reckoning with what his pursuit of power had cost, much less one doing so while still in office. Candid introspection and crises of conscience are much less expensive in retirement. But Romney was thinking beyond his own political future.
Earlier this year, he confided to me that he would not seek reelection to the Senate in 2024. He planned to make this announcement in the fall. The decision was part political, part actuarial. The men in his family had a history of sudden heart failure, and none had lived longer than his father, who died at 88. “Do I want to spend eight of the 12 years I have left sitting here and not getting anything done?” he mused. But there was something else. His time in the Senate had left Romney worried—not just about the decomposition of his own political party, but about the fate of the American project itself.
Shortly after moving into his Senate office, Romney had hung a large rectangular map on the wall. First printed in 1931 by Rand McNally, the “histomap” attempted to chart the rise and fall of the world’s most powerful civilizations through 4,000 years of human history. When Romney first acquired the map, he saw it as a curiosity. After January 6, he became obsessed with it. He showed the map to visitors, brought it up in conversations and speeches. More than once, he found himself staring at it alone in his office at night. The Egyptian empire had reigned for some 900 years before it was overtaken by the Assyrians. Then the Persians, the Romans, the Mongolians, the Turks—each civilization had its turn, and eventually collapsed in on itself. Maybe the falls were inevitable. But what struck Romney most about the map was how thoroughly it was dominated by tyrants of some kind—pharaohs, emperors, kaisers, kings. “A man gets some people around him and begins to oppress and dominate others,” he said the first time he showed me the map. “It’s a testosterone-related phenomenon, perhaps. I don’t know. But in the history of the world, that’s what happens.” America’s experiment in self-rule “is fighting against human nature.”
“This is a very fragile thing,” he told me. “Authoritarianism is like a gargoyle lurking over the cathedral, ready to pounce.”
For the first time in his life, he wasn’t sure if the cathedral would hold.
Optimism—quaint in retrospect, though perhaps delusional—is what first propelled Romney to the Senate. It was 2017. Trump was president, and the early months of his tenure had been a predictable disaster; the Republican Party was in trouble. Romney’s friends were encouraging him to get back in the game, and he was tempted by the open Senate seat in Utah, a state where Trump was uniquely unpopular among conservative voters. On his iPad, he typed out the pros and cons of running—high-minded sentiments about public service in one column, lifestyle considerations in the other. Then, at the top of the list, he wrote a line from Yeats that he couldn’t get out of his mind: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”
To Romney, this was the problem with the Trump-era GOP. He believed there were still decent, well-intentioned leaders in his party—they were just nervous. They needed a nudge. A role model, perhaps. As the former nominee, he told me, he felt that he “had the potential to be an alternative voice for Republicans.”
Five years earlier, while running for president, Romney had accepted Trump’s endorsement. At the time, he’d rationalized the decision—yes, Trump was a buffoon and a conspiracy theorist, but he was just a guy on reality TV, not a serious political figure. Romney now realized that he’d badly underestimated the potency of Trumpism. But in the summer of 2017, it still seemed possible that the president would be remembered as an outlier.
Two days before he was sworn in as a senator, Romney published an op-ed in The Washington Post designed to signal his independence from Trump. “On balance,” Romney wrote, the president “has not risen to the mantle of the office.” He pledged to work with him when they agreed on an issue, to oppose him when they didn’t, and to speak out when necessary. He thought of this as a new way to be a Republican senator in Trump’s Washington.
His colleagues were not impressed. A few days after Romney was sworn in, Politico ran a story about the “chilly reception” he was receiving from his fellow Republican senators. The story quoted several of them, on the record or anonymously, griping about his unwillingness to get along with the leader of their party. Romney emailed the story to his advisers, describing himself as “the turd in the punch bowl.” “These guys have got to justify their silence, at least to themselves.”
Romney had spent the weeks since his election typing out a list of all the things he wanted to accomplish in the Senate. By the time he took office, it contained 42 items and was still growing. The legislative to-do list ranged from complex systemic reforms—overhauling immigration, reducing the national deficit, addressing climate change—to narrower issues such as compensating college athletes and regulating the vaping industry. His staff was bemused when he showed it to them; even in less polarized, less chaotic times, the kind of ambitious agenda he had in mind would be unrealistic. But Romney was not deterred. He told his aides he wanted to set up meetings with all 99 of his colleagues in his first six months, and began studying a flip-book of senators’ pictures so that he could recognize his potential legislative partners.
In one early meeting, a colleague who’d been elected a few years earlier leveled with him: “There are about 20 senators here who do all the work, and there are about 80 who go along for the ride.” Romney saw himself as a workhorse, and was eager for others to see him that way too. “I wanted to make it clear: I want to do things,” he told me.
He quickly became frustrated, though, by how much of the Senate was built around posturing and theatrics. Legislators gave speeches to empty chambers and spent hours debating bills they all knew would never pass. They summoned experts to appear at committee hearings only to make them sit in silence while they blathered some more.
As the weeks passed, Romney became fascinated by the strange social ecosystem that governed the Senate. He spent his mornings in the Senate gym studying his colleagues like he was an anthropologist, jotting down his observations in his journal. Richard Burr walked on the treadmill in his suit pants and loafers; Sherrod Brown and Dick Durbin pedaled so slowly on their exercise bikes that Romney couldn’t help but peek at their resistance settings: “Durbin was set to 1 and Brown to 8. 🙂 :). My setting is 15—not that I’m bragging,” he recorded.
He joked to friends that the Senate was best understood as a “club for old men.” There were free meals, on-site barbers, and doctors within a hundred feet at all times. But there was an edge to the observation: The average age in the Senate was 63 years old. Several members, Romney included, were in their 70s or even 80s. And he sensed that many of his colleagues attached an enormous psychic currency to their position—that they would do almost anything to keep it. “Most of us have gone out and tried playing golf for a week, and it was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna kill myself,’ ” he told me. Job preservation, in this context, became almost existential. Retirement was death. The men and women of the Senate might not need their government salary to survive, but they needed the stimulation, the sense of relevance, the power. One of his new colleagues told him that the first consideration when voting on any bill should be “Will this help me win reelection?” (The second and third considerations, the colleague continued, should be what effect it would have on his constituents and on his state.)
Perhaps Romney’s most surprising discovery upon entering the Senate was that his disgust with Trump was not unique among his Republican colleagues. “Almost without exception,” he told me, “they shared my view of the president.” In public, of course, they played their parts as Trump loyalists, often contorting themselves rhetorically to defend the president’s most indefensible behavior. But in private, they ridiculed his ignorance, rolled their eyes at his antics, and made incisive observations about his warped, toddlerlike psyche. Romney recalled one senior Republican senator frankly admitting, “He has none of the qualities you would want in a president, and all of the qualities you wouldn’t.”
This dissonance soon wore on Romney’s patience. Every time he publicly criticized Trump, it seemed, some Republican senator would smarmily sidle up to him in private and express solidarity. “I sure wish I could do what you do,” they’d say, or “Gosh, I wish I had the constituency you have,” and then they’d look at him expectantly, as if waiting for Romney to convey profound gratitude. This happened so often that he started keeping a tally; at one point, he told his staff that he’d had more than a dozen similar exchanges. He developed a go-to response for such occasions: “There are worse things than losing an election. Take it from somebody who knows.”
One afternoon in March 2019, Trump paid a visit to the Senate Republicans’ weekly caucus lunch. He was in a buoyant mood—two days earlier, the Justice Department had announced that the much-anticipated report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller failed to establish collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. As Romney later wrote in his journal, the president was met with a standing ovation fit for a conquering hero, and then launched into some rambling remarks. He talked about the so-called Russia hoax and relitigated the recent midterm elections and swung wildly from one tangent to another. He declared, somewhat implausibly, that the GOP would soon become “the party of health care.” The senators were respectful and attentive.
As soon as Trump left, Romney recalled, the Republican caucus burst into laughter.
Few of his colleagues surprised him more than Mitch McConnell. Before arriving in Washington, Romney had known the Senate majority leader mainly by reputation. With his low, cold mumble and inscrutable perma-frown, McConnell was viewed as a win-at-all-costs tactician who ruled his caucus with an iron fist. Observing him in action, though, Romney realized that McConnell rarely resorted to threats or coercion—he was primarily a deft manager of egos who excelled at telling each of his colleagues what they wanted to hear. This often left Romney guessing as to which version of McConnell was authentic—the one who did Trump’s bidding in public, or the one who excoriated him in their private conversations.
In the fall of 2019, Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating the Biden family’s business dealings were revealed in the press. Romney called the scheme “wrong and appalling,” and Trump responded with a wrathful series of tweets that culminated with a call to #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY. A few weeks later, Romney read in the press that McConnell had privately urged Trump to stop attacking members of the Senate. Romney thanked McConnell for sticking up for him against Trump.
“It wasn’t for you so much as for him,” McConnell replied. “He’s an idiot. He doesn’t think when he says things. How stupid do you have to be to not realize that you shouldn’t attack your jurors?
“You’re lucky,” McConnell continued. “You can say the things that we all think. You’re in a position to say things about him that we all agree with but can’t say.” (A spokesperson said that McConnell does not recall this conversation and that he was “fully aligned” with Trump during the impeachment trial.)
As House Democrats pursued their impeachment case against the president, Romney carefully studied his constitutional role in the imminent Senate trial. He read and reread Alexander Hamilton’s treatise on impeachment, “Federalist No. 65.” He pored over the work of constitutional scholars and reviewed historical definitions of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” His understanding was that once the House impeached a president, senators were called on to set aside their partisan passions and act as impartial jurors.
Meanwhile, among Romney’s Republican colleagues, rank cynicism reigned. They didn’t want to hear from witnesses; they didn’t want to learn new facts; they didn’t want to hold a trial at all. During an interview with CNN, Lindsey Graham frankly admitted that he was “not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here,” and predicted that the impeachment process would “die quickly” once it reached the Senate.
On December 11, 2019, McConnell summoned Romney to his office and pitched him on joining forces. He explained that several vulnerable members of their caucus were up for reelection, and that a prolonged, polarizing Senate trial would force them to take tough votes that risked alienating their constituents. McConnell wanted Romney to vote to end the trial as soon as the opening arguments were completed. McConnell didn’t bother defending Trump’s actions. Instead, he argued that protecting the GOP’s Senate majority was a matter of vital national importance. He predicted that Trump would lose reelection, and painted an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if Democrats took control of Congress: They’d turn Puerto Rico and D.C. into states, engineering a permanent Senate majority; they’d ram through left-wing legislation such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Romney said he couldn’t make any promises about his vote. (McConnell declined to comment on this conversation.)
A week later, Republican senators met for their regular caucus lunch. Romney had come to dread these meetings. They had a certain high-school-cafeteria quality that made him feel ill at ease. “I mean, it’s a funny thing,” he told me. “You don’t want to be the only one sitting at the table and no one wants to sit with you.” He had always had plenty of friends growing up, but his religion often made him feel like he didn’t quite fit in. At Cranbrook prep school, in Michigan, he was the only Mormon on campus; at Stanford, he would go to bars with his friends and drink soda. Walking into those caucus lunches each week—deciding whom to sit with, and whether to speak up—Romney felt his differentness just as acutely as he had in his teens.
The meeting was being held shortly before Christmas break, and Romney hoped the caucus would get some guidance on what to expect from the trial. Instead, he was dismayed to learn that the featured guest was Vice President Mike Pence, who was there to talk through the White House’s defense strategy. “Stunning to me that he would be there,” Romney grumbled in his journal. “There is not even an attempt to show impartiality.” (Romney had long been put off by Pence’s pious brand of Trump sycophancy. No one, he told me, has been “more loyal, more willing to smile when he saw absurdities, more willing to ascribe God’s will to things that were ungodly than Mike Pence.”)
At the next meeting, McConnell told his colleagues they should understand that the upcoming trial was not really a trial at all. “This is a political process,” he said—and it was thus appropriate for them to behave like politicians. “If impeachment is a partisan political process, then it might as well be removed from the Constitution,” Romney recalled muttering to Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, who were seated near him. The senators politely ignored him.
Two articles of impeachment arrived at the Senate on January 15, 2020, and the trial began. Romney did his best to be a model juror—he took notes, parsed the arguments, and agonized each night in his journal over how he should vote. “Interestingly, sometimes I think I will be voting to convict, and sometimes I think I will vote to exonerate,” he wrote on January 23. “I jot down my reasons for each, but when I finish, I begin to consider the other side of the argument … I do the same thing—with less analysis of course—in bed. That’s probably why I’m not sleeping more than 4 or 5 hours.”
The other members of his caucus didn’t seem quite so burdened. They mumbled dismissive comments while the impeachment managers presented their case. He heard some of them literally cheer for Trump’s defense team. Maybe Romney was naive, but he couldn’t get over how irresponsible it all seemed. “How unlike a real jury is our caucus!” he wrote in his journal.
And yet, to at least some of his fellow Republicans, the case against Trump was compelling—even if they’d never say so in public. During a break in the proceedings, after the impeachment managers finished their presentation, Romney walked by McConnell. “They nailed him,” the Senate majority leader said.
Romney, taken aback by McConnell’s candor, responded carefully: “Well, the defense will say that Trump was just investigating corruption by the Bidens.”
“If you believe that,” McConnell replied, “I’ve got a bridge I can sell you.” (McConnell said he does not recall this conversation and it does not match his thinking at the time.)
By the time the defense wrapped up its arguments, on January 28, Romney was privately leaning toward acquittal. In his journal, he rationalized the vote—Trump hadn’t explicitly told Zelensky he would withhold military aid until an investigation was open—but he also admitted a self-interested motive. “I do not at all want to vote to convict,” he wrote. “The consequences of doing so are too painful to contemplate.”
When he informed his senior staff of his thinking the next morning, he detected a palpable sense of relief. Maybe their boss still had a future in Republican politics after all. Romney’s wife, though, seemed less elated by the news. Ann didn’t argue with him. She didn’t render any judgment at all. She just said she was “surprised.” Romney, who’d organized much of his life around winning and keeping Ann’s respect, couldn’t help but wonder if she meant something more.
On January 30, the senators were allowed to question lawyers on both sides of the impeachment case. Late in the day, a question submitted by Graham caught Romney’s attention: Even if Trump really had done exactly what the House accused him of, he asked, “isn’t it true that the allegations still would not rise to the level of an impeachable offense?” Trump’s lawyers concurred.
The answer stunned Romney. Until then, Trump’s defense had been that he wasn’t really trying to shake down a world leader for political favors by threatening to withhold military aid. Now, it seemed to Romney, Trump’s lawyers were effectively arguing that such a shakedown would have been fine. Allowing that argument to go unchallenged would set a dangerous precedent. When the Senate recessed, Romney returned to his office to go over the facts of the case again. The gravity of the moment was catching up to him. Finally, Romney knelt on the floor and prayed.
A few days earlier, Romney had paid a visit to Senator Joe Manchin’s houseboat, Almost Heaven—the West Virginian’s home in Washington. The impeachment trial had presented a serious political quandary for Manchin, a moderate Democrat whose state Trump had carried with 68 percent of the vote in 2016. While the voters there liked Manchin’s independence, they wouldn’t be happy if he voted to convict. After listening to Manchin describe his predicament, Romney offered his take: “We’re both 72. We should probably be thinking about oaths and legacy, not just reelection.”
Now it was time for Romney to follow his own advice. Writing in his journal, he once again laid out the facts of the case as he understood them. Hundreds of words, page after page, he wrote and wrote and wrote, until finally the truth was clear to him: Trump was guilty.
Romney slept fitfully that night, rising at 4 a.m. to review the case one more time. Still convinced of the president’s guilt, he opened up a laptop at his kitchen table and wrote the first draft of the speech he’d eventually give on the Senate floor.
After that, he made his way to the Russell Building, where he broke the news to his senior staff. Some were surprised but approving; others were distressed. One staffer simply put her head in her hands. She didn’t speak or look up again for the rest of the meeting.
Shortly before 2 p.m. on the day of the vote, Romney left his office and walked to the Capitol, where he waited in his hideaway for his turn to speak. Minutes before going on the floor, he received an unexpected call on his cellphone. It was Paul Ryan. Romney and his team had kept a tight lid on how he planned to vote, but somehow his former running mate had gotten word that he was about to detonate his political career. Romney had been less judgmental of Ryan’s acquiescence to Trump than he’d been of most other Republicans’. He believed Ryan was a sincere guy who’d simply misjudged Trump.
And yet, here was Ryan on the phone, making the same arguments Romney had heard from some of his more calculating colleagues. Ryan told him that voting to convict Trump would make Romney an outcast in the party, that many of the people who’d tried to get him elected president would never speak to him again, and that he’d struggle to pass any meaningful legislation. Ryan said that he respected Romney, and wanted to make absolutely sure he’d thought through the repercussions of his vote. Romney assured him that he had, and said goodbye.
He walked onto the Senate floor and read the remarks he’d written at his kitchen table. “As a Senator-juror,” Romney began, “I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am—” His voice broke, and he had to pause as emotion overwhelmed him. “I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.”
Romney acknowledged that his vote wouldn’t change the outcome of the trial—the Republican-led Senate would fall far short of the 67 votes needed to remove the president from office, and he would be the lone Republican to find Trump guilty. Even so, he said, “with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me.”
He would never feel comfortable at a Republican caucus lunch again.
Early on the morning of January 6, 2021, Romney slid into the back of an SUV and began the short ride to his Senate office, with a Capitol Police car in tow. Ann had begged him not to return to Washington that day. She had a bad feeling about all of this. In the year since his impeachment vote, her husband had become a regular target of heckling and harassment from Trump supporters. They shouted “traitor” from car windows and confronted him in restaurants. Romney had tried to make light of her concern: “If I get shot, you can move on to a younger, more athletic husband.” A special police escort had been arranged for him that morning. But now, as he looked out the window at the streets of D.C., he found himself wondering about its utility. If somebody wants to shoot me, he thought, what good is it to have these guys in a car behind me?
He tried to go about his morning as usual, but he struggled to concentrate. Two miles away, at the White House Ellipse, thousands of angry people were gathering for a “Save America” rally.
The Senate chamber is a cloistered place, with no television monitors or electronic devices, and strict rules that keep outsiders off the floor. So when the Senate convened that afternoon to debate his colleagues’ objection to certifying the 2020 electoral votes, Romney didn’t know exactly what was happening outside. He didn’t know that the president had just directed his supporters to march down Pennsylvania Avenue—“We’re going to the Capitol!” He didn’t know that pipe bombs had been discovered outside both parties’ nearby headquarters. He didn’t know that Capitol Police were scrambling to evacuate the Library of Congress, or that rioters were crashing into police barricades outside the building, or that officers were beginning to realize they were outnumbered and wouldn’t be able to hold the line much longer.
At 2:08 p.m., Romney’s phone buzzed with a text message from his aide Chris Marroletti, who had been communicating with Capitol Police: “Protestors getting closer. High intensity out there.” He suggested that Romney might want to move to his hideaway.
Romney looked around the chamber. The hideaway was a few hundred yards and two flights of stairs away. He didn’t want to leave if he didn’t have to. He’d stay put, he decided, unless the protesters got inside the building.
A minute later, Romney’s phone buzzed again.
“They’re on the west front, overcame barriers.”
Adrenaline surging, Romney stood and made his way to the back of the chamber, where he pushed open the heavy bronze doors. He was expecting the usual crowd of reporters and staff aides, but nobody was there. A strange, unsettling quiet had engulfed the deserted corridor. He turned left and started down the hall toward his hideaway, when suddenly he saw a Capitol Police officer sprinting toward him at full speed.
“Go back in!” the officer boomed without breaking stride. “You’re safer inside the chamber.”
Romney turned around and started to run.
He got back in time to hear the gavel drop and see several men—Secret Service agents, presumably—rush into the chamber without explanation and pull the vice president out. Then, all at once, the room turned over to chaos: A man in a neon sash was bellowing from the middle of the Senate floor about a security breach. Officials were scampering around the room in a panic, slamming doors shut and barking at senators to move farther inside until they could be evacuated.
Something about the volatility of the moment caused Romney—
a walking amalgam of prep-school manners and Mormon niceness and the practiced cool of the private-equity set—to lose his grip, and he finally vented the raw anger he had been trying to contain. He turned to Josh Hawley, who was huddled with some of his right-wing colleagues, and started to yell. Later, Romney would struggle to recall the exact wording of his rebuke. Sometimes he’d remember shouting “You’re the reason this is happening!” Other times, it would be something more terse: “You did this.” At least one reporter in the chamber would recount seeing the senator throw up his hands in a fit of fury as he roared, “This is what you’ve gotten, guys!” Whatever the words, the sentiment was clear: This violence, this crisis, this assault on democracy—this is your fault.
Soon, Romney was being rushed down a hallway with several of his colleagues. The mob was only one level below, so they couldn’t take the stairs; instead, the senators piled into elevators, 10 at a time, while the rest loitered anxiously in the hallway.
When they reached the basement, Romney asked a pair of police officers, “Where are we supposed to go?”
“The senators know,” one of the officers replied.
Marroletti, Romney’s aide, spoke up: “These are the senators. They don’t know. Where are we supposed to go?”
Romney was mystified by the ineptitude, but he knew the situation wasn’t the police’s fault. He thought about the text message he’d sent to McConnell a few days earlier explicitly warning of this scenario. How were they not ready for this? It was, in some ways, a perfect metaphor for his party’s timorous, shortsighted approach to the Trump era. As a boy, he’d read Idylls of the King with his mother; now he could understand the famous quote from Tennyson’s Guinevere as she witnesses the consequences of corruption in Arthur’s court: “This madness has come on us for our sins.”
Eventually the senators made it to a safe room. There were no chairs at first, so the shell-shocked legislators simply wandered around, murmuring variations of “I can’t believe this is happening.” When someone wheeled in a TV and turned on CNN, the senators got their first live look at the sacking of the Capitol. A sickened silence fell over the room as anger and outrage were replaced by dread. To Romney, the Senate chamber was a sacred place. Watching it transform into a playground for violent, costumed insurrectionists was almost too much to bear.
The National Guard finally dispersed the crowd and secured the Capitol. As the Senate prepared to reconvene late that night, Romney took solace in assuming that his most extreme colleagues now realized what their ruse had wrought, and would abandon their plan to object to the electors. Romney had written a speech a few days earlier condemning their procedural farce, but now he was thinking of tossing it. Surely the point was moot.
But to Romney’s astonishment, the architects of the plan still intended to move forward. When Hawley stood to deliver his speech, Romney was positioned just behind the Missourian’s right shoulder, allowing a C‑SPAN camera to capture his withering glare.
What bothered Romney most about Hawley and his cohort was the oily disingenuousness. “They know better!” he told me. “Josh Hawley is one of the smartest people in the Senate, if not the smartest, and Ted Cruz could give him a run for his money.” They were too smart, Romney believed, to actually think that Trump had won the 2020 election. Hawley and Cruz “were making a calculation,” Romney told me, “that put politics above the interests of liberal democracy and the Constitution.”
When it was Romney’s turn to speak, he wasted little time before laying into his colleagues. “What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president of
,” Romney said. “Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.” His voice sharpened when he addressed the patronizing claim that objecting to the certification was a matter of showing respect for voters who believed the election had been stolen. It struck Romney that, for all their alleged populism, Hawley and his allies seemed to take a very dim view of their Republican constituents.
“The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth!” Romney said, his voice rising to a shout.
Before sitting down, he posed a question to his fellow senators—a question that, whether he realized it or not, he’d been wrestling with himself for nearly his entire political career. “Do we weigh our own political fortunes more heavily than we weigh the strength of our republic, the strength of our democracy, and the cause of freedom? What is the weight of personal acclaim compared to the weight of conscience?”
For a blessed moment after January 6, it looked to Romney as if the fever in his party might finally be breaking. GOP leaders condemned the president and denounced the rioters. Trump, who was booted from Twitter and Facebook for fear that he might use the platforms to incite more violence, saw his approval rating plummet. New articles of impeachment were introduced, and McConnell’s office leaked to the press that he was considering a vote to convict. Federal law enforcement began sifting through hundreds of hours of amateur footage from January 6 to identify and arrest the people who had stormed the Capitol. Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, and Trump—who skipped the inauguration—flew off to Florida, where he seemed destined for a descent into political irrelevance and legal trouble.
But the Republicans’ flirtation with repentance was short-lived. Within months, Fox News was offering a revisionist history of January 6 and recasting the rioters as martyrs and victims of a vengeful, overreaching Justice Department. The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, who’d initially blamed Trump for the riot, paid a visit to Mar-a-Lago to mend his relationship with the ex-president.
Some of the reluctance to hold Trump accountable was a function of the same old perverse political incentives—elected Republicans feared a political backlash from their base. But after January 6, a new, more existential brand of cowardice had emerged. One Republican congressman confided to Romney that he wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, but chose not to out of fear for his family’s safety. The congressman reasoned that Trump would be impeached by House Democrats with or without him—why put his wife and children at risk if it wouldn’t change the outcome? Later, during the Senate trial, Romney heard the same calculation while talking with a small group of Republican colleagues. When one senator, a member of leadership, said he was leaning toward voting to convict, the others urged him to reconsider. You can’t do that, Romney recalled someone saying. Think of your personal safety, said another. Think of your children. The senator eventually decided they were right.
As dismayed as Romney was by this line of thinking, he understood it. Most members of Congress don’t have security details. Their addresses are publicly available online. Romney himself had been shelling out $5,000 a day since the riot to cover private security for his family—an expense he knew most of his colleagues couldn’t afford.
By the time Democrats proposed a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6, the GOP’s 180 was complete. Virtually every Republican in Congress came out in full-throated opposition to the idea. Romney, who’d been consulting with historians about how best to preserve the memory of the insurrection—he’d proposed leaving some of the damage to the Capitol unrepaired—was disappointed by his party’s posture, but he was no longer surprised. He had taken to quoting a favorite scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when he talked about his party’s whitewashing of the insurrection—twisting his face into an exaggerated expression before declaring, “Morons. I’ve got morons on my team!” To Romney, the revisionism of January 6 was almost worse than the attack itself.
In spring 2021, Romney was invited to speak at the Utah Republican Party convention, in West Valley City. Suspecting that some in the crowd might boo him, he came up with a little joke to defuse the tension. As soon as he went onstage, he’d ask the crowd of partisans, “What do you think of President Biden’s first 100 days?” When they booed in response, he’d say, “I hope you got that out of your system!”
But when Romney took the stage, he quickly realized that he’d underestimated the level of vitriol awaiting him. The heckling and booing were so loud and sustained that he could barely get a word out. As he labored to push through his prepared remarks, he became fixated on a red-faced woman in the front row who was furiously screaming at him while her child stood by her side. He paused his speech.
“Aren’t you embarrassed?” he couldn’t help but ask her from the stage.
Afterward, Romney tried to reframe it as a character-building experience—a moment in which he got to live up to his father’s example. When he was young, Mitt had watched an audience stacked with auto-union members vociferously boo his dad during a governor’s debate. George had been undeterred. “He was proud to stand for what he believed,” Romney told me. “If people aren’t angry at you, you really haven’t done anything in public life.”
But there was also something unsettling about the episode. As a former presidential candidate, he was well acquainted with heckling. Scruffy Occupy Wall Streeters had shouted down his stump speeches; gay-rights activists had “glitter bombed” him at rallies. But these were Utah Republicans—they were supposed to be his people. Model citizens, well-behaved Mormons, respectable patriots and pillars of the community, with kids and church callings and responsibilities at work. Many of them had probably been among his most enthusiastic supporters in 2012. Now they were acting like wild children. And if he was being honest with himself, there were moments up on that stage when he was afraid of them.
“There are deranged people among us,” he told me. And in Utah, “people carry guns.”
“It only takes one really disturbed person.”
He let the words hang in the air for a moment, declining to answer the question his confession begged: How long can a democracy last when its elected leaders live in fear of physical violence from their constituents?
In some ways, Romney settled most fully into his role as a senator once Trump was gone. He joined a bipartisan “gang” of lawmakers who actually seemed to enjoy legislating, and helped pass a few bills he was proud of.
He even tried to work productively within his caucus. Romney drew a distinction between the Republican colleagues he viewed as sincerely crazy and those who were faking it for votes. He was open, for instance, to partnering with Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the conspiracy-spouting, climate-change-denying, anti-vax Trump disciple, because while he could be exasperating—once, Romney told me, after listening to an extended lecture on Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian business dealings, he blurted, “Ron, is there any conspiracy you don’t believe?”—you could at least count on his good faith. What Romney couldn’t stomach any longer was associating himself with people who cynically stoked distrust in democracy for selfish political reasons. “I doubt I will work with Josh Hawley on anything,” he told me.
But as Romney surveyed the crop of Republicans running for Senate in 2022, it was clear that more Hawleys were on their way. Perhaps most disconcerting was J. D. Vance, the Republican candidate in Ohio. “I don’t know that I can disrespect someone more than J. D. Vance,” Romney told me. They’d first met years earlier, after he read Vance’s best-selling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. Romney was so impressed with the book that he hosted the author at his annual Park City summit in 2018. Vance, who grew up in a poor, dysfunctional family in Appalachia and went on to graduate from Yale Law School, had seemed bright and thoughtful, with interesting ideas about how Republicans could court the white working class without indulging in toxic Trumpism. Then, in 2021, Vance decided he wanted to run for Senate, and reinvented his entire persona overnight. Suddenly, he was railing against the “childless left” and denouncing Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a “fake holiday” and accusing Joe Biden of manufacturing the opioid crisis “to punish people who didn’t vote for him.” The speed of the MAGA makeover was jarring.
“I do wonder, how do you make that decision?” Romney mused to me as Vance was degrading himself on the campaign trail that summer. “How can you go over a line so stark as that—and for what?” Romney wished he could grab Vance by the shoulders and scream: This is not worth it! “It’s not like you’re going to be famous and powerful because you became a United States senator. It’s like, really? You sell yourself so cheap?” The prospect of having Vance in the caucus made Romney uncomfortable. “How do you sit next to him at lunch?”
By the spring of 2023, Romney had made it known to his inner circle that he very likely wouldn’t run again. He’d been leaning this way for at least a year but had kept it to himself. There were practical reasons for the coyness: He didn’t want to start hemorrhaging staffers or descend into lame-duck irrelevance. But some close to Romney wondered if he was simply being stubborn. Several Utah Republicans were already lining up to run for his seat, and the talk in political circles was that he’d struggle to win another primary. Romney, who couldn’t stand the idea of being put out to pasture, insisted that stepping down was his call. “I’ve invested a lot of money already in my political fortunes,” he told me, “and if I needed to do so again to win the primary, I would.”
But he was now at an age when he had to ruthlessly guard his time. He still had books he wanted to write, still dreamed of teaching. He wanted to spend time with Ann while they were both healthy.
Yet even as he made up his mind to leave the Senate, he struggled to walk away from politics entirely. Trump was running again, after all. The crisis wasn’t over. For months, people in his orbit—most vocally, his son Josh—had been urging him to embark on one last run for president, this time as an independent. The goal wouldn’t be to win—Romney knew that was impossible—but to mount a kind of protest against the terrible options offered by the two-party system. He also wanted to ensure that someone onstage was effectively holding Trump to account. “I was afraid that Biden, in his advanced years, would be incapable of making the argument,” he told me.
Romney relished the idea of running a presidential campaign in which he simply said whatever he thought, without regard for the political consequences. “I must admit, I’d love being on the stage with Donald Trump … and just saying, ‘That’s stupid. Why are you saying that?’ ” He nursed a fantasy in which he devoted an entire debate to asking Trump to explain why, in the early weeks of the pandemic, he’d suggested that Americans inject bleach as a treatment for COVID-19. To Romney, this comment represented the apotheosis of the former president’s idiocy, and it still bothered him that the country had simply laughed at it and moved on. “Every time Donald Trump makes a strong argument, I’d say, ‘Remind me again about the Clorox,’ ” Romney told me. “Every now and then, I would cough and go, ‘Clorox.’ ”
Romney almost went through with it, this maximally disruptive, personally cathartic primal scream of a presidential campaign. But he abandoned it once he realized that he’d most likely end up siphoning off votes from the Democratic nominee and ensuring a Trump victory. So, in April, Romney pivoted to a new idea: He privately approached Joe Manchin about building a new political party. They’d talked about the prospect before, but it was always hypothetical. Now Romney wanted to make it real. His goal for the yet-unnamed party (working slogan: “Stop the stupid”) would be to promote the kind of centrist policies he’d worked on with Manchin in the Senate. Manchin was himself thinking of running for president as an independent, and Romney tried to convince him this was the better play. Instead of putting forward its own doomed candidate in 2024, Romney argued, their party should gather a contingent of like-minded donors and pledge support to the candidate who came closest to aligning with its agenda. “We’d say, ‘This party’s going to endorse whichever party’s nominee isn’t stupid,’ ” Romney told me.
He acknowledged that this plan wasn’t foolproof, that maybe he’d be talked out of it. The last time we spoke about it, he was still in the brainstorming stage. What he seemed to know for sure was that he no longer fit in his current party. Throughout our two years of interviews, I heard Romney muse repeatedly about leaving the GOP. He’d stayed long after he stopped feeling at home there—long after his five sons had left—because he felt a quixotic duty to save it. This meld of moral responsibility and personal hubris is, in some ways, Romney’s defining trait. When he’s feeling sentimental, he attributes the impulse to the “Romney obligation,” and talks about the deep commitment to public service he inherited from his father. When he’s in a more introspective mood, he talks about the surge of adrenaline he feels when he’s rushing toward a crisis.
But it was hard to dispute that the battle for the GOP’s soul had been lost. And Romney had his own soul to think about. He was all too familiar with the incentive structure in which the party’s leaders were operating. He knew what it would take to keep winning, the things he would have to rationalize.
“You say, ‘Okay, I better get closer to this line, or maybe step a little bit over it. If I don’t, it’s going to be much worse,’ ” he told me. You can always convince yourself that the other party, or the other candidate, is bad enough to justify your own decision to cross that line. “And the problem is that line just keeps on getting moved, and moved, and moved.”
This article was adapted from McKay Coppins’s book Romney: A Reckoning. It appears in the November 2023 print edition with the headline “What Mitt Romney Saw in the Senate.”
- The Ultium Cells plant is a joint venture of General Motors and South Korea’s LG, and he grew up in the area when GM was known for well-paid, unionized jobs.
Astronomer says the best way to spot it will be at sunrise and sunset away from light pollution, but warns comets are unpredictable
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Nishimura, a green comet that was only discovered in August, will be visible in Australian skies within days – hopefully.
Comets are often called “dirty snowballs” because they are made of rock, dirt, ice and gas – and it is Nishimura’s “gassy” nature that makes it appear green in images.Continue reading…
NPR's Ailsa Chang speaks to slime scientist Antonio Cerullo at the City University of New York about the benefits of mucus.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved new shots targeting subvariants of the coronavirus that have recently been circulating.
- Because of this, the new XBB.1.5-based vaccines are expected to offer broad protection against many XBB viruses.
Up In Smoke
In a filing, the
claimed that "Stoner Cats," a non-fungible token (NFT) collection that funded a TV show by the same name that Kunis' company produced, misled investors and offered unregistered securities.
As Coindesk noted, the animated TV show associated with the NFTs, which was also named "Stoner Cats," was produced by Kunis' company Orchard Farm Productions and centered on animated cats that became sentient when exposed to weed smoke.
The scheme behind the project was peculiar and involved its crew and voice actors — which included Kunis' husband Ashton Kutcher alongside such big names as Chris Rock, Jane Fonda, Seth McFarlane, Dax Shepard, and even Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who voiced a character named Lord Catsington — being paid from primary sales of the project's NFTs.
Beyond the initial sale, Stoner Cats holders were also encouraged to resell their NFTs on secondary markets by being offered 2.5 percent royalties — an incentive that resulted in more than 10,000 resale transactions and which pulled in a whopping $20 million in crypto, the SEC said.
As the SEC alleges, Stoner Cats 2 LLC — the company created to sell the NFTs — led the people who bought the
to think they'd turn a profit by emphasizing "its expertise as Hollywood producers, its knowledge of crypto projects, and the well-known actors involved in the web series."
"Regardless of whether your offering involves beavers, chinchillas or animal-based NFTs, under the federal securities laws, it’s the economic reality of the offering — not the labels you put on it or the underlying objects — that guides the determination of what’s an investment contract and therefore a security," Gurbir Grewal, the director of the SEC’s enforcement division, said in the agency's statement.
The crux of the SEC's argument against Stoner Cats was that the NFTs were resold to turn a profit rather than being kept as collectibles, which most NFTs purport to be. This made the NFTs into securities without being registered as such, the argument goes, the way stocks and bonds are. It's not a new accusation, and the financial regulator brought down its first unregistered securities ruling against another NFT project last month — though that one, to be fair, didn't have the same cachet as "Stoner Cats."
Though it did not admit responsibility, Stoner Cats 2 paid a $1 million fine, agreed to destroy all of the Stoner Cats NFTs it still held, and set up a recovery fund for investors who bought its digital wares — which we must say seems like a lot more compensation than most NFT projects provide for the people pulled into their schemes.
MIT Technology Review’s 2023 list of 35 Innovators Under 35 is now live. This annual list recognizes young entrepreneurs, researchers, and scientists working in some of the most promising areas of technology today. Explore the list and meet this year’s class of innovators, who are working across fields including artificial intelligence, climate and energy, biotechnology, robotics, and computing.
In a compelling demonstration of harm reduction in practice, a volunteer overdose counselor has described her experiences at a group that talks to people who may be on the brink of death from overdose — without shaming or judging them.
The group in question, Never Use Alone, is the subject of a moving Slate profile that follows one of its volunteers and the people she talks to as they navigate life and death.
The idea behind NUA's hotline is simple: people who are using drugs by themselves — be they inhaled, injected, or otherwise — can call and speak to volunteers who are trained to identify overdoses over the phone, and who instruct users to leave doors unlocked for emergency services if need be. Thus far, the group says it has averted nearly 100 overdose fatalities.
At the heart of the profile is Jessica Blanchard, an ex-nurse in Georgia who was inspired to get into harm reduction by her daughter, an active user who had faced overdoses before.
Though it went against her nursing school education, the self-described "mama bear" said that she began letting her daughter use safely at her kitchen table following one such overdose — and anyway, the entire narrative that drug users were to blame "didn’t feel right" to her.
"I didn’t want [my daughter] to die," Blanchard told Slate. "Every fucking thing I do is about her not dying. Then about her and her homie not dying. Now it’s about the entire town."
After supplying clean needles for her daughter — another harm reduction tactic that even the CDC admits helps keep people alive and healthy — the volunteer began getting Narcan, the overdose-reversal inhalant spray, for her Georgia town. In her first shipment, another volunteer placed a card for Never Use Alone, then an even smaller organization that distributed calls via Google Voice numbers.
One such caller, Kimber King, described to Slate what it felt like the first time she spoke to Blanchard.
"I was wary to call," King said. "I didn’t know what was going to happen with the police and stuff."
Nevertheless, it felt like the prudent thing to do given that the younger woman had just gotten out of rehab, which as Blanchard reminded her put her drug tolerance in the gutter. That prudence was warranted: within five minutes, the NUA volunteer had to call emergency services to help King out.
The volunteer admits that the group she works with is far from a perfect solution, especially considering that there are only about 20 of them to field the roughly 250-300 calls they get per week — itself a drop in the bucket, given the National Institutes of Health estimated that in 2021 there were more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in
In the face of a sprawling addiction crisis with new fronts ranging from fentanyl to xylazine, a small band of dedicated volunteers may seem ill-matched. To Blanchard, though, it's worth it.
"Did I ever see myself doing this? No," Blanchard admitted. "This is enabling — it enables health."
If you or a loved one needs help, you can call Never Use Alone at 1-800-484-3731.
The post Incredible Hotline Counsels Drug Users Through Potential Overdoses Without Shame appeared first on Futurism.
Nature Communications, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41441-0Emerged sustainable techniques for nitrogen fixation still lack ammonia yield rate to be practically relevant. Here, the authors demonstrate a laser–induced method to deliver a yield rate of 30.9 µmol s-1 cm−2 at ambient conditions, which is two orders of magnitude higher than other methods.
- The US approved the XBB.1.5-based booster vaccines made by both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech on 11 September, while the UK approved the Pfizer/BioNTech one on 5 September.
- Nathan Ni from The Scientist's Creative Services Team will be joined by the entire panel in an open question and answer session where presenters will address questions posed by the audience.
Jailhouse internet is so bad, apparently, that disgraced crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried's lawyers say it should be grounds for his release.
In a court filing, Bankman-Fried's lawyer Mark Cohen claimed that the
in the Brooklyn jail where the FTX founder is being held without bail is so slow, he can't get any work done on his defense.
Cohen listed a number of issues pertaining to his client's internet access, including transportation delays and the aforementioned slow Wi-Fi. It has been nearly impossible, the attorney claimed, for SBF to prepare for his swiftly approaching trial "with these kinds of limitations."
Though the Department of Justice claims that the 31-year-old crypto pariah should have access to multiple hard drives and databases — as well as a laptop with sufficient battery — his lawyer contends that the government's solution is nowhere near up to snuff.
"We believe that the current solution is untenable and we no longer have the time to see if the Government will be able to devise a plan that works," the attorney wrote. "Almost an entire month has passed since Mr. Bankman-Fried was remanded and we have lost that time to effectively prepare for trial."
Bankman-Fried has been locked up at a notorious jail in Brooklyn to await his upcoming fraud trial for almost a month after a judge ruled he tampered with witnesses while on $250 million bail at his parents' mansion in Palo Alto, California.
And conditions in this particular jail, given previous complaints filed by the likes of convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, paint a troubling picture, from . In other words, bad Wi-Fi is only the tip of the iceberg.
Though the argument is slightly different, this latest filing by Bankman-Fried's lawyers was the second time in a single week that the defense has made such a request.
To be fair, there is a ton of data for SBF to sift through before the scheduled start of his first trial on October 2. As his attorneys noted in yet another filing asking for him to be released from jail ahead of trial, "Bankman-Fried was spending 80-100 hours a week reviewing the voluminous discovery" provided by the government, which included "millions of pages of documents and terabytes of data."
All that said, it seems awfully clear that SBF's hired hands are intent on getting him the kind of preferential treatment that other folks detained in jailhouses will never see.
Then again, it also doesn't seem like senior
district judge Lewis Kaplan will budge, either, given that he was the one who remanded him to jail over allegedly tampering with witnesses in the first place.
The post Sam Bankman-Fried Complains That the Wi-Fi Is Bad in Jail appeared first on Futurism.
Truck of Lemons
If you thought
's Cybertruck looks weird and ungainly, you're not the only one. Apparently, some Tesla staff thought the same of the electric pickup — with its sharp angles, futuristic silhouette, and absurdly large windshield wiper — according to a new excerpt from Walter Isaacson's blockbuster just-dropped biography on Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Some engineers at the company hated the Cybertruck so much, in fact, that they started to put together a secret alternative design for the Cybertruck in 2019, according to a section of the book highlighted by Insider.
"A majority of the people in this studio hated it," said Tesla design leader Franz von Holzhausen, as quoted in the book. "They were like, 'You can't be serious.' They didn't want to have anything to do with it. It was just too weird."
But that design apparently never gained traction, because the futuristic armored-looking demo Musk had unveiled back in November 2019 hews quite closely to the factory production model that has been recently seen in company-sanctioned photos and on the street.
"I don't do focus groups," Musk is quoted as saying in the book.
But as silly as you may think the Cybertruck's design, it's a serious venture for Musk and Tesla because they are going after the lucrative light-duty truck market dominated by the likes of Ford, whose F-series is the most popular and best-selling vehicle in
If Tesla gets it right, just as states like California mandate the sale of zero-emissions vehicles by 2035, and successfully takes a chunk of the market from Ford, which is pumping up their own electric light-duty truck in the market, then that would position Tesla to be a major automaker for years to come.
It's the kind of audacious move that's characteristic of Musk, who bought the social network Twitter last year and renamed it X.
Musk is going for all the marbles in the auto world and beyond — but of course, it remains to be seen whether it will all pan out.
More on the Cybertruck: There's an Issue With Cybertrucks: They're Ridiculously Smudgy
The post Tesla Engineers Hated the Cybertruck So Much They Started Secretly Designing an Alternative appeared first on Futurism.
The decision to send hominin bones on a commercial spaceflight has raised eyebrows among paleontologists
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has spotted an early yet tantalizing piece of evidence that an exoplanet some 120 light years away could be covered in a massive ocean — that's possibly harboring life.
The telescope detected a molecule called dimethyl sulfide (DMS) — which only living organisms can produce, at least here on Earth — on the planet, which is dubbed K2-18 b.
Researchers also identified methane and carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere, indicating it could be a "Hycean" planet, one which is covered in an ocean and has a hydrogen-rich atmosphere.
K2-18 b orbits its host star, a cool dwarf in the Leo constellation some 120 light years away, in the system's habitable zone, meaning that it technically receives enough radiation from the star for liquid water to exist on its surface.
It was first discovered by NASA's K2 mission back in 2015, but only thanks to the James Webb's detailed observations have researchers been able to reveal the presence of these molecules — and the excitement surrounding the discovery is palpable.
The planet is anywhere between the size of Earth and Neptune, a type of exoplanet referred to as "sub-Neptunes." Since these planets are so unlike any planet in our own solar system, we can only make educated guesses about their nature, as NASA points out in a statement.
"Although this kind of planet does not exist in our solar system, sub-Neptunes are the most common type of planet known so far in the galaxy," said Subhajit Sarkar of Cardiff University, co-author of a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper on the discovery, in the statement.
"We have obtained the most detailed spectrum of a habitable-zone sub-Neptune to date, and this allowed us to work out the molecules that exist in its atmosphere," Sarkar added.
But it's far too early to conclude that K2-18 b is teeming with life, and the researchers were quick caveat that more data is urgently needed.
"If confirmed, it would be a huge deal and I feel a responsibility to get this right if we are making such a big claim," team lead Nikku Madhusudhan, professor at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC.
Fortunately, more data is already on its way, courtesy of the JWST's MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) spectrograph.
"Our ultimate goal is the identification of life on a habitable exoplanet, which would transform our understanding of our place in the universe," said Madhusudhan in the statement. "Our findings are a promising step towards a deeper understanding of Hycean worlds in this quest."
The post James Webb Spots Possible Signs of Life on Distant Planet appeared first on Futurism.
Paul Offit is not an anti-vaxxer. His résumé alone would tell you that: A pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, he is the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine for infants that has been credited with saving “hundreds of lives every day”; he is the author of roughly a dozen books on immunization that repeatedly debunk anti-vaccine claims. And from the earliest days of
Like most of his public-health colleagues, Offit strongly advocates annual COVID shots for those at highest risk. But regularly reimmunizing young and healthy Americans is a waste of resources, he told me, and invites unnecessary exposure to the shots’ rare but nontrivial side effects. If they’ve already received two or three doses of a COVID vaccine, as is the case for most, they can stop—and should be told as much.
His view cuts directly against the CDC’s new COVID-vaccine guidelines, announced Tuesday following an advisory committee’s 13–1 vote: Every American six months or older should get at least one dose of this autumn’s updated shot. For his less-than-full-throated support for annual vaccination, Offit has become a lightning rod. Peers in medicine and public health have called his opinions “preposterous.” He’s also been made into an unlikely star in anti-vaccine circles. Public figures with prominently shot-skeptical stances have approvingly parroted his quotes. Right-leaning news outlets that have featured vaccine misinformation have called him up for quotes and sound bites—a sign, he told me, that as a public-health expert “you screwed up somehow.”
Offit stands by his opinion, the core of which is certainly scientifically sound: Some sectors of the population are at much higher risk for COVID than the rest of us. But the crux of the controversy around his view is not about facts alone. At this point in the pandemic, in a country where seasonal vaccine uptake is worryingly low and direly inequitable, where health care is privatized and piecemeal, where anti-vaccine activists will pull at any single loose thread, many experts now argue that policies riddled with ifs, ands, or buts—factually sound though they may be—are not the path toward maximizing uptake. “The nuanced, totally correct way can also be the garbled-message way,” Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told me.
For the past two years,
’ biggest COVID-vaccine problem hasn’t been that too many young and healthy people are clamoring for shots and crowding out more vulnerable groups. It’s been that no one, really—including those who most need additional doses—is opting for additional injections at all. America’s vaccination pipeline is already so riddled with obstacles that plenty of public-health experts have become deeply hesitant to add more. They’re opting instead for a simple, proactive message—one that is broadly inclusive—in the hope that a concerted push for all will nudge at least some fraction of the public to actually get a shot this year.
Listen to Katherine J.Wu on Radio Atlantic:
On several key vaccination points, experts do largely agree. The people who bear a disproportionate share of COVID’s risk should receive a disproportionate share of immunization outreach, says Saad Omer, the dean of UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell School of Public Health.
Choosing which groups to prioritize, however, is tricky. Offit told me he sees four groups as being at highest risk: people who are pregnant, immunocompromised, over the age of 70, or dealing with multiple chronic health conditions. Céline Gounder, an infectious-disease specialist and epidemiologist at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, who mostly aligns with Offit’s stance, would add other groups based on exposure risk: people living in shelters, jails, or other group settings, for instance, and potentially people who work in health care. (Both Gounder and Offit also emphasize that unvaccinated people, especially infants, should get their shots this year, period.) But there are other vulnerable groups to consider. Risk of severe COVID still stratifies by factors such as socioeconomic status and race, concentrating among groups who are already disproportionately disconnected from health care.
That’s a potentially lengthy list—and messy messaging has hampered pandemic responses before. As Gretchen Chapman, a vaccine-behavior expert at Carnegie Mellon University, told me last month, a key part of improving uptake is “making it easy, making it convenient, making it the automatic thing.” Fauci agrees. Offit, had he been at the CDC’s helm, would have strongly recommended the vaccine for only his four high-risk groups, and merely allowed everyone else to get it if they wanted to—drawing a stark line between those who should and those who may. Fauci, meanwhile, approves of the CDC’s decision. If it were entirely up to him, “I would recommend it for everyone” for the sheer sake of clarity, he told me.
The benefit-risk ratio for the young and healthy, Fauci told me, is lower than it is for older or sicker people, but “it’s not zero.” Anyone can end up developing a severe case of COVID. That means that shoring up immunity, especially with a shot that targets a recent coronavirus variant, will still bolster protection against the worst outcomes. Secondarily, the doses will lower the likelihood of infection and transmission for at least several weeks. Amid the current rise in cases, that protection could soften short-term symptoms and reduce people’s chances of developing long COVID; it could minimize absences from workplaces and classrooms; it could curb spread within highly immunized communities. For Fauci, those perks are all enough to tip the scales.
Offit did tell me that he’s frustrated at the way his views have frequently been framed. Some people, for instance, are inaccurately portraying him as actively dissuading people from signing up for shots. “I’m not opposed to offering the vaccine for anyone who wants it,” he told me. In the case of the young and healthy, “I just don’t think they need another dose.” He often uses himself as an example: At 72 years old, Offit didn’t get the bivalent shot last fall, because he says he’s in good health; he also won’t be getting this year’s XBB.1-targeting brew. Three original-recipe shots, plus a bout of COVID, are protection enough for him. He gave similar advice to his two adult children, he told me, and he’d say the same to a healthy thrice-dosed teen: More vaccine is “low risk, low reward.”
The vax-for-all guideline isn’t incompatible, exactly, with a more targeted approach. Even with a universal recommendation in place, government resources could be funneled toward promoting higher uptake among essential-to-protect groups. But in a country where people, especially adults, are already disinclined to vaccinate, other experts argue that the slight difference between these two tactics could compound into a chasm between public-health outcomes. A strong recommendation for all, followed by targeted implementation, they argue, is more likely to result in higher vaccination rates all around, including in more vulnerable populations. Narrow recommendations, meanwhile, could inadvertently exclude people who really need the shot, while inviting scrutiny over a vaccine’s downsides—cratering uptake in high- and low-risk groups alike. Among Americans, avoiding a strong recommendation for certain populations could be functionally synonymous with explicitly discouraging those people from getting a shot at all.
Offit pointed out to me that several other countries, including the United Kingdom, have issued recommendations that target COVID vaccines to high-risk groups, as he’d hoped the U.S. would. “What I’ve said is really nothing that other countries haven’t said,” Offit told me. But the situation in the U.S. is arguably different. Our health care is privatized and far more difficult to access and navigate. People who are unable to, or decide not to, access a shot have a weaker, more porous safety net—especially if they lack insurance. (Plus, in the U.K., cost was reportedly a major policy impetus.) A broad recommendation cuts against these forces, especially because it makes it harder for insurance companies to deny coverage.
A weaker call for COVID shots would also make that recommendation incongruous with the CDC’s message on flu shots—another universal call for all Americans six months and older to dose up each year. Offit actually does endorse annual shots for the flu: Immunity to flu viruses erodes faster, he argues, and flu vaccines are “safer” than COVID ones.
It’s true that COVID and the flu aren’t identical—not least because SARS-CoV-2 continues to kill and chronically sicken more people each year. But other experts noted that the cadence of vaccination isn’t just about immunity. Recent studies suggest that, at least for now, the coronavirus is shape-shifting far faster than seasonal flu viruses are—a point in favor of immunizing more regularly, says Vijay Dhanasekaran, a viral-evolution researcher at the University of Hong Kong. The coronavirus is also, for now, simply around for more of the year, which makes
more likely and frequent—and regular vaccination perhaps more prudent. Besides, scientifically and logistically, “flu is the closest template we have,” Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, told me. Syncing the two shots’ schedules could have its own rewards: The regularity and predictability of flu vaccination, which is typically higher among the elderly, could buoy uptake of COVID shots—especially if manufacturers are able to bundle the immunizations into the same syringe.
Flu’s touchstone may be especially important this fall. With the newly updated shots arriving late in the season, and COVID deaths still at a relative low, experts are predicting that uptake may be worse than it was last year, when less than 20 percent of people opted in to the bivalent dose. A recommendation from the CDC “is just the beginning” of reversing that trend, Omer, of UT Southwestern, told me. Getting the shots also needs to be straightforward and routine. That could mean actively promoting them in health-care settings, making it easier for providers to check if their patients are up to date, guaranteeing availability for the uninsured, and conducting outreach to the broader community—especially to vulnerable groups.
Offit hasn’t changed his mind on who most needs these new COVID vaccines. But he is rethinking how he talks about it: “I will stop putting myself in a position where I’m going to be misinterpreted,” he told me. After the past week, he more clearly sees the merits of focusing on who should be signing up rather than who doesn’t need another dose. Better to emphasize the importance of the shot for the people he worries most about and recommend it to them, without reservation, to whatever extent we can.
You wake up with a stuffy nose, so you head to the pharmacy, where a plethora of options awaits in the cold-and-flu aisle. Ah, how lucky you are to live in 21st-century America. There’s Sudafed PE, which promises “maximum-strength sinus pressure and nasal congestion relief.” Sounds great. Or why not grab DayQuil in case other symptoms show up, or Tylenol Cold + Flu Severe should whatever it is get really bad? Could you have allergies instead? Good thing you can get Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion, too.
Unfortunately for you and me and everyone else in this country, the decongestant in all of these pills and syrups is entirely ineffective. The brand names might be different, but the active ingredient aimed at congestion is the same: phenylephrine. Roughly two decades ago, oral phenylephrine began proliferating on pharmacy shelves despite mounting—and now damning—evidence that the drug simply does not work.
“It has been an open secret among pharmacists,” says Randy Hatton, a pharmacy professor at the University of Florida, who filed a citizen petition in 2007 and again in 2015 asking the FDA to reevaluate phenylephrine. This week, an advisory panel to the FDA voted 16–0 that the drug is ineffective orally, which could pave the way for the agency to finally pull the drug.
If so, the impact would be huge. Phenylephrine is combined with fever reducers, cough suppressants, or antihistamines in many popular multidrug products such as the aforementioned DayQuil.
collectively shell out $1.763 billion a year for cold and allergy meds with phenylephrine, according to the FDA, which also calls the number a likely underestimate. That’s a lot of money for a decongestant that, again, does not work.
Over-the-counter oral decongestants weren’t always this bad. But in the early 2000s, states began restricting access to pseudoephedrine—a different drug that actually is effective against congestion—because it could be used to make meth; the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, signed in 2006, took the restrictions national. You can still buy real-deal Sudafed containing pseudoephedrine, but you have to show an ID and sign a logbook. Meanwhile, manufacturers filled over-the-counter shelves with phenylephrine replacements such as Sudafed PE. The PE is for phenylephrine, but you would be forgiven for not noticing the different name.
“Thet switch from pseudoephedrine to phenylephrine was a big mistake,” says Ronald Eccles, who ran the Common Cold Unit at Cardiff University until his retirement. Eccles was critical of the switch back in 2006. The evidence, he wrote at the time, was already pointing to phenylephrine as a lousy oral drug.
Problems started showing up quickly. Hatton, who was then a co-director of the University of Florida Drug Information Center, started getting a flurry of questions about phenylephrine: Does it work? What’s the right dose? Because my patients are complaining that it’s not doing anything. He decided to investigate, and he went deep. Hatton filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the data behind FDA’s initial evaluation of the drug in 1976. He soon found himself searching through a banker’s box of records, looking for studies whose raw data he and a postdoctoral resident typed up by hand to reanalyze. The 14 studies the FDA had considered at the time had mixed results. Five of the positive ones were all conducted at the same research center, whose results looked better than everyone else’s. Hutton’s team thought that was suspicious. If you excluded those studies, the drug no longer looked effective at its usual dose.
All told, the case for phenylephrine was not great, but the case against was no slam dunk either. When Hatton and colleagues at the University of Florida, including Leslie Hendeles, filed a citizen petition, they asked the agency to increase the maximum dose to something that could be more effective. They did not ask to pull the drug entirely.
There was more damning evidence to come, though. The petition led to a first FDA advisory committee meeting, in 2007, where scientists from a pharmaceutical company named Schering-Plough, which later became Merck, presented brand-new data. The company had begun studying the drug, Hatton and Hendeles recalled, because it was interested in replacing the pseudoepinephrine in its allergy drug Claritin-D. But these industry scientists did not come to defend phenylephrine. Instead, they dismantled the very foundation of the drug’s supposed efficacy.
They showed that almost no phenylephrine reaches the nasal passages, where it theoretically could reduce congestion and swelling by causing blood vessels to constrict. When taken orally, most of it gets destroyed in the gut; only 1 percent is active in the bloodstream. This seemed to be borne out by what people experienced when they took the drug—which was nothing. The scientists presented two more studies that found phenylephrine to be no better than placebo in people congested because of pollen allergies.
These studies, the FDA later wrote, were “remarkable,” changing the way the agency thought about how oral phenylephrine works in the body. But experts still weren’t ready to write the drug off entirely. The 2007 meeting ended with the advisory committee asking for data from higher doses.
The story for phenylephrine only got worse from there. In hopes of making an effective product, Merck went to study higher doses in two randomized clinical trials published in 2015 and 2016. “We went double, triple, quadruple—showed no benefit,” Eli Meltzer, an allergist who helped conduct the trials for Merck, said at the FDA-advisory-panel meeting this week. In other words, not only is phenylephrine ineffective at the labeled dosage of 10 milligrams every four hours, it is not even effective at four times that dose. These data prompted Hatton and Hendeles to file a second citizen petition and helped prompt this week’s advisory meeting. This time, the panel didn’t need any more data. “We’re kind of beating a dead horse … This is a done deal as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t work,” one committee member, Paul Pisarik, said at the meeting. The advisory’s 16–0 vote is not binding, though, so it’s still up to the FDA to decide what to do about phenylephrine.
In any case, phenylephrine is not the only cold-and-flu drug with questionable effectiveness in its approved form. The common cough drugs guaifenesin and dextromethorphan have both come under fire. But we lack the robust clinical-trial data to draw a definitive conclusion on those one way or the other. “What really helped our case is the fact that Merck funded those studies,” Hatton says. And that Merck let its scientists publish them. Failed studies from drug companies usually don’t see the light of day because they present few incentives for publication. Changing the consensus on phenylephrine took an extraordinary set of circumstances.
It also required two dogged guys who have now been at this work for nearly two decades. “We’re just a couple of older professors from the University of Florida trying to do what’s best for society,” Hatton told me. When I asked whether they would be tackling other cold medications, he demurred: “I don’t know if either one of us has another 20 years in us.” He would instead like to see public funding for trials like Merck’s to reevaluate other over-the-counter drugs.
There are other effective decongestants on pharmacy shelves. Even though phenylephrine does not work in pill form, “phenylephrine is very effective if you spray it into the nose,” Hendeles says. Neo-Synephrine is one such phenylephrine spray. Other nasal sprays containing other decongestants, such as Afrin, are also effective. But the only other common oral decongestant is pseudoephedrine, which requires that extra step of asking the pharmacist.
Restricting pseudoephedrine has not curbed the meth epidemic, either. Meth-related overdoses are skyrocketing, after Mexican drug rings perfected a newer, cheap way to make methamphetamine without using pseudoephedrine at all. This actually effective drug still remains behind the counter, while ineffective ones fill the shelves.
On Sunday, a Mediterranean storm brought record-setting rainfall to much of Libya, filling rivers, overwhelming dams, and sweeping away entire neighborhoods in several coastal towns. Local authorities said that more than 5,100 people have been killed by the powerful flooding. Derna was one of the worst-hit cities after two dams failed and torrents of water rushed through its streets, destroying dozens of buildings. Foreign rescue crews are still arriving, lending assistance to local teams who are working to find any survivors among the debris.
- Iris Kulbatski from The Scientist's Creative Services Team will be joined by the entire panel in an open question and answer session where presenters will address questions posed by the audience.
Are we alone? This question is nearly as old as humanity itself. Today, the question in astronomy focuses on finding life beyond our planet. Are we, as a species, and as a planet, alone? Or is there life somewhere else?
Usually the question inspires visions of weird, green versions of humans. However, life is more than just us: animals, fish, plants, and even bacteria are all the kinds of things we seek signs of in space.
One thing about life on Earth is that it leaves traces in the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. So traces like that, which are visible from a long way away, are something we look for when we’re hunting aliens.
Scientists in the United Kingdom and the United States have just reported some very interesting chemical traces in the atmosphere of a planet called K2-18b, which is about 124 light-years from Earth. In particular, they may have detected a substance which on Earth is only produced by living things.
Meet Exoplanet K2-18b
K2-18b is an interesting exoplanet—a planet that orbits another star. Discovered in 2015 by the Kepler Space Telescope’s K2 mission, it is a type of planet called a sub-Neptune. As you probably guessed, these are smaller than Neptune in our own solar system.
The planet is about eight and a half times heavier than Earth and orbits a type of star called a red dwarf, which is much cooler than our sun. However, K2-18b orbits much closer to its star than Neptune does—in what we call the habitable zone. This is the area that is not too hot and not too cold, where liquid water can exist (instead of freezing to ice or boiling into steam).
Earth is what is called a rocky planet (for obvious reasons) but sub-Neptunes are gas planets, with much larger atmospheres containing lots of hydrogen and helium. Their atmosphere can also contain other elements.
Which brings us to the excitement around K2-18b.
How to Fingerprint an Atmosphere
The planet was first discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope, which was monitoring distant stars and hoping for planets to pass in front of them. When a planet does pass between us and a star, the star becomes momentarily dimmer—which is what tells us a planet is there.
By measuring how big the dip in brightness is, how long it takes for the planet to pass in front of the star, and how often this happens, we can work out the size and orbit of the planet. This technique is great at finding planets, but it doesn’t tell us about their atmospheres—which is a key piece of information to understand if they hold life or are habitable.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope—the big space telescope launched at the end of 2021—has now observed and measured the atmosphere of this exoplanet.
The telescope did this by measuring the color of light so finely, it can detect traces of specific atoms and molecules. This process, called spectroscopy, is like measuring the fingerprints of elements.
Nature Communications, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41398-0Retraction Note: High-rate aluminium yolk-shell nanoparticle anode for Li-ion battery with long cycle life and ultrahigh capacity
US movies perpetuate gender stereotypes in the medical field, a new study finds.
The study in the Journal of the
Medical Association examined the portrayal of women as physicians in US films from 1990-2020 and found that representation of women physicians in movies was much lower than the growing proportion of women in medicine today.
The researchers found women comprised only 18.6% of all physicians depicted in movies from 1990-2020; whereas, women comprise more than half of today’s medical students in the US and more than one-third of practicing physicians.
Movie representation of women physicians hasn’t kept pace with the increasing number of women physicians studying and practicing medicine today, says lead author Reshma Jagsi, professor and chair of the radiation oncology department at Emory University School of Medicine.
“Among physician-characters in movies, even in the most recent movies we studied, the percent of women among physician characters was more reflective of the demographics of the medical profession over a quarter of a century ago,” Jagsi says.
In addition to the underrepresentation of women, the researchers found that “people of color were vanishingly rare in movie roles depicting physicians,” Jagsi says.
In the study, researchers analyzed the IMDb.com movie database for references of physicians from plot summaries, key words, and casting credits, and they assigned values to each mention and aspect of every physician character such as age, gender, role, etc.
“My colleagues and I are interested in understanding how media shapes perceptions of who doctors are,” Jagsi says. “We know that many women physicians continue to recount anecdotes of being mistaken for nurses, along with stereotypes that make it harder for them to do their jobs effectively.
“We also worry that the full talent pool of young people who should be able to envision themselves as doctors may not be exposed to diverse role models that reflect the actual makeup of the profession or the population we serve. Movies are important and memorable experiences that can influence people deeply, so we thought we would examine the representation of physician characters.”
One of the most surprising and concerning findings for Jagsi was the “woeful under-representation of women and people of color in those movies rated G and PG, which is particularly disappointing since that’s the depiction being presented to some of the youngest viewers and shaping their sense of who can and should be a doctor.”
She remains hopeful, however, that the study showed “a higher proportion of women film writers was associated with including at least one woman-character as a physician.”
Still, memorable female physician characters remain severely lacking in today’s movies, in fiction and nonfiction.
“I personally have trouble even thinking of a highly memorable female physician character from the movies I have watched over the years, so I hope Hollywood writers will take note and create (or portray) women physicians who are as memorable as Patch Adams and Richard Kimble,” Jagsi says.
Additional coauthors are from the University of Utah, the Medical College of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Duke University, the University of Michigan, Washington University in St. Louis, and Ohio State University.
Source: Emory University
The post Representation of women physicians is lacking in US movies appeared first on Futurity.
Students have built a tiny EV from scratch that can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in a blistering 0.956 seconds — and it only a hair over 40 feet.
Now, the team has gotten word from Guinness World Records confirming the stunning result, which cuts the previous record of 1.461 seconds set by students from the University of Stuttgart last year by almost a third.
The stunt goes to show how much there still is to learn about aerodynamics and the astonishing capabilities of electric motor-powered drivetrains.
The team from the Academic Motorsports Club Zürich at ETH Zürich and Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in
built the 309-pound beast, dubbed "mythen," from entirely in-house components, including the chassis and the battery.
A lightweight carbon and aluminum honeycomb keeps the weight down, while a specialized powertrain gives it a whiplash-inducing 326 horsepower.
"But power isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to setting an acceleration record – effectively transferring that power to the ground is also key," said Dario Messerli, head of aerodynamics at the Academic Motorsports Club, in a statement.
To stay glued to the ground under acceleration, the mythen literally suctions itself to the ground with what amounts to a vacuum cleaner.
With the advent of electric drivetrains, EVs have leapt ahead of the competition in recent years. According to Road & Track, the fastest production EV in the world is the Rimac Nevera, which takes a comparatively leisurely 1.71 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph.
But then again, its curb weight of 5,100 pounds puts it in a different category than the mythen altogether.
More on acceleration: Tesla Says New Firmware Update Will Make Its Cars Faster
The post Jaw-Dropping Electric Mini Racer Accelerates to 62 MPH in Less Than One Second appeared first on Futurism.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02881-2Researchers have developed a model trained similarly to ChatGPT that can be adapted to evaluate multiple health conditions.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02892-zNever-before-seen forms and unexpected connections among proteins revealed by analysis of their shapes.
Nature, Published online: 12 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02889-8Staff shortages and economic uncertainties caused by the Russian invasion of
Svajiga hälsostudier, hotade söktjänster och robotarnas intåg på redaktionerna Utdrag (ca 00:01:00): [Jakob Gudiol] “Jag hade önskat att man hade nyttjat intresset till att utbilda folk. Istället blir det att man vill överraska folk med varje rubrik. ‘Oj, nu var det här dåligt.’ ‘Oj, nu var det där bra.’ ‘Oj, det där var jätteeffektiv träning.’ … Continued
Ny dramatisering av Estoniakatastrofen Utdrag: “I september 2020 sändes Henrik Evertssons dokumentärserie ”Estonia – fyndet som förändrar allt” med material från dykningar från Estonias vrak. Evertsson, som är från Östersund och tidigare har arbetat på LT, fick både ris och ros för serien. Han tilldelades Stora journalistpriset, men blev också utsedd till Årets förvillare av … Continued
- Starting in the ’90s, alcohol companies launched products like Smirnoff Ice that were meant to appeal to young women.
More than a decade ago, when Holly Whitaker worked a director-level job at a Silicon Valley start-up, insecurities haunted her. She feared never being enough, never getting ahead. “There was just an inability to be with myself,” she told me, “and that manifested as fear.” She often sought comfort in alcohol. The relief would start even as she anticipated drinking; at the first sip, she began to feel warm and right; numb, but also energized.
In her 2019 book, Quit Like a Woman, Whitaker describes drinking alone after a night out, feeling proud to have had “only” a bottle of wine in a day, and carrying airplane shots of liquor around in her purse. Sometimes, she would start drinking in the morning and go until she passed out. “Anytime I felt anything I didn’t want to feel, I used outside things to manage that, and alcohol was very effective,” she said. The next day, she would feel shaky and even more stressed—and still be facing the demons she drank to avoid.
Now sober, Whitaker views her past drinking as a perverse form of dealing with anxiety. She and others are urging women to see how alcohol is becoming a modern-day tranquilizer, a substance that the booze industry peddles to successful, stressed-out women as a way to forget their problems—while quietly making them worse. “If you look at the history of Valium, or Miltown,” Whitaker said, naming two early sedatives, “women have been sold coping mechanisms for their daily lot for a long time. Coping mechanisms instead of actual solutions.”
The uncomfortable truth is that many women today are drinking too much. Though men are still more likely to die of alcohol-related causes than women are, alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths are rising faster among women than men. During the first year of the pandemic, women increased their “heavy drinking” days—days on which they had four or more drinks—by 41 percent, compared with 7 percent among men. One might dismiss the spike as attributable to the stresses of the pandemic, except that women’s high-risk drinking was increasing rapidly before then, too. Men born in the early 1900s were three times as likely as women to drink in problematic ways; today, women are almost as likely as men to do so. Female college students now binge drink more than male college students do.
Problem drinking has risen fastest among women in their 30s and 40s, the age at which many are squeezed between careers, motherhood, and aging parents. Overwhelmingly, high-income, highly educated women are the ones who drink. This may seem odd because high-income women should be better able to afford help with child care, chores, and other responsibilities that can cause stress. But although this group has more resources, the standards for child-rearing, housing, and career achievements in this cohort are also ratcheting ever higher. The strain of keeping up with the Joneses depends on which Joneses you’re keeping up with.
Few successful women would willingly get hooked on Valium, but large numbers today are dosing their discomfort with alcohol. Gradually, booze has become the 21st-century “mother’s little helper.”
When I called up Julie Patock-Peckham, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, I told her that the sense I got from the research was that women, to a greater extent than men, tend to drink to cope with stress and negative feelings. She didn’t even wait for me to finish the sentence. “Correct,” she said. “That’s been well established in the literature for probably 30 years.”
One study found that the stress of the pandemic was related to the number of drinks consumed among women, but not men. Surveys of teens in Europe have found that girls tend to drink to cope, but boys tend to drink to socialize or to enhance their already good feelings. One review of studies, from 2019, notes that “women are generally more likely to drink to regulate negative affect and stress reactivity.”
This gender divide revealed itself yet again in a study that Patock-Peckham and her co-authors published just last year. For the experiment, Patock-Peckham exposed both male and female participants, aged 21 to 35, to a stressful situation: First, they had five minutes to prepare a speech about what they like and don’t like about their bodies, personalities, and lives. Then, they presented those speeches to an attractive, unsmiling audience. Finally, they had five minutes to count backwards from 1,022, subtracting by 13—again, while the attractive audience watched. If they made a mistake, they had to start over.
Then, the participants were randomized to have either three alcoholic drinks or three placebo drinks that tasted like they might contain alcohol. At this point, the participants were still pretty stressed out, and for the next 90 minutes, they had a chance to blow off some steam: They were allowed to have as much alcohol as they wanted (within reason) from an open bar. (They sobered up and were given a ride home afterward.)
Patock-Peckham noticed something strange when she examined the resulting data by sex: Men who were given the alcohol first drank more during the “free” period than the men who received the placebo. They were nudged into drinking by a combination of stress and those first few, researcher-provided cocktails. But for women, whether they got the alcohol or the placebo didn’t matter the way it did for the men: Just being stressed out was enough to drive the women to drink heavily. It’s thought that people are more likely to be disinhibited—to drink more—only after they’ve already had some alcohol. But this finding suggests that women are so much more sensitive to stress that it alone can prompt them to drink. “The reason why I think it’s disturbing is if you think about what happened to women during the pandemic,” Patock-Peckham said, “you’re now Zooming your job from home. You’re homeschooling your children from home … You have gone off the deep end in terms of your stress level. It’s inescapable.”
In the short term, alcohol can be extremely soothing; it mimics the effect of a relaxing brain chemical called GABA. “It’s taking you out of your head a little bit,” Patock-Peckham said. “You’re not going to be overthinking things.” But the effect is short-lived: When someone who has been drinking starts to sober up, levels of GABA in the brain go down, and excitatory chemicals like glutamate and cortisol rise, so people wind up feeling more anxious in the aftermath. Drinking is merely borrowing happiness from tomorrow, as the aphorism goes.
Still, many people use drinking to erase a stressful day and ease into the evening. Ann Dowsett Johnston, the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, describes a typical night back when she used to drink: She’d race in from a hard day at the office and, staring down several hours of cooking and child care, immediately pour herself a cold glass of Pinot Grigio. Once, her fiancé pointed out that the fridge was open before her coat was off. “We see the aim for perfectionism on the part of women,” says Johnston, who is now a psychotherapist, “and then we see self-medication of largely depression, anxiety. It’s an exit strategy; it’s a way to numb.”
From her female clients, Johnston often hears complaints like “My plate is too full and I’m not doing well at anything.” She writes that one thing that seems to “protect” women from falling into alcoholism is being in a “low-status occupation.” The more you have, it seems, the more you worry about losing.
Women’s use of alcohol to regulate stress is a problem because women develop alcohol-related health issues more rapidly than men. Because women’s bodies process alcohol differently, booze affects women’s brains more severely; it’s more likely to increase their risk of liver disease and cancer. Each additional drink a woman consumes daily increases her breast-cancer risk, and alcohol accounts for about 15 percent of all breast-cancer cases. Younger women are driving an increase in deaths from alcoholic liver disease. “It’s worse for women to have an alcohol-use disorder than men,” Patock-Peckham told me. “The trajectory to serious disease is so much faster in women that it’s dangerous for women to use that as a stress outlet.”
Every era has a sedative that’s meant to resign women to their fate. In the 19th century, doctors prescribed opiates such as laudanum for menstrual cramps, “nervous dyspepsia,” and other “female problems.” Women soon comprised the majority of morphine and opium addicts, among them “our weary sewing-women and … our disappointed wives,” as one writer put it. A medical textbook from 1886 suggested dope as a path to female docility: “To women of the higher classes, ennuyee and tormented with neuralgias or the vague pains of hysteria and hypochondriasis, opium brings tranquility and self-forgetfulness.”
After World War II, as working women returned to the home, sedatives like Miltown and Valium became popular. These were the tranquilizers that inspired the Rolling Stones—not exactly a drug-averse bunch—to warn against the dangers of middle-class addiction in their 1966 hit “Mother’s Little Helper.” One 1968 ad noted, with some self-awareness, “Some say it’s unrealistic to educate a woman and then expect her to be content with the Cub Scouts as an intellectual outlet.” But it offered the perfect solution: Miltown, which can relieve “anxiety and tension states.” One Valium ad boasted that after just a week of taking the drug four times a day, a woman named “Sally Wilson” became “less tense and taut; she’s more friendly and cheerful and wants to be part of her world,” the historian Andrea Tone writes in The Age of Anxiety.
Sexist doctors were “more likely to just see women as making annoying complaints that were about things that were all in their heads. And it was delightful to have a pill that seemed to take care of that, from the doctor’s point of view,” says David Herzberg, a historian at the University at Buffalo and the author of Happy Pills in America. Freelance journalists, actually employed by pharmaceutical companies, wrote articles for popular magazines about how sedatives “could cure everything from the blahs to sexual frigidity … every kind of a la mode problem that women experienced,” Herzberg adds. Women were twice as likely to be prescribed the pills as men; at one point, a fifth of
women were taking Valium.
Just as the addictive dangers of Valium became unignorable, Eli Lilly invented Prozac. Energizing and nonaddictive, it was everything Valium wasn’t. Though the blockbuster antidepressant was marketed toward both genders, “there were some explicitly gendered Prozac ads that had to do with pitching Prozac to help women handle the double workday. So, you know, ‘Alert at work, able to do the stuff at home,’” Herzberg says. In the end, the gender ratio of antidepressant prescriptions was similar to that of Valium. In the early 2000s, Prozac’s makers repackaged the drug, literally, in a pink-and-purple capsule; rebranded it as Sarafem; and marketed it to women to treat PMS.
Alcohol has slid along a similar trajectory, with the industry assuring women that all they need to get through the day is a glass of something. In the 1970s, women’s magazines advised readers that wine could be part of an “Anti-Tension Diet,” as the journalist Gabrielle Glaser writes in Her Best-Kept Secret. “Daily use of wine is recommended,” read a 1977 issue of McCall’s.
Starting in the ’90s, alcohol companies launched products like Smirnoff Ice that were meant to appeal to young women. A book in the early 2000s promoted the idea that a thin, fabulous, European lifestyle allowed women to drink wine with almost every meal. (In reality, a glass of red wine has nearly as many calories as a can of regular Coke.) TV shows featured their strong female leads swigging from goblets of vino, which was “most commonly used as a symbol of the stress that the woman who is drinking it is experiencing,” as my colleague Megan Garber pointed out.
Around 2011, Diageo, the maker of brands like Smirnoff and Captain Morgan, sent 950 employees to a “Facebook boot camp” to learn to pitch their products on the platform, boasting afterward that it saw “significant returns on investment.” Today, women are much more likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety than men, and alcohol marketers promote drinking as a solution to both. A recent analysis of alcohol companies’ Facebook and Instagram posts by researchers in the U.K. and New Zealand found that “drinking was depicted as well-deserved time out from women’s busy and at times mundane everyday lives,” and that “alcohol use was encouraged as a feminine way of dealing with stress.” One such ad argued that a box of red wine is “perfect for busy moms.” Today, there’s Mommy’s Time Out Pinot Grigio, Mom Juice rosé, and Mom Water canned cocktails.
There aren’t enough studies on whether women drink more when they’re advertised lady-friendly booze, but underage drinking, which is better studied, does have a relationship to advertising. “Alcohol marketing plays a causal role in young people’s decisions to drink, and to drink more,” says David Jernigan, a health-policy professor at Boston University.
But the promotion of alcohol is subject to few restrictions. In 2014, the head of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism promised an executive at the Distilled Spirits Council that it would not fund research on the relationship between alcohol advertising and underage drinking. (In response to Stat, which broke the story, NIAAA Director George Koob said he meant that he wouldn’t support “research that was not of the highest scientific quality.”) The alcohol industry has spent more and more in political contributions with every presidential election cycle.
There’s a risk, inherent in this topic, of coming off like a particularly joyless Mennonite, and I’m certain that fate will be inescapable here. I feel doubly weird about this because I do drink, and I enjoy it. (I enjoy it so much, in fact, that I’m currently on a hiatus, but I will probably have a drink again at some point in the future.) Among the indignities I’ve drowned with a bottle of wine are a traumatic IUD insertion, an offer not accepted on a coveted house, and a book I wrote about social interaction that came out in April 2020. I know how easily a good cocktail can pull the plug on rumination. In the past I’ve criticized the CDC for telling women who aren’t on birth control that they shouldn’t drink at all, a rule I still think is too paternalistic.
It can be tempting to shut down any anti-alcohol message with the argument that women should be allowed to drink heavily if they want to. Johnston told me she doesn’t travel to college campuses anymore; she gets too much pushback from students who say they have a right to drink, and no one’s going to tell them otherwise.
And it’s true—women should be allowed to drink. But I keep returning to the argument feminists used to combat the rash of Valium addictions in the 1960s: that women wouldn’t need Valium if their lives were made a little easier, if they had universal child care, better working conditions, and more equitable distributions of domestic labor. You don’t need to take a sledgehammer to your stress if you have less stress. For her part, when Whitaker quit drinking, she switched to healthier coping mechanisms, such as exercise, breathwork, and essential oils. She moved from a shoebox-size city apartment to a wooded area with more space. She left the start-up job and now has a more balanced life.
Similarly, a beer or two can, at least temporarily, help you tolerate a day on which day care is closed, work is nuts, your husband is playing video games, and an elderly relative is having a health scare. But what if you didn’t need the alcohol, because child care was ubiquitous and affordable, health care was cheap, and gender norms were more balanced? Maybe the “mother’s little helper” we all need is a little actual help.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06622-3Uncovering new families and folds in the natural protein universe
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Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06531-5The bacterial effector proteins of the AvrE family function as membrane channels in plant cells, enabling the passage of water and solutes from host cells to support pathogen growth, and disrupting the viability of the host cell.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06484-9Generic single-stranded oligonucleotides used as a uniform transmission signal can reliably integrate large-scale DNA integrated circuits with minimal leakage and high fidelity for general-purpose computing.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06555-xRETFound, a foundation model for retinal images that learns generalizable representations from unlabelled images, is trained on 1.6 million unlabelled images by self-supervised learning and then adapted to disease detection tasks with explicit labels.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06510-wThe novel Foldseek clustering algorithm defines 2.30 million clusters of AlphaFold structures, identifying remote structural similarity of human immune-related proteins in prokaryotic species.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06339-3We report the production of MoS2 nanosheets with high phase purity, showing that the 2H-phase templates facilitate epitaxial growth of Pt nanoparticles, whereas the 1T′ phase supports single-atomically dispersed Pt atoms.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06501-xAnalysis of data from 33 longitudinal cohorts from low- and middle-income countries indicates that conditions during pre-conception, pregnancy and the first few months of life are crucial in determining the risk of growth faltering in young children.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06473-yWe develop a high-throughput CRISPR screening system in cerebral organoids and identify vulnerable cell types and gene regulatory networks associated with autism spectrum disorder from single-cell transcriptomes and chromatin modalities.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06393-xAnalysis of a large dataset of scanning transmission X-ray microscopy images of carbon-coated lithium iron phosphate nanoparticles shows that the heterogeneous reaction kinetics of battery materials can be learned from such videos pixel by pixel.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06532-4Structural and mutational studies and cellular assays show that the inflammasome sensor
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06480-zAn analysis of longitudinal cohort data across diverse populations suggests that the incidence of wasting between birth and 24 months is higher than previously thought, and highlights the role of seasonal factors that affect child growth.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06471-0A quantitative study of past, present and future ecological suitability of
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06509-3A route to greatly elevate joint densities of states by introducing a flat-band electronic structure is demonstrated, showing metallic λ-Ti3O5 powders have a high solar absorptivity and offering insights into access to cost-effective solar-to-steam generation.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06520-8A four-dimensional printable shape memory hydrogel with shape-shifting onset adjustable by changing the programming conditions is reported.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06528-0Calcium-permeable
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06542-2A study presents a cross-species proteomic map of synapse development in neocortex and reveals that the human postsynaptic density assembly develops two to three times slower than that in macaques and mice.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06519-1Vertebral osteoblasts in mouse and human are formed from a precursor skeletal stem cell population that is distinct from long bone skeletal stem cells in function, location and transcriptional programme.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06533-3Aphid-transmitted viruses encode proteins that suppress the plant airborne defence response—which is triggered by volatile chemicals released by neighbouring plants after aphid attack—and the plants consequently become less repellent to aphids and more suitable for aphid survival, infestation and viral transmission.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06335-7We present a sustainably sourced adhesive system, with performance comparable to that of current industrial products, made from epoxidized soy oil, malic acid and tannic acid, all biomass derived, low cost and readily available.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06418-5A pooled analysis of longitudinal studies in low- and middle-income countries identifies the typical age of onset of linear growth faltering and investigates recurrent faltering in early life.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06489-4Anthropogenic and volcanic aerosols dominate multidecadal variability in aspects of the tropical Atlantic climate, such as sea surface temperatures, Sahel rainfall and hurricanes.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02808-xDrilling down into why the UN Sustainable Development Goals are so hard to achieve, and showing policymakers pathways to follow, will help the planet and save lives.
Nature, Published online: 13 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02770-8Plants communicate with neighbouring plants to activate an airborne defence against aphids. However, the genetic pathway underlying this defence mechanism is unknown. A signalling cascade centred around the gaseous form of the chemical methyl salicylate was found to control this interaction between plants.