The Americans will survive. Their GOAT-level gymnast, Simone Biles, withdrew Friday from two more events, the vault and uneven bars. At the moment, Team USA’s 45 medals equal the overall tally for China, which leads in golds with 21. The 16 U.S. golds include today’s world record-setting 100-meter butterfly by Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky’s third consecutive 800-meter freestyle win. Meanwhile, the doping issue again came up, with Nigerian long jumper and champion sprinter Blessing Okagbare provisionally suspended after 20 teammates were already barred for testing noncompliance. That could alter upcoming track and field events, while Dressel goes for a fourth gold in Sunday’s 50 freestyle final. (Sources: ESPN, Olympics.com, SI, Washington Post)
We heard you! The results of Friday’s PDB poll on Russian doping: With 134 responses, 82% thought Russian athletes should have been barred from the Olympics because of previous institutionalized doping. Just 9% of responses thought Russia had been appropriately punished.
2. Story of the Week: The Cape Cod Syndrome
It was the perfect storm. Except it wasn't the kind that normally buffets Massachusetts shores. It was an unprecedented viral storm, unleashed by mostly vaccinated vacationers. The plus side: Few of the revelers swept up in the Cape Cod COVID-19 outbreak in early July needed hospitalization. On the other hand, they carried just as much virus as those without shots. The data so alarmed CDC experts that they reversed the agency’s stance that earlier absolved the inoculated of their obligation to mask up in a crowd to slow the transmission of COVID’s delta variant, which spreads faster than chickenpox but with much graver effects. (Sources: WSJ [sub], Bloomberg)
Surprised? Perhaps not, but evidence presented to House investigators that a sitting president ordering the Justice Department to fraudulently discredit election results sounded new alarm bells in Washington yesterday. The Justice Department handed over notes made by Richard Donoghue, deputy to then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, that describe then-President Donald Trump asking Rosen in a Dec. 27 phone call to “say that the election was corrupt” to convince lawmakers to overturn it. Donoghue told Trump the department’s fraud investigations “didn’t pan out,” and the president suggested he might replace Rosen. Far from fighting the notes’ release, a Trump adviser told the Washington Post “he welcomes it” — if it amplifies election fraud claims. (Sources: NYT, Washington Post)
4. Israel Blames Iran for Deadly Oil Tanker Attack
The stakes keep rising. Israel yesterday said Iran was responsible for a drone attack on an oil tanker late Thursday. Israeli officials said the assault by three drones, off the coast of Oman, killed two crew members, one Romanian and one British. The two antagonists are believed to have struck each other’s ships before, but this was the first fatal incident, and it occurred despite the ship’s U.S. Navy escort. The attack came shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement “will not go on indefinitely.” (Sources: NYT, VOA)
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We’re giving you a hint on what’s changing the world of wine — Bright Cellars. Wine drinkers want wine suited to their unique taste preferences in mind, not the wines that some snobby expert thinks they should be drinking. That’s why Bright Cellars sources its wines based on what their members want, so you’re always sure to love your monthly matches.
The Taliban may not control the 85 percent of Afghanistan they claim, but they probably control half the country, writes OZY columnist and former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin. While their reconquest isn’t assured, it’s worth pondering what a Taliban regime would look like. On the bright side, the country’s younger and resistant to 1990s-style restrictions, but word from areas they’ve captured is grim: Women report being forced to cover up and venture out only with a male relative. It’s possible neighboring nations jockeying for influence could soften a Taliban regime, but it’s also likely that this clash of cultures will breed civil war.
It’s a purple tide that’s making conservationists blue. The population of purple urchins in the waters off of Northern California and other parts of the Pacific has exploded. While they’re indigenous to those waters, global warming-induced die-offs of their predators, such as sunflower starfish, have allowed the urchins to proliferate, CNN reports. That’s helped cause a 95% loss of kelp canopy along California’s north coast since 2014, endangering the rest of the ecosystem. Experts say storms and other factors can temporarily deforest these areas, but one specialist says that “we are seeing a climate-driven catastrophe.” (Source: CNN)
3. The Phantom Warships Steaming Into WWIII
Now hear this! The guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt is steaming into Russian territorial waters in the Baltic Sea. The ship was seen doing that on July 15. The only problem was that it wasn't actually there. It was being spoofed, some say by Russian hackers, on a widely used ship-monitoring system. Such fake tracking is becoming alarmingly frequent. While major militaries rely on their own systems to detect intruders, some experts believe such appearances spark tensions and can confuse civilian shipping, so they’re hoping the monitoring systems will use digital signatures to make sure everyone will know who’s friend or foe. (Source: Wired)
4. Can She Pull Off the Real ‘Queen’s Gambit’?
Hou Yifan has no illusions. The 27-year-old is one of only 38 female grandmasters out of 1,732 in the world. Ranked 82nd among them, she’s the world’s top woman player by far. To be sure, she’s got a major advantage over The Queen’s Gambit’s Beth Harmon: Hou is the real thing, playing chess starting at age 5. In 2012, she beat Judit Polgár, history’s most successful woman player, and in 2017 played the world champion to a draw. But alas, Harmon fans, Hou chose higher education over seeking a championship. Without regrets, she proved she could play at the highest level, and, most importantly, she continues to enjoy the game. (Source: New Yorker)
5. Eat Just’s Cellular Mojo Might Save the World
Look beyond the cruelty inflicted on meat processing workers and the creatures they dismember. Humanity's slaughtered-flesh consumption, we already know, generates greenhouse gases and deforests the world’s great carbon sinks. But there’s an alternative: actual meat grown from stem cells. San Francisco’s Eat Just makes a mean chicken nugget, but one that’s nicer to workers, flightless birds and the planet, the Guardian reports. But so far, breasts are out of reach, while lab-grown beef is tantalizingly close to reality. Made-meat startups are proliferating, but so is our taste for the farmed variety. Can we wait? (Source: The Guardian)
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