“A big breakthrough.” That’s how researchers describe the first-ever successful modification of a human embryo to fix disease-causing genetic mutations. Published in the journal Nature, the study raises the possibility that newborns could eventually have hereditary conditions edited out. Clinical trials involving humans are still a long away off, however, while the surprising discovery could also renew the touchy ethical debate over creating “designer babies.” For now, scientists are focusing on making the procedure as safe as possible.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He actually did it. President Donald Trump on Wednesday bowed to Republic pressure and approved fresh financial sanctions on Russia for its meddling in last year’s election. Trump signed the bill behind closed doors, indicating he probably wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it, since repairing ties with Russia has long been a key talking point for the president. But he also called it “seriously flawed” because the bill limits his power to unilaterally adjust sanctions. Now, Trump will likely face further anger from the Kremlin, which already responded last week by downsizing Washington’s diplomatic mission in Moscow.
“We are not your enemy.” That’s the message U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants North Korea to hear as he heads to Asia this week for a security meeting. It could be a sign that the White House wants to dial down tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, but it’s unclear whether Tillerson can effectively speak for a president who’s rattled his saber after North Korea’s launch of two ICBMs within a month. Either way, he’s made it clear dialogue is impossible unless Pyongyang gives up its nuclear goals.
He’s talking tough. President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, that he’s “personally responsible” for the safety of two opposition leaders arrested during the strongman’s escalating crackdown on dissent. As Venezuela descends further into political turmoil — exacerbated by a recent vote establishing a new, Maduro-friendly legislative body — its currency is sinking alongside prospects for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. In fact, the bolivar is now worth about half as much as the virtual gold featured in the popular computer game, World of Warcraft.
But not the way you might expect. Officials say Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department will refocus its civil rights resources on investigating possible discrimination against white university applicants, potentially fueling lawsuits that could dismantle longstanding affirmative action policies. Just last year, the Supreme Court reaffirmed universities’ rights to consider race as a factor in admissions in order to ensure diversity in the classroom. The new investigations represent the latest Justice Department challenge to longstanding civil rights enforcement, part of a campaign that’s also targeted employment discrimination policies and voting rights.
Everybody’s picking up the phone. Apple’s stock rose 6 percent to an all-time high above $159 in after-hours trading Tuesday following reports of strengthening iPhone and iPad sales. The company is predicting revenue of as much as $52 billion for the current quarter, which pushed the Dow Jones above the 22,000 mark today. Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the removal of VPNs from its Chinese app store, widely seen as abetting internet freedom crackdowns, saying the company must follow existing laws even if he’s hopeful restrictions will loosen.
Know This: The Trump administration is reportedly considering a major trade action against China over intellectual property rules. Sweden is seeking to beef up its data security after a massive leak of private information prompted two ministers to resign. And 12 inmates who escaped an Alabama prison Sunday after tricking a guard using peanut butter have been recaptured.
Listen to This: The Girls Connect project in Nigeria is using stories of fictionalized women, performed by professional radio actors, to get young women to call in and talk to counselors. Though it’s currently only available in the Hausa language, a monthlong test period saw 42,000 calls from young women seeking mentorship and empowerment.
Answer This: Tell us how you really feel. OZY’s next TV show, Third Rail With OZY, is launching on PBS this fall! To kick things off, we’re shelving the PC and launching debates. Each Wednesday, we’ll post a provocative question, focusing on topics that might make it onto the show. This week: Should all Americans be entitled to healthcare? Go deep. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts or a personal story, and we might feature your answer next week.
Nothing gold can stay. Russian President Vladimir Putin has a history of trying to smooth relations with Western countries by befriending incoming leaders, but it’s never truly worked. Exhibit A is the Trump administration, consumed by chaos and investigations. Kremlin officials may be watching with dismay as checks and balances inherent in working democracies override the promise of unbridled cooperation. Even as new sanctions kick in, Putin may not be ready to give up on working with Trump: He understands that seriously souring relations with Washington could hurt Moscow, too.
Who’ll be right on the money? A widely anticipated “hard fork” has split Bitcoin in two. Alternative cryptocurrency Bitcoin Cash will allow for more transactions at any moment, as opposed to the seven-per-second limit built into the original system. Some users of Bitcoin, collectively valued at $47 billion, say the Bitcoin Cash upgrade, with each software block growing from one to eight megabytes, will allow the currency to make a greater impact on the financial world. But traditionalists say the fork could sow confusion — and possibly hacking — keeping Bitcoin from penetrating mainstream markets.
Solitude leaves a bad taste in your mouth. New research suggests food tastes worse if you’re eating alone, which in turn may have a negative impact on our well-being. Yet fixing that skewed perception may be as simple as looking into a mirror. When the study’s participants were faced with their own reflection, or even just a photo of themselves eating, researchers recorded an increase in declared tastiness and volume consumed. The results are provisional, but they nonetheless underscore our need to commune with others, especially at dinner.
Did the war ever end? That’s what television producers seem to be wondering these days, with two different shows attempting to explore alternative, post-Civil War narratives. Amazon’s Black America will envision an American South founded by freed slaves, while HBO’s Confederate, from the creators of Game of Thrones, will imagine what modern slavery would’ve looked like if the war had ended differently. While many were outraged over the latter, Amazon may find its tale of empowerment boosted by viewers looking for an alternative that won’t attract white nationalist fans.
“I don’t think he could beat me if I was one-legged.” That was Michael Jordan’s long-awaited response to LaVar Ball — father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo — who infamously claimed he could’ve beaten Jordan in a one-on-one during Ball’s 1980s Washington State “heyday.” Jordan’s probably right: During the 1987-88 season, Ball averaged 2.2 points per game, while the Greatest Player of All Time was putting away 35 for the Chicago Bulls. His advice for the loud-mouthed father? “Shut up and let the kid play.”