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Syndicated stories from The Atlantic.

Her greatness is a form of resistance

Photo: Emilee Chinn / Getty

By Jemele Hill

Simone Biles is the greatest athlete in the world today.

For me, this isn’t a debate. It’s a statement of fact. On Sunday, she won a record seventh United States gymnastics championship, continuing her jaw-dropping winning streak in every all-around competition she’s entered since 2013. The 24-year-old hasn’t lost in eight years. Typical gymnasts her age aren’t beating all their rivals by the big margins that, for Biles, have become routine.

Although Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl at age 43, he is no longer in his prime, and other Super Bowl–winning quarterbacks, including Patrick Mahomes…

Recent coverage of the pandemic’s origins has ensnared readers in semantic quibbles, side points, and distractions

Image: Getty; Paul Spella / The Atlantic

By Daniel Engber

After months of getting very little coverage, the lab-leak theory for the origins of COVID-19 — which holds that the virus emerged from a research setting — is now a source of endless chatter. Vanity Fair has a new, 12,000-word investigative feature on the subject, while lab-leak op-eds continue their exponential spread across the pages of The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

A careful look at all the ways that the pandemic might have started matters for the future: It should help us figure out the safest regulations, and the most…

“Scientists are meant to know what’s going on, but in this particular case, we are deeply confused.”

Image: Adam Maida / The Atlantic / Shutterstock

By Ed Yong

Carl Schoonover and Andrew Fink are confused. As neuroscientists, they know that the brain must be flexible but not too flexible. It must rewire itself in the face of new experiences, but must also consistently represent the features of the external world. How? The relatively simple explanation found in neuroscience textbooks is that specific groups of neurons reliably fire when their owner smells a rose, sees a sunset, or hears a bell. These representations — these patterns of neural firing — presumably stay the same from one moment to the next. But as Schoonover, Fink, and others…

Most people on death row are guilty. That doesn’t mean they deserve their fate.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

By Elizabeth Bruenig

If you want to believe that Roger Coleman was the man who raped and murdered 19-year-old Wanda McCoy, his sister-in-law, on the night of March 10, 1981, in her small home in the coal-mining town of Longbottom, Virginia, you have to accept that Coleman managed to park his truck, ford a creek, scramble up some 300 yards of hillside, and commit the entire grisly crime in the span of 30 minutes — all without leaving a single fingerprint at the crime scene or drenching himself in blood, despite slashing the victim’s carotid and jugular arteries.

A Virginia…

Vaccinated America is reveling in its freedom — and leaving the most vulnerable people behind

Image: The Atlantic

By Ed Yong

During a pandemic, no one’s health is fully in their own hands. No field should understand that more deeply than public health, a discipline distinct from medicine. Whereas doctors and nurses treat sick individuals in front of them, public-health practitioners work to prevent sickness in entire populations. They are expected to think big. They know that infectious diseases are always collective problems because they are infectious. An individual’s choices can ripple outward to affect cities, countries, and continents; one sick person can seed a hemisphere’s worth of cases. …

People in the United States no longer agree on the nation’s purpose, values, history, or meaning. Is reconciliation possible?

Illustration: Lucy Jones / The Atlantic

By George Packer

Nations, like individuals, tell stories in order to understand what they are, where they come from, and what they want to be. National narratives, like personal ones, are prone to sentimentality, grievance, pride, shame, self-blindness. There is never just one — they compete and constantly change. The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand up best to fact-checking. They’re the ones that address our deepest needs and desires. Americans know by now that democracy depends on a baseline of shared reality — when facts become fungible, we’re lost. But just as no one can live…

Boris Johnson knows exactly what he’s doing

The prime minister, photographed at 10 Downing Street in May 2021. Photo: Nadav Kander

By Tom McTague

“Nothing can go wrong!” Boris Johnson said, jumping into the driver’s seat of a tram he was about to take for a test ride. “Nothing. Can. Go. Wrong.”

The prime minister was visiting a factory outside Birmingham, campaigning on behalf of the local mayor ahead of “Super Thursday” — a spate of elections across England, Scotland, and Wales in early May. These elections would give voters a chance to have their say on Johnson’s two years in office, during which quite a lot did go wrong.

Johnson was, as usual, unkempt and amused, a tornado of bonhomie…

People tend to think of they, Mx., and hir as relatively recent inventions. But English speakers have been looking for better ways to talk about gender for a very long time.

Image: Adam Maida / The Atlantic

By Michael Waters

On a frigid January day, Ella Flagg Young — the first woman to serve as superintendent of the Chicago public-school system — took the stage in front of a room of school principals and announced that she had come up with a new solution to an old problem. “I have simply solved a need that has been long impending,” she said. “The English language is in need of a personal pronoun of the third person, singular number, that will indicate both sexes and will thus eliminate our present awkwardness of speech.” …

Inside the meteoric, chilled-out, totally paradoxical rise of app-enabled serenity

Photo: Sarah Johnson / The Atlantic

By Annie Lowrey

A cathedral-like mountain towers above me; a lake laps at my feet; sunshine distilled through pine needles warms my skin. Close your eyes, a voice intones. Let your shoulders fall naturally and keep your chest open. Take a few full, deep breaths to settle into this moment, inhaling deeply and slowly releasing your breath, allowing any tension you may be holding to soften.

Fifteen minutes later, the voice asks me to bring my attention back to the room. I open my eyes to see not a mountain and a lake, but a photo of them on my…

Although some Republican leaders deplored their violence, most have come to support the rioters’ claim that Trump’s defeat meant the election was inherently illegitimate

Photo: Olivier Douliery / AFP / Getty

By Adam Serwer

Republicans say they would like to move on from the 2020 election.

“A lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward,” John Thune, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, told CNN on May 19. “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections I think is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”

After Thune and 34 of his Republican colleagues used the filibuster last week to block a…

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