June 11, 2015

Dementia is a big problem that's little understood, and cases of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia are only going to balloon as people live longer. Researchers report in the journal Nature that they have identified a genetic mutation in the brain that appears to protect people from prion diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). But prions, or misshapen proteins, are also believed to play a big role in dementia diseases like Alzheimer's and neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's.

The British and Papua New Guinean researchers looked at the Fore people of Papua New Guinea, who apparently developed their prion resistance during an outbreak of kuru, a CJD-like prion disease spread by a mostly abandoned practice of eating a relative's brain and nervous system at the funeral. At its peak in the 1950s, kuru killed about 2 percent of the Fore population each year. Some Fore people developed a protective mutation in codon 127 of the prion protein, the researchers say, and it makes them completely resistant to all forms of CJD.

"This is a striking example of Darwinian evolution in humans, the epidemic of prion disease selecting a single genetic change that provided complete protection against an invariably fatal dementia," said John Collinge, a prion researcher at University College London who led the study. The team is now researching the mutant protein's molecular structure, hoping to find helpful clues to understanding and curing prion diseases that cause dementia and other neural problems. Peter Weber

4:31 p.m.

The Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins received some encouraging coronavirus-related news Sunday and are likely return to the field soon, but things aren't going as well for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals now have had 13 members of their clubhouse — seven players and six staff members — tested positive for the coronavirus. Subsequently, the team which saw its weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers get postponed, won't travel to Detroit for the next slate of games against the Tigers. That makes them, along with the Marlins, who have had 18 players test positive, and the Phillies, who paused play out of caution but do not appear to have an outbreak, the third team to miss at least a week of baseball games during the young season.

Despite the possibility of cancellation, MLB still isn't planning to pause the season overall, and teams like the Cardinals, Phillies, and Marlins, will seemingly do what they can to make up as many games as possible, even if they don't play a full 60-game season.

While the baseball situation is bleak for St. Louis, the players and staff are — more importantly — reportedly holding their own health-wise, exhibiting either "light" or no symptoms, general manager John Mozeliak said. Tim O'Donnell

3:53 p.m.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's recent court filing suggests President Trump and his company, The Trump Organization, may be under investigation for possible bank and insurance fraud, The New York Times reports.

The filing was made in response to a lawsuit by Trump's attorneys who have argued prosecutors were acting in "bad faith" by issuing a "wildly overbroad" subpoena seeking Trump's personal and corporate tax returns. Vance didn't disclose anything specific about what compelled him to go after the records, but the filing argued the subpoena wasn't too broad, since that notion is based on the "false premise" that the probe is limited to "hush-money" payments made by the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in 2016.

Instead, the filing claimed "there were public allegations of possible criminal activity" at the company "dating back over a decade" and, therefore, a legal basis for the subpoena exists. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

3:14 p.m.

After Taylor Swift's fans put on her new album and said it's their favorite, she's breaking a whole bunch of records.

Swift on July 24 debuted her surprise album Folklore, which she made in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, and it's certainly doing well. It's Swift's seventh album to debut at the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart, as well as the best-selling album of 2020 so far and biggest week for an album since Swift's Lover, per Billboard.

Swift with Folklore also pulled off a few historic feats. Not only is she the first artist to have seven separate albums sell 500,000 copies in a week, as The Associated Press reports, but according to Billboard, she's also the "first artist ever to debut at No. 1 on both the Hot 100 and Billboard 200 in the same week." That's thanks to "Cardigan" debuting at number one on the Hot 100 songs chart.

All in all, she's had a pretty productive quarantine, wouldn't you say? Brendan Morrow

2:22 p.m.

President Trump addressed the TikTok sale saga again Monday, and his most recent comments seemingly lend credence to speculation that his previous threat to ban the popular social media app was a negotiation tactic to force its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to fully divest its U.S. operations. To be clear, Trump doubled down on the threat, but this time he affirmed he would be ok with Microsoft buying the app and set a deadline for a potential sale, whereas he previously suggested a ban was imminent.

"I don't mind whether it's Microsoft or someone else, a big company, a secure company, a very American company buys it," Trump said. "It'll close down on Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so the Treasury of the United States gets a lot of money."

Microsoft has confirmed it's working on a deal, but still has some negotiating to do. The Trump administration has scrutinized TikTok lately because of concerns that ByteDance is harboring American users' data and could potentially hand it over to the Chinese government down the line amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

1:11 p.m.

Former President Barack Obama unveiled his first round of 2020 endorsements on Monday, and he's got his eyes on Texas, at least at the local level.

Obama is endorsing 27 Democratic candidates in Texas, including 19 for the state House, where Democrats need to win nine seats to grab the majority. The focus seems to make sense for Obama, The New York Times notes, because Texas districts will be redrawn after the 2020 census, and Democrats want to gain a foothold before that happens. The former president has made it a priority to back candidates whom the National Democratic Redistricting Committee has labeled key to the redistricting process.

He decided to stay out of Texas' Senate race between incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and his Democratic challenger MJ Hegar, however. Obama similarly avoided other key Senate races in Republican states, including Montana, Kentucky, and Georgia, where his public support may not provide a boost, or could even prove harmful.

In races at the national level, Obama endorsed 52 Democratic House candidates and five for the Senate in battleground states, and he's set to announce a second wave of endorsements for states who have yet to hold their primaries. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

1:05 p.m.

In these uncertain times, one constant remains: the Cats pile-on continues.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, who composed the original Cats musical, in a new interview decided to join in on the fun of dunking on Tom Hooper's disastrous 2019 movie version.

"The problem with the film was that Tom Hooper decided that he didn't want anybody involved in it who was involved in the original show," Webber told The Sunday Times, per Deadline. "The whole thing was ridiculous."

The Cats movie has already become an infamous catastrophe after critics ripped it to shreds and it bombed at the box office, although one might argue its "problem" had less to do with the original show's creators not being involved and more to do with its CGI characters looking more horrifying than anything Wes Craven could have dreamed up.

Then again, given what the original show looks like, maybe Webber's statement that the movie version was "ridiculous" is actually his way of praising it for being faithful to the source material. Brendan Morrow

12:02 p.m.

Criticism of the United States' response to the coronavirus pandemic at every level is nothing new at this point, but some of the country's failures have gone beyond the worst case scenario in the eyes of infectious disease experts, Ed Yong reports for The Atlantic.

Nearly every country has had to grapple with the coronavirus. While those efforts have been challenging, many have curbed the virus through decisive action. Experts largely don't count the U.S. in that group, though. "The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever could have imagined," Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told The Atlantic.

Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers noted that governments and humanity at large have "moved mountains" to roll back contagious pathogens like the coronavirus throughout history, and she said "it's appalling that we in the U.S. have not summoned that energy around COVID-19."

And that doesn't bode well for the future when even more severe pandemics could occur, Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina told Yong. How will the U.S. fare, she asked, when "we can't even deal with a starter pandemic?" Read more at The Atlantic. Tim O'Donnell

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