TL(PM) DIGEST: America's life expectancy slides again
Plus Sudan spirals deeper into chaos, Fox News settles its defamation suit, and another reason to be wary of TikTok
1. American life expectancy continues to decline
What happened? PBS News reports that the average life expectancy for Americans has now fallen to 76 years—marking the lowest point in almost two decades after declining for a second year in a row.
Why does it matter? The fact that more people are dying at a younger age is alarming, and the causes are quite sad. After years of good progress in improving pediatric care and lowering accidents like auto deaths, new problems have arisen to drive these statistics. As Dr. Steven Woolf explained:
Well, it's being driven by an increase in death rates in young and middle-aged adults 25 to 64. And most of those relate to the problems of drug overdoses, suicides, alcohol related causes. These are sometimes called deaths of despair, but also cardiometabolic diseases like diabetes and other conditions caused by obesity.
TLP’s take: Advanced, prosperous countries like the U.S. should be striving for longer, happier lives for all its citizens. Rather than pursue more meaningless fights in politics, our leaders should support public health policies that increase life expectancy. These policies should concentrate more on preventing and treating these causes of premature death—from mental health to drug addiction to obesity—with strong interventions and public investments across all regions of the country to make the social safety net stronger.
2. Fighting continues in Sudan, with ordinary Sudanese and foreigners caught in the crossfire
What happened? Clashes continued between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces despite calls for a cease-fire to at least allow trapped civilians to flee or obtain necessities, with roughly 300 people killed since fighting began over the weekend. Attempts to evacuate foreigners have run aground amidst the fighting—three German military airlifters reportedly halted midway to Sudan due to clashes around their destination airfield.
Why does it matter? The situation on the ground in Sudan seems to only be getting worse with each passing hour, and neither faction appears willing to respect any cease-fires brokered or declared. With a population around the size of Syria and Yemen combined as well as links to regional powers like Egypt, Sudan’s outright collapse into civil war would prove disastrous—first and foremost for the Sudanese people who would suffer the direct depredations of the country’s armed factions, but also for the wider Horn of Africa and American interests there.
TLP’s take: The United States and its partners around the world need to engage in some preventive diplomacy to head off a wider conflagration that would have dire consequences for the Sudanese people and threatens de-stabilize a large swathe of east Africa. That won’t be easy: as President Biden’s former special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman observes, the leaders of the two main Sudanese armed factions “have made commitments only to subsequently break them.”
3. Fox News settles defamation case with Dominion Voting Systems
What happened? Just as the defamation case brought against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems was set to get underway, a settlement agreement was reached with Fox agreeing to pay the company $787.5 million for its repeated on-air lies about the 2020 election.
Why does it matter? As internal Fox correspondence showed, company executives and leading television personalities knew that charges Dominion voting machines switched votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden were false, but they aired them repeatedly without an ounce of concern. The judge in the case rejected Fox’s claim that it was merely covering newsworthy allegations, saying that the “evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that is CRYSTAL clear that none of the statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.”
TLP’s take: Politics is filled with liars like Donald Trump and outfits like Fox News that promote their lies. Fox could have saved itself nearly $800 million by just being honest with itself and its viewers about Trump’s conspiracy theories. Normal Americans should stop paying attention to institutions that have proven to be untrustworthy and reward outlets that take the truth seriously enough to at least acknowledge mistakes when they happen.
4. One more reason to be wary of TikTok
What happened? A recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that, while the social media platform does offer some benefits like a sense of community, TikTok’s algorithm serves up a stream of content that only fosters anxiety. “Users are along for the algorithmic ride with little ability to affect what the train is doing,” the researchers reported, taking “them to places they may not ...want to be” but offering users no way out except “a complete cessation of app use.”
Why does it matter? Calls to ban TikTok generally focus on its parent company’s troubling ties to the Chinese government and its ruling Communist Party. But this study offers another reason to be wary of TikTok: its algorithms guide users in certain directions that may worsen underlying mental health problems or take them down conspiratorial rabbit holes.
TLP’s take: Social media platforms in general deserve scrutiny, but TikTok is something else—and its links to the Chinese Communist Party are just the tip of the iceberg. An outright ban on TikTok may or may not be the right move, but at minimum the platform should not be allowed to operate in the United States as it has to date.
Just one more thing…
Take a tour of the massive telescopes dotting the landscape of the Atacama Desert in Chile—and meet some of the astronomers who peer deep into the vastness of space while organizing soccer tournaments between the various observatories.