The Big StoryThe saga of the Biogen-produced Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm, isn’t the most talked-about story in the country right now—see below for a couple of candidates—but perhaps it deserves to be. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the treatment, the first new FDA-authorized drug for the enigmatic and incurable degenerative brain disease in nearly 20 years. But it turned out that none of the 12 members of an FDA expert panel recommended that the drug be authorized, and there is widespread debate within the medical community as to whether it actually does anything. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that even scientists supportive of the drug believe the FDA made the scope of its approval far too broad, meaning Aduhelm is likely to be given to patients for whom it is useless. And today, the Times found that because the FDA’s approval made millions of patients eligible for the $56,000-a-head treatment, Adulhelm could end up costing Medicaid an amount equal to the budget of a major federal agency, such as NASA. The Aduhelm story has unanswered questions with deep implications, questions that Congress, the media, and maybe a federal inspector general may want to try to answer sometime soon. Why did the FDA give such blanket approval against the advice of many of its own experts? Did the FDA fall victim to the false hope of solving one of the most disturbing mysteries in medicine, or were the errors here more cultural or administrative? In a time when the stakes of public health controversies seem higher than ever, a story that gets this close to the heart of how medicine is developed and regulated in the United States, and of how the false dawns of a world-changing breakthrough can warp even the most science-oriented minds and institutions, is one that probably won’t go away any time soon. Read about it here:\nhttps://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/upshot/alzheimers-aduhelm-medicare-cost.html and https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/21/health/aduhelm-alzheimers-drug.html The RestIt’s election day in New York! Too bad we might not know the winners of the city’s Democratic Party primaries for mayor and city council, nor those of the contests for various borough president and district attorney positions, until mid-July, thanks in part to a new ranked-choice voting system. Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/article/nyc-primary-results-explained.html The nation’s other big political news is happening in Washington, D.C., where an extensive voting reform bill, touted as the Democrats’ top legislative priority, is likely to go down in the face of a Republican filibuster. But the issue itself is still far from dead: Former President Barack Obama says he supports West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s heavily modified compromise version of the bill. Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/22/politics/senate-democrats-voting-bill/index.html?utm_medium=social&utm_term=link&utm_content=2021-06-22T12%3A01%3A04&utm_source=twCNNp and https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-voting-rights-obama-manchin/2021/06/22/31714c52-d358-11eb-9f29-e9e6c9e843c6_story.html More bad news for much of the Democratic congressional agenda: In a Washington Post editorial, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate Democrat representing one of the most purple states in the country, came out in support of keeping the filibuster in place. Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/21/kyrsten-sinema-filibuster-for-the-people-act/ Proof from Pew that Twitter isn’t real life: The polling agency found that 10% of Twitter users produced 92% of all tweets—a group of super-users whose party affinity is +43% in favor of the Democrats, which is wildly unrepresentative of the country as a whole. Read more: https://twitter.com/Brian_Riedl/status/1406665381138386948 The workflow software company Monday could have its record of largest Israeli initial public offering in history broken after little more than a month: Per recent filings with the Security and Exchange Commission, cybersecurity firm SentinelOne expects to go public soon at a $7 billion valuation. Read more: https://en.globes.co.il/en/article-sentinelone-files-for-nyse-ipo-at-7b-valuation-1001375330Medical journal The Lancet published a long-delayed disclosure statement from Peter Daszak, head of an organization that funded potentially dangerous research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and one of the authors of an influential letter The Lancet published in February of 2020 affirming a natural origin of the novel coronavirus, a document that effectively shut down any serious public discussion of a potential lab-leak origin for more than a year. In the disclosure, Daszak explains the funding sources and China-based work of EcoHealth Alliance, the organization he heads, as well as his relationship with a World Health Organization team tasked with investigating the virus’s origins, which he quit earlier this week. EcoHealth Alliance’s widely documented relationship with the Wuhan lab goes totally unmentioned, though. Read more: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)01377-5/fulltext “There is no hunger in Tigray,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed insisted earlier this week, not long after the United Nations found that over 200,000 people were already in a state of famine in the war-torn region. See here: https://twitter.com/Fromagehomme/status/1406997663707504642 ISIS has an unlikely new stronghold: the east African nation of Mozambique. Read more: https://newlinesinstitute.org/terrorism/understanding-the-meteoric-rise-of-the-islamic-state-in-mozambique/The PressTV.com domain, the website for Iran’s state news outlet, appears to have been seized by the U.S. federal government (though, barring any official confirmation, it’s at least possible that the takedown notice that now appears on the site could be the work of hackers). See here: https://presstv.com/\n\nIt’s been 10 days since Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel’s prime minister. He still hasn’t gotten around to leaving the PM’s official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, though. See here: https://twitter.com/NTarnopolsky/status/1407342731060559883\n\nLas Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib is now the first active NFL player in history to come out as gay, in an announcement publicly celebrated by his team, his teammates, and league executives. Next up for the five-year NFL veteran: a 2021 season in which an improving yet underachieving Raiders team is expected to finally make the playoffs.The Back PagesSome songs have to be heard outdoors and at high volume to really be appreciated for the first time. Last week, the voice of the late Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke thundered from within a group of people disquietingly younger than myself, on the beach outside of Point O’Woods in Fire Island. I immediately recognized the hook to Polo G’s “Clueless,” the second-to-last song on Hall of Fame, the 22-year-old Chicago superstar’s recently released, chart-topping third album. Experienced on a scale larger than on my headphones or in my Brooklyn apartment, the genius of the track hit with the force of an afternoon summer thunderstorm: It felt less like a song than like a rave, a thing of almost incomprehensible scale and exuberance. The hook and the beat took up a welcome residency in my head, and I’m now convinced that if there’s one song that sums up the state of American pop culture in 2021, it’s this one.\n\nLike Abba’s “Dancing Queen,” “Clueless” opens with its chorus. The first voice you hear is Pop Smoke’s, one of the most inimitable in modern music, a superhuman growl that would menace and exhilarate even if he were reading from the phone book. In the first few seconds of this one, Pop happens to be saying, “Look: woo!,” though the words hit with a gravity far beyond whatever literal meaning they may have.\n\nPop Smoke, government name Bashar Jackson, was murdered during a botched robbery in Los Angeles in February of 2020, at the age of 20. Since then, the pop charts have been stocked with attempts to salvage his remaining unreleased work. “Clueless” is among the least cynical of them. However special Pop was, though, a 10-second hook isn’t enough to carry an entire track. In the first of producer AXL Beats’ masterstrokes, the song has a second hook, from Polo G, constituting an unusual kind of back-to-back double chorus. In each half, the beat cuts in asymmetrical fashion: There’s a moment of dead silence toward the end of Pop’s half; the aural stutter-step only happens at the very end of Polo’s turn, as a way of introducing the coming verse.\n\nThe primary beat is one of the wooziest and most gigantic of the year, a patient, psychedelic up-and-down synthesizer with a staccato snare dancing atop it. Beat switches are popular in hip-hop these days—the Future and Drake collaboration “Life Is Good” is basically two different songs stitched together—but AXL employs a more subtle approach. As Polo G’s verse begins, the main beat ceases and then recapitulates as a slowed-down, slow-building fade-in that lasts about 12 seconds, during which it covers the full distance from total silence to the sonic heavens. One verse later, during the introductory phase of Fivio Foreign’s turn on the mic, the fade technique returns but lasts for only about two-thirds of its prior length—the secondary beat compresses, which gives the song a subtle sense of forward momentum, much like those split-second silences do. The secondary beat later appears for a third time, during a vocally modified repeat of one of Fivio Foreign’s lines, although in this final case, the beat shift is so brief that it’s possible to miss it entirely.\n\nThe lyrics are your typical pop-rap fare: There are bits about weaponry and drugs and expensive clothing. But “Clueless” crosses into poignancy, and into some larger significance, because of Pop Smoke’s presence. “I’m downtown Chicago on Michigan Ave with Polo,” Pop begins. The late Bashar Jackson couldn’t possibly have intended it at the time, but those words turned this future song, which he never lived to hear, into a bittersweet memory spoken in the voice of a dead friend. “Clueless” is a record of what Polo G and music and the world in general lost when Pop Smoke was killed. And yet, thanks to “Clueless,” Pop and Polo will now be cruising down the Magnificent Mile for all eternity, or at least for as long as people listen to rap music—a lot of which now borrows from the dark, heavy, and delirious Drill genre that Pop helped bring into the mainstream. “Clueless” contains the psychic tensions of this very strange period in human existence, hearkening to a senseless tragedy while also hitting every pleasure center, using sounds and techniques that could only belong to this point in musical history. It’s of its time, and for that reason, it might just live forever.