12.9.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Saturday, Dec. 9, and in this weekend edition, we're covering the approval of the first gene-editing treatment for sickle cell disease, the latest jobs report, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

You share, we listen. As always, send us feedback at [email protected].

One Big Headline
 

Sickle Cell Gene Therapy

The US Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved a pair of gene therapy treatments for sickle cell disease, a group of inherited red blood cell disorders caused by mutations in a gene that produces an oxygen-carrying protein known as hemoglobin. One of the treatments, called Casgevy, is based on breakthrough CRISPR technology—a Nobel Prize-winning gene-editing tool (see 101, w/video)—and is the first approved gene-editing therapy in the US.

Codeveloped by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics, Casgevy involves harvesting cells from a patient's bone marrow, editing the cells in a lab using CRISPR technology, and inserting the modified cells back into the patient's body. Read one man's account of being among the first people to experience the CRISPR-based treatment here.


The second treatment, developed by Bluebird Bio and called Lyfgenia, uses a harmless virus to introduce a gene into a patient's body to help produce a hemoglobin substitute. Both Casgevy and Lyfgenia have been approved for people 12 years and older. 

 

Sickle cell disease (see overview) affects more than 100,000 Americans per year and 20 million people worldwide. 

Quick Hits
 

Michigan high school shooter sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The now-17-year-old shooter killed four of his classmates and injured seven others when he opened fire Nov. 30, 2021, at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, about 30 miles north of Detroit. He pleaded guilty last year to charges of first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death. The parents of the shooter, who previously pleaded not guilty to charges of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, face their own trial Jan. 23.

 

US economy adds 199,000 jobs in November, unemployment falls.

The nonfarm payroll growth is up from October's growth of 150,000 jobs and slightly beats economists' estimates of 190,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, from 3.9% in October. The figure marks a four-month low. Average hourly earnings rose 0.4% month-over-month and 4% year-over-year. See all data here.

 

Voters head to the polls today in Houston's mayoral runoff election.

Houstonians will vote between US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D, TX-18), who has been in Congress since 1995, and state Sen. John Whitmire (D), who has been part of the Texas Legislature since 1973. Both candidates were the top two vote-getters in the Nov. 7 general election; Whitmire led with 42% of the votes, while Jackson Lee received 36%. The winner will replace term-limited Mayor Sylvester Turner (D). 

 

Woman arrested for attempted arson of Martin Luther King, Jr's birth home.

Officials charged a 26-year-old woman for allegedly pouring a five-gallon container of gasoline on the historic two-story home in Atlanta, Georgia. The home, where King was born and spent the first 12 years of his life, has been designated as a federal landmark. The National Park Service bought the home in 2018. It has been closed to the public since November for repairs. See a video tour of the home here.

 

Taylor Swift's Eras Tour becomes first tour worldwide to cross $1B.

Swift's tour brought in $1.04B with 4.35 million tickets sold across 60 concert dates. The figure comes from data collected by Pollstar, a music industry trade publication. Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour came in second worldwide. 

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Humankind
 

California teen launches holiday drive to send socks to nursing homes to keep the elderly warm. (More)

Tulane University students build wheelchairs for children with disabilities. (More)

 

Tennessee 3-year-old rocks his 2-month-old baby sister to sleep. (More, w/video) 

 

How a Kentucky school principal adopted a student in the foster care system, who had been sent to his office. (More

 

Connecticut toddler thanks, hugs UPS driver after package delivery. (More, w/video)

 

Colorado 9-year-old organizes pet drive for shelter animals in honor of her dog who passed away. (More

 

Father of eight shares his Sunday morning hair routine for each of his children. (More, w/video)

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Humankind(ness)
 

Today's story is from reader Stewart C. in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.  

 

"I was third in line in the post office at 11:45 am on a Saturday. The woman at the postal window was advised by the clerk she needed $10 more to send her package. It was too late for her to go home to get the money (PO closes at noon on Saturday). She seemed upset. The person in front of me said, 'I'll cover it for you.' The woman was SO pleased and then asked the woman for her name and address to send her the $10. She said, 'No, I'm glad to help.' 'Thank you so much,' the other said. When the second woman finished I said, 'let me split it with you' and gave her $5. 'Oh, thanks,' she said and went on her way. I went to the postal window to mail a letter to the Netherlands with the enveloped stamped. The clerk said, 'you'll need 19 cents more.' As I reached for my wallet, he said, 'I saw what you did. I'll cover the 19 cents.'"

 

What act(s) of kindness did you experience this week? Tell us here.

Etcetera
 

Bookkeeping

> Americans are expected to spend an average of $975 on gifts this holiday season.
> How the poinsettia became a $213M industry in the US around Christmas.

The world's 25 wealthiest families became $1.5T richer this year.

Americans donated more than $499B to charitable causes last year. See more philanthropy data. (w/video)

 

Browse 

> Introducing Pantone's 2024 color of the year: peach fuzz.

> World's oldest living land animal—a tortoise—celebrates 191st birthday.

> Meet Turtwig, an ancient turtle species once believed to be a plant.

The 10 best books of 2023, according to BookTok

 

Listen 

> Are personality tests legit, and what can science tell us about who we are?


Watch 

How to make smart decisions more easily

> The vault in Manhattan that holds 5% of the world's gold.

> Watch a rescued baby kangaroo take its first steps.

 

Long Read 

> Why scientists are making transparent wood.

> The teenager who lives like it's the 1940s.

A story about finding romance in a care home.

> The master forgers who saved thousands of lives during World War II.

 

Most Read of the Week: McDonald's is releasing a new adult Happy Meal.

 

Historybook: Actor Kirk Douglas born (1916); Actress Dame Judi Dench born (1934); “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuts (1965); Diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche dies (1971); World Health Organization declares smallpox eradicated (1979).

"Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals."

-  Ralph Bunche

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