Critical Race Theory Rejects Enlightenment Rationalism and the Declaration of Independence

(p. A15) . . ., relatively few Americans—including those who regularly denounce it—know much about what critical race theory is. It originated in law schools in the 1970s and has since become a sprawling movement. To find out more about it, I turned to “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” co-written by one of the movement’s founders, Richard Delgado. He writes that critical race theory “questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”

. . .

Because the Declaration of Independence—the founding document of the American liberal order—is a product of Enlightenment rationalism, a doctrine that rejects the Enlightenment tacitly requires deconstructing the American order and rebuilding it on an entirely different foundation.

For the full commentary, see:

William A. Galston. “How Adherents See ‘Critical Race Theory’.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, July 14, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 13, 2021, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Tata’ Review: From Homestead to Hegemony.”)

The book co-authored by a founder of critical race theory that is mentioned in the passage quoted above is:

Delgador, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. 3rd ed. New York: NYU Press, 2017 [1st ed., 2001; 2nd ed., 2012].

Leading American Scientists Endorsed False Soviet Denial of Anthrax Lab Leak

(p. A4) YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Patients with unexplained pneumonias started showing up at hospitals; within days, dozens were dead. The secret police seized doctors’ records and ordered them to keep silent. American spies picked up clues about a lab leak, but the local authorities had a more mundane explanation: contaminated meat.

It took more than a decade for the truth to come out.

In April and May 1979, at least 66 people died after airborne anthrax bacteria emerged from a military lab in the Soviet Union. But leading American scientists voiced confidence in the Soviets’ claim that the pathogen had jumped from animals to humans. Only after a full-fledged investigation in the 1990s did one of those scientists confirm the earlier suspicions: The accident in what is now the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg was a lab leak, one of the deadliest ever documented.

Nowadays, some of the victims’ graves appear abandoned, their names worn off their metal plates in the back of a cemetery on the outskirts of town, where they were buried in coffins with an agricultural disinfectant. But the story of the accident that took their lives, and the cover-up that hid it, has renewed relevance as scientists search for the origins of Covid-19.

It shows how an authoritarian government can successfully shape the narrative of a disease outbreak and how it can take years — and, perhaps, regime change — to get to the truth.

“Wild rumors do spread around every epidemic,” Joshua Lederberg, the Nobel-winning American biologist, wrote in a memo after a fact-finding trip to Moscow in 1986. “The current Soviet account is very likely to be true.”

Many scientists believe that the virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic evolved in animals and jumped at some point to humans. But scientists are also calling for deeper investigation of the possibility of an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

There is also widespread concern that the Chinese government — which, like the Soviet government decades before it, dismisses the possibility of a lab leak — is not providing international investigators with access and data that could shed light on the pandemic’s origins. Continue reading “Leading American Scientists Endorsed False Soviet Denial of Anthrax Lab Leak”

Warburg Focused on Cancer’s “Ravenous” Metabolizing of Sugars

(p. A15) Hours before Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, SS leader Heinrich Himmler convened a perplexing meeting. He and his minions put aside preparations for the offensive to chitchat about a gay biochemist of Jewish descent in Berlin. Not to rage about the man, or plot his downfall—to the contrary, the Nazis believed this scientist could save the Reich, by ridding it of a threat they feared every bit as much as Jews, homosexuals and communists—the scourge of cancer.

That scientist, Otto Warburg, is the subject of “Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer–Diet Connection,” an eye-opening work by journalist Sam Apple.

. . .

There’s no doubt Warburg was brilliant—the greatest biochemist of his day—and in the 1930s he focused on cancer, a major concern of the Nazis. Cancer deaths skyrocketed 287% in Germany between 1876 and 1910, “making a quiet mockery of the extraordinary march of German science,” Mr. Apple notes. From the Führer down, Nazi leaders trembled at the disease, and they enacted surprisingly modern measures to fight cancer. They railed against cigarettes, encouraged women to examine their breasts for lumps and worked to eliminate pesticides and artificial preservatives in food.

In his lab, Warburg made seemingly fundamental discoveries about how cancer worked.

. . .

The second half of “Ravenous” shifts into the (somewhat tenuous) links between Warburg’s research and our modern understanding of cancer. The biochemical complexities get a bit gnarly—there’s a dizzying amount of detail, making it hard to follow the main thread on occasion. Among other things, Warburg discovered that cancer cells gobble up far more glucose (a sugar) than their nonmalignant neighbors—“eating like shipwrecked sailors,” Mr. Apple writes. Oddly, cancer cells also metabolize sugars through fermentation, in a manner analogous to yeast cells. Biochemically, fermentation is normally a backup power generator for human cells, used only when oxygen runs low. Warburg found that cancer cells were running the backup generator all the time.

. . .

. . ., it’s not clear how much credit Warburg deserves. I walked away from “Ravenous” thinking of Otto Warburg as a sort of Sigmund Freud of cancer research. Freud got One Big Thing right—that the unconscious drives much of human behavior. But he was wrong on nearly every detail. Similarly, Warburg explicitly rejected good evidence for the insulin-cancer link during his lifetime, among other blunders, making it tricky to uphold him as a pioneer of modern cancer research.

Nevertheless, history will show that Otto Warburg always insisted that cancer was intimately tied to metabolism. As one latter-day biologist noted, marveling over Warburg’s rehabilitation, “We found out that son of a bitch was right.”

For the full review, see:

Sam Kean. “BOOKSHELF; Untangling a Disease.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, June 16, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date June 15, 2021, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Ravenous’ Review: Untangling a Disease.”)

The book under review is:

Apple, Sam. Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection. New York: Liveright Publishing Corp., 2021.

Communists Want Chinese to Forget the Millions Who Starved Due to Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”

(p. A1) Modern lore has it that Mao Zedong’s eldest son, who was killed in a United Nations airstrike during the Korean War, had given away his position by firing up a stove to make egg fried rice.

That story didn’t sit right with the Chinese Academy of History, launched two years ago by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to counter negative views of the ruling Communist Party’s past.

In November [2020], on the 70th anniversary of Mao Anying’s death, the academy served up another version. Citing what it said were declassified telegrams and eyewitness accounts, the academy said in a social-media post that Mao was killed after enemy forces detected radio transmissions from his commander’s headquarters.

“These rumormongers have tied up Mao Anying with egg fried rice, gravely dwarfing the heroic image of Mao Anying’s brave sacrifice,” said the post, which has attracted about 1.9 million views. “Their hearts are vicious.” The academy attributed the egg fried rice story to the 2003 edition of a Chinese military officer’s memoir. It didn’t mention the book was published by the Chinese military’s official press.

The history academy is run by Gao Xiang, a 57-year-old historian turned propaganda official who has mixed traditional scholarship with viral marketing techniques to repackage the past in support of Mr. Xi’s vision for a resurgent China.

Mr. Gao and his academy are part of Mr. Xi’s push to harness history in the run-up to the Communist Party’s 100th anniversary this summer. Those efforts have culminated in a national propaganda campaign to promote party history, launched in February [2021], that experts describe as China’s largest (p. A10) mass-education drive since the Mao era.

. . .

Officials commissioned concerts with orchestral renditions of patriotic songs such as “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China.” Bureaucrats and students competed in quizzes testing their knowledge of party trivia. Authorities revised books to play down Mao’s despotic missteps. The education ministry added questions on party history to this year’s college-entrance exams, to “guide students to inherit red genes.”

. . .

At Mr. Xi’s behest, the history academy was set up in January 2019 under the aegis of both the party’s propaganda department and the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, or CASS, giving party theorists direct control over its output.

. . .

Last year, it launched a journal, “Historical Review,” that offers commentary on current affairs and invokes history to counter criticism of Beijing’s policies.

In July, the journal featured two articles by Chinese researchers that promoted party narratives about China’s history in denouncing Georgetown University history professor James Millward, a critic of Beijing’s forced-assimilation campaign against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. One article accused Mr. Millward of having “sinister motives” and smearing “vocational-education training centers” in Xinjiang as “political-training centers.”

Mr. Millward said the criticism distorted his writings and echoed how Beijing often mischaracterized foreign censure of its human-rights record as challenges to Chinese sovereignty.

. . .

Outside the academy, too, party historians are rewriting the past in ways that support Mr. Xi’s views. Past editions of “A Short History of the Chinese Communist Party,” an authoritative text for general audiences, devoted hefty passages to Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” a disastrous economic program that led to one of history’s deadliest famines.

The revised version, published in February [2021], excises the earlier edition’s conclusion about the program and its fallout: “This bitter historical lesson shouldn’t be forgotten.” The new version also dropped detailed discussions of Mao’s mistakes in launching the Cultural Revolution, a series of purges against “counterrevolutionary elements” that ravaged Chinese society and left as many as millions of people dead. Instead, it focuses mainly on China’s industrial, technological and diplomatic achievements during that decade.

Also gone are well-known quotations from Deng Xiaoping, including his advice that China should “hide our light and bide our time,” or keep a low profile while accumulating strength. Another was a remark he made in 1989 as he prepared to relinquish his last official leadership post: “Building a nation’s fate on the reputation of one or two people is very unhealthy and very dangerous.”

Meanwhile, chapters were added that describe Mr. Xi as a visionary statesman whose authority as the party’s “core” leader must be upheld.

“Amid ten thousand majestic mountains, there must be a main peak,” reads the updated book, which devotes more than one-quarter of its 531 pages to Mr. Xi’s policies and achievements.

For the full story, see:

Chun Han Wong and Keith Zhai. “China Repackages History In Support of Xi’s Vision.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, June 16, 2021): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed years, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 15, 2021, and has the title “China Repackages Its History in Support of Xi’s National Vision.”)

DNA Evidence Supports John Locke’s Vacuum Domicilium Argument for Europeans Claiming New World Land Ownership

(p. A21) The population size of “pre-contact” Hispaniola . . . [is] a contested issue until the present day, not least because of its profound emotional and moral resonance in light of the destruction of that world. Modern scholars have generally estimated the population at 250,000 to a million people.

Some of the arguments for large population numbers in the pre-contact Americas have been motivated by an attempt to counter a myth, perpetuated by apologists for colonialism like the philosopher John Locke, that the Americas were a vast “vacuum domicilium,” or empty dwelling, populated by a handful of Indigenous groups whose displacement could be readily justified. In a similar vein, some of the arguments for large population sizes have been motivated by a desire to underscore how disastrous the arrival of Europeans was for Indigenous people.

By any measure, the arrival of Europeans was catastrophic for Indigenous Americans. This is true whether the numbers of people were in the hundreds of thousands or millions — or for that matter, the tens of thousands. It is questionable to pin our judgments of human atrocities to a specific number. To learn from the past, it is crucial to be willing to accept new and compelling data when they become available.

In the case of the pre-contact population of Hispaniola, such data have arrived. By analyzing the DNA of ancient Indigenous Caribbean people, a study published in Nature on Wednesday [Dec. 16, 2020] by one of us (Professor Reich) makes clear that the population of Hispaniola was no more than a few tens of thousands of people. Almost all prior estimates have been at least tenfold too large.

. . .

The finding about the pre-contact population size in Hispaniola was made possible by a new scientific advance: We are now able to detect “DNA cousins” in ancient genomes — taking two people and determining whether they share large segments of DNA inherited from a recent ancestor. This is similar to what personal ancestry companies like 23andMe and Ancestry do with living people.

When the Reich team applied this method to 91 ancient individuals for whom it had sequenced enough of the genome to carry out this analysis, it found 19 pairs of DNA cousins living on different large islands or island groups in the Caribbean: for example, an individual in Hispaniola with a cousin in the Bahamas, and another individual in Hispaniola with a cousin in Puerto Rico. This meant that the entire population had to be very small; you wouldn’t find that random pairs of people had such a high probability of being closely related if the entire population was large.

For the full commentary, see:

David Reich and Orlando Patterson. “DNA Rewrites the Telling of the Caribbean’s Past.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 12, 2020): A21.

(Note: ellipses, bracketed word, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 23, 2020, and has the title “Ancient DNA Is Changing How We Think About the Caribbean.”)

The paper in Nature mentioned above is:

Fernandes, Daniel M., Kendra A. Sirak, Harald Ringbauer, Jakob Sedig, Nadin Rohland, Olivia Cheronet, Matthew Mah, Swapan Mallick, Iñigo Olalde, Brendan J. Culleton, Nicole Adamski, Rebecca Bernardos, Guillermo Bravo, Nasreen Broomandkhoshbacht, Kimberly Callan, Francesca Candilio, Lea Demetz, Kellie Sara Duffett Carlson, Laurie Eccles, Suzanne Freilich, Richard J. George, Ann Marie Lawson, Kirsten Mandl, Fabio Marzaioli, Weston C. McCool, Jonas Oppenheimer, Kadir T. Özdogan, Constanze Schattke, Ryan Schmidt, Kristin Stewardson, Filippo Terrasi, Fatma Zalzala, Carlos Arredondo Antúnez, Ercilio Vento Canosa, Roger Colten, Andrea Cucina, Francesco Genchi, Claudia Kraan, Francesco La Pastina, Michaela Lucci, Marcio Veloz Maggiolo, Beatriz Marcheco-Teruel, Clenis Tavarez Maria, Christian Martínez, Ingeborg París, Michael Pateman, Tanya M. Simms, Carlos Garcia Sivoli, Miguel Vilar, Douglas J. Kennett, William F. Keegan, Alfredo Coppa, Mark Lipson, Ron Pinhasi, and David Reich. “A Genetic History of the Pre-Contact Caribbean.” Nature 590, no. 7844 (Feb. 4, 2021): 103-10.

Illuminators Were in MORE Demand AFTER the Arrival of the Printing Press

(p. C9) In “The Bookseller of Florence,” Ross King relates the fascinating story of a bookstore run by Vespasiano da Bisticci, a Florentine born in 1422, whose shop on the Via dei Librai, or Street of Booksellers, sat at the center of Florence’s golden age and its valiant recovery of ancient knowledge.

. . .

Before long, Vespasiano established a bookshop selling beautifully made manuscripts of newly fashionable Roman classics for prosperous clients. He was well placed: Florence, “the new Athens on the Arno,” was a city where an astounding seven of 10 citizens could read.

. . .

Vespasiano’s life straddled two eras. Before the dawn of movable type in Europe, readers relied on manuscripts, painstakingly copied by hand with goosequills on parchment made from animal skins. After, they flocked to buy cheaper books printed on presses. Meanwhile, scribes either became early adopters—trading their inkpots for composing sticks—or found themselves surprisingly busy rubricating and illuminating innumerable books rolling off the new presses. By the time the presses made their way south of the Alps, Vespasiano was in his early 30s and, for whatever reason, chose not to embrace the new technology.

Printing came to Florence later than elsewhere, possibly due in part to Vespasiano, who continued to sell only books copied out on parchment. Still, competition from printed books began to tell on his sales. Then, just when it seemed he might be edged out of the market, there arrived a redeeming commission by the count of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro, for “the finest library since antiquity,” one that would keep Vespasiano’s team of dozens of scribes and illuminators busy for nearly a decade, well into the era of the printing press. Montefeltro, a wealthy mercenary—who at the age of 15 had seized a fortress long believed impregnable—was also a bookish man, like many in the Renaissance. He retained five men to read to him as he ate, and even a poet to sing his praises. Among the many books created for his library was Vespasiano’s masterpiece, the Urbino Bible, one of the most lavish illustrated books of all time.

For the full review, see:

Ernest Hilbert. “Wise Men Fished There.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 24, 2021): C9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 15, 2021, and has the title “‘The Bookseller of Florence’ Review: Manuscripts and Medicis.”)

The book under review is:

King, Ross. The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2021.

Productivity Pessimist Robert Gordon Becomes More Optimistic

(p. A2) After a decadelong drought, worker productivity might be about to accelerate thanks to pandemic-induced technological adoption, which could lift economic growth and wages in coming years while staving off inflation pressure.

. . .

Robert Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University who has studied productivity and living standards during the past century, said productivity growth slowed after 2005 because the payoff from computers faded and new inventions such as smartphones and tablets didn’t revolutionize business operations. In 2015 he had predicted productivity growth of only 1.5% a year over the next 25 years. Recent developments have made him more optimistic, and he expects annual productivity growth of about 1.8% this decade.

A shift toward e-commerce should push up productivity by eliminating workers needed in bricks-and-mortar stores, Mr. Gordon said. Videoconferencing should also help, though the public-transit sector could offset some of the gains because buses and rail transit will carry fewer riders, he said.

. . .

Remote work could deliver a one-time 4.7% lift to productivity after the pandemic, though a large share of the growth will stem from shortened commutes that government productivity data won’t fully capture, according to a working paper from Stanford University’s Nicholas Bloom and co-authors.

For the full commentary, see:

Sarah Chaney Cambon. “Productivity Looks Ready to Pick Up.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 5, 2021): A2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 4, 2021, and has the title “U.S.’s Long Drought in Worker Productivity Could Be Ending.”)

Gordon’s pessimistic old views were most fully expressed in his much-discussed:

Gordon, Robert J. The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.

The working paper co-authored by Bloom is:

Barrero, Jose Maria, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis. “Why Working from Home Will Stick.” Working Paper, April 1, 2021.

Defending the Enlightenment

(p. C7) The dishonoring of Hume, and attacks on other Enlightenment luminaries such as Jefferson and Kant, indicate that the case against the Enlightenment has escaped the faculty lounge and is now in the streets. This turbulent context will inevitably frame any modern history of the Enlightenment, and so it is with Ritchie Robertson’s “The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790.” Mr. Robertson’s study is part of a growing rearguard action. He is determined, alongside colleagues such as Jonathan Israel and Anthony Pagden, both to defend the Enlightenment on its own terms and to promote its “particularly urgent message for our time.”

. . .

What the Enlighteners offered was reason alloyed with sentiment. “In this book,” writes Mr. Robertson, “I try to present the Enlightenment not only as an intellectual movement, but also as a sea change in sensibility, in which people became more attuned to other people’s feelings, and more concerned for what we would call humane, or humanitarian values.”

. . .

He uses the sentimental revolution to explain important reformist causes, such as the suppression of cruelty to animals, penal reform and new models of education. A “feeling” for humanity in all its diversity, among figures such as Diderot and Burke, informed powerful critiques of European empire. Even Adam Smith—(p. C8)often misremembered as a pitiless capitalist—made feeling central to sociability in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” (1759). According to Smith, as Mr. Robertson puts it, social and economic life was not powered by “cold calculations” but by “desire, which had to be properly channelled in order to produce happiness.”

The postmodernist attacks on the Enlightenment as coercive, disciplinarian and hierarchical, Mr. Robertson claims, ignore its softer dimension, its humane sympathy and its concern to ameliorate suffering.

For the full review, see:

Jeffrey Collins. “Let’s Be Reasonable, and Humane.” The New York Times Book Review (Saturday, March 13, 2021): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 12, 2021, and has the title “‘The Enlightenment’ Review: Daring to Feel.”)

The book under review is:

Robertson, Ritchie. The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790. New York: Harper, 2021.

Cancel Culture Comes for Odysseus

I took a couple of years of classical Greek in college from “Doc” Charles, a senior member of the Wabash College faculty. One year we read Homer’s The Odyssey; the other year we read Plato’s “Apology” and the Greek New Testament; I don’t remember for sure which we read first. But I think we read The Odyssey in the second year, when I was the only student in the course. I got credit for taking the course; but with only one student, Doc Charles did not get credit for teaching it. One of my abiding regrets is that I never took the time in later years to thank Doc Charles. When our daughter Jenny’s middle school class read a little bit of an English translation of The Odyssey, I grabbed my own copy of the English translation and read her a few paragraphs that I thought she would like. Jenny is partial to the dachshund breed of hound dogs. The paragraphs I read were about Odysseus finally entering Ithaca after 10 years of fighting the Trojan War and another 10 years of struggling to return home. After 20 years’ absence the first humans he meets do not recognize him. But an old hound dog who was his puppy when he left Ithaca, rises to its feet and wags its tail in greeting. The Odyssey is about loyalty and resilience and loving your hound dog. Created many centuries ago, it connects us to ancestors with whom we still share values, challenges, and hopes. Odysseus was a flawed hero but he was a hero. We should defend our right to read the story of his struggles.

(p. A15) A sustained effort is under way to deny children access to literature. Under the slogan #DisruptTexts, critical-theory ideologues, schoolteachers and Twitter agitators are purging and propagandizing against classic texts—everything from Homer to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dr. Seuss.

. . .

The demands for censorship appear to be getting results. “Be like Odysseus and embrace the long haul to liberation (and then take the Odyssey out of your curriculum because it’s trash),” tweeted Shea Martin in June [2020]. “Hahaha,” replied Heather Levine, an English teacher at Lawrence (Mass.) High School. “Very proud to say we got the Odyssey removed from the curriculum this year!” When I contacted Ms. Levine to confirm this, she replied that she found the inquiry “invasive.”

For the full commentary, see:

Meghan Cox Gurdon. “Even Homer Gets Mobbed.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Dec. 28, 2020): A15.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated Dec. 27, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Naps Aid Immunity, Energy, Alertness, Memory, and Mood

(p. D4) Sara E. Alger, a sleep scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., has been a public advocate for naps, particularly in the workplace, except in cases of insomnia. Along the way, she has had to fight anti-nap prejudice.

“Naps in general have a stigma attached to them as something you only do when you’re lazy or when you’re sick,” Dr. Alger said.

Wrapped inside nap phobia in the United States is often a message reminding us to be productive during what we now think of as normal working hours, although that concept is relatively new.

Modern attitudes about napping go back to the Industrial Revolution, according to Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer, an anthropologist at Binghamton University in New York and the author of “The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life.”

“For a long time, people had flexible sleep schedules,” Dr. Wolf-Meyer said. Farmers and tradespeople had some autonomy over their time. They could choose to rest in the hottest part of the day, and might take up simple tasks during a wakeful period in the middle of the night, between two distinct bouts of sleep.

As the 1800s went on, more and more Americans worked in factories on set shifts that were supervised by a foreman. “They work for a total stranger, and a nap becomes totally nonnegotiable,” he said.

Staying awake all day and getting one’s sleep in a single long stretch at night came to be seen as normal. With that came a strong societal expectation that we ought to use our daylight hours productively.

. . .

Although there are no hard data so far on whether naps have been on the rise during 2020, sleep scientists like Dr. Alger think it’s likely. The many people who now work remotely no longer need to worry about the disapproving eyes of their colleagues if they want a brief, discreet period of horizontality in the afternoons.

If most offices reopen next year, as now seems possible, perhaps greater tolerance toward the adult nap will be one of the things salvaged from the smoking wreckage of the working-from-home era. (In a tweet last week, Dr. Wolf-Meyer called the pandemic “the largest (accidental) experiment with human #sleep ever conducted.”) . . .

Experts say that people who get seven to nine hours of sleep a day are less prone to catching infectious diseases, and better at fighting off any they do catch. Afternoon sleep counts toward your daily total, according to Dr. Alger.

This immunity boost, she said, is in addition to other well-known dividends of a good nap, like added energy, increased alertness, improved mood and better emotional regulation.

Included under the last rubric is a skill that seems especially useful for dealing with families, even if you never get closer to your relatives this year than a “Hollywood Squares”-style video grid: “Napping helps you be more sensitive to receiving other people’s moods,” Dr. Alger said. “So you’re not perceiving other people as being more negative than they are.”

Napping also helps you remember facts you learned right before nodding off. Given the way things have been going lately, of course, you may not see this as a plus. You could look at it from the reverse angle, though: Every hour before Jan. 1 that you spend napping is another hour of 2020 you won’t remember.

For the full commentary, see:

Pete Wells. “This Thanksgiving, Nap Without Guilt.” The New York Times (Wednesday, November 25, 2020): D1 & D4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 24, 2020, and has the title “This Thanksgiving, It’s Time to Stop Nap-Shaming.”)

The book by Wolf-Meyer, mentioned above, is:

Wolf-Meyer, Matthew J. The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

“The Crown” Unfairly Portrays “Thatcher-Era Britain as a Right-Wing Dystopia”

(p. A12) Through four vivid seasons of “The Crown,” Mr. Morgan has never denied taking artistic license with the saga of the royals, playing out their private joys and sorrows against the pageant of 20th-century British history.

Yet “The Crown” is now colliding with the people who wrote the first draft of that history.

That has spun up a tempest in the British news media, even among those who ordinarily profess not to care much about the monarchy. Newspapers and television programs have been full of starchy commentary about how “The Crown” distorts history in its account of the turbulent decade in which Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer and Mrs. Thatcher wrought a free-market revolution in British society.

The objections range from the personal (the queen’s brittle, coldhearted treatment of her emotionally fragile daughter-in-law, which the critics claim is unfair) to the political (the show’s portrait of Thatcher-era Britain as a right-wing dystopia, in the grip of a zealous leader who dares to lecture her sovereign during their weekly audiences). Historians say that is utterly inconceivable.

“There has been such a reaction because Peter Morgan is now writing about events many of us lived through and some of us were at the center of,” said Mr. Neil, who edited The Sunday Times from 1983 to 1994.

Mr. Neil, who went on to be a broadcaster and publisher, is no reflexive defender of the royal family. Suspicious of Britain’s class system, he said he had sympathies for the republican movement in the 1980s. But he grew to admire how the queen modernized the monarchy after the upheaval of those years, and has been critical of renegade royals, like Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.

For the full story, see:

Mark Landler. “‘Nonsense’: Witnesses to the Actual Events of ‘The Crown’ Have Some Criticisms.” The New York Times (Friday, November 27, 2020): A12.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 27, 2020, and has the title “‘The Crown’ Stokes an Uproar Over Fact vs. Entertainment.”)