My childrens picky eating is overtaking mealtime

“Me!” scream my two sons, ages 2 and 4, in unison.

I bring the water to a boil, toss in the pasta but absolutely no sauce because my kids prefer it with butter.

I ask the boys what color dinner plates they want. Without fail, my 4-year-old yells out, “I want green!” while my 2-year-old throws his hands out toward the other with excitement, “Blue, blue, Mommy!”

I toss the plates down in front of them with a side of sliced strawberries and some diluted apple juice in their sippy cups, and I pour myself a glass of wine.

My kids fight constantly: What do I do?My kids fight constantly: What do I do?

I feel accomplished, but 15 minutes later that feeling dissipates. My children haven’t touched anything on their plates minus a few berries.

“No like!” my youngest pouts. Without looking up, the 4-year-old says, “I want a Popsicle.”

Here we go again, I think to myself. The next 30 minutes consists of me bribing them to eat just a few more bites in exchange for something sweet.

I find myself giving my home-cooked meals to our dog, Franky. She’s the best-fed member in our house.

It turns out that my dinnertime drama is far from unique. Picky eating is common among young children. Up to 50% are unwilling to eat vegetables or try new foods, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Children's plates should be colorful, and parents should make mealtimes look fun, experts say.Children's plates should be colorful, and parents should make mealtimes look fun, experts say.
Putting together a meal for my children is half the battle, whether they eat it or not, psychologist Alli Delozier told me in a recent interview.

“Take the pressure off of eating at the table,” Delozier said. “Simply by putting the foods on their plates or on the table, you’re doing a great job as a parent because you’re still exposing them to those foods. They see ’em, they smell ’em, they can touch ’em, they can taste ’em. And every time they get that exposure, they’re one step closer to learning to like that food.”

Several parents in my circle of friends told me to check out an Instagram account called “Kids Eat in Color.” Jennifer Anderson, a registered dietitian, created the page, amassing more than 1 million followers seeking what she says is “evidence-based information and strategies for child feeding and nutrition.”

“This is the age where (your children’s) biggest power is to say no and to have opinions,” Anderson said. “And so, this is totally expected. You’re not doing anything wrong.”

As for my anxiety when my children don’t eat their food? Anderson said that’s normal, too.

“What happens though is when kids are saying, no, we often as parents get really concerned, like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re not gonna eat. They’re not gonna grow. They’re gonna be sick.’ … And so out of that fear, we do a whole bunch of things,” Anderson told me.

“We put a screen in front of them so that they eat better. We make them what they want. We kind of say, ‘OK, you can eat all day. I’ll follow you around with this spoon,’ ” she added. “We’ve all done it, like chasing the toddler around, ‘Take one bite.’ We start saying things like, ‘Take one bite or I’ll take the iPad away. Take three bites before you can get down.’ And then we start requiring these things from a toddler whose biggest power is to be like, ‘You tell me to do that? No way.’ And so, we kind of fall into these habits that they really work against us in the long term.”

My kids want chicken fingers every night. Is that OK?

According to both experts, yes — feed your kids what they want to eat.

“We always want to serve a food that a kid feels comfortable with,” Anderson said. “If you know that they generally like mac and cheese, or they generally like peanut butter and jelly, or they like apples and strawberries, we always want to have something that they generally like at the table, but we also have to respect their kind of body autonomy.

They don’t have to eat it … if they don’t want to eat it, and we respect that. We’re actually setting the foundation very early on that they decide that they get to choose what is happening to their body, and it has far-reaching effects for so many things.”
Introduce your child to new foods by putting a few other options on the table.Introduce your child to new foods by putting a few other options on the table.

And make it look fun! Your child’s plate should be colorful.

“Every different color is caused by chemicals in the food that are doing specific things in our body,” Anderson said. “When we think, ‘Hey, I’m serving a wide range of colors to my child,’ I know that they’re getting nutrients without obsessing over specific things. Did they get enough vitamin C? Calcium? Did they get enough magnesium? So if they’re eating in color when they’re kids, or at least if they’re exposed to it, they’re more likely to eat a more varied diet later.”

What about introducing new foods? Yes, that’s a good idea, the experts said. You should still expose your children to new foods by putting a few other options on the table.

“Do you have to put everything on their plate? No,” Anderson said. “If you have a kid who is like, ‘I don’t like peas.’ I like to actually put what I call a micro-portion on their plate. This would be like one pea. It’s not scary, but they’re still getting that exposure.”

“And say something like, ‘These are the foods available for the meal. You can choose what to eat from what is here.’ ”

What about sweets? Delozier said that treats are fine but not to tie them in as a reward.

“It’s so easy to say, ‘Well, if you finish your green beans, you can have a Popsicle.’ We have all fallen into that trap, but letting them just have the thing and not putting it up on a pedestal and not making it like a food reward can be helpful. And then you get to decide how often feels right for your family, whether that’s having dessert every night or having Popsicles after school or having it once a week. That’s really just up to you.”

Some do’s and don’ts from ‘Kids Eat in Color’

  • Don’t make something else.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Let them fill up on other parts of the meal.
  • Don’t celebrate when they finish their plate.
  • Serve foods formally and consistently. Sit down at mealtimes and snack times.

I tend to let my children play with toys or watch their iPads during mealtime, but both experts told me I should stop.

“We really try to make it a calm eating environment where they can focus on the food and the connection with the family members,” Delozier said. “We don’t want to have screens at the table. We don’t want to have like toys and things like that. And that’s something that can take some time to transition away from.”

When should you be concerned?

But there are situations in which it’s more than just picky eating. At what point should you seek a medical professional?

“When you have a child who is not on their growth curve, who their pediatrician is concerned about who isn’t gaining weight, especially if they’re losing weight, those are all definitely reasons to be concerned,” Delozier said.

Are Swedish dishcloths worth it? Absolutely. Here's why (Courtesy CNN Underscored)Are Swedish dishcloths worth it? Absolutely. Here's why (Courtesy CNN Underscored)

Over the last week, I’ve stopped the bribes, and I’ve tried micro-portions. I’ve noticed a gradual increase in the amount of food my kids are eating. Ultimately what I’ve learned is that there’s no linear path to mealtime.

“As a psychologist and as a mom, I can say that so much of our beliefs about what children should eat and how we should feed our children are informed by our own beliefs about food and how we feed ourselves,” Delozier said. “Take foods off a pedestal (and) make it more neutral. (Then your kids are) more likely to then be able to tune into their hunger cues and eat based on hunger and make choices that are consistent with your family values.”

The Best Way to Bribe a Toddler to Eat Their Veggies

Image for article titled The Best Way to Bribe a Toddler to Eat Their Veggies

Photo: Mcimage (Shutterstock)

Getting a toddler to eat anything other than chicken nuggets and French fries can feel like a superhuman, almost mythical feat of parenting. Sure, you know they should be eating a healthier, more well-balanced diet, which all the Instagram parenting “experts” would have you believe is totally possible right up until the moment when you are faced with a toddler who refuses to touch anything that isn’t fried or covered in cheese.

When it comes to a battle between a toddler and green vegetables, the toddler will always win out in the end, especially on the days when it takes over an hour just to get them to put on pants.

Study shows non-food rewards get toddlers to try more vegetables 

Times like these call for desperate measures—and as a recent study conducted by researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands indicates, bribing your toddler to eat their vegetables is a strategy that can work.

In this experiment, which was recently presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity, researchers tested whether offering a fun, non-food reward, such as a sticker or small toy, would get toddlers to eat a wider variety of vegetables. To start, toddlers at a number of daycares in the Netherlands were divided into three groups. One group was exposed to a variety of vegetables, and given a reward whenever they tried them, one group was exposed to a variety of vegetables, but given no reward, while the third group wasn’t exposed to vegetables, and didn’t receive a reward.

At the end of the experiment, the toddlers who were offered a fun, non-food reward were more willing to eat a wider variety of vegetables compared to toddlers who didn’t receive a reward, or who weren’t exposed to a variety of vegetables.

“Rewarding toddlers for tasting vegetables appears to also increase their willingness to try different vegetables,” said researcher Britt van Belkom, who led the study, in a press release. “The type of reward is, however, very important—it should be fun but not food.”

Positive reinforcement works 

“Toddlers respond very well to positive reinforcement,” said Beth Oller, a family physician based in Plainville, Kan. This could be in the form of stickers, or it could be clapping and verbal praise. Depending on your toddler, offering a sticker or small toy could help get them to try more vegetables.

However, as Oller cautions, “it could set a precedent that you don’t want to have to continue.” One potential drawback is that your toddler might start expecting a reward for other routines, such as sitting at the table for a meal.

Still, “every parent knows their child the best,” Oller said. “If a sticker is going to get the child to try something new, there may not be much of a downside to it.”

Grenada: Confronting my family’s slave-owning past

On the vexed question of whether there is something families like mine should do, Sir Hilary said: “What you are trying to reconcile is privilege on one side of the ledger and poverty on the other. We inherited poverty, illiteracy, hypertension, diabetes, racial degradation – all the negative dimensions. You inherited wealth, property and prestige.”

There are moms worse than you — in the animal kingdom

What if my kid never learns to read? What if they like another parent better? What if their food isn’t organic, or I pick the wrong preschool?

Those questionable mothers include Dracula ants that suck their offspring’s blood, Boozan wrote, and sexton beetles, which lay their eggs on or beside a decomposing mouse and raise the youngsters by feeding them from the corpse.

The inspiration for Boozan’s book came from her shock in learning of her sister’s fear and guilt about being a bad mom — since her sister’s “the best mom in the world,” she said. “Her kids are perfect angels, and I’m obsessed with them.”

As a comedy writer, Boozan said, “Obviously dumb things come out of my mouth all the time. Instead of some inspiring, beautiful, Instagrammable quote, I responded to her with, ‘Well, I don’t know. Hamster moms eat their babies. So at least you’re not doing that.’ And it made her laugh. And she felt better.”

Boozan hopes her book helps alleviate your fears that can be exacerbated by social media, television, advertising and helicopter family members, even “if only for a moment with a little bit of laughter.”

The book is about a 20-minute read you can devour while your kid is refusing to nap in the crib or quietly wiping boogers on the wall.

Here’s the scoop on three other “bad” moms that might make you feel better this Mother’s Day.


Female giant panda Yaya cares for her 5-month-old baby at Chongqing Zoo in Chongqing, China, on January 17, 2016.Female giant panda Yaya cares for her 5-month-old baby at Chongqing Zoo in Chongqing, China, on January 17, 2016.

“Panda moms are perfect, until they’re blessed with two. Twins are hard, so they’ll ditch one — it’s terrible. And true!”

If a panda has twins, she abandons the weaker of the two since she only has the energy and resources to care for one, according to a 2016 study. Mothering pandas is a demanding job, as newborn pandas can’t see, hear, crawl, regulate their body temperatures or expel waste on their own. They need to be cradled for warmth and have their stomachs rubbed to prompt the muscles that help release waste.

Being able to raise two newborn pandas is rare. “I found out that even in a zoo with completely ideal, controlled environments, usually one of the panda twins won’t survive,” Boozan said.


A male koala baby clings onto its mother's back at the zoo in Duisburg, Germany, on March 27, 2013. A male koala baby clings onto its mother's back at the zoo in Duisburg, Germany, on March 27, 2013.

“For dinnertime, a koala mom will feed her kids her poop. Remember that when you feel bad for giving yours fast food.”

The eating of feces or dung is known as coprophagia, which “helps animals acquire the necessary gut microbiome to digest a complex and more varied diet,” according to a 2020 review. For koalas, this practice can help them adjust to new habitats with different species of eucalyptus plants, which are their main food source.


This image is excerpted from Boozan's book. This image is excerpted from Boozan's book.

“If a quokka mom comes face to face with dingoes in the wild, guess what she’ll do to get away? That’s right — she’ll toss her child,” Boozan wrote.

The quokka — a type of small wallaby — doesn’t actually hurl its baby toward a predator. But when threatened, this furry marsupial will create a diversion by expelling offspring from its pouch by relaxing the muscles, allowing its charge to fall to the ground. “The joey serves as a yummy distraction for the predator while the mom runs to safety, hopefully to breed again,” Boozan wrote.
Quokkas’ life expectancy is about 10 years, and female quokkas can produce 17 offspring over a lifetime, with two joeys born each year, according to the Australian Museum.

Your best is good enough

Reading about these “horrific animal moms,” you might think, “Wow, how could they do something like this?” Boozan said.

But the ethos of “There Are Moms Worse Than You” ties human and animals together in their motherhood feats: Even animal moms’ seemingly dubious parenting practices are survival strategies designed to help themselves or their offspring succeed. And sometimes societies just don’t foster environments ideal for child-rearing.

“The best reaction I’ve gotten from people has been when they tell me the book allowed them to take a deep breath for a minute, and they laughed and caught themselves and thought, ‘OK, maybe at least for today, at least for the next 15 minutes, I don’t have to be so hard on myself,” Boozan said. “If I can make one mom feel that way, the book has been a success.”

Canadian doctors are prescribing free passes to national parks to treat patients

Doctors are instructing their patients to wander park trails, feel the crunch of leaves beneath their feet and breathe in fresh air. It’s part of BC Parks Foundation’s growing PaRX program, which intends to improve people’s mental and physical health by connecting them with nature.

Since PaRX launched in November 2020 participating doctors have prescribed countless hours in the sun.

“We do have a standard recommendation that you spend at least two hours in nature each week and at least 20 minutes each time to maximize those health benefits,” PaRx director and family physician Dr. Melissa Lem told CNN. “There’s almost no condition that nature isn’t good for, from diabetes to high blood pressure. ADHD in children, anxiety and depression.”

A recently announced partnership with Parks Canada Agency will build on that success by allowing doctors to prescribe and provide Parks Canada Discovery Passes to their patients. The free passes grant admission to 80 sites, including national parks, marine conservation areas and historic places throughout Canada.
“We are very lucky in Canada to have a world of beautiful natural spaces at our doorstep to enjoy healthy outdoor activities,” Steven Guilbeault, minister of Environment and Climate Change, said in a news release announcing the new initiative. “This exciting collaboration with PaRx is a breakthrough for how we treat mental and physical health challenges, and couldn’t come at a better time as we continue to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our daily lives.”

‘The fourth pillar of health’

Lem grew up in a predominantly White suburb of Toronto where she was usually the only person of color in her school and neighborhood, she says. Often confronted with racism and the feeling she “just didn’t belong,” Lem sought solace in nature, whether it was her parents’ garden or a nearby park.

After visiting a national park for the first time at the age of 8, Lem realized she wanted to work in a profession that would allow her to bring nature into people’s lives.

Decades later, after graduating from medical school and becoming a family physician, she found a way to combine her passion for nature with health care. In 2019, Lem reached out to BC Parks Foundation and shared her research showing how spending time in nature can lead to better physical and mental health.

Within a year, she had worked with the foundation to launch the PaRx program.

“There’s so many different ways that nature is good for our bodies and brains, so it’s also really effective health intervention,” said Lem. “We like to say that it should be the fourth pillar of health, along with healthy diet and sleep and exercise.”

Why protecting the planet is essential to preventing future pandemicsWhy protecting the planet is essential to preventing future pandemics

Lem isn’t alone in her belief that nature can heal.

Numerous studies have shown that exposure to nature can counter depression, decrease stress levels, improve blood pressure and boost creative and cognitive abilities.

A 2017 study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that living in, or near, green areas can help women live longer and improve their mental health. Another study, published in 2021, found that city children who have daily exposure to woodland have better cognitive development and a lower risk of emotional and behavioral problems.
PaRX isn’t the first program to act on such findings. Similar programs have been implemented across the world, including the United States and United Kingdom.

“It has been so gratifying to be a part of this important work and helping reduce barriers to nature access,” Lem said. “I think we’re well on our way to socializing the idea that nature is the fourth pillar of health and making nature prescribing a mainstream idea.”

‘Within six weeks, the depression had lifted so much’

Marjorie Schurman says she doesn’t need medical studies to prove nature’s healing power — she’s experienced it first hand.

In 2020, the Vancouver resident visited a doctor to get help for her depression.

“I just said, ‘I can’t shake this depression. I just feel so like I can’t get up from playing spider solitaire,'” Schurman told CNN. “He says, ‘I’ve got just the thing a prescription for you.’ Oh, goody, one more pill.”

But instead of a pharmaceutical solution, Schurman’s doctor prescribed her with nature time — at least two hours a week, each time a minimum of 20 minutes.

“Within six weeks, the depression had lifted so much…,” Schurman said. “We know that there is the science about the impact of being in nature, being with trees, going to hug a tree, you’ll feel better. So I supported it wholeheartedly, and I’m an example of how it works.”

BC Parks Foundation fully supports Schurman’s urge to hug trees. They hope PaRx will inspire more Canadians to see the value in nature and take climate change seriously.

“If you love something, you want to protect it. They tend to recycle more, they tend to save more electricity and engage in more climate action,” Lem said. “So we like to think with our program that every time someone writes a prescription for nature that we’re doing our little part for the planet.”

As of February 2022, more than 4,000 licensed healthcare professionals, including nurses, doctors and psychologists, had subscribed to the PaRx program. However, due to privacy laws, it’s unclear how many nature prescriptions they’ve written.

The partnership between BC Parks Foundation and Parks Canada Agency will see doctors prescribe 100 free park passes in its first year. The passes will be prioritized for Canadians living near national sites and those who doctors believe need them most, Parks Canada spokesperson Megan Hope told CNN.

“This partnering initiative will support the health and wellness of Canadians, increase their connection to nature and improve accessibility to natural heritage places,” Hope said, adding that the number of passes provided “will be reassessed in the following years.”

PaRX has already changed the way many Canadian medical professionals and their patients think about nature, Lem said. But the program still has a long way to go.

“When medical schools start teaching nature, prescribing and recommending nature as just important as a healthy diet and lifestyle, I’ll know we’re getting there,” she said.

CNN’s Evelio Contreras and Jeff Kopp contributed to this report.

Noom is reportedly laying off up to a quarter of its wellness coaches

Insider is reporting that infamous weight loss app Noom is laying off a significant number of its coaches as it shifts its strategy. The company, which presently enables users to engage in text chat with experts, will reportedly shift to a system of scheduled video calling, reducing the need for so many workers. Internal documents suggest that the people who remain will see higher workloads to cover for the departures. 180 coaches are believed to have already been let go, with a further 315 due to join them in the coming days. Individuals who take voluntary severance can expect eight weeks’ pay, although the site says that Noom will not cover the cost of unused vacation days.

Noom, which garnered $540 million in fresh venture funding in 2021 saw its business surge as a consequence of the pandemic. TechCrunch reported that the platform had earned $400 million in profit across 2020 as users flocked to its promised mix of live coaching and CBT-inspired practices. Its critics, however, believe that Noom’s unique spin on weight loss is nothing more than a standard heavily-restrictive diet, packaged in the language of wellness. In 2021, Noom branched out into mental health coaching under the banner Noom Mood.

As FastCompany outlined last year, Noom’s key metric is calorie restriction, tasking men to limit their intake to around 1,400 calories per day. (There’s a lot of debate about the proper calorie limit for weight loss, but that figure is seen as problematically low and well below what the CDC recommends.) Last year, an Outside investigation found that Noom was not tailoring its recommendations to the age, height and weight of its users, instead issuing a stock limit for the majority of participants. That same investigation found that there is little pre-screening for people who may have lived with disordered eating beforehand. Casey Johnston, who writes She’s A Beast, has also called into question Noom’s advertising practices, potentially misleading customers as to its effectiveness. 

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Formula E’s new electric race car is lighter, more powerful, more nimble

This is our first look at Formula E's Gen3 race car, which debuts next season.
Enlarge / This is our first look at Formula E’s Gen3 race car, which debuts next season.

Formula E

On Thursday, ahead of this weekend’s Monaco E-Prix, Formula E finally unveiled its next electric race car. It’s called the Gen3 car because it’s the third generation to be used by the series, and will be introduced at the start of next season.

Much of the reaction online has been about the car’s unconventional looks, at least in terms of what people expect race cars to look like. But then people reacted that way about the Gen2 vehicle as well. The new bodywork is more sustainable than before, with linen and some recycled carbon fiber (from retired Gen2 cars), which Formula E says will reduce the carbon footprint of the Gen3 car by 10 percent.

The new Formula E car is smaller than the previous version, with a narrower track and shorter wheelbase. It’s also gone on a diet, cutting the car’s mass from Gen2’s 903 kg to 760 kg, which is just lighter than a current F1 car, for context. Gen3’s weight reduction is coupled with a significant power increase: from 250 kW (335 hp) to 350 kW (469 hp), deployed to the rear wheels. With a top speed of 200 mph (320 km/h), we expect lap times to be significantly faster than before.

But for the first time since the sport’s inception, the EV race cars will finally have a front motor-generator unit as well. In this application, it’s better to think of it as a generator because Gen3 won’t be all-wheel drive in terms of deploying energy. But it gives the car the ability to regenerate up to 250 kW at the front axle under braking and 350 kW from the rear axle. This ability means the cars will become more efficient than the Gen2 machines, which can only regen from the rear axle.

As before, manufacturers will design and build their own rear MGUs. But the front MGU will be common across each team, supplied by Atieva, part of the same company that includes Lucid Motors. Atieva previously supplied battery packs for the Gen2 car, so it is no stranger to Formula E.

But Gen3 has a new battery with new suppliers. The pack was designed and built by Williams Advanced Engineering and now uses pouch (as opposed to cylindrical) cells made by Total Saft. It’s designed to charge at up to 600 kW—i.e., maximum regen at both axles—and the press materials suggest there might be some form of in-race fast-charging, although I might be misinterpreting that the cars can regen up to 600 kW. Exactly how many kWh will be available to drivers at the start of the race is yet to be announced; the Gen2 car uses a 54 kWh (net) battery pack.

The Gen3 car still looks like few other open-wheel race cars, and that's OK.
Enlarge / The Gen3 car still looks like few other open-wheel race cars, and that’s OK.

Formula E

So far, only one person has driven the new car—Formula E test driver Benoit Treluyer, who is quoted by The Race as describing the Gen3 car as “a seriously quick and agile racing car.”

Seven manufacturers will compete in season 9, including DS Automobiles and Maserati (both Stellantis brands), Jaguar, Mahindra, Niro 333, Nissan, and Porsche. But you shouldn’t have to wait that long to see some good racing. Unlike Formula 1, Formula E cars have put on an extremely good show at Monaco in previous visits, and this year’s race should be no exception. You can catch it on Saturday at 1 pm ET on CBS.

The Next Great Dying Is Coming for Your Seafood

Sergeant major damselfish swim around the corals off the shore of Koh Adang in the Andaman sea.

Sergeant major damselfish swim around the corals off the shore of Koh Adang in the Andaman sea.
Photo: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP (Getty Images)

Enjoy the teeming oceans… for now.

A new report in the journal Science finds that if climate change isn’t curbed, we stand to lose so much biodiversity in the world’s oceans that it will rival a massive marine die-off that occurred more than 250 million years ago. The prehistoric “Great Dying” was marked by the death of more than two-thirds of the species in the oceans at the time.

The researchers looked at several climate models, including one in which the world goes about business as usual instead of working to decarbonize our systems and stop global temperatures from rising. A high-emissions scenario means changes in ocean temperatures and oxygen levels—something that also occurred during the end-Permian extinction millions of years ago.

Models found that many species lose the habitats they need to survive, and the climate crisis will change migration patterns as well. The tropical oceans will lose a significant amount if existing biodiversity, and many species there will have to migrate north to survive future conditions. Polar species will probably disappear.

Study co-authors and geoscience professors at Princeton University Justin Penn and Curtis Deutsch explained that the projected extinction would happen over a period of about 200 years. Animals and eco-systems that are the most sensitive to changing oxygen levels and temperatures would die first.

“It’s not like everything is fine until 2300, and then all of a sudden hell breaks loose. It’s more like a gradual, kind of accumulated loss of species over time that by 2300,” Deutsch said.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to accelerate, ocean extinctions from climate warming would rival the “Big Five” mass extinctions in Earth’s past.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to accelerate, ocean extinctions from climate warming would rival the “Big Five” mass extinctions in Earth’s past.
Illustration: Penn and C. Deutsch with illustrations by Yesenia Román

Malin Pinsky, an associate professor of ecology at Rutgers University, wrote an accompanying perspective article on the research. He pointed out that a worst-case scenario is horrible for both people and marine life.

“Seafood’s an important part of their diet and provides jobs for many people… it’s a really important part of our economies, our quality of life,” he told Earther. “[The ocean] provides enormous amounts of money to our national economy, and the global economy keeps people employed.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. The mass extinction event can be stopped (along with other looming climate disasters) if our systems are decarbonized. “Reversing greenhouse gas emissions trends would diminish extinction risks by more than 70%, preserving marine biodiversity accumulated over the past ~50 million years of evolutionary history,” researchers wrote in the paper.

“The 70% refers to how much of the biodiversity loss could be avoided,” Deutsch said. By limiting warming from this point on, there would still be species loss, “but it’s relatively small and wouldn’t be described as a mass extinction.”

How do we do that exactly? According to Pinsky, the answer is to actually follow through with the Paris Agreement by lowering emissions, stopping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. “At least for me, I’ve got kids. I want them to grow up in a world full of wildlife and seafood and plenty of beautiful ecosystems like coral reefs and rainforests,” he said.

Pandemic Isn’t Over, Fauci Says, Clarifying Earlier Comments

Colin Carlson, a biologist at Georgetown University, has started to worry about mousepox.

The virus, discovered in 1930, spreads among mice, killing them with ruthless efficiency. But scientists have never considered it a potential threat to humans. Now Dr. Carlson, his colleagues and their computers aren’t so sure.

Using a technique known as machine learning, the researchers have spent the past few years programming computers to teach themselves about viruses that can infect human cells. The computers have combed through vast amounts of information about the biology and ecology of the animal hosts of those viruses, as well as the genomes and other features of the viruses themselves. Over time, the computers came to recognize certain factors that would predict whether a virus has the potential to spill over into humans.

Once the computers proved their mettle on viruses that scientists had already studied intensely, Dr. Carlson and his colleagues deployed them on the unknown, ultimately producing a short list of animal viruses with the potential to jump the species barrier and cause human outbreaks.

In the latest runs, the algorithms unexpectedly put the mousepox virus in the top ranks of risky pathogens.

“Every time we run this model, it comes up super high,” Dr. Carlson said.

Puzzled, Dr. Carlson and his colleagues rooted around in the scientific literature. They came across documentation of a long-forgotten outbreak in 1987 in rural China. Schoolchildren came down with an infection that caused sore throats and inflammation in their hands and feet.

Years later, a team of scientists ran tests on throat swabs that had been collected during the outbreak and put into storage. These samples, as the group reported in 2012, contained mousepox DNA. But their study garnered little notice, and a decade later mousepox is still not considered a threat to humans.

If the computer programmed by Dr. Carlson and his colleagues is right, the virus deserves a new look.

“It’s just crazy that this was lost in the vast pile of stuff that public health has to sift through,” he said. “This actually changes the way that we think about this virus.”

Scientists have identified about 250 human diseases that arose when an animal virus jumped the species barrier. H.I.V. jumped from chimpanzees, for example, and the new coronavirus originated in bats.

Ideally, scientists would like to recognize the next spillover virus before it has started infecting people. But there are far too many animal viruses for virologists to study. Scientists have identified more than 1,000 viruses in mammals, but that is most likely a tiny fraction of the true number. Some researchers suspect mammals carry tens of thousands of viruses, while others put the number in the hundreds of thousands.

To identify potential new spillovers, researchers like Dr. Carlson are using computers to spot hidden patterns in scientific data. The machines can zero in on viruses that may be particularly likely to give rise to a human disease, for example, and can also predict which animals are most likely to harbor dangerous viruses we don’t yet know about.

Credit…Pamela Freeman/Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

“It feels like you have a new set of eyes,” said Barbara Han, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., who collaborates with Dr. Carlson. “You just can’t see in as many dimensions as the model can.”

Dr. Han first came across machine learning in 2010. Computer scientists had been developing the technique for decades, and were starting to build powerful tools with it. These days, machine learning enables computers to spot fraudulent credit charges and recognize people’s faces.

But few researchers had applied machine learning to diseases. Dr. Han wondered if she could use it to answer open questions, such as why less than 10 percent of rodent species harbor pathogens known to infect humans.

She fed a computer information about various rodent species from an online database — everything from their age at weaning to their population density. The computer then looked for features of the rodents known to harbor high numbers of species-jumping pathogens.

Once the computer created a model, she tested it against another group of rodent species, seeing how well it could guess which ones were laden with disease-causing agents. Eventually, the computer’s model reached an accuracy of 90 percent.

Then Dr. Han turned to rodents that have yet to be examined for spillover pathogens and put together a list of high-priority species. Dr. Han and her colleagues predicted that species such as the montane vole and Northern grasshopper mouse of western North America would be particularly likely to carry worrisome pathogens.

Of all the traits Dr. Han and her colleagues provided to their computer, the one that mattered most was the life span of the rodents. Species that die young turn out to carry more pathogens, perhaps because evolution put more of their resources into reproducing than in building a strong immune system.

These results involved years of painstaking research in which Dr. Han and her colleagues combed through ecological databases and scientific studies looking for useful data. More recently, researchers have sped this work up by building databases expressly designed to teach computers about viruses and their hosts.

Credit…Rick & Nora Bowers/Alamy

In March, for example, Dr. Carlson and his colleagues unveiled an open-access database called VIRION, which has amassed half a million pieces of information about 9,521 viruses and their 3,692 animal hosts — and is still growing.

Databases like VIRION are now making it possible to ask more focused questions about new pandemics. When the Covid pandemic struck, it soon became clear that it was caused by a new virus called SARS-CoV-2. Dr. Carlson, Dr. Han and their colleagues created programs to identify the animals most likely to harbor relatives of the new coronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2 belongs to a group of species called betacoronaviruses, which also includes the viruses that caused the SARS and MERS epidemics among humans. For the most part, betacoronaviruses infect bats. When SARS-CoV-2 was discovered in January 2020, 79 species of bats were known to carry them.

But scientists have not systematically searched all 1,447 species of bats for betacoronaviruses, and such a project would take many years to complete.

By feeding biological data about the various types of bats — their diet, the length of their wings, and so on — into their computer, Dr. Carlson, Dr. Han and their colleagues created a model that could offer predictions about the bats most likely to harbor betacoronaviruses. They found over 300 species that fit the bill.

Since that prediction in 2020, researchers have indeed found betacoronaviruses in 47 species of bats — all of which were on the prediction lists produced by some of the computer models they had created for their study.

Daniel Becker, a disease ecologist at the University of Oklahoma who also worked on the betacoronavirus study, said it was striking the way simple features such as body size could lead to powerful predictions about viruses. “A lot of it is the low-hanging fruit of comparative biology,” he said.

Dr. Becker is now following up from his own backyard on the list of potential betacoronavirus hosts. It turns out that some bats in Oklahoma are predicted to harbor them.

If Dr. Becker does find a backyard betacoronavirus, he won’t be in a position to say immediately that it is an imminent threat to humans. Scientists would first have to carry out painstaking experiments to judge the risk.

Dr. Pranav Pandit, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Davis, cautions that these models are very much a work in progress. When tested on well-studied viruses, they do substantially better than random chance, but could do better.

“It’s not at a stage where we can just take those results and create an alert to start telling the world, ‘This is a zoonotic virus,’” he said.

Nardus Mollentze, a computational virologist at the University of Glasgow, and his colleagues have pioneered a method that could markedly increase the accuracy of the models. Rather than looking at a virus’s hosts, their models look at its genes. A computer can be taught to recognize subtle features in the genes of viruses that can infect humans.

In their first report on this technique, Dr. Mollentze and his colleagues developed a model that could correctly recognize human-infecting viruses more than 70 percent of the time. Dr. Mollentze can’t yet say why his gene-based model worked, but he has some ideas. Our cells can recognize foreign genes and send out an alarm to the immune system. Viruses that can infect our cells may have the ability to mimic our own DNA as a kind of viral camouflage.

When they applied the model to animal viruses, they came up with a list of 272 species at high risk of spilling over. That’s too many for virologists to study in any depth.

“You can only work on so many viruses,” said Emmie de Wit, a virologist at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont., who oversees research on the new coronavirus, influenza and other viruses. “On our end, we would really need to narrow it down.”

Dr. Mollentze acknowledged that he and his colleagues need to find a way to pinpoint the worst of the worst among animal viruses. “This is only a start,” he said.

To follow up on his initial study, Dr. Mollentze is working with Dr. Carlson and his colleagues to merge data about the genes of viruses with data related to the biology and ecology of their hosts. The researchers are getting some promising results from this approach, including the tantalizing mousepox lead.

Other kinds of data may make the predictions even better. One of the most important features of a virus, for example, is the coating of sugar molecules on its surface. Different viruses end up with different patterns of sugar molecules, and that arrangement can have a huge impact on their success. Some viruses can use this molecular frosting to hide from their host’s immune system. In other cases, the virus can use its sugar molecules to latch on to new cells, triggering a new infection.

This month, Dr. Carlson and his colleagues posted a commentary online asserting that machine learning may gain a lot of insights from the sugar coating of viruses and their hosts. Scientists have already gathered a lot of that knowledge, but it has yet to be put into a form that computers can learn from.

“My gut sense is that we know a lot more than we think,” Dr. Carlson said.

Dr. de Wit said that machine learning models could some day guide virologists like herself to study certain animal viruses. “There’s definitely a great benefit that’s going to come from this,” she said.

But she noted that the models so far have focused mainly on a pathogen’s potential for infecting human cells. Before causing a new human disease, a virus also has to spread from one person to another and cause serious symptoms along the way. She’s waiting for a new generation of machine learning models that can make those predictions, too.

“What we really want to know is not necessarily which viruses can infect humans, but which viruses can cause an outbreak,” she said. “So that’s really the next step that we need to figure out.”

Facing Judgment, Alex Jones Pleads for Help From the ‘Deep State’

WASHINGTON — Alex Jones, the far-right Infowars broadcaster and an ally of former President Donald J. Trump, has spent 25 years and reaped millions of dollars stoking suspicion and defiance of what he calls the federal “deep state.” Now, with his conspiracy empire under threat, Mr. Jones is seeking government relief.

Facing monetary damages for smearing the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims, Mr. Jones last week filed for emergency relief in federal bankruptcy court, a move that a monitor from the Justice Department’s bankruptcy unit, Kevin Epstein, called potential “abuse of the bankruptcy system.”

In an objection filed to Judge Christopher Lopez, Mr. Epstein said the motion seemed to be an effort by Mr. Jones to delay the damages trials and force the families into a settlement dictated by him, while keeping control of his business. He added that approval of Mr. Jones’s plan risked “purposefully stacking the deck against the most vulnerable of creditors.”

Days later, Mr. Jones reached out to the Justice Department, looking to share what he knows about the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot in exchange for immunity from prosecution. An immunity deal seems unlikely, two people familiar with Mr. Jones’s offer said.

Mr. Jones’s maneuvers come amid growing recognition among some far-right conspiracy theorists that pushing the boundaries of legal public discourse carries potentially heavy personal consequences. More than 200 of the roughly 800 people arrested after the Jan. 6 riot have pleaded guilty to the charges. Ali Alexander, a “Stop the Steal” organizer who marched with Mr. Jones to the Capitol after Mr. Trump’s speech on Jan. 6, received a grand jury subpoena and is cooperating with the Justice Department investigation.

Mr. Jones portrays himself as a fearless truth teller, defending the First Amendment against government efforts to silence him. But his responses to the Jan. 6 investigation and the Sandy Hook lawsuits suggest he is chiefly interested in protecting his livelihood. Sued for defamation by the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims, Mr. Jones lost the cases last year and has been working to shield his fortune from coming damages awards.

Even as he described his offer to cooperate, Mr. Jones unleashed a barrage of false claims against the government. “My god!” he said on his show last week. “The F.B.I. and Justice Department’s fingerprints are all over this damn thing, and you want to come ask me about it? You want to find out what really happened, why don’t you look in the damn mirror and you can tell me!”

Mr. Jones, who broadcasts his conspiracy theories alongside ads selling diet supplements, doomsday prepper gear, videos and other goods aimed toward his listeners’ distrust of government, reaped revenues of $56 million in 2021, one of his lawyers estimated last week.

After the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Jones bolstered traffic to his Infowars Store while broadcasting lies that the massacre was a staged government pretext for draconian gun control and that the families were “actors” in the plot. In 2018, the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims and an F.B.I. agent implicated in the false claims sued Mr. Jones for defamation in four separate lawsuits in Connecticut and Texas.

Over four years of litigation, Mr. Jones racked up more than $1 million in court sanctions for blowing court deadlines, evading court orders for documents and testimony, and submitting business records that were erroneous or fabricated. In late 2021, the judges in each trial ruled Mr. Jones liable by default, a sweeping victory for the families. Juries will next decide how much Mr. Jones must pay in damages, in trials that were supposed to begin this week.

This month, lawyers for the families in Texas filed a separate lawsuit claiming that with the trials looming, Mr. Jones “conspired to divert his assets to shell companies owned by insiders like his parents, his children and himself,” while claiming heavy financial losses. The suit accuses Mr. Jones of drawing $18 million out of Infowars between 2018 and 2021, plus his $600,000 annual salary, and funneling $54 million to shell companies, moves “designed to siphon off the Jones debtors’ assets to make them judgment-proof.”

That litigation is continuing. Mr. Jones’s lawyer, Norm Pattis, did not respond to requests for comment.

Then, on April 18, a week before juries were scheduled to decide on damages, came Mr. Jones’s bankruptcy filing. The Justice Department’s bankruptcy monitor filed a swift objection, saying the filing appeared to be an effort to stall the jury trials.

Bolstering this view is the fact that Mr. Jones did not file for bankruptcy himself, even though he generates and controls all of Infowars’ income, and is the chief defendant in the Sandy Hook lawsuits. Instead, the bankruptcy filing was for three Infowars offshoots with no income, assets or employees.

Mark Schwartz, an accountant and Infowars’ proposed restructuring officer, justified that move last week by saying bankruptcy for Mr. Jones would “ruin his name and harm his ability to sell merchandise.”

Mr. Jones wants the bankruptcy court to approve a settlement fund of $10 million, to be split among plaintiffs in several lawsuits against him. The implicit offer to the Sandy Hook families was to take their chances on litigation that has dragged on for four years, or settle for a fraction of the estimated half-billion dollars Mr. Jones and his misinformation empire have earned since their loved ones’ murders.

The families want to see Mr. Jones answer in court.

On Wednesday they filed a motion to dismiss his bankruptcy motion. “These bankruptcy cases were filed to improperly delay these trials” and “attempt to liquidate plaintiffs’ claims in this venue instead of by juries of their peers,” the motion said, adding, “They have no valid bankruptcy purpose, and they should be dismissed with prejudice as bad-faith filings.”

Judge Lopez has scheduled a status conference on the bankruptcy motion for Friday.

Katie Benner contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.