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Sandra Day O’Connor, first woman on U.S. Supreme Court, has dementia

Her husband died in 2009 of the disease.

  • Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • She was a deciding vote on a number of cases that came before the court.
  • Watch her interview from 2015 about her upbringing and desire to see more women in all parts of government.

In a letter to The New York Times, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor revealed that she has dementia—likely, Alzheimer's—and is withdrawing from public life.

"Since many people have asked about my current status and activities, I want to be open about these changes, and while I am still able, share some personal thoughts," Justice O'Connor wrote. "While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life."

President Reagan and Sandra Day O'Connor, 1981.

Photo: Wikimedia

For almost 25 years, O'Connor was a key swing vote in many Supreme Court decisions, including Roe V. Wade, but her views were largely moderate. She was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1981, and approved by Congress. In 2013, she performed the marriage of a gay couple in the halls of the Supreme Court itself, for the first time. This marked a shift in her politics to the Left after she retired.

Photograph of Sandra Day O'Connor being sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Her husband John O'Connor looks on. Septermber 5, 1981

Photo: U. S. National Archives

She held the mantle of a qualified Supreme Court Justice quite well, even undergoing a mastectomy for breast cancer in 1988. "The best thing about all of this is that I had a job to go to," said Justice O'Connor, to The New York Times. "I didn't miss anything, and it was hard, but I'm so grateful that I had my work to do."

O'Connor retired from her position in 2005, to be with her husband John, who had Alzheimer's as well. He died four years later.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor giving testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Full committee hearing on 'Ensuring Judicial Independence Through Civics Education' on July 25, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Watch her 2015 interview here

"Women are as capable as men of handling all of the jobs, from start to finish, at state government level, and at federal government level. That's very important that our citizens look at women as well as men and say, 'Well, if we have to pick a new member of Congress, we can certainly consider Susan as well as Jim. They're both capable of doing the job, and we're going to evaluate both of them."

Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.

  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation

Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

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