Who’s Hot in Washington?

When I first became a correspondent in Washington, D.C., it took me weeks just to find the Capitol Hill bathrooms. The learning curve hasn’t been so steep for a set of fresh-faced Washington politicos. Among them are a former nurse-turned-pastor behind the extension of the eviction moratorium, a sexagenarian leading the conservative response to cryptocurrency regulation and the Cuban-born face of a Biden administration shipping refugees back to sea. Meet the most diverse class in Congress history that’s already wielding outsized influence just eight months into office.


2021’s AOC

Just as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became a political rock star upon arriving in Washington after felling an incumbent who was in power for decades, so too has 45-year-old Missouri Rep. Cori Bush since arriving in January. The former nurse, pastor and activist put an end to a 52-year St. Louis political dynasty by winning her 2020 primary against Rep. William Lacy Clay, whose father had represented the seat before him. Then, in August, Bush struck a dramatic image while camped out for three days in a sleeping bag on the steps of the Capitol to protest the expiration of the eviction moratorium — an action that recently spurred the Biden administration to relent and extend the deadline partially for another 60 days.

Unapologetically Personal Politics

Bush’s bold stance was driven by her own experience of being homeless when, in her 20s, she lived out of her car and struggled to stay warm as a mother of two young children. In 2018, Bush spoke to OZY about political candidates who ran for office while carrying significant debt, saying that her student loans humanized her with constituents and allowed her to better understand the issues they faced. “You’re fighting for people to not end up in that place,” Bush said. “It’s OK to look like the people you want to represent.” Read more on OZY.

A New Yorker’s Bipolar Bipartisanship

It’s hard to make a difference as a member of the minority party in Washington, especially in such intensely divisive times. But 36-year-old freshman New York Rep. Andrew Garbarino has managed to break from the norm. The Republican recently joined hands with Democratic staples like Rep. Jerry Nadler and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to introduce a funding bill to address health gaps for 9/11 first responders. He has also worked with Virginia liberal Rep. Abigail Spanberger on a bill to improve the federal government’s tracking of cybercrime. At the same time, Garbarino’s more than happy to take an antagonistic stance: He recently wrote to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky demanding that she produce data to justify the CDC’s recent mask mandates.

Oracle of the Midterms?

New York’s 2nd Congressional District includes Suffolk County, one of 206 “pivot counties” that swung from voting for Barack Obama in ’08 and ’12 to voting for Trump in ’16. Twenty-five of those counties flipped back to voting Democrat last year, but the 2nd District was not one of them. That means Garbarino represents a swathe of America that is still very much being fought over. Like the rest of his colleagues in the House of Representatives, Garbarino is up for reelection in 2022, and the battle for districts like his is heated — a victory for Republicans would allow them to be a major legislative thorn in Biden’s side for the remainder of his presidency.

lead 2 pol dd


Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

The U.S. senator from Nevada faces her first reelection in 2022, after stepping into the massive shoes of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and she’s playing a quietly key role in shaping the future of American education. With the surge in COVID-19 infections caused by the delta variant, the national return to school has been chaotic, as students briefly filled classrooms only to be sent home in droves. Cortez Masto, 57, is pushing to add $500 million in mental health resources as part of broader education reform amid the pandemic — a move that couldn’t be more timely.

Rep. Elise Stefanik

After dramatically ousting Liz Cheney as House Republican chair in May, the 37-year-old New Yorker is the only woman in Republican House leadership — positioning her as a potentially history-making candidate for speaker of the House. She pivoted from an aspirational, forward-thinking centrist to an unabashed Trump supporter, a shift some critics viewed as opportunistic. Regardless, her strategy proved effective, expanding her double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Tedra Cobb between 2018 and 2020. When OZY profiled her three years ago, we dubbed her the GOP’s millennial whisperer. Now she’s using her megaphone to discredit investigations into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and, most recently, to bash Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal.

Rochelle Walensky

She isn’t based in D.C. and she isn’t a politician. Yet there may not be anybody in America who has a greater impact on Washington these days than the director of the Atlanta-based CDC. She is only the third woman to occupy the position. And with the delta variant spooking the world, Walensky is charged with guiding the country’s response to the ongoing pandemic while also trying to rebuild the agency’s credibility after flip-flops under previous chief Robert Redfield. From recommending COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women in April to explaining how annual boosters may not be necessary after a third jab, hers is the voice that truly matters in America’s battle against the pandemic.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville

The former Auburn University football coach found success off the gridiron in 2020, using a timely Trump endorsement to leapfrog fellow Republican Jeff Sessions and oust incumbent Democrat Doug Jones. The Alabama senator has aggressively pushed vaccine adoption as COVID-19 cases soar in his state, and he recently succeeded in getting the Senate to pass an amendment to eliminate federal funding to local governments that defund law enforcement departments. His victory could be a blueprint for Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia star running back who just announced his own Senate run, at Trump’s urging.

Tokyo skyline at Night


A Sexagenarian Skeptic . . .

A Republican who studied animal science in college and was born a year after the Korean War ended probably wouldn’t be most people’s first pick to consult about regulating Bitcoin. Yet Cynthia Lummis, 66, has shown her cryptocurrency chops since entering Congress as Wyoming’s first female senator in January. Speaking on Fox Business, the savvy former state treasurer has at times shown tough love to digital currencies, asserting that COVID-19 spending and “big government spenders” have accelerated the rise of Bitcoin as an alternative to the U.S. dollar. “They claim to enable ‘transparency.’ Their backers talk about the ‘democratization of banking,’” she asserts. “There’s nothing ‘democratic’ or ‘transparent’ about a shady, diffuse network of online funny money.”

. . . And Surprising Crypto Cowboy?

However, Lummis has also earned respect from the cryptocurrency lovers she seeks to regulate — particularly after she suggested that everyone should hold digital assets in their retirement portfolio (advice she herself follows). Lummis has signaled her concerns about digital currencies, including the threat they pose to the American financial system’s preeminence as the bedrock of the global economy. But the senator from the Cowboy State also has some tricks up her sleeve, including suggesting that cryptocurrency farmers fleeing bans from the Chinese Communist Party should be recruited by states with sufficient energy hubs to support them, including Pennsylvania, Texas and, yes, Wyoming. “Digital assets are here to stay,” she said in a recent statement.

Biden’s Cuban Bulwark on Immigration . . .

Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas was meant to be Biden’s bulwark against criticism of the much-beleaguered agency, one that was often painted as the face of American antipathy toward asylum-seekers during the Trump years. Born in Havana to parents who fled communist rule and eventually settled in California, Mayorkas seemed poised to make progress on one of America’s thorniest issues, after a history of fighting for “Dreamers” and refugees. And indeed, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have sharply dropped under his watch, after he issued a directive that went further than Obama-era policies in limiting deportations.

. . . And Controversial Lightning Rod?

However, Mayorkas has also attracted bipartisan charges of hypocrisy after he played on his aspirational story but later declared that Haitian and Cuban refugees who “take to the sea” would not be allowed in the United States. His liberal critics paint him as the face of the Biden approach to immigration — one that slaps “Bienvenidos” on a former Trump detention camp and calls it a victory. Meanwhile, conservatives are salivating at the political opportunity presented by Mayorkas’ apparent inconsistencies, using it to bolster an already powerful Cuban conservative movement that helped Trump dominate Biden in the always crucial swing state of Florida last year.

Check Out These 16 World-Changing Ideas

Some people believe good ideas grow on trees. But they seem much more like fossil fuels to me — natural resources we often seize, tap and extract when we should nurture them. Today, we bring you 16 ideas worth cherishing, plus the promise of nurturing the future with the OZY Genius Awards, a scholarship of up to $10,000 for college students whose ideas could change the world for the better. What would it mean to eat as many meals as you like, torch the Mona Lisa, skip the first two years of college, and turn parking garages into grocery stores and barbershops into hospitals? Let me plant the seed.

your health

Rage Against the Meal Machine. Big Food wants you to eat three meals a day. But there’s scant scientific evidence of the benefits of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. And, as Amanda Mull writes for The Atlantic, the pandemic has exposed how nebulous this widely accepted ritual of consumption is. While the first 34 years of Mull’s life were spent eating three meals at roughly the same time each day, she soon found herself settling into an at-home routine that included intermittent light snacking punctuated by one large meal — eaten whenever she chose. Others find that they’re eating more than three set meals, no longer confined to work schedules that limited their time in the kitchen. “Our old eating schedules are no more natural than sitting in a cubicle for 10 hours a day,” Mull writes, which means they can now reflect our changing circumstances.

Sniffing Out Cancer. So much of cancer survival relies on when it is detected. What if your smartphone could smell it? Plenty of tech products can already see, hear and sense our touch, but the most groundbreaking development may be the emergence of robotic noses — which could happen in the next five years, according to one MIT scientist and inventor. And while some may fear another voice in their lives telling them they really need to take a shower, the greater value could be in detecting diseases. Dogs, with their enhanced sense of smell, are able to sniff out everything from cancer to Parkinson’s and malaria, giving scientists a model for disease-detecting robotic noses.

In the Chair. Black Americans consistently face worse medical outcomes than whites in the face of a racist health care system, as OZY documented recently in a “Real Talk, Real Change” special edition of The Carlos Watson Show. But aside from government policy and a rethink of medical education, what if part of the solution was at the barbershop? Michael DeVore won an OZY Genius Award in 2017 as a student at Claflin University for his idea to create an app connecting college students with cheap haircuts. Today, his company, Live Chair, is jumping into health care — with barbers using time with Black customers to persuade them to get their blood pressure checked and other basic medical screening measures. It’s a simple step toward more preventive care for a population that badly needs it. Read more on OZY.

money matters

Delete the First Two Years of College. The loan crisis is real, yet the value of a college degree is quickly dwindling while burdening students with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. One solution? Eliminating the first two years of college, which, at many universities, is spent on general education courses before students are allowed to start taking classes in their specialization. You should be getting the general basics in high school, while the exorbitant cost of college would be better spent on direct professional or academic preparation rather than paying for remedial courses that studies suggest deliver little in terms of academic gains anyway. Still, it will be important to find extra support for the disproportionately minority students let down by the K-12 system.

TurboTax for Bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can be a maddeningly complex process, all but indecipherable to those who need it most to get out from the crushing burden of debt. Rohan Pavuluri’s solution: a free TurboTax-like service to navigate the legal hurdles and paperwork. As an undergraduate at Harvard, Pavuluri won an OZY Genius Award in 2018 for his big idea, and his organization, Upsolve, has since grown to become the largest bankruptcy nonprofit in America. He’s now hoping to expand it to serve the poor in all different areas of the law. Read more on OZY.


Buy the ‘Mona Lisa’ … Then Torch It. A blockchain company paid $95,000 for a signed 2009 Banksy original and then livestreamed setting it aflame on the Twitter account @BurntBanksy this month. The most stunning part? They actually made money on the deal before striking the match by converting the original into a digital “non-fungible token” (NFT), which they then sold for a cool $380,000 — a nearly 400-percent return on their red-hot investment. The Banksy piece was the perfect vehicle, given that it lampooned art auctions — featuring a Christie’s auctioneer saying, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.” As the BurntBanksy collective explained, the elimination of the physical shifted its value to the digital. Which makes us wonder how high a token of the Mona Lisa, with an estimated worth of $54.5 billion, could go if the Louvre fixture just “happened” to catch fire. Read more about NFTs on OZY.

Follow the Catholic Church on Reparations? In 2016, reporter Rachel Swarns received a tip that Jesuit priests sold 272 people in 1838 to save Georgetown University … a historical fact that, while known to scholars, had received little attention. Swarns launched a New York Times investigation, and within three years, Georgetown announced plans to raise $400,000 annually to benefit the descendants of the enslaved people they sold while also offering them preferential admissions status. It is the first major university to offer reparations, and was a precursor to the Catholic Church’s largest effort to address its role in slavery: a plan announced last week by the Jesuit order to raise $100 million to support racial healing projects. “There’s a reckoning happening,” Swarns says, as Christian groups from Virginia to New York to Texas are following suit.

fixing broken politics

Replace National Identity With Local Identity. In recent decades, American politics and media — not to mention our food — have become increasingly nationalized, while technology allows us to bridge any distance and makes us more mobile than ever. It’s come at a cost for our sense of community, and it may take a new localism to tame America’s vicious political and cultural polarization. Think about it: The ties that bind you to root for the Atlanta Falcons or enjoy a local arts festival transcend political affiliation, and local governments tend to be much more pragmatic and less ideological than national ones … or at least they used to be. At a time when globalism is often seen as the ticket to open-mindedness, this approach flips conventional wisdom on its head.

Shake Up the House. What if you were represented by more than one U.S. House member? Not too long ago, this was fairly common: Multi-member districts were only outlawed in 1967, as they were often used to dilute Black political power. But a growing number of advocates and leaders believe bringing back multi-member districts, when coupled with ranked-choice voting, could help bring down the temperature in a House riven by extremes. How? If you can rank several candidates over a wider area, with, say, the top three finishers in a district going to Washington, it gives a wider array of candidates a chance and forces them to appeal to a broader coalition. It also would give an opening to some red-state Democrats and blue-state Republicans to finally get representation.

The One-Term Presidency. In the U.S., presidencies have a tendency to become cults of personality. But what if we followed the example set south of the border? Mexico limits its presidents to one six-year term. Their policies might remain, but few remember much about Enrique Peña Nieto or Vicente Fox today. This rule could help American presidents avoid breaking the law in pursuit of re-election and sidestep the second-term scandal.

rethinking business

The Other Pay Gap. Should a doctor performing a surgery in Brownsville, Texas, receive significantly more compensation than a doctor performing the same surgery a mile away in Matamoros, Mexico? Given all the attention focused on the gender or racial pay gap, international pay equity deserves another look. Many international workers are paid less than Americans and those from other more affluent nations … even when working for the same companies in the same jobs. It’s time for economists to explore the nationality gap and devote more time to studying it, after adjusting for cost of living. As pandemic-fueled remote work goes global, it’s an increasingly urgent question.

Succession Plan. Business owners around the world struggle to find people to take over their profitable enterprises, and some even die without finding a suitable heir. Governments could create programs to pair proven entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities with owners looking to exit — even if that means ignoring white business leaders for a while. It’s a different kind of wealth redistribution to communities of color, and it’s a model that has already seen success in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hand H.R. to the Robots. They already lift your boxes; why not have them carry your emotional burden? Artificial intelligence doesn’t have the greatest track record in avoiding discrimination, but if it’s not relied on to be the sole algorithmic arbiter behind decisions, AI can be useful in making it easier for people to report workplace harassment and discrimination. Companies are using chatbots like Spot and Callisto to get man-made influences out of the reporting process, while Botler AI is helping explain to people in the U.S. or Canada whether a crime has been committed against them. Corporations could find it easier to improve company culture as a result. Read more on OZY.

climate solutions

Asian woman bali indonesia.

Pay Poor People, Save the Planet. An Indonesian direct-payment program to lift rural residents out of poverty had a delicious side effect — it reduced deforestation by 30 percent, say researchers who examined the impact of the program on about 7,500 forest villages from 2008 to 2012. That’s because villagers no longer felt a desperate need to increase their area of cultivation to reduce the risks of low crop yields. Could a universal basic income help elsewhere? In the United States, think tanks are begging policymakers to incorporate farmers and rural Americans in their climate-change-fighting endeavors, given the integral role they will play.

Robosynthesis? Step aside, artificial intelligence: Meet artificial photosynthesis. The process in which plants take sunlight and water and convert them into oxygen, fueling growth and reducing carbon dioxide, could soon be within reach for machines, too. Such work is being pioneered by Yale University and other institutions, funded in part by a recent $6.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. A recent major breakthrough was a tabletop device that could operate on sunlight alone for more than 3,000 hours without degradation, converting methane into benzene and reducing nitrogen into ammonia, an important element for fertilizer. Using light to fuel chemical processes could be crucial to pushing renewable energy forward.

Freshwater Jellyfish Factory, Parking Garage Groceries? The Museum of the Future in Dubai has gotten a little wild while imagining the future of cities. One idea: harnessing the natural desalinating energy of jellyfish to create a city-wide, saltwater-converting jelly that could ease water scarcity concerns, particularly in the parched Middle East. Another? Converting parking garages, which could soon become woefully outdated with the arrival of self-driving cars, into hubs for growing and delivering fresh food to locals with an Amazon-like ability to predict your preferences. Read more on OZY.

what’s your favorite idea?

Vote here and tell us which of these big ideas you are most excited about, as well as your even better ideas.

The Native Americans Changing the World

A country that wiped out much of its Native population now has its first Native American member of the Cabinet. Deb Haaland, who made it through a tight U.S. Senate vote Monday to become secretary of the interior, arrives in her post at a time of great possibility and ongoing struggles for America’s 574 federally recognized tribes. Who is fighting for their interests at the ballot box and the doctor’s office, protecting their past and their future? Today’s Daily Dose explores the Native Americans you need to know, including Haaland, and what’s next for a community at a crossroads.

know these names

Deb Haaland. When OZY first introduced you to Haaland in 2017, she was all but kneeling in silence – joining Albuquerque activists protesting Donald Trump’s deportation policies — as part of a career spent lifting the voices of others much more than her own. Now she has her biggest-ever platform as the head of a vast agency that manages 450 million acres of federal land and oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Haaland plans to use the post to attack the issue of missing and murdered women in Indian Country, where domestic violence rates are up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the country. She will also serve a major role in enacting President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, including a pause on natural gas fracking on public lands, even though Haaland has taken a harder line against fossil fuels in the past. Read more on OZY.

Jarrod Lowery. Native Americans lean toward Democrats and played a big role in turning Arizona blue last year, but much of the fuel for President Donald Trump’s 2020 victory in North Carolina came from the Lumbee Tribe. Lowery, a rising Republican operative in rural Robeson County, put it succinctly when telling Politico about his community’s shift from Democrat to Republican in recent years: “We are Christians, we’re very socially conservative, but we’re also working class.” Lowery helped lure Trump to Robeson County for a pivotal preelection rally where he pledged to fulfill a long-sought goal: federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe. (Biden has made the same pledge, though a bill to do so failed last year in the Senate — and Biden never went to Robeson County.)

Sharice Davids. In 2018, the first Native American women elected to Congress were Haaland and Davids, a former MMA fighter and attorney who’s also the first openly LGBTQ Kansan in Congress. In Washington, she has been known to ask colleagues if they know how to break an arm … and if not, would they like her to show them? In a body where securing votes often requires arm-twisting, it’s a valuable leadership skill. She has emerged as a moderate swing vote and a policy leader on infrastructure, though her district could soon become more Republican-leaning thanks to redistricting — making it tough for her to be re-elected in 2022.

Davidica Little Spotted Horse. When the Native American activist and singer isn’t organizing concerts and powwow celebrations, she is getting interlopers off her lawn. Specifically, missionaries, whom she wants to stop from proselytizing on Native American reservations after some 15 churches sprouted up among the South Dakota wildflowers over the past decade, bringing thousands of missionaries to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. And while the pandemic kept missionaries away last year, Little Spotted Horse expects another surge this year. She has helped secure legal requirements for background checks and drug testing for those working with children after several abuse cases, but she remains worried about evangelists who baptize children without their parents’ permission. Read more on OZY.

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Tony Enos. An Echota Cherokee, Enos doesn’t let his mixed Afro-Hispanic-Italian heritage or his Philly accent keep him from donning traditional head regalia and incorporating his community’s influences into his pop music. He was particularly inspired by the Native American concept of “Two Spirit” peoples, an accepted identity that encompasses queer folks in tribal lore spanning centuries. It’s allowed him to educate the next generation of musicians and tribal members through experimental musical forms. Last year he revealed his HIV-positive status in his album POSI+IVE, and is seizing the opportunity to advocate on behalf of those with HIV. Read more on OZY.

Alyce Sadongei. An archiving and preservation career led her to a leadership role at the Smithsonian Institution, where she became the first Native American to serve as director of the American Indian Museums Study program. Sadongei now leads the University of Arizona and six other institutions in digitizing more than 6,500 recordings of Native American oral histories. The wealth of information, from tribal council meetings to graduation ceremonies to simply people telling their stories, will be better preserved and searchable for the next generation.

Virginia Hedrick. Indigenous leaders in California are concerned that COVID-related deaths of Native Americans are being severely undercounted amid fears that embattled hospital staff too often misclassify the deceased as white, Latino or “other” on official death certificates. And people like Hedrick, executive director of the nonprofit Consortium for Urban Indian Health, are fighting back. “We’re born Indian and we die white,” she told USA Today. “For me, this is a culminating event. This is historical trauma in real time.” A public health veteran and member of California’s Yurok Tribe, Hedrick has helped prevent chronic disease and implement the Affordable Care Act among California’s Native Americans before turning her focus to the pandemic.

left behind

Standing Rock Reservation, COVID-19, December 2020, by Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

The COVID Battle. Native Americans are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as white people, a consequence of poverty and a lack of access to health care that can be traced to a long history of neglect. But that hasn’t stopped Native Americans from taking their fate into their own hands: The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma kept its death rate lower than most American communities thanks to a history of self-reliance and help from a universal health care system. The White Earth Nation in Minnesota so successfully vaccinated its members that it even helped its non-tribal neighbors. So did Haaland’s Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico. The new COVID-19 relief law signed by President Biden will pump a fresh $6.1 billion into the Indian Health Service for vaccine distribution and other efforts.

Fight for Land Rights. Tribal fights to preserve land, from ordinary farms to what they consider sacred, ramped up in recent years as spiritually important locations from Yucca Mountain in Nevada to the Bears Ears area of southern Utah were threatened by federal government action. And they’ve won some surprising battles, including a U.S. Forest Service announcement in March that it was withdrawing a final environmental impact statement for a potential copper mine near Superior, Arizona, which would have been built on land sacred to Apache and other Southwestern tribes.

Whose History Is It? Brandi Grayson, a city council candidate in Madison, Wisconsin, launched a heated debate when she argued last month that Black people were the original inhabitants of America and credited them for building the ancient Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis — a view not held by mainstream historians. Tribal members across Wisconsin felt Grayson, who also used the slur “red” when referring to Native Americans, was erasing their cultural origin stories, saying “basically anything of value” created by Indigenous peoples should instead be attributed to ancient African Americans. Grayson said that wasn’t her intent, and that when Black people tell their story, there always seems to be pushback around “erasing someone else’s history.”

Thirsting for Justice. Sometimes the fight for rights comes down to life’s essentials: 58 out of every 1,000 Native American households lack indoor plumbing, compared with just 3 of every 1,000 white households, according to a 2019 report. The struggles are most acute in the Southwest, where Navajo Nation families often drive hours to haul barrels of water just to satisfy basic needs. That scarcity contributes to a number of health disparities, including higher death, poverty and unemployment rates, as explored recently on the OZY/BBC podcast, When Katty Met Carlos. Listen Now.

Native Lives Matter. A report published this month by the Spokane, Washington, police department shows that officers are 49 percent more likely to use force against Native American suspects than white or Asian ones — only African American suspects, at about 22 percent more likely, faced anywhere near the same level of violence. Similar trends nationwide have led some to call them the “forgotten minority” in police shootings, an absence of coverage that’s particularly jarring given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data in 2017 showing that Native Americans were being killed at a higher rate than any other demographic.

Boarding Nightmares. While many of the most flagrant abuses against Native Americans might seem centuries old, government-funded Catholic boarding schools for Native youth persisted well into the 20th century — and leave a horrific legacy. The schools in both Canada and the U.S. separated children from their parents and tribal communities, discouraged Native American culture and became breeding grounds for sexual abuse. The 2019 book Stringing Rosaries examined firsthand accounts from survivors in the Dakotas and Minnesota, finding rampant physical and sexual abuse. Although Catholic officials have apologized, conducted investigations and paid reparations to victims or their families, the Vatican has never issued a formal apology.

indigenous innovations

Preservation With a Digital Twist. Should historical sites be restored with preservation or authenticity in mind? The two values can be at odds: For instance, adding protective scaffolding to Peru’s earthen city of Chan Chan mars its original design but helps protect against intensifying storms from climate change. In the United States, tribal leaders are increasingly turning to technology, such as digital imaging software, to spur new conservation efforts. “If you have an artifact or item to preserve, you could use 3D imaging to replicate those items, where you don’t have to touch the original or affect them,” says James Rattling Leaf, a member of the South Dakota Rosebud Sioux tribe. Read more on OZY.

Wrecking the Old Philanthropy Order. Native Americans are seriously underrepresented in philanthropy efforts, even when compared to other minority groups, and their share of aid hasn’t budged for decades despite clearly demonstrated need. Indigenous leaders need to build a new philanthropic powerhouse, argues NDN Foundation managing director Gaby Strong. That strategic shift may include embracing the LANDBACK movement, an effort to demand full repatriation of wealth and lands stolen from Native peoples across America.

Seizing the Climate Fight. Perhaps no U.S. community has taken the threat of climate change more seriously, given their traditional, spiritual relationship with the land. American Indians have led the fight against projects from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to the Dakota Access Pipeline. And Indigenous activism around climate change has spread globally, to places such as the jungles of eastern Peru, where Indigenous peoples are fighting an influx of palm oil companies that contribute to rampant deforestation of traditional lands. Read more on OZY.

first nations to know

Uighurs. These persecuted people, predominantly Sunni Muslims, have attracted global attention because of Chinese abuses against them. But you may not realize that this Turkic ethnic group lays claim to being the Indigenous inhabitants of the Xinjiang province. That designation is disputed by the Chinese government, which only goes so far as to deem them one of 55 official ethnic minorities. Still, historians say that the region’s earliest settlers were likely Turkic-speaking Mongolian migrants, with the Uighurs as possible descendants, although they first appear by name in the eighth century as tribal groups predominantly living in oases along the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin.

Amazonians of Brazil. In September, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was using his time speaking before the United Nations to scapegoat Indigenous villages for the burning of the Amazon rainforest. They are fighting back against the conservative president and the ruralistas trying to buy up rural lands for profit, helped by the leadership of environmentalist activist Sônia Guajajara. Still, the COVID-fighting efforts of medical leaders in the region haven’t been helped by evangelical missionaries telling some tribes that the vaccine is dangerous and will turn them into alligators.


Aboriginal Australians. The former British penal colony has a brutal history with its Indigenous communities, enslaving them with no pay or wages as low as 3 percent of the average white worker while separating scores of aboriginal children from their families in what became known as the “Stolen Generations.” European colonization also resulted in a cultural genocide, with the roughly 300 languages spoken on continental Australia down to fewer than 60 today. However, younger Indigenous groups are combining traditional languages with modern English to spur a new surge in linguistic diversity, with amalgamations such as Kriol being spoken by tens of thousands across Australia.

Who Conquered the Virus?

On Thursday night, President Joe Biden addressed the nation to mark the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic. He pledged that all American adults should have access to the vaccine by May 1, and that by July 4 the U.S. would be able to “mark our independence from this virus.” With America leading the world in reported cases, deaths and available vaccines, now’s the time to scan the globe’s vastly different responses to this deadly virus. What worked, what didn’t and what can we learn to enjoy a true declaration of independence this summer? Today’s Daily Dose takes you on a world tour.

the varying states of america

Seattle. The Emerald City started as one of America’s hardest hit, reporting a COVID case as early as January 2020 and becoming the country’s first epicenter. Now, though, Seattle has the lowest virus death rate of the 20 biggest metro areas. Experts say it was a combination of responsible residents, maintaining lockdown orders even after many other places opened and strong philanthropic networks. Seattle also benefited from a preponderance of at-home workers — Amazon and Microsoft were among the first to encourage remote working. Another plus? Elected leaders such as Mayor Jenny Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee acted quickly and decisively. One stunning stat: If the U.S. as a whole had matched Seattle’s trend lines, it would have avoided more than 300,000 of the 530,000 deaths to date.

Florida.“There’s no such thing as corona in Florida.” That’s the quip from one viral TikTok, and it embodies the state’s blasé attitude toward COVID-19-related restrictions. Florida has had nearly 2 million cases, most coming after Gov. Ron DeSantis declared victory over COVID last May. Cases skyrocketed in July after the state moved into phase two of reopening. “They gotta try and find a boogeyman,” DeSantis said at the time. Yet, while many predicted disaster for Florida given its relaxed restrictions and elderly population, it actually has the 27th highest death rate, with blue, densely populated Northeastern states faring the worst. Meanwhile, DeSantis is tied for the lead in an early poll of potential 2024 Republican presidential contenders.

Rhode Island. The Ocean State started strong, enjoying a quiet summer thanks to tight early restrictions — such as pulling over drivers with New York license plates and requiring them to quarantine. By fall, cases began ticking up, and in December, Rhode Island experienced more deaths and cases per 100,000 people than any other state. As people retreated indoors during the winter, the state’s dense population likely contributed to the spread: The center of the outbreak, Central Falls, has 16,000 people per square mile. Multigenerational poverty and racial disparities also played a role: Latinos are 6.7 times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus than white Rhode Islanders. Now, the state is offering to vaccinate anyone who wants it, regardless of age, in Central Falls, and that kind of targeted treatment is dramatically driving cases down.

What’s Next? The landmark $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law signed by Biden on Thursday is best known for dishing out $1,400 checks to most Americans, plus $300 monthly payments per child to families, as well as beefing up unemployment insurance and Obamacare. But it’s also a pandemic-fighting tool. The bill hands another $7.5 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccine distribution — plus an additional $1 billion for vaccine awareness campaigns, and $600 million to the Indian Health Service to get Native Americans vaccinated. The law also puts in place $46 billion for a national strategy to diagnose and trace COVID-19 cases, which could help in the race against new virus variants.

the cocky

Tanzania. The country stopped reporting coronavirus data last May. But just because you don’t believe in the virus doesn’t mean the virus doesn’t believe in you. President John Magufuli may be learning that the hard way, after the 61-year-old disappeared from the public eye in late February, with reports emerging that he’s been hospitalized in India with the virus, after first spending time on a ventilator in a Nairobi hospital. The closest thing to a restriction that he’s enacted is highly optional mask-wearing.

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Brazil. Second only to the United States in COVID-19 deaths, having crossed the quarter-million mark recently, Brazil’s denialism is now harming countries throughout Latin America. President Jair Bolsonaro continues to downplay the virus’ effects even after contracting it himself, leaving each city and state to take its own approach to lockdowns. Examples of innovative activism have emerged, including a movement of socialist rural squatters distributing thousands of tons of food to hungry families. Evangelical missionaries, though, are reportedly telling tribes not to take the vaccine because “they will turn into an alligator.” Read more on OZY.

Sweden. It seems like just yesterday that some lusted after Sweden’s “herd immunity” approach to the virus, essentially staying open and letting COVID run its course. But the country is backpedaling. By December, the king of Sweden announced, “I think that we have failed,” after the nation was hit with a second wave of cases, which herd immunity was supposed to repel. In January, Sweden passed legislation enabling the government to enact restrictions on businesses. Before the new law, restrictions were mostly unenforceable.

harsh measures

Shifting Global Supply Chains Creates Boomtowns in Rural Vietnam

Vietnam. No one has taken a harder line on COVID-19 than this one-party communist state of nearly 100 million people that shares a land border with China. Its aggressive quarantine and contact-tracing system have helped the sprawling country survive multiple virus waves and kept cases incredibly low, with just 35 deaths, a particular triumph when compared with far richer and more compact countries. Vietnam is known to quarantine flights if just one person tests positive.

China. Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the virus originated, spent months in lockdown — preventing it from spreading more widely in China in the early days of the pandemic, and effectively buying the rest of the world time. Wuhan started as a grim foretelling of the world’s future in lockdown and is now displaying the kind of normalcy we all crave. But even a full year after spending 76 days in isolation, many residents are finding it hard to charge into the future, ushered by the Chinese government, without the chance to heal from the trauma.

Slovakia. The small European nation of 5 million tested almost all of its adult population last year, when the rest of the continent was struggling — and then asked them to get a second test. It was part of one the boldest, most rigorous COVID-19 screening programs in the world. The result? Slovakia had the lowest number of deaths per capita in Europe for several months, before a recent spike due to a COVID-19 variant, prompting giants like the U.K. to send experts to learn from the Slovaks.

the forewarned


Singapore. It turns out you can benefit from an epidemic. This Southeast Asian city-state took the lessons it learned from the SARS outbreak in 2003 to effectively manage COVID, in part by recognizing the signs of a devastating global pandemic earlier than most. The country locked down quickly and dispensed information clearly to a populace that was already prepared to don masks and ride out the siege. The country’s researchers are even sifting through sewage to look for traces of the virus — now that’s commitment.

Canada. In 2003, SARS also hit Toronto, making Canada the only non-Asian country to report deaths, with 44 dead in all. Determined to have a better response this time, Canada became a world leader in lockdown protocols while managing to keep the pandemic toll under 25,000 deaths. One of the most prescient moves may have been cutting off border traffic with its beleaguered southern neighbor. Although the decision had significant economic drawbacks for Canada, it shielded the country from America’s world-leading COVID cases and deaths. But now Canada is lagging behind the U.S. in vaccinations, as it lacks the same ability to mass-produce shots.

South Korea. Some argue that a collectivist culture, common to East Asia, has helped South Korea stave off the virus — but it may just be experience that proves most powerful of all. After battling SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the country keeps an infectious disease outbreak plan ready, and updated every five years, which seems smart, given that Bill Gates predicted on The Carlos Watson Show that we could start seeing world-threatening pandemics at least once a decade. That plan allowed the South Korean government to quickly rally the private sector while running widespread, effective testing and contact tracing. To date, only 1,662 South Koreans have died from COVID-19. That’s half the number of deaths America was suffering each day in late January.


Italy. Say goodbye to those Roman nights. The country, known for its thriving nightlife, still has a 10 p.m. curfew, a restriction that has been in place since November after a disturbing rise in cases. Italy was the first Western country to enforce a lockdown, offering a dark glimpse into what lay ahead for the rest of us. Italy’s strict measures eventually managed to curb the spread of the disease, but recent upticks in cases have sent the country back to a state of emergency, even as some wonder if these restrictions will be successful as neighbors like Spain and Greece aim to reopen travel for the summer. Any vacation plans will be aided by the introduction of “vaccine passports” good throughout the European Union.

The U.K. The U.K. can’t catch a break. The country has had the highest number of deaths in Europe, after a wildly inconsistent lockdown strategy over the past year, and now the particularly contagious and deadly variant first discovered on British soil is making things worse. The good news? The Pfizer vaccine, and others, seem to be almost as effective in preventing the U.K. variant — and the U.K. has one of the world’s best vaccination rates, at 37 doses per 100 people (compared to 30 in the U.S.). However, with a South African strain recently emerging that challenges both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it’s too early to breathe easy.

India. India has the second-highest number of infections and the fourth-highest death toll in the world, after the U.S., Brazil and Mexico, but one of the lowest per-capita mortality rates. Some believe it’s due to its younger population, or the fact that it was hit by the pandemic later. The nation now aims to vaccinate 300 million people by August, a goal it is already struggling to meet. The world will be watching: With 1.39 billion people, nearly a fifth of the global population, it’s difficult to imagine a world returned to normal with open travel until India gets a handle on the virus.

Breakthrough Scientists You Need to Know

Scientists have rarely played such a pivotal and public role in society, and certainly never before in the digital age. But the centrality of science is about much more than the pandemic. Today’s Daily Dose explores scientists who do more than just keep us alive, from the climatologist who could become a president to researchers rectifying racial disparities and discovering the tunes that make sharks shout “That’s my jam!” OK, so sharks don’t really shout; they communicate with body language. We know this because, well, science.

au naturel

Catarina Vila Pouca. This Portuguese scientist doesn’t just watch Shark Week; she lives it. Fascinated by the cartilaginous sea critters since childhood, she uses guppies from Trinidad to study how life as a predator can engineer the evolution of cognitive abilities more often associated with humanity — things like learning, remembering and problem-solving. It’s the latest turn in a career that’s “taken me to different waters,” as she writes from a lab in the Netherlands, including studying blue sharks off the North Atlantic and “charismatic” Port Jackson sharks in Australia. It was in the latter locale that she decoded their musical tastes: Sharks like jazz, it turns out, after associating it with food, but are confused by classical music. Honestly, same.

Segenet Kelemu. You know you’re doing something right when Bill Gates calls you one of his heroes. After watching a near-biblical swarm of locusts destroy the crops in her Ethiopian village, Kelemu turned to science and changed the world. First as the first woman from her region to get a college degree, which she earned from Addis Ababa University, then, while studying plant pathology and genetics at Montana State, Kansas State and Cornell University in the U.S. She returned to Africa in 2007, determined to keep farmers from devastating losses by better understanding the symbiotic relationship between plants and insects. The 63-year-old now leads the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, which is at the forefront of global efforts to defeat food insecurity.

Kári Stefánsson. The Icelandic researcher, 71, unraveled one of my childhood’s biggest mysteries — why my mom and sisters always insisted I needed another dab of deodorant when I thought I smelled perfectly fine. My personal hygiene problems aside, the question is also one of humanity’s oldest questions, with scientists long wondering why some people don’t smell body odors that most everybody else can. Turns out, there is a gene that helps people pick up certain smells, such as identifying when something is fishy. Stefánsson, a former Harvard professor, founded the Reykjavik-based deCODE Genetics in 1996, where he and his team have identified the genetic risk factors for dozens of ailments, from cardiovascular disease to cancer.

Sonya Dyhrman. The Columbia University environmental sciences professor is taking on the entire oceanic food chain by starting with its smallest link — the microbe. While the talk about food and climate change focuses on the visible world consumed by humans (meat, grains, etc.), she is showing how unseen organisms could have huge ramifications for our survival. And Dyhrman, 48, combines that microscopic gaze with an awareness of the bigger picture, developing ocean science literacy activities for physical classrooms and the virtual educational site Whyville that have exposed more than 1 million children to the scientific process. Read more on OZY.

‘political’ scientists


Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo. Sheinbaum was born to a family of scientists: a chemical engineer father, a biologist mother and a brother who became a physicist. And still, Sheinbaum, 58, has likely exceeded the wildest expectations of her brainy childhood dinner table. In 2006, the environmental engineer received the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Al Gore as a key part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And the scientist, whose mother’s family fled Europe during the Holocaust, is now the mayor of Mexico City. A close ally and former environmental minister to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Sheinbaum could one day become Mexico’s first female president.

Salim Abdool Karim. The South African epidemiologist, 60, has outlasted his critics. He was once branded a traitor by a health minister under Thabo Mbeki after criticizing the president’s anti-science comments on HIV/AIDS. Two decades and three presidents later, Karim was asked to lead South Africa’s health response to COVID-19. Despite its being one of the worst-hit countries on the African continent, Karim remains popular and in December won the John Maddox Prize for the defense of science, alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci. Karim and his wife (and research partner) also won a 2020 global health award for a discovery crucial to HIV prevention efforts that is leading to infection reductions across Africa and the world.

Armen Sarkissian. Politics, like the universe, is relative. That’s the belief of Sarkissian, the physicist-turned-president of Armenia who uses quantum physics as a helpful guide to the turbulent geopolitics his nation faces. “The world is changing, rapidly,” he told Russia Today in 2019. “And [all] politicians will come and go.” Sarkissian, 67, wasn’t always so serious: Also a computer scientist, he helped design the popular ’90s Tetris spinoff Wordtris. But his nod to mortality may be the result of his country standing on the brink of a war that, he warned the international community, could turn Armenia’s Caucasus region into “another Syria.” With his country also facing a domestic crisis, Sarkissian is counting on the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden — perceived as friendly to the Armenian cause — to boost international solidarity efforts. Read more on OZY.

Melanie Stansbury. The New Mexico state representative is a former ecology educator and White House and Senate aide who became the first 2022 federal candidate endorsed by 314 Action, a group that backs candidates with scientific backgrounds and spent $25 million in the 2020 elections. Stansbury, 42, a Democrat, is running to replace Rep. Deb Haaland, expected to be confirmed as President Biden’s secretary of the interior. She has helped shepherd more than a dozen bills into law during her first term in Santa Fe, including efforts to modernize the electricity grid and better manage the state’s water, so look for her to bring an environmental eye to Washington, if she makes it through.

keeping you kicking

Gagandeep Kang, MD, MRCPath, PhD. Professor of Microbiology. Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences at Christian Medical College Vellore in Tamil Nadu, India (for the Womens Special)

Susana López Charretón. This Mexican virologist wants to save you some baby wipes. A leading researcher into rotaviruses — the double-stranded RNA viruses that are the leading cause of diarrhea in children under 5 around the globe — Charretón, 63, and her team identified the mechanism by which they reproduce in the small intestine, leading to explosive results.

Jingmei Li. “Research is a lot like diving,” says Li, 37, who does some of her best thinking strapped to an oxygen tank beneath the sea. Both disciplines are about searching for things hiding in plain sight, something she often does while sifting through reams of information to identify the risk factors shared by women with breast cancer. While much progress has been made through discoveries of gene-related predictors and examining lifestyle factors like obesity, Li takes the groundbreaking additional step of examining breast density through mammograms. Now based at the Genome Institute of Singapore, Li is becoming a global leader on the most common cancer for women worldwide.

Yakeel Quiroz. I began writing in part because I feared what I will one day forget. Thankfully, this Harvard scientist and others are working to ease that fear in the future. Quiroz was part of a global team last year that created a blood test that could possibly enable doctors to forecast Alzheimer’s disease a full two decades before symptoms appear, a critical discovery that could aid in slowing and curbing the disease’s debilitating effects. The Medellín native benefited from going back to her roots, beginning her research with a rural Colombia clan where nearly half the population develops the brain disorder by their mid-40s.

Xiaoliang Sunney Xie. For now, peers call the Beijing-born scientist a “founding father” of single-molecule biophysical chemistry. But he could soon be helping fathers worldwide. The 58-year-old Peking University professor pioneered genetic innovations that have made in vitro fertilization safer by helping doctors identify traits that could lead to the transmission of genetic disorders in newborns. But as with so much of cutting-edge biomedical science, Xie’s work could also give way to controversial applications. Some fret that prenatal gene identification will lead to discriminatory abortions (in the United States, the termination rate for those with the Down syndrome gene is around 67 percent; in Iceland and Denmark, it’s nearly 100 percent). Regardless, Xie’s discoveries are crucial to understanding why some are born with such afflictions — and without them, the chances of creating preventative cures is slim.

Gagandeep Kang. What does it take to earn the nickname “vaccine godmother” of India? It helps to start work early: Kang built her first home lab at just 12 years old (her experiments making hydrogen nearly blew off their roof). The first female Indian scientist to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London, Kang, 58, is also a board member of one of the key groups administering the World Health Organization’s global coronavirus vaccine project, COVAX, which has committed to equitable distribution. Co-authoring a new book in India, Kang is among the most prominent experts battling COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in the world’s second-most populous nation — which is to say, there is no post-pandemic world without India getting on board.

Kizzmekia Corbett. One of few African American women scientists at the National Institutes of Health, Corbett, 35, was a critical part of Fauci’s team that worked with Moderna to bring its novel COVID-19 vaccine to fruition. The North Carolina native also was unafraid to call out then-President Donald Trump for a lack of diversity among the scientists on his coronavirus task force.

changing the norm


Omololu Akin-Ojo. The Nigeria native wants to stem the African brain drain. As founding director of a new research institute in Rwanda, he’s on a mission to rebrand East Africa as a hub for quantum physics. As a university student in Nigeria in the late ’90s, he learned how to code by hand — writing computer scripts on paper because he didn’t have access to a computer. Despite dearly wanting to stay in Africa, those limitations caused him to travel to the University of Delaware to continue his studies in the U.S. His efforts will be boosted by the Rwanda government’s goals to raise the percentage of students in STEM fields by 90 percent in the next decade.

Abasi Ene-Obong. People of Caucasian descent constitute less than 15 percent of the world’s population, yet they make up 78 percent of human subjects in genome research. That skews drug research. Ene-Obong, 35, is trying to fix that. His startup, 54gene, named after Africa’s 54 countries, is building a pan-continental bank of African genes to support research that the West has long ignored. It doesn’t hurt that Ene-Obong, who is from Nigeria, also has a master’s degree in business and management, helping him secure $15 million from a fund backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bankroll his gene bank dream.

Ranga Dias. Let’s just say he’s good under pressure. The Sri Lankan physicist led a team at the University of Rochester in developing the world’s first room-temperature superconductor — electrical current-carrying substances used in everything from the magnets that power MRIs to particle accelerators. Of course, doing so required an environment roughly equivalent to 2.6 million times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure at sea level. Still, Dias and his colleagues believe their findings can be recreated in let’s just say “slightly” less high-pressure situations, particularly if they can change the chemistry of their shocking invention. If successful, their carbonaceous semiconductor could greatly improve energy transfer efficiency, giving everyone a jolt.

An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that 54gene is the world’s first African gene bank and incorrectly implied that Abasi Ene-Obong is a medical doctor. He holds a Ph.D. in cancer biology.

Should You Get Divorced?

Looking for love advice? Maybe I’m not your guy. But on the subject of breaking up? Yep, this child of divorce can speak to that. Today I take you through its twisting contours, from divorce as a sign of marriage equality to why it might make sense to break up for the kids. Then I’ll shed light on some of the more tragic aspects of divorce, including women held spiritually hostage by their husbands, and Americans with disabilities forced to choose between marriage and health care. Welcome to the science of divorce. We hope you’ll stay till the bottom of the email do us part.

what’s happening now?

The COVID Pause. Last April, YouGov published a poll of 1,000 divorced couples in the U.K., in which 28 percent said the pandemic would have made them less likely to divorce (only 6 percent said it would have made them more apt to split up). From March to September of last year, divorces in Florida were 28 percent lower than anticipated — but the number of marriages also plummeted. In fact, both divorce and marriage rates across the U.S. dropped in 2020, with an estimated wedding shortfall of around 339,917 and a divorce deficit of 191,053 … suggesting that this was a year in limbo for couples across the happiness spectrum. This mimics a pattern shown by American couples during the Great Depression, which was followed by a postwar marriage peak. It all means we could be in for a post-COVID summer of love — with both marriages and breakups.

The Long View. Before 2020, divorce rates in America were already dipping, with 2019 registering the lowest numbers in half a century. Globally, though, the divorce rate has more than doubled in the last four decades, as many countries liberalize their divorce laws and women gain more economic opportunity. Meanwhile, marriage rates, particularly in Western countries, have hit record lows, suggesting that with fewer people getting married, the couples who do go through with it are more likely to last.

Changing Perceptions. Even as the U.S. divorce rate dropped to new lows, the proportion of Americans who believe divorce is morally acceptable rose to a record high 77 percent in 2019. It’s difficult to find similar data about perceptions worldwide, but perhaps judging nations by their divorce rate can be a telling indicator of how divorce is perceived. In 2017, India had a divorce rate of only 1 percent, followed by Chile and Mexico at 3 percent and 9 percent, respectively, the lowest rates worldwide that year — suggesting that divorce is still very much taboo in those countries.

Break Up for the Kids. A study by four sociologists found that divorce is not uniformly disruptive, at least when it comes to children’s education in “high-risk” marriages (those likely to bust up) — which could be a sign that the impact isn’t so bad on other facets of life. I can say that it was a positive in my life because my parents had a better relationship as friends than as partners, shielding my siblings and me from what could have been another decade of domestic squabbling.

reset america: how norms are changing

Forced to Divorce. In many cases, Americans with disabilities must pick between marriage or their health care, due to Social Security Administration policies that strip coverage from those who marry a partner whose income exceeds certain thresholds. Some states have tried to raise limits to help mitigate this choice, but most haven’t, leading to huge disparities in divorce: Nearly twice the number of Americans with disabilities got divorced than married from 2009 to 2018. That’s the opposite of the broader population, where marriages tripled the number of divorces. Read more on OZY.

Teenage girl dancing at Prom

Is Marriage for White People? Digging into the demographics of divorce, there was only one group with a higher divorce rate than marriage rate: Black women. In fact, their divorce rate as of 2018 was nearly doubled that of their marriage rate. In their paper “Is Marriage for White People?” researchers from Canada, Spain and the U.K. found that differences in U.S. incarceration rates and employment dynamics accounted for 76 percent of the Black-white marriage gap. But there are complex factors at play, as Hispanic women and “other” races (including Asian, Indigenous and multiracial women) had a higher marriage-to-divorce ratio than white women, according to a 2018 study.

Unorthodox. As divorce becomes more common even in religious communities, old customs are rubbing up against new understandings of equality between the sexes. Consider the plight of the agunot, Orthodox Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant them the “get” required to divorce before the eyes of God. Many men withhold it as a bargaining chip for civil divorce proceedings. Advocates, including devout Orthodox millennials like attorney Keshet Starr, are fighting to give women more equal footing. Read more on OZY.

Instant Divorce.Talaqtalaqtalaq. ” The phrase is dreaded by women throughout the Islamic community, because the three words, when spoken, signal a husband’s demand for divorce. Traditionally, this “instant divorce,” as it is often called, could banish women to a life of destitution, given many women’s struggles to own property in their own name or to find profitable work. But the Supreme Court of India banned the triple talaq practice in 2017 except in very special circumstances, in part thanks to the efforts of a social activist cleric. And in the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan, women divorced by their migrant husbands have banded together to create an entrepreneurial support system that swelled to 75,000 members (and growing) in 2019.

Divorce Equality. Steven Petrow, writing for The Atlantic about marrying and subsequently divorcing his husband, notes that the dissolution did just as much as the union to legitimize marriage equality in America. He also laments the fact that while his friends and neighbors proudly celebrated his marriage, many would dance around the word “divorced” years later, choosing softer language like “split” or “broken up.” The term carries historical weight and legitimacy, he says, and he sought the recognition conferred by the language.

Take a Breather? In January, China implemented a law making it harder for couples to dissolve their marriage. The new policy forces those who mutually agree to end their relationship to engage in a one-month “cooling-off” period. Unhappily wed Chinese couples aren’t thrilled, and it has led to a surge of husbands and wives applying for divorces — with demand so high that scalpers in some cities, such as Guangzhou, are emerging to upsell appointments with divorce lawyers. The law, passed last year, was in response to a sharp rise in divorces as China began lifting government-mandated pandemic lockdowns.

An Affair to Remember. South Africa is the 12th-biggest market among the 50 countries where infidelity site Ashley Madison operates. And it’s often women who are driving membership — in South Africa, there are 1.8 active female accounts for every male one (compared to 1.11 women-to-men globally). When divorces are difficult to obtain or socially discouraged, cheating might be the one foot out the door that couples turn to.

what can cause it

Too Early … or Too Late. Those who marry in their teens or after 32 may well be doomed. Young love has been known to fizzle, with partners often lacking the maturity to weather rough patches: Those who marry at 25 have more than a 50 percent lower divorce rate than those who marry at 20. But on the flip side, each year after age 32 ups the odds of divorce by 5 percent, according to a University of Utah study, a correlation that’s only popped up in recent years. The reasons aren’t entirely clear: Perhaps people are just too used to being single, the marriageable pool is full of duds, or people are rushing in heedlessly once their biological clock starts sounding like Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Part-Time Husband. The odds of divorce go up to 3.3 percent in the year following a husband not having a full-time job (compared to a 2.5 percent rate for full-time working men). However, the Harvard study that monitored thousands of couples over decades found no impact from the employment status of wives. So, while money matters a great deal to a marriage, traditional notions of the male breadwinner may have an even stronger gravitational force.

Man Pouring Beer In Glass

Job Duties. Sorry, flight attendants, gaming managers and bartenders, but your chances at marital bliss are the worst of any professions. Possible factors include working nights and being surrounded by vice. If you’re looking for a better shot at sticking together through thick and thin, you might want to marry a scientist or actuary.

Affectionate, But Not Too Affectionate. Showing contempt, as in seeing your partner as beneath you, is one of marriage’s “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” according to psychologist John Gottman, a list that also includes criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling. If that doesn’t shock you, maybe it will surprise you that showing too much affection — about one-third more than the average couple — could be a sign that you’re headed for Splitsville, given that few relationships can sustain that level of Hollywood romance.

not such a dour occasion

Bride and groom celebrating with sparklers after cutting cake during outdoor wedding reception

Get Divorced in Paradise. The Maldives, that lovely archipelago of 1,200 tiny islands south of India, is all bungalows and beaches, a land that has launched a thousand ships on their way to thousands of honeymoons … and also the place with the world’s highest annual divorce rate. The country once set a Guinness World Record with 11 divorces per 1,000 people each year. For perspective, the next most divorce-happy nations on the list were Belarus and the United States, at around 4 per 1,000 a year. The explanation? Horny teenagers and restrictions on premarital sex, experts say. Read more on OZY.

Not Painful on the Wallet. Former divorce lawyer Erin Levine wants to make the painful process of divorce a bit smoother. And that includes easing your financial strain, with a platform, Hello Divorce, that allows folks to dissolve their union for just $1,500. With the average U.S. divorce costing about $18,000, that could be the difference between death do us part and debt do us part. Some worry it could spell the death of marriage, but if money is the only glue keeping a couple together, then we say an affordable divorce is probably the best option for everyone involved. Read more on OZY.

When Divorce Saves Marriage. Chile saw a huge surge in people tying the knot in recent decades. The cause? The continued aftereffects of Chile’s decision to finally legalize divorce in late 2004, when it was one of just three countries in the world that still banned the practice. Previously, frustrated couples had to go through a bureaucratic annulment process that often involved cumbersome fees. And while the Catholic Church initially predicted legalization of divorce would lead to a collapse in family values, it’s actually led to an increase in matrimonial unions — although gay couples are still unable to wed in Chile, after the Constitutional Court last year denied recognition to a same-sex couple who had been married in Spain.

read, watch, listen

 ‘Anatomy of a Divorce.’ Pat Conroy, author of Prince of TidesThe Great Santini and other acclaimed books, wrote a vivid 1978 reflection in Atlanta magazine about his divorce and those of his friends: “Each divorce is the death of a small civilization.”

‘Marriage Story.’ The Oscar-nominated 2019 Netflix film can be torturous to watch, as Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s relationship unravels, but you can’t look away. It may be painfully awkward to watch with a partner, but perhaps witnessing the sheer awfulness of divorce will help keep you together.

‘Divorce Separation Blues.’ Set to a bouncy beat, and with a pinch of yodeling (bear with us, it’s good), the Avett Brothers deliver a darkly comic take on divorce, based on Seth Avett’s personal experience: “Well some folks just want the dirt / And don’t even care if it’s true.” Words that apply to far more than divorce.

Paradise Found?

It’s an epic sort of poetry, one of longing, temptation, needs met and dreams deferred. No, we’re not talking about Milton. This is the modern race to find, and define, the paradises of tomorrow. If that seems melodramatic, perhaps you haven’t been awake this past year, when the way the world is designed became more crucial than ever. Join this trip into the near future, of giant jellyfish and oxygenating parking garages, of mass surveillance but also improved safety, of cities on stilts — or maybe even in the clouds.

visions (or delusions) of grandeur


Way of the Jellyfish. Sometimes, nature provides. Jellyfish and mangrove roots are desalinating machines, converting saltwater into the usable fresh stuff as easily as taking a breath. Water wars are already beginning, with a lack of access to potable water a looming city-killer as climate change and population growth strain the world supply — despite the fact that 71 percent of the globe is made of water. Picture the solution: a city-wide jellyfish or a mile-wide mangrove, effortlessly pumping fresh water for millions, a living freshwater factory. Crazy? Futurists in the United Arab Emirates, the desert-strewn Gulf nation, think it’s a real possibility for coastal cities. Read more on OZY.

Dreams of Dubai. The UAE is just half a century old, yet its most populous city, Dubai, is at the forefront of exploring humanity’s potential (even as it reckons with its own massive gap between haves and have-nots). Its Museum of the Future is scheduled to open this year by flipping the museum concept — focusing on incubating new ideas rather than calcifying ancient ones. One vision: 3D-printed cities, using a “city kit” that would combine biotech and robotics to construct 100 percent self-sufficient cities in weeks rather than years. Another? “AutoFarms,” urban agriculture that would grow in parking garages made obsolete by self-driving cars, automatically delivering fresh foods locally with an Amazon-like knowledge of your personal preferences.

Breaking New Ground. The concept of utopias has always been nebulous, as one person’s hell can be another’s paradise. But it is safe to say that during the pandemic, people are more actively rethinking their ideas about what a perfect community should look like. That ranges from small, individual shifts — like this YouTuber who left California to build a 50-acre tiny house village — to seismic societal ones, with Burning Man-esque soul searchers taking over Tulum, Mexico. In September, 19 Black families bought land in Georgia to build a Black-only city called Freedom amid a national racial reckoning. And a cryptocurrency CEO wants to build a new blockchain-reliant city in the Nevada desert — with his company acting as the local government.

Stormy Skies Ahead. If you’re going to start building upward, why not reach for the stars? Humanity has long held idyllic images of a sky-bound future. But we predict such ambitions will prove less Jetsons and more Altered Carbon, the Netflix sci-fi show about a not-so-distant world where the rich live forever in the clouds and the poor are grimly earthbound. The distance between the haves and have-nots is already huge monetarily. Soon there could also be a geographic gulf, with the wealthiest not just living above us but beyond us, as billionaires like Elon Musk plan private spaceship missions to the moon, Mars and other places far from the problems of mere earthlings.

“Smart” Cities. Will future historians say that the new world order began with the Alexa Echo or Google Nest in your bedroom? Smart devices make smart homes, and cities are a collection of homes. Some smart shifts are small and benign, such as Barcelona, Spain, creating traffic lights that adjust to public buses and ambulances. Others may not be so innocuous: mass surveillance enhanced by mass public Wi-Fi, road sensors for self-driving cars and ubiquitous facial-recognition cameras. The latter are already being tested in Chinese classrooms, where they scan students’ faces to measure their active engagement. And with Delta Air Lines recently showcasing a “parallel reality” board that can deliver tailored information to different travelers at the same time in the same place, the ads that follow you online after Google searches will soon follow you in real life too.

how covid-19 changes everything

Pastoralia. Driving through Vermont, an ostensibly rural U.S. state, evokes a different definition of “rural” than, say, Georgia. The latter is miles and miles of uninhabited Southern farmland, while the former is New England pastoral — a landscape that never quite escapes humanity, with white farmhouses and pastel cottages perfectly spaced in acre-wide increments to allow for long, verdant expanses. The Vermontification of the world could be inevitable as city dwellers consider moving away from downtowns after finding remote work during the pandemic. Such trends would create less clogged urban cores and more soft, rolling, suburban communities that stretch and connect cities across wider distances. In short: People flee the major cities, creating a world of more, smaller cities.

The “15-Minute City.” Paradoxically, the spreading out of cities could cause their downtown hearts to condense. As we’ve mentioned, self-driving cars may make parking lots — which take up a huge chunk of most modern cities — less necessary. Why? You don’t need a parking spot if your car is constantly dropping you off and picking you up. Some cities closed streets to car traffic during COVID, allowing people to walk and enjoy outdoor dinner, retail and entertainment. Locals soon found the world at their feet, a vision that may be preferable going forward. Creativity could win out over efficiency, with quirky downtown tiny homes, for example, replacing soulless skyscraper apartments. Saudi Arabia is going a step further with “The Line,” a new city planned within its NEOM business zone along the Red Sea that will have no cars, no streets and zero carbon emissions. Travel times within the city aren’t supposed to exceed 20 minutes, thanks to high-speed public transportation.

The Globalizers. Meet the gentrifiers bringing their affluence across borders. While those who preach multiculturalism and diversity should welcome an influx of immigrants, people resettling en masse during the pandemic are causing huge infrastructure problems for the most popular destinations. Mexico City, a historic hub for transplants with a crumbling public transit system, has been overwhelmed by “influencers.” Digital nomad visas have surged as a way to encourage COVID-19 tourism, yet Bali was forced to finally reform its system after a decade of quietly allowing nomads to run amok. Many globalizers boost the economy but flout health standards and cultural mores while exacerbating inequality, creating just as many problems as they solve.

Share My Location. The pandemic all but forced people to get comfortable with being tailed, particularly in nations that implemented contact tracing, with apps tracking their every move. But even if you trust your government, are you sure you trust Google and Apple to protect that profitable information, without trying to monetize or weaponize it? Last year, both tech companies announced a COVID-19 tracking system designed for public health researchers to follow the virus’ path. 

climate of transformation

The Heat Is On. There are a number of practical ways cities can adapt to climate change, from enhancing battery storage to building smarter and alternative-energy grids. And action is necessary, given that 40 percent of the world lives within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the coasts, which are most affected by global warming. After Hurricane Sandy, New York City committed $615 million to build more than five miles of levees to control water flow across Staten Island. Copenhagen is building dikes, while the Xiong’an New Area near Beijing is experimenting with wetland and forest development to reduce the urban heat island effect. Learn More on OZY.

World on Stilts. If it feels like the ground has shifted beneath you lately, imagine living in Bangladesh. In the last three decades, the South Asian nation has survived at least 200 natural disasters — last year alone, 1.5 million were left homeless when the nation was ravaged by floods. Globally, there are two novel ways to respond to emerging climate threats. One, return to a more nomadic lifestyle, where change is the only norm. Two, build stilts. “Unused bales of fodder or straw become steppingstones,” as one Bangladeshi told the BBC. Bamboo can create a raised refuge, as indoor bricks lift bed frames up, with children already getting accustomed to floating classrooms. Once safely dry, historic sites are being raised and renovated to address changing environments, prompting preservation concerns. The next step could be lifting us all up.

Steer Into the Waves. Colombia’s sprawling port city Barranquilla is taking the opposite tack in the face of rising sea levels: It’s actually inching closer to the coast. After a half-century of decay, its economy is finally awakening with a number of tourism projects where the Magdalena River meets the Caribbean Sea. Never mind that climate change could pour over that riverside development: The city once prone to massive flash floods has enhanced infrastructure to stave off the rising waves. Already touting 220 public parks, Barranquilla committed to quadrupling its green cover while planting a quarter-million trees in seven years — necessary shade given the sticky Colombian heat that often sits in the 80s. Read more on OZY

Rising Sun. If you want to see whether the world’s ambitious sustainability goals can be achieved, look to the East. After all, if the billions of people crammed into sprawling South Asian and Pacific Rim cities can keep growing without cooking the planet, mankind will have dodged a major bullet, as Parag Khanna writes for OZY. This is also where some of the grandest smart city plans live, from the UAE’s Masdar to India’s Amaravati and China’s Tianjin Eco-City, districts with dreams of going fully green with self-driving electric cars and zero-emission buildings. Their impact is decidedly small-time thus far, as their populations combined could fit in one neighborhood of the Chinese city of Chongqing. Read more on OZY.

the biggest challenge: politics, not tech

Slamming on the Brakes. The tech for self-driving cars is already here, and it is poised to dramatically disrupt the ways our communities are structured — but only if politicians can get their heads around it first. It’s a thorny issue even for the smartest minds: Everything in modern cities is built around cars, from parking spots to zoning laws. Less sprawling cities, such as New Orleans, Albuquerque and Tucson, were deemed to be among the U.S. cities most practically ready to adopt autonomous vehicles, while Baltimore and Fort Worth, Texas, were by far the worst. One Dutch design company plotted plans for a bikes-only city in Colorado, and a state senator from Los Angeles is trying to press the pedal early on a comprehensive strategy, but federal lawmakers remain stuck in neutral when it comes to mapping a new direction.

Brewing Dystopias. The combined budget shortfall for American cities and towns is likely to reach $360 billion by 2022. But if the pandemic continues to bring mass unemployment, that gap could surge even higher, both because of dwindling tax revenues and rising crime. As Carnegie South Asia director Milan Vaishnav tells OZY, recessions are often correlated with rising crime. Murders, for example, spiked during the Great Depression. In that case, we might see more aggressive policing against Black and brown communities already facing disproportionately punitive outcomes in the U.S. criminal justice system. That could give elected leaders fits as they try to adopt new tech and adapt to fresh ideas while also having less money to work with and more crimes to contend with.

Reimagining Spaces for Women. Smart policy can lead the way if it gets some help. Award-winning architect Lori Brown designs safe spaces that keep the politics of the moment in mind as well. That means taking extra care while designing abortion clinics, as many conservative states enact strict regulations that could shutter them if they don’t meet the same standards as surgery centers. “Our discipline has turned a blind eye to that aspect of serving the greater good,” she says. While working along the U.S. border with Mexico, Brown has built spaces for migrants in transition. She is editing an encyclopedia on women in architecture and co-founded the nonprofit ArchiteXX, which advocates for greater gender equity in the field.

Smarter Planning. While it’s a myth that no building can be built in Washington, D.C., taller than the White House because of security concerns, there is a maximum height limit in the district. Urban planners may now want to start considering weight limits too. A new study shows big buildings, especially ones in San Francisco, are causing cities to sink at the same time that water levels are rising from climate change. Is it time to break out a scale?

history’s strange visions of paradise

Ancient Athens. For a brief 24-year period, Athens hit a cultural peak that is almost unparalleled throughout history: You can thank the Greeks if you’ve ever voted, watched a movie, read a novel or “had a rational thought,” as Eric Weiner of The Atlantic argues (perhaps with a hint of melodrama — another Greek invention). Regardless, ancient Athens was a paradise of philosophical influence … and a mess in tangible reality. The roads were narrow and filthy. The houses, whether belonging to rich or poor, were shoddy. Some historians believe that their “private squalor” led to “public opulence,” in the sense that nonlinear buildings can be the perfect inspiration for some pretty creative thoughts.

‘Metropolis.’ Fritz Lang’s 1927 German expressionist movie Metropolis was tremendously influential on the next century’s worth of dystopian novels and films. It basically created a now familiar genre: a world where the uber-rich live above poor working people, with no middle class in sight. Sound familiar? Dubai, as well as a host of other Gulf nations thrust into wealth through their discovery of oil, are creating modern gleaming cities that bear more than a passing resemblance to Lang’s pre-World War II visions. As the late Syd Mead, a designer who visited Dubai and was behind the dystopian futuristic film Blade Runner, put it, the sheer size and ambition of urban projects in the Middle East were “catching up to the future” — even if we’re not yet sure that’s a positive.

Arcosanti. Call it living history. This experimental town in the high desert of Arizona was created by Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri in 1970 to realize his principle of “arcology” — a field combining architecture and ecology. Constrained by using only resources that minimize harm to the environment, close to 8,000 volunteers have helped build Arcosanti over the years. It’s never fully reached its paradise potential, in that it is more of an educational community than a long-term one. But the precepts Soleri passed on to dozens of architects and urban designers before his death in 2013 have reverberated in cities across the world.

Cynthia Bailey on Modeling, Entrepreneurship and the ‘Real Housewife’ Life

Model, actress and reality TV star Cynthia Bailey sat for a revealing interview with OZY’s CEO and co-founder on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show. The following are some of the best cuts from the full conversation, which you can find on the show’s podcast feed.

On her origins

Cynthia Bailey: I’m originally from Alabama. I grew up in a small town called Tuscumbia. Tuscumbia, Alabama, which is only famous for being the birthplace of Hellen Keller, and now Cynthia Bailey from Housewives of Atlanta.

Small-town girl. I left Alabama when I was right out of high school, and I moved to New York City to pursue my modeling career, and I thought I would maybe be in New York like a year. I didn’t even know there was a fashion industry when I moved to New York. I just was really like a country girl that got presented an opportunity and I was like, “OK, Mom, Dad, I’m going to go and see what happens, and I’ll probably be back home and start college in a year,” and never looked back. 

Carlos Watson: Did you always have that feeling and that affirmation that you were attractive?

Bailey: You know what? I felt like I was a cute girl. I felt like I had it going on, but I didn’t feel like I was a model. No one ever said, “Oh, my God, you’re so beautiful. You’re so striking. Your cheekbones.” Models are a different kind of beauty. The standards for what is a successful model, just in terms of beauty standards, is a little different from the girl next door who’s gorgeous, and beautiful, and all the guys like. I was definitely tall and skinny and had the high cheekbones. I mean, I looked like an ostrich. You know what I’m saying?

So, with that said, there’s a lot of guys at my high school that probably have a lot of regrets right now that they didn’t ask me out, because now they have to see me on TV all the time. They’re like, “Damn, I should’ve asked her out when I had the chance.” I was definitely a late bloomer. … But still, I never thought, “Oh, I’m so gorgeous. I should pursue a modeling career.” I never knew I had what it took. I didn’t even know what it took to be a model until I was approached by a modeling agent.

On her big break

Bailey: This is what happened. I was homecoming queen of my high school. I was actually the first African American homecoming queen of my high school. I went to a predominantly white high school in Alabama and I was the first Black homecoming queen. I was invited to participate in a homecoming queen pageant, which was in Atlanta. I remember driving to Atlanta and I couldn’t even afford a dress for the pageant, so I just wore the same homecoming queen dress that my mom had bought me.

I participated in the pageant. First and only pageant I’ve ever been in and I didn’t win, I didn’t place. Not even Miss Congeniality. Nothing. Like nothing, but as it turns out, I did kind of win because I was the only one that was approached by a model scout who happened to be one of the judges in the pageant. … I was still kind of salty I didn’t place in the pageant. I was like, “Wait, I don’t even know what that’s all about, the modeling thing.” I didn’t know.

We grew up kind of poor. We didn’t have magazines and stuff. I could get my hands on an occasional Ebony, or a Jet, or an Essence or whatever, but I was pretty excited that this little white lady from Wilhelmina Models in New York City — her name was Betsy. I’ll never forget her — approached me and was like, “Hey, you ever thought about moving to New York City and becoming a model?” That was like speaking Swahili to me. I live in Alabama. I just happened to be in Atlanta at the pageant. I never thought about getting on a — I had never even flown on an airplane.

So, it was crazy, but she gave me her card, and this is before cellphones. I am a woman of a certain age, so no cellphones. And I remember taking her card and telling my mom. I was like, “Hey, this white lady said that she thinks I could be a model, and she lives in New York. She was saying maybe I could move to New York,” and of course my mom was like, “Girl, you ain’t going nowhere right now. You just finished high school.”

But once that seed was planted, I just never forgot it. I was like, “Wait a minute. I’m already kind of making history. I’m the first Black homecoming queen of my high school. Maybe God really has more stuff for me to do.” So, I worked on my parents for probably another six months and convinced them to let me go to New York to try to pursue my modeling career, which that one action pretty much changed the whole course of my life.

On being a reality TV star

Bailey: A whole world opened up. I was like, “Wow, OK, so this is like a big deal being a reality star,” because at that time, Carlos, a lot of people looked down on reality stars. A lot of my friends who actually are on reality shows themselves now, at the time I was like, “Hey, they keep asking me about this show, this reality Real Housewives. What do you guys think?” And they’re like, “Oh no. You have such a great reputation. You have a such a great whatever. You don’t want to go on that show. You don’t want to go on reality TV. It’s going to destroy everything that you worked so hard for.”

So, basically everyone told me not to do it, and for some reason, little Miss Cynthia, who just always goes with her heart and gut, something said, “Do it. Let’s see what happens. And if I don’t like it, then I don’t have to do it anymore.” My whole life is like, “Oh, I’ll just go to New York, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just go back to Alabama. All right, I’ll just go on TV for a year. If I don’t like it, I could always quit.” But it always ends up being my destiny, and journey, and story. It’s so crazy. 

I am definitely different, but in a good way. I’m stronger. I’m way more fearless. I’ve been able to do things that I never thought I would do. Being on the show kind of pushed me. Now that I was in the spotlight I was like, “OK, well, now that I got everyone’s attention, I got to really make the world proud and do something.” So I started all my businesses on the show. Honestly my first business was the Bailey Agency School of Fashion. If I wasn’t on the show, I don’t know if I would’ve pushed myself so quickly to start a business, because I kept saying, “I got to make this make sense. If I’m going to be on a show like this, I want to show entrepreneurship. I want to show me being a mom. I want to show all these different things.”

The Women Reshaping the C-Suite

It’s easy to talk about those female execs who have already made it, women like Mary Barra of General Motors or Susan Wojcicki of YouTube. But what about the women who are quietly breaking smaller glass ceilings along the way and are just moments from cracking that big title at the top of the corporate ladder: CEO? This Sunday Magazine explores the surprising achievements of the woman-led corporate world across industries to look at the leaders of tomorrow — and you get to learn their names today. 

health care & medicine 

CVS Health Neela Montgomery

Neela Montgomery and Carolyn Ainslie

Neela Montgomery, EVP of CVS Health and CVS Pharmacy President. She was picked to take over America’s largest drugstore chain when she was plucked away from Crate & Barrel in August. But what Montgomery, 46, did at the housewares and furniture company was impressive, shifting more than 50 percent of sales online in just three years — while avoiding Amazon. Her hiring signals a future in which CVS Health services become increasingly digital and virtual. Arriving at to the top of American business ranks fulfills a generational journey — her grandmother was married at 12 and had 13 kids without ever receiving an education, while her mother was one of the first women to attend medical school in Kolkata, India.

Carolyn Ainslie, CFO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She might not have the name recognition of her bosses, but the former Princeton University CFO oversees the finances (including the all-important strategic investment fund) of perhaps the most important health care nonprofit in the world. The foundation has flexed its muscle throughout the pandemic, investing in major initiatives around equity for testing, treatment and vaccination, as well as showing how its previous investments actually helped create a vaccine. And while it’s unlikely she’ll end up leading the foundation — given the way the Gateses have steadfastly held onto the reins — another organization may one day scoop up the Corning, New York, native.

Cynthia Chen, President of North America Health at RB. She has bounced between Shanghai and New York City for two decades, showing an adaptability that crosses industries too — after all, how many people could be a top leader at a snack giant like General Mills one year and then help pilot British health and hygiene goods company Reckitt Benckiser (RB) the next? She handles those transitions with ease, having already driven double-digit growth at multibillion-dollar businesses while also winning awards in China for the company cultures she built

Shirley Xu, General Manager of Baxter China. Xu’s childhood dream was to work in health care, and she’s followed it through more than a quarter century at the China branch of Illinois-based Baxter. Maneuvering the always tricky Chinese health care landscape, she hopes to create affordable, innovative products — a goal in line with the Chinese government’s Healthy China 2030 plan to treat more patients more effectively. The Harvard Business School grad is a key executive bridging the gap between the U.S. and China at a time when relations are increasingly fraught.

Christelle Saghbini, Africa General Manager at Sanofi. She oversees African operations for the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, and as country lead in Egypt and Sudan. The French national arrived in Cairo when the Ministry of Health rolled out its “100 Million Seha campaign,” a nationwide hepatitis C screening campaign that put health care at the top of the government’s agenda. The company is a top employer in Egypt, with more than 1,200 workers, and brings in $200 million in revenue across the region. It has earned an award for helping Egypt achieve its sustainable development goals.

Chang Yi Wang, Founder of United Biomedical (UBI). Wang, 69, had a celebrated career in biomedical research, making history breaking down barriers for Asian women. She founded United BioPharma as a spinoff of UBI Asia and is focused on discovering new vaccines, like the uniquely engineered COVAXX for COVID-19, and bringing them to market. When her daughter, Mei Mei Hu, was interviewed by Wired about Wang’s work on an Alzheimer’s vaccine, she described her mother as “very particular and exacting — which is part of her genius.”

CVS Health Neela Montgomery

Liz Schwarze and Amy L. Farrell

environment & energy 

Liz Schwarze, VP of Global Exploration at Chevron. Schwarze believes that “every aspect of science has a home in what we do as geologists and geophysicists.” It was during graduate school at the University of Texas in 1989 that she bagged an internship with Chevron, which led to her lifelong journey in energy. Since being hired as a development geologist in the 1990s, she has worked on projects everywhere from the Gulf of Mexico and Venezuela to Angola and the San Joaquin Valley. And she isn’t about to stop. That’s because Schwarze is driven by the daunting task of “finding the next barrel,” as she likes to say.

Cindy Yeilding, Senior VP of BP America. Her mom took her rock and fossil hunting as a young child, which first got Yeilding, 60, interested in geology — and after navigating the male-dominated profession, she declares it “isn’t race or gender that defines us: it is our brains.” Recognized as one of Houston’s Top 15 Business Women by the National Diversity Council, Yeilding is working on building another pipeline — for women looking to enter the energy industry. The task will require education, strong female role models in STEM fields and continued career support, she says

Amy L. Farrell, Senior VP of the American Wind Energy Association. When House Democrats wanted to insert renewable energy tax credit provisions into a larger pandemic stimulus package last March, they sought Farrell’s advice. A former Environmental Protection Agency senior official who served in the George W. Bush administration, Farrell believes Big Wind’s sails are lifting. And she will have plenty of opportunities to catch an updraft given President Joe Biden’s willingness to entertain renewable energy and spend big on infrastructure. 

Folorunso Alakija, Executive Vice Chairman of Famfa Oil. One of the wealthiest women in Africa, Alakija, 69, is a power broker — and may be destined for even greater heights. Born in Ikorodu, Nigeria, Alakija spent her childhood shuttling between Nigeria and the U.K. But childhood was, if nothing else, chaotic. Born to one of a chief’s eight wives, she had a tough time trying to stand out among 58 siblings. Fun fact? She started her career as a secretary and made her mark by becoming one of the biggest names in the Nigerian fashion industry before diversifying her business empire into oil.

CVS Health Neela Montgomery

Marne Levine and Jennifer Li

technology & social media

Marne Levine, Vice President of Global Partnerships, Business and Corporate Development at Facebook. She earned the name “Trash Queen” while completing her Harvard thesis on solid waste management, a moniker she wears with pride. A problem solver who worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations, she then served as a public policy head at Facebook. Now in her late 40s, Levine has taken her talents to the photo-sharing app — where she is committed to lifting up women on social media and in Silicon Valley. Known for knocking down the corporate wall by showing off her family life, Levine is one influencer worth following.

Jennifer Li, CEO of Baidu Capital (and Former CFO of Baidu). When Westerners want to find something, they think of Google, but in China, it’s Baidu. Li, 53, led the Eastern web giant’s $306 million investment in online travel provider Qunar.com a decade ago, cementing Baidu’s position as China’s dominant search engine with 70 percent of the market — the year after Google left the country. A former General Motors executive, Li is the perfect CEO material: a digital expert, dealmaker, strategist and financier. She took a horizontal move in 2017, moving to CEO of Baidu Capital, the company’s investment arm. If those investments start really paying off, she could make a case to lead the whole shebang one day.

Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet. Speaking of Google, its parent company’s financial chief has guided some of the search giant’s biggest investments, like a February 2019 commitment to spend $13 billion on data centers and offices across the United States. The British-American breast cancer survivor, who’s in her 60s, is a former Morgan Stanley executive vice president and was No. 7 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list in 2020. She ably shepherded Alphabet through the tumult of COVID-19, as its stock price has soared, but crises are nothing new for Porat. She was credited with suggesting the European debt financing model that saved Amazon from collapsing during the dot-com collapse two decades ago.

Hooi Ling Tan, COO of Grab. The Malaysian entrepreneur is co-founder and chief operating officer of Grab, the ride-hailing service that became Southeast Asia’s first decacorn — a privately held $10 billion firm. In her mid-30s she has already shown her skills by expanding into new markets while executing a multibillion-dollar deal to acquire Uber’s Southeast Asia operations in March 2018. The former McKinsey analyst came up with the idea for Grab with a classmate, Anthony Tan (now Grab’s CEO), at Harvard Business School.

Maggie Wu, CFO of Alibaba Group. The longtime chief financial officer, in her early 50s, was promoted to director of Alibaba’s board in September, while retaining her previous role. With founder Jack Ma lying low after angering the Chinese powers-that-be, the company’s top leadership — including Wu — face a big challenge in making sure that Alibaba remains in the good graces of the Chinese Communist Party. Good thing this former KPMG accountant carries a reputation as a “steady Eddie.”

Dhivya Suryadevara, CFO of Stripe: Suryadevara still managed to dream big while being raised in Chennai, India, by her widowed mother, moving to the U.S. to attend Harvard Business School — where she took on substantial debt and felt constant financial pressure. (One release valve for her? Boxing.) In 2018, the University of Madras graduate, who’s now in her early 40s, became the CFO of General Motors. Now, she hopes to expand Stripe, an American financial services company dual-headquartered in San Francisco and Dublin. 

Anna Griffin, CMO of Smartsheet*. Griffin is taking the work management software company into the new decade with marketing chops that earned her two Effies, rewarding excellence in the field, and other awards for her accomplishments in digital media such as an Edward R. Murrow award. She takes pride in joining brands that are challenging the status quo, with executive experience at CA Technologies and Juniper Networks. One of her favorite sayings? You can’t make a new tool only to use it in old ways. “It would be like having Netflix playing on a rotary phone,” she told MarketingTech.

CVS Health Neela Montgomery

Thasunda Duckett and Telisa Yancy

financial services & retail

Thasunda Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking at JPMorgan Chase*. If banking has a diverse figurehead with rockstar appeal, it’s Duckett, the gregarious 47-year-old who rose from humble Texas roots to become the first Black woman named to the banking giant’s Operating Committee in September. “This is a reminder that I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams,” she told Essence after the promotion. A big believer in meeting consumers where they are, she championed Chase’s aggressive strategy of building physical branches in cities with majority Black and Latino populations across America, a brick-and-mortar approach with surprising success before COVID-19 complicated in-person transactions. Read more on OZY.

Telisa Yancy, COO of American Family Insurance*. When she was little, she’d jump on her asphalt worker dad and shout: “You smell funny!” That, he would respond, is “the smell of money.” Now Yancy rolls down her window while driving past construction sites to get a big whiff. Ingrained with that work ethic, Yancy took chances to rise to the top, even leaving senior jobs at Ford Motor Company and Burger King to later become a director at AmFam. While a demotion on paper, the career shift allowed her to spread her wings, working her way back up within just a few years. Now she is knocking on the door of helming a major company.

Gunjan Kedia, Vice Chair at U.S. Bank. The Wealth Management and Investment Services lead was an engineering student in India when she last pulled an all-nighter. When thousands of pandemic relief loan applications came in last spring, that’s exactly what she had to do to make sure 3,000 bank employees could process the requests and get cash to support the suffering businesses. By the end of the second round, U.S. Bank had assisted nearly 100,000 applicants. Kedia, one of three female leaders on the company’s management committee as of September, is also helping promote financial awareness among women and underrepresented groups.

Gisel Ruiz, Former EVP and COO of Walmart U.S. It’s hard to fixate on one award, given Ruiz has won almost all of them recognizing women (and, particularly, Latina women) in business. Beginning in the Walmart management training program in 1992, she rose to COO to head more than 3,900 locations and $260 billion in U.S. sales. After successfully keeping the trains running at the world’s largest retailer, it’s only a matter of time until she takes the top job somewhere. She left Walmart in 2017 and is now a key board member of Cracker Barrel, an appointment she received after some high-stakes drama. She won that battle and, at just 50 years old, Ruiz has untapped star potential. 

CVS Health Neela Montgomery

Beth Diaz and Elaine Paul

media & education 

Sharon Feder, Former COO of Mashable. One of Mashable’s early executive success stories, Feder has since served as chief digital officer at Rachael Ray and the chief content officer at job search startup TheMuse. Now an adviser to the online clothing manufacturer Lab141 Inc. and other organizations, Feder is public about her desire to lead a brand or nonprofit that is dedicated to doing good in the world, building on her years of philanthropy work and creative content management. She also co-founded and sold a hyperlocal social network for dog owners called MySocialDog. 

Ania Lichota, Former Executive Director of UBS Philanthropy. In 1996, this Polish woman packed one bag and hopped on a bus to study at the London School of Economics. She has since visited more than 60 countries and climbed the highest peaks on every continent, including Mount Everest, and wrote a book about it. Along the way she served in key positions with major companies like General Electric. Her most recent C-Suite role was as the executive director of UBS Philanthropy Services, heading up “mission impossible assignments” for the Swiss investment bank’s charity arm. That was seven years ago, and while she has transitioned into executive leadership coaching, the prospect of doing good in a post-2020 world could convince her to come off the sidelines. 

Beth Diaz, VP of Audience Development and Analytics at The Washington Post. Diaz stands out just for the eye-popping growth she has helped the Post see since taking over in 2014 — a digital transition that saw the fabled newspaper attract 114 million unique visitors online in November, up from 46 million in November 2014 and at points surpassing the reach of the New York Times. With women taking the helms of major newsrooms nationwide and aggressive online outreach becoming the norm, audience experts like Diaz are bound to play an even bigger role going forward. 

Elaine Paul, CFO and VP of Finance at Amazon Studios: After six years as the CFO at Hulu, Paul jumped to Amazon, where she joined YouTube veteran Jon Wax and former NBC executive Vernon Sanders. Paul holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University and a master’s degree in finance and strategy from Harvard Business School. A fan of stand up paddle surfing in her free time, she was also a VP for the Walt Disney Internet Group, giving her about as wide a breadth of knowledge in online streaming as humanly possible. 

Lynda Mann, SVP of Commerce at Digital Trends. It took just two years for Mann to rise from a director role to an executive one at Digital Trends, and the reasons are obvious. She grew the company’s revenue by 74 percent during her first year and by 162 percent the next. That earned her the Top Women in Media’s 2020 Catalyst Award. Given her previous work at Wirecutter, a New York Times-owned news company, it’s clear Mann is pioneering the business end of making traditional media profitable in the 21st century. 

*Disclosure: OZY is proud to have advertising relationships with American Family Insurance, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Smartsheet. 

A Consumer Banking Rock Star Makes a Bold Bet

This was Hollywood red-carpet treatment, only with 1,600 screaming bankers. “Bills” by LunchMoney Lewis played in the background under strobe lights, as Richard “the Ragin’ Cajun banker” Hunt introduced the keynote speaker, WWE-style: Thasunda Duckett, “one of the most powerful women in banking.” If there is such a thing as a rock star in the not-as-sexy-as-investing world of consumer banking, it is Duckett, the 47-year-old CEO of Chase Consumer Banking.

Since that moment at CBA Live 2019, back when the swanky banker association could still meet in person pre-pandemic, her star has only shone brighter. Fortune named Duckett one of the Most Powerful Women in the corporate world in 2020, a nod to her key role overseeing America’s second-largest physical bank network, with more than 5,000 branches and 50,000 employees. Short of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, the company might have no more recognizable face making the TV rounds than hers. And it’s a refreshing one, given that in September, she became the first African American named to the financial firm’s operating committee, its highest leadership branch short of the board of directors and the C-suite itself. “She just has a passion, an intellect and intellectual curiosity that caught my attention,” JPMorgan COO Gordon Smith told American Banker

I am absolutely my ancestors’ wildest dreams.

Thasunda Duckett

Not to say all of those accolades impress Duckett much. “My purpose in life was not to be a CEO. My purpose in life is to inspire others,” she said at CBA Live, while acknowledging: “I am absolutely my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

She also has dreams of her own. Talking backstage two years ago, Duckett compared Chase’s potential with iconic cultural brands like Sephora, Apple, Amazon and Netflix. “They aren’t compartmentalizing,” she told OZY, and she believes a bank can also ingrain itself in customers’ daily lives. “We’re big believers in meeting customers where they are. Everything starts with the consumer, staying closely connected to what their expectations are and recognizing their inspiration for coming in.”

That belief led Duckett to be aggressive in banking’s most counterintuitive big bet — investing in brick-and-mortar even as most industries shift aggressively to online retail. “We see our digital assets complemented by our physical footprint,” she said, painting a picture of corner banks that become rejuvenating community spaces for local business, social gatherings and financial literacy classes. Duckett has traveled across America the last few years while leading the effort to invest in 17,000 ATMs and 400 branches in new markets. That includes obviously lucrative places, yes, but also rougher locales like Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood and inner-city Detroit, where initiatives like the bank’s Advancing Black Pathways program for small businesses can make even more of a difference. 

“We’re everywhere; we’re in low- to moderate-income communities,” Duckett said. The idea is that the simple things, like transferring money or depositing checks, can be done digitally. But the big things, like managing a plan for retirement or securing a private loan to start a business? Those “moments of truth,” as she calls them, require something else. “A place you can go and have a real meaningful conversation.”

That trend toward physical locations took a big blow from COVID-19. Thousands of Chase branches reduced hours in mid-March, with 1,000 closing immediately — some of which have shuttered for good since, as the bank reportedly conducted layoffs. Duckett gave frontline employees five additional paid days off and kept their pay the same even if their hours were reduced. Despite those obstacles, Chase’s success may keep it invested in Duckett’s vision once pandemic restrictions recede. The biggest U.S. bank by assets saw a stunning 42 percent jump in profits in the final quarter of 2020. 

That financial health, even after a pandemic, has resulted in Chase continuing its expansion into underserved markets. The Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis are expected to open six new branches in four months by the end of February, while Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, are slated for additions too. Physical locations may still prove lucrative: Mobile-user growth leveled off in the final quarter, suggesting Chase may have reached a saturation point with customers willing to bank on an app. 

The safest bet going forward might just be on Duckett. Her vision was born from her experiences as the daughter of a Xerox warehouse worker whose house was burned down twice by the Ku Klux Klan in Louisiana. She was born in Rochester, New York, and lived on the East Coast until her father’s office closed and the family moved to Texas. “I know what it’s like to have a car, look outside, and you don’t have a car,” she said. “To open your refrigerator and all you can see is baking soda, and wonder how you are going to eat today.” 

It was a “disrupter” program called Inroads that helped her get her first job working for Fannie Mae. Without it, Duckett says she never would have known any of this was attainable, a thought she often reflects on while on the 50th floor at the company’s Park Avenue headquarters. There, she can see the entire history of the bank, going back to David Rockefeller. “I don’t think this is the face he imagined running his bank,” she says often, “but you see, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.” Duckett says this perhaps not realizing that, to the next generation of businesswomen of color, she already is a giant herself.