Why a Rookie Running Back Is the Patriots’ Most Important Player

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Just as New England Patriots captain Matthew Slater predicted, the overtime coin flip came up heads. Patriots’ ball. We’d seen this story before. 

With a Super Bowl berth on the line, it took 13 plays and 4:52 for New England to find the end zone. A 10-yard Tom Brady pass to Chris Hogan here, a 20-yard dart to Julian Edelman there. Vintage Rob Gronkowski even appeared. From there, Rex Burkhead — New England’s goal-line bruiser — barreled into the end zone for a 2-yard game-winner. “America’s worst nightmare is back!” Patriots broadcaster Scott Zolak hollered from the booth. You can say that again.

But on Brady’s final dissection of the Kansas City defense, one player who did the heavy lifting all day was notably absent: starting running back Sony Michel. Brady, as he’s wont to do, will need to shine in crunch time this Sunday. But to win a sixth Super Bowl ring in the Brady-Bill Belichick era, New England needs to keep feeding Michel.

Since 2001, the Patriots are 11-0 in the postseason when a player rushes for at least 100 yards.

In the regular season over that same span, New England’s record with a 100-yard rusher jumps to an even more impressive 51-1. Yes, you read that correctly: Since Brady took over as New England’s starting quarterback in Week 3 of the 2001 season, the Patriots have lost just once when someone rushes for at least 100 yards. This season, that’s music to Belichick’s ears. Much like he did in 2001 — when Brady was an inexperienced game manager not yet ready to carry the total burden of an offense — the head coach has built this Patriots team into one that relies heavily on ball control via the run game. The difference these days is that Brady is Brady, the expert surgeon who makes all of the right choices and will exploit a defense when given the chance. And so far this postseason, many of those chances have come thanks to the rushing attack.  


This season has been a productive, if inconsistent, one from Michel. New England drafted the rookie out of the University of Georgia with the 31st pick of the first round, drawing the ire of fans who wanted quarterback Lamar Jackson. Conventional wisdom these days is that running backs almost never live up to a first-round draft value. “It’s not that first-round running backs aren’t good players,” says Good Morning Football’s Peter Schraeger. “It’s that quality running backs can be found in the later rounds. It’s a waste of a first-round pick that could be used elsewhere.”

But Michel’s performance is a reminder not to question Belichick. After a slow start due to injury, Michel rushed for 112 yards against Miami in Week 4, the first of six games over 100 yards this season. Over the year, including a hot postseason, the rookie has tallied 1,173 yards and 11 touchdowns on 262 carries — on par with Super Bowl champion Patriots backs Corey Dillon and LeGarrette Blount. And in the playoffs, Michel has been at his best: 129 yards and three touchdowns in the divisional round against the Chargers, 113 yards and two scores at Kansas City. Belichick will always put the ball in Brady’s hand when a game-winning drive is needed, but to get there New England will ride Michel to triple digits rushing.

The one thing standing in the way of Michel and a Super Bowl ring, of course, is the Los Angeles Rams defense, where the Rams’ biggest threat is the pass rush. Defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, two of the fiercest linemen in football, will look to terrorize Brady on dropbacks. Yet in games of this magnitude Belichick is a master at exploiting the opponents’ weakness. Where that is, exactly, remains to be seen, but the run game is as good a guess as any. Los Angeles ranked 19th in total defense with 358.6 yards allowed per game this regular season, and a paltry 23rd (of 32 teams) in rush defense with 122 opponents’ yards per game. Those numbers have vastly improved amid this two-game postseason run — the Rams held the Cowboys and Saints to an average of 49 rushing yards, and yards per carry dropped from 5.1 to 2.3 — but Belichick may look to force a regression to the mean. 

Through 39 playoff games together, the Brady-Belichick tandem has proved the most profitable in sports. Nine Super Bowl trips and a 29-10 playoff record are a testament to that. But as great a quarterback as Brady is, he’s still human. Without the help of a 100-yard rushing attack, his playoff record is just 18-10.

Is that an indictment of Brady or of Belichick’s coaching tendencies? Probably a mix of both. If the Patriots make easy work of the Rams, let’s just hope Brady buys his running back something nice.

It’s No Trick: Women Are Crashing the Male-Dominated World of Magic

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You can tell a lot about a person by what they drink, declares Lucy Darling, the elegant, razor-sharp alter ego of 31-year-old Canadian magician Carisa Hendrix. She’s entertaining a giddy audience at the Magic Castle, the Academy of Magical Arts’ (AMA) private clubhouse in Los Angeles, with her Maker Martini routine. Tony and Jennifer — two spectators — select the strawberry martini and the gimlet as the cocktails they want. Darling goes behind her magical bar to shake up an empty shaker, then pours three different drinks in one go. She hands the strawberry martini to Tony and the gimlet to Jennifer, and they return to their seats, amazed.

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Carisa Hendrix, aka Lucy Darling.

Source Richard Michael Johnson

A Guinness World Record holder for the longest duration of fire torch teething – a stunt where you hold a fire torch upright with your teeth – and winner of best comedy magic show at the 2017 Melbourne Magic Festival, Hendrix is among a growing number of female illusionists changing the world of magic. For decades, women have largely been relegated to the role of perky assistants who are sawed in half. Now, more and more women are joining the profession as magicians themselves. Top magic schools are recording a dramatic surge in female students. And audiences are embracing them like never before.

The International Magicians Society (IMS), the world’s largest body of illusionists, has seen a 35 percent increase in global female membership over the past three years, including in new markets like China and Japan, and a 42 percent increase in female enrollment in its 22 schools over the past two years. Over the same period, the Los Angeles–based AMA — one of America’s pre-eminent magic bodies — has witnessed the percentage of women in its classes increase from 15 percent to 50 percent. California-based Chavez School of Magic, one of the country’s oldest and most respected magic colleges, has seen a similar rise. Today, women form half his class, says Dale Salwak, director of the school. 

Women are coming into their own power after many years of stepping aside to let men take care of things.

Erika Larsen, president, Academy of Magical Arts 

American magician Jen Kramer has been headlining her own show in Las Vegas, the first woman to do so since the 1990s. Dutch illusionist Sabine van Diemen is touring with “Now You See Me Live” (but she’s the sole woman in the four-prestidigitator show). Late last November, the Chicago Magic Lounge hosted a three-day event, “Spotlight: Women in Magic,” which included five performances by female magicians, an unprecedented move by a brand-new establishment looking to make a name for itself as a bastion of the lost art of bar magic. And Shezam!, a feminist podcast about the issues faced by women in magic, hosted by Hendrix and fellow illusionist Kayla Drescher, has had more than 10,000 downloads.


“Women are coming into their own power after many years of stepping aside to let men take care of things,” says Erika Larsen, president of the AMA.

The shift, illusionists say, is in keeping with the discourse on diversity that is shaking up multiple sectors of the world of arts and entertainment. The popularity of live magical entertainment has also led to a growing demand for illusionists in general, allowing women more opportunities. Globally successful tours, including “Now You See Me Live,” “The Illusionists” and “Impossible,” are examples of how people are ditching screens for a more intimate entertainment experience. “Until recently,” says John McLaughlin, former deputy director of the CIA and, yes, an amateur magician, “the most frequent question a U.S. magician got was ‘Do you do birthday parties?’” Now, magic is increasingly being seen as a “legitimate art form,” he says, which is likely drawing more women to the profession. And the world is taking notice. “Through TV and social media, magic is increasingly in the public consciousness,” says Kramer. “I see more and more women becoming magicians today.” 

Certainly, some women have had success in the magic world in the past. Late-1800s America was enthralled by Adelaide Herrmann, aka the Queen of Magic, who graduated from assistant to magician when her husband died. During the same period, Minerva the Queen of Mystery — possibly the world’s first female escape artist — was enticing Europe, with Harry Houdini as her peer. But for the most part, the world of magic has been closed to women. Traditionally, the association with sorcery-performing witches didn’t help. Women traveling alone — as magicians often need to — were frowned upon for generations. All of that means that audiences — predominantly male — “hardly ever expect women to be magicians when they first see them,” says British illusionist Megan Swann, the first female secretary of the Magic Circle, one of London’s best-known magic societies. 

Professional female magicians still form only a fraction of the industry, says Larsen. About 260 — or less than 10 percent — of the 2,700 magician members of the AMA are women, and there are only about 35 women who perform onstage at the Magic Castle.

Change is taking far too long, says Alba, a veteran Argentine magician who is the first woman from South America to regularly appear on the Magic Castle’s three main stages. “The magic community is still a boys’ club where women are tolerated but not completely welcome and nurtured,” she says. “Tokenism is not our friend, we just need equal opportunities for the same talent.”

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Illusionist Jeanette Andrews performing a trick with an audience member.

Source Michael Sullivan

But the illusionist has hope. “The good news is that the girls are coming in bigger numbers, they are strong, relentless and super talented,” she says.

That academies like the AMA are seeing female magicians comprise half their classes points to a bright future for women in the profession — if the industry is patient, says Hendrix. “Clearly the next generation of women is very interested, it’s just going to take us about 10 years to see the change,” she says. “We just need to make sure that the environment of magic is safe and welcoming enough so that we don’t lose them along the way.”

The women entering the profession are also bringing a range of skills and approaches. “There is just as much diversity in style among female magicians and this needs to be taken into account,” says Jeanette Andrews, a Chicago-based illusionist whose brand is performance, theater and science rooted in 1800s parlor magic. 

And at places like the Chicago Magic Lounge, female magicians are finding institutional support from venues in ways they didn’t before. “We are pushing hard to redefine a typical magic show, not only the way we’re performing but also who is performing it,” says Joseph Cranford, the venue’s co-owner and CEO. “The fact is that female magicians are rare and increasing the visibility of women in magic must be thoughtful, intentional and explicit.”

The Chicago Magic Lounge has had women performing in every room of its venue since it opened in February 2018. And a walk through the venue earlier this year had Hendrix in tears, not least because of how far she has come — she worked as a juggler, circus entertainer and magician’s assistant, among other jobs, before making it as an illusionist. “Here, you feel the future and how important it is to make good work now,” says Hendrix. “We’re somewhere in the middle of the history of magic, and the lounge reminds us of everything that’s to come.”

How to Stuff Yourself at Bolivian Food Stalls Without Getting Sick


There’s a booming food scene in La Paz with new, upscale restaurants opening all the time. But the soul of Bolivian food remains on the street. Spend any time in the city, and you’ll see locals queuing at market stalls, food carts and stands at all hours. With their long lines and mouthwatering aromas — not to mention the dirt-cheap prices — there’s little room to wonder why Bolivia is the only country in Latin America where McDonald’s flopped, packed up and left.  

Street food is a constant temptation for foreign tourists, but many cut a wide berth for fear of getting sick. There is a way to get a taste of authentic Bolivia without your trip turning into a series of trips to the bathroom. The organization Suma Phayata Street Food features five — and soon to be more — street food vendors who offer up a clean and safe crawl of La Paz food stalls.

It was actually Claus Meyer, the world-famous Danish chef and entrepreneur, who came up with the idea for Suma Phayata (“well cooked” in Aymara). He started making frequent trips to La Paz when he opened his acclaimed restaurant, Gustu, there a few years ago. However, in his quest to “try everything in sight … he was always getting sick,” explains Sumaya Prado, head of public relations for Gustu. 


Crecencia “Cristina” Zurita warns visitors to look for the plaque.

Source Catherine Elton

Meyer had already established a nonprofit organization called Melting Pot that runs a program training underprivileged Bolivians to work in the restaurant industry. At his suggestion, it launched the Suma Phayata initiative in 2012 in an attempt to create safe eating options for tourists and to ensure that even in the face of increasingly sophisticated food offerings, Bolivia’s traditional street food not only survives but thrives.

The project vets vendors for their cultural relevance and food quality, plus trains them in hygiene, safe handling techniques and customer service (not all foreigners get the whole gruff-market-lady thing). “Usually tourists are afraid to eat on the street,” says Sofia Condori, a member of Suma Phayata who sells tucumanas, or fried empanadas. “At my stand, there is nothing to be afraid of.”


The project, which provides vendors with plaques to identify them, has also resulted in tons of exposure. “I have been on television,” says Crecencia “Cristina” Zurita, who’s been making traditional chola sandwiches, made with pork leg, for 57 years, adding that she is so sought after that other nearby vendors “try to pass themselves off as me, but I’m the one with the plaque.” 


Sofia Condori, a member of Suma Phayata, sells tucumanas, or fried empanadas.

Source Catherine Elton

The project has identified 50 more potential vendors to train but is struggling to raise the needed funds. 

Tourists can get a map of where to find the vendors, which are spread out across the city, at Gustu and many area hotels and restaurants. 

A note to those who think offal is awful: The heart is a muscle, so it has the consistency (and taste) of a firm steak.

Start the day with Condori’s tucumanas in the Zona Sur neighborhood. For about $1.50 a piece, you can choose from fillings of mixed shellfish, shrimp and cheese, chicken, beef or ham and cheese, and a variety of sauces including hot and avocado. At many stands, tucumanas are premade — it’s anybody’s guess how — and warmed under heat lamps. Condori makes them to order. The result: a perfect balance of crust and chewiness, with a piping hot, juicy filling.  

Not far off is the well-known spot in La Florida neighborhood where more than a dozen stalls sell chola sandwiches — but only Zurita has the seal of approval. When the sun sets in La Paz and the temperature drops, head over to Calle Tumusla, where Miriam Iturralde makes ranga, a spicy beef tripe soup she’s been hawking for some 40 years. For a late-night snack on the way home from the bar, hit up Julia Rita Cori in Las Velas. Cori sells succulent anticuchos, or beef heart skewers, until sunrise. (A note to those who think offal is awful: The heart is a muscle, so it has the consistency, and taste, of a firm steak.) And Elvira Goitia is constantly selling choripan (sausage sandwiches) — handmade with lamb, beef and llama meat and a top-secret spice blend — at Mercado Lanza in the heart of downtown La Paz. 


Elvira Goitia sells choripan at Mercado Lanza in downtown La Paz.

Source Catherine Elton

Just as satisfying as eating the delicious food from any of these stands? Seeing the relationship that locals have with these vendors and the food itself. As Yuri Botello and his adult son settle up their bill with Doña Elvira, they thank her effusively while patting their full bellies. Botello tells me he and his son have been coming here together for 25 years, adding, “If you come to La Paz and haven’t eaten at Doña Elvira’s, you don’t know this city.”

Special Briefing: Whose Huawei Is It, Anyway?

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This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.


What happened? The U.S. Justice Department unsealed criminal indictments yesterday against Huawei and its CFO, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested last month in Canada. The company, which has denied wrongdoing, has been formally accused of stealing trade secrets and helping banks evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, among other charges. While Meng awaits likely extradition to the United States, Beijing has demanded that Washington end its “unreasonable crackdown” on the country’s prized tech giant as it seeks 5G dominance.

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Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announces new criminal charges against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

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Why does it matter? The world’s second-largest producer of telecommunications equipment is no stranger to controversy. But Monday’s charges represent the most significant legal action yet against a company broadly believed to be subverting the U.S. and other Western countries, allegedly at the behest of China’s government. What happens with Huawei has major implications not only for the thorny trade spat between Beijing and Washington — but potentially for China’s global ambitions too. 


Long-held suspicions. Huawei has been under international scrutiny since 2012, when Reuters first reported that it tried to do business with U.S.-sanctioned Iran through a local subsidiary. Since then, several countries have reviewed Huawei equipment  — and in some cases banned it from their next-generation networks — amid fears the Chinese government was using it to spy. The privately owned company has also been suspected of pilfering U.S. trade secrets in the race toward technological prowess, prompting lawsuits from major firms like Cisco and Motorola. True or not, Huawei has become a global, ever-expanding leader in network and smartphone technology.

Who is Meng Wanzhou? The 46-year-old daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, Meng is the company’s chief financial officer as well as the deputy chairwoman of its board of directors. Although she rose through Huawei’s ranks, any hopes Meng might’ve had for the top spot were dashed when her father announced in 2013 that none of his family members would succeed him. U.S. prosecutors allege Meng, also known as Sabrina, skirted U.S. sanctions on Iran by deceiving foreign banks about Huawei’s links to Hong Kong subsidiary Skycom. Citing her myriad health problems — she’s reportedly a thyroid cancer survivor — Meng’s lawyers successfully argued for her release on bail.

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An attendee shows the Mate 20 smartphone manufactured by Huawei Technologies Co. during a launch event on October 16, 2018

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It’s a zero-sum game. Huawei executives have long blamed their rivals in the cutthroat smartphone market for stoking international criticism against their company. Last year, Richard Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, said, “They worry we are too strong.” AT&T and Verizon have dropped smartphone distribution deals with the company, and U.S. lawmakers are piling pressure on Huawei. A bipartisan group has introduced bills that would ban the sale of American-made components to the company — or any other sanction-violating Chinese firm — and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has championed legislation to prohibit Huawei from conducting business in the United States.

Want to trade? The Justice Department’s charges have come at an inopportune moment, to say the least. High-level talks aimed at ending the U.S.-China trade war are set to continue Wednesday in Washington, where President Donald Trump will meet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Although U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has sought to emphasize that the charges against Huawei are totally separate from trade disputes, analysts from both countries aren’t buying that argument. Whether or not they’ll discuss the case, the clock is ticking: The two countries have until March 1 to end their spat — or else U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports will increase from 10 to 25 percent.


The Fate of Huawei Foreshadows the Fate of China, by Michael Schuman in The Atlantic

“The more assertive Beijing has become in pressing its diplomatic and economic goals — from its state-led ambitions to conquer world manufacturing to the sizable expansion of its military capabilities — the more threatening a rising China has appeared.”

5G Networks, the Trump Administration and Beijing’s Delicious Fear, by Tom Rogan in The Washington Examiner 

“We should unequivocally endorse Trump administration and congressional action to restrain China’s 5G activity. The simple point is that when it comes to international order, China is a master at saying the right thing and doing the opposite.”


China’s Huawei Indicted: Breaking Down the Charges

“Huawei entities directed employees to take photographs, to take measurements and to take other protected information without permission.”

Watch on The Wall Street Journal on YouTube:

Exclusive Interview [With] Huawei Founder Ren Zhengfei: Technological Competition Is [a] Peaceful Game

“This is a competition — and you do well, or you don’t.”

Watch on CGTN on YouTube:


Call it a comeback. Huawei’s 74-year-old founder was once prohibited from joining China’s Communist Party because his father was labeled a “capitalist roader” — essentially a fake socialist who clung to capitalist ways — during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. But Ren was eventually admitted after inventing a tool to test equipment at a French-supplied synthetic fiber factory, where he says he “learned from the world’s most advanced technology.”

The Mueller Thread: From Red Scorpion to Red Sparrow

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Based on OZY’s hit podcast The Thread, which delves into surprising connections in history, The Mueller Thread weaves together the strands linking the sprawling investigations around President Donald Trump.

No film quite captures the kitschy violence and Cold War paranoia of its time quite like Red Scorpion. The 1988 anti-communist action flick stars the sweaty and invariably topless Dolph Lundgren — the Swedish actor who’s made a small fortune playing scowling Soviet man-killers like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV — as a rogue Russian Rambo who turns on his mother country when it cuts him loose following the botched assassination of an African rebel leader. “They think they control him,” the film’s posters and trailers declared. “Think again.”  

Red Scorpion was the cocksure brainchild of Jack Abramoff, the American lobbyist who would later become the black-fedora-wearing poster boy for D.C. corruption. An executive producer on the film — and Abramoff’s good friend — was a longtime Republican consultant named Paul Erickson. Thirty years later, Erickson finds himself starring in another made-for-Hollywood Russian political thriller alongside his girlfriend, Maria Butina, a red-haired femme fatale who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. And now, with federal prosecutors closing in, it’s time to see whether Erickson can, like Lundgren, elude his would-be captors long enough to ride off into a red sunset.

Erickson would be the first American in the Trump-Russia investigation to be charged under a statute that Justice Department lawyers describe as “espionage-lite.”

When Abramoff was the burly, baby-faced chair of the College Republicans in the early 1980s, Erickson, a lanky, Ivy League–educated South Dakotan, was the body’s treasurer. The College Republicans quickly garnered a reputation as rabid anti-communist renegades. “When we were bored late at night, and we didn’t feel like the senior Republican Party was doing quite enough to battle communism,” Erickson once told Mother Jones, “we would buy … some concrete blocks … drape a Soviet flag over the top of them, soak the flag in kerosene, light it — and then, with sledgehammers, break down the Berlin Wall.”


Red Scorpion, reportedly financed in part by the apartheid government of South Africa, was the natural outgrowth of such political theater. But Abramoff and Erickson didn’t stop with fictional tales of African strongmen. In 1995, Erickson teamed up with Abramoff again to lobby the State Department to grant besieged Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko asylum in the U.S. One of the men Erickson enlisted to help with the Mobutu project was David Keene, a Washington lobbyist and future president of the National Rifle Association. Nearly 20 years later, Erickson and Keene teamed up again, and it was thanks to Keene that Erickson met the woman and the cause that seem to have altered his Red Scorpion view of the Russian state.

According to an FBI affidavit, it was with Keene at a Right to Bear Arms conference in Moscow in 2013 that an individual identified as “U.S. Person 1” (almost certainly Erickson) first made contact with a young Russian woman named Maria Butina. Not unlike the Russian protagonist played by Jennifer Lawrence in the recent spy thriller Red Sparrow, Butina had metamorphosed from a mousy student with short, spiky brown hair into a glamorous, long-haired redhead and the face of gun rights in Russia, not to mention catnip for American men like U.S. Person 1.

The balding American lobbyist and Butina, now 30, embarked on a romantic relationship and a remarkable political influence campaign back in the U.S. It wasn’t long before the man who once burned Soviet flags in public was co-hosting Russian-themed parties dressed as Rasputin, in which guests drank vodka from bottles emblazoned with a hammer and sickle. In Republican social circuits, Butina was referred to as “that Russian girl.” What she really was, as she recently admitted, was a Kremlin secret agent who tried to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups as Donald Trump rose to power.

Prosecutors contend that Erickson, whom one friend described to The Daily Beast as a “secret master of the political universe,” helped Butina make inroads into conservative leadership circles, an effort that furthered a Russian ploy to illegally funnel cash to the NRA to support the election of Donald Trump. Erickson, who sent an email to Trump campaign aide Rick Dearborn in May 2016 with the subject line “Kremlin Connection,” was also reportedly involved in an attempt to establish a secret back channel between Russian President Vladimir Putin and key Republicans, including candidate Trump.

Erickson remains an unindicted “target” for prosecutors, and his attorney claims he “has done nothing to harm our country and never would.” But there’s no question about his relationship with Butina, whom he regularly visited in her Virginia jail cell, and his involvement in many of her activities. If indicted, Erickson would be the first American in the Trump–Russia investigation to be charged under Section 951 of the U.S. Code, a statute that Justice Department lawyers describe as “espionage-lite” and that is generally reserved for those who act as an intelligence-gathering agents of a foreign government.

Could the same man who once produced a borderline anti-Soviet propaganda film in the 1980s get nailed as a secret Russian agent? When it comes to the ever-expanding saga that is the Trump-Russia investigation, sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, even really bad fiction like Red Scorpion.

Read more from the Mueller Thread: On ‘“poppycock” and Trump’s coming war over executive privilege.

Who’s Winning From Emmanuel Macron’s Tax Reforms? The Wealthy

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France’s richest 1 percent remain by far the biggest winners from President Emmanuel Macron’s tax policies, even after the emergency measures passed in December to appease anti-government protesters.

The figures will reinforce the perception that Macron has favored the rich, and is likely to fuel calls for him to restore or replace the wealth tax — something he scrapped shortly after taking office, though it brought in about $5.7 billion from 351,000 rich households in 2016. Taxation is on the agenda of an ongoing “national debate” intended to reduce tensions, but Macron has made it clear that reinstating the wealth tax is off-limits, which has been a bone of contention with protesters.

Top-earning French households will see their disposable income rise 2.3 percent as a result of changes taking effect in 2019, compared to a rise of 1.7 percent for middle-income taxpayers.

That’s according to a new analysis published by the Institut des Politiques Publiques (IPP), a think tank. The gains are largely because of changes in tax on capital income. Reforms since the start of 2018 have had a bigger effect than the new changes for the very wealthiest. Disposable income rose 7.9 percent for around 150,000 households and by an average of 17.5 percent for the top 30,000 because of last year’s reforms.

A package of tax cuts and handouts rushed through at the end of last year in an effort to defuse the protests has gone some way toward redressing the balance, targeting a few of the groups who have filled the ranks of the gilets jaunes movement. The IPP said tax and benefit changes taking effect over 2018 and 2019 would benefit a large part of the population, with most employees gaining at the expense of wealthier retirees.


However, some of the gains will only filter through this year, and most households will benefit to a much lesser degree. The IPP said changes taking effect in 2019 would boost disposable income by around 0.5 percent for those with lower-than-average incomes, between the ninth and 24th earnings percentile.

The poorest 10 percent of households are likely to lose out because many of them will not benefit from tax cuts for employees, and rely on welfare payments that are not rising in line with inflation.

The IPP said the emergency measures instituted in response to the yellow vests would benefit households across the income distribution, boosting disposable income by 0.8 percent on average compared with the original budget plans.

The freeze on fuel taxes, combined with more generous fuel subsidies, will benefit poorer households most, as will front-loaded increases in payments to low-wage workers. Middle-income retirees win a reprieve from a tax increase previously penciled in, while scrapping tax on overtime will largely benefit higher earners.

The Unlikely Connection Between Trump and Ayatollah Khomeini

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He had been holding rallies for months, with those unable to attend still following them via endless television and radio coverage. It was impossible to unplug and escape his message, and his words often polarized the public. To his detractors, he was an upstart with no respect for the well-established traditions of rule — an outsider unfit to lead. But, they thought, surely his prominence would come to an end once his lack of experience and incompetence was revealed for all to see? To his followers, he was a messianic figure, sent to deliver the country from the rule of a wildly out-of-touch urban cosmopolitan elite and to purge the nation of corrosive outside influences. He was their man, speaking their language, and he talked straight. He would drain the swamp.

We’re not talking about Donald Trump, or any other populist leader of recent years. This is Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the man who thrust himself into the role of supreme leader in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, which marks its 40th anniversary this month. Although on the surface their worlds and sentiments could not appear further apart — after all, Trump is the most vocally anti-Iranian president in American history, and Ayatollah Khomeini branded the United States “the Great Satan” — the two rulers share an essential feature: their ability to appear authentic and to mobilize right-wing populism and resentment of the ruling class, an ability that catapulted both leaders into power.

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Ayatollah Khomeini waves to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters on his return to Tehran. (Photo by michel Setboun/Corbis via Getty Images)

Source Getty Images

“In populist movements in general, you need to have economic grievances and an overriding theme,” says Marvin Weinbaum, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a primary witness of Iran under the shah. “For Khomeini that theme was to bring back true Islam. In the United States, that theme would be to restore America’s greatness.” 

It was the Ayatollah who emerged as the shah’s most significant opponent, and therefore a focus point for dissatisfied people, even those who didn’t agree with his ideas.

The Iranian Revolution encompassed a huge array of dissident groups with myriad visions for the country, from Communists who wanted radical land redistribution to Islamists and disaffected Kurds and Azeris clamoring for minority rights after decades of forced Persianization from the state. But they all agreed on one point: The shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had to go. According to Ahmad Majidyar, senior fellow and director of the Iran Observed Project at the Middle East Institute, it was the Ayatollah who emerged as the shah’s most significant opponent, and therefore a focus point for dissatisfied people, even those who didn’t agree with his ideas, who would later be violently sidelined.


Khomeini connected to ordinary people in a way that more intellectual and experienced politicians had been unable to. As Ryszard Kapuscinski illustrates in Shah of Shahs, his account of the revolution: “We were criticizing the monarch, saying things were bad, demanding changes, reform, democratization and justice. It never entered anyone’s head to come out the way Khomeini did — to reject all that scribbling, all those petitions, resolutions, proposals. To stand before the people, and cry, ‘The shah must go!’ It was the simplest thing, and everyone could remember it.”  

The urban elite who had backed the shah throughout his decades of rule didn’t understand his critics. To them, the shah had overseen a newly modern, self-governed Iran that had control of its own seemingly unlimited oil potential. According to Weinbaum, the educated elite of Iran in the 1970s dismissed the lower classes as hopeless religious peasants. In Tehran, the shah, his wealthy supporters and his thousands of foreign advisers lived in the upper districts of the city, where — due to a lack of municipal plumbing — all of their waste would make its way down, via deep ditches on the sides of the streets, to the areas occupied by the lower classes.

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Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini greets the crowd at Tehran University after his return to Iran from exile in France during the Iranian Revolution. (Photo by Alain Dejean/Sygma via Getty Images)

Source Getty Images

As was the case with Trump, the Shiite cleric’s rise came in part by his seizing upon an anti-foreign movement: the sentiment of Gharbzadegi, a Persian pejorative that roughly translates to “Westoxification.” The Ayatollah and his believers declared that the shah had sold the country out to the West, obsessing over emulating it in every way possible at the expense of Iran’s own needs. According to Weinbaum, the Ayatollah’s supporters demanded that Iran follow “neither East nor West,” but an authentically Iranian path.

They had a point. Many of Iran’s most iconic 20th-century cultural institutions and structures were produced by Western architects and academics. The National Museum of Iran, which plays up Iran’s near-mythical ancient Persian heritage with scant mention of centuries of Islamic history, was designed by French architects. The tombs of Hafiz and Saadi in Shiraz were designed by French “Orientalist” architect André Godard, director of Iran’s Archaeological Service under the shah. Western-style music, Western dress and Western manners were imposed on Iran, often through violent means.

By mobilizing an entire class of people who had been socially and economically left behind, both the Ayatollah and Trump were to attain positions of power that their critics had never imagined. To be sure, the Ayatollah’s rise and Trump’s are significantly different, most notably because the former led to the complete rewriting of his country’s constitution — from a monarchy to a republic, albeit a deeply flawed one. While Trump has rewritten American discourse, he has yet to completely reshape the U.S. in a similar fashion. And yet, populism is populism. While one can hardly argue that Trump or European populists are inspired by Khomeini, their ability to mobilize people based on anti-elite, anti-establishment sentiments is eerily similar to the Ayatollah’s four-decade-old playbook.

Top Chef: It’s Racist to Think Mexican Cuisine Is Just Fast Food

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In the early afternoon light, Mi Tocaya Antojería is tranquil — a far cry from the bustling hotspot it will become when dinner service begins at 5 pm. Diana Dávila, wearing a sweatshirt with her dark hair pulled tightly into a side braid, brews herself a cup of coffee during a break in her pre-service prep. But the kitchen waits for no one — not even its head chef — and Dávila’s attention is as hot a commodity as her mole.

A mezcal vendor is at the back door. A station chef asks for the list of that day’s prep tasks. Dávila is in demand by the restaurant world at large too. Mi Tocaya, which opened in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in 2017, has put the 36-year-old on the map; Food & Wine named her one of its best new chefs for 2018, while Bon Appétit did the same with her restaurant.

Dávila is one of the country’s few female head chefs (the post skews 78.4 percent male, according to Data USA) and she’s normalizing Mexican cuisine’s inclusion among prestige “cheffy” restaurants despite a pervasive American sentiment that ethnic food should be cheap and fast. Only five of 171 Michelin-starred restaurants in the U.S. are Mexican.

If you think Mexican food should be a value, this isn’t for you.

Diana Dávila

Though she’s a second-generation restaurateur — Dávila grew up working in her immigrant parents’ taqueria and upscale Mexican restaurant in the South Side of Chicago, spending her summers in Mexico — she hid her ambition from her folks at first, expecting they’d want her to be a lawyer or accountant. Dávila needn’t have worried. “My mom’s very artsy, and my dad’s very free-spirited. They always fostered the arts with us,” she says. Dávila’s sister works in film and her brother is a musician. After Dávila revealed her dream, her mom booked her a trip to Oaxaca to learn the craft. 

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The interior of Mi Tocaya Antojería.

Source  Jude Goergen

She returned to climb the culinary ladder in Chicago, eager to join restaurants where she enjoyed eating in the first place. As a teenager, Dávila collected menus from her favorite Chicago restaurants and asked the chefs to sign them, like her peers might have done with their favorite Bulls players.

She relocated to Washington, D.C. with her husband, Joe, in 2008. It was there Dávila earned her first head chef job, thanks to well-known restaurateur Jackie Greenbaum. “When I was looking for my chef, I thought I was looking for somebody who had already made a name, but I interviewed those people and I wasn’t impressed,” says Greenbaum. “There were very few female head chefs at that time too. So I gave Diana a shot, and I was impressed with her right away.” Dávila cooked short ribs and greens — a modern take on soul food — for Greenbaum at her home. “You could feel how ambitious she was; she had such a creative mind, and she was very nervous, which I thought was cute,” Greenbaum says.


Indeed, Dávila’s personality shines in her cooking and in her interviews, where she isn’t afraid to say exactly what she’s thinking. Unfortunately, the ingredients comprising her career have included pinches of sexism and racism.

When Dávila was pregnant with her first of two children, a close friend assumed she wouldn’t go back to work. He asked her, “Who’s going to raise your child then?” “Me, you asshole,” she replied. Upon moving to D.C. as a sous chef, Dávila hadn’t experienced sexism in the kitchen. That quickly changed, as she recalls comments from other cooks like “I’m not going to listen to you because you’re a woman and no bitch is going to tell me what to do.” 

In January, Greenbaum came to Chicago to eat at Dávila’s buzzy antojería (a small-plate-focused restaurant serving antojitos, or “little cravings”). “The place represents Diana so well,” says Greenbaum. “She’s such a little spitfire of a person. The place has that lively, colorful, energetic vibe to it, and that’s very much Diana.”

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Dishes from Mi Tocaya Antojería.

The word Dávila uses repeatedly to describe Mi Tocaya is nostalgia. “It revolves around your family, your culture, your upbringing, and it’s a perfect way to showcase the Mexican food I wanted to make,” she says. The fast-food Mexican restaurants catering to Americans are typically a means to an end; they allow people to own their own businesses. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but many times people think this is what Mexican food is,” she says. “‘I see Mexicans cooking it, so it must be Mexican food.’ It’s very ignorant and really racist.”

That manifests in some Mi Tocaya patrons bemoaning what they perceive as a pricey menu. Meals run around $60 for two, without alcohol — though it would be easy to order double that amount. “Our prices are really, really low,” Dávila says. “I sell a taco for $4 that’s smoked Amish beer can chicken with red onions and cabbage and lime mayonesa that we make here, and salsa borracha con xoconostle and a tortilla and epazote. All of those things for four fucking dollars!

“If you don’t see the value, then you don’t see the value,” she says with a shrug. “I’m not doing any of this to cater to somebody. I’m doing this to share. And if you think Mexican food should be a value, this isn’t for you.”

As dinnertime creeps closer, Mi Tocaya comes alive. Dishes clatter in the kitchen, and the front-of-house staff arrives for work. Dávila’s sous chef, Juan Meza, ties an apron around his hips as he chats with her about the evening service. His favorite thing about working with her is her creativity. “I have no idea where it comes from,” Meza says. They agree the chef’s “spirit animal is an octopus, because of her many arms and the way that she handles herself, just being all over the place.”

Still, Dávila dismisses the notion of reaching her arms beyond Mi Tocaya toward a culinary empire. She’s living the dream now. At the end of their pre-service meeting, Dávila and her colorful staff will recite their nightly rallying chant: “Mi Tocaya en tres: Uno, dos, tres, Mi Tocaya!” Then they’ll work together on creating the dishes that have materialized from Dávila’s vision and experiences: nostalgic yet forward-looking, traditional yet modern.

OZY’s 5 Questions for Diana Dávila

  • What’s the last book you read? I’m doing some new menu writing, so I’m carrying around, like, six books and flipping through them. 
  • What do you worry about? My kids. I want to make sure they know that the world is open and how to deal with things and to be happy. 
  • Who’s your hero? The only person I’ve ever had a healthy obsession with is Madonna. 
  • What’s your spirit animal? An octopus. 
  • What’s your favorite taco? Anytime, anywhere, if an al pastor taco is on the menu, I order it. I’m always in search of the perfect al pastor.

Read more: This Nigerian chef is a culinary Wizard of Oz.

Dryuary’s Nearly Over: Find Great Wines for Falling Off the Wagon

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Each year, many take on Dry January — or “Dryuary” — and give up alcohol for the entire month. In 2018, about 4 million people participated in the challenge, launched in 2012 by Alcohol Change U.K. So for many, February marks the new year’s return to their wine-loving ways. But getting back on the imbibing wagon after a month of self-proclaimed abstinence might prove daunting — where to start? 

There are several wine apps that can make the transition a little smoother. “[Wine] apps are one of the most exciting developments for consumers,” says David Allen, a master of wine and the wine director at Wine-Searcher. “So much of the information that makes wine buying so complicated can be at a consumer’s fingertips.”

Here are five of the best — and free — boozy apps to get your new drinking year started.   


Powered by the Experts. The leading wine retail database since 1999, Wine-Searcher’s mobile version features the same benefits as the desktop platform along with a GPS-based store locator and a personal wine journal. Wine pricing and tasting notes on more than 500,000 different wines are sourced and continuously updated by a team of experts formally educated by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. With a straightforward interface, this data-driven app serves up cutting-edge information to guide you to your wine.  



Vivino is a crowd-sourcing review app with lots of nerdy stats for wine lovers.

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For the Social Drinker. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (don’t blame you — 2018 was terrifying), you’ve probably witnessed someone checking wine stats on Vivino. This is how it works: Snap a photo of a wine label and you’ve got access to its rating and reviews submitted by other tasters. You can also check out the wine retail price so you know how much the restaurant is marking up your bottle. With more than 34 million users, Vivino is the world’s largest social community for wine, and you can even purchase your favorite wines through the app. Beware: With crowd-sourced reviews, your intel is at the mercy of various levels of wine experience. But there are critic and editor reviews to help supplement descriptions with additional wine expertise. 



The BYOB Intel. Ever show up at a restaurant with a bottle you’re excited to open only to be slapped with a corkage fee that nearly tops what you paid for it? CorkageFee finds BYOB-friendly restaurants based on your location and displays their corkage fees. There’s also a GPS locator for wineries and wine retailers near you for bottle-buying options before you go to the restaurant. Use the app to research establishments — the directory varies in the style and quality of restaurants, many of which are also reviewed — so you can find the most suitable place to take your beloved vintage. 


The Personal Shopper. Too cold outside or not enough time to drive to the store to pick up that last-minute wine for dinner? “Drizly solves a problem,” says Scott Braun, the app’s chief marketing officer: The app delivers the booze you choose to your door within an hour. Partnered with retailers across the country, the app offers the ability to compare pricing, store ratings and delivery ETA. That said, the selection and pricing of booze will depend on retailers in your area, so your favorite whiskey might not be available. 

Wine Picker

The Pocket Somm. Planning a night out on the town? Wine Picker will display a directory of nearby restaurants that match what you want to eat with the perfect vino, based on the establishment’s wine list. Select a restaurant and enter your budget along with up to four dish preferences, and the app will suggest the five best wines from the menu, based on wine ratings. If the restaurant isn’t on the app, you can input what type of dish or wine you’re interested in and Wine Picker will give you a pairing recommendation (in general terms, not specific producers). A note to U.S. users: This is primarily a U.K.-based app, but it has a presence in major U.S. cities and is growing.

While the world of wine is now at your fingertips, it’s important to remember that not everything can be automated. By solely relying on technology to decide what to drink, you might be missing out, explains Jeremy Shanker, head sommelier of Michelin-starred Michael Mina in San Francisco. “You could find something even better by simply having a conversation with the sommelier,” he says. “That’s the beauty of wine — there’s always something you can learn.”

She Is a Gold Digger: Women Strike It Big in East Africa

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Teresa Samwel grew up with the superstition that women in gold mines bring bad luck. It was a man’s world. Now, she steps into her own small gold mine in a rural community near Lake Victoria, wrapped in a colorful kanga — a popular dress in the Great Lakes region — while the men standing by a makeshift mine shaft turn to greet her in low, humble voices.

Samwel, 48, is among the first women in Tanzania to call themselves gold mine owners, titles held here by men since colonial times. But she’s also among a growing set of women across East Africa shattering the glass ceiling in a male-dominated industry that feeds an estimated 100 million people globally.

Traditionally, women have often been barred from taking part in the actual digging or leadership positions in East Africa’s artisanal gold mines. Instead, they’re left with roles such as stone crushers, washers, food vendors or sex workers that are lower in status and pay less, according to a 2018 report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. But more and more women like Samwel are now receiving support from a series of regional and international initiatives that are empowering them with greater influence and transforming the economic fortunes of their families and communities.

I saw that gold pays, and now the mine helps me a lot.

Teresa Samwel, Tanzanian gold mine owner 

Since 2016, the Dutch nonprofit Solidaridad has trained 610 women miners in Tanzania’s northwestern Geita region. They have learned leadership skills, how to manage their finances and how to obtain a mining licenseTwenty women now hold leadership positions in their mines. Fairtrade Africa — headquartered in Nairobi — has helped hundreds of female gold miners increase their income. Since 2012, 411 women in Kenya, 292 women in Uganda and 487 women in Tanzania have benefited from Fairtrade Africa. The organization ensures equal pay in its partner mines, introduces no-discrimination policies and helps female miners legalize their businesses.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Canadian organization IMPACT established loan associations for artisanal gold miners with female leaders back in 2017. Research by IMPACT showed that women were often prevented from accessing credit and denied leadership opportunities despite being members of informal savings groups. Now, more than 800 female miners and 650 men have established 50 loan associations, 80 percent of which have a female president. 

These gains promise to help female miners find a path out of poverty, allowing them to build homes and educate their children. “I got a mining license in my name because I saw that gold pays, and now the mine helps me a lot,” says Samwel, who trained with Solidaridad.


Tanzania alone sits on an estimated 2,222 metric tons of gold and boasts the third-highest reserves of the metal in Africa. But while the failure of these reserves to translate into wealth for ordinary people has led to populist moves – Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has demanded foreign mining firms pay higher taxes if they want to continue exporting — the problem may lie, in part, elsewhere. While women account for about 40 to 50 percent of Africa’s 8 million artisanal miners, their average income is significantly lower than that of their male counterparts, according to the African Center for Economic Transformation.

That has a spillover effect on communities. An established body of economic research, including by organizations like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has shown that economic empowerment of women translates into greater benefits for their families and communities than similar levels of earnings for men. That’s a phenomenon that groups working with gold miners in East Africa are witnessing also.

“We are seeing that if women benefit from gold, they share with their families and communities,” says Winifrida Kanwa, project coordinator at Solidaridad. “Men are more likely to use their benefits on themselves.”

For sure, East Africa’s female gold miners still face major challenges, starting with deeply ingrained cultural norms that hold them back from pursuing influential roles in the mining industry, argues Theonestina Mwasha, coordinator at Fairtrade Africa’s gold program.

“We are not brought up to have confidence in ourselves,” she says. “So, if a man tells you to stop mining, most women will just accept it. Few have the courage to overcome this cultural attitude.”

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The owner of a mining plot at the Village Headman Katondo open mine looks at his female employees panning for gold in October 2018, near Lumwira village, in central Malawi’s Lilongwe district where a gold rush is taking place.


Traditionally, men and women have worked separately in many of the region’s societies, performing very different roles. Getting them to work together isn’t easy either, suggests Elard Mawala, a Tanzania-based researcher from the Belgian research institute International Peace Information Service (IPIS). “The gold business can definitely help women,” says Mawala, but adds that at the moment, 80-90 percent of female gold miners in the region perform low-paying jobs.

But the region’s female gold miners aren’t sitting back and just waiting for those changes. They’re taking charge where they can — even when they don’t have support from regional or international groups. For years, 49-year-old Maria Kapula lived off the land with her husband in Lwamgasa in Tanzania’s Geita. When her husband died, she had to singlehandedly support her family with gold from the nearby mine because she didn’t have training for a better job. Her village has now turned into a town with shiny houses, bars and a gas station because of the gold mine. She buys stones from the mine, crushes them on the neatly swept ground in front of her house, washes the powder and sells the gold to a local broker.

She has been able to build a house, support her children’s education and has helped with her son’s marriage — all thanks to the gold. “I have decided to do it myself, so I get all the profit. I can’t get the same amount from farming,” she says, while surrounded by her daughter and grandchildren in a cramped living room as Jesus watches over them from a poster on the wall.

Male perceptions are slowly changing too. A short walk from Kapula’s home, Justabike Mchungaji sits on the front porch of his new, spacious house. He owns a mining license for an area on the outskirts of town. Mchungaji, 50, says he’s fine with women entering the mining business. “I don’t see any problem with it,” he says. “They can help the community if they get more money.” Mawala also believes that with “basic business skills, formalization and financing,” more women could take charge of gold mines.

Samwel has seen what that can mean. Not only is she able to send her own children and grandchildren to school, but she also supports the local primary school by providing needed supplies. “As a mine owner, I can help the community,” she says. “It has made me respected here.”