OZY Takes You Ahead of the Curve on Politics

We come to the end of 2019 with the two biggest American political stories still unresolved. The first was the unfolding presidential campaign, with its massive and unsettled Democratic field. The second: The impeachment of President Donald Trump — from the Mueller Report waiting game to the Democrats’ will-they-or-won’t-they-impeach drama to the rapid turns surrounding l’affaire Ukraine. It culminated in the almost exactly party-line House impeachment votes Dec. 18.

As OZY’s U.S. politics editor, it’s been my job to keep our readers not just informed on all the machinations, but to get you ahead of the game — to make sure our coverage is giving you what you can’t get from the usual national media suspects. And that means clear-eyed, multipartisan coverage that breaks you out of your bubble.

Elizabeth Warren Delivers Campaign Speech in NYC's Washington Square Park

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a rally in Washington Square Park in New York City.

Source Drew Angerer/Getty

We’re devoting today’s edition of OZY to some of the best examples of that mission over the past year, the moments when we kept you ahead of the curve.

When it comes to impeachment, we were the first national outlet to profile Rep. Doug Collins, who’s since become a fixture on national television as Trump’s most prominent defender. So much so that the president pressured Georgia’s governor to appoint Collins to the Senate ahead of the forthcoming trial. (Gov. Brian Kemp, whom we profiled way back in 2016, picked an Atlanta businesswoman instead.) We also told you first about Democrats’ hired impeachment gun, attorney Barry Berke, and we’re already looking ahead to the Senate trial, which will be a legacy-defining moment for Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Trump.

On the presidential race, we told you about Tara McGowan, the Democrats’ most dangerous digital strategist, more than two months before Bloomberg Businessweek profiled her. We tipped you off about the surging interest among Chinese American Trump fans, who are burning up WeChat. And our exclusive analysis of voter turnout over the past four elections identified America’s “Apathy Belt” — you might have seen The Washington Post, Slate and Politico pick up the news. As our exclusive series on voter turnout continues to roll through the election year, we’ll continue to ask an all-important question: Who cares?

What we care about most is giving you fresh and original political coverage each day. Thanks for joining us on the journey.

OZY Asks You to Fall in Love Weekly

We all fall — and, let’s be fair, we all crash sometimes. But those love stories are more diverse, weird and fascinating than even we realize: Everyone feels love, sure, but there are as many manifestations of that love as there are spiders.

As the co-editor of OZY’s Love Curiously, I’ve had the privilege to spend months thinking about the best ways to tell humanity’s love story. And today, you can see some of those amazing stories here on our homepage, giving you a chance to catch up with pieces you may have missed and fall in love alongside them.

We began our series with OZY’s first investigation, a groundbreaking and award-winning piece that uncovered the bureaucratic nightmare that keeps people with disabilities from staying in happy marriages. But not all our news was dark: We also covered the rise of romance tours around the globe, the Asian heartbreak industry and the struggles of dating apps aimed at helping you choose a partner based on personality rather than attractive photos.

Beyond those trends, we brought you a panoply of true love stories from around the world and across the centuries. There was the woman whose husband was kidnapped by pirates, and she had to save him, and then there was the man whose obsession with a woman who never loved him spawned a gruesome shrine and a Florida tourist industry. And don’t forget the philosopher who spent his life contemplating love but never quite got the hang of the real thing.

There are also tales of public sex, terrible secrets and one mom whose sons’ time in prison inspired her to become Texas’ queen of prison weddings. But, and we guarantee this, absolutely no spiders.

OZY Looks Back on a Year of Food

Food, glorious food. Sure, you might be nursing a carb hangover from all your holiday eating, but we’ll bet you’re still hungry for more. Not more food necessarily, but for more news about what we put into our bodies and what it brings to our minds and souls. (And OK, maybe you’re still craving a bit more delicious stuff to eat).

As 2019 winds down, we’re looking back at the best of food on OZY. These stories remind us where our food comes from and where it’s headed in the future, reflect on eats with a meaty message and offer up some tasty options for 2020.

Today we’re devoting OZY’s Daily Dose to mouthwatering stories from the past year. The virtual buffet is open. Feast with your eyes (and you won’t gain a pound).

First off, the humble pineapple is having a significant impact on immigration to Europe from Guinea. Thousands of migrants once fled the West African nation, but cultivating the tasty tropical fruit is helping end that. Switching to grains, quinoa has been having a moment — not just on your plate but also in the fields of more than 100 countries. And it’s not just because the superfood is increasing in popularity; there’s a climate connection too.

Onto another buzzy health craze: weed. Dietitian and nutritionist (and cannabis evangelist) Laura Lagano is working to get cannabis into our diet to help with medical conditions. And a couple in North Carolina are turning leftover groceries — essentially wasted food — into menu items and cocktails targeted at the wealthy. Bon appétit!

The economy is often closely tied to food, but sometimes its creation is rooted in upheaval or scandal. This year we brought you the When Food Gets Political series, which explores everything from “two-faced” cookies that mock a politician to the reason why Iran is turning to carb-rich potatoes to stave off protests and hunger.

Speaking of carbs, did you know that fettuccine Alfredo was created to help combat a common pregnancy ailment, or that Volkswagen’s best-selling product is made from pork (hint: It’s sausage-shaped)? Those are just a couple of the tasty tidbits we dished up that you can share at your next dinner party.

If you’re planning on traveling in 2020, you’ll want to know where to get the best nosh. This year we explored the best (and most stomach-safe) of Bolivian food stalls, toured the hidden hub of Turkish cuisine in London, checked out a cheese-lover’s festival in Panama, watched an ancient Iranian bread baking method and learned how to find a scrumptious — and supercheap — feast in Prague.

We also sampled melt-in-your-mouth koeksisters (sweet braided doughnuts) from South Africa, the best fried fish in Punjab and two mayo-drenched delights: a cold Argentine holiday feast and a Mexican hot dog wrapped in bacon. An added bonus: a superboozy Black Forest Cherry Cake.

Full yet?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this culinary tour through some of the most delectable stories we’ve served up this year. There’s so much more to come in 2020.

Skinny Californians Are Starving the Pac-12 of Football Talent

By the time college football’s conference championship weekend concluded on Dec. 7, blowout wins by Louisiana State University and Clemson, a decisive Ohio State victory and an overtime thriller from Oklahoma made sure that the four usual suspects headed to the semifinals, which kick off today. Absent from the lineup? Any representative from the once-mighty Pac-12. 

It’s the third straight year that the Pac-12 is absent from the College Football Playoff. The Western U.S. collegiate conference that claims 10 consensus national championships hasn’t made a title appearance since Oregon in 2015. And its chances are thinning. The rise of the spread offense has enabled teams with inferior talent — say, Washington State — to bypass the interior line battle, getting the ball in skilled players’ hands more quickly. Massive offensive linemen are no longer the foremost way to build a winner in college. Giant, athletic defensive linemen who relentlessly rush the quarterback, however? They’ve never been more important, and the Pac-12 — and health-conscious California in particular — has a shortage of them. 

It’s no secret these days that if you want to recruit the big boys, you have to go down South.

Trevor Matich, ESPN college football analyst

According to Banner Society, California has produced an average of just two four- and five-star interior defensive linemen (weighing more than 275 pounds) over the last decade. That’s down from an average of three such players in the aughts and a far cry from the days when USC defensive linemen regularly wreaked havoc in the 1980s and 1990s. California is averaging 0.75 such players from the 2017-2020 classes, down dramatically from 2.75 between 2011 and 2014 (and 3.25 between 2012 and 2015). California football players are shrinking in size. 

“It’s no secret these days that if you want to recruit the big boys, you have to go down South,” says ESPN college football analyst and former NFL lineman Trevor Matich. “You either have to go recruit those players from SEC country or change the way you play,” he adds, referring to the Southeastern conference.

Not all regions are equal when it comes to college football recruiting. Florida, Georgia and Texas produce more great football players than the Northeast. For college football success, the two most important positions are quarterback and defensive linemen. Land five-star prospects, likely destined for the NFL, at those positions and you’ll build a winner. California has historically bred great quarterbacks, but over the last decade a state that was once fertile ground for elite defensive linemen has dried up.

“I think you see extremely high-level athletes all across the field on the West Coast, but there’s no doubt that we’re missing a certain type of world-class defensive linemen,” says Pac-12 analyst Yogi Roth. 

Youth coaches across the country have embraced passing offenses. The rise of the spread offense has meant that “the biggest kids get moved to offensive line,” as former California high school coach Manny Douglas puts it. “Smaller, quicker athletes are playing all across the defense,” says Douglas. “You see more high school teams playing five and six defensive back sets than ever before.”

But there are also very real non-football aspects at play. California has grown into one of the most obscenely expensive places to live, with the third highest housing costs in America and the nation’s highest income tax. For many low-income households — which many great football players regularly hail from — living in California is less feasible than ever. California is bleeding residents to other states.

The athletes who do still live in California are getting slimmer. In line with the national average until 2004, California’s obesity rate is now 5 percent lower. Only Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey and Massachusetts are lighter. Not surprisingly, elite defensive linemen don’t come from those states either. 

Obesity rating — defined by the percentage of people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher based on reported height and weight — is hardly a perfect science, but for football purposes, it’s quite concise. Elite defensive linemen might object to being categorized as obese, but their BMIs would land them on that side of the scale.

“Throughout the West Coast and the Northeast, there’s a clear through line of lower obesity,” says Kelly Morrow-Baez, a fitness and wellness psychologist. “That comes from increased awareness about things like BMI, and healthier decisions are made possible in areas with higher disposable income.” These factors have led to a reality in which programs at USC, Stanford and UCLA are (currently) irrelevant.

But not all is lost for the Pac-12. After taking over in 2004, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has built the state into one of the nation’s best producers of offensive and defensive line talent outside the South. How? By embracing Mormon athletes. Alongside Brigham Young University, the Salt Lake City-based university has become a destination for Mormon athletes throughout the U.S. and the Polynesian islands. Players like Star Lotulelei (Buffalo Bills), Paul Soliai and Sione Po’uah all came to Utah before jumping to the NFL. Oregon, meanwhile, became an elite program via innovative offensive schemes.

That’s still not proving to be enough, though. It might need the reintroduction of red meat and dairy into the elementary school hot lunch program in California to bring the Pac-12 back to its past glory. Skinny players just aren’t working.

This Weekend: OZY’s Best of the Decade

WHAT TO WATCH

Queen and Slim — Last But Not Least. Yes, this Bonnie and Clyde-esque movie only barely sneaked under the wire in the 2010s, but first-time film director Melina Matsoukas (who already won a Grammy for Beyoncé’s “Formation” video) just established herself as one of the big talents to watch in the next decade. (Recommended by Demetra Jones, A Queen Herself)

The Knick — Gothic Fun. This series may have escaped you when it was released a few years ago, but it’s well worth bingeing now. Clive Owen plays the coke-fueled head of surgery at a pioneering hospital in turn-of-the-20th-century New York in a show that’s equal parts guilty pleasure and just plain pleasure. (Recommended by Lindsay Rodger, Armchair Surgeon)

Bojack Horseman — A Horse Is Not a Horse. This show about a cartoon horse who once starred in a sitcom and now hates himself (just go with it) is at first disorienting and then stunning. To watch it is to instantly make friends with everyone else who watches it and feels as seen by it as you do. (Recommended by Shaan Merchant, Not a Horse) 

WHAT TO READ

Antifragile — How to Protect Yourself. This pop philosophy text argues that both on a personal level and a macro level we should strive to withstand shocks rather than avoid them, as the latter makes us vulnerable to the inevitable chaos of the universe. Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb doesn’t always keep things neat, and sometimes you’ll roll your eyes at his pronouncements or ham-fisted examples. But it’s a book whose ideas could find their way into your everyday vocabulary and overarching philosophy. (Recommended by Nick van Osdol, Still Fragile)

The Hare With Amber Eyes — Art and Family. If this were a novel, following a collection of 264 tiny Japanese sculptures through five generations, it would be sweeping and memorable. But it’s a memoir, a true story related by British potter Edmund de Waal, which makes it even more extraordinary. (Recommended by Julie Kirner, Loves True Stories)

WHERE TO TRAVEL

Daikanyama T-Site Bookstore — Tokyo’s Best Shelf. What, you don’t travel specifically to go to the bookstore? To each their own … but even so, you’ll want to make an exception for Japan’s most beautiful temple to the written word. An enormous architectural masterpiece, this shop is famous for its meticulously curated displays and cases of strange objects (most of which you can buy!). The store can be a daylong excursion in itself, with places to eat, grab coffee, listen to music or even buy pens and stationery to write your own novel while you lounge. If you’ve never been there, make it your 2020 resolution to go. (Recommended by Leslie dela Vega, Shelf Confident)

AND WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T…

Get cheesed off. A woman in Bad Heilbrunn, a small village in the German Alps, has been told by a judge that no matter how much she hates living above a cheese shop and its attendant smells, she has to stop posting stickers complaining about it. The shop owner argues that the smell is actually coming from a nearby farm and that he should be allowed to mature cheese on his own premises — but is looking for new digs all the same. (Yahoo)

SLIDE INTO OUR DMS

Do you have a killer potato salad recipe that you’d like to share? Think you discovered the next great jam band? Share your suggestions with us here at OZY! Email us: Weekender@ozy.com.

OZY Takes You Ahead of the Curve in Business and Economics

There are plenty of experts whose job is to analyze how companies are performing and how the economy is faring. That’s all well and good, but at OZY, our mandate is to look ahead, see what’s coming and then report back to our readers. Today, we’ve compiled a list of 10 pieces where OZY was the first to report on what’s new and next in business, finance and economic policy.

Should countries profit each time you buy an iPhone? This economist says yes. Stephanie Kelton, a military brat who grew up to be Bernie Sanders’ chief economist, has similarly unconventional views — on monetary theory and the populist conservatives she hopes to win over.

In our Economies of the Future series, we introduced you to the author of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, a book that’s been translated into 15 languages and won a cult following among executives, government officials and urban designers. We also sat down with Duke University economist William Darity Jr., a 21st-century Keynesian who believes the time is coming when the federal government will guarantee a job for anyone who wants one.

With the Brexit brouhaha in full boil, cities from Madrid and Milan to Frankfurt and Paris are bidding to replace London as Europe’s financial hub. But according to OZY, there’s no clear winner yet. Meanwhile, in sub-Saharan Africa, residents are embracing solar energy solutions on an unparalleled scale, helping them power their homes even without being connected to the grid. Also in Tanzania, female cutters, or ngaribas, are dropping the practice of female genital mutilation and joining entrepreneurship training programs and initiatives to prepare them for alternative careers.

We looked into the future of the private space industry and found something surprising — or rather somewhere surprising. Turns out communist China is the fourth-largest market for private aerospace investment (behind the United States, the United Kingdom and France), and rocket by rocket, payload by payload, is laying the foundation for domination. As part of our On the Move series, OZY wanted to know what the future of maritime trade holds. The answer? Unmanned, autonomous ships are emerging as the next phase of commercial maritime trade. We were also the first to report on American tech firms setting up research centers in Mexico and targeting an affordable talent pool they’re increasingly unable to find at home.

Every day, we work hard to bring you up to speed and vault you ahead in the world of business and economics. As the calendar prepares to turn to 2020, rest assured we don’t plan to rest on our laurels. Business moves fast — but OZY moves faster.

OZY Takes You Ahead of the Curve in Entertainment and Lifestyle

In our quest to bring you the new and the next, OZY scours the globe to find people doing what they do best — and the past couple of years were brimming with new artists, creatives and entertainers. Here’s a hit list of our favorites — enjoy!

To kick things off, we have a profile of a 28-year-old filmmaker who’s created a Friends-type series for modern Orthodox Jews and we peer into the pages of the new memoir by Françoise Hardy, one of France’s most beloved singers.

Looking for a different kind of read? We were the first to introduce you to Tomi Adeyemi, a 20-something Nigerian American writer, when she published her debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone. It became an instant No. 1 New York Times best-seller and is being made into a movie, and Adeyemi’s second book in the series hit bookshelves earlier this month.

If you’re more ESPN than A&E, OZY’s got you covered. We wrote about Evander Kane, a Black Canadian and the hockey hellion leading the San Jose Sharks, as well as Mohamed “Mo” Bamba, a 7-foot college hoops big man who’s playing for the Orlando Magic. Red Gerard stands a mere 5-foot-5, but he’s an Olympic giant, having grabbed a slopestyle gold medal at the last Winter Games. When we first met A’ja Wilson, she was a college basketball phenom — today she’s turned pro (just as OZY predicted) playing for the Las Vegas Aces (and claiming WNBA rookie of the year status).

With the new year comes a time for resolutions: What’s on your list? Maybe it’s to try Peloton, the workout with the cultlike following. OZY caught up with Robin Arzon, the self-professed “savage queen” who ditched corporate law and became the company’s VP of fitness programming, helping lead a “wellness revolution.” Or, for something more exotic, travel with OZY to Senegal, where we explored a form of martial arts that’s part wrestling, part boxing and more popular than soccer.

From Senegal to Savannah, Georgia, we were the first to introduce you to Tyler and Daniel Merritt, brothers and co-founders of Nine Line Apparel. Hawking a range of military-inspired clothing and accessories, the fast-growing startup promotes what it calls “unapologetic, relentless patriotism.”

And if, after all the holiday celebrations, all you really want is sleep, consider this: Nearly half of Americans in a relationship would prefer to hit the sack alone (at least some of the time). Maybe it’s not too early to jump on your holiday wish list for next year: “Dear Santa, I’ve been good all year. Can I please have a sleep divorce?”

OZY Takes You Ahead of the Curve in Good News

At OZY, our mission is to bring you stories that inspire as well as inform — and in doing so, we try to be the first to deliver those stories. This year, perhaps more than others in the recent past, it hasn’t always been easy to focus on the uplifting stuff when much of the world is facing major challenges (including the world itself as climate change grows ever more alarming). So today, we’ve chosen to remind you that there are countless positive things happening around the globe — by publishing 10 of our favorite pieces about people doing good, fighting for change and giving us all reason to hope for better tomorrows.

Up first is a profile from OZY’s Unapologetic series: that of an Orthodox woman who’s shaking up the traditional Jewish wig world at her Brooklyn shop. Then we jump from New York City to Pakistan, where fashion designers are using their creativity and craft to tackle stereotypes. We also reported on shifting attitudes toward Pakistan’s transgender community in the otherwise conservative country. And in France, there are signs of a major step forward for equality in reproduction with President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to extend the right to state-sponsored in vitro fertilization to lesbian couples and single women.

The fight for equality has also found its way to sports arenas — from the Women’s World Cup to this hockey star using her voice to pressure USA Hockey to increase its financial support of the women’s program. OZY was first to share the inspiring story of Michael Davis, who’s enjoying his breakout season in the NFL as a cornerback for the Los Angeles Chargers and as one of the league’s few Mexican American players. Kenya’s Fatuma Zarika has an incredible story to tell: from being a single mother of two at age 19 to winning the WBC belt, despite the corrupt boxing practices in her country and with no coach or promoter in her corner.

We share another story from East Africa, where a growing youth movement in Uganda, which has emerged almost out of nowhere over the past year, is threatening to do what the country’s main opposition party has failed to do: Unseat President Yoweri Museveni. Amid the despair in war-weary Damascus, Syria, dining out has emerged as a way for inhabitants to blow off steam. And that’s spawning an explosion of restaurants and cafés inside the fortified city limits. Urban renewal in the U.S. has a new look too: Increasingly, American cities saddled with aging urban highways are eyeing freeway caps — also known as highway lids and land bridges — as essential tools in their urban planning toolkits. 

Finally, from OZY’s series on the New Frontiers of Climate Change comes this heartening news: Europe is reviving its once sprawling network of overnight trains in an effort to combat the impact of airlines on the environment.

OZY doesn’t shy away from reporting on the tough news — but we also celebrate the good stuff. We hope you’ve enjoyed this tour through some of the happier stories we reported on recently — and stay tuned for many more to come in 2020.

OZY Launches Investigative Branch

At OZY, we constantly strive to keep you ahead of the curve with fresh trends, profiles, experiences and nuggets of history that you won’t find covered elsewhere but that could shape your life. In 2019, we went one step further, adding an edge to our coverage with deeply reported and well-researched investigative stories.

OZY Investigations marries our unique voice and quality with our ability to find stories that matter where others just aren’t looking. Our unmatched global reach — with nearly 200 reporters across the world — gives OZY a rare perch from which to find and report things that those in positions of influence, whether in the United States or Uganda, would rather keep hidden from the public eye.

Our first investigation revealed how a web of outdated laws and regulations is forcing millions of Americans with disabilities to choose between marriage and affordable health care. The result? Over the past decade, Americans with disabilities have divorced at twice the rate at which they’ve married.

We exposed how differences in tipping fees and economic opportunities have combined with politics and apathy to allow northern states to increasingly dump their waste in the Bible Belt. This includes both regular garbage and toxic trash — from coal ash to nuclear waste — that in some communities has led to a spike in cancer rates.

From Uganda, we revealed how traffickers are buying teenage girls there for as little as $14, and then selling them to wealthy Middle Eastern sheikhs for $10,000. Extreme poverty, crippling famine, a weak law-and-order machinery and the sheer mismatch in clout between oil-rich Gulf states and the East African nation are coalescing to facilitate this crime.

A crackdown by the U.S. on a different kind of trafficking — of drugs, across the border with Mexico — is spawning an unlikely crisis. Mexico, long the route for narcotics targeted eventually at American consumers, is witnessing an unprecedented explosion in its domestic drug use levels. Driving this phenomenon is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and the biggest cause of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2019.

Back north of the border, we uncovered a mental-health time bomb waiting to explode as America turns majority non-White by 2045: The licensing test psychologists must pass to practice in the U.S. and Canada is loaded against minority candidates. Subtle biases in the way the test is designed, combined with language and economic disadvantages, have led to a situation where non-White test-takers are 2.5 times likelier to fail than White candidates.  

Minority communities already have poorer access to mental health professionals. That’s only going to get worse, our investigation shows.

OZY has also revealed how as many as 244 midterm candidates in 2018 were in debt; that El Chapo’s extradition to the U.S. actually helped improve business for his Sinaloa cartel; and how ahead of the 2020 elections, dubious companies are creating a channel for candidates and parties to bypass campaign finance norms.

But we’re only getting started. Keep following us as we bring you stunning news investigations in 2020.