The Hidden Wonders of Latin America

When it comes to popular depictions of Latin America and its culture, shallow stereotypes of what is a profoundly diverse region abound. Which is why, to truly get Latino culture, you need to tune out of popular — and often sadly inaccurate — tropes and tune in to today’s Daily Dose. 

Indigenous rappers, quinoa sushi and cannabis-infused teas are transforming Latin America’s cultural and gastronomic landscape even as brave activists work to preserve the region’s astonishing natural beauty. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by diving deeper than just salsa rhythms, Caribbean beaches and pisco sours for a sensory journey to a stunning part of the world that’s in flux. I should know: I’m from Argentina.

WATCH

Don’t Cry for Me

There’s a myth that we Argentines are smug and dramatic. Check out classics Nine Queens and Wild Tales and decide for yourself. The films are the closest you’ll get to a fly-on-the-wall perspective of Buenos Aires’ culture and the quirky personalities of its locals, the porteños. In Nine Queens, superstar Ricardo Darín (Google him) plays a professional hustler who tricks people to make a bit of extra cash as he trains his mysterious new protégé. The actor also stars in Wild Tales, a series of six stories in which Argentines take their deepest frustrations over everything, from unfair parking tickets to cheating grooms and abusive bosses to extreme — and hilarious, levels.

Mind the Mexican Gap

You might have watched Alfonso Cuarón’s spectacular Roma, a black-and-white sublime tale of how two women (one Indigenous and one of white European descent) separated by 500 years of brutal colonial history experience the political turmoil of 1970s Mexico. But did you know the award-winning director hid messages in the story? Here’s one: When Cleo, who works as a maid, tells her boyfriend, Fermín, that she is pregnant, he dismisses her and screams “pinche gata,” a derogatory word middle-class people use to insult domestic workers. His using the expression signals how he feels he’s moved up the social ladder as soon as he joined a right-wing urban militia group and immediately started looking down on her.

‘7 Boxes’

Landlocked Paraguay is not particularly well known for its film industry, which is why this rare, yet wonderful, thriller is a must-watch for insights into this Spanish-Guaraní bilingual nation. The story: A 17-year-old market seller is offered $100 (30% of a month’s minimum wage) to transport seven sealed boxes to the opposite side of town. The condition: He cannot look inside. What he doesn’t know is that by accepting the deal, he instantly becomes involved in a mysterious crime. The film takes you through some of the most marginalized (and tourist-free) areas of Paraguay’s capital, Asunción, for a glimpse of what life is really like for its residents.

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HEAR

Feminist Reggaeton

Made überpopular by the likes of Maluma, J Balvin and Karol G, reggaeton’s dancehall-meets-hip-hop-with-a Latin-twist rhythm is having its moment. But some of its more noxious elements are also being challenged — from within. A tribe of feminist artists has taken the style’s contagious beats, scratched the offensive language and replaced it with lyrics that speak to a new generation of women and girls. Among them, Torta Golosa is one to watch. This Chilean duo has embraced a male-dominated music genre to sing about gay rights, sex, abortion and their country’s social uprising.

Say What?

A new wave of Indigenous artists are also grabbing the microphone that’s long been denied to them, offering a unique take on old classics, elevated by their own new sounds. Take Kunumi MC. This Brazilian Indigenous artist mixes Guaraní with Portuguese and ancestral instruments with modern beats to sing about some of the many environmental issues affecting the Amazon. On the same train is 19-year-old Renata Flores, an artist who became famous for singing modern songs in her native Quechua, the language of the Inca empire that is still spoken in modern-day Peru. Now the queen of Inka trap, she raps about the struggles of Indigenous peoples, particularly women.

Trapping Millions

Counting soccer superstar Lionel Messi among his fans and amassing hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, 23-year-old Valentín Oliva — aka WOS DS3 — is the king of the Argentine music scene. Oliva is leading a generation of freestylers who have taken elements of the traditional payadores, artists who used to tell stories by improvising lyrics, and has added rap rhythms. His moment of glory came in 2019 when he released his debut album, Canguro, which criticizes the local political class and social inequality in his country. With a Latin Grammy nomination under his belt and a new album recorded during lockdown, you best get ready to hear a lot more from this trailblazer.

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TASTE

Arepas

There are several long-standing culinary fights in Latin America, and the origin of these ground maize flatbreads is my favorite. Both Colombia and Venezuela fight over ownership of what has been a staple in both countries since before colonial times. But it is the millions of Venezuelans who fled their country’s economic and humanitarian crises over the past decade who have recently made the cornmeal cakes popular across the world. Now you can find this yummy yet healthy street food (it’s gluten-free) in most Latin American countries — with each giving it a local twist.

Hipster Mate

There is a Spanish saying that goes “as Uruguayan as mate,” and a short stroll around any town of this small nation will prove it right. Mate, a drink traditionally made by pouring water into an herb-filled wood pot and drinking it with a straw, is widely popular in the southern corner of Latin America. But no one can beat the Uruguayan appetite for mate. The average Uruguayan consumes nearly 20 pounds of the drink every year. Now a new wave of hipsters is reinventing the traditional beverage (whose origins go back to Syria and Lebanon) by adding new herbs and even mixing it with cannabis.

Quinoa Sushi

Forget Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s kitchen is in Peru. The gastronomic powerhouse has established itself as the home of one of the most exciting fusion cuisines in the world. It’s much more than the sum of its parts. Nikkei, as the style is called after the Japanese word for migrants and their descendants, is a cuisine that developed over generations, mixing Peru’s traditionally rich dishes with Japanese techniques. Think sashimi with spicy Latin sauces, quinoa-based sushi and Japanese curry-flavored Peruvian empanadas.

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PROTECT

Marina Silva (Brazil)

Growing up in a rubber tapper community in the Amazon forests, Silva (pictured above) taught herself to read and write at the age of 16, earned a university degree and began campaigning against deforestation. She later became Brazil’s minister for the environment before taking a seat as the first woman from her community in the senate. For a while in 2014, she even appeared poised to upset then-President Dilma Rousseff in federal elections. Frustrated with politics, Silva eventually returned to activism and is a leading voice against President Jair Bolsonaro’s lax environmental policies — in 2019, record-breaking fires turned over 17 million acres of Amazon rainforest into ash. She says the way to tackle deforestation is to combat illegal land occupation, create conservation areas for Indigenous communities, and invest in solar and wind power.

Luz Mery Panche (Colombia)

Defending the environment can be a dangerous job in Latin America. In Colombia, it can be lethal. But none of that discourages this Nasa Indigenous woman, who has been campaigning for decades to protect Colombia’s Amazon forests. Trained as an engineer, the 44-year-old says the problem is that authorities see the forest and land as a home to resources such as gold and oil to be exploited rather than protected. “As Nasa peoples, we see earth as our mother. It is our duty and mission to care for it,” Panche told Distintas Latitudes.

Bertha Zuñiga (Honduras)

Carrying one of the most respected names in the world of environmental protection, the 30-year-old is a daughter of Berta Cáceres, the activist who was murdered in Honduras in 2016. Today, Zuñiga carries her mother’s torch in a country that’s particularly dangerous for environmental activists. A descendant of the Lenca Indigenous people, she’s trying to draw the world’s attention to the crisis in Honduras, urging global firms to think twice before investing in a country with a troubling human rights record. 

Butterfly Effect: The Truth Behind Macron’s Trumpian Tantrums

A sense of victimhood. A short view on history. Dramatic, over-the-top responses and threats of retribution. For four years, many used these terms to describe President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. Now, they’re being associated with a man who tried to position himself as the anti-Trump — a mostly liberal, suave, globalist: French President Emmanuel Macron. 

Last week, Australia scrapped a 2016 deal with France to purchase a fleet of submarines. The French vessels are normally nuclear powered, but because of Australia’s opposition to atomic energy, Paris committed to turning them into diesel-driven machines. But Canberra has now decided to dump that plan altogether and has instead signed a new trilateral alliance with the U.S and U.K. that will see the Americans and Brits sell nuclear submarines to Australia.  

It’s understandable for France to feel aggrieved, even though cost overruns and delays in its delivery of submarines to Australia had already injected behind-the-scenes tension into negotiations. Indeed, if France learned of Australia’s about-turn on their deal first in the media, as some officials have suggested, that’s terrible diplomacy on the part of Canberra, Washington and London.

But France’s move to call back its ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia is a stunning overreaction. Consider this: Paris made U.S. President Joe Biden wait for a chance to speak with Macron like someone unwilling to talk to their partner after an act of perceived betrayal. They eventually spoke on Wednesday. France has agreed to send back its envoy to Washington. And Biden and Macron are expected to meet in October. Yet the spat is hardly over — France has not confirmed if it will participate in a meeting of the U.S.-E.U. Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh next week, and Macron hasn’t spoken with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison about their diplomatic discord.  

Paris should know better than to behave this way. French defense manufacturers regularly compete against rivals from the U.S., U.K., Italy, Russia and others in cutthroat ways to win multi-billion contracts. In recent years, India picked French Rafale fighter jets over the Eurofighter, built by a British-led consortium, and Russian Sukhoi warplanes — despite then British Prime Minister David Cameron visiting New Delhi to try and influence opinion. Just this year, Greece and Croatia decided to go with the Rafale over the Eurofighter. In mega defense deals, you always win some and lose some.

So what’s really behind Macron’s reaction? In the short term, his response is likely shaped by a bid to secure his second term in France’s presidential election this April. No French president has won his reelection campaign since Jacques Chirac’s win in 2002. Opposition parties are already criticizing Macron for losing the Australia deal. Will pitching himself as a warrior for French pride against untrustworthy allies help Macron electorally? We’ll see.

But the episode has also exposed deeper, more long-term divisions between America and European allies. On Monday, European Union boss Ursula von der Leyen demanded an explanation from Australia before the two sides can continue vital trade talks. Other officials in the European Parliament have sought an apology from Canberra.

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Biden’s unilateral timeline for the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August also upset America’s European allies who had pressed the U.S. president for more time to remove their citizens and Afghan allies in a less chaotic manner. While the EU and its biggest powers, Germany and France, worry about Russia’s assertive military and espionage tactics — including efforts to influence this Sunday’s German election — Berlin and Paris also want to directly engage with Moscow instead of allowing Washington to dictate to them.  

Macron and outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel have repeatedly stressed the need for Europe to become strategically more autonomous. Olaf Scholtz of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, who is leading polls and is widely expected to be the next chancellor, has made clear that he sees relations with Paris as the cornerstone of Germany’s foreign policy.  

To be sure, the my-way-or-the-highway approach of Trump, and Biden’s reluctance to completely break from it, have injected tensions into the trans-Atlantic relationship. While Biden frequently speaks of respecting traditional friends and allies, his administration’s treatment of France in the spat over nuclear submarines points to a reality that’s far more complex.

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France has described the deal between the U.S., U.K. and Australia as a “betrayal.” The country’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called it a “stab in the back.” But in reality, that trust between America and France — and Europe, to a large extent — had already broken down before news of the submarine pact emerged.

Consider the facts: France has a bigger presence in the Indian Ocean than any other European nation, with bases in Djibouti and in its overseas territories of Mayotte, Reunion and the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Paris shares Washington’s concerns regarding China’s expansionism in the region. Would it not have made sense for the U.S. to include France as a central partner in a new Indo-Pacific alliance aimed at containing China?

That it didn’t is revealing, as is Macron’s bombastic response. Expect these differences between the U.S. and mainland Europe to play out in myriad forms over the next few years, with disputes about everything from technology platforms to vaccine strategies. None of this is likely to torpedo NATO or other elements of America’s broader system of alliances and treaties. But it will strain vital relationships — and bring relief to Russia and China, who now know that the West is far from united.

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE SEPTEMBER 16, 2021

Answers: Teeth on the right inflatable, beach ball on the right picture, the color of the sticker on the man’s shirt and an extra head visible on the left picture.

Winners: Penny H., Joe B., Vivyan L., Valerie W., Grapevine, Bridget W., Tmrockledge, Frank B.,  Luis F., Graesson B., H K., Jacqueline T., Catherine K., John G., Gary F., Cheryl L., Ray B., Lisa L., John E., Paula M., John D., Margaret Z., Ricardo R., Laurie J., Lindsey & Debbie B., Donnamarie MG., Sharon R., Herbert F., Cathy L., Joan, Linda A., Jo Anne M., Pam H., Willie C., Dario A., Gray G., Laura D., Connie W., Sgorbi, William P., Roger P., Palmer S., Russell W., Christopher L., Dadpleim, Martin U., Fred S., Shari O., Kenny A., Tracie S., Joel J., Denice S., Martin P., Gregg C., Greg N., James C., Denton L., Randi O., Steve B., Sharon B., Alex R., Mary Ann C., Brian H., Marsha B., Phil F., Jean-Guy M., Jane L., Linda O., Bunny V., Jose C., Dottie R., Melissa W., Honorato P., Charles B., Kennith G., Brian B., Nancy C., Eloiza M., Cindy A., Anne B., Celeste B., Ellen G., Eric S., Brenda B., Mildred F., Carolyn B., Ernie H., Hans W., Tre D. and Mike M. — congratulations!

Mental Health, With a Side of Psychedelics?

Sleep, exercise, therapy and antidepressants are some of the top remedies prescribed to assist the 1 in 4 Americans who struggle with mental health issues. But while these are all critical and effective tools, are they enough? After all, suicide is among the leading causes of death in the U.S., especially among the younger population.  

As we mark Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, perhaps it’s time we tried something different. How about magic mushrooms? Or LSD? Oregon made history in November when it legalized psilocybin in supervised, licensed facilities. Texas and Connecticut have recently done the same, and California is hot on their heels. Then there’s the growing evidence of MDMA’s efficacy in treating PTSD after it was given the green light for research in 2016. 

In today’s Daily Dose, you’ll meet a man advocating for psychedelic therapy, see how psychedelics could upend medical treatment and learn how they could become a beacon of hope for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

THE BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND FUTURE

A (Very) Short History

Natural psychedelics have been around forever, and for centuries they have been used by Indigenous cultures. In 1938, while isolating compounds from a species of fungus, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann synthesized LSD — revisiting it in 1943, he accidentally absorbed it and experienced its effects. After coming to prominence in the West in the 1950s, LSD underwent a hippie makeover by the ’60s, — and research consequently ground to a halt. Now, following decades of stigma, criminalization and appropriation, we’re again seeing a bloom of innovation in psychedelic research. Studies and clinical trials, beginning at Johns Hopkins University, the first institute in the U.S. to get permission to restart psychedelics research, are showing how psychoactive compounds can support treatment plans for depression, addiction and PTSD.

The MDMA-PTSD Connection

PTSD is a complex condition, and one we now know is not limited to war zones. In the U.S., it disproportionately affects women, the Latino community, African Americans and Native Americans. One of the most common Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments for PTSD is SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) therapy — antidepressants like Zoloft and Paxil. This class of drugs is effective in 40% to 60% of cases, but it also has a number of common and potentially unpleasant side effects. A study published in May in the medical journal Nature Medicine has another promising suggestion: MDMA. Not only does it help our brains release serotonin, but it also helps “enhance fear memory extinction” and “modulate fear memory reconsolidation.” The study called it “highly efficacious” in treating severe PTSD and a “potential breakthrough.”

Ketamine: Not Just for Horses

Deployed as an FDA-approved battlefield anesthetic during the Vietnam War, today “Special K” is better known as a party drug (or a horse tranquilizer) that’s especially popular in the U.K. and increasingly in Southeast Asia. Now, however, medical research is revealing that ketamine, popular for its dreamlike trippiness, could serve as a new way to treat depression. As with MDMA, it’s not yet clear how its biochemical mechanism works — but that’s also often true of conventional antidepressants. Still, ketamine does seem to be highly effective in rapidly decreasing suicidal thoughts and aiding severe treatment-resistant depression and anxiety, while conventional treatments can often take weeks or months to start working. Since at least 2013, it’s already been used to help people with severe depression.

Magical (Mushroom) Realism

Psilocybin — the hallucinogenic substance in “magic mushrooms” — dates back 3,000 years, when it was an important part of shamanic ceremonies in Mexico. More recently, it made headlines in May after actor Kristen Bell spoke about using it to treat her depression. Based on results of clinical trials, psilocybin is considered by some to be the safest of the psychedelics as it has low toxicity, almost no lasting side effects and is effective in the treatment of alcoholism and treatment-resistant depression. It’s not difficult to see why magic mushrooms have been considered sacred for centuries, given their ability to help the user alter their perspective. But Western medicine has some catching up to do — and clinical trials are increasingly promising.

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THE TRAILBLAZERS

The Teacher

French-born psychologist Françoise Bourzat has spent three decades collaborating with Indigenous healers in Mexico to help bridge the gap between Western psychology and psychoactive experiences. Having developed close relationships with the Mazatec people and with their permission, Bourzat helps train new professional “guides” in psychedelic-assisted therapy via the Center for Consciousness Medicine in California, which she co-founded in 2020. The center’s members trace their lineage back, via apprenticeships and teaching, to the mushroom healers and ceremonialists Maria Sabina Estrada and Regina Carrera Calvo, who were active in the 1950s and 1960s. The center’s mission is to develop safe, effective and legal ways to use psychedelics medically while keeping Indigenous knowledge at the core of its teaching practices.

The Racial Trauma Researcher

Monnica T. Williams is a rare Black researcher in the field of psychedelic therapy. An associate professor in psychology at the University of Ottawa, Williams is trying to bridge the racial gap in the subject. She has done extensive research on and spoken about how psychedelics can help ease racial trauma — and how people of color have been left out of the narrative and clinical trials. Williams was once asked by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for advice about how it could diversify its research. Her response was to jump into the field herself. 

The Psychiatrist Suing the DEA

Psychiatrist Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, a Seattle-based palliative care specialist, is leading a landmark case against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. He’s seeking access to psilocybin for two of his terminally ill cancer patients. “It is a first-of-its-kind lawsuit,” said Kathryn Tucker, the lead attorney on the case. After the DEA rejected Aggarwal’s 2020 application to obtain the drug under the Right to Try (RTT) Act, he, Tucker and others filed the suit. “Our focus is on maximizing quality of life at all costs,” Aggarwal has said. The first oral argument in the case took place at the beginning of September, where much of the discussion centered on whether or not the DEA could even provide an RTT avenue. A ruling could be made by the end of the year.

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WHERE ARE WE NOW?

Safety Concerns

One thing psychoactive compounds have going for them in the current early stages of research is their relative safety — low or no toxicity and low addiction risk — when compared to many conventional prescription drugs. But mind-altering substances are not for everyone. Among the risks associated with psychedelic use are psychosis, long-term mental health issues and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder — which causes frequent, unsettling flashbacks. However, researchers in the field maintain that many worrisome side effects arise chiefly due to contaminated drugs and a lack of formal, professional supervision of users that would change if regulated adequately. The bottom line? Things are moving fast, but it’s still early days. 

A 50-Year Void?

Psychedelic treatment for mental health conditions isn’t exactly a concept that’s beloved by the medical research world. It’s underfunded and soaked in decades of stigma. In March, the Australian government earmarked about $11 million for clinical trials into the effectiveness of MDMA and psilocybin. Australia, however, has also delayed the long-awaited reclassification of MDMA and psilocybin as controlled medicine (they are currently categorized as prohibited substances). Speaking to The Guardian, Dr. Arthur Christopoulos of Monash University bemoans the lack of pathbreaking treatment options for the last 50 years. “We have had enormous advances in the destigmatization of mental illness . . . but there have been effectively zero new additional therapies,” he said. 

Baby Steps

Some parts of the world, however, are seeing forward movement. Come 2023, residents of Oregon may be able to access psilocybin treatment in purpose-built “psilocybin service centers.” Last year, the Oregon Health Authority set up the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board to make recommendations on “research on the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating mental health conditions” for anyone 21 or older. Known as Measure 109 on the ballot, the proposal was tabled last year by physicians impressed by the body of research showing the benefits of psilocybin therapy in people with addiction and mental health issues. A two-year development period began in January to work out licensing, regulation and implementation. But it’ll be at least January 2023 before the OHA opens up applications for manufacture or provision of services.

The Goodies That Baddies Love

Like superheroes, supervillains also love their toys. Criminals choose their preferred tools for their utility, symbolism and even brand-building potential, which means they too embrace consumerism — despite claims of a higher calling.

Very often, brands, through no fault of their own, get pushed onto the defensive because of an unfortunate association with militants. Fans of the now-defunct Boston rock band Isis, for example, stopped wearing its merchandise for fear of being labeled as supporters of the infamous militant group of the same name.

In today’s Daily Dose, we explore some of the items that jihadists are commonly associated with, from ordinary phones to distinct watches and more.

EXTREME KIT

AK-47

Since its emergence in the Soviet Union in the 1940s, the Kalashnikov’s rise to prominence in terrorist circles in Europe has been well-documented. But the AK-47, the most popular of the over 200 models of AK assault rifles, is also regularly exported into crisis hot spots in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. And it is loved by individuals on both sides of the law. Thanks to the rise of anti-Western sentiment during and after the Cold War, terrorists turned to the Russians for weapons supplies.

Telegram

The instant messaging app, which claims to be more secure than its rival WhatsApp, is favored by groups like the Islamic State and right-wing extremists in America who disseminate propaganda using the encrypted service. In 2017, Pavel Durov, Telegram’s Russian founder, was forced to reach an agreement with Moscow about information sharing after the Russian government threatened to ban Telegram in the aftermath of a bombing in St. Petersburg earlier that year. Elsewhere, the French government intercepted Telegram messages from individuals planning a terror attack in 2018, raising questions about the app’s security claims. Still, Telegram is known to be largely unregulated, even in authoritarian states, so terrorists are converging on the platform.

Casio F91W-1 Watch

It’s one of Casio’s most popular timepieces — 3 million units are manufactured each year. Cheap, resilient and sturdy, the watch is distributed to recruits at al-Qaida training camps and was even worn by Osama bin Laden himself. The F91W-1’s long timer duration — it can be set for more than a day — has notably been used to detonate bombs. Islamic State fighters have also been known to wear it.

Nokia 105 Phone

To detonate improvised explosive devices, many terrorists turn to the Nokia 105, one of the most basic cellphones around. According to a 2016 report by London-based Conflict Armament Research, it is by far the most common remote trigger used by Islamic State militants. Perhaps the most important factor leading to its ubiquitous use by jihadists is that it costs $30 or less, or that its battery can last for weeks on a single charge. In addition, it is in abundant supply in most places around the world.

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GOODIES BADDIES LOVE

Soda

Analysts say the Islamic State group uses soda bottles as product placement in its “Western cultural framing” strategy in an attempt to attract young recruits. Bin Laden was another soda fan who, despite his fervent anti-Western ideology, was fond of popular sodas. He had his lieutenants buy these drinks for him in large quantities. Likewise, the diaries of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, aka Abu Zubaydah, who was implicated in the 9/11 attacks, reveal his love for soda, detailing how he would drink an entire bottle “as one shot.”

Video Games

Since its emergence, the Islamic State group has demonstrated keen social media savvy and for years, it leaned on the internet to help it become the world’s most feared terrorist organization. In 2014, it embedded video clips taken from the popular game Grand Theft Auto 5 in a propaganda piece released as part of its recruitment drive. The grand idea? To show potential young recruits that Islamic State members “do the things you do in games, in real life on the battlefield,” according to the video. Worse still, online video games can be used to communicate extreme ideologies and launder money in Europe, according to the EU’s anti-terrorism chief, Gilles de Kerchove.

Fireworks

What has gunpowder and explodes, just like a bomb? Fireworks. Little wonder then that experts warn that your holiday centerpiece could cause the kind of injuries that bombs in war zones are also responsible for. For their part, jihadists and criminals are big fans of using fireworks in bomb-making. For instance, Liverpudlian gangs have a long history of using firework bombs, including a six-month stretch in 2004 when bombs were set off outside three police stations in the city. There’s also the 2010 bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square. Three years later, two brothers used bombs made of pressure cookers and fireworks to target the Boston Marathon.

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WHEN BRANDS SUFFER

Thuraya

For decades, the satellite phone has been a favored means of communication by the criminal underworld from Mumbai to Maiduguri, as it allows the user to avoid being monitored by law enforcement. Robbers and pirates love Thuraya. Rebels and terrorists can’t seem to do without it. In 2013, the Nigerian military banned its use in northeastern parts of the country after it emerged that Boko Haram insurgents were using the phones to coordinate operations. Authorities in India banned foreigners from bringing satellite phones into the country in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Made in the United Arab Emirates, Thuraya says that its satellites cover services in more than 160 countries, and it was one of the earliest satellite phones available for public use worldwide.

Arsenal Soccer Jersey

Osama bin Laden was a big soccer fan. An ardent follower of London-based team Arsenal FC, he even attended some games at its stadium as far back as 1994. Other terrorists have also been known to show their love for the club. In the summer of 2017, the ringleader of a three-man gang responsible for killing seven people and wounding dozens of others in a vehicle and stabbing attack in London was an Arsenal fan. He was wearing his jersey when British police shot him dead.

Toyota Pickup Trucks

If you’ve been watching the news from Afghanistan, you can’t but have noticed the Taliban’s unmistakable vehicle of choice. Their fighters became almost synonymous with Toyota pickups back in the 1990s and now history is repeating itself. But it’s not just the Taliban. Back in 1987, Chadian soldiers aboard Hiluxes relied on the vehicles so much in skirmishes against better-equipped Libyan troops that the conflict became known as the Toyota War. Today, the sturdy vehicles are also the favorite of Islamic State and militant groups across Iraq, Syria, Chad and Mali. Which might be why Toyota introduced a new contract for buyers at the launch of its 2022 Land Rover model in Japan in August: Customers must commit to waiting at least a year before reselling the pickup.

The Next Big Shift in College Sports

College sports are back. Take it from fans of the Virginia Tech Hokies. On Sept. 3, close to 70,000 of them screamed out the team’s entrance song, Enter Sandman by Metallica, at the 2021-22 season opener against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. The Virginia Tech crowd was so amped up that their rendition of the rock classic registered as a seismographic activity

But there are other tremors reshaping college sports. How will the U.S. Supreme Court’s summer ruling allowing student-athletes to make money from sponsorships play out on campuses? From colleges rethinking the role of sports to game-changing legal cases, in today’s Daily Dose we give you a courtside seat to the shifts that could fundamentally alter the relationship between the NCAA, school campuses and athletes.

Let’s Get Legal

Talking TV

The big bucks are set to start rolling in soon for college athletes across the U.S. after the NCAA’s ongoing attempts to limit students’ earnings suffered a series of setbacks. In June, a federal judge turned down a request by the collegiate body to block athletes from getting a cut from TV rights and earning revenue from their name, image and likeness. For years, the NCAA banned college athletes from receiving media or endorsement money (in what is a $14 billion industry) because of their status as students, preferring to give many full scholarships instead.

Vaccine Woes

Last month, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered an order in Klaassen v. Trustees of Indiana University that permitted the latter to require all students be vaccinated against COVID-19. The judgment could have a ripple effect across the world of college sports in a climate where the reopening of schools and mask mandates have already polarized the nation. The eight students in the Indiana University case argued that the school’s vaccine requirement violates their 14th Amendment rights, even though a lower court had previously ruled against them. Hundreds of colleges across the U.S. now have similar vaccination mandates.

Systemic Racism?

But vaccines and money aren’t the only things over which students are battling the NCAA. Last December, students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) filed a class-action lawsuit against the body, alleging unfair penalization in its Academic Performance Program (APP). Under the program — designed to improve academic performance among student-athletes — the NCAA rewards schools with high scores. But the plaintiffs are arguing that the APP ignores the fact that HBCUs enroll low-income, at-risk students who are disadvantaged academically because of historic discrimination. The APP, by holding HBCUs to the same standards as students at mostly white institutions, “perpetuates a system that punishes Black student-athletes at HBCUs,” they say.

Title IX

This summer, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights affirmed that Title IX will now be enforced against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as an interpretation of Bostock v. Clayton County, a landmark civil rights case involving a wrongful dismissal on the basis of sexual orientation. As schools reopen, the federal government’s decision could be critical in addressing continuing discrimination against LGBTQ college athletes. For its part, the NCAA has now pledged not to hold events in states that are not welcoming to transgender athletes.

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Life on Campus for Athletes

Different Admissions Standards

Yet student-athletes aren’t always victims. They can also be beneficiaries of unequal standards on campus. In 2019, Stanford fired its head sailing coach for accepting bribes to help certain students gain admission by naming them as recruits, a scandal detailed in a recent Netflix documentary. The so-called “special admits” are held to different academic standards, including lower SAT/ACT scores and GPAs, a practice that has been described by critics as the “original sin of college sports.” At the University of Pennsylvania, students for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle were not required to submit standardized test scores . . . but recruited athletes were, as required by Ivy League policies. Could this be a mechanism for leveling the playing field between special admits and students?

Easier Majors?

College athletes at Division I schools, especially those who rely on sports for income, are often pushed toward less onerous majors to accommodate their rigorous training and game schedules. It’s called “clustering” — when 25% or more of a single team enrolls in the same major. At the University of Oregon, for instance, athletes cluster in the social sciences. At the University of California Los Angeles, they pick history. In a survey of more than 600 college athletes at schools in the Big Ten Conference and other sports powerhouses, researcher Amanda Paule-Koba at Bowling Green State University in Ohio found that 30% of the students were not pursuing majors that aligned with their interests or career goals.

Is It a Myth?

Is it possible to be a student and an athlete at a top school? Schools have long cultivated the myth of amateurism to justify not paying athletes. But the challenges of being a student at an academically oriented school can cut both ways. Data from Harvard’s class of 2020 revealed that 1 in 4 athletes left their sport while at the university for reasons ranging from mental health concerns and injuries to a loss of interest in their chosen athletic field. In 2016, Brown University revealed that roughly one-third of their students quit their sport.

Beats an On-Campus Job!

Most students earn minimum wage for on-campus jobs. But not Quinn Ewers of Ohio State football. He’s earning $1.5 million for his contributions to the team thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling on student-athletes. Ewers was initially the top high school prospect in the recruiting class for 2022, but he decided to skip his senior year and join the class of 2021 to bypass a Texas law blocking high school athletes from making money from their sport. The quarterback has signed deals with a beverage company and car dealership. 

Louisiana v Texas

Rethinking Sports in Schools

Mental Health

Like in professional sports, mental health among college athletes is finally taking center stage as a subject of research and debate. Though student-athletes are less likely to commit suicide than the general population or other undergraduates, a 2020 survey of NCAA players found a pandemic-spawned crisis. Reports of mental health concerns were 150% to 250% higher than in previous survey years. When it comes to student-athletes, males are more at risk of suicide than females, and Black athletes are more vulnerable than their white counterparts. The highest suicide rates are among male football players.

Is Wellness the Way?

In 2012, Spelman College, the Atlanta-based, all-women HBCU, decided to disband its sports teams and reinvest that money into wellness programs, from mental health counseling to Zumba. The college of 2,200 students had only about 80 athletes when the decision was made, but the athletics budget was $900,000 — funds that are now being directed at the entire student body. With the pandemic forcing schools to drastically cut costs amid deepening mental health concerns, some experts are calling for Spelman’s model to be embraced by more universities and colleges — especially since a majority of athletic programs fail to generate significant fan interest despite heavy investments.

Foreign Focus

International students increasingly constitute a significant chunk of students on campus, with Canada the leading source of Division 1 athletes and tennis the most popular college sport among them. In 2019, nearly 13% of male college athletes were international students. Unfortunately, student visa stipulations prevent international student-athletes from profiting off their likeness as their American peers can. Some lawmakers are trying to change that. One idea is to make it easier for international students to get a professional visa instead of a student one, which would allow them to make money during their collegiate career.

Year of the HBCU

More and more recruits are opting for HBCUs over traditional sports powerhouses. They want to “make the HBCU movement real,” says Makur Maker, a former basketball recruit at Howard University and the only five-star player to choose an HBCU. Maker, who now plays professionally in Australia, hopes that his choosing of Howard University will inspire other young Black athletes to do the same. With his sights set on the NBA, he will take a road rarely traveled if he makes it: There are only two HBCU alumni playing in the NBA today.

Who Are the Highest-Paid Public Workers in America?

Sports money makes the world go round. 

Just ask LeBron James, Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo and many other athletes around the world whose annual net worth is beyond the wildest dreams of most of us. But even beneath that pantheon of superstar athletes, other sportspeople are raking in huge sums. That roster includes college coaches who nurture many talents to stardom.

According to data analyzed by GOBankingRates, head football coaches, closely followed by basketball coaches, have been easily racking up seven-figure salaries over the last couple of years. 

In fact, coaches at state-funded colleges are America’s highest-paid public workers, pocketing far more than tenured college professors or even governors. 

Ed Orgeron, head football coach at Louisiana State University, earns $14 million annually, 30 times more than governor John Bel Edwards’ $130,000. Over in South Carolina, the disparity is even more pronounced as Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney takes home $9.3 million every year in comparison to Governor Henry McMaster’s relatively measly $106,100. By contrast, tenured professors in the U.S. typically make between $120,000 and $145,000 annually. 

Some head coaches also get to fly on private jets and benefit from fat buyout or severance clauses. During the 2015-16 season, the Ohio State University (OSU) Athletic Department spent $166.8 million. Approximately a fifth of that went to coaching benefits, including more than $6 million to Urban Meyer, coach of its Buckeyes football team. Not even pay cuts during the pandemic particularly dented the earnings of coaches. 

For years, controversy has dogged these bizarrely high salaries. Just before the pandemic, Congresswoman Donna Shalala of Florida introduced federal legislation to cap earnings. “I’m mortified at these salaries,” she said. “We have not been able to slow spending or expenditures.”

It’s an artificial marketplace.

Andrew Zimbalist, economics professor, Smith College

Yet experts say the high wages are purely down to economics. Highly qualified college coaches are in short supply — partly because they are often snapped up by professional sides — even though demand is high, especially down South where college sports are the main local entertainment in the absence of major professional sports teams. 

“It’s an artificial marketplace,” says Andrew Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College. “You have an athletic director who has one objective, which is to win. There are only stakeholders who want victory, not stockholders who want profit.”

It’s also been argued that sports teams generate funding for colleges from merchandising, ticket sales and an increase in enrollment numbers as the teams win trophies. This revenue generated from football and basketball helps fund less popular sports. 

Overall, athletics departments of NCAA member colleges generated $18.9 billion in revenue in 2019.

But while coaches earn so much, athletes have historically been paid nothing. Until this summer, when a landmark Supreme Court ruling opened up new avenues of revenue for college athletes by permitting them to earn from name, image and likeness (NIL) rights, athletes earned no salaries but got scholarships instead.

It is too early to tell if the new law will translate into college athletes out-earning their mentors, as is the case with most professional sports. For now though, the coach is king. 

Sky Fall: Meet the Storm Chasers

Storms are strange things — truly tempestuous in how suddenly they can shift shape and space. Even as we grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and its devastation, Hurricane Nicholas barreled into Texas this week, flooding the Gulf Coast as it weakened. And then there are the long-term effects: Scientists found that 12 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, 1 in 6 survivors still had symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Yet there are those who run toward the storms, pulled by a magnetic force to extreme nature widely documented in journals, documentaries and literary classics. This Sunday, join a band of storm chasers as they go where few do, for art and adrenaline, for science and survival. Hold tight!

Storm Chasing 101

Storm Chasers, Who?

When a storm gathers, typically a tornado or a hurricane, most of us head for cover. But some people head straight into some of nature’s fiercest meteorological events, hoping to observe and record them live. Among them are meteorological experts who pursue storms for scientific research. Getting close, often in a hurricane’s direct path, allows professional storm chasers to document crucial on-field data impossible to obtain from afar. These findings help scientists develop a better understanding of the dynamics of storms, enabling accurate forecasts and earlier evacuation. Others are hobbyist storm chasers, often photographers and artists hoping to capture the beauty and power of these phenomena live.

Birth of a Subculture

Scottish American naturalist John Muir was known to “chase” storms long before it was common to race after often deadly winds. The pioneer climbed up a lanky Douglas spruce in the middle of a windstorm one December day in 1874 to feel what treetops feel. In the 1950s and ’60s, meteorologist Neil Ward and photographers David Hoadley and Roger Jensen emerged as modern American trailblazers of storm chasing. Ward, often dubbed the first scientific storm chaser, intercepted atmospheric vortices and relayed the information via the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s radio. Hoadley and Jensen were both from North Dakota — the storm-prone state that’s now part of the holy grail of chasers, aka “Tornado Alley.” Hoadley also founded and ran a first-of-its-kind magazine called Storm Track. In the 1990s, internet access and tornado cult classic Twister helped further elevate the profile of storm chasing. 

Science Meets Ethics

Storm chasing isn’t all edge-of-your-seat action, and there’s certainly some method behind the madness. For tornadoes, it involves hours of driving around in specialty vehicles and waiting, steered not by adrenaline but calculated decisions on how to intercept the storm. Chasers then position themselves and their equipment. There are standard safety guidelines — don’t chase alone, for instance, and avoid using cellphones amid lightning. A set of ethics — be courteous to other chasers — is also widely embraced within the community. But flying into the eye of a hurricane, which forms over warm tropical oceans, is different and usually undertaken using specially equipped aircrafts carrying scientists, or by weather squadrons of the U.S. Air Force such as the Hurricane Hunters, who conduct tropical storm reconnaissance.

RSP storm

Meet the Storm Chasers

Rachel Walter

Her Instagram page is a stunning art gallery dedicated to the chaotic beauty of skies and storms. Waves of blue, gray, orange or purple . . . shocked out of symmetry by sudden flashes of white. Walters isn’t a traditional storm chaser, but she does with a paintbrush what researchers do with fancy equipment: capture the essence of these weather phenomena. It started in the summer of 2016, when she was in the midst of a blinding battle with chronic migraines, the 29-year-old tells OZY. “Glaring lightning and pounding rain were visuals I wanted to tie metaphorically to the pain I was faced with,” she recalls. Five years later, she has found steady refuge in the volatile element most run from, often observing and painting live from her Dallas studio.

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Jim Tang

In April 2014, Jim Tang rented a car and headed to eastern Oklahoma with no mobile data and plenty of rookie luck to “find a storm, witness hail fog and watch a spectacular lightning display,” he tells OZY. He knew he was hooked for life. A software coder by day, the 30-year-old storm-chasing photographer (@thewxmann) uses his skills both to capture gorgeous images of weather phenomena and to explain their curious quirks to fellow enthusiasts. He splits his time between San Francisco and Denver, depending on the storm season, traveling with his trusty Honda CRV, a phone and a camera. He’s watched a barrel-shaped supercell and seen lightning strike a power pole next to him. As he says, “Storm chasing is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’ll get.”

Swift Action

It’s what anyone in the path of a storm would hope for — a timely heads-up that can save their life. African SWIFT, a collaborative project between some of the continent’s leading meteorologists and researchers at the University of Leeds in the U.K., makes accurate, super-short-range hourly forecasts while a storm is approaching, using a satellite-aided technique called “nowcasting.” The meteorological agencies of Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal are among the project’s partners. Nowcasting has helped in the successful evacuation of communities impacted by flooding and mudslides in Kenya and could save the lives of thousands of people who die every year in storms on Lake Victoria.

Feathered Storm Chasers?

Even without a forecast system, birds have their own means of surviving storms. Songbirds like cardinals and buntings secure spots in dense foliage, while woodpeckers hang on to the downwind side of tree trunks or take cover inside cavities. But some migratory birds actually piggyback on headwinds to launch their big journey. Other seabirds aim for the calmer eye of the storm so as not to get ravaged by its spiral, effectively “eye-riding,” much like their hurricane-hunting human counterparts. In 2011, satellite transmitters caught a tagged whimbrel flying directly into Hurricane Irene, a neat but taxing survival tactic later noticed in other members of the species. 

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When the Table Turns: Storm-Chased People

Annual Asian Evacuation

But it’s not always wise to try to befriend the storm or outrun it. In South and Southeast Asia, millions of people are accustomed to regular evacuations. “Super-typhoons” and cyclones batter Southeast Asia annually, with over 100,000 people evacuated last April as typhoon Surigae swept past the Philippines. In South Asia, Bangladesh and India are subject to particularly brutal lashings. Both countries were faced with the double whammy of COVID-19 and the violent cyclone Amphan last year. In May 2021, Cyclone Yaas swamped villages on both sides of the border.

Caribbean Crisis

Extreme weather, typically in the form of all-decimating hurricanes, is familiar to this part of the world. Just last month Haiti wrestled with two destructive elements when rescue efforts in the aftermath of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake were hampered by tropical cyclone Grace. As densely packed places, often with inadequate infrastructure, the nations in this belt often take the hardest hit of hurricanes that also strike the U.S. That vulnerability is compounded by socioeconomic factors and because of rampant deforestation — and consequently, mudslides — on many islands. Climate change will only make things worse for the Caribbean and Latin America, warned the World Meteorological Organization in August. 

Tornado Central

North of the Caribbean, the U.S. averages over 1,150 tornadoes each year — more than Europe, Australia and Canada put together. Tornado Alley, a part of the Great Plains in the central part of the country, is so named because it sees the most tornadoes. Texas, Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska are the states most vulnerable to the annual onslaught. Alabama sees the highest annual average of tornado-related fatalities, while other Southern states such as Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas also suffer. And then there are the hurricanes that make their way up from the Caribbean. Hurricane Ida, which has claimed at least 82 lives in the U.S., chose a poignant day to make landfall in Louisiana: Aug. 29, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

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Life, Loss and Art

Remembering Tim Samaras

The legendary storm chaser’s many contributions to tornado science shine brighter than the tragedy of his death in the 2013 El Reno twister in Oklahoma. His famously cautious pursuit of storms was aimed at helping scientists understand how shifts in pressure, air temperature, humidity and winds collude to create a phenomenon so powerful and unpredictable. Known to those outside the meteorological world for his time on the Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers, the 55-year-old Samaras first earned the public’s recognition in 2003 after a probe he deployed in Manchester, South Dakota, survived and recorded findings from a high-intensity tornado. The tragic fate he met 10 years later, when he perished along with his co-chasing son, Paul, and his colleague Carl Young, served to reinforce the truth Samaras lived by: There are things we don’t know yet about the sky.

Unforgettable Storms in Literature

From the haunting mystique of “thunder and lightning” arriving in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Macbeth to Hurricane Ophelia being the force that pulls New Yorkers together in Danielle Steel’s novel Rushing Waters, storms figure prominently in the literary sky — as decorative backdrops, metaphors for human emotions or narrative devices. Violent weather is described with poetic abandon in Louis MacNeice’s “June Thunder.” And in Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights, frequent moorland storms reflect the intense love between protagonists Heathcliff and Cathy, as well as the forces of fate that human passion cannot defy. Mellow or sweeping, sinister or sweet, literary storms add punch to the plotline.

Storm Documentaries

Alongside the wealth of stormy reads, there are plenty of movies and documentaries on the topic too. For a highly condensed visual history of North American storm chasing, check out the 2016 YouTube documentary The Storm Chasing Anthology. Or consider Oklahoma: Tornado Target, a decidedly unnerving 42-minute film that captures a reality for the residents of that state — both a chronicle of the challenges and resilience of Oklahomans and a cautionary tale about storm chasing. The award-winning Trouble the Water and the Spike Lee-directed When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts are accounts of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Difficult to watch — harder to look away.

The Curious Warmth of Grandma’s Kitchen

Soon after I turned 8, I stopped eating fish. In our Bengali household — we are a famously fish-eating lot — it was quite the scandal. Sighs were sighed and investigations were launched as my parents tried to figure out what could have gone wrong. Then, at the pinnacle of my fish resistance, my grandmother cooked doi maach: tender pieces of freshwater fish, soused in a yogurt-based gravy of robust east Indian spices. I polished off every last bit. 

If anyone could achieve the dubious union of fish, curd and an unlikely surprise ingredient I’m not at liberty to disclose right away, it had to be my thammi (Bengali for grandma). I suspect this quality extends to grandmothers everywhere: Bustling Italian nonnas or plate-piling Somali bibis, they possess the superpower of turning humble ingredients into morsels most magical. 

Join us today for classic food stories from kitchens made redolent by grandmothers, from America to Japan with delicious pit stops in between. Psst: We even managed to source some pantry tricks from grandmas of our own OZY team!

Ask the American Nana

Pralines From Biloxi

Back in the 1920s, when OZY Deputy Editor Tracy Moran’s grandma Nettie was a kid, the family parked itself in the beaches-and-casinos city of Biloxi, on the Gulf of Mexico. There, surrounded by fresh sea air, they befriended local candy store owner Ira DeKnight. Having helped them settle into their new home, DeKnight grew close enough to move in with the family in his final years. That’s when he shared his recipes for divinity fudge and pralines with Nettie, who carried the secret to these sticky sweet nuggets — a mix of pecans, brown sugar, cream and butter — with her when she later relocated to Michigan. Colder, whiter winters in the Midwest brought the novelty of ice-skating, but the cherished recipes added some Southern flair to new holiday traditions.

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli From Argentina

Growing up in Argentina, OZY Senior Writer Josefina Salomon recalls crawling out of bed on Sunday mornings to sit at the end of a long table with her cousins, bleary-eyed but happy to sacrifice sleep for Coca’s homemade pasta. “Coca” was the family matriarch, the grandma who made spinach and ricotta ravioli like no other. Her secret? A filling of raw spinach, the best ricotta cheese she could get her hands on, double garlic and double cheese and, sometimes, an extra egg. The pasta always tasted more intense than what could be purchased in the shops, recalls Salomon. “I have tried replicating it many times, but it never comes out the same,” she sighs. Add Coca’s in-house tweaks to this recipe, and you might just nail it before Salomon does!

You Go, Alaska Granny!

During the lockdown months when everything moved slowly, I chanced upon a YouTube channel run by AlaskaGranny who, in her sweetest granny-ish voice, explains how to stockpile food and prepare food on the grill, in a crockpot and with a smoker at an off-grid cabin. Oh, there’s also simple sewing ideas, reviews on guns and hunting tips. All grandmas are badass, but as an endurance-hardened Alaskan, maybe she enjoys a natural edge? Whether it is a no-nonsense crockpot caribou or backstrap mountain meat cooked with “salt and pepper only” so the meat can “do the talking,” food for this granny is about survival and sustenance.

German American Recipe for Survival

Isabelle Lee’s grandmother Margrit Keyes was still a child when her family fled Gdansk, Poland, for Bonn, Germany, at the end of World War II. There, Keyes’ mother begged for food from local farmers and mixed ground eggshells into her children’s food for added calcium. When Keyes moved to Chicago in 1958, she discovered the love of her life — Lee’s grandfather — and a zest for good food. One of her signature dishes was Rotkohl, or German red cabbage cooked with applesauce, red wine vinegar and thick-cut bacon, which she carried across countries almost like memorabilia. “Whenever she makes the dish, she leaves a huge container in the fridge, since Rotkohl leftovers just get tastier with time,” says the OZY reporter. The family recipe, not unlike this one, is flavored with just a hint of brown sugar, and memories of a spirited survival.

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Spice It Up in Africa

Hot Pasta From Somali Bibis

At 35, Hawa Hassan is already a tour de force when it comes to Somali food in America. In Bibi’s Kitchen, her anthology of recipes from East African matriarchs, is what turned my attention to the bibis, or grandmas, of the world. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, during the country’s civil war, Hassan lived in a refugee camp before moving to Seattle, where she runs Basbaas Somali Foods, a hot-on-the-block hot sauce business. She also bagged her own show on the Food Network and taught the world how to cook suugo suqaar, or spicy Somali pasta with beef. The cinnamon-cumin-coriander-kissed aromatic affair is distinctly Somali for its use of xawaash spice mix. And with a history rooted in colonialism, it’s also uniquely resilient — just like grandmas.

Jedda’s Best Balah el Sham

Balah el Sham is often dubbed the Middle Eastern churro, but frankly the analogy is lacking. Imagine a choux pastry with glossy good looks and the perfect crunch on the outside, its taste and texture intensified tenfold against fountains of squishy, syrup-soaked warmth as you take a bite. Churro? Doughnut? Or a deluxe imposter determined to take on both? Often whipped up for iftar — the feast that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan — these fluted fritters were once jedda’s (grandmother in Arabic) sole dominion. With time, they were replicated in pastry shops, often with additional fillings. But leave it to the Egyptian grandma and they’ll come out simple — and simply scrumptious. However, a hint of rosewater in the syrup or a sprinkle of pistachios for garnish is certainly gran-approved.

South African Chakalaka Sauce

One of my favorite childhood memories is of my grandmother sitting on the terrace, sorting summer mangoes for pickles and chutneys. Halfway between a condiment and an elaborate salad, chakalaka is a spicy relish that changes character from one grandmother’s kitchen to another — much like Indian chutney or Mexican salsa. Most recipes start off with tomato, onion, garlic, carrots, chile pepper and occasionally baked beans. Curry powder adds to the Asian groove. Said to have originated in the mining townships around Johannesburg, the Portuguese-influenced dish plays cheerleader to simple stews and grilled meat or fish. Or, like Hawa Hassan, you can heap it onto a sizzling grilled cheese sandwich!

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Eating Through Europe

Nonna’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

Nothing beats the comfort of classic Italian spaghetti and meatballs, a grandmother’s dish if there ever was one. Nonnas, many generations of them, have made the recipe so foolproof that your inner hipster wouldn’t dare tinker with it. There are some basic rules of thumb to save you from misfiring. The meatballs — preferably made from a 50/50 ratio of ground beef and ground pork — must not be over-seasoned, and they better be juicy-tender, a quality that comes from adding egg to the mix. Make your own breadcrumbs, don’t skimp on the Parmesan and consider including beef broth for extra richness. Now all you need is a bold Chianti to round out the feast.

Poland’s Festive Salad Crunch

With all that red meat talk, it’s time to make room for healthy greens. For Zuzia Whelan and her 80-year-old grandmother, this salad is as important as any dish of repute. The OZY copyeditor and reporter points out that sałatka jarzynowa, as it’s called in Polish, is a slow romance of seasonal flavors. Carrots, parsnips, celeriac, waxy potatoes, apples and sour pickles (not dill) are boiled and allowed to cool. Next, peas and delicately diced hard-boiled eggs are added to the mix. “The dressing is sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, a little paprika and salt, and takes about 10 goes to get it perfect,” explains the Warsaw native, who enjoys the “meditative” process of chopping, even when her work is being “closely monitored” — Grandma Irna doesn’t quite trust her eager elf.

Bebia’s Georgian Dumplings

Right before the pandemic upended, among other things, a plan to visit the Caucasian reaches of Georgia, my would-have-been guide and now-friend Zviad Bechvaia told me about khinkalis. “Juicy, meaty soup dumplings, you’ll eat them everywhere,” he’d messaged me, a promise that came back to haunt me as I tried to make amends with Tibetan momos back at home. Khinkalis are thick-skinned, fist-size parcels of wheat stuffed with seasoned filling, usually beef and pork. Caraway, coriander seeds, chili and fresh cilantro are common ingredients, but grandmothers — called bebias in Georgia — boast different regional versions, some plumped with lamb and others fresh greens. Tip: Try slurping out the rich soup before sinking your teeth into the khinkali. I should know: I spent a whole summer sighing over cooking videos of Georgian grandmas, you see. 

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Middle East, Asia and an Indian Secret

Lebanese Grans Never Back Down

My colleague Josefina Salomon, culinary student of the aforementioned Argentine grandmother, clearly spent charmed childhood years raiding international pantries. But while she was polishing off empanadas and palmeritas, her father’s Syrian Lebanese mother had no intention of bowing down to the abuela, so she rustled up plates of “spectacular warak enab, kibbe and mombar sausages.” I Google warak enab, essentially grape leaves jammed with rice, meat and veggies, and realize how similar it is to one of my grandmother’s festive dishes, potoler dolma — the local evolution of dolma — a stuffed dish with roots in the Middle East!

California Loves Its Japanese Eggplant

When Hiroko Kawasaki’s granddaughter married Sean Culligan, a Bay Area resident, the Japanese matriarch’s recipe for nasu nibitashi, or braised eggplant, traveled a long way from Machida, Tokyo. Culligan, OZY visuals editor, has come to vouch for its value on the dinner table as a light side dish, sometimes with his favorite gyozas. Its beauty lies in its simplicity: All you need is smaller-size eggplants, some dashi (Japanese soup stock), mirin, soy sauce and ginger. The senior Kawasaki’s version uses sake. “I love summer evenings after the end of a hot humid day. The nasu’s gentle texture and flavor give me a very warm and peaceful feeling,” says Kawasaki’s daughter — and Culligan’s mother-in-law — Ema, who now keeps the tradition alive during sultry California summers.

Back to Thammi’s Kitchen in India

Did you really think I’d leave you without a recipe for the doi maach that changed my relationship with fish meals and Sundays? At 93, Purabi Dasgupta hasn’t entered the kitchen in a few years. But as I rattle off the ingredients of this internet-scavenged recipe that seems similar to her own, she’s sparing in her approval. “They’ve not used mustard oil?” Thammi frowns, before voicing reservations about the garnish of fried onions. Instead she advises: “Add some surprise raisins to the gravy. Not a lot, just enough for sudden sweet kicks to cut through the tang. It’s what makes it so . . .” “Delicious,” I finish her thought.