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Sep 27, 2021
Good morning! We all love great mysteries. But you don’t need to rely on fiction for the most stunning suspense. Today, meet the Dutch “Indiana Jones,” who has recovered priceless Picassos, Van Goghs … and some of Hitler’s favorite statues after they were stolen. In a week when Congress’ ability to forge a consensus on key bills will be truly tested, check out democracies where cross-aisle coalitions are the norm. And taste food that’s also served as an act of defiance.
After 16 years at the helm of her nation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel must stay in the saddle a while longer after Sunday’s election to pick her successor threw up a divided mandate. The Social Democrats, under their leader Olaf Scholz, narrowly secured more seats and votes than Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union-led ruling coalition under Armin Laschet. But both Scholz and Laschet have said they’ll try to build governing coalitions, with the Greens and the pro-market Free Democrats — the next two biggest parties — emerging as potential kingmakers. Will Merkel’s departure weaken Germany? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: Deutsche Welle, CNN)
2 - Clock Ticking for Congress
Democrats in the U.S. need to build their own cross-aisle coalitions this week as they face critical deadlines in Congress. The government could be forced to shut down unless Democrats and Republicans reach a compromise on raising the debt ceiling by the end of Thursday. That’s also the day Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set for a vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and a mega-plan to expand Social Security — proposals on which Democrats themselves are divided. (Sources: WSJ, Reuters)
3 - Rwanda’s Mass Murderer Dead
Théoneste Bagosora, a former Rwandan colonel convicted by a U.N.-affiliated court of masterminding the brutal genocide that killed 800,000 — mostly from the Tutsi ethnic community — in the East African nation in 1994, has died in a Mali hospital. (Sources: AP, BBC)
4 - World’s Lifespan Shortened
The COVID-19 pandemic has shrunk lifespans by an average of more than six months in 29 nations across North America, Europe and Chile — the biggest fall since World War II — researchers at the University of Oxford have found. American men have experienced the sharpest decline in life expectancy, by 2.2 years. (Sources: FT, Guardian)
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If you see him standing at a street corner in Manhattan or London, he might well be waiting for a mystery car to roll up with an innocuous-looking handoff worth several million dollars. For three decades, Marinello, a lawyer by trade, has hunted down stolen Picassos, Warhols and Van Goghs worth almost half a billion dollars with the self-described determination of a “pitbull.” In between, he has helped retrieve ancient Syrian treasures trafficked from the Middle Eastern country when ISIS was in control of large swathes, and helped Jewish families recover art stolen by the Nazis. There’s even aNetflix show based on his work.
3 - Kristen Windmuller-Luna
The Yoruba costume at the Brooklyn Museum was stunning. It had been “gifted” to the institution in 1998. But as Windmuller-Luna, the museum’s curator of African art, prepared for an exhibition in 2019, she knew something wasn’t right. Using her insights into West African traditions and crafts, she headed to Nigeria, video camera in hand, and tracked down local elders whose family had designed the costume. Her hunch proved correct: The costume had been stolen from a shrine in 1948 during British colonial rule.
Where Coalitions Are King
Germany’s political parties might take days or even weeks to stitch together a ruling alliance. In a two-party system like the U.S., that can seem unusual. Then there are countries at the other end of the spectrum that almost never have single-party majorities.
Yes, what might seem odd stateside is the norm in the world’s fourth-largest economy. In fact, no party or pre-election coalition has ever won the majority in Germany’s federal elections since reunification three decades ago. Not during the reign of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Not once during Chancellor Angela Merkel’s four terms. And before reunification too ... West Germany’s last single-party government was in 1961.
2 - Sweden
It took 18 weeks after the Nordic country’s 2018 election for a new government to secure a majority in Parliament. But while coalition negotiations were particularly protracted, as the emergence of a far-right party had splintered votes more than usual, no one had expected a single-party majority. The country hasn’t had one since 1968. Over the past half century, the dominant Social Democrats and the main opposition Moderate Party have both relied on alliances with others to rule. Nor is Sweden alone. Coalitions are also the norm in neighboring Norway.
3 - Israel
Yet the world’s only Jewish state’s history of coalitions runs even longer. Indeed, Israel has only once had a single party majority since its creation in 1948, and that was for a brief period in 1969 when two parties merged. After every election, major parties huddle with a range of smaller players in the Knesset — Israel’s parliament — offering cabinet posts and other enticements in exchange for support. Ruling coalitions themselves often collapse. Since April 2019, Israel has had four national elections.
Foods of Resilience
Food can excite your taste buds. But it can also be an ally in perseverance against oppression.
Eating bunny chow for the first time can be a messy but unforgettable experience. Much like its history. In its basic form, the South African dish is a hollowed out cylinder of bread, packed with a hot curry of plantain, vegetables or meat. According to one of its several origin stories, the dish — with an Indian diaspora connect — emerged as a consequence of apartheid. The bread doubled as a bowl, something that Black and colored communities — including Indians — could carry, since they were barred from eating in several restaurants.
2 - Women Who Cooked Up a Storm
Gendered social roles have historically relegated women to the kitchen. Yet their access to food has often been dictated by the patriarchy. A powerful subversion of the relationship was theWomen’s March on Versailles in October 1789. Thousands of Parisian women stormed the Palace of Versailles, demanding release of bread stocks the monarchy had been hoarding amid scarcity and price hikes. The event marked the beginning of the French Revolution.
3 - Indian Taste of Trauma
India’s lowest castes — collectively known as Dalits, a term born out of a sense of self-assertion — have long been relegated to the periphery of the country’s culinary traditions, their food defined not by ingredients but by the denial of access. Some staples, like beef and pork, became a part of the cuisine by default, as upper-caste Hindus, mostly vegetarians, did not want them. So meals made of discarded animal parts, from offal to coagulated blood, were invented. Author Sahu Patole’s bookAnna He Apoornabrahma uses Dalit food to shed light on a cultural slice of India that’s consciously been denied public space for centuries.
Zola star Riley Keough joins Carlos for a behind-the-scenes look at transforming a viral Twitter thread into a must-see movie. Tune-in to hear Elvis Presley’s granddaughter share the important roles family has played in her life and why she became a death doula.
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