Bold start. Smooth finish. The newsletter that interesting people love.
It's been a week since the U.S. election, and here in Paris everyone is still asking me about how the Electoral College works, followed by queries about a leftist icon known only as Gritty. Starting today, I’ll be telling them about the all-important bird election fraud (read on!). We’ve also got a host of things to stave off your cabin fever, from great travel writing to a virtual tour of a neon junkyard museum to cake! Never forget the cake.
The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech reduced the number of COVID-19 symptomatic cases by 90 percent among those tested in trials, an early analysis of the data suggests, raising hopes at a time when there’s a global surge in infections. But it’s unclear whether the vaccine — which still needs more tests — works on asymptomatic patients. Not all vaccines are faring well: Brazil’s health regulator halted a late-stage trial of China’s Sinovac vaccine, citing a “severe adverse event.” Russia, however, has created a Twitter account for its controversial Sputnik V vaccine. (Sources: WSJ , NYT, STAT+, Politico)
2. Closing Ranks
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is openly backing President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election result, while Attorney General Bill Barr has authorized federal prosecutors to look into claims of voter fraud — which so far aren’t supported by evidence. Meanwhile, control of the Senate rests on two runoff races in Georgia – and if you live in the state, you can still register until Dec. 7. (Sources: WSJ, NPR, CNN)
3. Peacemaker Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin has brokered a cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, who’ve been warring over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The deal means nearly 2,000 Russia peacekeepers will patrol the area. (Source: AP)
4. Ouster in the Andes
Peru’s Congress has booted centrist President Martín Vizcarra over allegations of corruption, the second time in three months he's faced impeachment trials. New elections are set for April, but Head of Congress Manuel Merino will take over the remainder of Vizcarra’s term in a country that’s been hit hard by COVID-19. (Source: Reuters)
Now here’s your BIRD CORRESPONDENT with your BIRD NEWS.
The year’s most important election has been hit with voter fraud. No, not the U.S. election: New Zealand’s “Bird of the Year 2020”! Competition organizers have removed 1,500 votes for the little spotted kiwi that were placed in the middle of the night and are believed to be illegitimate. It’s at least the fourth time that such shenanigans have been detected in the contest’s history. Past faux voting campaigns supported the shag, white-faced heron and kōkako.
This was already a banner year for firearms sales in the U.S. — they were up 91 percent year-on-year from March to September — but that’s likely to increase even more now that Joe Biden has been elected president. Historically, gun sales tend to go up after Democrats win office (because people are afraid restrictions will soon increase).
States have been sounding the alarm about a lack of funds for distributing an eventual COVID-19 vaccine effectively — but Biden has promised $25 billion to manufacture inoculations and get them to everyone. That’s good news for the industry.
Travel Writers to Track
Right now, I can’t imagine ever getting on a plane again. But the work of these young travel writers is both inspiring and soothing — globe-trot through their words for now.
Growing up, the Kenyan writer read Western guidebooks that scared her about her own continent. Would she be cheated while buying a bus ticket in Burkina Faso? Were the soldiers at the border crossing orchestrating a coup? Then she took the plunge herself. Today, she’s a top chronicler of the continent’s beauty and diversity, whether diving into the majestic Indian Ocean in Madagascar, walking around pyramids in Sudan or living in a church in Burkina Faso. Ready to shed your fears?
2. David Lida
He opens your mind to this thrilling urban hub that’s Mexico City, with history around every corner, food so good you’ll wish for six meals in a day, lovely parks and warm, helpful people. HisFirst Stop in the New Worldis an all-consuming love affair with the city. Lida also designs urban tours for visitors. Whether you want to explore colonial architecture and cobblestoned streets, emerging hipster neighborhoods or hidden nuggets of history, he’s got you covered.
3. Nellie Huang
Not many travel writers have been to North Korea. This Singapore-born blogger is among those who have. Risky? Maybe — but it’s par for the course for Huang, who has written from Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea, Guatemala and Zimbabwe… and more than 130 other nations. Now she’s traveling the world in a Volkswagen camper van. The pandemic isn’t going to stop her.
Forget afternoon slumps and sluggish energy. Verb Energy Bars pack a punch of flavor from real organic ingredients and the same energy boost as a cup of black coffee. The difference? No jitters and clean energy from pure, green-tea caffeine — all in one 90-calorie bar. But don’t take our word for it. One customer raved:
“Simply put, I can’t adult without Verb. Verb has made my energy high and my life simple … Oh! And the FLAVORS!!!”
Try it yourself by snagging four bars for free! All you need to do is cover $0.95 for shipping. We promise the commitment is low, but your energy won’t be.
Fascinating Virtual Museums
My favorite drizzly November activity used to be visiting one of Paris’ museums. Now we’re all confined to our homes and the museums are closed, so I’ve been exploring offerings farther afield.
This tribute to Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí in Figueres is like a treasure hunt with surprises every few feet: from the brilliant Rainy Taxi you don’t want to get into, to the loaf of bread that’s actually art. Virtual tours often struggle to match the real thing. The Dalí Museum comes as close as is possible. Get ready for a trippy trip.
2. Neon Boneyard
This Las Vegas museum isn’t free — but it’s worth your $10. Fitting for Las Vegas, this is both a monument and a graveyard of neon signs in every shape, color and design. If this is going to be a “dark winter” as Joe Biden has predicted, let the neon bring you some light.
3. Boonstra Dioramas
Housed in one of South Africa’s Iziko museums, this diorama exhibit showcasing the fossilized reptiles of the Karoo region was groundbreaking when it opened in 1959. Last year, it shuttered — decades of study have shown the models aren’t scientifically accurate — but stayed alive in the form of this virtual exhibit, where these dumpy dino models can continue to delight those of us stuck at home.
Movie and Dinner Date
To research this next segment, I forced myself to watch something new instead of just Derry Girls again. I hope you’re all sufficiently grateful. P.S. Watch Derry Girls.
When The Boys in the Band premiered off-Broadway in 1968, it was a groundbreaking portrayal of gay life. This 2020 adaptation, with an all openly-gay cast who also starred in a Broadway revival, will give you not only a snapshot of mid-century queer culture but also some serious apartment envy (that terrace!) and a jones for birthday cake — make and eat it for dinner while watching the film.
2. Wandering Chef
This Korean documentary about master chef Jiho Im’s global roaming in search of ingredients (and closure in grieving the death of both his biological and adoptive moms) will definitely wring the tears out of you. We can’t recommend that you eat the moss off the walls like Jiho, but you could certainly cry into a giant skillet of bibimbap while you watch.
3. Another Round
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who trained as a ballet dancer before making it big as the title character in TV series Hannibal, stars in this sad but clever Scandinavian film about teacher bros who start drinking all day at work. Don’t imitate them, but you can wash down your water with a round of smørrebrød.