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I have good news and bad news. Just kidding: It’s 2020, so I only have bad news, bad news forever, never-ending bad news. But along with that bad news, I have some good pumpkins, good ghost stories and a really good bird with his eye on the prize. So sit back, turn on OZY’s weekly playlist and get ready to take it all in.
Eli Lilly and Company paused a clinical trial for a new COVID-19 treatment after a participant got sick, the latest setback to medical efforts aimed at battling the pandemic with vaccine manufacturers pausing late-stage trials following similar concerns. Meanwhile, Pfizer will start testing its experimental shot on kids as young as 12, and Mexico’s planning to vaccinate almost its entire population by the end of next year (assuming there’s anything to vaccinate them with). New cases in Europe jumped 36 percent last week, hitting a record 700,000 new infections.
2. Court Press
The currently eight-member U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to end the census count two weeks early. A rush job could affect data used to apportion congressional seats for the next decade. All while Amy Coney Barrett, who Trump wants to appoint as the ninth judge on the high court, remained non-committal to senators’ questions on whether she thinks a president can legally postpone an election and whether she’ll recuse herself if called to decide 2020 election cases.
3. Not So Fast
Just three days after Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a cease-fire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, violence has broken out again, with each side accusing the other of violating the agreement. Hundreds have already been killed. There’s a trust deficit in Nigeria too, where protesters remain skeptical that violent officers of the notorious, now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) will face justice, though the country says it will free demonstrators arrested during the agitation.
4. Playing Favorites
With Hong Kong still wracked by protests, Chinese President Xi Jinping has unveiled plans to turn industrial powerhouse Shenzhen — declared a special economic zone 40 years ago — into an international hub to rival the troubled city. Stocks across the Asia-Pacific region slumped in response — but in China, markets hit a record high, crossing $10 trillion.
Enough news. Birds only.
A male godwit known as 4BBRW has set a new record for nonstop flight (bird division) after he was tracked on an 11-day trip from Alaska to Auckland. That’s more than 7,500 miles, a rare trip in the avian world as most birds don’t routinely migrate so far. The bird has been compared to a jet fighter — without the carbon output that’s killing the planet. Would you vote for this bird for president? Take our Twitter poll.
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With the bars in my city shut, I’ve been staying in and overdosing on ghost stories. But don’t just reach for Stephen King again — try some of these emerging voices from around the world.
Scarily Good Writers
1. Samanta Schweblin
This Argentine-born author, now based in Berlin, has only just made a splash in the U.S. thanks to some late-breaking translations. Her work is both stunningly innovative and squarely situated in the tradition of horror: Her latest novel, Little Eyes, takes on the spooky stuffed animal trope in a whole new way.
2. Pyun Hye-young
While her latest novel to be published in English veers a bit more toward mystery, this South Korean hitmaker’s 2017 The Hole won the Shirley Jackson Award and will appeal to Stephen King fans with its tale of a man trapped in bed, newly woken from a coma, watching his erratic caretaker.
Populations across the U.S. are breaking records for early voting, but the bar isn’t very high to start with. You can change that.
Vote As If ...
… Everything depends on it. Did you know that more than 44 percent of eligible Americans did not vote in 2016? VoteAsIf.org aims to change that, ensuring that every citizen is heard and helps shape the nation’s future. Check out VoteAsIf.org’s tools to learn how you can register in any state, the requirements for voting and whether you’re registered properly. And for those who would like to help spread the word, the organization is also taking donations.
Sure, there’s plenty to be concerned about, what with unofficial ballot drop-off boxes cropping up to confuse voters. But there are also positive lessons emerging that could make voting easier this year.
From Knoxville to New Orleans, multiple cities are offering free transportation services to polling booths for early voters. Universities are joining in too — Ohio State will offer bus rides to students later this month.
2. App-ly Your Mind
Think about it. You can carry out secure financial transactions on your mobile phone, but you can’t vote on it? Well, that might change. Members of the military, overseas voters and some voters with disabilities in West Virginia, South Carolina and Umatilla County, Oregon can cast their ballot on their phones for the 2020 presidential election. Download an app, verify your identity using biometrics and cast your vote. Officials will print out your ballot for their records. Could this be the future?
3. Protecting Poll Workers
When officials in Fulton, Georgia’s most populous county, tried recruiting poll workers for the June primaries, most refused, concerned about their safety amid the pandemic. So this time, the county has used part of its federal coronavirus relief money to deep clean all voting centers and double down on safety measures for poll workers.
4. Scented Sanitizers
There are also brilliantly simple ways to improve the early voting experience: fragrant, lemony hand sanitizers at the entrance and exit of polling stations, and disposable pens to reduce the risk of infection. Just ask New Zealand.
There’s a reason I introduced you to brilliant up-and-coming horror writers. No, it’s not just because 2020 has been scary, duh. Halloween’s around the corner, and this party-free year is the perfect time to get way into your pumpkin projects. Here’s a little inspiration so you can go beyond the bucktoothed jack-o’-lantern you always make.
NASA’s annual pumpkin-carving contest mixes art and engineering, though predictably there are a lot of space-themed dioramas — with a cookie monster, aliens and dinosaurs thrown in. (Photo credit: NASA JPL)
2. Shave, Don’t Cut
Artist Edward Cabral’s art pumpkins recreate great paintings by Chagall and Toulouse-Lautrec using the delicate shading techniques made possible by shaving the pumpkin flesh away in layers. Here’s a time-lapse, before you try it.
3. Get Extra
Not that anyone is having Halloween parties this year, but that gives you lots of time to recreate Yayoi Kusama’s All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins with real gourds (and a whole lot of mirrors and maybe some glow paint).
Now for a game! Would-be artists have been extracting pigments from natural sources for millennia. Which of these things and creatures helps produce which color? Check back later this week for answers.