Bold start. Smooth finish. The newsletter that interesting people love.
After watching The Queen’s Gambit, I decided to try playing chess for the first time in 20 years. Turns out I’m still not a secret chess prodigy. Guess I’ll have to stick with writing the news. Read on to find out about my favorite owl, Boeing’s … um ... interesting timing, that time Ethiopia kicked Italy to the curb and a tourist attraction known as “Tornado Hell.”
A quarter of a million Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19. Even as Pfizer and Moderna report that 95 percent-effective vaccines are on the way, the U.S. is looking at a long winter. New York may be forced to shut schools again and, without more aid, the subway may have to cut 40 percent of its services. Meanwhile, South Dakota’s seven-day positivity rate soared to nearly 60 percent. (Sources: NPR, NYT, Bloomberg, CNN)
2. Jailhouse Reggae
Uganda erupted in mass protests after authorities arrested popular opposition candidateand reggae star Bobi Wine (again). He’s the biggest political threat to dictator Yoweri Museveni, whose government is citing pandemic restrictions to crack down on Wine’s popular rallies. Who’s likelier to become president first: Wine or Kanye West? Vote on Twitter. Meanwhile, thousands of Thai protesters marched on police headquarters in Bangkok yesterday, braving tear gas, to pummel the building with paint. (Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC)
3. Horrifying History
After a four-year investigation, authorities have announced that Australian special forces in Afghanistan killed 39 unarmed civilians and prisoners, and were pressured to do so by senior officers. (Source: Reuters)
4. Flight Risk
Nobody even wants to get on a normal plane right now, much less one that’s been involved in two famous fatal crashes, but Boeing’s 737 MAX jets have been cleared to fly again. As the airline industry struggles, only Southwest is aggressively expanding, though some are skeptical that their pandemic-battling bet will pay off. Speaking of aggression, Israel yesterday launched airstrikes against what it said were Iranian targets in Syria. (Sources: WSJ, The Hustle, NBC)
Hoo Hoo Hoo, Merry Christmas
All we want for Christmas is a little glaring bird friend who can turn its head all the way around like the kid in The Exorcist.
A tiny owl was rescued from inside the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree as it was being transported 170 miles to the famous New York landmark. The northern saw-whet owl, seemingly unharmed, was taken to a nearby wildlife center to recover and, not having eaten on his three-day journey, was fed “all the mice he will eat.” He’ll be released into the wild once his doctors are satisfied that he’s healthy.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world, scientists are working to develop antiviral therapies that can help patients recover faster, hopefully without experiencing the most severe symptoms. One potentially game-changing approach involves antiviral drugs called protease inhibitors that can effectively slow or stop the virus in its tracks, preventing it from multiplying in the body.
While there may never be a vaccine that eliminates all types of cancer, Stevenson has developed an antibody that has been shown to kill tumor cells. The award-winning Southampton University professor is now testing a DNA fusion vaccine, which encourages the body to manufacture a protein that fights a range of cancers.
2. Branka Grubor-Bauk
If she’s not in her lab, you might find her in a tennis stadium, cheering players on.A fan of the racquet sport, the University of Adelaide virologist is behind dramatic breakthroughs for a vaccine against the Zika virus that ravaged Brazil in 2015 and then spread across the Americas. Effective in mice, the vaccine is now undergoing further clinical trials. The big challenge? Seeing if it works on women of reproductive age, since pregnant women are among the most at risk from the virus’ catastrophic effects.
Ethiopia’s at war with itself: The region of Tigray is in open rebellion and under attack by state forces. But there’s much more to the rich history and future of this country. Not only is it the headquarters of the African Union but it is also one of the world’s fastest-growing economies — at least it was before the pandemic.
The 19th century saw European countries scrambled to colonize the entirety of Africa — and Italy came for Ethiopia. But Ethiopia sent the Italians packing with the Battle of Adwa, and remained uncolonized. Though Eritreans will tell you Ethiopia didn’t mind being a colonizer itself. Read more.
Being the youngest of 13 siblings meant Haji Adilo was always trying to catch up. Surprise: He became an international marathon champion, and is now famous for training a pack of supreme Ethiopian runners who have turned the nation into a global leader in long-distance running. Read more.
Speaking of which, here’s a teaser: What’s the shortest distance race in which Ethiopia has won an Olympic medal?
The three lakes in this national park are thought to contain the souls of the dead. Maybe that’s why they change color all the time — red, black, blue, green — or maybe it’s a chemical reaction to gas from the volcano on which they’re situated.
2. Lac Rose, Senegal
This bright pink salt lake not far from Dakar is also the livelihood of hundreds of salt collectors. But if you’re a tourist, you can explore the otherworldly views on horseback. Read more.
3. Beppu Hot Spring, Japan
The blood-red ponds of this Japanese hot spring all have dramatic names like “Tornado Hell,” which maybe helps keep people from trying to bathe in them and dying horribly. Though according to legend, boiling alive in these hot springs was once used as a gruesome punishment.
4. Quilotoa Lagoon, Ecuador
High up in the Andes, this bright turquoise crater lake is a popular destination for swimmers, hikers, kayakers … and people who just want to peer into the mirrored surface and contemplate infinity.
Reality has gotten a little too interesting this year, if you ask me. But you can get a little more of it with these true-life movies.
1. ‘A Secret Love’
If you loved A League of Their Own but wished the gay subtext had been a bit more on the surface, then this true story about longtime lovers Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel will give you everything you were looking for.
2. ‘Ya Habibi’
Tracing the cultural path of a Cuban song that became a Syrian classic, this documentary will premiere online Saturday as part of Miami’s Havana Habibi Festival.
3. ‘The Painter and the Thief’
When artist Barbora Kysilkova’s paintings were stolen, she reached out to the culprit … and asked to paint him. This weirdo art movie sounds like the kind of prestige piece that wins astute actors Oscars, but it’s actually 100 percent real.
Voting in America is not as fair as we like to tell ourselves. In a new limited series podcast, Turnout, award-winning journalist and KCM co-founder Katie Couric explores America’s voting record. On this week’s episode, she gets a peek behind the curtain at Georgia’s manual recount of nearly 5 million ballots with its Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Listen now.