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Good morning! We’re all used to COVID-19 restrictions by now — and there might be some rules you’ve disagreed with. But if you think norms have been strict in the U.S., read on today to find out why Mexico’s waging a war against vending machines in order to beat the pandemic. Meet the rural Chinese factory cook who has emerged as an unlikely social media poetry star, dive into a deadly epidemic of child soldiers and relish a Sudanese perfume that’s a global bestseller. Check out the winners of last week’s caption contest.
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Senior Editor, and Toyloy Brown III, Reporter
A swastika was found etched into a State Department elevator on a day the House of Representatives was hearing emotional accounts from officers who defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack by far-right supporters of former President Donald Trump. “This is how I’m going to die,” Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell recalled thinking as he defended the Capitol from the mob attack, wiping tears. Michael Fanone, another officer — who suffered a heart attack and a brain injury as he was thrashed that day — banged his hand on the table in a show of anger at some Republicans who’ve underplayed those events. (Sources: CNN, AP, WaPo)
2. No Vax Lax
President Joe Biden is contemplating asking all federal workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or take regular tests, extending an approach already adopted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the state of California and New York City. Meanwhile, South Korea and Thailand registered records for fresh cases. (Sources: NYT, Bloomberg)
3. Money, Money, Money, Must be Funny
… In a rich man’s world. It sure is, if you’re in Big Tech. Apple, Alphabet — the parent company of Google — and Microsoft have made $57 billion in profits over the last quarter, with Apple witnessing a 50% rise in earnings from iPhone sales. (Sources: FT, WSJ)
The U.S. men’s 4x200-meter relay team finished fourth in the pool on Wednesday morning. It’s the first time America has failed to win a medal in the event since it was introduced in 1908, sparking questions about the absence of star swimmer Caeleb Dressel from the lineup. Great Britain won gold, the Russian Olympic Committee silver and Australia bronze. Japan’s Ohashi Yui (200-meter medley) and American Katie Ledecky (1,500 meter) were today’s other swimming stars.
It’s time for #RealTalkRealChange. OZY and Chevrolet are teaming up for a discussion on racial disparities in America’s education system, taking on one of the most urgent questions we face today. Hosted by OZY co-founder and Emmy Award-winning journalist Carlos Watson, who is joined by key leaders from across the country, we’re having pointed conversations to identify problems and equip you with solutions. Put aside the shouting matches and talking heads and be an ally: Join us now on YouTube for a real conversation you won’t want to miss.
The49-year-old factory cook was sold to her husband by her struggling family. Today, she’s emerging as China’s unlikely new poetry sensation. Each morning, she wakes up in her village in central Henan province to a flood of comments on her musings from the previous day, which she posts on Kuaishou, the popular, TikTok-like app. For Han, the poems are an outlet from a mundane life between the factory and the shoes she crochets in her free time. It turns out her writings are just what many other Chinese people need as the country recovers from recession and the pandemic.
2. Yrsa Daley-Ward
The daughter of a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, the British poet has earned success spanning the worlds of Instagram and formal publishing. But wearing multiple hats comes naturally to Daley-Ward, who spent her early 20s as a struggling model in London for brands such as Apple and Nike, battling racism before moving to Cape Town, where it was easier to find work as a Black model. That was before she found her true calling in prose, and a platform in Instagram that catapulted her to fame and success.
3. Rupi Kaur
Arguably thequeen of social media poetry, the Indian-Canadian artiste has 4.3 million followers on Instagram, and now does live readings. But she’s hadcritics too, with one preparing an artificial intelligence-based program that churned out poems remarkably similar to Kaur’s. But it’s precisely the simple language and relatable themes such as identity and womanhood that Kaur believes make her Insta-poems accessible.If poetry is about the masses and not just the elite, Kaur might just have found the magic potion.
Murderous rebels raided the village of Solhan in northeast Burkina Faso in June and killed at least 132 people. But even scarier is the detail that emerged some days later: The killers were mostly 12- to-14-year-olds. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, described the recruitment of child soldiers as a “generation-defining crisis.”
The Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, was accused last October of forcing a group of farmers and several boys to clear a path through mines for its troops. This led to two boys being killed and a third wounded when fighting broke out in an operation against the insurgent Arakan Army. The Tatmadaw has an extensive history of using children in armed conflict.
In Yemen, 10,300 children are believed to have been forcibly recruited by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels since 2014. Child soldiers recruited by the Houthis undergo a one-month military training camp before they’re sent to battlefronts.
Bizarre COVID Restrictions
Anything that keeps us safe is good. Anything that’s meant to keep us safe but also gives us a laugh … that’s even better.
1. Footloose in South Korea
Seoul has recently banned music over 120 beats per minute (bpm) in gyms. The idea? To stop people from trying to keep pace, breathing too heavily and splattering each other with sweat and — potentially — with COVID-19 droplets.
Does your ID number end in 0, 7 or 4? If you are in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, you are allowed to leave the house on Monday. Some Colombian towns and cities are allowing people outside at certain times simply based on their ID number. Fortunately, these measures do not impact essential workers in these places.
Great Perfumes You Didn’t Know
Smell them once and you’ll want to carry these with you.
Dubbed Africa’s “Chanel No. 5,” it was for years the world’s best-selling perfume — so popular that traders used it as currency. The legendary perfume, whose name translates to Daughter of Sudan, was first created in 1920 with equally iconic branding: a topless Sudanese woman wearing bridal jewelry. A musky, non-alcoholic perfume, you can tell Bint el Sudan by its unique mix of jasmine, lily and lilac.
The balsam that’s central to this fragrance actually originates from El Salvador. The perfume has a vanilla flavor tinged with cinnamon and an earthy smell that lingers ... just as you’ll want to linger near the Peru Balsam.