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Happy Friday!! Nothing amuses me more than when people repeatedly mistake Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” for a nationalistic chant. Start your Friday with the fascinating story behind one of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits, read about why Britain is rushing COVID-19 experts to Slovakia, meet the next great graphic novelists and sail down the Nile with a bowl of brilliant beans. Find the answer to Wednesday’s question at the end.
Hold your breath. Or rather, clench your fist: That COVID-19 immunization shot in the arm is finally nearly here. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has approved Pfizer’s vaccine, and the full FDA is expected to sign off soon for a rollout as early as next week. Across the Pacific, South Korean soldiers are now helping front-line workers combat a surge in cases, while a new wave is testing Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay. (Sources: NYT, Nikkei Asia, Guardian)
2. Saharan Sale
If you can’t sell sand in the Sahara, you can still trade land there. Morocco has agreed to normalize ties with Israel, the latest Arab nation to do so, in a landmark U.S.-brokered deal in exchange for Washington recognizing Morocco’s claim over the disputed region of Western Sahara. But it’s unclear if the rest of the world will accept it. After all, Britain and the EU still can’t agree on Brexit. (Sources: BBC, Politico, Reuters)
3. Love Is in the Airbnb
The holiday rental company’s share price more than doubled on its IPO launch Thursday. Would you stay in a holiday rental apartment in 2021? Vote on Twitter. Also rising is Chinese mystery toy manufacturer Pop Mart, which debuted on the Hong Kong stock market today and rapidly gained a $7 billion valuation. Its $8 figures come in packaging that doesn’t let you see inside. (Sources: FT, BBC)
Healthy dog, healthy human. If you need a new reason to take your pet out for long walks, scientists at Sweden’s Uppsala University have found that humans with diabetic dogs are significantly likelier to have Type 2 diabetes themselves.
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Growing up under Sudan’s former dictator Omar al-Bashir, Albaih learned early that the comics section was the only part of the newspaper free of propaganda. Today, the slim, professorial, 40-year-old is reshaping his country’s narrative through biting cartoons on Facebook; training workshops for aspiring political cartoonists; and through graphic novels like 2019’s Sudan Retold, wherehe presents 31 perspectives on the future of his nation. Read more on OZY.
2. Thi Bui
The 45-year-old Vietnamese refugee speaks with a nervous laugh and calls herself the “slowest cartoonist in America.” It took her 12 years to tell her family’s story. But The Best We Could Do was worth that wait, starting with its cover — where a young Bui looks straight at the reader with raised eyebrows as the family holds hands near the Golden Gate Bridge. Indeed, you’ll struggle to find better. Read more on OZY.
3. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
The 44-year-old Brazilian twins grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes, and like them, they’re inseparable, guaranteeing you twice the thrills. Their big breakthrough started in 2006, when they took turns illustrating the popular Casanova series. Now they’re among the biggest Latin American crossover stars in the graphic novel industry.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
Author, journalist and thinker Ta-Nehisi Coates tells Carlos about how fatherhood has impacted his life and work — and why he admires President Barack Obama despite their disagreements. Tune in for an exclusive reading from Between the World and Me, his award-winning 2015 book and soon-to-be HBO special.
And catch our partner Cheddar for a three-day video special, 2021: The Year Ahead, starting Dec. 25 at 8 a.m. ET.
Surprising COVID Successes
South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Ghana and New Zealand have drawn rave reviews for their handling of the pandemic. These other nations faced tougher odds — and might have done even better.
The tiny Eastern European nation is confused so often with Slovenia that when their prime ministers resigned on the same day in 2018, it sparked a meme-fest. But if you’re still ignorant about the country, the joke’s on you. Amid rising infections, Britain has sent experts to Slovakia to pick up tips. The country tested 97 percent of its population in the 10-65 age group, identified those infected, enforced lockdowns and rapidly brought cases down. Then it repeated the process.
With Latin America’s oldest population, Uruguay was particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. But by following science and sense, it has emerged as a dramatic outlier in the region. Sandwiched between Brazil (6.8 million cases) and Argentina (1.5 million cases), Uruguay has recorded only 8,500 infections. Its greatest strength? Its people. Though the government shut down public spaces, schools and borders, it never made it mandatory for people to stay indoors — it only requested them to do so. And they did.
We all know how it feels to wake up after eating three bags of pizza rolls. Like us, pets need nutritious meals to feel their best. Our friends at Spot & Tango have created revolutionary, 100% human-grade dog food so your BFF can live their happiest life. Best of all, their meal plans start at only $6.99 per week with free shipping.
If Bonnie Raitt’s iconic ballad ever hit home for you, know its inspiration: a homeless Vietnam veteran squatting in an abandoned lot, whose words appeared in a feature in The Tennessean in 1989. “You can’t make a damn woman love you, if she don’t,” the vet said. But she can plant the seeds for a damn good song. Read more on OZY.
2. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”
It’s an anthem that’s been chanted out by racists and anti-war protesters alike. Yet it started as an inside joke among Union soldiers pulling the leg of their colleague Sgt. John Brown, who shared a name with the infamous abolitionist who was executed before the Civil War. Read more on OZY.
3. “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
Here’s how youpitch a song to a great musician. Kris Kristofferson, a former Army helicopter pilot, landed a chopper at Johnny Cash’s home in 1969. A beer in one hand and a tape in the other, he walked out and played “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” The song landed Cash a hit he’s still remembered for.
Full of Beans
It’s the weekend, and time to raise those spirits. Here are some stunning bean dishes from around the world to try out.
Pro tip: In Egypt, don’t refer to it by its “full” name — ful is how locals refer to this gently spiced fava bean dish that’s eaten with pita bread and fresh greens. One of my favorite memories of Egypt is devouring ful with local coffee while sailing down the Nile near Luxor. Portions are large, so you can have your heart’s ful.
It means marriage — which is appropriate for thismagical fusion of red beans and rice popular in Honduras andEl Salvador. Onion and green pepper are the bridesmaid and best man. Like every marriage, there’s no one recipe for success. Different families innovate in their own ways. But like the best marriages, it always leaves a smile on your face.
This honey pancake stuffed with sweetened red bean paste is so irresistible, it’s the one thing anime character Doraemon can’t refuse, even when it’s a trap. Taste it and you’ll know why.
On Wednesday, I asked which two current heads of state have been implicated in the Panama Papers. The answer: The king of Saudi Arabia and the president of the United Arab Emirates.