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Happy Tuesday! My grandmother and I have spent hours discussing John le Carré’s books, so his passing Saturday felt personal. Then, my wife reminded me of an Afrofuturist spy novel I’ve been meaning to read. Her point: Le Carré’s successors are already here. Meet them today as you witness a celestial kiss, visit a South Korean cold storage firm that’s winning the COVID-19 lottery, marvel at the world’s latest precious gemstone and try out brilliant new video games.
The Electoral College on Monday confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s win, even as Attorney General William Barr resigned, weeks after refusing to endorse President Donald Trump’s assertion of widespread fraud in the election. (Sources: NPR, BBC)
2. ‘I Trust Science’
So said Jamaican-born Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at a Queens hospital who became the first American outside trials to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Lindsay said she hoped to inspire other Americans of color to also take the shot amid concerns over vaccine skepticism. Meanwhile Russia is trialing a COVID-19 vaccine for domestic animals. (Sources: NYT, WaPo, Reuters)
3. Searching for Google
It’s the modern equivalent of a snow day. Google services including Gmail, YouTube and Google Docs went offline for about 45 minutes Monday in an outage that brought work around the world to a standstill. Should companies reduce their dependence on Google? Vote on Twitter. Meanwhile there’s no standing still in the declining Australia-China trade relationship, which Canberra might soon complain about to the World Trade Organization. (Sources: TechCrunch, Bloomberg)
4. Open and Shut
The U.S. has removed Sudan from a blacklist of terrorism sponsors, opening the way for foreign investments to that country, even as Mexico is considering a law that would severely restrict access for foreign agents, including the Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S. (Sources: UPI, FT)
Jupiter and Saturn will give up social distancing on December 21, aligning in a way so they’ll appear closer and brighter than they have in 800 years. Grab a blanket, forget your earthly worries for a moment and soak in this celestial love affair.
Sickle cell disease currently affects an estimated 100,000 Americans, blocking blood flow and depriving organs of oxygen. It can lead to the failure of organs and cause intense pain and near-constant fatigue. But there's hope on the way. Scientists are fine-tuning a new strategy that could keep the condition in check while also reducing pain.
Like le Carré — to whom he’s often compared — Mai knows what he’s writing about. He served for 17 years in China’s military intelligence before picking up the pen and turning into a bestselling author of spy thrillers. The bespectacled 56-year-old was bullied as a child and his most famous character Rong Jinzhen was also socially awkward growing up. But like Mai, Rong — a cryptographer — knows how to crack the code to success.
And thank you for sharing your favorite le Carré books that made it to the screen! Anne B. loves Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alexandre I.’s favorite is The Constant Gardener, while John K. prefers Smiley’s People.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
It’s one of Carlos’ favorite interviews to date. Former ESPN hosts Jemele Hill and Cari Champion — co-hosts of “Cari and Jemele (Won’t) Stick to Sports” — open up about the problematic environment at ESPN, how they met and why Black women must have each other’s backs. Don’t miss it later today.
Ask Fauci: Later this week, Carlos will also be interviewing America’s most trusted epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci. What would you like Carlos to ask him? Tell us.
Remember the early days of the pandemic, when there was a run on toilet paper? While things have settled a bit since then, it’s clear we’re likely to be staying indoors for several more months. Suzano, the Brazilian firm that is the world’s largest wood pulp producer, is smiling. Its stock value has risen 50 percent since mid-July.
2. Vaccine Vehicle
One of the biggest challenges involving leading COVID-19 vaccines is their need for refrigeration at hard-to-maintain, ultralow temperatures. But that’s good news for ilShin BioBase, a leading Korean manufacturer of freezers for drugs. It has seen its share price quadruple since June as demand grows for a cold chain to keep these vaccines safe.
3. Cementing Success
With country after country turning to infrastructure spending as a way out of the recession, cement companies are emerging as key gainers. The stock price of Dangote Cement, Africa’s largest cement manufacturer — owned by the continent’s richest man, Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote — has risen nearly 40 percent since September.
It’s thenew kid on the block. Named carmeltazite, the mineral was only discovered last year in the volcanic rocks of Mount Carmel in Israel. Its rarity could make it more valuable than diamonds, and it’s to be marketed as the “Carmel sapphire.” There’s still mystery around it though: Carmeltazite shares a composition very similar to a mineral found in Mexico after a meteor crash.
2. Paraiba Tourmaline
Found in the Paraiba province of Brazil, it’s costlier than gold and rarer than diamonds — a combination that has made it afavorite of top global jewelers in recent years, but also the target of a $1 billion trafficking operation to funnel the precious material from a poor part of the country to international markets.
3. Mozambican Rubies
For centuries, treasure hunters and gemstone connoisseurs have been drawn to rubies from Southeast Asia. Then sanctions against Myanmar over human rights violations choked that source. But in 2009, the world’s largest source of rubies was discovered in Mozambique — it now produces 50 percent of all rubies — making East Africa the new capital of this bright-red stunner.
The world has never playedvideo games as much as in2020. These brilliant new role-playing games (RPGs) are perfect for the gamer in you.
Even before its launch last week, this game by Polish developer CD Projekt Red hadsold 8 million copies. More than a million people are playing the year’s most anticipated game at the same time. You play V, a cynical mercenary hunting for a computer chip that could make you immortal. And your guide is a character played by Keanu Reeves! Now you know why this game is “The One.”
2. Genshin Impact
Free-to-play games are typically poor in quality and charge you for every character or tool you want to add.Genshin Impact, launched in September by Chinese developer miHoYo, breaks with that mold — dramatically. With stunning visuals, a range of characters and a score by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, itsucks you deep into the game before you need to consider paying anything ... and then, it’s worth every dollar.
3. The Wagadu Chronicles
Fantasy role-playing games are mostly set in European mythology.The Wagadu Chronicles is all about the beauty of Africa and its cultural traditions. One of the most anticipated video games of the next few months, its stories are inspired by the Maasai in Kenya and the Yoruba in Nigeria. Launched by Alan Cudicio, a developer of Ghanaian heritage, this could be the Black Panther of gaming.
Going to the store and blindly choosing a wine because you’re charmed by the label feels antiquated now, thanks to our friends at Bright Cellars. These MIT grads created a custom algorithm that finds the perfect wine for you. Just take their palate quiz and you’ll get wine selected just for you delivered to your doorstep. Sign up now to get $45 off your first order of six wines.