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Happy Friday! Every year around Christmas, I wait for a lunchbox to arrive from a close friend. Inside it he packs Bebinca, a delightful dessert from the Indian state of Goa that looks like chocolate but is a cake. I’m still waiting for it this year, but you needn’t. Taste new Christmas sweets, meet the flute-playing 30-year-old who could be the next dictator, learn why Estonia could be the economy of the future and pick up (but don’t use) dating tips from a hippo. Read to the end for answers to Wednesday’s question.
More than 300 Nigerian schoolboys who went missing last week are now returning home, days after terrorist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for abducting them. Has the spirit of Christmas caught up with the otherwise brutal group? (Source: Guardian)
2. Second Shot
U.S. Food and Drug Administration experts have approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to be authorized soon, about a week after Pfizer’s vaccine was cleared. Meanwhile, European leaders are isolating after meeting French President Emmanuel Macron, who has tested positive for the virus. And the king of Sweden — which has resisted lockdowns — said his country “failed” against COVID-19. (Sources: CNN, Bloomberg, Reuters)
3. Not Biden His Time
President-elect Joe Biden has nominated New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland for interior secretary, who’d be the country’s first Native American Cabinet secretary. But that’s later. On Friday, Congress might finally approve a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus deal after months of wrangling. Are you satisfied with the deal? Vote on Twitter. (Sources: BBC, Fox)
4. Beijing in the Middle
TheTrump administration is divided over how strictly to enforce a ban against doing business with Chinese firms that have worked with that country’s military. The Treasury Department wants to limit the restrictions, but the Pentagon and State Department oppose that plan. Source: (WSJ)
Meet, Pray, Love
You can’t buy love. But Thailand’s tourism agency believes it can certainly sell it. Struggling without visitors amid the pandemic, the tourism-dependent country is now turning to lovelorn locals, partnering with Tinder to offer matchmaking boat cruises with astrologers, visits to temples and blind dates.
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No country was better prepared for 2020’s disruptions than this tiny former Soviet state. It offers e-residencies — documents that allow entrepreneurs to remotely set up businesses in the country, even if they’re actually lounging in the Bahamas. When the pandemic hit, 99 percent of government services were already online and so remained available, 87 percent of schools were already using e-learning, and digital health records meant patients could access their treatment while leaving doctors to focus on COVID-19.
While the big daddies of global trade bicker over tariffs, Chile joined hands with New Zealand and Singapore in January this year to finalize a pact under which they’ll devise common rules for digital trade. Chile is already ahead of much of Latin America in perceived e-commerce safety and online privacy. Now it could show the Western Hemisphere what a future digital free trade zone might look like.
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Born to Be President?
We know about the Kennedys and Bushes in America; the Gandhis in India; the Trudeaus in Canada. But new political dynasties are emerging too, and old ones are throwing up fresh faces.
As a child, the son of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would slink away from the baseball field — his father wanted him to pursue the sport — to instead play the flute, his first love. Now 30, "Nicolasito" or Little Nicolás, is no longer running away from his father's directions. Tall and heavyset like the authoritarian president, Maduro Guerra was elected to Venezuela's National Assembly this month, helping his father's party triumph.
2. Gibran Rakabuming
For years, the food entrepreneur insisted he had no desire to follow in the political footsteps of his father, Indonesian President Joko Widodo — who in the past has opposed nepotism. But the 33-year-old won the mayorship of the Central Java city of Solo (where Widodo started his political career) in elections this month. Like his father years ago, the sports-loving Gibran rode a vintage bicycle when he went to register his candidacy. Can he emulate his father all the way?
3. Malika Bongo Ondimba
She models for magazines and organizes beauty pageants. But the daughter of Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba has set herself higher goals: She wants to succeed her father when his second term ends in 2023. The Bongo family has ruled the impoverished West African nation for 53 years, accumulating wealth that allows them to own Beverly Hills mansions. Could it be her turn next?
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
Jordin Sparks sings to Carlos. The American Idol superstar talks about her path to stardom, her love story and how her son feels about her singing (hint: there’s shushing involved). Don’t miss 2020’s final episode.
The festive winter months are also peak human mating season in America. Whether or not you’re planning to get frisky, steal a smile from these brilliant — and occasionally gross — mating rituals from the animal world that we often forget we’re part of.
The way to the heart is definitely through the stomach for nursery web spiders. The male must bring a food parcel wrapped in silk threads to the female, who decides whether to mate based on the quality of the gift. But male spiders sometimes try to cheat, using elaborate wrapping to cover empty insect husks. Once the female discovers she’s been duped, though, she breaks up for good.
2. Raising a Stink
If you don’t give a sh*t, you’re definitely not a hippo. Male hippos spin their tails and let out massive farts to hurl their feces within the smelling distance of females. If a female falls for the move, she lifts her rear out of the water and showers the male back with poop. Yep, that foul smell is love in the air.
3. Going Around in Circles
When male pufferfish want to ask out a potential partner, they go to the seabed and draw artistic circular patterns using their fins, Japanese scientists have found. Females mate only if they think the male is creative enough.
Great Christmas Bakes
We all have our family favorites. But if you’re feeling experimental, try these Christmas classics from other parts of the world. Your stomach will thank you.
Prunes, raisins and figs go to a bar, get drenched in rum and port, and meet cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. The result? This spice-rich Colombian black fruit cake. Ready for a boozy sugar high?
2. Malwa Pudding
It’sthe dessert of celebration in South Africa, a spongy caramelized cake with apricot jam doused in vanilla-flavored sauce. The ingredients are basic — the taste is anything but.
You could bite into it — or you could savor it layer by layer. This dense, multilayered cake uses coconut milk and oodles of butter and is a Christmas must in the coastal Indian state of Goa. Let your taste buds transport you there.
Is there a Christmas dessert family recipe you'd like to share with us?