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Good morning! If you’re still working your way through holiday leftovers, know this: San Francisco might have a gingerbread overload, as you'll find out when you read on. That's not the only flavorful fact on offer today. Meet the professor who has a million students attending his classes and learn about the companies poised for a super 2021. Read about some of history’s most consequential scandalous affairs and taste new versions of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
For a week, President Donald Trump has derided and held up a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill and funding for the federal government. But with Washington poised to shut down tomorrow, he made an unexpected U-turn last night and signed the bill — after letting pandemic-linked unemployment benefits expire for 14 million Americans. (Sources: Washington Post, NPR)
2. Whistling in the Dark
Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan has been jailed for four years in what’s thought to be retaliation for her livestream reporting from Wuhan at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca says its vaccine should work on the new virus variant causing a panic in Britain. Saudi Arabia paused all international flights over fear of the new strain, but now says foreign nationals will be allowed to leave. (Sources: Al Jazeera, AP, The Hill)
3. Lone Wolf
Police say they believe the culprit in the Christmas morning bombing in Nashville, which injured three people and caused extensive property damage, worked alone and died in the blast. DNA from IT worker Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, was found at the site. (Sources: Nashville Tennessean, BBC)
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson managed to agree on an 11th-hour Brexit trade deal with the EU — but now admits that the financial services piece of the puzzle may leave London out in the cold. Until Brussels declares that the U.K. system is “equivalent” to its own, Britain’s financial sector will have more limited access to EU markets than New York or Singapore. (Source: FT)
Gingerbread Houses Are So Passé
San Francisco has a gingerbread monolith. Or rather, it had one: The 7-foot structure made of gingerbread and icing appeared on Christmas Day but had crumbled in a light rain by Dec. 26. It's thought to be a holiday homage to the metal monolith recently discovered in the Utah desert.
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What’s the largest class you’ve been in? Maybe 50 students, or 100? Perhaps 200? Israeli-born Boneh’s online open course on cryptography has over a million students signed up at a time. Not that the Stanford professor’s physical classes are less popular. Boneh is also a reluctant television star — he and three colleagues were advisers for HBO’s Silicon Valley and had cameos in the final episode. He even talked math with the crew while he was on set.
2. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan
Growing up as a woman of Indian origin in apartheid South Africa, not all universities were open to her. But today, the paleobiologist at the University of Cape Town is opening the world’s eyes to the wonders of the prehistoric world. For instance, she and her colleagues identified the remains of a new dinosaur species in Mongolia last year. But her focus is closer to home. Chinsamy-Turan is also the author of a children’s book that introduces them to dinosaurs from Africa.
3. Geri Augusto
She teaches the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade — through food and plants. Augusto, who has taught in Brazil and worked in Tanzania, is now a visiting scholar at Brown University. But true to her expertise, her lectures aren’t based on books alone. At Brown, she’s built a symbolic garden to demonstrate the plant and food knowledge that slaves brought with them to the Americas. Hear her talk about okra and its significance.
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A gift from us to you. As we count down toward the new year, we’re bringing you some of our favorite episodes from The Carlos Watson Show in "odd couple" matchups and asking you to decide which conversation you found most interesting. Today: Check out the stories of entrepreneurs who turned reality TV fame into commercial success — from Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi to Real Housewives' Bethenny Frankel. Whose story was the most impressive? Check out the episodes here, and let us know which you pick by following The Carlos Watson Show on Instagram and voting in our Stories.
2021’s Corporate Picks
Even amid a global recession, some companies have shown that they have it in them to actually thrive. These firms could prove worthy investments to bet on in the new year.
Argentina’s biggest company by market cap ($83 billion), MercadoLibre is also South America’s largest e-commerce firm. And it’s expected to only grow further, as online retail — already on the uptick — explodes in the wake of the pandemic and lockdown. No wonder then that it’s a pick investors are recommending you put your money into.
2. Toilet Triumph
This is no potty humor. Toto, the iconic Japanese smart toilet-maker that invented the electronic Washlet bidet, is one of the top-performing companies on the Nikkei Stock Average, the price of its shares almost doubling since March. I guess if we’re stuck at home, comfortable thrones are worthy investments.
3. Telecom Titan
It was a gamble — and it looks like it might pay off. At the start of the pandemic, Kenyan telecommunications major Safaricom decided — counterintuitively, it seemed — to temporarily make all person-to-person transactions of low values on the popular mobile money service M-Pesa absolutely free. Now several months later, that move has helped the company’s joint M-Pesa platform with Vodafone see a bump in monthly transactions as its user base has expanded. Read more on OZY.
Scandalous Affairs … That Changed History
England, Russia and poetry wouldn’t be the same without these controversial liaisons.
One of the great unions of literary history began in 1814 when the 16-year-old Mary Godwin and the dreamy, but very married, 21-year-old romantic poet Percy Shelley met in secret at the grave of Mary’s suffragette mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. The lovers later married and their short-lived partnership, which ended when the poet drowned, would inspire some literary masterpieces, including Mary’s classic Frankenstein.
2. Catherine the Great and Grigory Potemkin
Every great empress needs a counselor, military strategist, soulmate, and boy toy — or one man capable of wearing all of those hats. Catherine the Great first encountered the dashing Grigory Potemkin when the young commander (10 years her junior) helped the 33-year-old overthrow her husband, Russia’s Czar Peter III in 1762. Their steamy affair was likely consummated in the basement sauna of St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace.
3. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Nothing in The Crown is a patch on the drama they brought to Britain’s monarchy. Henry’s attempt to legitimize his marriage to Anne would famously lead to England’s break from the Roman Catholic Church, while Anne’s brief stint as Henry’s second queen would result in the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth I, other failed pregnancies and Anne’s ultimate beheading.
The New PB&Js
Comfort food is great. Comfort food with a twist — even better.
If you’re Italian, you’ll know about this one. But it truly does make the lamb taste … more lamb-y. Any bad associations you have with anchovies will be more than dispelled by their taste here, which is less pronounced than when you just eat them alone on toast. Try this insane Roman lamb roast for your first big post-pandemic dinner party.
2. Olive Oil and Chocolate
We totally get that an ice cream sundae covered in sprinkles activates deep childhood pleasure centers, but olive oil on a sundae is an amazing and grown-up treat. Try making this chocolate sauce with olive oil, then douse your ice cream with it and add flakes of sea salt as a finishing touch. Bonus: recent scientific studies found that the olive oil and chocolate combo is actually good for you.
3. Avocado and Peanut Butter
This creamy combination makes for an easy upgraded version of your avocado toast, or you can go all-out and make these avocado and peanut butter brownies. Basically, the avocado flavor doesn’t impact the deliciousness of the peanut butter, and it just makes the whole taste situation creamier and generally better. Win-win-win.
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Ned Colin, Sean Braswell and Sadiq Dhamankar added their twist to this Whiskey in Your Coffee.