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Happy Monday! My first solo long-distance bus journey as a teenager was an 18-hour trip to a remote telescope in the Himalayas that I had read about. Today, as Jupiter and Saturn inch toward each other in a historic sighting, the astronomy geek in me is alive again. Take a trip to the world’s most awe-inspiring telescopes; meet the Filipino farmer who’s securing the future of plant-based burgers; and dream of exorbitant but amazing trips to take if MacKenzie Scott gives you pots of money.
Europe’s not waiting for Brexit to loosen its bond with the British. Multiple European nations, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Canada are among countries that have banned British travelers, due to a mutant COVID-19 strain spreading in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, some scientists have traced the source of the new variant to Brazil. Should America halt travel with Britain? Vote on Twitter. (Sources: BBC, Channel News Asia, Telegraph)
2. Done Deal
U.S.lawmakers have agreed on a $900 billion pandemic stimulus package after months of negotiations. It includes $600 checks for millions of Americans and aid for small businesses, which are struggling to get bank loans. (Sources: WaPo, WSJ)
That’s how United Nations agencies are describing the intensifying famine in South Sudan, as the conflict there continues. Tensions are also growing between Kenya and Somalia, which severed diplomatic ties with Mogadishu accusing Nairobi of supporting armed militia on its territory. (Sources: Guardian, Bloomberg)
4. Banking on Singapore
Top financial institutions are upping their employee numbers in Singapore as insurance against the growing uncertainty in Hong Kong over China’s increasing control of the territory. (Source: FT)
Picking stocks is hard — data shows only 1 percent of day traders actually turn a profit. So we’re here to tell you about one of the best investments you’ve probably never considered: art. Featured in The New York Times, CNN and Forbes, Masterworks is an exclusive platform for blue-chip art, an asset class that has outperformed the S&P by 180 percent from 2000 to 2018 according to benchmarks. Don’t have millions lying around? No problem: They make it possible to buy and sell investments in works by the likes of Banksy and KAWS, at a starting point everyone can afford. Their offerings can sell out quickly, so be sure to sign up today — using this special link to skip the 25,000 waitlist.
Her eyes smile with a resilience that’s securing your supply of plant-meat burgers and helping Filipino coconut farmers build a sustainable future. Plant meat depends on coconut oil (it mimics animal fat). The Philippines and Indonesia produce 70 percent of the world’s coconuts. But a powerful palm oil industry is undercutting coconut farmers, threatening the supply chain that leads to your burger. Reynoso has partnered with fair trade groups to build an alternative supply chain, selling coconuts to sustainable food firms at profitable rates for farmers. Read more on OZY.
2. Desmond Koney
Agriculture wasn’t on the cards — until the aspiring mechanical engineer inherited a struggling pineapple farm from his father. The large-framed Ghanaian married his training as an engineer with his fate as a farmer to instead build an Airbnb-modeled firm that could revolutionize agriculture across Africa. His platform, Complete Farmer, uses vertical farming, hydroponics and drones to turn your land into a factory farm manufacturing everything from soybeans to chilli peppers. Read more on OZY.
3. Keenan Pinto
He has built the Siri for plants. As more people turn to hydroponics to grow their own food in verandah farms, Sprout, the app of Indian-born, Denmark-based Keenan Pinto, could be their best friend. It measures key parameters of soil health and speaks out the values you ask for. His firm Nordetect received investments even in pandemic-stricken 2020. After all, Sprout’s all about growing. Read more on OZY.
Odd Couple: Who’s Your Favorite?
End the year with “odd couple” matchups from our favorite episodes of The Carlos Watson Show. Which conversation do you find the most interesting? Carlos speaking with the new AOC, Representative-elect Jamaal Bowman, or the next Ava DuVernay, writer and director Isabel Sandoval? Watch them all here and share your pick by following The Carlos Watson Show on Instagram and voting in our stories.
Jupiter and Saturn haven't been this close in 400 years, making tonight's spectacle rare. These massive telescopes are going further, tracking phenomena we’ve only dreamed about.
The Vera C. Rubin Observatorythat’s being builtby the U.S. National Science Foundation on an 8,000-foot mountain in northern Chile is looking at the big picture — a very, very big picture. It will prepare the most detailed map yet of the solar system and explore how the sky is changing, studying billions of distant galaxies.
3. Bits and Pieces
How about time travel?That’s effectively whatthe Square Kilometer Array telescope hopes to do. Being coordinated by 10 nations in South Africa and Australia, it’ll have thousands of receiving stations over two continents, searching for answers back from when the first stars began to glow. But first, they need $1 billion for the project.
Value This Economy
Amid a global debate on income inequality, a new model of funding and entrepreneurship might be emerging — potentially creating a values-based economy.
From Indonesia to Malaysia, green infrastructure projects are turning to Islamic finance. Islam bars you from speculating in investments, and alcohol, gambling, pornography and arms-dealing are off-limits. Financial products instead make their earnings through agreed-upon profit-sharing deals with investees or higher markups at the point of sale. It’s exactly the kind of do-good, predictable funding climate projects need. This $3 trillion kitty could save us all. Read more on OZY.
2. Fixing Loneliness
Boroondara, a wealthy and elderly Australian city, has the country’s highest proportion of single-occupancy homes. Meanwhile, nearby Melbourne is unaffordable for young people. Now, under a new city-supported project, young and old are sharing a roof and food in Boroondara. The rent is secondary. The key idea: helping the elderly overcome loneliness.
3. Africa Next?
The continent with the youngest population might well drive our values-based economic future. A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll concluded that even though, at present, African nations lag behind others in social enterprises, Nigeria and Egypt are poised to make massive leaps — propelled by their young people.
Ridiculously Expensive Excursions
Just how generous are you feeling this Christmas? You’ll need a suitcase of cash (and maybe more) to gift these fancy trips to a loved one — or to take them yourself. But if you’re planning to go big in 2021, you can’t go bigger than these.
Want to check out those famous railings Jack and Rose (fictionally) hung from? Starting next May, American firm OceanGate Expeditions is offering trips to the wreckage of the Titanic at the bottom of the North Atlantic on a five-person submarine. It isn't cheap: The eight-day trip from Newfoundland island will cost $125,000. But to the three dozen people who've already paid up for the trip, it's clearly no sunk cost.
2. Space Odyssey
Strap on that seatbelt. We’ve been hearing of plans for private, commercial space travel for years. Now it’s finally here. SpaceX will start in 2021, while Russia's Roscosmos hopes to send tourists up into space in 2023. Tickets are expected to cost millions of dollars.
3. Cruise to the South Pole
Luxury liners are preparing to hit the icy waters around Antarctica with fresh fervor, with wood-paneled yoga studios and landscape views of penguins. You'll start from Ushuaia, Argentina. You'll be poorer by anywhere between $13,400 and nearly a million dollars. But before you sign that check, you'll want to be aware of another cost: to Antarctica's ecosystem, increasingly under stress from tourism.
I’m sure most of you — like me — aren’t really contemplating a trip to the stars. But we’d love to know where you would like to go once you’re ready to travel again.
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