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Happy Tuesday! I was a physicist before I jumped into journalism, so I get a vicarious kick whenever science trumps other fields. Imagine my thrill, then, in introducing you today to a physicist who is challenging 300 years of economics by showing up its flaws — and is finding support. You’ll also meet Pakistan’s Oprah Winfrey, learn to play volleyball with your hips and raid a Christmas tree like the Swedes.
Raise a toast. You won’t need to pay taxes on it, if the drink’s part of a business meal. The controversial “three-martini lunch” deduction is among a series of tax benefits and bailouts finally approved by Congress Monday night in a $1.4 trillion government funding bill — with a $900 billion pandemic stimulus bill attached — that could find only $600 as direct aid for each American. Is the business lunch benefit justified? Vote on Twitter. (Sources: Politico, WaPo)
2. Strain and Relief
A new mutant strain of COVID-19, different from the one spreading in the U.K., has made Germany and Switzerland ban flights from South Africa, where it’s been found. But there is good news too. European regulators have cleared the Pfizer vaccine for use, and China’s Sinovac vaccine has just cleared phase three clinical trials in Brazil. (Sources: FT, BBC, WSJ)
3. Below the Belt
It’s the last place you expect poison: your underwear. Yet that’s where Russian operatives planted the Novichok toxin that nearly killed Alexei Navalny earlier this year. The Russian opposition leader said an officer admitted it on a phone call when Navalny pretended to be the agent’s superior. (Source: Guardian)
4. Siri, Drive Me
Apple wants a bite of the booming self-driving market and plans to launch an autonomous vehicle of its own by 2024. (Source: Reuters)
Bear the Cold
Like a bear. That’s what neanderthal humans did, hibernating in winter like bears to survive extreme weather, fossils found in Spain show. I guess they didn’t have Zoom meetings and Slack messages bothering them on cold winter nights.
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Mainstream TV channels won’t touch her — she’s too controversial for them. But the 31-year-old Pakistani has turned YouTube into her own network, and her audience into her investors. Two years after launching Conversations With Kanwal on YouTube, talking with guests about taboo subjects such as marital rape and femicide, she’d garnered 30 million views. Then her funding ran out. But a Kickstarter campaign brought her $30,000 in less than a week. Defying the networks and Pakistan’s patriarchy, she’s now filming her next season.
2. Doreen Peter Noni
She knew she was angry at the world, but it took the 31-year-old Tanzanian media entrepreneur time to realize she was suffering from depression. It was something no one talked about in the conservative society. Now she’s breaking that code of silence, using her popular TV and radio shows to speak about mental health and the challenges East African entrepreneurs face. Serious stuff, yes, but she does it with a smile. As she says, there’s only one thing she can’t live without: laughter. Read more on OZY.
Still, there’s no one quite like Oprah. Check out some of the most meaningful, heartfelt conservations you’ve ever heard with hundreds of African American women in Black Women OWN the Conversation, the Emmy-winning series brought to you by OZY and the Oprah Winfrey Network.
‘The Carlos Watson Show’ Holidays
We’re getting into our pajamas, opening a bottle of wine and settling in on the sofa for a girls’ night in with some of our favorite episodes of The Carlos Watson Show. Watch Jemele Hill, Cari Champion and Chelsea Handler. Care to join us? Enjoy.
Green juices, lemon-cayenne water, vinegar shots: there’s no limit to what we’ll drink in the name of self-care. But our pets need high-quality meals to be happy and healthy too. Spot & Tango’s cooked-to-order Fresh Recipes are personalized to suit your dog’s exact needs and are made from locally sourced ingredients. What are you waiting for? Start your dog’s wellness journey now!
Something’s clearly wrong when record unemployment can coexist with a company touching a $3 trillion value for the first time. You likely won’t agree with some or all of these controversial proposals. But it’ll take bold ideas to fix economics.
Imagine you have a $100 bill and serially toss a coin. Your money grows 50 percent each time it lands on heads, and shrinks 40 percent when it’s tails. Since there’s a 50 percent chance of each flip being heads, economics tells you this is a great deal. But in reality you’re guaranteed to lose money if the coin falls on heads and tails equally. (Try it with an equal number of heads and tails!) That’s the kind of flawed math that’s at the core of economics, argues top British physicist Ole Peters, as he leads a growing movement to upend 300 years of economic theory. He’s finding support from luminaries like Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Michael Mauboussin.
2. Work From Home Tax
Is working from home a luxury? Deutsche Bank researchers are proposing countries institute a “privilege tax” once the pandemic passes on those who choose to work from home when the option of an office exists. The argument is that you’re saving on transportation and on dining out — and the tax could generate $49 billion to help poor people. Controversial? You bet.
3. 90 Percent Inheritance Tax
This is more proletarian. French economist Thomas Piketty is proposing a 90 percent inheritance tax on all those with wealth over $1 billion. His pitch goes beyond anything even Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed.
Economics isn’t the only field that’s evolved with time. Today, we love football, basketball and soccer. But these other great games once ruled the hearts and minds of civilizations.
Thousands can play this traditional Korean tug-of-war together, with teams pulling at opposing ends of a giant rope. Each end splits into multiple strands and you must pull in the same direction as the rest of your team. Winning and losing are secondary: This ancient harvest game is about building unity.
It can feel like a party — until you get whacked on the side of your head. Combining dance, martial arts and music, this Afro-Brazilian fight sport is believed to have originated in the 16th century with enslaved Angolans in Brazil fighting back against attempts to clamp down on African traditions.
3. Hip Volleyball
Like many ball games, there’s a court, two teams, you need to get across to the other side and you want to make your opponent miss or hit the ball out. The twist? You can only use your hips in the ancient Mesoamerican game of Ulama that Indigenous communities still play in Mexico and Belize.
A Different Christmas
There’s still time. If you want to mix your Christmas celebrations up with some fascinating traditions from around the world, here’s your guide.
You’re really supposed to go nuts. This popular Swedish ritual — called Julgransplundringarna — is literally about plundering the Christmas tree on Jan. 13, St. Knut’s Day. Children raid the family tree and smash the gingerbread house.
A plump Buddhist monk, he’s an omen of good fortune in Japanese culture, who — like Santa — carries a bag of toys for kids. But he has eyes at the back of his head so he knows if you’re being naughty.
This horned, devilish assistant to St. Nicholas — popular in Central European countries like Hungary, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and the Czech Republic — is the anti-Santa. Instead of gifts for children, his bag is used to carry away anyone who hasn’t been good. If you’re lucky, he’ll only beat you with a stick.
What’s your favorite Christmas gift of all time — whether from Santa, Hotoeisho, Krampus ... or your family and friends?