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You know what crime is? Some less-polite version of politics without regard for all of that pesky morality stuff. Meet some of the world’s most intriguing crime lords today, read true stories of survival and learn about the latest bits of brilliance from the world of science. And since nothing happens without some cool music for a soundtrack, we’ve got a taste of that too.
Eugene S. Robinson, Editor-at-Large
News in a Minute
1. Sheriff of Nottingham
To critics, that’swho popular online brokerages like Robinhood have turned into, after they shut down trading in GameStop stock amid a surge that left Wall Street hedge funds jittery. Robinhood’s move attracted a class action lawsuit — and surprisingly led to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz supporting Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s calls for a congressional probe. Do you agree with Robinhood’s move? Vote on Twitter or here. (Sources: WSJ, The Verge, CNN)
2. With or Without You
That’s the message from Democrats, who are planning to move ahead with a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, bypassing the GOP if necessary. At a time when divisions within Congress are peaking, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested that the threat of violence could come from Republican lawmakers themselves. (Sources: NYT, WaPo)
3. Berlin Blockade
This one’s self-imposed. Germany is planning a near-complete ban on travelers from South Africa, Brazil, Portugal and the U.K. in a bid to contain the more contagious COVID-19 variants. Meanwhile, trials show the new Novovax vaccine is effective against the British strain of the virus but less so against the South African variant. (Sources: Guardian, Reuters)
4. Clean Car Promise
General Motors has announced plans to phase out all gas and diesel passenger vehicles by 2035 and instead go completely electric, as the auto giant tries to take on green rivals like Tesla. (Source: NBC)
It’s a very cold war, and usually neutral Switzerland isn’t sitting this one out. Citing COVID-19 restrictions, France has closed a cross-border parking lot used by visitors to a Swiss ski resort, cutting off tourists’ access to the slopes — and sparking angry retorts from Switzerland.
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You want to know these crime kingpins — from the safety of this newsletter.
1. El 85
To paraphrase Don Corleone from The Godfather, lots of crime is predicated on what people want. And crime south of the U.S. border is often fueled by the insatiable demand for drugs in America. So while authorities have corralled Mexican drug giant El Chapo, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound gangster has stepped in to fill that void: Érick Valencia Salazar, better known as El 85. Arrested, released and now on the run, he has a $10 million prize on his head. You in? Read more on OZY.
2. Broken Tooth
He’s been attacked with meat cleavers and once lost nine teeth in a fight that earned Chinese master criminal Wan Kuok-koi his nom de guerre. But Broken Tooth knows how to get back on his feet. The leader of Macau’s 14K Triad served 14 years in prison before jumping into legitimate businesses in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. He’s now allegedly an adviser to the Chinese Communist Party — and though Beijing denies that link, it earned him fresh sanctions in December from the U.S. Treasury Department.
3. The Businessman
The United Nations describes Guinea-Bissau as a “narco state.” And Braima Seidi Bá, who describes himself as a “businessman,” is one of its most prominent narco chieftains. He was sentenced to 16 years in jail in 2020 after a warehouse full of cocaine belonging to one of his shell companies was busted. But Bá never reported to prison and is believed to be moving around freely with an armed contingent. As befits a businessman.
4. Big Momma
That’s just one of the names by which 65-year-old Idalia Ramos-Rangel is known. The FBI’s most-wanted woman (worth a $25,000 reward for information) is accused of directing cross-border drug trafficking for the Gulf Cartel, among Mexico’s oldest crime syndicates. Her favorite holiday destination? Monterrey, Mexico.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
Carlos and Danica Patrick bond over their love of interviewing. The stand-out female NASCAR driver joins the show to talk about why she never truly loved racing and how she has found her new passion in fitness. Watch later today.
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Despite all of the kettlebells and uphill sprinting with bags of gravel, I am chagrined to discover that I am not only prediabetic but also need to lose some weight or die, apparently. Which is why I’m pleased as punch that researchers at Texas A&M University have created a tiny wireless device that tricks the body into thinking the stomach’s full. Minimally invasive surgery is required to put it in. Sign me up!
3. Off to the African Bat Cave
Scientists have discovered a new orange and black bat in the Nimba Mountains along the border of Ivory Coast and Guinea. But the creature might already be close to extinction — a fact that’s boosting support for protecting the peaks, also known as the wonderfully named “sky islands,” to preserve bat populations.
From dangerous meth to dubious men, read about tales of survival from OZY’s archives.
1. Polish Defense
The country is ruled by the populist Law and Justice Party. But as my wife found out while walking home late one night from her cousin’s place, law and justice on the streets of Poland exist only for those who are able to defend themselves. Cornered by two liquored-up men, she had to deploy the fingers-in-the-assailant’s-eyes tactic to get away. It worked. Read more on OZY.
2. Just Surviving the Mafia
If you’ve ever spent time around members of the Mafia, the temptation is to normalize them. But bad people really are different — something I learned the hard way when running afoul of a mob enforcer. No spoiler alert is necessary unless you think you’re at a seance and I’m writing this from beyond the grave: Yes, I survived. But just barely. Read more on OZY.
3. Crystal Meth Is a Beast
While governments are falling all over themselves to legalize cannabis (and tax it), no one is cutting crystal methamphetamine any slack. So it is that we have a testimonial from a nice middle-class lady whose dalliance with meth sent her to prison — and to a self-discovery that led her to embrace lessons in parenting, meditation and a whole new life. Read more on OZY.
Great Music Documentaries
In the age of TikTok, it’s easy to forget how music has always borne a revolutionary edge. Let these brilliant movies remind you.
Forget all thestereotypes you’ve been fed about the Middle East. Join the Jazar Crew, a Palestinian music collective that organizes brilliant parties across Israel and the Palestinian territories. The idea? To create a safe space for young Palestinians to let their hair down with all of the hip-hop, trap and techno music they could ever hope to hear. If your revolution doesn’t involve dancing, then it’s no revolution at all.
3. Botinada: The Origin of Punk in Brazil
If you’ve followed Brazilian musical trends, you likely know bossa nova with its “Girl From Ipanema,” the plangent sounds of tropicalismo and Sepultura’s heavy metal. But a punk movement? Indeed. This documentary will help you understand how Brazilians process the social inequities that fuel their favelas. With good music to boot.