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Happy Tuesday! Both my parents are short, so it’s little surprise that I peaked at 5-foot-5. But as you’ll read today, it’s possible to shed the genetic and cultural baggage of one’s ancestors and soar to new heights — literally. Meet the economist of Pakistani origin who’s emerging as Amazon’s nemesis, decode unlikely secrets of sporting success and sip it all in with the best indigenous wines.
While China didn’t report the virus to the world until the very end of 2019, World Health Organization investigators suspect COVID-19 was infecting Wuhan residents much earlier. They want to examine hundreds of thousands of Chinese blood samples to test their hypothesis. One key finding: There were over a dozen strains already in the city in December 2019. But so far, China isn’t supplying samples. (Sources: CNN, The Hill)
2. South on Ice
Winter storms are leaving millions in the dark today. At least 150 million people in the Southern and Central United States were in the path of deep freezes that left highways slick and caused massive power outages. Mexico also saw nearly 5 million people blacked out after natural gas pipelines from Texas froze, and Greece was hit with sub-zero temperatures and its heaviest snowfall in 12 years. (Sources: NYT, WaPo, Reuters, Al Jazeera)
Parler announced it’s found a new home Monday after it was booted off Amazon’s web hosting service for its role in last month’s U.S. Capitol riot (which will now be investigated with a 9/11-style commission). However, Parler remains banned from most app stores and many users reportedly still can’t access their accounts — airing their grievances on rival platform Twitter. (Sources: Guardian, Politico, Ars Technica)
Israel is the most vaccinated nation in the world: Nearly half its population has received at least one dose. Now the government is considering reopening its economy, from hotels and museums to soccer games — but only for those who have already been jabbed. Other nations will be watching Jerusalem for a glimpse of a post-COVID future, especially after Israeli experts showed the Pfizer vaccine has been 94 percent effective at disease prevention. (Sources: CBS, Jerusalem Post)
Seesaw of Hope
The border can be a bridge. Pink seesaws that allowed people in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to play together across the border wall have won the prestigious Design of the Year Award, beating artists like Banksy and creatives behind Oscar-winning films.
Tomorrow’s Trendsetting Thinkers
Their bold ideas will reshape how future generations understand race, economics and politics.
The Cameroonian academic is holding Britain accountable for its legacy of racism. The first Black woman to be appointed as a history chair at any British university, the ocean-lovingBristol University professor had a front-row view to the Black Lives Matter protests last year that led to the statue of slave trader Edward Colston being pulled down in Bristol. But “many other slave traders are still celebrated in Bristol,” she wrote. Now Otele’s leading an independent race commission to look at the city’s complex colonial history.
2. Lina Khan
The daughter of Pakistani immigrants rose from obscurity to overnight fame in 2017 when, as a Yale law student, she articulated what she called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” Monopolies had until then been understood by their use of market capture to raise prices unilaterally. Khan demonstrated how a new species of monopolies had arrived such as Amazon — that kept prices low for consumers but made all competitors dependent on its supply chains. Her theory has forced a rethinking of decades of monopoly law and is behind the slew of antitrust cases Amazon now faces.
Who’s growing taller, who’s shrinking — and how we can change that.
1. Guess Who’s Growing Fastest?
The Dutch still might be the tallest people on the planet but their height is now stagnating. And the country whose women have gained the most in height since 1985 is … Saudi Arabia, a nation not otherwise known for elevating its women. Their average height increased by 2.4 inches in this period, followed by South Korean women at just over 2 inches. Chinese men have witnessed the biggest height spurt over the past 36 years, shooting up about 3.2 inches, bringing them to an average of almost 5-foot-8.
2. But Some Are Shrinking
Until the 1960s, Africans were on average taller than the rest of the world. But the series of civil wars, coups, famines and other crises that the continent has suffered over the past 60 years appears to have taken its toll. Female heights have decreased since 1985 in 13 African nations led by Rwanda, Zambia and Ivory Coast, while male heights have shrunk in 20 African nations, with Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Mali witnessing the sharpest declines.
3. Tallness Genes
Scientists have long known that 80 percent of our height is determined by our DNA. But now, researchers have identified genetic variants that — in those who have them — can lead to an increase of almost 0.8 inches in height. What does that mean? In that sci-fi future when we start genetically modifying humans the way we do apples and wheat, you could also program your height.
Catch Up With ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
As the U.S. recently passed the milestone of administering 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, we're looking back to the powerful interview that Dr. Anthony Fauci gave on The Carlos Watson Show last month. If you missed it the first time around, catch up today for fascinating insights into why the vaccines should be trusted, how working on the HIV epidemic prepared him for COVID and what the next pandemic might look like. Watch now.
Unlikely Secrets of Sporting Success
“Citius, Altius, Fortius” or “Faster, Higher, Stronger” — that’s the motto of the Olympic Games. But there are more surprising ingredients to sporting successes than just physical prowess.
What do British tennis champ Andy Murray, American gymnastics superstar Simone Biles and Canadian speed skater Clara Hughes have in common? Top performers in their sports, they all also battled major trauma as young people: Murray hid under a desk during Britain’s deadliest school shooting, Biles spent time in foster care and Hughes battled alcoholism. Research has confirmed that those with adverse childhood experiences are likelier to become successful athletes because they learn how to deal with extreme challenges.
Athletes who are freshly in love are likelier to perform better because romance releases increased levels of oxytocin, the hormone that improves sporting performance, science suggests. Could this be why sports stars are more likely to divorce? Perhaps they need that novel gratification every now and then to fuel their performance.
Indigenous Wine Grapes
Just like a panda in a bamboo forest or a wine mom in the suburbs, grapes too thrive most in their natural habitat.
A visit to Basque country — the 32 Michelin-starred foodie mecca where Spain and France rub shoulders — will certainly be rewarded with a glass of this barely bubbly beverage. The crisp Bay of Biscay air and wild mint give the wine a brightly herbal and uniquely salty taste. When trying it at your next pintxos bar, make sure it’s poured properly, from eight to ten inches above your glass, a technique that opens up the wine and allows light bubbles to dance across your palate.
While it may sound like a name from Game of Thrones, this Cypriot grape produces a gently sweet white wine. The most common white grape from the Mediterranean island mostly grows on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains where the high altitudes and hot sun give it a fresh citrus-y taste. The grapes are often dried before they’re pressed to enhance the sweetness, making it a delectable pairing with good olives and grilled halloumi cheese.
3. Plavac Mali
Small and blue might be how you describe Paul Hollywood’s eyes, but it's also the literal translation of this Croation grape. The bold, fruity flavors of the Dalmatian coast’s most-planted grape might feel similar to a California Zinfandel, and is even rumored to be its ancestor. But while the family tree of these little blue grapes may be in question, its black cherry-like flavor is unquestionably delicious.
It’s often said that while the French spread their grapes far and wide, the Spanish guard their native grapes as well-kept secrets. If that’s the case, Bobal is certainly the ruby hidden in the treasure chest of Spanish wines. This uniquely thick-skinned grape from the Utiel-Requena region of Valencia produces a smooth and tannic wine that bursts with the flavors of forest berries, wood smoke and ground black pepper.