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I don't know about you, but my social media feed is chock full of pandemic babies. Today we dive under the bedsheets of fertility and discover whether there really is a COVID-19 baby boom. Plus, learn about funky lamps and the lessons of the world’s longest-lasting matrilineal societies — after quickly getting political with what a post-Vladimir Putin world could look like if the Russian president ever steps (or gets pushed) aside.
The United States has surpassed 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, far exceeding any other nation — and accounting for more than a fifth of the nearly 2.5 million dead worldwide despite America having less than 5 percent of the global population. With some calling it this generation’s D-Day, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Americans could be wearing masks well into 2022. (Sources: NBC News, USA Today)
United Airlines removed 24 planes from service after a faulty engine in a Hawaii-bound Boeing 777 came off mid-flight, causing Denver suburbanites to rush for cover from falling debris as terrified passengers recorded video of a crash landing that thankfully saw no injuries. As Federal Aviation Administration officials ordered an immediate investigation, Boeing told airlines worldwide not to fly their 777s equipped with those engines. (Sources: CNN, AP, Independent)
3. Snap Decision
Iran will allow United Nations nuclear inspections for three months, but will ultimately decrease access and prohibit “snap” inspections. Tehran made that choice after the U.S. failed to lift sanctions imposed under former President Donald Trump — which President Joe Biden says won’t happen until Iran holds up its end of the 2015 nuclear deal, leading to one snappy stalemate. (Sources: BBC, NYT)
4. Facing Guns
Myanmar has been shut down today by a general strike and tens of thousands of protesters in the streets, despite the military junta threatening further violence after two demonstrators were killed this weekend. “No one is safe whether you take to the streets or sit at home,” said one protester. Meanwhile, the U.S. vowed “firm action” if the regime’s crackdown remains violent. (Sources: WaPo, Reuters)
British engineers spent the last two weeks pulling a “fatberg” the size of a bungalow out of London sewers, at times chipping the congealed mass of oil by hand. The grease and fat reportedly smelled like “festival toilets and rotten meat.” Officials have urged Londoners to be careful what they put down their drains, considering another fatberg the weight of an elephant was removed last October.
Watch Now on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
Jim Cramer, the larger-than-life host of Mad Money on CNBC, sits down with Carlos for a wide-ranging conversation that touches on sports, stock picks, his advice for Black entrepreneurs and mental health struggles surrounding the temper he inherited from his father. What crazy connection does he have with Kobe? What insights does he have into the Robinhood boom? This and more on this very special episode. Watch now.
This weekend a Russian court denied Kremlin critic and Putin opposition candidate Alexei Navalny his appeal. But what would leadership in the region look like if Putin ever did lose power?
It’s unlikely that a true Putin opponent like Navalny would take over. From within the Kremlin, Mikhail Mishustin, the former director of the Federal Taxation Service for more than a decade, has accumulated quite the resume. Since becoming prime minister in 2020, he has led Russia’s coronavirus response and consolidated support behind the scenes for his tech-savvy approach. The technocrat looks poised to take the reins ... if Putin lets him.
2. Waiting in the Wings
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin saw a vote of confidence from Putin when five of his allies were appointed as deputy prime ministers in January. Sergei Shoigu, the intensely popular defense minister, earned credibility by handling natural disasters as emergencies minister from 1994 to 2012. Other possible candidates include two deputy prime ministers, Andrei Belousov, a former Putin economic aide, and Dmitry Kozak, the former Sochi Olympics construction manager now tasked with overseeing the Russia-backed insurgencies in eastern Ukraine.
3. Zany Zelenskiy
The Ukranian presidency has been no laughing matter for former comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, from criticism of his inability to pass corruption reform, to Trump asking him to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. But Zelenskiy is already testing more aggressive waters against Putin, having recently banned pro-Russia media outlets from spreading propaganda in Ukraine. If Putin stepped down, the jostling of power could give the Ukrainian leader a temporary respite from the former KGB agent’s pressure.
4. Chaos in Kyrgyzstan
Russia has long assumed a position of helping secure stability in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. However, recently elected Sadyr Japarov has quite the road ahead of him to unite the fractured country — with or without Russian “help.” Japarov went from a jail cell while serving a 12-year sentence to the presidency in just a month after his supporters broke the populist out of jail and forced the former leader to resign. Putin congratulated Japarov on his victory, prompting questions about what Japarov would do without his friend from afar.
Surviving Matriarchal Societies
Putin has long been his nation’s strongman, but what about the strong women of the world? These cultures have women calling the shots.
On the shores of Lugu Lake in China live the Mosuo, one of the world's oldest surviving matriarchal societies. Children belong to their matrilineal line, live with their mothers and always let grandma have the last word. There are about 30,000 people in the Mosuo community. Women and men never marry, and the telltale sign of a male visitor is a hat hanging on the door — which definitely seems classier than a sock.
2. Umoja Tribe
In 1990, 15 women founded the village of Umoja in Kenya after British soldiers assaulted them. Now, the women-only village is a thriving refuge for survivors of assault, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and child marriage. The 47 women and 200 children that comprise the Umoja tribe enjoy a type of freedom seldom afforded to women worldwide: freedom from men.
3. Minangkabau People
The world's largest matrilineal society hails from Indonesia. While critics point to some traditional Islamic strictures as discriminatory against women, this society actually exists within that moral framework. Land ownership rules guarantee women the same rights as men and the societal structure promotes valuing women equally too. It is the blending of Islamic principles with traditional local customs that has created the society's flexible framework while offering each sex practical equality.
Future of Fertility
Sci-fi novels conjure up worlds run by women who have reduced men to mere reproductive tools — if even that. While we aren’t going that far, here is a look at where fertility science is actually going.
1. Takes Two to Tango
Male infertility has long been an enigma, a seldom discussed issue that affects more men than you'd think. In fact, it’s a problem in roughly 50 percent of cases where couples struggle to conceive. Sarah Martins da Silva is shifting that conversation, aiming to destigmatize male infertility. Her research into pioneering medical solutions aims to boost sperm function. One day she hopes the answer will be a “pill,” per se, but for having babies.
2. It's a Bust
While it seems to me that everyone got pregnant last year, the much-touted pandemic baby boom hasn’t panned out. Most states have reported a decline in birth rates. California, for example, saw a 19 percent drop. Though other periods of uncertainty — wars and recessions — have resulted in baby booms, this chapter of American history has so far defied expectations … making us wonder whether the new response to troubled times is shutting down sexy time.
3. Viral Struggle
While most shuttered in-vitro fertility clinics have reopened since the start of the pandemic, many can’t operate at full capacity. Some scientists suggest waiting at least a year after getting COVID-19 to have children, wasting precious time most older parents don’t have. The virus is able to bind to sperm cells, researchers say, and other coronaviruses, such as SARS, have had a significant impact on the testes. And that means the effects of the virus could be felt for generations to come — or, rather, those that don’t come.
Lamps Make Life Better
Life can be tough but I’ve always found lamps lighten up my days — here are some I recommend.
We could all learn a little from the Danes. Not only is Denmark one of the happiest countries on earth, but they have figured out the art of coziness in the home — which they call “hygge” (pronounced: “hoo-gah”). One key way to create an atmosphere of contentment is through lighting, focusing on warm lights and simple designs to turn your home into a Scandinavian haven.
2. Plant Power
Another way to hygge-fy your home is to add some plants. If you live in a dark apartment, it can be challenging to nurture your serotonin garden. That’s where lamps that help you grow come into play. These lamp systems can sustain anything from herbs to orchids, while livening (and lighting) up your interior space.
3. Vitamin You
“Winter blues” isn’t just a catchy expression; it’s an unfortunate side effect of lack of sunlight. Approximately 10 million Americans each year get Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “the SADs,” as I call it. Now that we are spending more time inside than ever, we could take some advice, again, from the Scandinavians — who, in the winter, see as little as three hours of sunlight a day. Light therapy lamps can give you the dose of vitamin D you’re missing. So lighten up!
4. Get Retro
Nothing is cozier than filling your space with things that make you happy … which might be why lava lamps are making a comeback, infusing homes with a little whimsy. If you need a distraction from your computer screen, the hypnotizing flow of a lava lamp is a pretty sweet option — plus, they even help protect your online data these days.