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I thought I was tough after running the Athens Authentic Marathon — with its 13-mile stretch going straight uphill —a few years back. But then I read about the Russian version with black ice and minus-40-degree temperatures, and yeah, I’d rather bravely run away. More on that and other bizarre races today, plus a deep dive into struggles of all sorts, from writers on race relations to capitalists profiting off of socialism. And to warm you up, we end with some fiery Caribbean treats.
It took just 16 words Monday for the U.S. Supreme Court, led by a conservative majority including three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump, to prevent him from shielding his tax returns from New York prosecutors. It was a stinging motion that led Trump to state he was the victim of “the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.” Do you think an ex-president’s finances should be an open book? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: CNN, WaPo, Fox News)
2. Like-Like Solution
Facebook has ended its Australian news blackout after reaching an agreement with the government on a proposed law that would force online platforms to pay for news content. Officials agreed to the social network’s demand for extra negotiations and additional credit for media deals Facebook reaches independently. Now it’ll likely face the same struggle in Europe and elsewhere. (Sources: BBC, WSJ)
3. Busted Bride
U.S. authorities nabbed Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of imprisoned Mexican drug lord “El Chapo,” on drug trafficking charges at Washington Dulles International Airport Monday. The former beauty queen is intensely loyal to the Sinaloa Cartel leader whom she was accused of helping escape from a Mexican prison in 2015. However, the “power couple,” as we dubbed them last Thursday, may soon both be behind bars. (Sources: BBC, New York Post)
4. Lucid Dream
Electric carmaker Lucid Motors will combine forces with special-purpose acquisition company Churchill Capital in an $11.75 billion transaction that is the biggest SPAC deal yet, valued at $24 billion. Churchill’s share price, surging in recent days, corrected after the announcement. While there’s lots of EV investment action these days, this one’s based near Tesla and run by Peter Rawlinson, the Tesla Model S’s chief engineer. (Sources: MarketWatch, Investors Business Daily)
Don’t flip out, but a new study has found that humans and the famously gentle water mammals share a number of key personality traits, including curiosity and sociability, despite living in vastly different environments.
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Born in Lagos and now living in England, this author’s bestselling 2020 debut novel The Girl With the Louding Voice was inspired by her young daughter’s complaints about having to empty the dishwasher, an innocuous moment leading to Daré’s heartbreaking (and breathtaking) exploration of the poverty, violence, sexual abuse and virtual enslavement that teenage housemaids face in Nigeria.
2. Morgan Jerkins
She was rejected from Princeton’s creative writing program twice and chose to study Russian and Japanese literature instead, making her all too familiar with being the only Black woman in the room. Now fluent in six languages and having written a bestselling collection of essays that earned her praise from the likes of Roxane Gay, Jerkins has gotten the last laugh with her blossoming career documenting Black womanhood. Watch out for her latest, Caul Baby: A Novel, in April.
3. Imbolo Mbue
The Limbe, Cameroon, native channeled her experience being laid off in New York City during the Great Recession into a stunning debut novel that analyzes the social issues behind the financial crisis. First inspired to write after reading Morrison’s Song of Solomon upon leaving college, her upcoming March release, How Beautiful We Were, will explore the cataclysmic collision of American oil interests with an African farming village.
Creative writers have long written about class struggles, and now capitalists are returning the favor — by creatively co-opting socialism for profit.
1. Feed the Bern
When the Sen. Bernie Sanders inauguration meme went viral, savvy entrepreneurs jumped to meet market demand, emblazoning everything from T-shirts to socks with the democratic socialist’s mittened figure. Marek Bowers, CEO of Rawlogy, who saw his eco-friendly Bernie massage balls quickly skyrocket as his bestselling item, says it was a perfect brand fit for his consumer base of runners and hikers. “People need self-care in their lives. I put Bernie on the ball, and now they have Bernie’s special balls … It’s ironic, right? I’m a business, I’m not a nonprofit. The whole goal, yes, is to make products and sell them,” he says.
2. Big Bailout
Economists are rethinking the (always dubious) notion that the wealthy support capitalist policies while the poor prefer handouts. The biggest bailouts of the last decade — amid COVID-19 and, before that, the Great Recession — helped mega-corporations grow at the expense of mom and pop businesses. It’s a trend Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times recently explored, pointing out how former Republican President Trump ran up budget deficits to wartime levels to support a tax cut for the very richest. “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest,” as Ruchir Sharma, a global strategist at Morgan Stanley, told Friedman.
3. Hedge Funds Come Full Circle
While Occupy Wall Street lambasted hedge funds, many socialists might not realize that the first hedge fund was actually invented by one of their own. Alfred Winslow Jones, a “full-blown Soviet sympathizer,” created the hedge fund in 1949 as a market stabilizer to spread economic benefits more equally to ordinary people. Emerging Bitcoin marketplaces and Reddit daytrading are rediscovering Jones’ original intent, finding ways to manipulate the market for Main Street. Plus, socially responsible funds, from the SSGA Gender Diversity Index to the iShares Low Carbon Target ETF, allow investors to only fund companies sharing their values.
Bizarre Races Around the World
The race to commoditize everything is a pretty bizarre one but perhaps not the most bizarre — here are some races that take the cake when it comes to strange.
Can you outrun a 9-pound ball of cheese? The people of this southwest English city have answered that question each spring since 1826, with locals queuing atop Cooper’s Hill to give a cheese wheel the old heave-ho … and then stumble after it in not-so-graceful fashion. The contest lost its official sanction in 2010 over safety concerns, but that didn’t stop local legend Chris Anderson from setting a world record in 2018 by outracing his competition to snag 21 Double Gloucester cheeses in 14 years. Funnily enough, Anderson doesn’t eat the cheese, since he prefers cheddar.
2. Wife Carrying in Finland
In the town of Sonkajärvi, wives are worth their weight … in beer. That’s the reward of the annual eukonkanto event, where brawny men carry their partners (who must weigh a minimum of 108 pounds) through pools, sand traps and fences, all for a chance at glory and booze. Now in its 25th showing, the sport has escaped its not-so-great pillaging past to create some marvelously entertaining photo finishes.
3. Black-Ice Racing in Russia
Not for the fainthearted, the world’s “most terrifying race” takes two weeks and starts atop the frozen surface of Lake Baikal in the city of Irkutsk. Racers run a marathon through temperatures reaching minus 40 degrees and wind speeds of up to 125 miles per hour. Véronique Messina, a French speech therapist who ran the race, told The New York Timeshow frightening it was: “The ice was shaking. I was shaking. Each time it cracked, I think I ran twice as fast.”
This pumpkin and beef soup is a treat of champions. When the French colonized Haiti, they relished it — and when Haiti turned the tables by gaining its independence in 1804, the formerly conquered nation rejoiced by dining on soup joumou. Now synonymous with Haitian Independence Day, it’s the perfect way to celebrate your own liberation from dull dishes. Just gather up some butternut, acorn or calabaza squash and enjoy.
2. Caribbean Hot Pepper Oil
Need a new condiment — perhaps the newest quarantine cooking obsession? Look no further than Caribbean hot pepper oil. Similar to Chinese chile oil, this fragrant, all-purpose condiment goes great with everything from stews to toast and eggs.
3. Jamaican It Vegan
Of course, you’ve probably tried jerk chicken — but what about jerk lentils? Red onion, ginger, green lentils and maple syrup — plus jerk seasoning, of course — make this a dish to test your taste buds to the limit. And if you’re feeling particularly up for a challenge, make yourself an entire Caribbean vegan feast.
This Whiskey in Your Coffee got some flavor from reporters Isabelle Lee and Pallabi Munsi.