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Thousands of weddings were postponed last year because of the pandemic. But one Sri Lankan couple decided theirs should go ahead — by making their special day just as special for those struggling the most amid the crisis. Smile at unexpected acts of kindness today, meet a mother from Botswana who turned a personal tragedy into a Bitcoin revolution, update your knowledge of the next danger drugs and read modern Indian literary classics. And last, find answers to Monday’s quiz at the end of the email.
Pallabi Munsi, Reporter, and Charu Sudan Kasturi, Senior Editor
U.S. President Joe Biden suffered his first domestic political setback with Neera Tanden withdrawing her nomination as his cabinet’s director of Budget and Management after it became clear she wouldn’t be approved by a divided Senate due to her past Twitter posts attacking Republican legislators. Would she have faced the same level of scrutiny had she been a white man? Vote on Twitter or here. (Sources: WaPo, CNN)
2. It May Be Normal Again
Biden has said the U.S. will have enough COVID-19 vaccine shots for all American adults by the end of May. But will they work on the dangerous strain from Brazil, which registered record pandemic deaths yesterday? Meanwhile, Cuba is in the final stages of testing two homegrown COVID-19 vaccines. (Sources: NPR, Al Jazeera, FT)
3. A New ‘Cancer’
FBI Director Christopher Wray compared domestic terrorism to cancer Tuesday, telling the U.S Senate Committee on the Judiciary that it was “metastizing.” He was addressing the congressional panel in the context of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. (Source: WSJ)
4. Girls, Interrupted
Gunmen have released hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls they had abducted in the country’s north, sparking relief for families. But experts fear the latest in a set of school kidnappings suggests criminal gangs have decided to target students for abductions because of the pressure it puts on the government to negotiate — and potentially pay hefty ransoms. (Source: BBC)
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As she tried to save her ailing son, the teacher from Botswana realized that the most effective way to secure funds from well-wishers abroad was through cryptocurrencies. Her son passed, but Itireleng gave birth to the Satoshi Centre, a pioneering blockchain hub where she trains developers to use Bitcoin to address Africa’s myriad developmental and funding challenges. One of the continent’s leading voices on cryptocurrencies, she also advises the country’s government on the digital asset.
2. Tavonia Evans
Can cryptocurrencies bridge the racial income gap in America? Evans believes so and launched her own currency, Guap, that’s targeted at Black users. She’s also leading a revolution in teaching young Black school kids how to buy, sell and trade in cryptocurrencies. She’s a mother of eight — so if anyone can get through to the next generation, she can. Read more on OZY.
3. Ojuederie Doris
Nigeria is home to the world’s second-largest volume of Bitcoin trade behind the U.S., and it’s three times the size of China’s market. Doris is trying to make sure African women get a meaty slice of that pie. She first traded in cryptocurrencies as a student and made enough money that she didn’t need to apply for jobs when she graduated. Instead, she has made it her calling to build a pan-African alliance of women in blockchain, prepping them to earn from an industry that’s only growing.
Next Deadly Drugs
Drug overdose deaths are at a record high. But things could get worse if these dangerous narcotics spread through America’s bloodstream.
It’s a banned psychostimulant that gives a faster high than amphetamine. It’s long been a favorite of ISIS fighters, and now, experts believe it’s emerged as an economic escape route for Syria’s embattled Bashar Assad regime. Its economy shattered by war and sanctions, Syria has become a global exporter of Captagon, using it to bring in revenue. Read more on OZY.
Pronounced fen-e-butte, it was originally designed as an anti-anxiety drug for … wait for it … Russian cosmonauts in the 1960s. Now, it’s increasingly popping up on the radar of American officials as a public health threat. U.S. poison control centers are witnessing a surge in calls from people who have consumed phenibut, which has proved fatal in some cases. Read more on OZY.
It’s been christened the most dangerous drug in America by some. An anti-seizure prescription drug often used for nerve pain or as an anticonvulsant, it’s not something you're going to get pitched in a shady alley. Instead, your source is likely to be shady doctors.
This Week on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
We’re speaking with the “rule-breakers” — change-makers who defy the odds. Today, meet celebrated writer and Revisionist History podcast host Malcolm Gladwell. He tells Carlos about his journey to intellectual superstardom and how he thinks America can work toward racial justice. Watch now.
Allow yourself a smile, maybe even a sob of relief — thankfully, the world is not all evil.
1. Crushing the Blues
Amid the quarantine last year, Rio de Janeiro firefighter Elielson Silva came up with an ingenious plan to help people boost people’s morale. He decided toturn in his hose for a horn. Riding almost 200 feet above the ground on a red fire truck’s retractable ladder, he plays Brazilian tunes across the city, including at tourist hot spots and areas where working class locals live. “Bringing a bit of music, a bit of air, to these people has meant a lot to me,” he says.
2. A Different Party
Sri Lankan couple Darshana Kumara Wijenarayana and Pawani Rasanga spent months planning a grand wedding in 2020 — but the pandemic knocked their plans off. Their families and friends tried to convince them to postpone the party. But the couple had a better idea: They decided tocelebrate their love by instead feedingthe poor, who’ve been hit the worst by the economic crisis.
3. Lost And Found
Emma Smreker, a 30-year-old teacher from Oklahoma, is almost always on a “scavenger hunt” to buy secondhand books — and return personal mementos people might have forgotten in them, such as a picture of a father and daughter in a photo booth she recently found.
Indian Novels to Binge
From V.S. Naipaul to Salman Rushdie to Arundhati Roy, India has produced some of the modern world’s finest novelists. Here are some of our favorite books from other fantastic authors.
Better known in India by its Bengali name Pather Panchali, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s 1929 classic was immortalized on the silver screen by Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray. But the book let’s you do what no film can: Linger in the lives of siblings Durga and Apu as they navigate life in rural Bengal with hope and determination amid loss.
2. ‘A Fine Balance’
Set in 1975 against the backdrop of the Indian government’s suspension of civil liberties that year, Rohinton Mistry’s book is a tour de force that’ll take you on a journey of modern India’s political churn, with four strangers — a spirited widow, two tailors and a young student as your guides.
3. ‘Curfewed Night’
Journalist Basharat Peer’s powerful memoir on the ravages of the unending war between Indian security forces and Kashmiri militants will force you to pause and ask as Bob Dylan did: How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?
We asked you to match street signs with the country you’ll find them in. Here are the answers:
1) “Undertakers Love Overtakers”: St. Kitts and Nevis.
2) Exploding car: China [the sign cautions cars with explosive materials to stay off that street].
3) Girl: Poland [the sign informs that there’s a school nearby].
4) Boy and penguin: New Zealand [the sign cautions that penguins cross the road there].
5) Rolling down toward an alligator: South Africa [a pleasant way of telling you there’s a reptile reserve nearby].
Eugene S. Robinson added his spice to this Whiskey in Your Coffee.