Bold start. Smooth finish. The newsletter that interesting people love.
Happy Monday! How about starting your week with a party like no other? Catch the most stirring conversations on race, politics and education; watch stand-up comedy and listen to great music — all from Day 1 of OZY Fest 2021. Meet the Zen priest who’s also a leading happiness scientist, visit Africa’s most surprising democracy and read about a pair of Colombian donkeys behind the world’s most unusual library.
Charu Sudan Kasturi and Nick Fouriezos, Senior Editors
The world risks “tempting the system” through new COVID-19 variants in other countries that might be resilient to current vaccines and could infect Americans, cautioned top epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci in an exclusive conversation during OZY Fest on Sunday. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia lifted quarantine requirements for most vaccinated foreign visitors and Algeria announced plans to reopen its borders from June 1. Do you worry the world is opening up too fast? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: OZY on YouTube, Saudi Gazette, Reuters)
2. Where’s the Evidence?
Sally Buzbee, the top editor of the Associated Press, has asked Israel for evidence to justify its bombing of a Gaza building that housed the offices of the news agency and other media organizations. Israel claims the building harbored a Hamas intelligence unit and that it has shared evidence with U.S. officials. At least 188 people in Gaza and 10 in Israel have been killed in the current cycle of violence. (Sources: USA Today, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz)
3. New Streaming Giant
AT&T and Discovery Inc. are nearing a deal that would combine their media properties into a $150 billion streaming giant. AT&T owns WarnerMedia. (Sources: WSJ, FT)
4. Stamp of Disapproval
The UN’s postal agency has recommended that stamps issued by Britain for its overseas territory in the Chagos Islands off Africa’s East Coast no longer be recognized. It’s the latest blow to the U.K.’s colonial hold over islands that a UN tribunal has already ruled belong to Mauritius. (Source: Guardian)
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Scientists began studying the happiness of 268 Harvard sophomores during the Great Depression. The study’s search for clues to a happy life continues — although only 19 of its original subjects, all in their mid-90s, were alive as of 2017 (among its deceased members: John F. Kennedy). Waldinger, 70, heads the research today, and is now studying the more than 1,300 baby-boomer children of the original subjects. That is, when he’s not working at Massachusetts General Hospital, meditating as a Zen priest or delivering viral Ted Talks.
2. Ashley Frawley
The 34-year-old Wales-based sociologist argues that focusing too much on mindfulness and meditation can distract us from changing the real-world circumstances that contribute to unhappiness. As an Ojibwe teenager spending her summers on a First Nations reservation in Canada, Frawley originally thought she was wrong to feel sad about the poverty and troubles she saw — before realizing that she had “a right” to feel bad. Now she’s hoping her approach will help people gain greater agency over their lives and feel better. And her Marxist-inspired writings are finding unlikely audiences — including on conservative British platforms. Read more on OZY.
3. Naoko Yamamoto
A trained epidemiologist, Yamamoto has served in multiple health-related positions in the Japanese government and worked at the WHO. But it’s as a member of the Global Happiness Council — a collective of scientists and researchers focused on happiness and well-being — that she’s proposing the most radical shift for Japan. Yamamoto believes the Dutch de-stressing method of doing nothing (called niksen) is the need of the hour. The inability of her Japanese compatriots to accept stillness might explain why the country is so unhappy.
Surprising Stars of Democracy
From leaders ceding power to systems that convict corrupt presidents and prioritize education, these surprising nations hold lessons that America and the West could learn from.
The world’s poorest nation has been a hotbed for coups since gaining independence in 1960. But earlier this year, it showed the world that it had changed,embracing its first peaceful democratic transition after a closely fought election. At a time when leaders across Africa have been seeking third terms, outgoingPresident Mahamadou Issoufou instead focused on ensuring a free and fair vote. Will the rest of West Africa and the Sahel take note?
The tiny green nation routinelytops Latin America on democratic indices and the world on theHappy Planet Index that evaluates countries on the basis of their investments in the well-being of citizens and their environment. The country hasn’t had a military since 1948. And even after a comfortable win in its last national elections, President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, aformer rock singer and novelist, called for agovernment including ministers from rival parties.
Great Mobile Libraries
No matter where you are — if you want a book, they’ll get it to you.
In rural Colombia, donkeys are beasts of books. After school teacher Luis Soriano realized that his students didn’t have books at home, he startedBiblioburrowith his two loyal donkeys — Alpha and Beto. Soriano and the donkeys travel to the interiors of the war-scarred nation carrying dozens of books for children to read. They’ve been at it for donkeys’ years ... more than two decades to be precise ... and havesparked copycat efforts.
2. Elephant in the Room
Or village, actually. Big Brother Mouse, a children’s book publisher based in Luang Prabang, Laos, is popularizing reading through book parties for kids, literacy sessions and teacher-training workshops, but its star employee is Boom-Boom. The elephant ferries books to small villages that would otherwise be hard to access. If you're lucky, he'll also take you for a free ride.
3. In the Same Boat
During Scandinavia’s harsh winters, several distant Norwegian islands become hard to access except by ship. That’s why the country launched a sailing library in 1959 that quickly became so popular the government commissioned a custom-built boat.Eposnow sails between the islands each year from September through April with up to 6,000 books, librarians, visiting authors and ... because reading must always be fun ... clowns.
OZY Fest: Party All Week
And then some. More than 1 million people tuned in to watch Day 1 of OZY Fest. Check out the best from the two virtual stages on Saturday. The party continues tomorrow!
Laugh over breakfast with Iranian American comic Maz Jobrani. During your coffee breaks, watch former San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and journalist Fareed Zakaria dissect the future of capitalism. Bob your head to the brilliant Kat Cunning when your bosses think you’re paying attention on boring Zoom calls. Save your lunch for a conversation on race with Rev. Al Sharpton. And relax after work by meditating with Deepak Chopra. Watch here!
2. Reset America
Watch “intellectual troublemaker” Malcolm Gladwell, United Negro College Fund CEO Michael Lomax and professors and students from historically Black colleges and universities on the future of HBCUs and how education rankings discriminate against them. Hear “shark” investor Mark Cuban, veteran Congresswoman Maxine Waters and sports commentator Stephen A. Smith. End the day with a smile and a song — courtesy comedian Tig Notaro and musician Sevyn Streeter. Watch here!
Every Friday, Skimm Money breaks down the week’s top headlines to decode how things impact your wallet and your options to take action for living your best financial life. Check it out.
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