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Happy Monday! It took world powers nearly two weeks to secure a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Perhaps Washington, London and Paris just aren’t as influential as they once were. Today, meet the shadowy sheikh who is quietly emerging as the most important mediator of our times, discover the zombie in your body, read about the anti-abortion movement’s latest strategy in South America and savor treats from a pioneering Kenyan food truck.
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Senior Editor, and Liam Jamieson, Reporter
It’s the height of authoritarianism. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko sent a fighter jet to force down a passenger plane traveling from Greece to Lithuania carrying a dissident journalist accused by Minsk of involvement in last year’s popular protests against Lukashenko. Roman Protasevich, the journalist, was arrested. European leaders condemned the incident as “state hijacking.” (Sources: NYT, CNN)
2. Murderous Magma
Floods of lava from a volcanic eruption on Mount Nyiragongo streamed into eastern Congo, killing at least 15 people and leaving 30,000 seeking refuge. More than 170 children are missing. (Sources: AP, BBC)
3. Bike Bravado
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro led thousands of supporters in a motorcycle rally through Rio de Janeiro in a demonstration of the loyalty he continues to inspire among a swath of the country’s population despite growing criticism of his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Brazil has the world’s second-highest death toll from the pandemic after the United States. Meanwhile, Israel — with one of the world’s most successful vaccination programs against the virus — plans to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions from June 1. (Guardian, Times of Israel)
4. Old Still Gold
Phil Mickelson became the oldest golfer to win a major when the 50-year-old triumphed at the PGA Championship on Sunday. With Tom Brady, Serena Williams and Roger Federer still among the best in their sports, is age just a number now in elite athletics? Vote here or on Twitter. (Source: ESPN)
Cat Got Their Tongue
A Chinese zoo is in trouble with authorities after it kept mum about the escape of three leopards who then showed up in residential neighborhoods, sparking fear and anger. Zoo officials claimed they didn’t want to cause panic.
Aliko Dangote is the world’s richest Black man. But the Nigerian billionaire with a cement empire has recently taken on a role few had imagined for him: as amediator between his country and neighbor Benin. Nigeria sealed its border with the smaller nation in 2019 amid trade and diplomatic tensions, effectively robbing Benin of its biggest economic partner. But last September, heflew in two Benin ministers on his private jet for talks with Nigerian officials and has tried to secure a compromise between the two nations, this time using his clout to cement fractured relations.
2. Germany’s Iron Lady
When Greece and Turkey stood on the precipice of a war last year amid tensions in the Mediterranean, it wasn’t the U.S. president whose intervention saved the day. It tookGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel to separate the bickering neighbors and defuse a crisis that appeared headed toward a military showdown. As the leader of Germany — and the de facto chief of Europe — for 16 years, Merkel has earned rare respect across the board as a peacemaker, also acting as abridge between the West and Russia. She leaves office in September, and it’s unclear which — if any — leader can fill her void.
3. The Mover and Sheikh-er
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, better known asMBZ, doesn’t grab global headlines the way a fellow crown prince with similar initials, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, does. But MBZ, the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, has pulled off not one but two historic diplomatic coups within months. First, he secured apeace deal with Israel, instantly changing the geopolitics of the Middle East. Then, a few weeks ago, he managed the near-impossible,mediating a cease-fire between nuclear-armed enemies India and Pakistan. Staying in the shadows has its benefits.
While many scientists are focused on COVID-19, other path-breaking research is helping us better understand everything from our mind to our libido.
We know humans have larger brains than our ape ancestors, but until now we didn’t fully understand why. Scientists have now discovered a previouslyunknown molecular switch that allows the human brain to grow three times as large as those of primates.
COVID-19 has disproportionately hurt educational outcomes for people of color and students in developing nations. Baraka’s genius idea is to use educational board games to tackle this challenge, starting with Uganda. If you’d like to help, let us know HERE.
Abortion’s Next Frontiers
From Texas to the Supreme Court, abortion is once again front and center in America’s political wars. Check out other global battlegrounds reshaping the debate over abortion rights.
1. Adopting Fetuses?
Conservative Latin America is changing, with Argentina legalizing abortion last December. So anti-abortion campaigns are adapting too. Lawmakers in Argentina, Paraguay and Panama are proposing legislation that would allow the adoption of fetuses before birth to avoid abortion, or would pressure hospitals into minimizing the number of abortions they carry out. Read more on OZY.
2. African Arena
If you see sanitary pads covered in fake blood stuck to the walls of Morocco’s Ministry of Health in Rabat, here’s who is likely behind it: a stunningly bold movement waging war against the country’s abortion laws, which prohibit abortion except when the mother’s life is in immediate danger. If they succeed, it could open the gateway to radical reform across Africa and the Arab world.Read more on OZY.
3. Womb Violence
A confluence of rising conservatism in Croatia and an exodus of doctors — including many anesthesiologists — is turning the operating table into a theater of violence against women undergoing procedures related to childbirth. While abortion is legal, many doctors use a conscientious objection exemption in the rules to turn women away, say experts. More and more Croatian women are crossing the border into Brežice, Slovenia, for safe access to abortion.Read and Watch more on OZY.
If food’s your drug, these surprising fusion combos are just what you need.
Elli Kriel started building bridges between Israel and the United Arab Emirates even before the nations signed their historic peace deal last year. The Dubai-based Orthodox Jew runs Elli’s Kosher Kitchen, which specializes in traditional kosher food infused with rich Emirati flavors. She dubs it “Kosherati,” we call it genius. Read more on OZY.
Mekong meets Mississippi. Chef Michael Gulotta doesn’t see a clash in his mid-city New Orleans joint, Mopho, creating a fusion of Creole and Vietnamese cuisines. Instead, it’s the coming together of culinary parallels from the two former French colonies. Ready for Po-Mi sandwiches (Po Boy meets Banh Mi)?
3. Mama Rocks
Opening one of the first food trucks in vibrant Nairobi, the Kenyan-Nigerian sisters Natalie and Samantha Mwedekeli are grilling up a new way to make burgers, taking flavors and ingredients inspired by every corner of the African continent: chili chicken breast from West Africa; lamb and eggplant from the north. Their signature sandwich is the Kenyan Masai Mama, a beef patty flavored with mango and grilled red pepper.
From Cleopatra to Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great — powerful and thwarted, popular and scorned, determined and desperate — they are some of the most influential women in history. This dramatized series about remarkable women in history is something you won’t want to miss — available now on CuriosityStream, the coolest new streaming platform. Best of all, for a limited time, OZY readers can spark their curiosity and get a full year of access for only $1.25/month using code OZY.