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Good morning! If you’re fully vaccinated, it’s easy to conclude that the pandemic is history. It’s not. Today, meet the sailors whose failure to secure shots could disrupt global trade. Let teenagers from America, China, South Africa and Nicaragua fill you with hope for the future of education, visit unlikely places that are surprisingly happy and play video games where the goal isn’t to shoot someone but to improve your mental health. Read to the end for winners of last week’s caption contest.
Charu Sudan Kasturi and Nick Fouriezos, Senior Editors
It was a bridge too far. President Joe Biden’s efforts to win bipartisan support for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan have hit a dead end and he’s now trying to salvage a less-ambitious compromise deal. But the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a $250 billion war chest for cutting-edge tech research aimed at countering China’s rise in the sector. (Sources: NYT, WSJ)
2. The Kids Will Be Alright
… If COVID-19 vaccines work on them. Pfizer has expanded clinical trials of its vaccine to 5-to-12-year-olds. Meanwhile, the U.K. will test a vaccine passport for the first time for fans attending the Euro 2021 soccer games at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium. (Sources: Al Jazeera, Sky News)
3. AOC Vs. Kamala
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez hit out at Vice President Kamala Harris for asking prospective Guatemalan immigrants to “not come” to the U.S., pointing out Washington’s own dodgy role in destabilizing Central America. The clash underscores the divide within the Democratic Party on issues such as migration. (Sources: NY Post, BBC)
4. Tax? What Tax?
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the world’s two richest people, are among a roll call of billionaires paying almost negligible levels of personal income tax, even as their fortunes have expanded during the pandemic, a ProPublica investigation has found. Should such legal tax evasion be punished? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: ProPublica, Guardian)
Cry of Hope
Greedy billionaires won’t save the world. Brave and feisty teenagers might. Verda Tetteh, a 17-year-old Harvard-admitted student, has asked her high school to give her $40,000 scholarship to someone attending a community college — like her Ghanaian mother once did.
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She’s tuned in to the needs of her country. All of 19, she’s working with Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education as acounselor to adolescent and teenage victims of violence. That’s when she’s not on radio, hosting her own show on subjects that are often taboo in a conservative society, from violence within families to sexual health.
2. Zulaikha Patel
The 18-year-old is the face of a student-led movement to eliminate racial prejudice fromSouth Africa’s elite private schools. In 2016, teachers at Pretoria High School for Girls told Patel her Afro hairstyle needed to be tamed. She decided to tame school racism instead.Read more about South Africa’s “Black Students Matter” movement on OZY.
3. Ou Hongyi
When sheskipped classes for a week in Guilin, China, to protest climate change, authorities banned her from returning to school and the police interrogated her. But if Chinese officials had hoped to nip her enthusiasm in the bud, they onlyended up fueling her determination further. Today, she’s an inspiration to a small butgrowing group of Chinese students who are holding their government — and other nations — accountable, while critically demonstrating to others that school in the communist nation can serve as a laboratory for bold and brave ideas.
Slipping Through the Vax
These forgotten or surprising sections of society aren’t getting COVID-19 vaccines. And their troubles could soon haunt all of us.
Many among Brazil’s 800,000 Indigenous people remain unprotected from the virus. The nation has so far administered fewer than 72 million doses, enough to vaccinate just 17% of its population. Such remote groups can see deadly infections years later, as the Yanomami tribe did during a measles outbreak in 2018. What hasn’t helped? Missionaries who have reportedly told Indigenous peoples the vaccine will turn them into alligators. That misinformation has led some tribes to meet health care workers with bows and arrows.
2. The World’s Sailors
The world’s 1.6 million sailors have been a people without a port during COVID-19. Not only do many come from countries with low vaccine rollout rates, but their inability to get shots has impacted global cargo shipping and supply chains — encumbering an already reeling worldwide economy. It’s getting worse with the emergence of dangerous new strains. In January, Singapore halted crew changes for sailors coming from India, the U.K. and South Africa.
3. Japan’s Elderly
As of mid-May, 83-year-old Yasuko Minagawa couldn’t get a vaccine in Japan — because she was too young. Her home city of Kasukabe initially limited appointments to those 90 or older due to its slow rollout of limited vaccines. Japan has administered fewer than 7 million vaccines so far, enough to inoculate less than 3% of its population. Now as it pushes to go ahead with the Summer Olympics in late July, its vaccine struggle could become the world’s problem.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
Meet Hollywood’s go-to on-screen terrorist. Iranian-born Navid Negahban, who starred as Abu Nazir in hit drama Homeland — as well as the Sultan in the live-action Aladdin — shares the amazing story of how acting brought him from a refugee camp in Germany all the way to Hollywood. Watch later today.
Happiness in Surprising Places
Even the great philosophers who’ve told us of the futility of searching for happiness might be surprised by where you’d actually find it in these times.
1. COVID Conundrum
You’d expect countries that have done poorly in controlling the pandemic to be unhappy, so it’s no surprise that Brazil, Mexico and the U.K. — with three of the worst death tolls in the world — have fallen in the annual United Nations happiness rankings. But what does that then say about America, with the highest number of deaths and cases, which rose in the index last year from 18th to 14th position? Boundless optimism … or denialism as infectious as the virus itself?
2. A Matter of Perspective
There’s nothing happy about a war, especially one that has claimed a quarter of a million lives and displaced 11 million people. Yet in Syria, none of that has killed one crucial resource vital for recovery: hope. In fact, the Middle Eastern nation topped a 2018 poll of 15 nations on the prospect of peace and security. Perhaps when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. Read more on OZY.
3. A Different Yardstick
What if instead of the intangible emotion that is happiness, we measured sustainable wellbeing, using parameters such as environmental protection, longevity of life and public investment priorities? Costa Rica is the surprising topper in the Happy Planet Index, which computes this more complex ranking of nations. It hasn’t had an army for more than 70 years and spends on education what others throw at defense.
Playing Games With Your Mind
If video games are what make you happy, know that there’s a way you can turn your hobby from a typical shoot-fest to a fun therapy session through a new wave of brilliant games that focus on mental health.
You’re Sunita, awoman living alone with early-onset dementia. Each room in your house holds objects that bring back fleeting memories. Piecing them together as your memory deteriorates is the goal. This sensitive, humane BAFTA-nominated game is about the memories that make us. And that can break us.
The best games are so cathartic, theyhelp even their creator deal with whatever’s troubling them. So it is withCeleste, which tackles the protagonist’s depression by giving it a physical manifestation, a shadow she must accept and address.
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