Bold start. Smooth finish. The newsletter that interesting people love.
Good morning! New York City’s in the middle of a heated mayoral race that could result in America’s largest city electing its first female chief executive. Today you’ll meet a similarly pathbreaking mayor from Brazil, learn about unlikely nations that are betting on Bitcoin, try masks that are about celebration, not contagion, and visit some of the coolest bars in the world.
Charu Sudan Kasturi and Nick Fouriezos, Senior Editors
Australian officials are fighting UNESCO's effort to list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger.” They’re “stunned” by a draft report recommending a downgrade of the World Heritage status of the 130,000 square miles of offshore coral next month. The report cites Canberra’s lack of effort to combat coral-killing global warming, but Australia wants credit for work on the reef itself. Should individual countries be held responsible for climate change? Vote here. (Sources: AFP, Guardian)
2. Primary Colors
They said ranked-choice voting would diversify elections, and the field for New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary today is proof. The front-runner to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, is a Black ex-police officer, and he’s facing a field of Asian American, Latinx, Black and white rivals. If none top 50%, alternate choices (up to four) will determine the nominee, who’ll likely trounce the Republican candidate this fall. (Sources: NYT, CNN)
3. Pandemic Panic
Short on medication and oxygen,Colombia yesterday exceeded 100,000 known coronavirus deaths. President Iván Duque blames anti-government protests, but the World Health Organization says poorer nations are lacking vaccines. The U.S. is sending another 14 million doses to Latin America, but so far the WHO’s COVAX effort has barely begun to deliver its goal of 2 billion doses to needy nations. (Sources: Reuters, BBC, NBC)
4. NFL Pride
Shocked. That’s how some felt upon discovering that Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib was just the first active NFL player to come out as gay yesterday. Also surprising was the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimity in deciding that the NCAA can’t stop universities from compensating “amateur” athletes with things like equipment and graduate scholarships — leaving the issue of salaries open. (Sources: ESPN, AP)
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The 124-year-old farm belt city of Bauru in southeast Brazil was once the home of soccer legend Pelé, the country’s most famous Black son. But the city of 380,000 never had a Black mayor — until Rosim took office in January. Brazil’s Black and mixed-race citizens make up more than half the nation’s population yet only comprise 4% of its Congress. Rosim, a former TV journalist and singer, braved racist threats and won in November as an evangelical conservative candidate in the Patriot Party.
2. DJ Jigüe
Cuban producer Isnay Rodriguez has been credited with introducing his island nation to hip-hop as DJ Jigüe. But he’s set his sights beyond those shores — introducing his unique sonic potion of Afro-Cuban beats, house jams and instrumental hip-hop to the world through performances at major festivals such as SXSW and an international touring gig with the Cuban hip-hop act Obsesión. He has his own label, Guámpara Music, and he’s navigating a unique route to success.
What is the issue that Bush administration Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, progressive Rep. Katie Porter, Trump adviser Mica Mosbacher and BLM activist Chi Ossé can agree on? The need for a more just educational system. For the next episode of Real Talk, Real Change from The Carlos Watson Show and Chevrolet, we take a unique look at education in America. After a pandemic year that forced us to rethink our educational systems, is this the perfect time to build back greater educational justice, from policing in schools to equity in funding? Along with hearing from celebrities and policy experts, we sit down with those most impacted — students, teachers and parents — to hear their thoughts on how we reset American education. Tune in now for a one-of-a-kind conversation!
Next Bitcoin Havens
El Salvador recently became the first nation to accept Bitcoin as legal tender, and others in Latin America, from Panama to Paraguay, could follow suit. Where else is crypto gaining political currency?
Surprised? Abu Dhabi has led on crypto policies, such as accepting digital assets to pay for visa and licensing fees, with plans to announce a broader crypto framework. Perhaps looking to channel oil money into futuristic wealth-generating industries, the Emirati central bank is working with its Saudi counterpart on a digital currency initiative called Project Aber — which may result in an official cryptocurrency that could expand cross-border transactions between Gulf nations.
The central bank of Africa’s most populous and largest economy seemingly banned crypto payments in February. But Nigeria’s blossoming tech sector is keenly interested in Bitcoin. So much so that Nigeria is today the world’s second-largest market for peer-to-peer crypto transactions. Politics is downstream of culture, and Nigerian momentum is real: Regulators are already jumping back aboard before being left adrift.
As you slowly start shedding masks in public (only if you're fully vaccinated, folks!), check out some of the great cultural masks from around the world that you will not want to take off.
These majestic masks are central to the Black Bahamian identity and go back centuries to a time when slaves from Africa were granted three days off around Christmas and donned masks, one explanation suggests, to celebrate the Ghanaian chief John Canoe, who demanded the right to celebrate with his people. Today, the masks are far more elaborate than the flour paste coveringsthat were used originally, but the cultural significance — and the brilliance of the celebration — remains intact.
3. Festima Masks
There's no one style. Across Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Togo and Senegal, mask-making is a centuries-old tradition, rooted in beliefs — like the Balinese — that one can communicate with dead ancestors. Yet every year in Dédougou, Burkina Faso, these diverse but unified mask-making traditions of West Africa come together in a one-of-its-kind festival known as Festima. If you're a lover of great masks, there's no place you'd rather be.
And if you are stepping out, ready to shed your mask, here’s a guide to some of the wackiest bars to visit on a Friday evening.
Trippy French carousel vibes meet wickedly powerful drinks and signature treats — including unicorn balls (fried pork meatballs with ginger, scallions and sweet chili aioli) and unicorn droppings (picture a pastry, a banana and a chocolate bar copulating in a vat of boiling fat).
2. The Other Room (Singapore)
Listed as one of Asia’s 50 best bars for its pioneering of cask-aged cocktails, its website begins with this deliciously playful quote: “I was once having a drink at a bar and then took a bus home. That may not sound like a big deal, but I had never driven a bus before.” Offering more than 300 spirits, the bartenders are just as creative in person — our reporter knows of at least one case where they made a cheese cocktail by request.
3. Red Sea Star (Israel)
Six meters under the sea, a pirate’s life for thee — or, at least, a delicious treat. The Red Sea Star is billed as the world’s first underwater restaurant. Sitting on jellyfish stools and urchin cushions, you can peer through plexiglass windows at a coral reef the proprietors began nurturing four years before this under-watering hole opened in 1998.
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