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Happy Tuesday! When the Tokyo Olympics kick off 10 days from now, the world’s attention will fall on the planet’s top athletes. But their success isn’t just theirs. Meet the Ethiopian coach driving the East African nation’s unparalleled gold rush in distance running, read about the Indian edtech behemoth that’s more than twice as big as Coursera, go beyond the headlines to understand the latest Rohingya tragedy and swim in an ancient underwater Japanese city.
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Senior Editor, and Isabelle Lee, Reporter
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned of a rare reaction to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, but said the benefits outweigh the risks. Meanwhile, Israel has started administering a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine to heart transplant patients, even as the company seeks approval from U.S. regulators to deliver a third jab to Americans. (Sources: NYT, Jerusalem Post, Reuters)
2. ‘Kill the Bill’
Texas Democrats have fled the state to deny Republicans the two-thirds attendance needed in the legislature to pass controversial new voting restrictions during a special session. They’ve gathered in Washington, D.C., to pressure Congress to pass a federal law to protect voting rights. Do you agree with the tactics of Texas Democrats? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: WaPo, NBC)
3. Blame It on Biden
Cuba has accused Washington of fueling the mass protests that rocked the island nation on Sunday, while President Joe Biden asked the communist state to heed the agitators’ “clarion call for freedom.” (Sources: Guardian, CNBC)
4. Gimme Hope Jo’anna
South Africa has deployed its military on the streets amid widespread looting and unrest in Johannesburg and other major cities in the aftermath of the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma last week. At least six people have been killed in clashes. (Sources: FT, BBC)
5. TikTok Dances … to Beijing’s Tune
ByteDance, the Chinese owner of viral video-sharing platform TikTok, has put off a planned IPO after a warning from Beijing over data security risks. It’s the latest evidence of China’s interference in the rise of its own tech innovators. (Source: WSJ)
South Korea has banned fast-paced music in gyms, arguing that it leads to more intense workouts, heavier breathing — and a greater risk of spreading COVID-19.
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He blesses his athletes with a peck on the cheek. Then he makes them train for the world’s toughest marathons by running up 10,000-foot-tall Mount Entoto, which overlooks Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Adilo has built one of the world’s most formidable factory lines of champion distance runners, including Kenenisa Bekele, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and Lelisa Desisa, the 2019 marathon winner at the World Athletics Championships. Desisa is among four Ethiopian runners under Adilo’s tutelage who’ve qualified for Tokyo. Ethiopia had to shift its national Olympic trials to Geneva because of COVID-19 concerns, but Adilo and his team are used to traveling the extra mile for glory. Read more on OZY.
3. Rohan Taylor
Traditional swimming powerhouse Australia has struggled in the past two Olympics to deliver as expected. Taylor, Australia’s head coach, is plotting a new narrative. He has already laid the groundwork: Australia’s swimmers nearly doubled their haul of 10 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics when they won 19 podium spots at the 2019 world championships. Now, with three world No. 1 swimmers and a squad full of other potential champions, Taylor is planning to raid the medals cupboard in Tokyo. Watch out in particular for 19-year-old swimming sensation Kaylee McKeown.
Titans of EdTech
Few sectors have witnessed the kind of boom that has lifted edtech during the pandemic. But it's an area where America is no longer the undisputed king.
The Nigerian edtech firm couldn’t have planned its launch better. Founded a month before the WHO declared the COVID-19 crisis a pandemic last year, ULesson has since drawn at least $10.6 million in funding, including $7.5 million this January. And its unique strategy could make it a game-changer across the developing world, where high-bandwidth internet isn’t always available. Instead, ULesson sells its digital curriculum to students on SD memory cards. Poor Wi-Fi doesn’t need to stop online classes.
Imagine all of Spain logging onto one platform. That’s effectively what Zuoyebang does. The mega Chinese edtech firm records 50 million daily users and 170 million monthly active users, and is now plotting an IPO in the U.S. to raise $500 million. It’s already valued at $10 billion. Expect that to rise.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy shares insights into the greatest lessons we can take from the pandemic — from the impact of loneliness on health to whether a cure for cancer could be the next scientific breakthrough. Watch later today.
Child Sex Trafficking Hot Spots
The world’s full of unsafe places for children, as the U.S. State Department annual report on human trafficking underscored. But some nations and regions are particularly perilous.
Girls between the ages of 10 and 18 are being sold in eastern Uganda’s public markets — some for as little as $14 — by poor and desperate parents who are promised jobs for their daughters in foreign lands. In fact, they are then resold for up to $10,000 in the Middle East. Read OZY’s investigation here.
2. Rohingya Routes
They’ve already been displaced from their homes in Myanmar, forced to flee for their lives. Now they’re facing fresh trauma. Young Rohingya women in refugee camps in Bangladesh are increasingly being trafficked to Malaysia, India and Saudi Arabia where they’re forced to engage in sex work.
Almost all trafficking victims in Guatemala aren’t from the country itself — which points to its centrality as a transit point for human traffickers. And of the 50,000 victims of sex trafficking in the Central American nation, 60 percent are children, often lured away from their families with the false promise of education or job opportunities.
Distant Diving Destinations
You won’t find more socially remote spots to don your pandemic-era scuba suits.
Ever wanted to see what the joining of two tectonic plates looks like, but underwater? The Silfra fissure, where the North American and Eurasian plates meet, is the world’s only diving spot that lets you swim between the building blocks of the Earth’s crust.
2. Yonaguni, Japan
The westernmost island of Japan is home to one of its most fascinating mysteries. Dive off the southern side of the island of Yonaguni and you’ll come across a submerged world of pillars and platforms that some say is a sunken 5,000-year-old city.
3. McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
You might need to drill through the ice first, but if you go diving in McMurdo Sound you’re sure to be rewarded with an underground maze of icy cliffs and passageways. You might even spot a penguin while you’re underwater, alongside a whole host of weird, frigid water-dwelling creatures.