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Happy Monday! It was an unusual admission for an American leader, but in 2009, President Barack Obama dubbed Brazil’s former trade unionist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva the most popular politician in the world. Today meet the Peruvian teacher who could be Latin America’s next Lula, decode the economics driving a risky Tokyo Olympics, check out an Instagrammable Chinese creature on the verge of extinction and travel to southwestern Africa for a starry night unlike any other.
Stephen Starr, Josefina Salomon and Sohini Das Gupta
The governments of at least 10 nations — India, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan — are using sophisticated spyware from the Israeli firm Pegasus to snoop on the contents of journalists’ phones, a global investigation has revealed. The governments are also hacking into phones of dissident activists and lawyers. Do you worry that other governments are quietly doing the same? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: WaPo, Guardian)
2. Floods to Fires
From California and Oregon to Siberia, blazing wildfires are testing rescue workers even as Germany and Belgium grapple with the aftermath of devastating floods that have left at least 188 people dead. (Sources: AP, Deutsche Welle, BBC)
3. Sick Games
COVID-19 has reached the highly sanitized Tokyo Olympics village, with the first reported cases among athletes there, while the list of competitors testing positive before even reaching Japan is growing. The latest addition: teen tennis sensation Coco Gauff. Not that the pandemic is targeting the games in particular. Indonesia is emerging at the world’s biggest COVID-19 hot spot, with daily cases now overtaking numbers in Brazil and India. (Sources: Reuters, FT, NBC, NYT)
4. Zoom-ing On
But for those that have benefited from the pandemic, the ride just keeps getting better. Zoom, which became synonymous with video meetings over the past year, is poised to buy cloud-based customer service software firm Five9 for $14.7 billion. (Sources: WSJ, CNBC)
This rural teacher and union leader is Latin America’s most unlikely political star, winning Peru’s June presidential runoff by a thin margin against Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, who has so far refused to concede. Castillo’s humble origins made him an instant hit in a country rattled by corruption, poverty and the world’s worst per capita COVID-19 death rate. The president-elect marries a platform of nationalism and agrarian reform, mixed with some old-fashioned conservative thinking (give land to the people but don’t talk about abortion or LGBT rights). The poncho-wearing Castillo might be a political novice, but he has enviable capital: His country’s large rural population sees him as one of their own.
2. Ofelia Fernández
“Don’t you call me chiquita.” Just 17 at the time, she put an older politician in his place for patronizing her by calling her “little girl” on television. Three years later, Fernández is the darling of Latin America’s left as the region’s youngest lawmaker after being elected to the Buenos Aires City Legislature this year. She grabbed national attention as part of Argentina’s abortion rights movement, led by women donning green scarves, and has campaigned against neoliberal education reforms.
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Airbnb founder Brian Chesky shares his personal path from “lost kid” to powerful CEO and opens up about Airbnb’s “near death” experience during COVID-19. Hear about the unlikely motivation that made him take on issues of race and the advice from Warren Buffet he holds dear. Watch later today.
Five days before the start of the Tokyo Games, take stock of the economics that make the event critical for organizers to hold even amid a pandemic.
1. What’s at Stake?
Before the postponement last year, organizers estimated the Tokyo Games would generate $5.9 billion, mostly from Japanese and international sponsors. By December, however, the cost of hosting the Games had risen 22% to $15.4 billion due to contracting and other issues caused by the pandemic-induced delay. Since then, another $3 billion has been added to the cost. But if the Games were canceled entirely, the cost to the Japanese economy would be massive: $16.4 billion.
They’re similar, with key distinguishing features and a common relative, Steller’s sea cow, that was hunted to extinction. Now they’re vulnerable too. Prone to accidents involving boat strikes and stray fishing gear, manatees and dugongs are also threatened by habitat loss and illegal hunting. The toll in Florida is being primarily attributed to starvation resulting from a decline in seagrass beds — a casualty of water pollution.
2. Humphead Wrasse
Kooky, did you say? The humphead or Napoleon wrasse has certainly got the character for an edgy nickname or two. The gigantic coral reef fish sports a telltale bulge on its forehead — as though it’s just bumped into a reef. Some can live longer than 30 years and adult females can even change their sex. Circumstances, however, haven’t been ideal for these colorful creatures: They’ve been relegated to endangered status, largely because of overfishing.
3. Yangtze Finless Porpoise
With its toothy porpoise grin, this photogenic relative of dolphins and whales could have commanded the internet clout of corgis. Insead, decades-long losses resulting from collisions with boats, habitat degradation and loss of food sources have left this resident of China’s Yangtze river a critically endangered species.
Beyond the Northern Lights: Great Places for Skygazing
If you like to stare at the sky and dream of the limitless expanse out there, you have great options beyond the stunning Northern Lights.
It might be the best place on the planet to watch the stars. Situated between the Andean mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the Salar de Atacama salt flat in northern Chile is a world-leading destination for both amateur and professional astronomers, with telescopes sitting atop mountain summits.
2. Namib Desert
It’s miles from anything even closely resembling light pollution, making this desert in southwestern Africa perfect for stargazing. One resort is even set up to let you view the celestial magic unfold as you lie on your bed.
3. International Dark-Sky Park
Can’t make it to South America or Africa? No worries. TheInternational Dark-Sky Association has designated dozens of sanctuaries, parks, reserves and communities around the globe as excellent spots to gaze at the heavens. Check out their official map here for the area closest to you.
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