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Sep 23, 2021
Good morning! Each time my wife and I think about buying a house, we’re forced to change our plans. The pandemic was the latest spoiler. Still, had we been in China, we might have found ourselves in an even bigger mess. Read today about a dangerous housing bubble that could impact you. As three of the world’s major economies head toward pivotal elections, meet a controversial politician who’s hoping to become Japan’s first female prime minister. Explore some of the world’s quirkiest festivals. And take part in our spot the difference contest!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a third booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people over 65 years of age and at-risk patients as President Joe Biden set a goal to inoculate 70% of the world by next year, committing to 500 million more doses for developing countries. Meanwhile, New Zealand has come up with a different idea to immunize its population: It’s teaming up with fast-food chains for customers to get vaccinated while lining up for takeaway. Could this work? Answer here or on Twitter. (Sources: Reuters, BBC, Guardian)
2 - Guantánamo Déjà Vu
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is looking for new contractors to run a migrant detention center at the country’s naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The center, which once housed thousands of Haitian and Cuban migrants and asylum-seekers in the 1990s, is reported to have been empty since 2017. It is estimated that around 14,000 people, most of them Haitians, have entered the U.S. through the Rio Grande border crossing in the last two weeks. (Sources: NBC, Guardian)
3 - Fed Pandemic Pullback
The U.S. Federal Reserve has indicated it might reverse its COVID-19 pandemic stimulus initiatives as soon as November, with a hike in interest rates likely next year. Meanwhile, Brazil has increased interest rates and signalled another possible rise in October, as the country attempts to tackle surging inflation. (Sources: CNN, Reuters)
4 - You Say Yes, I Say Oui
President Biden and his French counterpart President Emmanuel Macron have agreed to meet next month in a bid to repair relations following a diplomatic uproar when an international security pact with Australia pushed a multimillion-dollar submarine contract off the table for France. (Source: Al Jazeera)
5 - Somalia’s Screen Moment
The majestic doors of the National Theatre in Mogadishu opened up yesterday for the first time since the Somali Civil War broke out in 1991. Mexico’s preparing for a historic moment too: A self-portrait by Frida Khalo could soon become — at an estimated $30 million — the most valuable Latin American artwork ever sold. (Sources: Arab News/AFP, Forbes)
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A protege of Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the 60-year-old Takaichi is a right-wing favorite who makes no bones about paying obeisance to World War II-era officials accused of horrific crimes in China and Korea. Until recently, the veteran legislator was at best an outside bet for the top job in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. But days before a leadership election sparked by the surprise decision of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to resign, Takaichi has emerged as a serious contender. If she wins the party leadership, she’s expected to also become Japan’s next prime minister — the first woman ever to hold that high of an office.
2 - Olaf Scholz
As recently as April, no one — including us at OZY — was giving Germany’s Social Democratic Party or its leader Olaf Scholz much of a shot at leading Europe’s largest economy. Now ahead of Sunday’s election, Scholz and the SDP are leading the polls. And while tricky coalition talks await the political veteran, Scholz is now in pole position to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel after 16 years in office. Her incumbent coalition is trying to scare voters, claiming that Scholz will court socialist The Left party as an alliance partner. But Scholz has made it clear that any allies must agree to his middle-of-the-road path. “Scholz will tackle it,” his campaign message says. Voters seem to agree.
3 - Gabriel Boric
Fist raised toward the sky, the 35-year-old bearded legislator declared war on his nation’s long embrace of U.S.-backed neoliberal economic policies. “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave,” declared Boric after winning the primary of the country’s left-wing coalition in July. A lawyer, Boric cut his teeth in politics as a leader of the student movement that over the past decade has driven Chile’s shift to the left. Now the country is rewriting its Pinochet-era constitution and Boric is leading polls as the favorite to win November’s presidential election.
China’s Housing Bubble
It could burst anytime. And you might feel the impact.
For two decades, Chinese real estate giant Evergrande Group used the country’s surging economy, rising incomes and demand for housing to build projects in every single one of the nation’s provinces. But its model depended on loans and debts. Now with President Xi Jinping cracking down on China’s dangerously high debt levels, Evergrande has seen its strategy collapse, forcing it to leave projects incomplete. It doesn’t have cash to pay contractors, giving them incomplete housing projects instead.
2 - Domino Effect
While no other real estate company in the world has Evergrande’s levels of debt — $300 billion, or almost the size of South Africa’s economy — several other smaller Chinese developers that have also relied on debt are now feeling the crunch. Experts are warning that Evergande’s crisis could easily lead to the collapse of China’s housing sector.
3 - Lehmann Brothers Moment?
If the malaise does spread across China’s property sector, it might also infect the world’s second-largest economy, just as the burst of the U.S. housing bubble led to the Great Recession in 2008-09. At least that’s what some analysts fear. And when an economic behemoth like America or China is in crisis, there’s no way the rest of the world remains immune. Already this week, markets in the U.S. and Europe took hits.
These festivals are fun to watch — and if you’re adventurous, to participate in.
It’s the party before Christmas. Every year on Dec. 23 the Mexican state of Oaxaca celebrates what translates to the “Night of the Radishes.” Sculptors turn extra-large red radishes into stunning and bizarre sculptures depicting everything from saints to replicas of classics from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
2 - Kanamara Matsuri Festival
It’s one thing to show off radishes, and another to exhibit sculptures of pink penises. Yet that’s the idea behind this one-of-a-kind Tokyo festival that’s a celebration of sexuality. Better known as the Festival of the Steel Penis, it’s where you go if you want phallic-shaped lollipops, giant penis sculptures and a boisterous safe space for Japan’s often-marginalized LGBTQ community.
3 - International Hair Freezing Contest
For those who want to have a bad hair day, head to Takhini Hot Springs, in Canada’s Yukon Territory, in the icy cold of the country’s winter. Every year, competitors in the world’s only frozen-hairdo challenge immerse themselves in the hot water, then pop their heads out and let the chilly air freeze their hair into weird sculptures.
Rachael Harris, the actress known for Lucifer, The Hangover and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, opens up about her small-town Ohio upbringing, her surprising connection to John Legend and the anonymous donation that sent her to college. What is the Suits star’s advice for new actors?
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