America’s First Black Pentagon Chief? – OZY

Happy Tuesday! I can watch panda videos on loop to de-stress. Good thing then that…

Happy Tuesday! I can watch panda videos on loop to de-stress. Good thing then that I can’t smell them through the videos, as you’ll learn today. From pandas to the pandemic, science is a central ingredient in this brew. Meet the little-known Chinese researcher who might save us from COVID-19 and a Venezuelan food tycoon standing up to a dictator. Check out baseball’s ancestor, inspirational love stories and the answer to Monday’s question. Start with a particularly musical news section.

Charu Sudan Kasturi, Senior Editor

1. Race Against Time

Is change finally coming?President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as America’s first Black secretary of defense. Over in the media industry, MSNBC appointed Rashida Jones as its president. She’ll be the most senior African American woman in the cable news business. But in Brazil, the killing of two young Black girls, allegedly by police officers, has sparked fresh protests. (Sources: NYT,NBC, Guardian)

2. It’s Too Late

Pfizer has toldthe U.S. it can’t supply more than the 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots the government has already purchased — at least until the summer of 2021 because of demand from other countries. Among those nations is South Korea, which is buying vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna for 44 million people, or 85 percent of its population. (Sources: WaPo, Reuters)

3. Is Your Money That Good?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Musician Bob Dylan has sold his catalog of songs to Universal Music for more than $300 million. Clearly the times, they are a changin’ for the onetime anti-establishment writer and singer. Are you surprised by Dylan’s deal? Vote on Twitter. (Source: NPR)

4. Brothers in Arms

Human rights are in dire straits (as are my puns). France has defended its sale of weapons to Egyptian dictator Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi on the grounds that the partnership is critical to fighting terrorism. (Source: DW)

Chinesescientists have unraveled one of the great mysteries of our time — why cute pandas are also gross enough to love rolling in horse manure. It turns out they’re not just horsing around. The manure has specific properties that keep pandas warm. 

COVID: Brains Behind the Breakthroughs

You know the companies that are delivering the vaccines. Now meet the scientists who’ve actually pieced together the solutions to the crisis.

1. Zhang Yongzhen

The hunt for a vaccine might have been a nonstarter without thisstern-looking, balding Shanghai virologist. On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a test tube arrived at his Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center lab with swabs from a patient in Wuhan suffering from a strange infection. Zhang instinctively knew this was no ordinary virus. He and his team raced to map its genome in 36 hours before publishing it online, firing the starting gun that has since allowedfellow scientists around the world to decodethe virus’s mysteries in record time. 

2. Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin

The German-Turkish married scientists were having breakfast on Jan. 27 when Sahin mentioned an article he had read about COVID-19. They quickly pivoted the focus of their research firm BioNTech from cancer to the coronavirus, partnering with pharma giant Pfizer to develop a vaccine that today became the first in the West to be administered to citizens grandmother-of-four Margaret Keenan, 90, received the jab in the U.K. The vaccine could win FDA approval in the U.S. on Thursday. If that happens, expect the couple to celebrate with Turkish tea — their drink of choice.

3. Sarah Gilbert

Her coffee mug says: “Keep Calm and Develop Vaccines.” And that’s what she does. The auburn-haired Oxford professor nearly gave up science midway through her PhD. Today she’s behindthe COVID-19 vaccine the university has developed with AstraZeneca, one of the major inoculation candidates. Her parents were amateur theater artists and she played the oboe as a child. But she’s never had an audience like she does now.

The American Dream: Myth or Reality

It’s time for #RealTalk and #RealChange. What does the American dream mean, and how can we positively reset it? OZY and Chevrolet are teaming up to take on today’s toughest questions. Hosted by OZY co-founder and Emmy-winning journalist Carlos Watson and joined by key leaders from across America, this special episode of The Carlos Watson Show identifies problems and arms you with solutions. Watch today for a real conversation.

What’s Next Venezuela?

President Nicolás Maduro has strengthened his authoritarian grip over the nation after winning the weekend’s parliamentary elections, boycotted by many in the opposition. Now get to know the world’s most oil-rich country — beyond the headlines you mostly see.

1. With or Without You

Lorenzo Mendoza is the one man who can criticize Maduro publicly and get away with it. The 55-year-old runs Venezuela’s largest private firm, a food empire that Maduro’s regime can’t do without as the country struggles against food shortages. Their relationship could shape Venezuela’s future.Read more on OZY.

2. Baby Beauty

Four-year-oldsin high heels learn to hold wine glasses right at Venezuela’s beauty schools, platforms that parents see as gateways to success for their children. It’s been that way for decades. No country has matched Venezuela’s victories at top beauty pageants: seven Miss Universe winners, six Miss Worlds and seven Miss Internationals.

3. Cinnamon Sin

You’ll find golfeados described in recipes as Venezuela’s cinnamon roll. But it’s much more, withcheese and panela sugar bringing out a sweet and salty combination that’s crunchy on the outside, with cinnamon sprinkled over it, but soft inside.

Unique Sports

You probably haven’t heard of them — let alone played them. But that doesn’t make them any less fun or historic. It’s never too late to start.  

2. Ta Kurt om el Mahag

The name’s unfamiliar — the game itself is one you’d immediately recognize. Long before baseball, this Berber version of the sport played in Libya’s deserts employed similar rules and field positions. Some believe baseball originated from this sport.

3. Mongolian Wrestling

This isn’t for the fainthearted, but as my colleague James Watkins found, grappling with nomads on the Mongolian steppes is a ton of fun, even if you find yourself on your backside within seconds. Read more on OZY.


Anything for Love

Wrestling in Mongolia is one thing. Fighting pirates, prison and politics for love is an entirely different challenge.

1. Everything to Lose

Her husband, attacked by pirates, had been jailed on trumped-up charges in Togo. Meanwhile Aditi James was trying to keep their ailing infant son alive back home in India. She lost her son, but she made sure that everyone up to the Indian prime minister leaned in to eventually save her husband. Read more on OZY.

2. Italian Scandal

You think finding love across the political aisle is tough today? Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s daughter Edda Ciano fell for a local communist chief who had fought against Mussolini. Read more on OZY.

3. Love Between Prison Bars

She’s a novelist and was a teacher at California’s High Desert State Prison. He’s a convict serving time. But they found each other in that most unlikely of settings, exchanging love notes and secretly singing to each other. You can’t jail love. Read more on OZY

What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken for love?

On Monday, I asked you which former Chinese Olympic gold medalist is now a billionaire businessman? Michael L. and Marissa C. — yes, it’s former gymnast Li Ning!

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