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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conservation with Oprah Winfey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."
Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.
What they're saying: The Times of London summed up the global reaction with the headline, "Revelations worse than Palace could have feared."
Details: The couple revealed they're expecting a girl this summer. Both said that before their son, Archie, was born, Harry was asked in family conversations about, as paraphrased by Winfrey, "how dark your baby is going to be."
- Harry said: "At the time it was awkward and I was a bit shocked." He refused to give details: "That conversation, I am never going to share."
- In describing treatment, the treatment of Markle, whose mother is African American, Harry said: "[O]ne of the most telling parts — and the saddest parts, I guess, was: Over 70 members of Parliament ... called out the colonial undertones of articles and headlines written about Meghan. Yet no one from my family ever said anything over those three years. ... That hurts."
Both denied that their lucrative media deals had been planned.
- "Netflix and Spotify were never part of the plan," Harry said. "My family cut me off financially and I had to do this to afford security. ... [D]uring COVID, the suggestion by a friend was: What about streamers?"
- Markle added: "We genuinely hadn't thought about it."
Harry said his family's lack of support was partly driven by "how scared they are of the tabloids turning on them."
- The prince spoke of what he said is described "behind closed doors" as "the invisible contract" between the family and U.K. tabloids — press access in exchange for better coverage.
The bottom line: Harry, spilling ancient family secrets, said that there's "a level of control by fear that has existed for generations."
President Biden is planning to host Japan’s prime minister at the White House as soon as this April, the first in-person foreign leader visit of his presidency, according to people familiar with the matter.
Why it matters: An invitation to Yoshihide Suga would telegraph to allies and potential adversaries, including China, that the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain the linchpin of the post-World War II security framework in the Pacific.
- The invite also would signal a partial return to normalcy as to how the Biden administration conducts foreign policy during the pandemic, with the new president beginning face-to-face meetings with foreign leaders in the Oval Office.
- The White House declined to confirm the upcoming meeting, which has not been finalized and could slide to later in the spring, with the state of the pandemic a key factor.
Driving the news: Biden plans to participate in the first leaders' gathering of the so-called Quad this month, joining a virtual conference with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, Axios reported last week.
- Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that meeting, saying, “It will be four leaders, four countries, working together constructively for the peace, prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific.”
- China doesn’t welcome the summit, and on Sunday its foreign minister, Wang Yi, called it “group politics" and “selective multilateralism," according to Xinhua.
Flashback: The first foreign leader to call on President Trump was British Prime Minister Theresa May on Jan. 27, 2017. Her visit included lunch and a joint press conference.
- President Obama also picked Japan for his first visit from a head of government, hosting Prime Minister Tara Aso on Feb. 24, 2009. While he welcomed Aso to the Oval, he did not extend the diplomatic trappings of lunch or a joint press conference.
- Trump hosted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, making him the first foreign leader to visit the former president's Florida club. They played a round of golf on Feb. 11, 2017.
The intrigue: Foreign leaders' visits are always diplomatic dances with both sides working carefully on the choreography.
- The biggest prize is a state dinner, which Obama extended to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November of his first year, and Trump gave to French President Emmanuel Macron in April of his second year in office.
- Suga would not normally be eligible for a state dinner, since they usually are reserved for heads of state. In Japan, that's Emporer Naruhito.
What we’re watching: Suga faces political challenges at home, so any perks Biden extends — such as a formal (or working) meal, or a well-staged photo-op — will be monitored as a signal of his tacit support for the prime minister.
Startups are getting close to being able to sell cultivated seafood products that have been grown from fish cells in a lab-like facility, rather than caught in the wild or farmed.
Why it matters: Developing cultivated animal protein that could compete with conventional products is a promising way for people to eat what they want without killing animals or damaging the planet.
- But cultivated seafood could also help alleviate the conservation pressure on wild fish caused by overfishing.
What's happening: Last week I had the chance to try a few pieces of cultivated salmon sashimi and sushi from the startup Wildtype, which says it is close to being able to commercially produce salmon grown from fish cells in its San Francisco facility.
- The verdict: I give it a solid B+ — not at the level of the best sushi I've ever had (that would be Sushi no Midori in Tokyo; high recommend, especially if you have a corporate expense account) — but much better than your average weekday takeout restaurant.
- In appearance, taste and mouthfeel, the cultivated salmon served to me was indistinguishable from fish that had been caught in the ocean or raised on a farm.
What they're saying: "This is sustainable seafood that is within reach," says Justin Kolbeck, Wildtype's co-founder and CEO. "And the long-term goal is to make it even cheaper than conventional salmon."
How it works: Like other cultivated animal protein — which you may also know as "lab-grown," though the industry is trying to discourage the term — Wildtype's salmon started as a ball of cells harmlessly taken from a live fish egg.
- And that's it for live fish in the process. "After we developed these cell lines, we haven't looked at a fish," says Wildtype co-founder Aryé Elfenbein.
- That was followed by years of scientific work to determine what mix of nutrients and environmental cues were needed to coax the base cells into the mix of muscle, fat and connective tissue a finished product needs.
- "The second part is creating a plant-based scaffold, essentially a mesh for the cells to grow within," says Elfenbein.
- The end resultisn't a live fish but what looks like a block of edible salmon fillet.
The catch: Cultivated seafood — and cultivated animal protein more generally — hasn't yet been approved for commercial consumption, though Kolbeck says Wildtype is in "productive discussions" with the FDA.
- Another barrier is price. Kolbeck estimates that it costs Wildtype about $25 to produce the eight pieces of sushi I ate. That's more than you'd pay for conventional fish, but Kolbeck expects the price to drop "significantly" as the company scales up.
Yes, but: Unlike cultivated beef or chicken — which have to compete with ultra-cheap conventional options — cultivated seafood faces a future where, thanks to overfishing and climate change, the price of much conventional seafood is likely "only going to increase," says Kolbeck.
- That gives a conservation spin to cultivated seafood. While we're in no danger of running out of chickens or cattle — there are currently about 23 billion and 1.4 billion, respectively — global wild fish stocks are under severe pressure.
- "We're just at the very beginning of a story that will be the next gigantic level of the climate crisis," says Kolbeck. "It's just a downward slope for wild fish."
By the numbers: Cultivated protein companies raised $366 million in funding in 2020, and other startups — like BlueNalu in San Diego, which makes cultivated fish, and Shiok Meats, which makes cultivated shrimp — are competing in the seafood space.
- A recent study found that 80% of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. were at least somewhat willing to try cultivated animal protein, with younger generations markedly more open.
What to watch: Wildtype will be opening up a sushi bar at its San Francisco pilot plant in the fall, where visitors will be able to try the product and tour the facility.
The bottom line: If there is going to be fish on our plates in the future, much of it will likely need to be cultivated.
Vernon Jordan, the Civil Rights Movement pioneer who served as a close adviser to former President Clinton, died on Monday evening, CNN reports. He was 85.
Why it matters: The former National Urban League president was influential in American politics — from his service in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil rights conference to his position in leadership at the NAACP.
- He was best known for his close friendship with then-President Clinton, to whom he served as an informal adviser.
- He successfully sued the University of Georgia for its admission policies, saying they discriminated on the basis of race.
What they're saying: "His powerbroker persona is most manifest in his decades-long friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton," wrote Financial Times in a 2018 profile of Jordan. "To jaded voters on the left and right, he is the ultimate Washington insider, a man whose seamless waltz between business and politics has fueled resentment at an incestuous system."