Does anyone actually like Clubhouse?

A confession: I’m trying — I’m really trying — to grasp Clubhouse’s appeal. I spend so much of my life thinking about, and being on, social media. I want to understand why some people are obsessed with the audio-only social app. 

But, for the most part, I find it so…unlikable. I’ve been actively using it for a couple weeks and every time I’ve logged on it’s been like pulling teeth. Every room I’ve jumped into feels like an unholy mashup of self-promotion, seminar lecturing, and the mind-numbing prattle that typically fills the ballrooms of professional conferences. 

How many times can I hear someone say things like, “I think that’s a really great point, to expand further on that concept…” I need to know: How and why do people enjoy that?

OK, let me back up. 

Clubhouse, in case you didn’t know, is an invite-only audio app that lets you browse and listen to various chatrooms. It basically feel like a panel discussion. Users can virtually raise their hand and add their two cents, or simply take in the discussion like a free-flowing podcast of sorts. The app is skyrocketing in popularity and reportedly valued at $1 billion.

Clubhouse was, at first, super exclusive and really popular among celebs and Silicon Valley elite. You might’ve run into folks like Oprah, Drake, Kevin Hart, or Ashton Kutcher. Clubhouse remains invite-only but now includes regular jabronis like, let’s say, a blogger/journalist with no real social cache. 

Clubhouse’s appeal, in an ideal world, might be to something akin to access to a really interesting cocktail party with powerful people. 

But in my brief time on the app, I’ve found it to be rife with platitudes, #hustle gospel, and unsubtle self-promotion. And so many meaningless buzzwords. (Clubhouse really can sound like this.)

Part of Clubhouse’s appeal is you can’t share content or view it after the fact— conversations stay on-app — but I took (often-confused) notes during some of my listening sessions.

For instance: I jumped into one chat, a morning show about having a millionaire mindset. I was cooking eggs, because I often pair podcasts with household chores. Perhaps Clubhouse could work in the same fashion, I thought. 

Then people started talking. One person seamlessly transition from marketing on Clubhouse to promoting the Keto diet. Another person simply asked a panelist to appear on their Instagram show (after a lengthy description of the merits of said show). And then somehow we ended up on the merits of being physically fit to be better at business? 

It felt less like a cocktail party and more like someone selling me a timeshare. I went back to cooking my breakfast, kind of confused. 

It felt less like a cocktail party and more like someone selling me a timeshare.

Granted, I’m not exactly Business Guy. I’m a writer. But even if you were a business person, so much of what I heard was either a waste of time or absolute base-level advice. Nothing a quick Google search couldn’t tell you. At most, you could have gleaned a nugget of info buried under a mountain of platitudes and self-promotion. 

Everyone talked like they were desperate to network, which isn’t really how good networking functions. You don’t make connections trading “great point” backslaps, you make them, you know, actually connecting over something meaningful. 

It’s not that Clubhouse is bad. It’s that I don’t get how anyone liked what I was hearing. I was left confounded, wondering why this is a thing with so much hype. 

Do people really want to hear business-speak in their free time? 

Bopping around different chats in my short time on Clubhouse I’ve heard:

  • Someone rail against reporting a page, in any instance, because it’ll hurt that person’s brand.

  • A person telling someone their newly created fitness brand might benefit from influencer attention like it was a miracle idea. 

  • A CEO basically repeat his elevator pitch for his company as an answer to every single question. 

I am not the first to say this but it felt like LinkedIn but delivered straight into my ears and impossible to ignore. At one point, a speaker slipped up and called the panel discussion a “call.” You know, like an obligation, or the thing where you’re selling to a client. Who wants extra work calls? Really, who?

Often, it felt like the more powerful speakers were there to hype themselves up and feel good talking about all their success. Then there were heaps of other folks begging for a dash of affirmation from the successful folks

Now a big caveat: I’m new to Clubhouse. Paring through the morass of any social site can prove tough when you’re new. Black creators, for instance, are making parts of the app more fun than the tech bro havens. There seem to be some chats based around having fun. And some hilarious folks troll by doing things like making fake rooms promising Joe Rogan and Elon Musk, which I find delightful. 

And, like any other online platform, there are spaces for horny people. There’s a room where people moan for one another. Vulture noted that there are some space dedicated to shooting the shit, which could be nice during the pandemic. This all goes to say that I could just be missing out on rooms I’d enjoy. 

But the app is also struggling to reel in rampant misogyny and racism. I didn’t happen to cross paths with any of that in my time on Clubhouse, but it’s certainly there

It also stands to reason that the app’s culture will shift over time as more people are added. When the user base grows, things are bound to change in both good and bad ways. More users may mean more abuse, for instance, but creative folks could also add fun spaces to Clubhouse. 

Maybe someday I’ll change my tune, but for now, I think my experiment with Clubhouse is finished. I already spend enough time on social media — the last thing I need is another meeting. 

WATCH: How to permanently delete your social media

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Has a startup finally found one of food science’s holy grails with its healthy sugar substitute?

A little less than three years ago at the Computer Science Museum in Mountain View, Calif. the founders of a young company hailing from Cambridge, England addressed a crowd of celebrities, investors and entrepreneurs at Y Combinator’s August Demo Day promising a revolution in food science.

Over the years, the event has become a relatively low-tech, low-budget showcase for a group of tech investors and billionaire industry insiders to take a look at early stage businesses that could be their next billion-dollar opportunity.

Sharing the stage with other innovation-minded budding entrepreneurs the Cambridge scientists boasted of a technology could produce a sweetener that would mimic not just the taste of sugar, but the caramelization and stickiness that makes sugar the go-to additive for the bulk of roughly 74% of packaged foods that are made with some form of sweetener. Their company, Cambridge Glycoscience  could claim a huge slice of a market worth at least a $100 billion market, they said.

Now, the company has a new name, Supplant, and $24 million in venture capital financing to start commercializing its low-cost sugar substitute made from the waste materials of other plants.


The bitter history of the sweetest ingredient

Sugar came into the human diet roughly 10,000 years ago as sugarcane, which is native to New Guinea and parts of Taiwan and China. Over the next 2,000 years the crop spread from those regions to Madagascar and eventually took root in India, where it was first refined in about 500 BC.

From there, the sweetener spread across the known world. By the first century AD Greek and Roman scholars were referencing its medicinal properties and, after the Crusades, sugar consumption traveled across Europe through the Middle Ages.

It was a welcome replacement from Europe’s mainstay, honey, and the early artificial sweeteners used by the Romans, which contained near-lethal doses of lead.

The cold climates of Northern Europe proved mostly inhospitable to sugarcane cultivation so the root took root in the more temperate South and the islands off of Europe’s southern coast.

Those regions also became home to the first European experiments with agricultural slavery — a byproduct of the sugar trade, and one that would plant the seeds for the international exploitation of indigenous American and African labor for centuries as the industrial growth of sugar production spread to the New World.

First, European indentured servants and enslaved indigenous people’s powered the production of sugar in the Americas. But as native populations died off due to the introduction of European diseases, genocidal attacks, and back-breaking labor, African slaves were brought to the new colonies to work the fields and mills to make refined sugar.

Sugar hangover

The horrors of slavery may be the most damning legacy of industrial sugar, but it’s far from the only problem caused by the human craving for sweeteners.

As climate change becomes more of a threat, fears of increasing deforestation to meet the world’s demand — or to provide cover for other industrialization of virgin forests — have arisen thanks to new policies in Brazil.

“Conventional cane sugar is heavily heavily water intensive,” said Supplant co-founder Tom Simmons in an interview. That’s another problem for the environment as water becomes the next resource to be stressed by the currents of climate change. And species extinction presents another huge problem too.

“The WWF number one source for biodiversity lost globally is cane sugar plantations,” Simmons said. “Sugar is a massive consumer of water and in contrast, there’s big sustainability pitch for what we do.. the raw materials are products of the current agricultural industry.”

And the quest for sugar substitutes in the U.S. has come with related health costs as high fructose corn syrup has made its way into tons of American products. Invented in 1957, corn syrup is one of the most common sweeteners used to replace sugar — and one that’s thought to have incredibly disastrous effects on the health of consumers worldwide.

The use of corn syrup has been linked to an increasing prevalence of diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease, in the world’s population.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 08: In this photo illustration, products containing high sugar levels are on display at a supermarket on April 8, 2016 in Melbourne , Australia. The World Health Organisation’s first global report on diabetes found that 422 million adults live with diabetes, mainly in developing countries. Australian diabetes experts are urging the Federal Government to consider imposing a sugar tax to tackle the growing problem. (Photo by Luis Ascui/Getty Images)

Looking For A Healthier Substitute

As Supplant and its investors look to take the crown as the reigning replacement for sugar, they join a long line of would-be occupants to sugar’s throne.

The first viable, non-toxic chemically derived sugar substitute was discovered in the late 18th century by a German chemist. Called saccharine it was popularized initially during sugar shortages caused by the first World War and gained traction during the health crazes of the sixties and seventies.

Saccharin, still available in pink Sweet n’ Low packets and a host of products, was succeeded by aspartame (known commercially as Equal and present as the sugar substitute in beverages like Diet Coke), which was supplanted by sucralose (known as Splenda).

These chemically derived sweeteners have been the standard on the market for decades now, but with a growing push for natural — rather than chemical — substitutes for sugar and their failures to act as a replacement for all of the things that sugar can do as a food ingredient, the demand for a better sugar has never been higher.

Supplanting the competition 

“Not everything that we back is going to change the world. This, at scale, does that.” said Aydin Senkut, the founder and managing partner of Felicis Ventures, the venture firm that’s one of Supplant’s biggest backers. 

Part of what convinced Senkut is the fact that Supplant’s sweetener has already received preliminary approvals in the European Union by the region’s regulatory equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration. That approval not only covers the sale of Supplant’s product as a sweetener, but also as a probiotic with tangible health benefits he said.

So not only is the Supplant product arguably a better and more direct sugar replacement, as the founders claim, it also has health benefits through providing increased fiber in consumers who use it regularly, Senkut said.

“The European FDA is even stricter than the U.S. FDA,” Senkut said. “[And] they got pre-approval for this.”

Senkut and Felicis invested in Cambridge Glycosciences almost immediately after seeing the company’s presentation at Y Combinator.

“We became the largest investors at seed,” Senkut said.

Its selling points were the products extremely low glycemic index and its ability to be manufactured from waste plant fibers, which means that it ultimately can be produced at a lower cost, according to Senkut.

What’s the difference? 

Supplant differs from its competition in a number of other key ways, according to company co-founder Tom Simmons.

While companies like the Israeli startup DouxMatok or Colorado’s MycoTechnology and Wisconsin’s Sensient work on developing additives from fungus or tree roots or bark that can enhance the sweetness of sugars, Supplant uses alternative sugars to create its sweetener, Simmons said. 

“The core difference is they’re working with cane sugar,” according to Simmons. “Our pitch is we make sugars from fiber so you don’t need to use cane sugar.”

Simmons said that these other startups have been approaching the problem from the wrong direction. “The problem that their technology addresses isn’t the problem the industry has,” Simmons said. “It’s about texture, bulking, caramelization and crystallization… We have a technology that’s going to give you the same sweetness gram for gram.”

There are six different types of calorific sugar, Simmons explained. There’s lactose, which is the sugar in milk; sucrose, which comes from sugarcane and sugar beets; maltose, found in grains like wheat and barley; fructose, the sugar in fruits and honey; glucose, which is in nearly everything, but especially carbohydrate-laden vegetables, fruits, and grains; and galactose, a simple sugar that derives from the breakdown of lactose.

Simmons said that his company’s sugar substitute isn’t based on one compound, but is derived from a range of things that come from fiber. The use of fibers means that the body recognizes the compounds as fibrous and treats them the same way in the digestive tract, but the products taste and act like sugar in food, he said. “Fiber derived sugars are in the category of sugars, but are not the calorific sugars,” said Simmons.

NEW YORK – DECEMBER 6: Packets of the popular sugar substitute Splenda are seen December 6, 2004 in New York City. The manufacturer of sucralose, the key ingredient in the no-calorie sweetener, says demand is so high for the product that it will not be able to take on new U.S. customers until it doubles production in 2006. Splenda has been boosted by the popularity of the low-sugar Atkins diet. (Photo Illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Trust the process? 

Supplant’s technology uses enzymes to break down and fragment various fibers. “As you start breaking it down, it starts looking molecularly like sucrose — like cane sugar — so it starts behaving in a similar way,” said Simmons.

This is all the result of years of research that Simmons began at Cambridge University, he said. “I arrived at Cambridge intending to be a professor. I did not arrive in Cambridge intending to start a business. I was interested in doing science, making inventions and stuff that would reach the wider world. I always imagined the right way for me to do that was to be a professor.”

In time, after receiving his doctorate and beginning his post-doctoral work into the research that would eventually turn into Supplant, Simmons realized that he had to start a company. “To try and do something impactful I was going to have leave the university,” he said. 

In some ways, Supplant operates at the intersection of all of Simmons’ interests in health, nutrition, and sustainability. And he said the company has plans to apply the processing technology across a range of consumer products eventually, but for now the company remains focused on the $100 billion sugar substitute market.

“There’s a handful of different core underlying scientific approaches in different spaces,” he said. The sort of things that go into personal care and homecare. Those chemicals. A big drive in the industry is for both less harsh and harsh chemicals in shampoos but also to do so in a way that’s sustainable. That’s made form a sustainable source but also biodegradable.”

Next steps 

With the money that the company has now raised from investors including Bonfire Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Felicis, Soma Capital, and Y Combinator, Supplant is now going to prove its products in a few very targeted test runs.* The first is a big launch with a celebrity chef, which Simmons teased, but did not elaborate on.

Senkut said that the company’s roll out would be similar to the ways in which Impossible Foods went to market. Beginning with a few trial runs in higher end restaurants and foodstuffs before trying to make a run at a mass consumer market.

The feedstocks for Supplant’s sugar substitute come from sugar cane bagasse, wheat and rice husks, and the processing equipment comes from the brewing industry. That’s going to be a benefit as the company looks to build out an office in the U.S. as it establishes a foothold for a larger manufacturing presence down the line.

“We’re taking known science and applying it in the food industry where we know that it has value,” Simmons said. “We’re not inventing any brand new enzymes and each part of the process — none of it on their own are new. The discovery that these sugars work well and can replace cane sugar. That’s someone that no one has done before. Most sugars don’t behave like cane sugar in food. They’re too dry, they’re too wet, they’re too hard, they’re too soft.”

Ultimately the consumer products mission resonates highly for Simmons and his twenty person team. “We’re going to use these hugely abundant renewable resources produced all around the world,” he said. 

*This story was updated to include Bonfire Ventures and Khosla Ventures as investors in Supplant.

Americas Leaders Have No Clue What to Do About Disinformation

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley who appeared at a hearing held by the House Congressional Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley who appeared at a hearing held by the House Congressional Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/House Committee on Energy and Commerce

As disinformation and misinformation have increasingly been blamed for rising political extremism and polarization in the U.S., lawmakers have naturally sought to cobble together some sort of legislative response. The problem is that Congress is, themselves, so polarized that they can’t seem to agree on how to do that.

Case in point: a congressional hearing held Wednesday by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where lawmakers sought to look at the role of not just social media companies, but also traditional media—i.e., television—in enflaming partisanship and extremism. Republicans and Democrats both admitted that partisan media has played a big role in recent political upheaval, while ultimately trading aggrieved barbs indicative of the very problem they were trying to solve.

What is America going to do about disinformation? The answer, apparently, is: We have no idea!

Deplatforming Fox?

The hearing was spurred by a recent incident in which Democratic California lawmakers Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney penned a letter to a dozen cable, satellite, and streaming companies, from AT&T and Comcast to Apple and Amazon, effectively asking that they reconsider giving a platform to conservative news programming like “Newsmax, One America News Network (OANN), and Fox News” on the basis that they were essentially “misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm.” As example, a section of the letter reads:

We are concerned about the role AT&T plays in disseminating misinformation to millions of its U-verse, DirecTV, and AT&T TV subscribers, and we write to you today to request additional information about what actions AT&T is taking to address these issues…What moral or ethical principles (including those related to journalistic integrity, violence, medical information, and public health) do you apply in deciding which channels to carry or when to take adverse actions against a channel?

It’s unsurprising that Democrats would be concerned about this since right-wing media has widely been blamed for helping radicalize Donald Trump supporters and galvanizing their quest to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. That galvanization ultimately helped push a deranged crowd into the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6—an incident that ended with the deaths of at least five people.

Critics have also blamed outlets like Fox News and other right-wing channels for sewing doubts about the seriousness of the coronavirus threat—and, in so doing, endangering the lives of their viewers. The Democrats’ letter alleges:

These same networks also have been key vectors of spreading misinformation related to the pandemic. A media watchdog found over 250 cases of COVID-19 misinformation on Fox News in just one five-day period, 9 and economists demonstrated that Fox News had a demonstrable impact on non-compliance with public health guidelines.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Republicans acknowledged the problematic nature of these beliefs, while nevertheless criticizing Democrats’ proposed solution, which they said was tantamount to unconstitutional censorship. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington state Republican and the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, vociferously attacked the recent letter, saying:

In all my time on this committee there’s never been a more obvious, direct attack on the First Amendment…If the Majority was really interested in a meaningful dialogue, you wouldn’t schedule a hyper-partisan hearing to shame and blame. You wouldn’t be sending letters pressuring private companies to block conservative media outlets. I’m not only disappointed by this hearing, I’m deeply troubled by it.

Rodgers also trotted out the “C” word—claiming the letter was similar to “actions by the Chinese Communist party.” If Rodgers’s concerns about freedom of speech might hold some water, a defense of the most baseless right-wing content that has come down the pipeline from stations like Fox News and OAN does not. Democrats said Wednesday that they ultimately did not actually support pulling certain programming off the air, though they wanted to find a way to de-escalate their messages.

Dog Death Threats

Conservatives’ unhinged ideations were not the only ones on trial Wednesday. Republicans defensively pointed out examples of blue America’s own media-fueled delusions—including, apparently, an episode involving death threats to a dog.

Yes, Jonathan Turley, a conservative legal scholar at George Washington University, has said before (and repeated yesterday) that, after testifying during Trump’s first impeachment hearing in 2019, he and his family became the object of ongoing death threats via social media—including ones directed at his goldendoodle, Luna. He said:

Extremist violent speech is not an abstract or academic matter with me or many others who work in the public domain. Through the years I’ve received hundreds of threats against myself, my family, even my dog. My home has been targeted. Multiple campaigns have sought my termination as a professor. … Thus, while I am generally viewed as free-speech purist, I have no illusions about the harm of disinformation and extremist speech in our society.

Also present Wednesday was Rep. Steve Scalise, the GOP congressman who, in 2017, was shot during the so-called “Congressional baseball shooting” wherein a gunman opened fire at a charity game in Alexandria, Virginia. The culprit, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, was a big Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter and was largely thought to have been radicalized by political media. Scalise said Wednesday:

The gunman was motivated by hyper-charged rhetoric that he was hearing from the left—from high, prominent elected officials, as well as media personalities…

Sending death threats and attacking people you disagree with (verbally or otherwise) is a very bipartisan problem: Just look at the horrible abuse that disinformation-addled right-wingers hurled at local health officials and Dr. Anthony Fauci for having the temerity to suggest they should wear a face mask and quarantine so as not to catch covid-19. In other cases, the most radicalized conservatives have done more than talk (see: the attempted kidnapping of the Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, not to mention the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which threatened Democratic and Republican members of Congress alike).

Republicans also repeatedly brought up “Russiagate,” bandying it about as a liberal equivalent to their own constituents’ most paranoiac fantasies—and an example of how Democrats are susceptible to extreme thinking, too.

In some sense, this is a valid point.“Russiagate” is a prime example of how a political meme can go viral, conquering millions of hearts and minds, before facts ever enter into play. The idea that Trump colluded with Russia to throw the 2016 presidential election was widely perpetuated by America’s elite media institutions (read: late night talk shows, MSNBC, CNN, Saturday Night Live, our biggest national newspapers, and so on). Leading news organizations gave the issue incessant, editorialized coverage—frequenting convincing their audiences that Trump’s downfall was right around the corner. These outsized claims largely fell flat when the Mueller investigation found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy to vindicate the “scandal’s” central premise. While there may be evidence of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, the news coverage of the scandal frequently played hard and loose with the facts.

America’s Unhealthy Social Media Diet

Yes, Americans on both sides of the political aisle are susceptible to believing stuff that isn’t true and getting all riled up. We can argue about who believes the more ludicrous stuff (or who has responded to that stuff with the more violence and vitriol), but when boiled down to its essentials, most partisan thinking has a strikingly similar message and outlook: We’re getting screwed and it’s somebody else’s fault. The problem is that both sides can’t agree on whose fault it is (usually, it’s blamed on the opposing political party).

One invited speaker, Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Media at Columbia University, said her research had seen similar types of information toxicity all over the map:

Misinformation is a systemic problem—it affects all. I wholeheartedly endorse the view that this is not a partisan issue. We see it in different geographies and right across the political spectrum operating in the same way.

Speakers also zeroed in on one of the primary sources of the problem: the hollowing out of local news media via Big Tech’s greedy suck of national advertising revenue, and the subsequent ascendance of an information landscape governed by social media. With this transformation, Americans have essentially gone from a healthy media diet to one chock full of junk food.

Invited speaker Soledad O’Brien, a former news anchor and journalist who now runs her own media company, said that the affliction of America’s “truth decay” has been hastened by the decline of America’s journalism industry:

How did we get here? … I believe this era of “truth decay” began when local newspapers were badly—even mortally—wounded by the emergence of free social media and the decline of advertising dollars, like classified ads. Our country has lost almost 2,100 papers since 2004. Local news is the heartbeat of American journalism, the glue of civic participation, the place where we turn to for information about our local taxes, quality education, infrastructure. Its demise left the public with only the unfiltered and unverified cauldron of presumed fact and opinion that is social media.

With these tectonic shifts, it’s also worth noting that our surviving media outlets have shifted to a business model that emphasizes divisive, polarizing issues designed to split audiences. Conflict drives readers, which drives ad revenue, which means that U.S. news outlets are effectively helping further the partisan entrenchment that everybody ostensibly wants to neutralize.

A Solution That Will Surely Work: Banning Liars

As with most things, diagnosing a problem can be far easier than finding a solution. There were few specific suggestions offered Wednesday about what could be done to make everybody more coherent and less angry.

O’Brien, for example, proposed this actionable plan: “Do not book liars on the air!” she said repeatedly, opining that if news organizations would just avoid “liars” and “lies,” we could fix our broken media landscape.

Aside from the fact that it’s not exactly clear how outlets would do this (should CNN panelists be hooked up to polygraphs as soon as they enter the studio?), the problem that O’Brien is clearly side-stepping here is that Democrats and Republicans can’t even agree on what counts as a lie and what counts as the truth. That’s the whole point: An ecosystem of separate, polarized, and mutually reinforcing news feeds has, time and again, led Americans to interpret the same set of facts through wildly different lenses. Within this atmosphere of distrust and fractured media, opportunistic actors—both domestic and foreign—take advantage of ideological fault-lines to make the problem worse.

To come full circle and return to where we began: One thing seems certain and that is that de-platforming an organization like Fox News will not deliver us from this hellscape. No matter how noble the intent, a partisan crusade against conservative media won’t reduce polarization, nor will it rid America of the ideas expressed on those platforms. Instead, it will just drive former viewers of said content into other corners of the media ecosystem (read: the recent Twitter exodus to Parler), where they can be free to get more extreme.

Americans need to learn that neither half of the country is going anywhere. We’ll just have to keep listening to each other, no matter how much we hate what we hear.

Whats New on Netflix in March 2021

Illustration for article titled What's New on Netflix in March 2021

Screenshot: Operation Varsity Blues/Netflix

In the absence of broadly appealing new films and TV series (no Oscar hopefuls this month, I’m afraid), Netflix appears to be looking to the podcast market to figure out how to keep its massive subscriber base happy. Its new offerings in March include a host of documentary series and specials that I would totally listen to, were they podcasts. Will I watch? Well, I will not. (I haven’t even seen Ted Lasso yet.) But you might.

Operation: Varsity Blues (March 17) is sure to draw eyeballs, fascinated as we all were by the college admissions scandal that toppled such titans of culture as Felicity Huffman, Aunt Becky from Full House, and the fashion mogul who once designed a paper towel holder I bought at Target. Everyone is still pissed at the way these already-hads manipulated a system already weighted in their favor to get their kids into “good” colleges, and with good cause. The documentary feature comes from some of the same team that produced early pandemic sensation Tiger King.

Murder Among the Mormons (March 3) is the kind of lightly exploitative true-crime story that seems like it already was a podcast you subscribed to last year but forgot to listen to. It delves into a rash of bombings that terrorized Salt Lake City in the mid-1980s.

And an inspiring story of perseverance in the Hoop Dreams mold, Last Chance U: Basketball (March 10) is a spinoff from Netflix’s long-running series Last Chance U. It shifts the focus from football to collegiate basketball players who have struggled in their lives and studies and must play at the junior college level if they hope to get back into Division play.

If you prefer some more fiction in your TV viewing diet, I’m personally excited to see how well the Pacific Rim film series translates to anime in Pacific Rim: The Black, launching March 4 (giant robots in anime? It just might work!). The Irregulars (March 26) has great Buffy/Sabrina potential: a series about young paranormal crime fighters based on Sherlock Holmes’ famed “Baker Street Irregulars.”And then there’s Moxie (March 3), a dramedy film about a girl who launches a ‘zine to expose the sexism at her high school, which sounds pretty culturally relevant and is also the directorial debut of one Amy Poehler.

Here’s everything else coming to and leaving Netflix in March 2021.

What’s coming to Netflix in March 2021

Coming Soon (no date announced)

March 1

  • Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell — Netflix Documentary
  • Batman Begins (2005)
  • Blanche Gardin: Bonne Nuit Blanche (2021)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
  • Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • DC Super Hero Girls: Season 1
  • I Am Legend (2007)
  • Invictus (2009)
  • Jason X (2001)
  • Killing Gunther (2017)
  • LEGO Marvel Spider-Man: Vexed by Venom (2019)
  • Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
  • Power Rangers Beast Morphers: S2
  • Rain Man (1988)
  • Step Up: Revolution (2012)
  • Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
  • Training Day (2001)
  • Two Weeks Notice (2002)
  • Year One (2009)

March 2

March 3

March 4

March 5

March 8

March 9

March 10

March 11

March 12

March 14

March 15

March 16

March 17

March 18

March 19

March 20

March 22

  • Navillera — Netflix Original (South Korea)
  • Philomena (2013)

March 23

March 24

March 25

March 26

  • A Week Away — Netflix Film (Trailer)
  • Bad Trip — Netflix Film
  • Big Time Rush: Seasons 1-4
  • Croupier (1998)
  • The Irregulars — Netflix Original (Great Britain)
  • Magic for Humans by Mago Pop — Netflix Original
  • Nailed It!: Double Trouble — Netflix Original

March 29

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
  • Rainbow High: Season 1

March 30

  • 7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story (2020)
  • Octonauts & the Ring of Fire — Netflix Family (Great Britain)

March 31

  • At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
  • Haunted: Latin America — Netflix Original

What’s leaving Netflix in March 2021

Leaving March 3

Leaving March 7

  • Hunter X Hunter (2011): Seasons 1-3

Leaving March 8

  • Apollo 18 (2011)
  • The Young Offenders (2016)

Leaving March 9

  • November Criminals (2017)
  • The Boss’s Daughter (2015)

Leaving March 10

  • Last Ferry (2019)
  • Summer Night (2019)

Leaving March 13

  • Spring Breakers (2012)
  • The Outsider (2019)

Leaving March 14

  • Aftermath (2017)
  • Marvel & ESPN Films Present: 1 of 1: Genesis
  • The Assignment (2016)
  • The Student (2017)

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Leaving March 16

  • Deep Undercover: Collections 1-3
  • Love Dot Com: The Social Experiment (2019)
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Leaving March 17

  • All About Nina (2018)
  • Come and Find Me (2016)

Leaving March 20

  • Conor McGregor: Notorious (2017)

Leaving March 22

  • Agatha and the Truth of Murder (2018)
  • I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011)

Leaving March 24

  • USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016)

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  • Blood Father (2016)
  • The Hurricane Heist (2018)

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  • Extras: Seasons 1-2
  • Killing Them Softly (2012)
  • London Spy: Season 1
  • The House That Made Me: Seasons 1-3

Leaving March 31

  • Arthur (2011)
  • Chappaquiddick (2017)
  • Enter the Dragon (1973)
  • God’s Not Dead (2014)
  • Hedgehogs (2016)
  • Inception (2010)
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
  • Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
  • Molly’s Game (2017)
  • Money Talks (1997)
  • School Daze (1988)
  • Secret in Their Eyes (2015)
  • Sex and the City: The Movie (2008)
  • Sex and the City 2 (2010)
  • Sinister Circle (2017)
  • Skin Wars: Seasons 1-3
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • The Bye Bye Man (2017)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
  • The Prince & Me (2004)
  • Weeds: Seasons 1-7

An Ancient Dog Bone Could Be Evidence of the Route Humans Took to North America

The canine bone fragment, found in Southeast Alaska.

The canine bone fragment, found in Southeast Alaska.
Image: Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo

A fragment of 10,000-year-old dog bone found along the Alaskan coast could be the oldest evidence of domesticated dogs in North America, and potential evidence of a coastal route taken by the first people to cross into North America from Eurasia.

The evidence continues to mount for the Coastal Migration Theory, which proposes that Eurasian migrants, instead of traveling through an interior corridor between two melting ice sheets, hugged the Siberian, Beringian, and Alaskan coastlines. These settlers continued their way along the Pacific coast, eventually reaching the southernmost boundary of the massive Cordilleran Ice Sheet, according to this theory.

The Coastal Migration Theory, also known as the Kelp Highway Hypothesis, is supported by geological and archeological evidence, including 29 human footprints found on the shoreline of Calvert Island in British Columbia. We now have further evidence to support this theory, but it comes from an unexpected source: a domesticated dog.

A map showing where the bone fragment was found.

A map showing where the bone fragment was found.
Image: Bob Wilder/University at Buffalo

This dog died approximately 10,150 years ago in what is now Alaska during the very tail-end of the last Ice Age. The lone fossil—a piece of a femur—is now the oldest confirmed remnant of a domesticated dog in the Americas, according to the new research, led by evolutionary biologist Charlotte Lindqvist from the University at Buffalo. The paper describing this discovery was published on Tuesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

That Alaska was hosting dogs around this time is not a huge surprise. Research from 2019 presented evidence of three prehistoric dogs found buried in what is now Illinois, which were dated to between 9,630 and 10,190 years ago, the latter figure suggesting a date slightly older than the date presented for the femur in the new paper. I asked Lindqvist about this apparent discrepancy.

“When you compare the median radiocarbon dates of the Illinois dogs and our dog, the Alaskan dog is a little older,” she said. “But it does depend on what you are comparing, and with the error bars and uncertainty—and radiocarbon dating done by different labs—you can argue that they are at least close to the same age, possibly with the Alaskan dog being a couple hundred years older.”

The Illinois dogs are significant, because they suggest the first settlers of North America brought their dogs with them from Eurasia. Previous genetic research done in this area came to a similar conclusion, showing that dogs arrived in the Americas approximately 10,000 years ago.

Lindqvist and her colleagues inadvertently stumbled upon the femur while sequencing DNA from a jumble of animal bones excavated from caves in southeast Alaska. This research is being done to determine how climatic changes during the last Ice Age affected various species, including their mobility.

“One of the projects I work on involves black and brown bears and we initially thought the bone came from a bear, but we later discovered it was a dog, and we had to follow up on this finding,” explained Lindqvist in an email.

The canine femur fragment, designated PP-00128, was found on the southeast Alaskan mainland just east of Wrangell Island in a location known as Lawyer’s Cave. Lindqvist, with her co-author Timothy Heaton, a professor of Earth sciences at the University of South Dakota, conducted a number of excavations in the late 1990s and early 2000s, resulting in the discovery of this bone and many others from this same cave.

University at Buffalo PhD student Flavio Augusto da Silva Coelho holding the fragment.

University at Buffalo PhD student Flavio Augusto da Silva Coelho holding the fragment.
Image: Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo

The team was able to derive a complete mitochondrial genome from the fragment, which they compared to modern dog breeds, historical Arctic dogs, and American pre-contact dogs (i.e. dogs that lived in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans). Mitochondrial DNA comes exclusively from the maternal side, so it’s incomplete (as compared to nuclear DNA), but the scientists were able to trace the genome back to a lineage that diverged from Siberian dogs around 16,700 years ago.

That’s significant, as this “timing roughly coincides with the minimum suggested date for the opening of the North Pacific coastal route along the Cordilleran Ice Sheet and genetic evidence for the initial peopling of the Americas,” as the authors wrote in the study.

Indeed, the PP-00128 fragment presents another clue in favor of the Coastal Migration Hypothesis. The coastal edge of the ice sheet started to melt around 17,000 years ago, while the inland corridor didn’t open up until around 13,000 years ago.

“Previous genetic estimates of the split between pre-European American dogs and their Siberian ancestors were younger than the estimates of when the ancestral native American human population diverged from their Siberian ancestors, suggesting dogs arrived in later migrations of humans into the Americas, perhaps even along the inland corridor,” explained Lindqvist.

Before the new study, “the oldest American dog remains were found from mid-continent sites, not suggesting how they got there,” she said, but this latest discovery “supports that our coastal dog is a descendant of dogs that participated in this initial migration along the Northwest Pacific Coast.

A possibility exists, of course, that this was a rogue dog that somehow made its way to North America without humans. That’s not as outlandish as it might seem; dogs were domesticated from wolves between 14,000 and 29,000 years ago, in a complex process that involved multiple interbreeding episodes between dogs and wild wolves. That said, Lindqvist believes her Alaskan dog likely lived with humans.

“Other remains excavated from this same cave include human bones and artifacts, but these are all younger,” she said. “They do suggest, though, that the cave was indeed used by humans. And we know from human remains found in another cave in southeast Alaska that humans were in the region at the time this ancient dog lived. But no, we don’t have direct evidence that this dog was living with humans. We do know, though, that this dog was a domesticate and not a wolf, and if I were a dog, I would probably stay around humans for food.”

Indeed, a carbon isotope analysis of the femur fragment suggests this dog was fed by humans, as it ate fish (possibly salmon), and meat from whales and seals. This runs in stark contrast to other ancient dogs living in the mid-continent, which featured a “much more terrestrial diet,” said Lindqvist.

That humans travelled along the Pacific coast from Eurasia into North America seems highly probable, and the new research fits in nicely with this increasingly popular narrative. But that doesn’t mean alternate pathways into the continent were neglected. As previous research shows, there was likely more than one route into North America, as an interior corridor likely opened up around 12,600 to 13,100 years ago.

Eat this, exercise now; new personalized software predicts and helps prevents blood sugar spikes

Not everyone has Type 2 diabetes, the disease that causes chronically high blood sugar levels, but many do. Around 9% of Americans are afflicted, and another 30% are at risk of developing it.

Enter software by January AI, a four-year-old, subscription-based startup that in November began providing personalized nutritional and activity-related suggestions to its customers based on a combination of food-related data the company has quietly amassed over three years, and each person’s unique profile, which is gleaned over that individuals’s first four days of using the software.

Why the need for personalization? Because believe it or not, people can react very differently to every single food, from rice to salad dressing.

The tech may sound mundane but it’s eye-opening and potentially live-saving, promises cofounder and CEO Noosheen Hashemi and her cofounder, Michael Snyder, a genetics professor at Stanford who has focused on diabetes and pre-diabetes for years.

Investors like the idea, too. Felicis Ventures just led a $21 million Series A investment in the company, joined by HAND Capital and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. (Earlier investors include Jerry Yang’s Ame Cloud Ventures, SignalFire, YouTube cofounder Steve Chen, and Sunshine cofounder Marissa Mayer, among others.) Says Felicis founder Aydin Senkut, “While other companies have made headway in understanding biometric sensor data—from heart rate and glucose monitors, for example—January AI has made progress in analyzing and predicting the effects of food consumption itself [which is] key to addressing chronic disease.”

To learn more, we talked this afternoon with Hashemi and Snyder. Below is part of our chat, edited for length and clarity.

TC: What have you built?

NH: We’ve built a multiomic platform where we take data from different sources and predict people’s glycemic response, allowing them to consider their choices before they make them. We pull in data from heart rate monitors and continuous glucose monitors and a 1,000-person clinical study and an atlas of 16 million foods for which, using machine learning, we have derived nutritional values and created nutritional labeling [that didn’t exist previously].

[The idea is to] predict for [customers] what their glycemic response is going to be to any food in our database after just four days of training. They don’t actually have to eat the food to know whether they should eat it or not; our product tells them what their response is going to be.

TC: So glucose monitoring existed previously, but this is predictive. Why is this important?

NH: We want to bring the joy back to eating and remove the guilt. We can predict, for example, how long you’d have to walk after eating any food in our database in order to keep your blood sugar at the right level. Knowing what “is” isn’t enough; we want to tell you what to do about it. If you’re thinking about fried chicken and a shake, we can tell you: you’re going to have to walk 46 minutes afterward to maintain a healthy [blood sugar] range. Would you like to do the uptime for that? No? Then maybe [eat the chicken and shake] on a Saturday.

TC: This is subscription software that works with other wearables and that costs $488 for three months.

NH: That’s retail price, but we have an introductory offer of $288.

TC: Are you at all concerned that people will use the product, get a sense of what they could be doing differently, then end their subscription?

NH: No. Pregnancy changes [one’s profile], age changes it. People travel and they aren’t always eating the same things. . .

MS: I’ve been wearing [continuous glucose monitoring] wearables for seven years and I still learn stuff. You suddenly realize that every time you eat white rice, you spike through the roof, for example. That’s true for many people. But we are also offering a year-long subscription soon because we do know that people slip sometimes [only to be reminded] later that these boosters are very valuable.

TC: How does it work practically? Say I’m at a restaurant and I’m in the mood for pizza but I don’t know which one to order.

NH: You can compare curve over curve to see which is healthier. You can see how much you’ll have to walk [depending on the toppings].

TC: Do I need to speak all of these toppings into my smart phone?

NH: January scans barcodes, it also understands photos. It also has manual entry, and it takes voice [commands].

TC: Are you doing anything else with this massive food database that you’ve aggregated and that you’re enriching with your own data? 

NH: We will definitely not sell personal information.

TC: Not even aggregated data? Because it does sound like a useful database . . .

MS: We’re not 23andMe; that’s really not the goal.

TC: You mentioned that rice can cause someone’s blood sugar to soar, which is surprising. What are some of the things that might surprise people about what your software can show them? 

NH: The way people’s glycemic response is so different, not just between by Connie and Mike, but also for Connie and Connie. If you eat nine days in a row, your glycemic response could be different each of those nine days because of how much you slept or how much thinking you did the day before or how much fiber was in your body and whether you ate before bedtime.

Activity before eating and activity after eating is important. Fiber is important. It’s the most under overlooked intervention in the American diet. Our ancestral diets featured 150 grams of fiber a day; the average American diet today includes 15 grams of fiber. A lot of health issues can be traced to a lack of fiber.

TC: It seems like coaching would be helpful in concert with your app. Is there a coaching component?

NH: We don’t offer a coaching component today, but we’re in talks with several coaching solutions as we speak, to be the AI partner to them.

TC: Who else are you partnering with? Healthcare companies? Employers that can offer this as a benefit?

NH: We are selling to direct to consumers, but we’ve already had a pharma customer for two years. Pharma companies are very interested in working with us because we are able to use lifestyle as a biomarker. We essentially give them [anonymized] visibility into someone’s lifestyle for a period of two weeks or however long they want to run the program for so they can gain insights as to whether the therapeutic is working because of the person’s lifestyle or in spite of a person’s lifestyle. Pharma companies are very interested in working with us because they can potentially get answers in a trial phase faster and even reduce the number of subjects they need.

So we’re excited about pharma. We are also very interested in working with employers, with coaching solutions, and ultimately, with payers [like insurance companies].

White House Adjusts Rules to Encourage More Loans for Tiny Businesses

Downtown Nashville last week. Changes to the Paycheck Protection Program would attempt to steer more pandemic loans to the smallest businesses.
Credit…Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Aiming to steer more federal aid to the smallest and most vulnerable businesses, the Biden administration is altering the Paycheck Protection Program’s rules, increasing the amount sole proprietors are eligible to receive and imposing a 14-day freeze on loans to companies with 20 or more employees.

The freeze will take effect on Wednesday, the Small Business Administration planned to announce on Monday. In December’s economic relief package, Congress allocated $284 billion to restart the aid program. Banks and other financiers, which make the government-backed loans, have disbursed $134 billion to 1.8 million businesses since lending resumed last month. The money is intended to be forgiven if recipients comply with the program’s rules.

Companies with up to 500 workers are generally eligible for the loans, although second-draw loans — available to those whose sales dropped 25 percent or more in at least one quarter since the coronavirus pandemic began — are limited to companies with 300 or fewer employees. The 14-day moratorium is intended to focus lenders’ attention on the tiniest businesses, according to administration officials, who spoke to reporters at a news briefing on Sunday on the condition that they not be named.

Most small businesses are solo ventures, employing just the owner. For such companies, including sole proprietorships and independent contractors, one major impediment to getting relief money was a program rule that based their loan size on the annual profit they reported on their taxes. That made unprofitable businesses ineligible for aid, and left thousands of applicants with tiny loans — some as small as $1.

The new formula, which Small Business Administration officials said would be released soon, will focus instead on gross income. That calculation, which is done before many expenses are deducted, will let unprofitable businesses qualify for loans.

The agency is also changing several other program rules to expand eligibility. Those with recent felony convictions not tied to fraud will now be able to apply, as will those who are delinquent or in default on federal student loan debt. The agency also updated its guidance to clarify that business owners who are not United States citizens but lawful residents are eligible for loans.

The U.S. economy remains mired in a pandemic winter of shuttered storefronts, high unemployment and sluggish job growth. But on Wall Street and in Washington, attention is shifting to an intriguing if indistinct prospect: a post-Covid boom.

In recent weeks, economists have begun to talk of a supercharged rebound that brings down unemployment, drives up wages and may foster years of stronger growth, Ben Casselman reports for The Times.

There are hints that the economy has turned a corner: Retail sales jumped last month. New unemployment claims have declined from early January, though they remain high. Measures of business investment have picked up.

Economists surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia this month predicted that U.S. output will increase 4.5 percent this year, which would make it the best year since 1999. Economists at Goldman Sachs forecast that the economy will grow 6.8 percent this year and that the unemployment rate will drop to 4.1 percent by December, a level that took eight years to achieve after the last recession.

The growing optimism stems from several factors. Coronavirus cases are falling. The vaccine rollout is gaining steam. And largely because of trillions of dollars in federal help, the economy appears to have made it through last year with less structural damage — in the form of business failures, home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies — than many people feared last spring.

Lastly, consumers are sitting on a trillion-dollar mountain of cash, a result of months of lockdown-induced saving and successive rounds of stimulus payments.

“There will be this big boom as pent-up demand comes through and the economy is opening,” said Ellen Zentner, chief U.S. economist for Morgan Stanley. “There is an awful lot of buying power that we’ve transferred to households to fuel that pent-up demand.”

Olivier Véran, the French health minister, second from right, in Nice on Saturday. He said the consulting giant McKinsey & Company had helped with the vaccine rollout but played no role in policy decisions.
Credit…Valery Hache/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

McKinsey & Company has become a magnet for controversy in France after the public learned of millions of euros worth of contracts to help plan vaccine distribution that has been derided for being far too slow, Liz Alderman reports for The New York Times.

The contracts — totaling 11 million euros ($13.3 million), of which €4 million went to McKinsey — were confirmed by a parliamentary committee last week. The government of President Emmanuel Macron, which has been under fire for months for stumbling in its handling of the pandemic, was forced to admit it had turned to outside consulting firms for help managing the response.

called for McKinsey to help define distribution routes for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which must be kept as cold as minus 80 degrees Celsius during transport and storage. The company would benchmark France’s performance against other European countries. McKinsey experts would also help coordinate a vaccination task force comprising officials from numerous agencies, with some decision chains involving up to 50 authorities.

In early January, France had vaccinated only “several thousand people,” according to the health minister, compared with 230,000 in Germany and more than 110,000 in Italy.

Other contracts provided for Accenture, the global information technology consultancy, to roll out the campaign’s monitoring systems, and for two French consultancies, Citwell and ILL, to help with “logistical support and vaccine distribution.”

The government’s strategy focused on delivering the vaccines to 1,000 distribution points in France, from which the doses would be sent in supercooled trucks to nursing homes, clinics and local mayors’ offices. In Germany, the program was simpler: Authorities decided to administer the vaccine in 400 regional centers.

By the first week of January, France had one million vaccine doses in hand, but the delay in getting them into peoples’ arms was becoming public knowledge. The pace has recently picked up. But with 4.7 doses administered per 100 people, according to a New York Times database, France still trails neighbors like Germany and Italy.

Mushroom ravioli was filled with cream cheese made with a protein extracted from whey. Lab-made labneh and bacon made from the root systems of fungi went with a salad.
Credit…Amy Lombard for The New York Times

A slew of venture-backed companies envision a world where we sit down for dinner and brag that no animals were harmed in the production of this carbon-neutral porterhouse steak. They want to Impossible Burger our entire diet.

It’s beginning to work. Consumer sales of the increasingly impressive simulacra of meat, eggs and dairy products grew 24 percent from 2015 to 2020, according to the market research company NPD Group — and 89 percent of those buyers are not vegetarians.

Joel Stein wanted to see just how realistic the lab-to-table future could be, so he threw a dinner party filled with bleeding-edge products that don’t bleed. The carefully chosen guest list consisted of his wife and their 11-year-old son.

The menu:

  • A whiskey sour served on a coaster made of soft fake leather produced from mycelium, which was grown on a bed of sawdust and mixed with cornstalks. Beta-lactoglobulin, the main protein in whey from cow’s milk, from Perfect Day Foods replaced the egg whites for the foam on top of the drink. The whiskey was from Endless West, a company in San Francisco producing spirits without grains or barrels.

  • A salad of gem lettuce, roasted carrots and watermelon radishes. It was served over a smear of fake labneh and surrounded with bits of Prime Roots’ fake bacon, which is made from a mycelium called kogi, and was topped with potato-and-dill “egg bites” from Just Egg made out of mung bean protein and canola oil.

  • Ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and cream cheese made from beta-lactoglobulin and coconut oil, paired with a glass of sake that was made without any rice.

  • For dessert, a freezer full of ice cream made from Perfect Day’s protein. Late last year, Graeter’s, the 150-year-old Cincinnati ice cream institution, introduced six flavors for its Perfect Indulgence vegan line. “I like it,” Mr. Stein’s son said, and then added, “It tastes like slightly worse ice cream than normal.”

Fruit, vegetables and taekwondo – why Ibrahimovic, 39, gets better with age

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (centre)
Ibrahimovic began his professional career with Malmo before going on to play for Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris St-Germain, Manchester United, LA Galaxy and Milan again

“I think I’m like wine. The older I get, the better I get.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has always had plenty to say but part of what makes him so special is his ability to back up even the boldest, self-aggrandising statements with action.

It is something he has continued with unexpected regularity during a 2020-21 season that has seen him score 14 goals in just 12 league games to spearhead AC Milan’s own unlikely challenge at the top of Serie A – all at the age of 39.

His evergreen efforts have also seen him enter an exclusive group, as the scorer of 500 club career goals.

This weekend, the Swedish striker will be firmly in the spotlight, for good reasons and bad (more on that in a bit), as AC Milan face Inter in a Milan derby that could well help shape the narrative of the current Italian top-flight title race.

‘Dear Los Angeles, you’re welcome’

To get the full context behind Ibrahimovic’s current European renaissance, we must understand the journey he has undertaken in recent years.

The cruciate ligament injury he suffered in his second season at Manchester United in April 2017 was one that can spell the end for players in their prime, never mind their mid 30s, but the Swede battled back.

Moving to America to join US side LA Galaxy was seen by some as a slip into semi-retirement ahead of a well-earned shift into the full thing but 53 goals and a place in the MLS best XI two years running disproved that.

Then came the return to AC Milan, for whom he scored 42 times in 61 league games to inspire to an 18th Serie A title in 2011 and second-place finish the year after.

Eight years later, he was re-joining a very different Rossoneri – a fallen, faltering one. Surely this was a move based on romance as opposed to realism? Nope.

He joined with the club floundering in 11th in Serie A. Ten goals in 16 starts later they had finished sixth and qualified for Europe.

In typically forthright style, he declared that Milan would have won the league had he played the entire season, adding that he was “just warming up”.external-link

True to form, he wasn’t kidding.

‘If I was here from day one we’d have won the championship’

Ibrahimovic’s numbers this season are stunning.

His goals tally of 14 – making him Serie A’s joint second leading scorer – is undoubtedly the headline. Only Romelu Lukaku and another evergreen forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, have more, with 16 each.

What is truly remarkable, though, is his ruthlessness and efficiency in front of goal. He is currently scoring at a ratio of 1.17 goals per game and clocking a strike every 69 minutes.

Only two players with goals in double figures in Europe’s top five leagues can better his minutes per goal – Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Atalanta’s Luis Muriel, who has netted regularly despite only seven of his 20 league appearances this season being from the starting XI.

Fewest minutes per goal

Best record by players with 10+ goals in Europe’s top 5 leagues

Only Lewandowski possesses a better goals per game ratio than the Swede.

Goals per game

Highest rate by players with 10+ goals in Europe’s top 5 leagues

His shot conversion rate of 24.56% puts him ninth in the list of all players in Europe’s top five leagues to have attempted 40 shots or more.

Best shot conversion rate

Highest rate by players with 40+ shots in Europe’s top 5 leagues

‘Fruit, vegetables and a bit of taekwondo’

How then has Zlatan defied father time to continue to excel at an age when most of his peers are either long retired, coaching, or sat in television studios?

Diet is a huge part of it, as is an adapted exercise regime.

“You’re talking about fruit and vegetables and only white meat,” Spanish football expert Guillem Balague told the BBC’s Euro Leagues podcast. “Pizzas are reward, no sugar. He does a little bit of taekwondo too.”

Fellow journalist James Horncastle added: “He has spoken how he has had to change his physique and become more physical.”

At the heart of it, though, is a hunger to remain at the top, to push himself to the lofty status he is so fond of declaring himself to be at.

“He loves to be on the stage,” said Balague. “He doesn’t see what he is doing as a job, but something he is passionate about and that drives you.”

“He loves the stage and because of his competitive nature he wants to see that in his team-mates,” continued Horncastle. “That is why this Milan team has flourished.

“You have to take your hat off to Ibra. When he arrived in January he said ‘if I had been here all year we would have won the league’. Everyone thought that was bravado but look where they are now.”

Ibrahimovic is now the fifth oldest centre-forward in Serie A history, although he has some way to go to beat the record, set by Italo Rossi, who appeared for Pro Patria on 8 April 1951 aged 52 years, 11 months and three days.

In the modern era, though, he is closing in on Sergio Pellissier and Francesco Totti, who played for Chievo and Roma respectively at the age of 40 within the last five years.

Player Club Age Games Goals
Nino Elche 40 12 1
Zlatan Ibrahimovic AC Milan 39 12 14
Joaquin Real Betis 39 18 1
Rodrigo Palacio Bologna 39 23 1
Jorge Molina Granada 38 31 9
Fabio Quagliarella Sampdoria 38 20 8
Goran Pandev Bologna 37 17 3
Franck Ribery Fiorentina 37 18 1
Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus 36 27 23

‘We are all players, some better than others’

A mural of the clash between Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic next to the San Siro
A mural of the clash between Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic next to the San Siro

There is, of course, another reason many eyes will be on Ibrahimovic during the Milan derby and that is his one major blot in his copybook for this season, which came the last time the Milan sides met.

Both he and Romelu Lukaku had scored for their respective sides as January’s Coppa Italia stood at 1-1 just before the hour mark.

A clash between the pair, along with some unsavoury comments – which included Ibrahimovic calling his ex-Manchester United team-mate a “little donkey” – earned both players a booking, with Ibrahimovic later sent off for a second yellow card.

Christian Eriksen scored a winner for Inter in extra time.

On Sunday, the red and black side of Milan will be hoping it is only the boots of their star man doing the talking.

Try These Real Food Substitutes for Gels, Sports Drinks, and More

scooping something into a blender bottle

Photo: MBLifestyle (Shutterstock)

Gels, bars, sports drinks, and shakes are all wonderful inventions, letting us get the right nutrients in our bodies at the right times while we’re working out. But regular plain old food works just as well, in many cases—and it’s often cheaper.

What to try in place of gels

If you go for long runs or bike rides, gels (like Gu) or sports chews (like Clif Shot Bloks) can provide some easy carbs while you’re moving. But since they’re basically just sugar, you can easily substitute any other easy-to-eat carb.

I learned from the other runners in a marathon training group that fruit snacks are an easy, cheap substitute for the gels we kept downing. Go to the cereal section of the grocery store, and you’ll find them prepackaged for kids’ lunchboxes.

Almost any kind of candy can work, honestly; just find something with about the right amount of carbohydrate (you’ll want around 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour after the first hour, depending on your body size) and not too much fat or protein. Starchy foods count, too; pretzels and gummy bears both supply mid-workout carbs.

Make sure you’ll be able to eat it while on the move; for many of us that rules out anything that takes a lot of chewing or that will crunch and splinter as you eat it, like chips. Some trail runners love raisins. Just make sure to try new things a little at a time, in case your pick doesn’t agree with your gut.

What to try in place of sports drinks

A drink like Gatorade does three things that water doesn’t: it provides you with carbs (sugar) for intra-workout nutrition; it provides sodium to replace the salt that you’re sweating out; and it typically provides a few other electrolytes, like potassium.

If you’re not working out long or hard enough to lose a large amount of sweat, water is probably fine. For carbs, see our suggestions above for candy or starchy foods.

When it comes to electrolytes, you have options. Watering down Gatorade tends to be easier on your stomach, if you’re drinking a lot of it. You can also use an electrolyte powder or tablet, like Nuun or Liquid IV. But what if you want electrolytes from real food?

Fortunately, most of us don’t need to work too hard to replace electrolytes. If you’re just exercising for an hour or two, water is enough and your next meal should be able to supply sodium and potassium just fine. If you’re concerned, though, a salty snack like pretzels or chips can provide carbs as well as sodium. And a banana has 422 milligrams of potassium, compared to 30 milligrams in a serving of sports drink.

What to try pre-workout

If you just don’t feel at home at the gym without a scoop of fruity, caffeinated powder beforehand, it’s going to be hard to replace that exact feeling. Many pre-workouts contain beta-alanine, which can cause an itchy-tingling sensation in your skin; I can’t think of a food that does that.

But the main reason many people use a pre-workout is for the caffeine. That’s what’s behind the idea of using it for an “energy” boost. You can easily replace pre-workout with any other source of caffeine, though, like coffee.

Just check the amount: a scoop of C4 contains 150 milligrams of caffeine, which is roughly a cup or a cup and a half of strong coffee (coffee’s caffeine content varies with the bean, the roast, and other factors, so it’s hard to pin down precisely).

Protein shakes and bars

Protein powder is a convenient way to get extra protein in your diet, but there’s nothing special about drinking your protein in shake form. The story is similar for protein bars. A scoop of protein powder often has about 20 grams of protein, and most protein bars have between 10 and 20 grams of protein.

You can choose the bar or the shake for convenience, but don’t think that the amount of protein you’re getting is anything special. A three-ounce serving of chicken breast, about the size of a deck of cards, has 27 grams of protein; an egg has six; a can of tuna has 20; a small container of nonfat Greek yogurt has 17. So serve yourself any of these protein-rich foods (or another of your choice) and you don’t need the bar or the shake.

How Giving Things Up for Lent Affects Your Brain and Body

refusing a chocolate cake

Photo: shisu_ka (Shutterstock)

The 40 days leading up to Easter, known as Lent, are a time of restriction for many. If you’re thinking of giving up chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, or meat—some of the most popular sacrifices—here’s what you should know about how doing so will affect your brain and body.

But first, a little reality check: I grew up in a community where it seemed every Lent, the woman around me—though rarely the men—would give up candy or chocolate or something like “fried foods.If you’re contemplating something similar, I’d ask you to consider whether you have a purely religious motivation for restricting what you eat, or if you’re merely dieting with extra guilt?

I’m not qualified to give religious advice, so I’d recommend talking with your religious leaders or others in your community about whether restricting food to hopefully lose weight maybe isn’t missing the point of Lent. (If you’d like some food for thought, this article from a Catholic religious studies professor talks about the intersection of religious fasting and diet culture.)

Strictly from a health point of view, a restrictive diet is still a restrictive diet, no matter the reasoning behind it. So let’s take a look at four popular Lenten sacrifices and what may happen to your brain and body if you go cold turkey for 40 days.

Sugar and chocolate

Biologically, we like sugar. Our brains really like sugar. While neuroscientists will argue over whether the word “addiction” should be applied to something as basic as sugar, our brains do react to it with dopamine, a chemical also released in response to other pleasurable things like drugs and sex.

The first few days without sugar tend to be difficult, triggering cravings and potentially (if you give in) bingeing behaviors. People who give up sugar often report that after the first week or so, they’re more able to stick with their intentions. It’s not clear whether that’s solely because our cravings subside, or because we also get better at replacing them with other habits, like eating more filling meals so we don’t get hungry for snacks.

The mental aspect of restricting something as common as sugar is worth considering. Overly strict rules about food can turn into disordered eating in some people.

People often give up chocolate specifically, rather than the whole category of sweets or sugar, but the effects will be similar. If you only give up chocolate, though, you can have a different sweet snack when cravings hit. Whether that aligns with your goals or not is up to you.


If Lenten diets are a do-over of new year’s resolution diets, perhaps giving up alcohol is a do-over of Dry January. Similar considerations apply.

If you think you may have a problem with drinking too much alcohol, consider getting professional help rather than counting on Lent to solve your problems. You can find a self-evaluation questionnaire and resources for treatment here.

How much giving up alcohol affects you will depend on how much alcohol you are used to drinking, and how you use it. For example, if you frequently drink before bed, giving up those drinks will likely help you sleep better. If drinks make up a significant amount of your daily calories, giving them up might help you lose or maintain your body weight. And if you often wake up with a hangover, giving up drinking will gain you back some headache-free weekend mornings.


If you give up coffee or caffeinated sodas, you’re giving up caffeine. As with alcohol, the effects of going cold turkey will depend on how much you were consuming in the first place.

The most common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headaches and fatigue. There are also more subtle signs, like feelings of anxiety, depression, or irritability. Drinking water and getting enough sleep can help with these.

If you were using caffeine to compensate for poor sleep, taking away the caffeine just leaves you with…poor sleep. So make sure to take care of yourself in all respects; don’t just quit caffeine and expect everything to magically get better.

To give up caffeine without withdrawal symptoms, cut down gradually. Half-caf coffee (made with half regular coffee and half decaf) can help. So can caffeine-free versions of your favorite sodas.


Giving up meat on Fridays is already a robust Lenten practice, as you’ll know if you live in a city with a strong tradition of Friday night church basement fish frys. But maybe you’d like to take the next step and give up meat for all of Lent.

If you plan out your switch to a plant-based diet, your body might not even notice the difference. The key is to make sure you’re choosing foods that give you plenty of protein, since plant foods are lower in protein than meats. If you take the time to learn about protein sources, you’ll be fine—tofu, beans, grains, and many meat substitutes have plenty. But if you continue eating the same foods as before and only subtract the meat, you may be in trouble. For example, if you’re used to grabbing a burger with fries for lunch, a veggie burger with fries is a reasonably good substitute. A double order of fries is not.

We have a guide to switching to a plant-based diet here. Just be aware that drastic changes in the amount of fiber you’re eating can play havoc on a sensitive gut, so ease into your new diet thoughtfully.