What to watch for today
Japan’s new cabinet take their seats. Snap elections earlier this month saw prime minster Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party win 325 out of 475 seats. Today the new cabinet will be inaugurated, giving Abe a supermajority in the country’s lower house.
Turkey decides its rates. The country’s central bank announces whether or not it will cut borrowing costs (paywall). The Turkish lira hit a record low last week, causing some analysts to wonder if stimulus measures are coming in order to prevent further inflation.
Fresh peace talks between brother Slavs. The trilateral Ukraine Contact Group (Ukraine, the Russian Federation, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) meets in Belarus today, one day after Ukraine’s parliament voted—to Russia’s anger—to annul its “non-aligned” status and begin taking steps towards joining NATO.
Handcuffs for Heather Cho? When the daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho delayed a flight’s take-off because of the way a flight attendant served her macadamia nuts, she was grossly violating safety regulations, prosecutors will argue today as they request an arrest warrant.
While you were sleeping
The US economy grew 5.0% in the third quarter. The original estimate, given in October, was 3.5%. That got bumped up to 3.9% last month. Many economists expected to see it revised upward once more to 4.3% today, but nope—America’s GDP grew the most it has in over a decade.
A German anti-Muslim group held its biggest ever march. An estimated 17,500 members of “Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the West,” or Pegida, sang Christmas carols in front of Dresden’s Semperoper concert hall. Some 4,500 counter-demonstrators hit the pavement with the message “Dresden Nazi-free”. Pegida’s rapid growth—it began only last October—has stunned the German mainstream; Germany’s leading Jewish organization has condemned it too.
Greece failed to choose a president—again. No-one expected lawmakers to come to a decision during the second round of voting anyway. The government’s candidate, Stavros Dimas, did secure 168 votes, however—eight more than last time. He’ll need 180 votes in the third and final round later this month or a snap general election will be held, probably ousting the government.
Nicaragua broke ground on its Panama Canal rival. Its been over 200 years in the making, but thanks to Chinese capital, the construction of the $50 billion waterway to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans has begun. “Nicaragua expects to move 5% of the world’s commerce that moves by sea,” said the country’s vice president, adding the canal will double Nicaragua’s GDP.
Al-Jazeera went dark in Egypt. The channel whose coverage played a key role in the Arab Spring in 2011 has decided to shutter its Egyptian station, Mubashr Misr, until it can “[obtain] the necessary permits in co-ordination with the Egyptian authorities.” Al-Jazeera’s evident sympathies for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood earned it the enmity of the generals who ousted the Brotherhood in 2013.
Quartz obsession interlude
Jake Flanagin on the US’s new Cuba strategy. “The reopening of diplomatic channels between Washington and Havana reflects some of the better aspects of Obama’s foreign policy (which is by no means perfect). Namely, its nuance. The State Department of 2014 does not operate in the realm of outdated geopolitical absolutes as some of its predecessors. ‘Communist = bad, capitalist = good’ no longer applies. And, in any case, Cold War color-coding, strategies of ‘containment’ and ‘rollback,’ just as often bolstered anti-democratic regimes as it undermined them.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
2014 was the year of self-doubt. Between the Ukrainian revolution, the crash of MH17, the Islamic State, and Ebola, these past 12 months have been a dud.
Europe’s problem isn’t deflation. The continent is actually growing, but what’s holding it back—especially Western Europe—is tight labor policies.
Putin doesn’t need to send tanks to Ukraine. He can just wait for the country’s economy to collapse because the West can’t agree on a bailout package.
PowerPoint is ruining the US justice system. In what world do animated slideshows and pictures of defendants stamped with the word “GUILTY” make any sense?
Beef is good for the environment. The data on how cows guzzle water and pump out methane are outdated and aren’t the complete picture (paywall).
Not all sleep is created equal. People who use iPads and other tablets to read before sleeping don’t get the same quality REM sleep as those who don’t.
3D printed pasta is coming to a dish near you. For those who Instagram their lunches, Barilla is working on making designer pasta a reality.
Electricity can cure arthritis. Researchers working with sufferers have created a pacemaker-like implant that works better than traditional medicine.
Barack Obama is a “science geek.” So says his science advisor, who calls him the most scientifically aware president since Thomas Jefferson.
Here’s a remarkable picture of the sun. Taken by an X-ray telescope designed to look at black holes, it’s our most detailed view yet of our home star.
Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.
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