What to watch for today
NASA gives two astronauts a long to-do list. The US space agency will send an American and a Russian to the international space station, which they’ll be calling home for one year. It will be the first year-long sojourn into space.
Congress goes on holiday. The US legislature will go into recess for two weeks, after the surprising passage of a $214 billion bipartisan medicare package in the House of Representatives to address a massive funding gap.
Italy’s highest court rules on Amanda Knox. The court will decide whether to uphold Knox’s conviction for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy in 2007. The court’s ruling could spur an extradition battle between the US and Italy.
BlackBerry will surely disappoint. The company’s fourth-quarter earnings are expected to show a sharp decline in revenue. The question is whether there are any signs of BlackBerry executing on its plan of shifting to a software and services company.
While you were sleeping
The Germanwings co-pilot intentionally crashed the plane, according to a French prosecutor. The co-pilot intended to “destroy the plane,” manually setting it into the descent that killed 150 people when the flight crashed in the French Alps. The pilot locked another pilot out of the cockpit, he said. Airbus, like other plane manufacturers, made cockpits harder to enter after Sept. 11, 2001.
Brazil’s economic outlook only got worse. The country’s GDP shrank 0.1% last year, and is set to contract 0.5% this year, according to estimates by Brazil’s central bank in its quarterly inflation report. If the forecast holds, it would be the country’s first return to contracting growth for two years running since the Great Depression.
Amazon launched one-hour delivery in another US city. The online retailer has expanded its speedy delivery service known as Amazon Prime Now to Dallas, Texas. That brings the total number of US cities offering one-hour delivery of “everyday essentials” to four. New York City came first, in Dec. 2014; Baltimore and Miami were added earlier this month.
The US may allow Iran to run a limited number of centrifuges. In exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear research and development, the US is considering allowing Iran to run hundreds of centrifuges at a fortified underground bunker, which would be subject to international inspections, according to The Associated Press.
Quartz obsession interlude
Mike Murphy on computers that tap your emotions to get you to buy stuff. “Robots are starting to take our jobs on the factory floor, around the home, and even in the newsroom. One company, Persado, has its sights set on advertising agencies. It has figured out how to use machine learning to manipulate our emotions to sell us more things. The next advertisement you see online could well have been written by a computer.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Anti-choice advocates shouldn’t touch prenatal genetic testing. Access to tests that unearth serious health issues about a pregnant woman’s unborn child are a necessary part of the right to choose an abortion.
Income inequality is a beautiful thing. When the wealth gap widens, creative people are motivated to strive, innovate, and compete, which eventually turns luxuries into more affordable goods.
Bring back firing squads. The drive in the US to sanitize the brutality of the death penalty by adopting lethal injection has made a bad policy even worse.
We should bomb Iran. It’s the only way to prevent the country from building a nuclear bomb and expanding its power in the region (paywall).
Silicon Valley isn’t investing in science anymore. Instead, it’s putting all its chips behind companies that can scale up rapidly to dominate in their space (paywall).
You can make rice even healthier. Throwing in a dash of coconut oil and letting it cool for 12 hours before eating it more than halves the calories, according to researchers.
Drones can now recover from midair collisions. Scientists made a drone with wings that can retract, mimicking the wing anatomy of birds and bats.
Russia wants to connect London to Alaska. The reported plans for a 12,400-mile super highway connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific would have a similar layout to the Trans-Siberian railway.
The people you manage know all your flaws. As you climb the ranks at work, you risk self-delusion as people flatter you more and honestly criticize you less (paywall).
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