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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—French elections, Star Wars premiere, sweet potato inferno

  • Quartz
By Quartz

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Angela Merkel defends her refugee policy. The German chancellor has faced strong criticism from within her party for accepting so many refugees, and the issue will be debated and reflected in a declaration unveiled at the party’s annual conference in Karlsruhe. A poll on the adoption of the text is seen as a “vote of confidence” in the chancellor.

China talks economic cooperation with Eurasian nations. President Xi Jinping is hosting the 14th Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, which will be attended by Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The countries are expected to discuss ways to expand industrial cooperation and security links.

European Union foreign ministers discuss terrorism. Attempts to block arms trafficking and international terrorist financing are on the table, as are sanctions against Russia, the ongoing conflict in Iraq and Syria, and free trade with Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ premieres in Hollywood. The hugely hyped film, set around 30 years after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, will play at three Los Angeles theaters today; journalists covering the event have been asked not to publish spoilers.

Over the weekend

World leaders sealed a climate deal. Global representatives agreed to try to keep the rise in temperatures to “well below” 2°C from pre-industrial levels, and to create a fund to help poor countries deal with the effects of climate change. (As a stretch goal, they will also “pursue efforts” to keep the rise under 1.5°C.) Critics argued that the talks were useless, and that only by taxing emissions will countries curb pollution quickly enough.

France’s Front National was beaten in elections. The far-right party won none of the 13 contested regions in municipal elections, despite leading in nearly half of them in last week’s first round of voting. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party took control of seven regions.

Tensions between Russia and Turkey escalated. Russia says its destroyer Smetlivy was forced to fire warning shots at a Turkish fishing vessel to avoid a collision in the Aegean Sea, after the boat failed to respond to verbal warnings. The incident follows Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet.

Egypt found no evidence of terrorism in the downed Russian passenger jet. The Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry’s preliminary report contradicted Moscow’s claim that a bomb downed a plane that killed 224 people in October. ISIL has already claimed responsibility.

Saudi Arabia elected its first female officials. Around 20 gained seats in the country’s historic municipal elections (paywall) that saw women vote for the first time. It’s a small number of the 2,100 seats available, but is seen as an important step forward for women’s rights.

Ted Cruz soared in the polls. The US Republican presidential hopeful leaped 21 percentage points in Iowa, in a poll among likely voters in upcoming Republican caucuses. The Texas junior senator has even gained a lead over long-time frontrunner Donald Trump in certain polls.

Quartz obsession interlude

Nicholas de Monchaux on the aesthetics of Star Wars and Apple. “The Apple building and the Death Star, with all their closed perfection, reveal a great deal about why today’s world looks and works the way it does. In particular, they point to the conflict and balance between order and openness, between power and the distribution of power, that must be constantly negotiated, and renegotiated, as we craft culture, city, and society at the beginning of the 21st century.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Luke Skywalker was radicalized. Obi Wan put Luke on the “path to jihad,” teaching him to say prayers before committing attacks.

Trump has already hurt the US’s global reputation. And the damage he’s done will be hard to undo.

African countries should ban skin-lightening creams. They are a product of eurocentric racism.

Surprising discoveries

A silo of sweet potatoes has been burning since Thanksgiving. The fire, at a silo in North Carolina, is proving impossible to put out.

Money destined for ISIL was discovered in dirty laundry. ”Laundering money,” said an Australian magistrate. “Almost literally,” quipped the prosecution.

Scientists discovered a tiny star with a giant storm. The storm has been raging for two years, and is larger than Earth.

Australia opened its first hangover clinic. It features an IV drip, oxygen therapy, and a VIP recovery lounge.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, hangover cures, and charred sweet potato recipes to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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