Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
The UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres visits Tokyo. Prime minister Shinzo Abe will stress that now is the time to apply maximum pressure on North Korea, and that Pyongyang must demonstrate a clear intent to abandon its weapons programs before any new talks. Last week the UN, which wants more dialog, sent a top envoy to Pyongyang for the first time in six years.
The US Federal Reserve announces its interest rate decision. The US central bank is expected to raise its benchmark interest rate from 1.25% to 1.5%. It will be chairwoman Janet Yellen’s last major Fed meeting before being replaced by Trump pick Jerome Powell.
Toyota and Panasonic team up on EV battery standards. The standards could help make batteries—which account for the bulk of production costs in electric vehicles—cheaper to make and recycle. Honda and other manufacturers could also get involved, Nikkei reported (paywall). A press conference is scheduled for 3:30pm in Tokyo (6:30am GMT).
The EU’s highly watched kebab vote. The European Parliament will vote on whether phosphates can be used in meat cooked on spits, citing a possible link between the food additive and cardiovascular health risks.
While you were sleeping
Alabama elected a Democrat to the US Senate for the first time since 1992… Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore, who was accused of molesting teenage girls. The result suggests the base of Donald Trump, who strongly backed Moore, is losing clout—and that the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment by powerful men means something to voters.
…and female lawmakers battled Trump over an innuendo-filled tweet. The US president made a not-so-veiled suggestion that senator Kirsten Gillibrand was willing to trade sexual favors for campaign donations, after she called on him to resign. A group of Democratic legislators is pushing for an investigation into sexual assault accusations against Trump.
Rex Tillerson said the US is ready to talk to North Korea without pre-conditions. The US secretary of state’s comments went against a previously stated position that Pyongyang must first accept that giving up its nuclear arsenal would be part of any negotiations. That position hasn’t changed, the White House later said, despite Tillerson’s comments.
Google said it will open an AI research facility in Beijing. Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist at Google’s cloud unit, will lead the new center. She’ll try to lure top-notch AI researchers coming out of China, which has made artificial intelligence a national priority. Google will face fierce competition from Alibaba, Tencent, and other Chinese tech firms.
South Korea convened an emergency meeting on how to curb cryptocurrency speculation. The meeting today, involving a variety of ministries, came amid widespread investor enthusiasm for bitcoin. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal reported individual investors in South Korea and Japan are a key force behind bitcoin’s meteoric rise (paywall).
Quartz obsession interlude
Taddy Hall on why data shouldn’t drive all of your decisions. “The power of big data to enable breakthroughs in many aspects of managerial and scientific endeavor is so staggering that it has generated a religious-like faith in its powers—if we can just get enough data, the truth will be revealed. But this faith is flawed.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
AI does not have enough experience to handle the next market crash. The data it uses is from an unusually stable period, which could make an extreme shock even worse.
The inexorable bloat of Twitter needs to stop. New “improvements” that allow longer messages will turn the microblogging service into a mishmash.
Being great at your job is harder than it used to be. An explosion in knowledge means having to build upon exponentially more “best practices.”
Tokyo’s subway operator is getting into farming. Its hydroponic vegetable operation is run with Tokyo Metro’s trademark precision.
America’s square-dancing tradition is a tool of white supremacy. Henry Ford funded it to undercut jazz, which he thought was part of a Jewish plot to take over the world.
No-name clothing is the most popular US brand. Increasingly well-made private-label apparel is boosted by companies like Amazon.
A seedless avocado could end pit-removal injuries. Marks & Spencer is the first supermarket to carry the un-pollinated fruit.
An American is on the run after escaping an Indonesian prison. He was arrested for a drug possession charge, which could have carried a death sentence.
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