Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today and over the weekend
Japan and South Korea trial blockchain payments. A group of banks will begin testing a system developed by US developer Ripple on Friday, with the aim of achieving same-day international funds transfers while cutting costs by nearly 30%.
India’s Supreme Court rules on ID numbers. The high court will decide on Friday whether to grant an interim stay on government directives to make the 12-digit Aadhaar number mandatory for various welfare programs and services. The government says widespread adoption is necessary for national security and to end corruption, while critics say it infringes on privacy.
Russia resumes civilian flights to Egypt. Egypt’s aviation minister will travel to Russia to sign protocol agreements as early as Friday, resuming flights suspended in 2015 after militants bombed a Russian tourist jet, killing 224 people. Leaders also met in Cairo this week to sign a deal for a nuclear power plant as part of growing bilateral cooperation.
While you were sleeping
Disney bought 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion. The blockbuster media deal would, if approved by regulators, give the owner of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm marquee properties like Avatar and The Simpsons. The sale of Fox marks a major retreat by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, as traditional media firms consolidate in the face of competition from streaming rivals like Netflix.
US communications regulators repealed net neutrality. The 3-2 vote handed FCC chairman Ajit Pai a major victory, much to the chagrin of critics who said a repeal would undermine the idea of an open internet. Moments after, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, who had called on Pai earlier this week to delay the Thursday vote as he investigated as many as 2 million fake public comments, said he will sue to reverse the ruling.
AI veteran Andrew Ng launched another company. The former Google and Baidu executive announced his third major venture in recent months to launch Landing.ai, which will use AI to help make large manufacturing companies more efficient. Its first partner is Foxconn, a Taiwan-based company that most notably manufactures Apple products.
Rep. Blake Farenthold announced that he would leave Congress. The Texas Republican, who faces allegations of sexual harassment and using a taxpayer fund (paywall) to settle the lawsuit, said he won’t run for re-election to the House. “I am profoundly sorry,” he said in a video announcement posted on Facebook.
The New York Times publisher stepped aside for his son. Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, 37, will begin his new role on Jan. 1 (paywall), a year after being named deputy publisher of The Times. He’ll be the sixth member of the Ochs-Sulzberger family to serve in the post.
Quartz obsession interlude
Aspen Reese on how we’ve come to expect science to solve problems: “Right now, every day, individuals, and society as a whole, misunderstand and undervalue what we have already learned from science. But it need not be this way. In other words, it is not a question of whether there is a limit to scientific understanding but whether we are limiting ourselves in our scientific understanding.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Sex toys make a great holiday gift. They’re a healthy way to bring romance into the season, and plenty of incognito options keep gift-unwrapping embarrassment to a minimum.
Nobody wants to work in a “fast-paced environment.” The clichéd job description suggests a culture that sacrifices quality for speed.
Disney’s Fox acquisition is all about Netflix. It is locking up content for the streaming service it hopes will poach some of Netflix’s 100 million subscribers.
A North Korean defector got free Choco Pies for life. Oh Chung-sung, who was shot five times, requested the treat—which symbolizes affluence in the region—right after regaining consciousness.
Monorails are making a comeback. They’re a cheap transportation option for dense cities, and track production is set to double or triple in Asia and Latin America.
Wine glasses are almost seven times bigger than they were 300 years ago. In the 1700s, they were not much bigger than a shot glass.
An Alaskan city is warming so fast, climate-scanning robots scrapped the data. In October, melting sea ice sent temperatures soaring 7.8 °F since 2000, which robots deemed impossible.
Tolls hit $40 in Washington, DC last week. The price lasted for only six minutes but spooked commuters to reroute or carpool, as the toll was designed to do.
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