Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Turkey’s prime minister visits Saudi Arabia. Binali Yildirim will be in Riyadh for two days to discuss several issues in the region, including Jerusalem and the Qatar oil blockade. Meanwhile, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is heading to Tunisia as part of his three-day tour across Africa to bolster economic ties.
South Korea and Japan revisit sex-slavery reparations. Seoul will announce the findings of a five-month investigation into a 2015 agreement over reparations for “comfort women” forced to serve Japanese troops in World War II. The deal was unpopular with the majority of Korea’s public.
South Korea wraps up the trial of Samsung’s de facto head. Prosecutors will present their arguments seeking a harsh punishment for Lee Jae-yong in the last session of his appeals trial, after Lee was given a five-year sentence in August for charges including bribery and embezzlement.
India marks the start of its fiber-optic future. The Andhra Pradesh Fibre Grid project sets an ambitious plan to bring reliable cable TV, telephone service, and high-speed internet to every household in the state for 149 rupees (about $2.33) per month.
While you were sleeping
Brazil expelled Venezuela’s ambassador. The decision comes in response to Venezuela’s expulsion of Brazil’s ambassador, after Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro called the impeachment of former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff a “right-wing coup.” Venezuela also earlier expelled Canada’s charge d’affaires on grounds that the country meddled in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
The US slapped new sanctions on North Korea’s missile makers. The Treasury department targeted Kim Jong-sik and Ri Pyong-chol, who are important figures in Pyongyang’s missiles and nuclear-weapons program. The move follows new sanctions announced by the United Nations last Friday aimed at further restricting energy supplies to North Korea.
Medical evacuations began from a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. The Red Cross said that some patients in Eastern Ghouta have been taken to hospitals in the Syrian capital. Some 400,000 people living in the area have been under siege by forces loyal to president Bashar al-Assad, and the UN has asked the government to allow the evacuation of patients including children with cancer.
Uber isn’t leasing cars in the US anymore. The ride-hailing service lost $9,000 per car (paywall) from running Xchange Leasing—a side business that leased new cars to potential Uber drivers who otherwise may not have been able to afford joining up. Startup auto company Fair.com will acquire the inventory for an undisclosed amount in a deal expected to close early next year.
Quartz obsession interlude
Rich Sampson on what Elon Musk doesn’t understand about public transit. “The breathless coverage of wiz-bang technology and the blustery commentary of Silicon Valley gurus show a fundamental disconnect with lives of less-affluent Americans… Sure, Pittsburgh might be testing a new autonomous vehicle and Portland could be rolling out a new streetcar line, but as the old Broadway saying goes, how does it play in Peoria?” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The K-beauty craze belies the harsh realities of sexism faced by South Korean women. K-beauty has less to do with any ancient beauty philosophy than the reality that a Korean woman’s body is her biggest asset.
Cryptocurrencies aren’t a threat to the economy. But all it takes is one major financial institution to take a large risky position to put the system at risk.
Eliminating workweek restrictions won’t boost UK productivity. British workers clock in an average of 37 hours per week—not even close to the existing limit of 48 hours (paywall).
Repeat traffic offenders in Estonia get disturbing Christmas cards. Scenes of traffic accidents and grim statistics seem to be working—road deaths have dropped sharply over the past decade.
Google’s voice-generating AI is now indistinguishable from humans. However, the system is only trained to mimic the one female voice; to speak like a male or different female, Google would need to retrain its system.
Your festive bling probably came from Yiwu, China. A booming business in cheap lights and ornaments gives residents a higher disposable income than workers in Beijing.
A giant, skull-faced asteroid is coming back. It haunted Earth back in 2015, and will return for the sequel in November 2018.
UPS had to ask its US office workers to deliver packages. Online shopping spiked so high that the company had to recruit its own accountants and marketers.
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