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.
Bitcoin volatility. After a five-day rout, the cryptocurrency recovered to more than $16,000 yesterday, and has held steady since. Analysts suggest that bitcoin is now at an important juncture which will show whether the sell-off was a healthy correction, or the beginning of the deflation of a bubble.
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
Snowfall in Erie, Pennsylvania smashed records. After breaking the one-day snowfall milestone on Monday, over five feet of snow was dumped in Erie on Tuesday, setting a new two-day record.
A Myanmar court extended its remand of two Reuters journalists. Myanmar nationals Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had reported on the government’s crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority, made their first public appearance since being arrested on Dec. 12, in a Yangon courthouse. A judge extended their remand period until Jan. 10 for further interrogation.
The trial of Samsung’s de facto head concluded. Prosecutors in Seoul sought a 12-year jail term for Lee Jae-yong in the last session of his appeals trial. Lee, Samsung’s heir apparent, was given a five-year sentence in August for charges including bribery and embezzlement; he has denied the charges.
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. The UN has asked the government to allow the evacuation of patients.
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.
A giant, skull-faced asteroid is coming back. It haunted Earth back in 2015, and will return for the sequel in November 2018.
The German army is a social-media hit. A new documentary aimed at undoing German skepticism toward the military and attracting new recruits to the armed forces has been a success, with applications up over 20%.
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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