Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
China raises gas prices. Retail prices on gas and diesel will undergo their 11th increase of 2017, this time in response to rising international oil prices. Global prices hit their highest level in two and a half years this week following news of an explosion on a Libyan crude pipeline.
The US stock market closes out a banner 2017. Donald Trump has repeatedly pointed to the market as an indicator of his success (paywall), but while the Dow has hit record highs this year, it will need to gain 580 points by Friday’s close for Trump to have matched the gains made during Barack Obama’s first year in office.
A controversial film about Narendra Modi debuts. Modi Kaka Ka Gaon, loosely inspired by the Indian prime minister’s development agenda, is finally hitting Indian theatres after being denied a censor certificate for nearly a year.
While you were sleeping
Uber likely lost its spot as the world’s most valuable startup. Japan’s SoftBank is poised to buy a chunk of Uber in a deal that would value the ride-hailing service at $48 billion, down from $68 billion. The telecom giant would control up to 20% of Uber, which has seen its value eroded by leadership problems, international roadblocks, sexual harassment scandals, and PR fumbles.
Apple and Amazon are eyeing Saudi Arabia. Reuters reported that both tech giants have been negotiating with Riyadh in hopes of establishing a direct presence in the country. Apple is already popular in the kingdom, and could open retail stores there as early as 2019. Amazon also has a foothold through its purchase of online retailer Souq.com in March.
ISIL claimed responsibility for a blast in Kabul that killed 41 people. The Islamic State said it carried out a Dec. 28 bombing at a Shiite cultural center, the latest in a series of mass-casualty attacks against Shiite targets by the group’s Afghan affiliate. A UN official said he had “little doubt that this attack deliberately targeted civilians” (paywall).
The US and Turkey lifted mutual visa restrictions. After the arrest of a consulate employee in October, the US suspended non-immigrant visa services at its Turkish diplomatic facilities, and Ankara responded by suspending visa services in Washington. Those restrictions are now gone, but relations between the nations remain strained.
Alabama elected senator Doug Jones—again. State officials dismissed a legal challenge from Republican candidate Roy Moore, who complained that he was the victim of “systematic voter fraud” (paywall). Jones won by 21,924 votes, and will be the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama since 1992.
Quartz obsession interlude
Preeti Varathan on the best way to supercharge American innovation. “If women, minorities, and children from low-income families were to invent at the same rate as white men from the top 20%, the rate of innovation in America would quadruple.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Atheism makes you appreciate everything more. Knowing that life isn’t just a journey toward some spiritual payoff forces you to make every second count.
Music has gotten too girly. U2’s Bono recently said so, adding that “hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment.”
Amazon should take over the plus-size market. This $20 billion segment of shoppers just needs a retailer to serve it.
Apple makes Tim Cook fly private. The company spent $93,109 this year shuttling its CEO on trips for business and pleasure.
New York City briefly boasted a four-story penis mural. After numerous complaints, the piece by Swedish artist Carolina Falkholt was painted over.
For the third consecutive year, Oklahoma has not carried out an execution. A series of blunders are forcing the state to rethink its procedures.
“Doggo” dates back 130 years. The slang term for “dog” is derived from the phrase to “lie doggo,” which means to lay low or under the radar.
Some Amazonian frogs are “functional necrophiliacs.” Male Rhinella proboscidea fertilize eggs after extracting them from the bodies of dead female frogs.
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