Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for this week
A signal from North Korea. A New Year’s Day address by Kim Jong Un, who has given one every year since 2013, could hold a message for the US. In his Jan. 1, 2017 address, Kim said North Korea had “entered the final stages of preparation” to test an intercontinental ballistic missile. The country launched its first ICBM in July.
US auto sales end their streak. Car companies will report December and full-year sales this week, with forecasters expecting a decline of almost 7% over December 2016, and 2% year over year. That would make 2017 the first year since 2009 that new car sales failed to beat the previous year’s.
California gets high. Marijuana is now recreationally legal in the state, one of many new laws making California the US equivalent of a Scandinavian country. Some of the most significant regulations include greater protections for undocumented immigrants. Around the US, hundreds of other state laws go into effect today.
Over the weekend
Iran saw its largest protests since 2009. Protests against the government continued, with at least two citizens killed and more than 50 arrested. Initial protests against president Hassan Rouhani have evolved into larger demonstrations against the government and Iran’s lagging economy. Rouhani addressed the outcry on Sunday, saying Iranians had a right to protest, but not to make others feel threatened.
An ivory ban went into effect in China. Ivory sales are now limited to antiques and a few other items, and the price of ivory has already declined precipitously. Critics of the ban say it will just move the ivory trade to other parts of Asia, like Laos, already the world’s fastest-growing ivory market.
South Korea seized a second ship suspected of transferring oil to North Korea. KOTI, a Panamanian-flagged vessel capable of carrying over 5,000 tons of oil, was detained less than a month after the Lighthouse Winmore, a Hong Kong-registered ship, was seized on the same charge. Last week, the UN Security Council adopted new sanctions against North Korea, which include lowering oil-import limits, in response to its Nov. 29 ballistic missile test.
Nepal barred solo climbers from Mount Everest. To improve safety and reduce accidents, all climbers, regardless of experience level, will now be required to have a guide. Climbers with physical disabilities, including amputees and the blind, will also be required to obtain health clearance from their doctors before receiving climbing permits. At least six climbers have died on Everest this year.
China’s central bank chief delivered a New Year’s message. People’s Bank of China chief Zhou Xiaochuan said its 2017 accomplishments included strengthening macroeconomic controls and implementing financial reforms, and echoed the bank’s “prudent and neutral” policy going into 2018. Chinese president Xi Jinping, in his own New Year’s speech, highlighted plans to rid the country of poverty by 2020.
Quartz obsession interlude
Gwynn Guilford on the 100-year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick, and stuck on coal. “Across America, obscure clusters of misery are growing in number and concentration—as people get sicker, poorer, and more isolated than they were just a few decades ago. Thus untangling the knotty problems of central Appalachia holds lessons for the rest of the country about how imbalances of wealth and power, created generations ago, can trap places and their people in the past.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The Kindle won’t change books. Amazon succeeded because it gave readers books as they’ve always been—just thinner, lighter, and cheaper.
Overpaying CEOs may make companies worse. Highly compensated executives are often a sign of weak corporate governance.
The blockchain is useless. Ten years after the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies was invented, nobody has adopted it.
A wall of lava lamps is helping encrypt the internet. Cybersecurity firm Cloudflare converts video footage of the lamps’ random bubbling into a virtually unhackable code.
“Minion” GIFs signify different emotions around the world. The Despicable Me characters are popular among Italians for expressing humor (paywall), and in Mexico for conveying excitement.
Thirty years after Prozac was released, rates of depression are higher than ever. There are also more antidepressant options, but no improvement in efficacy.
The giant Pacific octopus has been two species this whole time. Research revealed that some number giant Pacific octopuses are actually frilled giant Pacific octopuses.
Tequila gets way more popular after midnight. At one San Francisco dive bar, tequila makes up nearly 40% of all liquor orders between 1am and 2am.
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