UK labor stats, Japan’s exports, talking sticks

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The mastermind of China’s economic policy speaks at Davos. Liu He, head of the Communist Party’s top economic-affairs steering group and right-hand man to president Xi Jinping, will tell the World Economic Forum how China intends to shape the world economy.

The UK releases labor market data. The last two monthly reports showed dips in the number of people working, highlighting the growing problem of skills shortages (paywall). The number of firms citing the skills gap as a factor likely to limit output over the next three months reached the highest level in 40-plus years, an industry body reported yesterday.

Whirlpool reports its earnings and looks ahead. The US maker of home appliances is in a spotlight this week after Donald Trump approved controversial tariffs on imported washing machines, with an eye toward South Korean companies in particular. Investors want to see how the trade action affects the company’s forecast (pdf).

While you were sleeping

Japan reported surging exports in December. Exports from the world’s third-largest economy rose 9.3% year-on-year, following a 16.2% gain in November. Exports to China hit new monthly and yearly highs, jumping 15.8% from a year ago in December and rising 20.5% in 2017.

The US had another school shooting. In a rural town in Kentucky, a 15-year-old opened fire in a common area before morning classes began, killing two students and wounding a dozen. The suspect was apprehended, and no motive has been disclosed. The attack renewed calls for stronger gun laws.

Shinzo Abe said he will attend the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Earlier reports suggested the Japanese prime minister would skip the games due to a dispute over Korean “comfort women” forced to work in wartime military brothels. The move risks angering his conservative base. Abe made a splash at the Summer Olympics in Brazil as Nintendo’s Mario.

A US senator announced she’s pregnant. If all goes well, Tammy Duckworth will later this year become the first sitting senator in history to give birth. The Illinois Democrat, a double amputee, was a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War and has slammed Trump for being a “five-deferment draft dodger.”

Ursula K. Le Guin passed away at age 88. The best-selling writer died in her home in Portland, Oregon, after a period of poor health. The award-winning author wrote over 20 novels and a hundred short stories, and was known for bringing a tough-minded feminist sensibility to the fantasy and science-fiction genres.

Quartz obsession interlude

Angus Hervey on how cynical people are not realistic, just lazy. “In a time where action is paramount, cynicism creates a paralyzing effect. It causes predatory delay, which is effectively the same as losing. It concedes the fight to those whose power and wealth is tied to planetary destruction and the misery of others. Perhaps more importantly, it ignores the incredible stories of progress that are taking place.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Life hacks are part of a 200-year-old movement to destroy your humanity. The goal is to make work the center of our lives.

Beauty brands want diverse faces, not diverse voices. Spokesmodels are reduced to pretty faces when they’re asked to take the fall for their political beliefs.

Trump’s solar-panel policy is a boon to China. Increasing import tariffs will do little to weaken Beijing’s manufacturing advantage, and might even strengthen it.

Surprising discoveries

“Good morning!” messages are choking India’s smartphones. The mass greetings are eating up memory on low-end Android devices (paywall).

Hawaii’s governor couldn’t tweet about a false missile alert because he didn’t know his Twitter password. David Ige knew within two minutes the warning was a mistake, but his followers weren’t so lucky.

A female US senator used a “talking stick” to combat manterruptions. In a recent meeting Susan Collins said only the attendee holding the beautifully beaded stick from Africa could speak.

The US National Security Agency loves Amazon Echos. Spies have been using smart speakers to identify targets by voice alone.

Wolves have returned to Belgium. Naya, a female equipped with a tracker, is the first wild wolf to visit in more than 100 years.

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