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What to watch for today
Japan’s lower house votes on a new immigration bill. Opposition parties are protesting the expected passage of prime minister Shinzō Abe’s measure to relax the country’s notoriously strict naturalization policies. The number of foreign workers in Japan has more than doubled since 2010, but critics claim the influx is limiting jobs and increasing crime.
Hong Kong hosts a contentious genetics summit. The Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing is expected to be dominated by the furore over a Chinese scientist’s apparent use of CRISPR to edit the genome of two baby girls (see below). The Chinese Academy of Sciences withdrew from the meeting a year ago.
While you were sleeping
Donald Trump said he’ll move forward with additional Chinese tariffs. Four days ahead of a summit with Xi Jinping, the US president told the Wall Street Journal (paywall) it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll accept Beijing’s latest proposal. In the absence of a deal, Trump vowed to impose 10–25% tariffs on $267 billion in Chinese goods starting Jan. 1.
NASA successfully landed its Mars explorer. After “seven minutes of terror,” the InSight lander used heat shields, parachutes, and thrusters to safely touch down on Mars soil around 3pm ET. After unfurling its solar panels, the probe will drill into the surface to measure tremors and heat flow to study the planet’s origins.
GM is closing five factories and slashing about 14,000 jobs. The US automaker announced that it will shut down facilities in Ohio, Michigan, and Canada, as it sheds about 15% of its US workforce. CEO Mary Barra said the company would focus on electric and self-driving cars.
The US and NATO protested Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships as Kiev declared martial law in much of the country. Ukraine voted Monday to declare martial law in reaction to continuing naval conflicts with Russia, with the latest incident resulting in the capture of three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors. Russian president Vladimir Putin seems to be taking advantage of political distractions in the US and Europe, as his own domestic approval rating hits new lows.
A Chinese researcher was suspended for a controversial experiment. He Jiankui, who claims to have edited the genes of two twin infants to make them resistant to HIV, was heavily criticized for using unproven genetic techniques on healthy patients. The Southern University of Science and Technology, where He has been on unpaid leave, said it was unaware of the experiment.
Sand dollars: They’re famous as beach souvenirs, but the close relatives of sea urchins are also finely tuned evolutionary wonders. Distinctive oval holes reduce lift underwater, ingested metal particles reduce buoyancy—and wait until you hear how they defend themselves. Dig into today’s Quartz Obsession.
“I am glad this… is accelerating an ethical and legal debate our society has delayed for too long. Where will we draw the line, not only as citizens, but as human beings?”
—Allison Baum, managing partner at Fresco Capital, on “The Chinese scientist who claims he made CRISPR babies is under investigation”
Fashion forward: The luxury industry, always interested in youth culture, is chasing young people as customers. But as the fashion industry reorients itself to a younger, non-Western shopper who’s more entranced by a new sneaker than by a couture gown, no one really knows what counts as luxury anymore. Read more here.
Bird like to rub themselves with ants, and no one knows why. The behavior has been spotted in more than 200 avian species.
Holograms are the selfies of the future. And one New York studio has been producing holographic portraits for more than 40 years.
Kim Jong Un’s canine “peace gifts” have produced unexpected dividends. The dogs he gave to Moon Jae-in gave birth to a litter of six puppies this weekend.
Melania Trump is doubling down on terrifying Christmas decorations. The White House’s blood-red trees are a useful tonic against the cheeriness of the holiday season.
The luxury candle market is on fire. Gucci’s “Esotericum, XL feline head” candles go for a scorching $790 a piece.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sand dollars, and luxury candles to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written and edited by McKinley Noble and Adam Pasick.