Good morning and best wishes for 2019, Quartz readers!
The US-South Korea deal on how to share military costs expires. If the five-year agreement ends today without a new one in place, the US military could furlough some South Korean workers on its bases on the peninsula. South Korea pays about $830 million of the costs of the US troops it hosts for protection against North Korea, but the US wants a steep increase.
Kim Jong Un delivers his New Year’s address. Will the North Korean leader sound threatening, conciliatory, or both? Each year analysts listen carefully for hints about his intentions, especially with regards to tests of missiles and nuclear weapons.
Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency begins. Brazil’s president-elect, a far-right former army general, will take office tomorrow under security cover from more than 3,000 police and military personnel. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo will attend but Brazil’s largest left-wing parties plan to boycott the inauguration. Bolsonaro was stabbed in September while campaigning in a bitterly divisive election.
Germany begins offering a third gender option on official documents. As of January, intersex people can be registered as “divers,” which roughly translates as “other,” instead of having to choose between “male” or “female” on birth certificates and similar documentation.
A slew of creative works enter the public domain in the US. Films, books, songs, and other artistic works once protected by US copyright, and all from the year 1923, will finally be in the public domain. In 1998, Disney successfully lobbied for a 20-year extension, but it’s coming to an end.
The CPTPP went into effect. For Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and Singapore, the trade deal is now in force. Vietnam will follow in mid-January, with the four other countries yet to ratify. Donald Trump withdrew the US from the TPP, an earlier version of the deal.
Xi Jinping extolled China’s “extraordinary” 2018. The Chinese leader’s year-end speech downplayed or entirely avoided tricky topics, such as tensions with the US, a slowing economy, and the backlash to its overseas lending. China faces a March 1 deadline to make significant concessions to the US on trade. After a weekend call with Xi, Trump said negotiations are making “big progress.”
A Tokyo court extended Carlos Ghosn’s time in custody. The former Nissan chairman was first held on Nov. 19 in an arrest that shook the auto industry. He has been charged with understating his pay, and on Dec. 21 was re-arrested for the third time on a new allegation to allow prosecutors to keep holding him. Today, a court said he could be held until Jan. 11 (subscription).
Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina was re-elected… Her ruling Awami League party won a landslide victory in a troubled Sunday election that the opposition called “farcical.” At least 17 people were killed in election violence, and many opposition candidates withdrew amid widespread allegations of vote rigging.
…While the Democratic Republic of Congo vote faced violence and delays. Voters in Sunday’s election, which was two years overdue, contended with coercion by an armed militia, a shortage of voting machines in the capital due to a fire, and heavy rain. Some cities will only vote in March as authorities fight to contain an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 300. At least 20 candidates are vying to replace president Joseph Kabila.
China’s space probe moved into position over the moon. The Chang’e-4 entered a planned orbit “to prepare for the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon,” the official Xinhua news agency reported. It didn’t say when the landing would occur.
Gwynn Guilford on the decline of GM. “GM once built nine of every 20 new cars sold in America… [But a] 1972 strike—or, more precisely, GM’s response to it—marked the beginning of the company’s long but uneven descent, which would be characterized by a repeated impulse to bet on fancy, futuristic but unproven technologies while undervaluing its workers.” Read more here.
Robot workers need legal rights, and they need them now. Humans have a long history of abusing machines and robots, and it’s only a matter of time before robots start retaliating.
Privileged Western vegans need to be more woke. Vegans often claim the moral high ground, yet some lack respect for the food cultures that gave them the staples they rely on.
Regaining trust is the top issue for tech in 2019. Consumers, lawmakers, and investors are more skeptical of tech companies than they’ve been in years.
AI-generated faces bear telltale signs. Don’t be fooled by photo-realistic images of people who never existed.
The debate over gene-edited babies isn’t all that heated. Two-thirds of Americans are OK with editing genes in embryos to prevent disease or disability.
First class isn’t the ultimate in commercial airline luxury. United has a secret, ultra-elite airline status (subscription) that affords a tiny group of super-spenders perks the rest of us can only imagine.
Some oysters spend their winters on dry land. They’re dormant at low temperatures anyhow, so it doesn’t matter whether they’re in the water.
A British D-Day stamp put US troops on the wrong continent. It showed soldiers in Southeast Asia, not the June 6, 1944, beach landing in Normandy, France.
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Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, robot unions, and historically accurate stamps 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 by Tripti Lahiri and edited by Isabella Steger.