Kim Jong Un address, Chinese moon probe, New Year’s Eve drones

Good morning and best wishes for 2019, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today and on Jan. 1

The US-South Korea deal on military cost-sharing 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 takes office tomorrow with more than 3,000 police and military personnel providing security. Bolsonaro was stabbed in September while campaigning in a bitterly divisive election. Brazil’s largest left-wing parties plan to boycott the inauguration, which US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is expected to attend.

Germany begins offering a third gender option on official documents. As of Jan. 1, 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.

China’s top court begins hearing intellectual property cases. The supreme court will on Jan. 1 begin hearing IP cases previously handled by provincial courts, elevating an issue that has been a major point of contention in the ongoing US-China trade war.

A slew of creative works enter the public domain in the US. Films, books, songs, and other artistic works from 1923 once protected by US copyright will finally be in the public domain. In 1998, Disney successfully lobbied for a 20-year extension, but it’s coming to an end.

NASA photographs the farthest object ever visited. The US space agency will mark the New Year with a historic flyby of Ultima Thule, some four billion miles from Earth, in what may be the oldest part of space ever photographed.

Markets close out the year. Global investors will be glad to leave behind their worst losses in a decade, although more volatility is expected in 2019. Tokyo and Shanghai’s stock markets are closed today and tomorrow. European and US stock markets close on Jan. 1.

Over the weekend

The US slowed its Syria withdrawal. Senator Lindsey Graham, a critic of Trump’s  controversial decision earlier this month to call back roughly 2,000 US troops from Syria, said on Sunday that the president had agreed to “slowing things down in a smart way.”

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 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 19 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, and heavy rain. Some cities will only vote in March as a result of an Ebola outbreak, a decision disputed by opposition parties. 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,” Xinhua news agency reported. It didn’t say when the landing would occur.

Quartz obsession interlude

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.

Matters of debate

Join the conversation with the new Quartz app!

Robot workers need legal rights. Humans have a long history of abusing machines, 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 on which they rely.

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.

Surprising discoveries

First class isn’t the ultimate in commercial airline luxury. United’s ultra-elite status (subscription) affords a tiny group of super-spenders perks the rest of us can only imagine.

Some oysters can 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.

Berlin is mulling using feminist adult films for sex-ed. The city’s ruling Social Democrats want to challenge online porn’s gender stereotypes.

Times Square’s New Year’s Eve party will be monitored by drone. For the first time, the NYPD will use a drone to supplement the 1,225 cameras watching the popular ball-drop celebrations.

Quartz will not send a Daily Brief on Jan. 1.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, robot union leaders, and historically inaccurate stamps to Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Adam Rasmi and edited by Jackie Bischof.

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