Myanmar ruling, Wuhan escalation, falling iguanas

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today 

The UN’s highest court rules on Myanmar. The International Court of Justice delivers its decision on whether emergency measures should be taken to stop Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims. The historic ruling may end up lacking weight, as experts aren’t betting on Myanmar abiding by the Hague’s orders.

The Doomsday Clock could move. Taking climate change and the threat of nuclear war into account, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will announce the proper position of the clock’s symbolic minute hand, which shows how close we are to a “midnight” apocalypse (currently, the clock is set to 11:58pm).

The European Central Bank meets. Investors will be watching Christine Lagarde’s policy statement delivery for signs of a hawkish mindset and clues about future adjustments. The bank’s expected announcement of a year-long strategy review could reroute efforts towards previous inflation goals.

Davos enters its third day. Germany’s Angela Merkel, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó, Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, Italy’s Giuseppe Conte, and United Nations secretary-general António Guterres are all scheduled to speak at the World Economic Forum. Get the scoop alongside Quartz reporters by signing up for our special Davos Daily Brief.

While you were sleeping

Wuhan shut down travel as coronavirus spreads. The Chinese city of 11 million that’s ground zero for the outbreak closed airports, train stations, and public transportation—complicating the busy Lunar New Year travel season—as the country’s official death total climbed to 17. A coronavirus vaccine is reportedly in the works, while new research finds the disease may have originated in snakes. The World Health Organization delayed its decision on whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency until Thursday.

Canada began its case against Huawei’s CFO. Prosecutors said bank fraud—not Iran sanctions violations—is the main charge against Meng Wanzhou, who is fighting a US extradition request.

UN investigators said Jeff Bezos’s phone was hacked to suppress media coverage. They’ve urged member states to investigate the incident—which was allegedly an attempt to manipulate reporting from the Bezos-owned Washington Post—with an eye to unraveling larger patterns within Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s behavior.

The US confirmed it will expand its controversial travel ban. Three years after largely barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, the White House is planning to add four African countries—Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania—to that list.

Canada proposed a $196.5 million fine for Volkswagen’s diesel emission violations. The automaker pleaded guilty to dozens of counts after importing into Canada 128,000 diesel vehicles that did not meet the country’s emissions standards.

Quartz membership

In the 2000s, the average open-world game took just under 30 hours to complete. But by the 2010s, many had stretched into 50-hour sagas. Quartz’s Amrita Khalid takes a look at how major game studios came to decide that longer is better.

Quartz daily obsession

Is the Mona Lisa all it’s cracked up to be? At least 30,000 people line up each day at the Louvre to see Leonardo da Vinci’s painting for only 30 seconds, a process that earned it the distinction of world’s most disappointing tourist attraction, according to Britons. The piece only came to fame via a heist, and there may be another Mona Lisa out there. Dive deep in today’s Quartz Daily Obsession.

Matters of debate

Should tech lock out law enforcement? On one hand, data encryption should account for authorities with a warrant—on the other, fully data protection should be first priority.

Fashion needs oil-industry level regulation. France’s environmental minister has made real progress in heading off fashion’s polluting tendencies, and other governments should take note.

Books are magical, but not magical objects. Ripping them in half, writing in them, dog-earing them—their purpose is to deliver content, not to be fetishized.

Surprising discoveries

The world’s oldest asteroid impact might have ended an ice age. The crater is 2.2 billion years old, and is in western Australia.

The fires in Australia reveal an ancient aquatic system older than the pyramids. For centuries, they’ve been covered in thick vegetation.

Best picture: atoms bonding and separating. The tiny event has long eluded researchers, who have just captured it on camera for the first time.

Beware of falling iguanas, Floridians. A cold snap will stun the reptiles, who then fall out of trees and, potentially, onto the heads of unsuspecting passersby.

Questionable painting restorers strike again. A lamb in a 15th-century oil painting now sports humanoid eyes, sultry lips, and ears that are not where ears go.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, the first half of a book, and the second half when we’re ready to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app on iOS or Android, and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Liz Webber and Susan Howson.