🌎 Pleas in a pod

Plus: 2022’s hottest gift is a lump of coal
🌎 Pleas in a pod

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

Sam Bankman-Fried’s key aides are collaborating with US authorities. FTX’s former CTO Gary Wang and Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison have reached plea agreements.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked the US for continuous support. In his in-person speech to a joint session of Congress, the Ukrainian president described the funds provided to his country as an “investment” in global security.

Intel is breaking up its graphic chips unit. The move seeks to give the company better chances at competing with rivals Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

The WTO ruled against a US order requiring that Hong Kong products be labeled “made in China.” The trade body argued that the obligation is unwarranted and violates international regulations.

France has fined Microsoft for forcing ad cookies on users. The €60 million ($63.8 million) penalty is the largest imposed this year by the country’s National Commission for Technology and Freedoms (CNIL).

Arizona agreed to dismantle a border barrier made of shipping containers. The Biden administration has sued against the controversial project, which cost the state an estimated $82 million.

The family of ousted Peruvian president Pedro Castillo was granted asylum in Mexico. Castillo, however, remains detained in Peru.

What to watch for

Change is in the air at the typically conservative Bank of Japan (BOJ). The central bank decided on Dec. 20 to allow the 10-year bond yield to move 0.5% on either side of its zero percent rate target, widening the range from the previous 0.25%.

Keeping that yield bond curve as close to zero as possible is a major ingredient in the “Abenomics” recipe that BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda has closely followed since he began his term in March 2013. He insisted the decision did not signal the end of this strategy, but analysts have interpreted it as a sign of willingness to change.

The appointment of Kuroda’s successor in April might offer a chance for other policy shifts. A report in Japanese media this week suggested the government might seek a more flexible timeline on taming unusually high inflation. The latest inflation figures, scheduled for Dec. 23, are expected to show a new four-decade high.

2022’s hottest gift is a lump of coal

Global use of coal will hit an all-time high in 2022. Coal use is expected to peak in 2023, level out by 2025, and then drop again.

This year’s burning demand for the dirtiest of fossil fuels was unforeseen. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, coal use fell by 4.4%, leading to a sunny prediction that the energy source was on its way out. But now two trends—war and weather—are refueling coal consumption.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February dashed COP26 hopes to “consign coal to history” as it upended supply chains, drove up natural gas prices, and triggered a global energy crisis. Droughts and heatwaves from China to France also reduced hydro and nuclear energy supply, forcing countries to seek other sources.

The silver lining to coal’s comeback? These twin trends are also accelerating investment in renewable energy.

India has a growing unemployment problem

Unemployment in India has reached a higher level than at the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, when millions of people lost their jobs. To make matters worse, the pace of job addition has simultaneously slowed.

A line chart showing India's rising unemployment rate in urban and rural settings. Urban is much higher and increasing faster.
Graphic: Mimansa Verma

While some hoped the country’s ​resilient farm sector would soften the losses, there’s little evidence the agricultural industry can absorb any more workers than it already has.

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Surprising discoveries

A 120 million-year-old fossilized lunch was found. The feathered microraptor was munching on some ancient mammal relatives.

Elderly Chilean rats could help with dementia research. Degus with long lifespans could be a model for studying sporadic Alzheimer’s disease.

Ollyday Artonpay ancay peaksay Igpay Atinlay. Allow us to translate: Dolly Parton can speak Pig Latin (and very fluently at that).

Mangoes may taste better if you stick them in front of a laptop. Blue light makes the tropical fruit both redder and sweeter.

Milk chocolate may actually be better for you than dark chocolate. But only because some dark chocolates contain heavy metals.

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