Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
NATO will hold a frank talk with Russia. “When tensions run high, as today, it is even more important to have direct dialogue with Russia,” said NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. Topics on the agenda include the crisis in Ukraine, and Europe’s overall security situation. European leaders are also concerned about Moscow’s relationship with US president-elect Donald Trump.
South Korea begins a trial for its impeached president’s confidante. Choi Soon-sil, 40-year friend to disgraced president Park Geun-hye and widely regarded as the person at the heart of his corruption scandal, is being charged with abuse of power, extortion, and attempted fraud. While the trial is open to the public, the court—worried about overcrowding—has raffled admission tickets.
The US electoral college officially votes. America’s 538-member electoral college, usually considered something of a formality, has been urged this year to block Donald Trump as president. Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes, but won via electoral college votes. The CIA and FBI also announced the recent discovery of Russian interference in the election results, prompting some to call for delays of the vote.
Over the weekend
China said it will give back a seized US drone. The Pentagon complained when China seized an American underwater drone in the South China Sea last week, escalating US-Asia tensions—but it was announced on Saturday that the drone will be returned. “Let them keep it,” Donald Trump scoffed on Twitter. “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back.”
Germany threatened to punish Facebook for fake news. The chairman of Germany’s Social Democratic Party proposed a new law that would require companies like Facebook to set up round-the-clock offices specifically to deal with fake news, and be fined €500,000 for each fake post. Germany fears fake news could affect its parliamentary elections next year (paywall).
Venezuela extended the lifespan of its 100-bolívar bill. President Nicolas Maduro, after sparking panic by pulling the country’s largest denomination note from circulation last week, said the measure will not take effect until January. Venezuela’s chaotic situation echoes that of India, where prime minister Narendra Modi implemented demonetization policies last month to curb illegal dealings.
Evacuations in Aleppo resumed under a “people-swap” deal. After two failed cease-fires, the evacuation of thousands of civilians and rebels has been allowed to resume in Syria’s government-controlled eastern Aleppo. Under a complex deal between pro-Syrian government forces and rebels, thousands will be given safe passage out of Aleppo as others are also evacuated from two rebel-controlled towns.
Star Wars brought a last-minute jolt to the box office. Disney’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” had the second-biggest December opening on record. The film raked in $155 million at North American theaters—despite winter storms blanketing most of the continent (paywall)—and an additional $135.5 million internationally.
Quartz obsession interlude
Olivia Goldhill on Silicon Valley’s embrace of Stoicism. “But there’s also something a little, well, eye-rollingly predictable about Silicon Valley elites latching onto a philosophy that teaches them how to accept the things they cannot change. This is a world that’s already seen as doing far too little to address real world concerns, is largely populated by privileged white men who are less affected by such issues, and is notorious for being a closed bubble.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Neuroscience can predict which kids grow up to be criminals. Examining the brain health of three-year-olds in this way is helpful, not deterministic, researchers argue.
The female orgasm is a form of social control. The latest theory about the purpose of the female orgasm is that it allows men to leverage control over their partners.
Americans who say they’re always busy are viewed as more important. A study found “busyness” confers higher social status in the US.
Anne Frank’s family may not have been betrayed. Their hiding place could have been discovered by mere coincidence, Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House revealed in a paper.
UPS delivered an assault rifle instead of a child’s Christmas gift. In lieu of a toy plane, a Long Island couple received a “semi-automatic rifle along with a scope, a stand, an ammo clip and copies of an Arizona man’s driver’s license and concealed-weapons permit.”
Whipped cream is running low this holiday season. A fatal explosion at a nitrous oxide plant earlier this year has stunted the US’s supply of whipped cream.
The biggest glacier in East Antarctica is melting. Warm ocean waters are chipping at the largest ice sheet in the world, suggesting mounting global climate instability.
A Pagan priest is allowed to wear goat horns in his driver’s license photo. The horns count as “religious attire.”
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