French elections, Merkel’s vote, sweet potato inferno

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Angela Merkel defends her refugee policy. The German chancellor has faced strong criticism from within her party for accepting so many refugees, and the issue is expected to be debated and reflected in a “vote of confidence” for the leader.

China talks economic cooperation with Eurasian nations. President Xi Jinping is hosting the 14th Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, which will be attended by Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The countries are expected to discuss ways to expand industrial cooperation and security links.

European Union foreign ministers discuss terrorism. Attempts to block arms trafficking and international terrorist financing are on the table, as are sanctions against Russia, the ongoing conflict in Iraq and Syria, and free trade with Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ premieres in Hollywood. The hugely hyped film, set 30 years after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, will play at three Los Angeles theaters today; journalists covering the event have been asked not to publish spoilers.

Over the weekend

World leaders sealed a climate deal. Global representatives agreed to try to keep temperatures from rising by more than 1.5°C, and to create a fund to help poor countries deal with the effects of climate change.

France’s Front National was beaten in elections. The far-right party won none of the 13 contested regions in municipal elections, despite winning almost half in an earlier round; over 90% of the votes have been counted. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party won seven regions.

Tensions between Russia and Turkey escalated. Russia says its destroyer Smetlivy was forced to fire small arms as a warning at an unidentified Turkish fishing vessel in the Aegean Sea, after the boat failed to respond to verbal warnings. The incident follows Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet.

Saudi Arabia elected its first female officials. At least 19 women gained seats in the country’s historic municipal elections (paywall) that saw womenvote for the first time. It’s a small number of the 2,100 seats available, but is seen as an important step forward for women’s rights.

Ted Cruz soared in the polls. The US Republican presidential hopefulleaped 21 percentage points in Iowa, in a poll among those likely to vote in the Republican caucuses. The Texas junior senator even gained a lead over Donald Trump in certain polls.

Anti-government protests in Poland. As many as 50,000 peoplemarched against right-wing president Andrzej Duda in Warsaw on Saturday, accusing him of meddling in the appointment of judges.

Africa has about one doctor for every 5000 people. Sub-Saharan Africa has a doctor problem, and its health worker deficit is projected to rise to 4.3 million by 2035. But training new doctors is just the beginning; addressing the gap will require a more holistic approach.

Quartz obsession interlude

Nicholas de Monchaux on the aesthetics of ‘Star Wars’ and Apple.“The Apple building and the Death Star, with all their closed perfection, reveal a great deal about why today’s world looks and works the way it does. In particular, they point to the conflict and balance between order and openness, between power and the distribution of power, that must be constantly negotiated, and renegotiated, as we craft culture, city, and society at the beginning of the 21st century.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Luke Skywalker was radicalized. Obi Wan targeted Luke for radicalization and taught him to say prayers before committing attacks.

Trump has already hurt the US’s global reputation. And the damage he’s done may be harder to undo than might be expected.

Most nativity scenes are a lie. The donkey, three kings, and sheep are all conjecture. And Jesus and his parents were not blonde or Caucasian.

Slouching over our iPhones makes us grouchy. Bad posture can causelower self-esteem and bad moods (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Liars are more animated when they talk. To spot one, don’t look into their eyes, look at their hands.

A silo of sweet potatoes has been burning since Thanksgiving. Thefire is proving impossible to put out.

Scientists discovered a tiny star with a giant storm. The storm has been raging for two years, and is larger than Earth.

Australia opened its first hangover clinic. It features an IV drip, oxygen therapy, and a VIP recovery lounge.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, hangover cures, and sweet potato recipes to You can follow uson Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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