Good morning, Quartz readers!
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
Officials from China, Pakistan, and Russia assess the threat posed by Islamic State extremists in Afghanistan. The gathering in Moscow will take place without a representative from Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s national unity government.
A conference of Chinese Catholics meets after a six-year-long hiatus. The ninth Chinese-Catholic representative conference will begin Tuesday and run through Thursday in Beijing, which is a step toward mending relations with the Vatican. The country’s 12 million Catholics are divided between the official government-run association and “underground” Catholics whose allegiance is to the Vatican.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visits Pearl Harbor with president Barack Obama. Abe is not expected to apologize for the attack on a US military base there in 1941, which brought the US into World War II. “This will be a visit to console the souls of the victims,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo. “I would like to show to the world the resolve that horrors of war should never be repeated.”
OVER THE WEEKEND
British pop star George Michael died in his home. The 53-year-old singer was widely mourned for his genius at creating catchy, ubiquitous music and for inspiring many as an openly gay celebrity. In 1985, his band Wham! also became the first Western pop act to perform in communist China.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu chided Barack Obama. He was upset about a Dec. 23 vote by the United Nations Security Council seeking the end of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. The resolution passed 14 to 1, with the US abstaining. “Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council,” Netanyahu retorted.
Iran says it got a sweet deal on 80 new Boeing airliners. The order for Iran Air had previously valued the planes at $16.6 billion, but Tehran said on Dec. 25 that it had negotiated to pay about half that price, closer to $8 billion.
Donald Trump had a baffling, chaotic Christmas Eve. With reporters on vacation, the president-elect said he would close his controversial foundation, but law enforcement officials said it cannot be shuttered until they complete investigations into possible illegal activities there. Meanwhile, days after being tapped as the next White House communications director, Jason Miller announced his resignation following allegations of an extra-marital affair with a Trump campaign surrogate.
A Russian military plane crashed in the Black Sea. Vladimir Putin’s erratic efforts to project Russian power abroad saw another setback when a military jet headed for Syria crashed in the Black Sea. The crash was likely due to mechanical or pilot error, and all 92 passengers aboard have been reported dead. The plane was carrying a Russian military choir planning to perform for Russian soldiers fighting in Syria’s bloody civil war.
QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE
Michael J. Coren on a tipping point for renewable energy.“Solar and wind is now the same price or cheaper than fossil fuels in more than 30 countries, the WEF reported in December (pdf). As prices for solar and wind power continue their precipitous fall, two-thirds of all nations will reach the point known as ‘grid parity’ within a few years, even without subsidies.” Read more here.
MATTERS OF DEBATE
German chancellor Angela Merkel is destroying Europe. Heropen-door policy toward immigration is not only damaging her party’s reputation, but the European Union’s security as a whole.
Many young Russians see Putin as a hero. His steadfast stoicism and promise of stability are exactly what millennials who don’t remember decades of totalitarian USSR rule are looking for.
Bigotry did not help elect Trump. Voters in this year’s presidential election simply supported the candidate perceived as the lesser of two evils.
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An ostrich-like dinosaur might explain how birds became toothless. The two-legged Limusaurus inextricabilis lost its teeth and became vegetarian in adulthood, scientists have determined.
A trial vaccine for ebola has shown a 100% protection rate.Thousands of people tested in Guinea were all confirmed as virus-free within 10 days. It could be available for mass use by 2018.
Scientists have created the world’s thinnest wires yet—and they’re made of atoms coated in diamonds. These nanometer-scale wires could help cram more computing power into even-smaller devices.
South Koreans staged a “Santa protest” against president Park Geun-hye. In the ninth-consecutive weekend rally against the embattled leader, demonstrators rang in the holidays by dressing up in Santa suits and mocking Park to the tunes of famous carols.
George Michael was the original Carpool Karaoke invitee. Back when James Corden was still starring in the British sitcom Gavin & Stacey, he took a musical spin with Michael crooning in the passenger seat.
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