Good morning, Quartz readers!
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
Rod Rosenstein faces his confirmation hearing. He’s poised to become the US Justice Department’s second-in-command, meaning he’d control the investigation into possible Russian meddling in the presidential election. Department head Jeff Sessions recused himself after failing to disclose his September meetings with Russia’s ambassador.
Jeff Bezos reveals his space exploration plans. The Amazon CEO, who also founded the space company Blue Origin, is expected to talk about (paywall) reusable rockets that will take tourists to suborbital heights, and eventually into orbit and beyond. Blue Origin has also proposed to NASA a shipping service to the moon.
China’s forex reserves. In January they fell below $3 trillion for the first time in nearly six years, and they’re expected to drop even further in February. It’s unclear how long the central bank can defend both its currency and its reserves if the US dollar keeps getting stronger.
The US releases trade data. January figures are expected to show the nation’s trade deficit expanded to $48.5 billion, up from $44.3 billion in December. That would be one of the widest deficits in five years.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
Donald Trump issued an updated travel ban. The revised executive order, which will take effect on March 16, temporarily bans new US visas for travelers from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Libya. In contrast to the previous presidential order, it exempts current visa holders, removes religious criteria, and takes Iraq off the banned-countries list.
The US began setting up a THAAD antimissile system in South Korea. It’s designed to protect against attacks from North Korea, which yesterday practiced launching missiles at American bases in Japan. China worries the system might defang its own weaponry and has retaliated economically against South Korea, which said today it’sconsidering filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
North Korea banned Malaysians from leaving its borders.Pyongyang has criticized Malaysia’s investigation into the murder of Kim Jong-nam—the half-brother of leader Kim Jong-un—at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Malaysian authorities said seven North Koreans were wanted for questioning and sealed off the North Korean embassy.
A US Navy ship had a close call with Iran. Several fast-attack Iranian boats unexpectedly approached the USNS Invincible, an unarmed radar-tracking vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, and forced it to change course. The “unsafe” incident, which took place on Saturday, was disclosed by US officials on Monday.
ExxonMobil is investing $20 billion in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil giant said it would expand chemical and refining plants at 11 sites, creating tens of thousands of US jobs in the process. The move earned praise from the White House, which pasted a paragraph from the oil giant’s press release directly into its own statement.
QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE
Hanna Kozlowska on America’s mass incarceration crisis:“The story goes like this: The US prison population is ballooning because the ‘War on Drugs’ needlessly put countless drug offenders behind bars; non-violent felons are getting egregiously long sentences; [and] private prisons are a cancer on the system. But criminologist and law professor John Pfaff thinks… the ‘Standard Story’ of mass incarceration gets many things wrong.” Read more here.
At last, doubt returns
To gullible investors
Let’s all thank the Fed
MATTERS OF DEBATE
Bill Gates’ proposal to tax robots is a bad one. Trying to offset jobs lost to technology will squeeze out many benefits and stifle innovation.
“Artificial intelligence” doesn’t mean anything anymore. Most systems aren’t sentient; they’re just software.
A US “Day Without a Woman” strike is tainted by privilege. Most women cannot afford to opt out of work, as organizers have urged.
MESSAGE FROM OUR PARTNER
Why don’t girls have equal access to education globally, and why don’t women receive equal pay and opportunity? VisitTheirworld.org to see how the #RewritingTheCode campaign is challenging the embedded values that prevent a girl from succeeding before she’s even born. By changing attitudes and behaviors that prevent women from fulfilling their potential, the campaign aims to create a future in which no girl is left out of the classroom, the boardroom, or the conversation.
A Basque startup got in trouble for selling neon blue wine. It’s not one of the approved colors (paywall) under EU oenological regulations.
Mercedes is making the world’s most expensive SUV. The Maybach G-Class 650 will cost a bracing $500,000.
India has a school just for grandmothers. They learn reading and math while donning bright pink fuchsia sarees.
A chatbot lawyer is now helping refugees… The software that overturned 160,000 parking tickets now files asylum applications.
…And MIT’s new robot can read your thoughts. It blushes when you think it made a mistake.
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