French presidential debates, #Gates meets #Trump, fake-news warnings

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

France’s presidential hopefuls face off in their first televised debate. The five leading candidates will duke it out over topics such as immigration, security, and economic recovery. Currently leading the polls is Emmanuel Macron, a centrist, closely followed by far-right conservative Marine Le Pen. The debate is expected to be a chance for conservative Francois Fillon, who has been embroiled in fraud accusations, to reinsert himself into the race.

The director of the FBI testifies about investigations into Russia. In a public hearing James Comey will take questions from lawmakers. Many are wondering about the ties between the Trump administration and Moscow, and whether there was collusion between the two in swinging the US presidential election in Trump’s favor, with assistance from Russian hackers.

The euro zone’s finance ministers gather in Brussels. The Eurogroup will address ongoing strife in Greece and the International Monetary Fund’s bailout program. Meanwhile the future role of its president, Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is looking unclear. His Labour party was decimated in recent elections and may not be part of Holland’s new coalition government.

Bill Gates meets with Donald Trump. The face-to-face comes after the Gates Foundation said it is “deeply troubled” by the US president’s 2018 budget proposal. An agenda hasn’t been released, but a statement from the Gates Foundation said it has “a long history of working with officials” on issues like domestic education and global health and development. Gates and Trump also met in December to discuss innovation.

OVER THE WEEKEND

The US turned its back on free trade at the G20. International financial leaders hoped that US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin would present a tempered version of Donald Trump’s aggressive trade policy at their meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany. But for the first time in years, the G20 did not declare its opposition to protectionism.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson rounded out his Asia tour by meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The highest-level meetings to date between the Trump administration and Chinese leaders were notable for their surprisingly friendly tone. Before the meeting, Trump had called out China on Twitter for doing “little” to help the US deal with North Korea.

Donald Trump pointedly ignored Angela Merkel’s offer for a handshake at a photoshoot. The German chancellor’s handshake diss added to the strangeness of the meeting between the two leaders after Trump suggested that they shared the common experience of having been wiretapped by Barack Obama. Germans, for their part, say the meeting “could have been a lot worse.”

North Korea says its military tested a new “high-performance rocket engine.” If the new technology works, it will be a boon to the country’s efforts to make accurate intercontinental ballistic missiles. The test comes as tensions over North Korea and the THAAD missile-defense system are seriously straining relations between South Korea and China.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Turks living in Europe to battle injustice—by having as many children as possible. “Make not three, but five children,” Erdoğan said. “Because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you.” His comments come as nationalist politicians in Europe are gaining popularity by stirring up anti-Turkish sentiment.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Yinka Adegoke on Nollywood, Nigeria’s burgeoning film empire. “Nigeria’s movie industry has become the country’s second largest employer and shows huge potential as an export product to the rest of the world. This is especially important for a Nigerian government which is keenly aware of the need to diversify from its over-reliance on oil for 90% of its export revenue.” Read more here.

MATTERS OF DEBATE

You can’t be socially progressive and economically conservative. The hard truth is that for society to progress, it has tospend money.

Automation increases poverty and inequality, not unemployment. That explains why productivity and employment are growing while wages remain stagnant.

The US’s missile-defense system in South Korea is actually a gift to Kim Jong-un. By creating a major point of contention between Beijing and Washington, THAAD strengthens North Korea’s hand.

QUARTZ ANNOUNCEMENT

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SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

Orlando, Florida wants to turn itself into a theme park for self-driving cars. Boy bands, palm trees, and… autonomous vehicles?

Facebook rolled out fake-news warnings. The pop-ups force you to acknowledge you are posting an article that has been debunked by independent fact-checkers.

Plants may be millions of years older than we thought. A new fossil discovery in central India is pushing back the timeline for theearliest-known plant life.

YouPorn’s viewers tanked during the Nintendo Switch launch.The website experienced a 17% drop in traffic; users may have been keeping themselves busy with the critically acclaimed new Zelda game.

It took the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube a month to solve his own puzzle. That’s still much faster than it would take the rest of us.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, plant fossils, and completed Rubik’s Cubes tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.

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