Good morning, Q-MHI readers!
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
North Korea holds a military parade. Pyongyang recently decidedto hold a celebration of the founding of its army on the day before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Some see the move as an act of defiance amid a thaw in relations between the two countries.
North Korea’s official news agency said last month (Jan. 23) that it will mark Feb. 8 as Army-Building Day, the official anniversary of the Korean People’s Army—an event previously celebrated on April 25. South Korea said earlier that it had detected signs that North Korea was mobilizing around 13,000 troops and 200 pieces of equipment near an airport in Pyongyang for what could be a military parade rehearsal. According to MHI-NK News, the last time Feb. 8 was used to mark the army anniversary was 1977, after which the date was changed to April 25.
Meanwhile, the South Korean government is sticking to its message that the public, including politicians and the media, should get behind the Olympics detente efforts. As some protesters in Seoul in January burned images of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the North Korean flag, president Moon emphasized the fragility and rarity of the current diplomatic breakthrough, and implored South Koreans to “show their support in maintaining and expanding the dialog as they will protect a candle in the wind.” Another unnamed South Korean official, the Hankyoreh newspaper reported, said that he “would like it if people looked at the larger ‘forest’ here, which is that we’re heading toward the ‘Peace Olympics’ we were hoping for.”
The UK’s central bank meets. The Bank of England is expected to hold rates steady and signal it will raise them up to three times over the next several years. But the future of Britain’s monetary policy ultimately depends on the path of Brexit.
Twitter reports earnings. Investors will be focusing on Twitter’s user metrics following recent attempts to clamp down on the spread of fake news on the platform, and a New York Times investigation exposing the widespread buying of fake accounts to boost influence.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
Google execs are floating a plan to fight fake news. Quartz’s Heather Timmons discovered that Google executives at Davos were debating how they can play a role in combating fake news and bots on Facebook and Twitter. Hundreds of millions of people rely on Google’s search engine, which puts the company in a unique position to tell users whether info is trustworthy.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink is going full Warren Buffett.BlackRock is reportedly (paywall) planning to raise over $10 billion to make direct investments in companies, in the same way that Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway does. The move would pit the world’s largest asset manager against private-equity titans like Carlyle Group.
Germany hit a trade high.German farmers have some good news to report as International Green Week kicks off in Berlin. Exports of German agricultural produce and farm machinery reached a new peak last year despite a challenging environment. The country exported €1.279 trillion ($1.571 trillion) worth of goods in 2017, while imports totaled €1.034 trillion. That’s an all-time record, according to the National Statistics Office.
Bermuda became the first territory in the world to repeal same-sex marriage.British island territory swaps marriage for domestic partnerships for LGBT couples in move criticised as attack on equal rights, The governor of the British island territory, John Rankin, said he wanted to balance conservative views on marriage equality. Same-sex marriage became legal in Bermuda in May 2017.
The World Bank chief compared cryptocurrencies to “Ponzi schemes.” Jim Yong Kim made the remark at a Wednesday night event in Washington, but added that the development bank is looking carefully at blockchain technology to see if it can be used in developing countries to reduce corruption.“In terms of using Bitcoin or some of the cryptocurrencies, we are also looking at it, but I’m told the vast majority of cryptocurrencies are basically Ponzi schemes,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said Wednesday at an event in Washington. “It’s still not really clear how it’s going to work.”Mean while, Nouriel Roubini, Roubini Macro Associates chairman, discusses the downsides to cryptocurrencies and calls Bitcoin the “mother of all bubbles.” He speaks on “Bloomberg Surveillance.”
Q-MHI OBSESSION INTERLUDE
Dave Gershgorn on Google’s powerful AI tools that were horribly misused. “Anyone can download AI software and use it for anything they have the data to create. That means everything from faking political speeches (with help from the cadre of available voice-imitating AI) to generating fake revenge porn. All digital media is a series of ones and zeroes, and artificial intelligence is proving itself proficient at artfully arranging them to generate things that never happened.”
MATTERS OF DEBATE
The Olympics are a just a mass global propaganda tool.Chapter 5 of the Olympic charter states “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The ostensible purpose of that rule is to allow for the huge global sporting event to bring people together, without fear of discrimination or of political upset.
The Olympics is meant to be a blank slate where all the participant countries are united as one. That, at least, is the utopian view of what the Olympics is, and what its governing body aims for. In practice, It’s a large, expensive exercise in distracting citizens from problems and atrocities they face back home.
Journalists should fix the gender imbalance in their stories. Not quoting more female experts suggests that men are the best sources.Gender biases are also entrenched in the media, where, in the words of the sociologist Gaye Tuchman, women are being “symbolically annihilated.” As Adrienne noted in her piece, “both in newsrooms and in news articles, men are leaders—they make more money, get more bylines, spend more time on camera, and are quoted far more often than women.” Again, there’s plenty of data on this. Several analyses show that in news stories, male voices outnumber female ones, typically by a factor of three—the same ratio Adrienne found in her work.
The global fishing industry defies economic logic. Government subsidies are propping up a deeply unprofitable and destructive business.It’s often said that there are plenty more fish in the sea. For most of human history, that was true. From ancient Minoans to postwar industrial trawl fleets, mankind found wealth from harvesting more and more of the sea’s seemingly endless abundance of creatures. The more fishermen tried, the more their catches grew, such that, between 1950 and the mid-1990s, global fish landings more than quintupled.And then, suddenly, that stopped.Since then, the world has hauled up roughly the same volume of fish out of the ocean each year—about 85 million tonnes, on average.
Nowadays, more people are using more boats, more fuel, and more technology to catch sea creatures than ever before in human history. The global fleet doubled in the last four decades, according to UN FAO data, and the ranks of fishermen has more than tripled. At the same time, heavy technology investment—in things like more powerful engines, fancier fishing gear and spiffy fish-location devices—likely boosted fishing efficiency of fishing capital and labor, according to 2017 World Bank report, The Sunken Billions Revisited.
Taken together, global fishing effort has surged at least fourfold in the last 40 years, while the level of catches has not even doubled, says Charlotte de Fontaubert, senior fisheries specialist at the World Bank.
The Nordic Olympic team’s chefs accidentally ordered 13,500 extra eggs. Changing one syllable in South Korea’s complex counting system can mean the difference between 1,500 and 15,000.Chefs for Norwegian athletes confronted with ‘half a truckload’ of eggs after an order at South Korean games went wrong,
Chefs with the Norwegian Winter Olympic team found themselves with 13,500 unwanted eggs after what they describe as an error while ordering for their hungry athletes from their South Korean base.The chefs, who are catering for their country’s 109 competitors at the Pyeongchang games, ordered 15,000 eggs to be delivered to their kitchen instead of 1,500 needed.Chef Stale Johansen, said his team “received half a truckload of eggs” and that there was “no end to the delivery” adding it was “absolutely unbelievable.”Fortunately for the team, who, according to Johansen have enjoyed eating fresh salmon and tacos in the past, once the chefs realised their mistake they were able to return the 13,500 surplus to the grocer.
The first Britons had dark skin, blue eyes, and curly hair. A new DNA analysis is shedding light on a 10,000-year-old skeleton known as “Cheddar Man.”The fossil was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Intense speculation has built up around Cheddar Man’s origins and appearance because he lived shortly after the first settlers crossed from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the last ice age. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.
Unicef is recruiting gamers to mine cryptocurrencies. Proceeds from newly generated Ethereum will aid Syrian children displaced by civil war.It is still in its infancy, raising little more than €900 (£795) so far, but it follows increasingly high-profile efforts by the UN to find uses for the technology.These include everything from helping to reduce the 30% of UN aid budgets lost to corruption to building online identity portfolios for refugees, reconciling everything from health and education records to entitlements.The World Food Programme (WFP) has used Ethereum to deliver $1.4m in food vouchers, via the use of iris recognition scanners in camp supermarkets, to around 10,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, a scheme it plans to expand tenfold in four camps.
Rhodri Davies, head of policy at the Charities Aid Foundation, is enthusiastic about the potential of blockchain systems. He underlines the distinction between cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin and the underlying blockchain technology, and what it can potentially offer aid agencies and charities.“There’s been a big increase in interest in the last 12 to 18 months that has percolated through as it has become more mainstream.
Squishing water with diamond anvils produces “superionic ice.” The opaque water formed into hexagonal crystals is about 60% denser than normal ice.Percy W. Bridgman ’04, professor of physics, can now make ice which will not melt until a temperature higher than the boiling point of water is attained. Superionic ice is strange, Water is made of two hydrogen atoms linked to an oxygen atom, forming a V-shape. At such pressure and temperature, however, the bonds break apart. What you get instead is oxygen ions in crystalline form and hydrogen ions flowing through it—that is, a solid and a liquid at the same time, researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of Rochester, and the University of California at Berkeley report creating superionic ice.
This will be the most African Winter Olympics ever. A record 13 athletes from eight countries— Eritrea, Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, and Togo—will participate.
For African athletes, the journey to the Winter Olympics is typically anything but smooth-sailing. An obvious obstacle for African Winter Olympics hopefuls is the absence of weather conditions that aid training. As a result, a majority of African athletes that have competed at the Winter Olympics have either been born or/and trained outside the continent.
But there’s a bigger record up for grabs for all 13 African athletes in Pyeongchang, South Korea: becoming the first African to win a Winter Olympics medal.