Zuma, Musk, and the Randzuma, Musk, and the Rand

In our digital world, more and more important decisions are now made by algorithms. On Tuesday, the rand, South Africa’s currency, instantly surged more than one percent when a dubious website published a fake story that President Jacob Zuma had resigned, triggering an automated decision to buy.


At first, the story seemed credible, because Zuma is no longer leader of the African National Congress (ANC), his political party, and because some within the ANC (and the opposition) are working hard to force him from office.

Then the story got weirder. News wires quoted a US congressional aide who said that Zuma was “missing.” Algorithmic traders didn’t immediately realize that, in this case, the name Zuma referred not to South Africa’s president but to the code name for Elon Musk’s latest mission to launch a military satellite. (Musk is from South Africa, not that that clarifies much of anything.)

Is that satellite really missing? No one will say. Is Jacob Zuma missing? No, he’s still in power, at least for now, aggravating investors and many South Africans. Did the rand recover? Yes, within minutes. But these are the kinds of stories we better get used to. Fake news and algorithms will sometimes combine to generate market-moving confusion. Don’t be surprised when bad actors try to mimic the conditions that created this situation to upset financial markets — and, perhaps, politics.

Scientists, engineers and technologists are turning to nature in search of solutions to climate change. Biomimicry is now being applied in the energy sector, medicine, architecture, communications, transport and agriculture in a bid to make human life on this planet more sustainable and limit the impacts of global warming. New inventions have been inspired by humpback whales, kingfishers and mosquitoes.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

The drumbeat for regulating artificial intelligence (AI) is growing louder. Earlier this week, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, became the latest high-profile Silicon Valley figure to call for governments to put guardrails around technologies that use huge amounts of (sometimes personal) data to teach computers how to identify faces, make decisions about mortgage applications, and myriad other tasks that previously relied on human brainpower.

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January 27 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp. But even as some 40 heads of state gathered in Jerusalem this week to commemorate the six million Jews who were killed, a recent Pew survey revealed that many American adults don't know basic facts about the ethnic cleansing of Europe's Jews during the Second World War. Fewer than half of those polled knew how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and close to a third didn't know when it actually happened. Here's a look at some of the numbers.

1: The Greek parliament has elected a woman president for the first time since the country's independence some 200 years ago. A political outsider, Katerina Sakellaropoulou is a high court judge with no known party affiliation. "Our country enters the third decade of the 21st century with more optimism," Greece's prime minister said.

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A quarantine in China– Local authorities have locked down the city of Wuhan, the source of the outbreak of a new and potentially deadly respiratory virus that, as of Thursday morning, had infected more than 540 people in at least six countries. Other nearby cities were also hit by travel restrictions. Rail and air traffic out of Wuhan has been halted. Public transportation is shut, and local officials are urging everyone to stay put unless they have a special need to travel. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people, many of whom were about to travel for the Chinese New Year. We're watching to see whether these extraordinary measures help stem the outbreak, but also to see how the people affected respond to the clampdown.

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