Spend Some Time With: Fake Noodles, A Forgotten Musical Genius, and Gang Wars

My weekly three recs for spending slow time with good stuff.

Eat a plate of Pad "Thai" and ponder the fact that what you think is a timelessly Thai dish was actually invented just 80 years ago as part of the government's plan to build a sense of nationhood in an ethnically patchworked country.

See: the documentary Searching for Sugarman, which tells the story of Rodriguez, a talented American folk musician of the early 1970s who bombed in the States but became, unknowingly, a megastar in South Africa, where he was an inspiration to liberal whites during Apartheid. With South Africa's election tomorrow, it's a good time to watch. And don't @ me but I really do think Rodriguez might have been better than Dylan.

Read: A gripping Times feature about block-by-block gang wars in a small city in Honduras. The epidemic of violence in Central America – and the region more broadly – is in part what is pushing so many people to seek refuge and opportunity in United States. How's this for a crazy fact? In just seven Latin American countries, violence has killed more people in recent years than the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen combined.

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.


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.


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.