People take part in a protest as police stand guard in Caracas, Venezuela.Reuters

What We’re Following

What comes next in the U.S.-Venezuela relationship? Venezuela has been ravaged by an economic crisis under the leadership of President Nicolás Maduro, and yesterday, the Trump administration took the drastic step of recognizing the 35-year-old opposition leader Juan Guaidó—who declared himself “interim president”—as head of the country. The move is heavy in symbolism, but it’s unclear how, if at all, the Trump administration would back up the rhetoric if Maduro weaponizes the military to clamp down on his dissenters. (Get a sense of the scale of these anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela, in this photo gallery.)

It’s never been a walk in the park to run a major university, but the task is becoming all the more challenging, as the recently departed presidents of Michigan State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can attest. College presidents are more likely to get fired than in previous decades, recent research shows, as they’re sandwiched between angry students and governing boards. The endless politicking means that fewer qualified candidates may be willing to take the job.

Will Russian leader Vladimir Putin invade this small city in a small country that borders Russia, the way he did in eastern Ukraine with Crimea in 2014? Russian-speaking Narva, a city located on the easternmost point of Estonia, could become the epicenter of major geopolitical conflict. Estonia is a member NATO, and should Putin make such a push, it would test a fundamental cornerstone of the alliance: Article V, which requires all NATO members, including the U.S., to come to the defense of any other attacked member state. Article V has only been invoked once before.

Saahil Desai


Evening Reads

Canada Goose coat

(Left: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters. Right: Courtesy Deborah Copaken)

After Deborah Copaken scoured the internet to find the best possible coat to fend off the wintertime shivers, she had her sights on a $925 Canada Goose parka:

“Aside from my children’s college education, monthly rent, various medical procedures, and a few pieces of long-lasting furniture, I don’t generally spend that kind of money. I don’t own a home. I’ve never owned a car. Could I really walk around with that white Canada Goose patch on my arm? Maybe I could just cut it off.”

But when her coat arrived, it wasn’t what it seemed.
→ Read the rest.


Amazon warehouse

(Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Ever wonder what happens to that ill-fitting pair of pants or lightbulb of the wrong wattage that you purchased and then returned to Amazon? Sometimes, they get sent to a liquidation website that bundles together the accoutrements and resells them:

“Every box is a core sample drilled through the digital crust of platform capitalism. On Amazon’s website, sophisticated sorting algorithms relentlessly rank and organize these products before they go out into the world, but once the goods return to the warehouse, they shake free of the database and become random objects thrown together into a box by fate.”
→ Read the rest.


Guess the Image

(Wang Mingzhu / VCG via Getty)

The above photograph is an aerial view of workers on the roof of what’s being billed as the world’s largest single-terminal airport, set for completion in 2019. The estimated price tag for the construction has soared to $14 billion U.S. dollars, and planners hope that by 2025, this airport would shuttle as many as 72 million passengers a year.

This international airport is located on the outskirts of which major city? (Go here for the answer.)


Urban Developments

Diller, Scofidio and Renfro

Diller, Scofidio and Renfro

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing city dwellers around the world. Karim Doumar shares today’s top stories:

Atop the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ agenda this week: How local leaders can insulate their communities from the federal shutdown’s effects.

In some ways, this country is divided into two: Those who take public transit to work, and those who drive. Where do you fall?

London’s next concert hall design looks crazy. But its skewed angled, crazy-Toblerone-stuck-to-a-Modernist-box appearance has a purpose.

For more updates like these from the urban world, subscribe to CityLab’s Daily newsletter.


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