Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—China bans foreign media, Apple vs FBI, cyborg rats

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What to watch for today and over the weekend

Nepal and India try to work out their differences. In a visit to India, Nepali prime minister K.P. Oli will lobby his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to end a four-month economic blockade. Nepal has accused India of using the blockade to support ethnic minorities who oppose Nepal’s constitution.

Niger holds elections on Sunday. Ballot boxes open after months of drama in the lead-up to presidential and legislative elections. Fifteen candidates are running for president, including incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou and opposition leader Hama Amadou, currently jailed on charges of baby trafficking.

US presidential candidates face voters in Nevada and South Carolina. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are closer than ever in the polls ahead of Nevada’s Democratic caucus on Saturday. On the same day, Republicans will face off in South Carolina’s GOP primary, where Donald Trump’s substantial lead may spell the end for Jeb Bush.

While you were sleeping

Beijing banned all foreign media from publishing online in China. The outright ban could apply to gaming companies like Sony, as well as streaming companies such as Netflix, in addition to news media. Chinese companies will now need to obtain a license before publishing even maps and images.

Apple won more time to fight a court order. It now has until next Friday (Feb. 26) to respond to a ruling forcing it to break into one of its iPhones. US authorities want Apple to unlock the iPhone of a terror suspect; Apple said that would set a dangerous precedent.

South Korean authorities raided Volkswagen’s offices. Prosecutors also searched the offices of Audi, the German company’s sister brand, and the home of one executive in Seoul. The nation is conducting its own investigation into cheating on emissions tests.

The Pope staked out new ground on contraception. Francis said birth control could be acceptable to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. He also took a pop at Donald Trump, whom he said was “not Christian” because of his anti-immigration viewpoint.

MGM Resorts reported a surprise loss. The casino operator said write-downs in Macau outweighed growth in Las Vegas, leading to a fourth-quarter loss of $781 million. But declines in the world’s biggest gambling hub appear to be bottoming out, it said.

Walmart posted disappointing sales. The world’s largest retailer announced an 8% year-on-year decline in fourth-quarter net income to $4.6 billion, due in part to low sales prices and online competition. Growth in its own online sales is also slowing rapidly.

Quartz obsession interlude

Mike Murphy on how to keep the Feds out of your phone, even if Apple won’t. “Apple may have cooperated with the government and unlocked phones up to 70 times in the past… So if the Feds—or for that matter, criminals or other governments—can now or in the future crack iPhone passcodes, with or without Apple’s cooperation, how can you safeguard your data? The answer is pretty simple: just set a longer passcode.” Read more here.

Market haiku

Market not so great
But compared to a steep drop
It ain’t terrible

Matters of debate

Talking about China’s new missiles in the South China Sea is making the region unsafe. Criticizing Beijing is worse for stability than it planting weapons in the region—says Beijing.

There’s an awesome upside to crashing oil prices. It’s now cheaper to feed the world’s hungriest people.

Sabbaticals are the key to maintaining creativity. Dedicated chunks of time off—not the same as vacations—refresh your perspective.

Surprising discoveries

Being bilingual rewires the fundamental structure of your brain. Switching between two languages ultimately makes the brain stronger.

Researchers have created a robotic arm that can play the drums. It attaches to a drummer’s shoulder and keeps perfect time.

A Los Angeles hospital paid a $17,000 ransom for its electronic records. Hackers demanded payment in bitcoin.

Mice are to blame for the horrific traffic in Brussels. They ate the construction blueprints for a key tunnel in need of repairs.

A cyborg rat could be the world’s best maze runner. Its brain is connected to a computer that provides navigational tips.

Correction: Wednesday’s Daily Brief stated that China’s Okay Airways agreed a purchase of Airbus passenger planes; it in fact agreed a deal with Boeing.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, cyborg maze runners, and robot drummers to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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