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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Greece’s austerity, Saudi Arabia’s shake-up, sexual seasons

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Talks on Greece’s latest belt-tightening. Greek lawmakers passed a new package of tax hikes and pension cuts on Sunday. Today euro-zone finance ministers meet to discuss whether to grant Greece more bailout money. Thousands of Greeks protested ahead of the vote but there was little violence. 

A federal face-off with North Carolina. The US state’s Republican legislators have until today to revoke or revise a controversial “bathroom bill” that prevents transgender people from using restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. They say they don’t intend (paywall) to meet the deadline, set by the US Justice Department.

Filipinos elect a president. And 71-year-old Rodrigo Duterte is expected to win. The populist front-runner has garnered comparisons to Donald Trump with his incendiary rhetoric and incipient dictatorial tendencies. He has promised to eliminate congress and set up a “revolutionary government” if he can’t make quick progress within the current system.

Over the weekend

Saudi Arabia shook up its government. King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued more than 50 decrees in accordance with his plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil. Long-serving oil minister Ali al-Naimi is out and 30-year-old deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has cemented his grip on oil policy, which could mean more volatility in world oil prices.

Kim Jong-un said North Korea will play nice with nukes. He promised not to use nuclear weapons in a first strike, in a speech to the Workers’ Party congress. The announcement comes in the wake of a series of nuclear warhead and missile “tests” by North Korea since the start of this year.

Uber and Lyft lost a battle in Texas. Voters in Austin came out in favor of upholding regulations that constrain how the ride-hailing services can operate. The two companies had spent nearly $9 million lobbying citizens to overturn the rules, passed by the city in December. It’s a big defeat for Uber and Lyft after consistently getting their way across dozens of US cities.

Alberta’s wildfires hit oil prices. The conflagration has interfered with oil sand operations, which caused a jump in oil prices in early Monday trading. It looks set to become Canada’s most expensive natural disaster ever.

A bus wreck in Afghanistan killed 73 people. An oil tanker ran into two passenger buses, resulting in what’s said to be one of the country’s worst road accidents. The wreck occurred on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, which runs through territory controlled by insurgents. Bus drivers are said to drive fast through there to avoid militant groups.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on the doubts about a Cambridge professor’s battery breakthrough. “No one appears to have previously combined all three compounds, at least for the purpose of a lithium-air battery. The result, Grey’s group reported, was a battery that charged and recharged 2,000 times—a remarkable achievement, if true. A decade more of work would be required to resolve other problems with lithium-air, but one big obstacle was lifted.” Read more.

Matters of debate

Europe should take a lesson from the fall of the Roman Empire. It was caused by a mishandled migrant crisis.

Robots won’t eliminate human jobs. Rich robot owners will want lots more artisanal things and experiences, and we’ll need to retrain humans to produce them.

Having children is bad for your marriage. The course of true love runs downhill and the decline is twice as steep for couples who have children.

Surprising discoveries

A “cyborg artist” can sense every earthquake around the world. A magnet implanted in her arm picks up the tremors, which she expresses as dance.

Your brain won’t let you diet too hard. It recognizes a state of emergency (paywall) when you lose a lot of weight and works to get it back to normal, even if you’re still overweight.

There are seasons to your sexuality. Summer brings an uptick in sexual interest, according to data on everything from condom sales to sex-related Google searches.

A video game can help detect Alzheimer’s. Just two minutes of playing “Sea Hero Quest” provides the equivalent of 70 years of lab data on spatial memory and navigation.

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