Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Alibaba woos business leaders in Detroit. The Chinese e-commerce giant is hosting its biggest-ever US event, a two-day conference on opportunities for small businesses to reach China’s growing middle class.
FedEx reports on its fourth quarter. With shipping levels reflecting economic activity, the logistics giant is viewed as a bellwether of sorts for the US economy. Analysts expect a rise in profit and revenue thanks to stronger sales in the company’s express business.
The US releases data on the current account deficit for the first quarter. It is expected to have widened from the previous quarter’s $112.4 billion—which was then the lowest in more than a year—to $123.8 billion (pdf, p. 2).
While you were sleeping
American student Otto Warmbier died days after being released by North Korea. The 22-year-old had been sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster during a tour of Pyongyang. He was released on “humanitarian grounds” last week, but returned home to Cincinnati in a coma before he died.
A possible bidding war loomed for Whole Foods. The upscale grocery store’s shares climbed above Amazon’s $42 per share offer, suggesting the possibility of a competing bid from a grocery store rival. Few grocers have the cash to make a counter-offer, but Kroger and others would love to block the online retail giant.
China Railway Group signed on to build a $2.5 billion high-speed rail in Russia. The state-owned company signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia for a line running from Chelyabinsk to Yekaterinburg, the nation’s third-largest city, according to the China Daily. The time to complete the trip, which covers 200 km (125 miles), would be cut from 5 hours to 70 minutes.
Tech giants convened at the White House. Nearly 20 members of Donald Trump’s technology advisory council, including the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet, met to discuss the private sector’s role in cutting government IT costs and other issues. Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner made a rare public address.
Quartz obsession interlude
Kira Bindrim on the hottest mobile devices of the 19th century: “The story of the kaleidoscope, patented 200 years ago, has all the makings of a Silicon Valley spinoff. There’s an eccentric founder, a breakthrough idea, and a case of IP theft. A once-viral hit struggles to iterate. An influencer saves the day. And at the center of it all, a handheld source of endless visual entertainment.” Read more here.
Let us mourn the end / Of supermarkets. But first / Can you buy some milk?
Matters of debate
Amazon’s Whole Foods deal is more than it seems. The grocery chain could be a signature customer for the company’s logistics services.
If someone cuts you off in a meeting, talk more quietly. Everyone in the room will have to focus harder on what you’re saying.
The secret to eternal happiness is in reality TV. The Great British Bake Off showcases the joy of flow.
Donald Trump’s presidency is saving history. At least as a university major—students want to know, “How did we get here?”
Left-handed people are more likely to be geniuses. The trait indicates greater connectivity between brain hemispheres, which may explain why southpaws seem to have an edge at math.
At last, we can turn pee into electricity. Researchers in the UK created a device lined with microorganisms that feed on urine and produce phone-charging electrons.
A tick that makes you allergic to meat is spreading. A single bite can reprogram your immune system, making ingestion of a protein-linked sugar molecule potentially fatal.
Our sun may have a long-lost twin. New research on a cluster of Milky Way stars suggests that most sun-like stars are born in pairs.
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