China snubs Vietnam, Clooney’s tequila bonanza, orca gangs

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

EU leaders convene for a two-day summit. Ahead of the Brussels meeting, Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni called Brexit a tough wake-up call. Leaders are expected to issue a joint statement on defense and global trade, and reiterate their support of the Paris climate accord.

Republicans in the US senate finally unveil their health care bill. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has announced there will be just ten hours of debate on the Obamacare repeal legislation, which will affect the health of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Asian central banks hold steady. Despite a US rate hike, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the Philippines are expected to join Indonesia, Japan, Australia, and India in keeping interest rates at their current level. That’s because their economies are dependent on China.

While you were sleeping

ISIL reportedly destroyed one of Iraq’s most iconic monuments. The centuries-old Al-Nuri Mosque, which dates to the 12th century, was where the extremist group declared a caliphate in 2014. ISIL claims an American airstrike destroyed the mosque and minaret, but the Iraqi military places the blame on ISIL’s own explosives.

China scratched a meeting with Vietnam. Beijing said it bowed out of meetings for “reasons related to working arrangements,” though it likely has to do with disputed territories in the South China Sea. Separately, Russia called off a sit-down with the US in response to expanded sanctions.

George Clooney sold his tequila business for a whopping $1 billion. Diageo will pay $700 million for Casamigos, with a potential for $300 million more depending on future performance. Diageo’s interest coincides with rising tequila consumption in the US.

Top US and Chinese diplomats met to discuss North Korea. The US urged China to use more economic and diplomatic pressure to get Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear missile program. US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said Donald Trump would visit China later this year.

Nike will start selling some items on Amazon. Previously it has refused to engage with the retail giant, fearing it would “undermine its brand.” But with traffic at traditional retail outlets declining, Nike had little alternative.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lina Zeldovich on how waterless toilets will change the world. “The waste is sealed into a biodegradable bag underneath the toilet with not a drop of water being spilled. Once full, the bag is replaced by a service team, and the waste is brought (yes, hand-delivered) to Loowatt’s pilot waste-processing facility, where it’s converted to fertilizer and biogas.” Read more here.

Markets haiku

Perhaps it’s time for / an Uber for CEOs / the meter’s running

Matters of Debate

Amazon is a monopoly in need of regulation. The Whole Foods acquisition puts it on a fast track to dominate yet another platform.

“Woke pop culture writing” isn’t enough. Let’s not confuse artistic critiques with political engagement.

Travis Kalanick could have learned a lot from Jean Liu. The president of China’s Didi Chuxing is known for her collaborative approach to competition.

Surprising discoveries

Orcas are the pirates of the Bering Strait. Gangs of up to 40 killer whales are shaking down Alaskan fishermen and stealing their catch.

NASA’s Mars rover is great at vaporizing rocks with a laser. Without any human involvement, it is analyzing more than 300 samples a day.

Uber’s “full confidence” spelled doom for Travis Kalanick. That phrase, when uttered by a corporate board, is the kiss of death for CEOs.

Barbie’s friend Ken got a cornrow makeover. Bye-bye blue eyes: Mattel’s latest reboot features several ethnically and physically diverse looks.

North Korea has been Photoshopping Kim Jong-un’s ears. Forensic software reveals tweaks to make the dictator seem “a bit more handsome.”

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