Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
The UN Security Council holds an emergency meeting. At the request of the US, the 15-member body will hold a closed-door session to discuss options regarding North Korea. The US military has confirmed that North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic yesterday, and experts believe Alaska is now within range.
Microsoft shakes things up. The tech giant is shifting its focus to the cloud, and cutting 4% of its workforce as part of a restructuring due to be presented to investors. The company employed 114,000 people at the end of its latest fiscal year.
The Fed releases minutes from an important meeting. The record of June’s meeting, where the Fed raised rates for a second time in 2017, will be closely scrutinized for clues about the next hike’s timing. Analysts currently put the odds of a September increase at 50%.
Donald Trump heads to Poland. The president may get a more enthusiastic welcome in Warsaw—where the government is busing in crowds to hear him speak—than he will at Friday’s G20 summit in Hamburg.
While you were sleeping
Volvo will go fully electric or hybrid from 2019. The Swedish car maker will launch five new all-electric models starting in 2019—and won’t make any more cars with internal combustion engines from that date. That makes Volvo, which is owned by China’s Geely, the first traditional auto brand to set a date for the migration away from gas-powered cars.
The US cabin ban on laptops was lifted for Emirates. The Middle East’s largest airline, which flies to 12 US cities, said it had now met new US security guidelines following the March ban. The restrictions have also been lifted for Etihad flights from Abu Dhabi to the US, and Turkish Airlines said it expects the ban to be lifted soon too.
The US and South Korea staged a joint show of force after Pyongyang’s ICBM test. The US Pacific Command said it had used its Army Tactical Missile System, and South Korea deployed its Hyunmoo Missile II to fire missiles into South Korean territorial waters along the country’s eastern coastline.
Alibaba leapt into the speaker-assistant market. The Chinese e-commerce giant’s answer to the Amazon Echo is called the “Tmall Genie X1,” and will retail for just $73—the Echo costs around $180. It should make shopping even easier for the 450 million active Chinese buyers on Alibaba’s online mall. It’s a wildly lucrative market: Shipments of intelligent home speakers rose 600% to 4.2 million units in the fourth quarter.
China invited foreign doctors to treat Liu Xiaobo. In what looked to be a softening stance ahead of the G20 summit in Germany, authorities said medical experts from the US and Germany could help treat the dissident Nobel laureate for cancer. Liu was jailed in 2009 after calling for political reforms—or, as Beijing described it, “inciting subversion of state power.”
Quartz obsession interlude
Jordan Rosenfeld on the link between boredom and creativity: “If we turn straight to Candy Crush or Twitter whenever we feel bored, we might rush right past an important observation or chat online with friends all day instead of looking for a better, more challenging job. Being bored, according to scientists, is good for both the creative process and motivation.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Is this the end of Silicon Valley’s male elite? Sexual harassment scandals are toppling powerful execs in the valley, where sexism has long been a known problem.
Central bank chiefs in the US and UK seem remarkable sure of themselves. So it’s probably time to worry.
The US president’s office has too much power. Trump’s erratic behavior is causing bipartisan concern about constitutional separation of powers.
Ancient Roman concrete holds the key to improving modern construction. It could be more durable and eco-friendly than contemporary building techniques.
Chimpanzee diets could help scientists find the cure for cancer. Compounds from plants that primates seek out in their “jungle pharmacy” have shown signs of inhibiting some diseases’ development.
A 101-year-old from Louisiana set a senior woman’s record for the 100-yard dash. Julia Hawkins, who only took up sprinting a year ago, clocked in at 39.62 seconds.
A pest infestation produced the most famous desktop background of all time. A lush grass carpet is not what Napa Valley grape growers had in mind for the scene made ubiquitous by Microsoft Windows XP.
Americans who sympathize most with the LGBT community aren’t white. Nearly three-quarters of black Americans believe LGBT people face a lot of discrimination, versus roughly half of white people.
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