Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Tech’s heavy-hitters report their earnings. Apple, Alphabet, and Amazon are all expected to post a rise in earnings, although Wall Street historically tends to overestimate the latter’s fourth-quarter results. Alibaba also reports, and its results will indicate if the company’s overseas expansion (paywall) has paid off.
CBS discusses a merger with Viacom. CBS and Viacom, both controlled by the Redstone family, split into two separately traded companies in 2006; a proposed merger was called off in 2016. The CBS board could convene a committee today to formally explore a potential deal.
While you were sleeping
Robert Mueller could zero in on White House communications director Hope Hicks. The New York Times reported (paywall) that a former legal spokesman for Donald Trump will tell Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, about concerns that Hicks considered obstructing justice to cover up a meeting where Trump campaign officials met Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.
India unveiled its 2018 budget. With national elections looming, the budget is designed to help struggling farmers and other rural voters while boosting jobs, growth, and private investment. Construction firms will benefit from the budget’s big infrastructure spending, while Apple and Samsung won’t like the increased customs duty on mobile phones.
A court overturned lifetime Olympic bans on Russian athletes. The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned 28 bans given by the International Olympic Committee over doping allegations, saying there was insufficient evidence. In 11 other cases, it said violations had been committed, but that the bans should be shortened.
Poland passed a controversial Holocaust bill. The country’s senate approved a bill that would make it illegal to accuse Poles of being complicit in the Holocaust, or describe concentration camps as Polish. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the bill, calling it an attempt to alter history.
Quartz obsession interlude
Noah Berlatsky on how dictatorships and democracies can feel remarkably similar. “Authoritarianism doesn’t necessarily slam down all at once. It often is a slow erosion of norms—a law enforcement agency corrupted here, the self-censorship of media there. It can sneak up on you. And that’s especially true because authoritarianism is not egalitarian. It doesn’t affect everyone in the same way.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
A country’s GDP is a deceptive gauge of progress. Measuring wealth better reflects a population’s well-being, because it accounts for all the resources available to sustain growth and development over the long term.
America’s system is so broken, it’s turning to billionaires for help. The ultra-wealthy like Jeff Bezos are now in a better position to provide social services than the government.
China has a plan, but the US doesn’t. As the US repeats slogans about its greatness, China is forging ahead (paywall) with its “Belt and Road” strategy—much as the US once did with the Marshall Plan.
Russia’s 2018 World Cup fields are under threat from locusts. Agricultural official Pyotr Chekmarev called it a potential “global scandal.”
Chinese women are spending millions of dollars on virtual boyfriends. In the mobile game Love and Producer, women can have up to four virtual lovers with superpowers.
Sweets are integral to India’s budget. The civil servants who had been in hiding since Jan. 20 to prepare for the budget got a special ceremonial dessert before they hunkered down.
Theresa May has an educational gift for Xi Jinping. The British prime minister will present a box set of Blue Planet to the Chinese president to remind Beijing to fight pollution, complete with a special message from David Attenborough.
Good drones will hunt bad drones at the Winter Olympics. Organizers in Pyeongchang are worried that unmanned aerial vehicles could disrupt the event and are planning accordingly.
Correction: Yesterday we said the coincidence of a super moon, blue moon, and lunar eclipse had not occurred for more than 150 years. In fact, it has not been seen over the Western Hemisphere in that timespan.
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