Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
SpaceX launches the world’s most powerful rocket. The Falcon Heavy will lift off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center between 1:30pm and 4:00pm ET. The test flight—capable of carrying a large robot or a partial human exploration mission to Mars—will instead carry a Tesla Roadster.
Australia’s central bank meets. The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to keep interest rates unchanged and at a record low for an 18th straight month, even as other developed economies raise their benchmark rates.
Mike Pence heads to Japan. The US vice president’s visit will focus on the allies’ security measures in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threats.
While you were sleeping
Lululemon’s CEO abruptly resigned. Laurent Potdevin, on the job since 2014, also resigned his position as a board member. The company said it “expects all employees to exemplify the highest levels of integrity and respect for one another, and Mr. Potdevin fell short of these standards of conduct.”
US stocks plunged, erasing their 2018 gains. Growing fears about higher interest rates triggered a worsening sell-off, with the benchmark S&P 500 index falling 4.1% to turn negative for the year. Safe-haven assets like gold and Treasury bonds rose, but bitcoin’s woes continued as the cryptocurrency fell below $7,000.
A top Trump official stopped investigating Equifax. Mick Mulvaney, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has “pulled back from a full-scale probe” of the company’s executives, after a data breach exposed personal data of 143 million Americans.
An investigator who helped outlaw ivory trading was killed. American Esmond Bradley Martin exposed elephant ivory and rhino horn traffickers across the globe, and helped convince China and other nations to ban the practice. The 75-year-old was found dead of a stab wound in his Nairobi home.
Broadcom sweetened its offer for Qualcomm to $121 billion. The chipmaker called the bid its “best and final offer,” increasing pressure to complete what would be one of the tech industry’s biggest-ever deals. Qualcomm, which already declined a bid for $103 billion, said its board of directors would review the offer.
Maldives declared a state of emergency. Forces loyal to president Abdulla Yameen stormed the island nation’s supreme court and also detained his predecessor. The government has already suspended parliament and ordered the army to resist any moves by the high court to impeach the president.
Quartz obsession interlude
Joon Ian Wong and John Detrixhe on Bitcoin’s sketchy foundations: “Some people think bitcoin’s spectacular price rise last year was manipulated by a cryptotoken called Tether that’s supposed to be pegged to the US dollar. Now, an anonymous report answers the question: What would bitcoin be worth without Tether? The answer: around $4,500.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Cape Town’s water crisis is caused by politics, not climate change. A feud between the ruling African National Congress and the minority Democratic Alliance is to blame.
AI makes politics hackable. The coming era of fake news video could undermine democracy.
Angela Merkel is not a climate angel. Her environmental do-goodery is based more on fairytale than fact.
Researchers used lasers to find a Mayan megalopolis. Using the same LIDAR scanners as autonomous cars, they found more than 60,000 houses, palaces, and highways in northern Guatemala.
A pet crayfish learned how to clone itself. The marbled crayfish is now an invasive species threatening ecosystems around the world.
Facebook is battling anti-Black Panther plots. The company shut down a group of racist trolls that was using bots to generate low Rotten Tomatoes scores.
Birds of paradise have feathers that act like black holes. Their nuanced structures trap the tiniest iotas of light to capture female attention.
Your friend’s brain processes the world the same way as yours. Neuroscientists used fMRI scans to find that the closer the friends, the more similar their neural responses.
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