Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
The UK’s central bank meets. The Bank of England is expected to hold rates steady and signal it will raise them up to three times over the next several years. But the future of UK monetary policy ultimately depends on the path of Brexit (paywall).
Hong Kong schools will close due to a deadly flu outbreak. Authorities are shutting all kindergartens and primary schools ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays to stop a virulent outbreak.
While you were sleeping
The US Senate passed a sweeping budget deal. It adds $400 billion in federal spending over the next two years, with $160 billion going to defense programs, and $80 billion to disaster relief. But the bipartisan measure may still not pass in the Republican-led House of Representatives, despite the risk of another government shutdown.
Wynn Resorts shares surged after its CEO stepped down. Shares of the casino company and its affiliate Wynn Macau jumped 10% after Matt Maddox took the helm as CEO. Mogul Steve Wynn resigned after more than a dozen employees accused him of sexual misconduct.
A top Trump official resigned over allegations of domestic violence. Senior White House secretary Rob Porter, who worked closely with chief of staff John Kelly to control the flow of information to the president, stepped down after his two ex-wives accused him of violence and abuse. Porter denied the allegations, and Kelly called him “a man of true integrity and honor.”
SoftBank is in talks to buy a stake in Swiss Re. The Japanese tech conglomerate is reportedly considering a buying a one-third stake in the Zurich-based reinsurer for up to $10 billion. SwissRe’s hefty cash flow could help Softbank finance its global acquisition binge.
Quartz obsession interlude
Dave Gershgorn on the powerful AI tools from Google that were horribly misused: “An anonymous Reddit user … built AI software that automatically stitches any image of a face (nearly) seamlessly into a video. And you can probably imagine where this is going: As first reported by Motherboard, the software was being used to put anyone’s face, such as a famous woman or friend on Facebook, on the bodies of porn actresses.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Donald Trump’s market commentary is accidentally astute. He’s finally reckoning with an important fact: The stock market is not the economy.
The Olympics are a propaganda tool for the ruling class. Let’s not pretend the games are actually “free of politics.”
The global fishing industry defies economic logic. Government subsidies are propping up a deeply unprofitable and destructive business.
The first Britons had dark skin, blue eyes, and curly hair. A new DNA analysis is shedding light on 10,000-year-old skeleton known as “Cheddar Man.”
Unicef is recruiting gamers to mine cryptocurrencies. Proceeds from newly generated Ethereum will aid Syrian children displaced by civil war.
Squishing water with diamond anvils produces “superionic ice.” The opaque water formed into hexagonal crystals is about 60% denser than normal ice.
Male Uber drivers outearn women, mostly because they drive faster. The 7% gap can also be traced to more experience on the job and driving more during “surge” periods.
This will be the most African Winter Olympics ever. A record 13 athletes from eight countries— Eritrea, Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, and Togo—will participate.
In yesterday’s Daily Brief, we incorrectly reported that the magnitude of the Taiwan earthquake was 8.4; in fact, it was 6.4.
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