Cyclone Gita, Amazon layoffs, the Codfather

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Big Soda earnings season begins. PepsiCo’s fourth-quarter earnings will update Wall Street on the status of Big Soda as it pivots from sugary drinks (paywall) and toward LaCroix-loving millennials. Coca-Cola reports later this week.

China and the Philippines discuss the South China Sea. At a second round of talks in Manila today, officials from the two nations will address China’s military buildup on various contested reefs, among other maritime issues. The administration of Rodrigo Duterte hopes to show it isn’t being soft on Beijing, as critics have contended.

The UK releases consumer-price inflation data. Economists expect it ticked down from 3% to 2.9% (paywall) last month. To help contain above-target consumer inflation, the Bank of England in November raised borrowing costs for the first time in a decade.

While you were sleeping

South Africa’s ruling party decided president Jacob Zuma “must go.” The executive committee of the African National Congress party decided to recall Zuma. Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, elected party leader in December, would take the helm. If Zuma refuses to leave voluntarily, the party could use its majority in parliament to vote him out of office.

General Motors announced a plant closure in South Korea. The auto giant will shut down its manufacturing facility in the coastal city of Gunsan, one of its four in the nation, and pressure union officials for additional cost cuts (paywall). The decision will lead to a charge of $850 million, and comes as the company becomes more dependent on Chinese operations.

The worst storm in 60 years devastated Tonga. Far stronger than expected, Cyclone Gita hit the archipelago nation in the South Pacific with winds of about 145 mph (233 km/h). Set to strike Fiji next, the storm flattened parts of the parliament building, knocked over power lines, and damaged vital crops while causing widespread injuries.

Amazon laid off hundreds of employees. The company is reducing corporate staff, mainly in the consumer retail business, while adding thousands of employees in other parts of its expanding empire. The rare “head count adjustments”— modest given Amazon’s 560,000 employees—will include people at its Seattle headquarters and across global operations.

The wife of Donald Trump Jr. was hospitalized. Vanessa Trump was admitted to the hospital for observation after opening a piece of mail containing a suspicious white powder, though it was later determined to be harmless.

Quartz obsession interlude

Sriram Iyer on the rise and fall of India’s Singh brothers. “Ranbaxy in some ways embodied the success of India’s generic drugs industry. Valued at $4.6 billion at the time of its sale in 2008, the company was not just a Singh family jewel, it was India’s moment of reckoning on the global pharma stage.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China is cramping innovation for its tech giants. If Beijing keeps overruling the desires of customers and shareholders, its companies will struggle.

Roger Federer’s career choice could teach you something about yours. Pouring his energy into badminton instead of tennis would have curtailed his success.

Our climate-change targets are dangerous. Not only is limiting warming to near-preindustrial levels unattainable, it also gets in the way of better solutions (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

The US busted a fishing mogul known as “the Codfather.” Carlos Rafael misclassified fish like cod (paywall), which are subject to strict overfishing quotas.

Iceland will use more electricity mining cryptocurrencies than powering homes this year. The country’s cheap, abundant renewable energy helps miners of bitcoin and its ilk.

A suspected poacher was devoured by lions in South Africa. His grisly remains were found near South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

Swedes are literally skating on thin ice. “Wild ice” skaters seek out precarious black ice, which is sometimes only a few dozen millimeters thick and emits laser-like sounds as weight passes over it.

Even after you get rid of bed bugs, chemicals in their waste linger for months. Infected areas have histamine levels 20 times higher than homes that have never been infested.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, black ice, and badminton superstars to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Steve Mollman, and edited by Alice Truong.