North Korea talks, Putin wins, Edison’s “bug”

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The US and North Korea launch talks. Ahead of an unprecedented summit between the countries’ leaders, lower-level officials and outside experts are reportedly meeting in Finland. Details remain unclear, but the meeting was confirmed by South Korean and Finnish authorities, and the North Korean official for US affairs was seen boarding a plane to Helsinki.

Donald Trump unveils an opioid plan that includes a death penalty for drug dealers. In addition making sentencing laws tougher, the US president wants to reduce the overprescription of opioids in federal health programs. But experts recommend treating drug addiction as a health problem rather than as a criminal issue.

Barack Obama is touring Asia and Australia. The former US president’s trip—part of his work for the Obama Foundation—includes Japan, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Today he’s in Singapore meeting with youth leaders representing Southeast Asian countries.

Over the weekend

Surprise! Vladimir Putin won re-election in Russia. Exit polls showed a big win for the strongman, who gained 75% of the vote. Young people are major Putin supporters because the economy has generally expanded during his tenure, giving them more opportunities than their parents had. An independent monitoring group reported multiple irregularities at polling stations.

China filled key posts. Liu He will be the new vice premier, while Yi Gang was tapped to become the central bank chief. The promotion of Liu, a key economic advisor to president Xi Jinping, signals Beijing’s intention to clamp down on riskier financing, while Yi’s appointment is seen as a sign of continuity at the People’s Bank of China.

The FBI fired deputy director Andrew McCabe… He won’t go quietly. Attorney general Jeff Sessions said the career FBI man “lacked candor,” but McCabe‚ whose wife’s failed state senate bid was financed by a Clinton ally, has been a Trump target for months. McCabe said he has memos documenting former FBI chief James Comey’s interactions with the president.

…and Trump’s attorney called for an end to the Russia probe. John Dowd said the investigation—looking into possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Moscow—was based on a “fraudulent and corrupt dossier.” The US president tweeted statements railing against the probe and calling McCabe’s notes “fake memos.”

Two were injured in an explosion in Austin, Texas. The blast follows three package bombs going off earlier this month in other parts of the city, resulting in two deaths. It was unclear if the blasts were related, but the latest came hours after authorities raised the reward to $115,000 for information leading to arrests of whoever was behind the first three.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi asked for humanitarian help for the Rohingya crisis. The country’s leader has been excoriated for failing to address the suffering of the Muslim minority, but is now asking for help, according to Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zoë Schlanger on the deadly business of recycling car batteries. ”There is the kind of lead poisoning that creeps into water supplies, builds up in children’s blood streams, and, if sustained, will impair their brains. And then there is the kind, much rarer, that makes fully grown adults drop dead.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Humanity will prevail over the Malthusian threat. Low fertility rates are not only a fact, they are a blessing.

The easiest person to trick is yourself. People are experts at overestimating their knowledge and qualifications.

It’s high time for a #MeToo movement for black people. The current era of accountability, while necessary, feels overwhelmingly white.

Surprising discoveries

US Supreme Court opinions can be works of comedy. Case in point: Clarence Thomas on a party that got out of hand.

The term “bug” for a technological glitch dates back to Thomas Edison. The inventor used it to describe an issue with his telephone design.

Japan’s prisons are filled with elderly women. They commit minor crimes to escape poverty and loneliness.

A dangerous Facebook cult promoted the “healing” powers of cabbage juice. When the company failed to stop the madness, users stepped up.

In the world’s most expensive cities, the cost of wine and cigarettes varies dramatically. Geneva and Seoul are tied for sixth place for priciest city, but a bottle of wine is 200% more expensive in the South Korean capital.

Correction: The weekend brief on authoritarian leaders should have called an alleged poisoning of a British agent on UK soil an “alleged attempted murder,” not an “alleged murder.” Quartz regrets the error. 

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, healing juices, and amusing court cases 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.