Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today and over the weekend
Xi Jinping speaks at the Boao Forum for Asia. It’ll be the third time Xi has attended the BFA as China’s president, marking his first big diplomatic event of the year. Xi will deliver his keynote speech on Sunday and is expected to meet with several world leaders during the forum.
New US sanctions hit Russia. The Trump administration plans to issue penalties on Friday (paywall), affecting oligarchs connected to Vladimir Putin. As voters look for action against Russia in the wake of election meddling and the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal, more economic sanctions could be dropped upon Moscow’s business partners.
Park Geun-hye faces court on live TV. South Korea’s former president—impeached in December 2016—will be sentenced on 21 criminal charges, including bribery, election interference, and abuse of power. Prosecutors will be aiming for a 30-year prison sentence against Park, and more than $100 million in fines.
While you were sleeping
A Virgin Galactic rocket plane broke the sound barrier for the first time in four years. Richard Branson’s dream of selling recreational space rides has come one step closer to reality since a setback in 2014 in which a co-pilot was killed and the vehicle destroyed. The new VSS Unity was carried 15 km up and then blasted another 10 km into the sky before landing at the airport in Mojave, California.
Brazil’s ex-president will go to prison while he awaits his bribery trial… The Supreme Court denied Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s request to remain free while he appeals, and the politician insists the decision is to prevent him from campaigning for the next presidential election in October. Lula faces a 12-year sentence.
…and Bollywood star Salman Khan was jailed for a 1998 poaching incident. The actor was charged with illegally killing a protected species of antelope, but a series of appeals dragged the case on for two decades, finally resulting in a five-year sentence. Khan was acquitted in 2002 for a fatal hit and run, and Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai has said he subjected her to verbal and physical abuse.
Trump campaign backers funded misleading Islamophobic ads. US billionaire Robert Mercer spearheaded donations to an organization called Save America Now to produce the videos in 2016, according to an exposé by Open Secrets. Bloomberg reported in October that Facebook and Google worked with SAN to help target the campaign at swing voters.
Quartz solved the case of Sherlock’s apartment. Max de Haldevang linked the ownership of 221B Baker Street—and its £130-million ($183 million) building—to the family of Kazakhstan’s decades-long president.
Quartz obsession interlude
Abdi Latif Dahir and Yomi Kazeem on how Trump’s “trade war” is punishing Africans for refusing second-hand clothes: “The debate around second-hand clothing also underscores the rise of manufacturing on the continent… Crucially, there are also active discussions over the ecological and ethical repercussions of taking in piles of used clothing, including underwear.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Medical mission initiatives need to consult locals first. Doctors who “parachute” into a low-resource community are in real danger of making a negative impact.
Spotify will never be able to scale like Netflix. Streaming music costs the provider more (paywall) as the service grows, but video stays the same.
Mark Zuckerberg should just resign. New leadership would give Facebook an opportunity to revamp (paywall) and re-communicate priorities.
British classical musicians: Shhhhh. A court ruling last week could require rehearsing musicians to wear earplugs, or simply play more quietly, to avoid hearing loss.
Women aren’t allowed in a sumo ring—even if they’re saving lives. Female first responders attempting to treat a city mayor in Japan were ordered out—but have since been offered public apologies.
A man made over €1.2 million by recycling the same bottles. The machine-tampering fraudster is one of many who have gamed the German deposit return system.
Walden Pond is being ruined by human urine. The phosphorus in the urine of Henry David Thoreau fans is causing a harmful algae overgrowth.
Waze turned one of the steepest hills in the US into a disaster zone. Los Angeles locals avoid Echo Park’s dangerous Baxter Street hill in the rain, but drivers simply following directions keep crashing.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, earplugs, and iconic ponds to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 and edited by Susan Howson and McKinley Noble.