Southwest Airlines accident, Korean peace treaty, New York mice germs

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Beijing’s latest US trade target: sorghum. A new 179% tariff will take effect on the grain that’s widely used in China for livestock and distilled spirits. The move, affecting about $1 billion of US exports, may be designed to hurt farmers in states like Kansas that are strong supporters of Donald Trump.

China begins naval drills in the Taiwan Strait. The military exercise, the first to use live ammunition in three years, is seen as a warning to independence advocates in Taiwan, and to US politicians seeking closer ties with Taipei. It follows China’s biggest-ever display of naval power last week.

Chemical weapons experts look into a suspected poison gas attack in Syria. Western countries say scores of civilians were gassed to death in Douma on April 7, which Syria and Russia deny. Investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will search for evidence.

Cuba begins its shift to post-Castro leadership. The country’s National Assembly will convene as it prepares for a vote, most likely on Thursday, to replace president Raúl Castro, 86, with 57-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel.

While you were sleeping

A key US-North Korea meeting came to light… CIA director Mike Pompeo met with Kim-Jong-un in North Korea over Easter weekend, the Washington Post reported, to lay the groundwork for a Trump-Kim summit. The clandestine meeting took place shortly after Trump nominated Pompeo to become the next US secretary of state.

… And South Korea is reviewing ways a create a peace treaty with North Korea. Ahead of the upcoming summit between the two nations—which are technically still at war—the presidential office in Seoul announced today that it’s looking at how to change a decades-old armistice into a more peaceful agreement.

A Southwest plane made an emergency landing, with one passenger killed. The flight from New York to Dallas was forced to land in Philadelphia after one engine failed and caught fire (paywall) shortly after takeoff. The fatality, caused by shrapnel, was the first on a US carrier since 2009; seven other passengers suffered minor injuries in the incident, which was documented live on social media.

Barbara Bush died. The former US first lady passed away at age 92 in her Houston home, after opting to stop seeking medical treatment to prolong her life. Widely admired, she held the rare distinction of having been both the wife of a US president, George H.W. Bush, and the mother of another, George W. Bush.

Starbucks will close every US outlet to conduct racial bias training. You’ll need to get your venti latte elsewhere on the afternoon of May 29. The company-wide training session comes after two black men were arrested for loitering at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, prompting widespread protests.

Airlines backed the development of a UN-led global registry for drones. Their support for such a registry—enabling law enforcement to remotely identify and track drones—comes amid rising numbers of near misses between aircraft and unmanned aircraft. The number of such incidents in the UK tripled between 2015 and 2017.

Quartz obsession interlude

Dan Kopf on how much users would pay for Facebook. “Economists set out to measure the value of these free digital products because GDP, the gauge traditionally used to assess the size of the economy, does a terrible job of assessing them… they asked people if they would prefer $10 or to give up Facebook for a month. The amount offered varied in increments between $1 and $1,000.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“Advantage blindness” is rampant among powerful people. Denying your privilege runs contrary to the collective good.

It’s time to rekindle the flame with Firefox. Chrome’s original mission has become corrupted by too much time atop the web browser food chain.

Post-Castro Cuba has slim prospects for change. Even with younger leaders, the Communist Party’s hardliners are firmly in control (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

An asteroid narrowly missed Earth over the weekend. The size of a football field, it wasn’t spotted until a few hours before its passage.

Scientists accidentally gave superpowers to a plastic-eating enzyme. While tweaking it to learn more, they boosted its ability to digest PET bottles.

Doing taxes is such a pain that Americans forgo billions in savings to just get it over with. Many could save thousands by itemizing deductions but simply can’t bear the tedium.

The mice of NYC may be contributing to antibiotic resistance. City rodents are also carrying viruses that could jump between different mammalian species.

Ghana wants mosques to use WhatsApp instead of loudspeakers to call the faithful to prayer. The urban din in Accra is already too loud.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, manageable asteroids, and miracle enzymes 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 Isabella Steger.