IMF warnings, new Cuban president, illusions

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today and over the weekend

GM Korea hits its bankruptcy deadline. The Detroit-based automaker’s South Korean arm and labor unions failed to reach a restructuring agreement ahead of the Friday deadline, at which point the specific GM unit is expected to file for bankruptcy.

The International Monetary Fund continues to meet. Managing director Christine Lagarde spoke at the annual meeting on Thursday to caution world governments against stifling trade and investment. Finance officials from key countries will meet Friday and Saturday to discuss.

General Electric releases earnings numbers. The numbers are expected to show a decline, partly from the poor performance of its power unit and partly because of GE’s tax bill for 2017 (paywall).

While you were sleeping

Raúl Castro handed over power to Miguel Díaz-Canel. It’s the first time Cuba’s had a non-Castro leading its government since 1959. Despite the break from tradition, the new president is expected to stick closely to his predecessor’s path, and Castro himself will most likely remain in a position of influence.

Findings on Andrew McCabe were referred to federal prosecutors. The US Justice Department had concluded that the former FBI deputy director had misled investigators and lied under oath. But the findings could now evolve into criminal charges (paywall), should the US Attorney’s Office decide to proceed.

North Korea wants complete denuclearization. South Korean president Moon Jae-in told reporters that the rogue nation didn’t ask for “any conditions that the US cannot accept,” but it does expect a guarantee of security.

George Soros’s foundations are leaving Hungary. The US-based financier’s home country has been critical of him, going so far as to pass a law named “Stop Soros” that targeted non-governmental organizations. Open Society Foundations will move Eastern operations to Berlin.

Christopher Wylie said he’ll appear before Congress. The former Cambridge Analytica employee is scheduled to answer questions from House Democrats next week. He also has a standing invite to meet with Canadian lawmakers later this month.

Quartz obsession interlude

Olivia Goldhill on why Starbucks’s racism scandal is also a fight over public space. “Venues where people can gather in public are increasingly rare as governments allow private companies to manage parks and permit restaurants to spill onto the sidewalk, creating privately owned public spaces. People go to Starbucks to use the restroom because, quite simply, there’s nowhere else to go.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Equalizing home ownership won’t fix America’s racial wealth gap. Fair housing won’t truly be fair until reparations are paid that allow for more home equity for black families.

Nobody wants a trade war. Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong says smaller Asia-Pacific countries will suffer from crossfire (paywall) between US and China.

American gun lobbies are using fear to capture a dwindling market. Groups like the NRA are doubling down on “black rifle” culture with machismo-fueled messaging.

Surprising discoveries

Robots can build IKEA chairs. Researchers finally got a robot to figure out how to put a chair together all by itself in 20 minutes, though it took three years to master.

Ancient skull-drilling may have been fairly useful. A hole found in a 5,400-year-old cow skull trepanation was either a medical trial, a veterinary practice, or some kind of animal-sacrifice ritual.

A missing Nazi U-boat resurfaces. German submarine U-3523 has been found embedded halfway into the sea floor, and no one knows what’s inside.

David Copperfield was forced to reveal a magic trick in court. A volunteer claimed the “Lucky #13” act caused him $400,000 in medical bills (paywall) due to an injury.

The IRS needs a tech upgrade. Aging systems and outdated code have the agency stuck more than 50 years (paywall) in the past.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, tax returns, and magic tricks 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 and edited by Susan Howson and McKinley Noble.