Italy’s confidence vote, Putin in Austria, GDPR bedtime stories

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Italy’s euroskeptic government faces a confidence vote. The alliance between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League is expected to pass the vote in the Senate today and in the lower house tomorrow—the two parties hold a majority in both houses. Other parties have indicated they’ll vote against the new government.

Vladimir Putin visits Austria. Ahead of the rare bilateral meeting with a western European country, the Russian president said he has no desire to divide the European Union. Austria’s conservative far-right coalition government was one of the few EU countries not to expel diplomats after the poisoning of a Russian defector in the UK.

A day of reckoning for Elon Musk. Tesla shareholders will vote to determine whether the electric-car maker’s chairman and chief executive can keep both titles. Some shareholders are pushing for an independent chairman, but Musk will likely keep his titles despite investor concerns.

A perk of NATO membership kicks in for Montenegro. The country has no fighter planes, so Italy and Greece will help secure its airspace starting today. A year ago Montenegro officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which provides routine air policing to its members.

While you were sleeping

Howard Schultz is retiring from Starbucks, raising speculation about a US presidential run. The company’s longtime leader, currently its executive chairman, is retiring at month’s end. Queried on his political aspirations, he said: “I intend to think about a range of options, and that could include public service.”

Apple jammed Facebook’s web-tracking tools. The company said its Safari browser will block technologies that its tech rivals use to serve up ads to users, and require users to opt-in for sites to track their browsing behavior. Apple is also adding ”digital health” apps to help people manage how much time they spend on their iPhones.

The death toll from Guatemala’s volcanic eruption rose to 69. It’s expected to climb even higher. The country’s disaster agency failed to warn residents of the impending explosion in areas where most of the victims have been found. Meanwhile ash and mud from Sunday’s eruption have covered the landscape around Volcán de Fuego (“Volcano of Fire”).

Mexico will hit the US with 20% retaliatory tariffs on pork. The move follows the Trump administration deciding last week to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexican exporters, reports Reuters. Sources said the new duties will be published today and go into effect tomorrow.

Quartz Obsession interlude

Dan Kopf on Japan’s shrinking population. “How low can it go? At the pace of decline projected by the UN, and assuming no change in migration or fertility rates, the Japanese population would fall to 8.5 million by 2300. By 2800, it would be less than 2 million. The laws of math mean it would decline very slowly from there.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Brazil is at risk of a military coup. Many now feel forceful intervention is the only answer in the leaderless and scandal-ridden country.

Telephone culture is dying. No one picks up the phone anymore because the bulk of calls are spam.

We learned the wrong lesson from the marshmallow test. The capacity to resist temptation is largely shaped by socio-economic factors.

Surprising discoveries

A British baby’s first word was “Alexa.” The infant copied his parents asking Amazon’s virtual assistant for help.

Aetna’s CEO considered suicide before he found meditation. Mark Bertolini has since hired a “chief mindfulness officer” at the massive health insurer.

The EU paid researchers to catalog hundreds of millions of internet memes. They found that people are often amused by racism, sexism, and genocide.

Guppies signal aggression by turning their eyes black. It isn’t clear how, exactly, the ferocious little fish do so.

GDPR puts people to sleep, in a good way. Meditation app Calm is offering highlights of the EU’s data-protection legislation.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, angry guppies, and meme research 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.